Answering Your Writing Questions

It has been a while since I’ve gone question-fishing, but as we get into the fall, I want to make sure that I’m covering topics you’re interested in. This blog is about you, after all, and not just my blah blah blah. (Though there’s a lot of that, too! 😂)

What are your writing and publishing questions?

Please leave your most pressing children’s writing and publishing questions in the comments, below, and I will pick some to answer in the coming months on the blog!

(If you’ve never commented before, your comment will go into my moderation queue. Don’t worry—it has been received and will be posted, even if you don’t see it right away.)

Good Story Company Is Hiring!

I have some big plans for 2020, and to that end, I’m hiring!

good story company, storytelling, writers

Marketing Internship

I’m looking to train a marketing intern for this paid internship position. Book marketing is a big issue on every writer’s mind. I have conversation after conversation with writers in my editorial business, on the traditional and indie tracks, all about how to market themselves and their work.

Marketing isn’t just social media or printing bookmarks. And contrary to popular belief, marketing isn’t guaranteed with a book deal, not even for traditionally published writers. And how do writers market themselves before they’re published? Ack!

I’m looking for the right candidate to help me build a marketing extension of the Good Story Company. This will start as a paid internship, and will grow to a half-time or even full time position over time. There will be a heavy teaching and training component, but the right person will come to the table with experience and ideas of their own.

Requirements:

  • Age 18 and over
  • Legally able to work in the United States (unfortunately, for legal reasons, I’m not able to hire from outside of the US)
  • Have 8-10 hours available per week to devote to the internship
  • Be familiar with Slack and the G-Suite of tools
  • Have at least one year of existing experience in marketing—I’m looking to train up the right candidate, but I do want them to bring something to the table (not necessarily in book marketing)

In order to apply for this position, which will start in late January 2020, please submit the following:

  • Your latest and greatest resume
  • A cover letter that details your interest in this position
  • A sample marketing plan for a writer, traditionally published book, or independently published book—if you don’t know how to make one, do a little research online and give it your best shot!

Please send this combination (attachments are okay) to:

mary@kidlit.com

with the subject line “Marketing Internship” by January 10th, 2020, noon Central time. Late submissions will be deleted unread.

Diverse applicants are encouraged, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements! Starting pay for this internship will be $12/hr. This is a remote, web-based internship. I can’t wait to hear from you!

About That Marketing Thing…

I’m also planning a marketing class for writers in early 2020. If you’re interesting in getting on the waiting list or receiving more information, please sign up for the email list for this marketing class here.

Celebrating Nora Pepper Macdonald

As many of you know, two years ago today, I gave birth to my daughter, Nora Pepper. We didn’t know it at the time, but she would come to us with a very rare brain disorder called Ohtahara Syndrome. It would be the reason for her death sixteen days later. In the two years since Nora lived and died, I’ve gone through what feels like an entire lifetime.

Our gorgeous Nora girl. These pictures were taken when she was five days old, before we knew.

Losing Nora was the worst thing my husband, Todd, and I, have ever experienced. Our son, Theo, was 21 months at the time. We suddenly found ourselves reading a lot of picture books about death. An urn showed up in our living room. We went to an event put on by the Children’s Hospital bereavement department and released monarch butterflies. To this day, Theo says, “Sister Nora turned into a butterfly.”

It has been two years, today, since she was born.

Since then, Todd has started two restaurants, then left the traditional chef lifestyle. Now he works an honest-to-goodness 9-5 doing recipe development for a restaurant group in town. He cooks us dinner every night.

My editing business is having the most successful year ever, beyond my wildest imagination. I now work with eight absolutely amazing individuals. I’ve launched another company, a podcast, a forum, and a YouTube channel. There are even more big plans on the horizon.

Theodore the Goofball. This is immediately before he bowled me over into the grass.

Theo is thriving at a Spanish immersion preschool. He’s so funny. Like, so funny. And wise. We read books to him every day. He got a bunk bed this week and ran around the house, squealing with pure glee.

