Best. Quote. Ever.

From now until forever, I am going to refer writers who ask me query questions to this quote. It comes from Andrea Brown, my brilliant boss and mentor, and it’s about query letters:

A query letter is like the perfect skirt: long enough to cover everything but short enough to be exciting.

I have worked with the woman for about two and a half years now and have never heard this gem. Where has it been all my life?

This Big Sur, I think, was my absolute favorite. Sure, it was at the Embassy Suites in Monterey (as our March workshops are) instead of the gorgeous Big Sur Lodge in Big Sur proper (as our December workshops are), and the weather spoiled on Sunday, but I think this mix of writers, faculty, and agency clients along for the ride was one of the best I’ve experienced.

A special shout out to Jamie Harrington and Pat Netzley, and to my wonderful colleagues. We missed two of our Jennifers (Mattson and Laughran) at this Big Sur. Fabulous faculty members like Ellen Hopkins, Eric Elfman, Mary Colgan, Anica Rissi, and Deb Wayshak shared their writing expertise with our group of just under a hundred attendees.

My two workshop groups inspired several blog post ideas which you’ll read in the near future. For right now, though, I’m going to catch up on my sleep after this exhausting weekend and start chipping away at my pent-up email. Today is a very exciting day for me in San Francisco, Berkeley, and the Napa valley, which all ties in to my secret new blog/professional project. Soon, my pretties, soon all shall be revealed! For now, delight yourselves with Andrea’s fantastic quote.

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  1. Lydia Sharp’s avatar

    That certainly is a fabulicious quote. :D Looking forward to those upcoming posts.

  2. Franziska Green’s avatar

    Ooh, sartorial metaphor. Love it.

    Also loving the mystery of this new ‘thing’ that you’re doing. Now I’m thinking maybe wine is involved… is it a blog dedicated to trying to stop writers from drunk querying? He he.

  3. Theresa Milstein’s avatar

    That is the best quote. I’ll keep it in mind when I toil away on a query.

  4. Katherine Hyde’s avatar

    Best. Workshop. Ever. Andrea Brown LIt rocks!

  5. Michael G-G’s avatar

    Great query quote. And you are being very mysterious… appetite whetted.

  6. Brigetta Schwaiger’s avatar

    That is a fabulous quote but now I’m a little sad. I almost went to Big Sur.

  7. Mary’s avatar

    Michael — Appetite whetted? Hmm…appetite…good choice of words for this delicious mystery…

  8. EricJ’s avatar

    Skirts?…Oh, sure, arrogantly flaunt the female-dominated profession in the male authors’ faces! ;)
    (Just kidding, good quote to remember. I’d always used the one about “Nobody’s written your back cover yet, so…”)

    And am I the only one wondering about a workshop about whether you should go to conference workshops?

  9. Mandy P.’s avatar

    I’ve never thought about that quote in terms of queries but have heard about it in terms of essays and papers. My planetary sciences professor quoted in last semester for our research papers. She told us she wanted it to be 10-ish pages and was bombarded by questions like “What formatting? 10 or 12 font? 1 inch margins?” And all she said was “Make it like a skirt.” Considering our class was 95% male, there was some confusion so she explained saying exactly what you have “Long enough to cover everything but short enough to be exciting.”

    I think its a good rule of life in all writing: essay, research paper, novel, or query.

  10. Lindsey Lane’s avatar

    Really.
    “Right on target, so direct”
    to quote Bob Dylan…

  11. Ishta’s avatar

    LOL! Love the quote: one for the corkboard. Thanks!

  12. Anita’s avatar

    Love the skirt quote!

  13. Carolyn’s avatar

    Only thing I love more than that skirt quote: food.

  14. Marybk’s avatar

    Love the quote. Which reminds me, I need to go shopping for a fabulous skirt. :)

  15. Kristen Faulconer’s avatar

    Amazing quote. Amazing conference. My latest guess on the new blog: wine, food, and…horror? Chocolate? Writing conferences in wine country that involve chocolate? Or Vineyards and horror? The mind reels.

  16. Jean Ann Williams’s avatar

    This quote sums it up in a nut shell. I see why you like it.

    Now, excuse me, while I will go back to my query page and see if I can make it better.

  17. Karen Akins’s avatar

    I had such an awesome time in your group and learned so much. Thank you again. Would definitely love to come back in the future (even if you did make sweet Cortney cry). lol

  18. Claire Dawn’s avatar

    Amazing quote! Psyched for upcoming posts :)

  19. Lynne’s avatar

    This query quote rocks. I have the visual…and once you match the skirt (sparkly pink with sequins? classic black? a chic A-line?) with the agent, then you’re golden. :)

    Big Sur sounds like a winner. I’m looking forward to your posts!

  20. Lynne’s avatar

    Oh, and btw, I was NOT suggesting that anyone actually send a query that is sparkly and/or actually covered in sequins. :) Just thinking about matching genres/book tastes to agents, i.e. doing your agent homework prior to querying. Now making the query itself sparkle– that’s a must-do.

    Congrats on your other blog too. Good stuff all around.

  21. Isabel’s avatar

    “HEY I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOU!”

    Who starts off a conversation that way? Or for that matter, thinks she forgot her computer charger (said charger is missing. for real this time. had to buy a new one, the newest kind that I drooled over when you lent me yours)? ;)

  22. Bethany Robison’s avatar

    My high school English teacher had a similar saying: “Your essay should be like Sally’s skirt [note: Sally was an imaginary student who sat in the back corner of the room] – long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.”

    I’m honestly a little glad to hear that he didn’t come up with this line on his own…

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