My family is complicated. Three months after Nora died, my father passed away from, as Kurt Vonnegut called it, “cancer of the everything.” But it brought me back in touch with my stepmother and half-sister. Three weeks ago, my stepfather suffered a massive stroke, a life-changing, and potentially life-ending event. But it brought my mother and I—uneasily, tenderly—out of a long estrangement.

And finally, we have Finn.

It’s impossible to have a bad day with Finny’s gorgeous smile.

Finn is a joy. He’s approaching 10 months. He’s always smiling. He has a gleam in his eye. He’s pulling up to stand. To be perfectly honest, if things hadn’t taken the turn they did, Finny-Doodle probably wouldn’t have come into our family.

Now we can’t imagine our lives without him.

Every year, I like to turn Nora’s birthday into a force for life and positivity, since it was the most godawful thing I’ve ever experienced (even though there were surprisingly beautiful things about it). Nora never got the chance to create a measure of good in the world, so I work to keep her memory alive.

The year she died—2017—I asked for donations to the Children’s Hospital Foundation. We were powerless against Nora’s condition, but our family raised over $20,000 to allow Children’s to help other families. Last year—2018—I asked for donations in Nora’s memory to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, an organization that allows families suffering infant loss or stillbirth to receive professional photographs of their brief time together. When they sent me the stack of cards with all the names of those who had donated in Nora’s memory, I shuffled through them all and wept.

This year, I’m directing anybody who wants to do some good in Nora’s memory to the Good Story Grant. My vision is a monetary gift of $2,000 to one or more writers that the Good Story Company is offering for the first time in January/February 2020. The first grant is fully funded, but depending on donations, which have already started to come in, we may be able to offer it more than once a year. The grant is accepting applications now.

The grant’s objective is simple: My team and I will review pitches from writers about how the money will help them get to the next level on a writing project. As long as it has to do with creative writing and there’s some accountability in the form of a timeline, deliverables, and letters of recommendation, we want to hear about it. If you’d like to help me support one or more writers every year, you are welcome to donate here.

Thank you for your support throughout the years. I truly love you, my amazing Kidlit crew, and I can’t believe that you help me live my dream every single day. I’m very sad that Nora isn’t with us, but the last two years have been truly incredible, in no small part because of you, my dear reader.

Announcing Good Story Company

It is with great excitement that I’m announcing several new things today! This has been in the works for a while, so if I have seemed busy or stressed or looked tired, this is why! Without further ado, I present to you Good Story Company! Please take a second to watch this video and subscribe to my new YouTube channel (yes, I’m that guy now).

My new idea for a company serving writers and helping you craft a good story is, for now, threefold. First, we have GSC, the umbrella company that my team and I have put together.

Good Story Company

A content company providing services for writers. Most of them are free, for example, a writing forum (that survey from a few weeks ago makes more sense now, right?!), a blog, a podcast, and lots of inspiring and craft-focused content.

good story company, storytelling, writers

You can check out the Good Story Company website here. As well as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Crit Collective

Crit Collective is a FREE writing forum focused on ONE THING: helping you find your writing partner. This is a writing forum but not a general writing forum. This is a writing partner forum. It serves one function only—connecting writers to other writers, critique partners, beta readers, sensitivity readers, etc. It’s like online dating for writers!

crit collective, writing partner, writing critique, critique partner

I’ve done “Critique Connection” posts on Kidlit over the years, to great success. People have found their writing connections via those posts, and some critique relationships that started there are still going strong. How cool is that?

Now I’m starting a free forum to do the same. We got over 100+ responses on the survey and tried to listen to as much feedback as we could. Now it’s all about getting writers on the forum so that you can find your people. A forum is nothing without its users, so check it out!

Good Story Podcast

Finally, for now, I’d love to introduce you to the Good Story Podcast.  People have been bugging me for years to do a podcast. And in the last year, I have done some awesome interviews in webinar format. But one thing I don’t like about the webinar format: only registered students get the content. I want to give this content to EVERYONE because I work hard to interview amazing writers and thought leaders.

So now I’ve launched a podcast called Good Story Podcast. Absolutely free, absolutely interesting, all about writing, revision, the craft, and the business. And to show you that I mean business, I’m kicking it off with my first interview: Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo and writing teacher. Have a listen here:

I’m working on getting the podcast listed everywhere that you get your podcasts. In the meantime, let me know what you think!

storytelling podcast, podcast for writers

I’m so, so, so excited to present all of this to you. I have been talking to writers, teaching writers, and helping writers for over ten years now, and this is absolutely my life’s work and passion.

THANK YOU for all of your support over the years. I would be nowhere without you guys, my Kidlit readers, the original crew. We’ve been through so much over the years together, and I really wouldn’t be the person or the editor I am today without you. Yes, beautiful YOU!

I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING!

Now Hiring Administrative Assistant and Seeking Referrals

Less than a year after hiring several editorial assistants and a social media and marketing manager, I’m growing and hiring for Mary Kole Editorial again! Now I’m looking for a dedicated administrative assistant to help me with the day-to-day logistics of my business. This will be a part time position (20 hours or so per week, unless need increases).

I’m also looking for editors, ghostwriters, and proofreaders for referrals of overflow work. I find myself turning work down if a project isn’t a perfect fit for my team, and would love some qualified editors and proofreaders to recommend. Sometimes my clients also look for ghostwriters. This is an opportunity to receive referrals. I’m especially looking for excellent proofreaders, ghostwriters, and editors who specialize in non-children’s fiction.

I’m looking for my right-hand guy or gal to help me with my growing business, so that I can do the editorial work I love more easily!

This remote position is perfect for someone who has experience as a support person and administrative assistant, either in the corporate or start-up space. Maybe you want extra income as you work on your own writing, or need to work from home.

Ideally, your skills and attributes include:

  • Clean written communication–you will be writing on my behalf sometimes, and that means clear, error-free, delightful copy
  • Time management and dedication to deadlines
  • Ability to set, then meet or exceed expectations
  • Clear communication with me about timing and progress
  • The ability to follow instructions but largely work independently and take initiative
  • Reliability and trustworthiness, you will be privy to sensitive business information
  • Proactivity and love of learning–if you don’t know how to do something, you will seek out additional resources, learn what you need, and enjoy the process
  • Familiarity with the Google suite of productivity tools, especially spreadsheets, Dropbox, DocuSign, and Slack
  • Some basic graphic design skills using Canva and templates
  • Commitment–I put a lot of energy and passion into my working relationships, and I’m only looking for people who could see being available for a minimum of two years, ideally more

Projects will include:

  • Tracking and following up with potential client inquiries
  • Bookkeeping, issuing client agreements, generating invoices, and tracking payments
  • Reaching out on my behalf to marketing opportunities
  • Responding to inquiries on my behalf
  • Helping set up and update various marketing elements like email newsletters and webinars

This is not an editorial position, unfortunately, but I welcome applicants who are interested in the publishing business, as we will invariably end up discussing the industry and various client and project needs.

Starting pay is $15/hour with the opportunity to grow, and my needs will start at 20 hours a week (as a minimum, never less) though they  might increase to up to 29 hours a week. You will be a 1099 contractor for tax purposes (responsible for withholding your own income taxes and reporting them), rather than a W2 employee. Please understand that I am not in the position to offer employee benefits, like health insurance. This is an opportunity for US-based candidates only for legal reasons. (I sadly had to turn down many qualified editorial applicants from abroad during my last hiring event.)

I’m looking for cover letters and resumes sent in the body of an email or as an attachment. Please use the subject line “Assistant Application” and send to mary@kidlit.com. The deadline for applications is Friday, June 7th, 2019 at midnight, Central. The next step is a phone interview for qualified candidates. Since we will be working very closely together, the personality fit factor is important here. I welcome all applicants! The position would most likely start at the end of June or beginning of July.

If you’re interested in being an editorial, ghostwriting, or proofreading referral, please use the subject line “Editorial Referral” and send to mary@kidlit.com. There is no deadline on this request.

Surprise! Welcome Finn!

Here’s a post that I’m thrilled to write. On February 7th, we welcomed Finn Mikhail Macdonald to the world. He joins big brother, Theo, who is three years old today.

Those who’ve been following know that our daughter, Nora Pepper, died in December 2017 after being born with a very rare and completely surprising birth defect. But my husband, Todd, and I knew we weren’t done building our family. Or so we hoped. We never learned our recurrence risk for Nora’s condition, despite doing whole genomic sequencing, the most comprehensive option available. Our odds were either 1 in 4 of a repeat (if the condition was inherited), or 1 in a billion (if it was a random mutation) of being struck by the same lightning twice. But there was no way to close that gap.

When you’re hit with such a devastating loss, and medical uncertainty, you can’t help but think, “Was our healthy child the fluke? Or was our unhealthy child the fluke?” And then, “Could we go through this again, if it happened? Are we brave enough to try?”

Well, we tried. And the pregnancy was its own special kind of hell, because Nora’s condition doesn’t show up on imaging or any kind of prenatal testing (since we never found the gene responsible, we had nothing to test for).

So I had to basically have a baby and see if it … worked. Brutal.

Happily, Finn seems healthy, as far as we can tell. He’s very different from our sweet Nora. He cries, he eats (and eats!), he opens his eyes, and he seems very engaged with the world around him. In other words, a typical newborn, just like Theo was.

The second Finn was born and screamed and latched immediately, a huge weight was lifted. Worry and heartbreak that I didn’t even realize I’d been carrying around for so long dissipated. I can’t describe how happy we were, and still are, to have this beautiful new creature join our family.

To be totally honest with you, the end of 2017 and into 2018 was devastating. Not only did we have the worst surprise of our lives when Nora was born and passed away in December 2017, but I lost my dad to cancer in March 2018. This was also a surprise. He sincerely thought he had more time. They both departed way too soon. It was too much. I was numb for about six months. That’s why Finn has the middle name Mikhail. That was my father’s name, the Russian version of Michael.

At least our Finny has two amazing guardian angels watching over him.

And, of course, two furry ones. (Token pug picture of Olive and Gertie…)

Thank you to everyone for following this saga. I kept the pregnancy a secret for the most part. I learned the hard way not to count my chickens. Hearing congratulations for Nora and then condolences two weeks later was very hard. So I didn’t want to say boo about a baby until there was one. Well, boo!

It was such a thrill to have the same photographer who took our Nora pictures, Sarah Ann Photography, back to chronicle this new arrival. We also got to share Finn with the incredible NICU doctor who cared for Nora, which felt so gratifying. It was such a wonderful way for things to come full circle. I hope that now we can close out one tumultuous chapter of our lives, and begin an exciting new one.

Remembering Nora Pepper

Today, on what would’ve been her first birthday, I’m remembering my daughter Nora Pepper. For those of you who don’t know, Nora was born with a very rare birth defect on this date, November 30th, in 2017. It was a complete surprise to us because her condition didn’t show up on prenatal imaging or testing. Unfortunately, hers was a terminal diagnosis. She died on December 16th, 2017.

It’s so amazing to us that we were able to capture a few precious and irreverent moments of us as a family of four. I’m holding Nora, who is six days old, and my husband, Todd, is reading to Theo, then 21 months.

The Taboo of Baby Loss

We had a little more than two weeks to create memories as a family, and include our son, Theo, then 21 months, in Nora’s short life. During that time, we hired a professional photographer, the wonderful Sarah Wroblewski of Sarah Ann Photography, to come take pictures in our home. Now that Nora is gone, these pictures have become touchstones for our family that we will treasure forever. That sounds like such a cliché, but in this case, they really are all we will ever have. They mean everything to us.

We had our favorites made into a photo album. (In the blur of grief, I just sent a big batch to Shutterfly and used their “I don’t care, just make me an album” service. It actually worked out better than expected!) Our photographer gifted us with an absolutely stunning album as well. This morning, we sat together as a family and showed both off to Theo, then talked about his sister and how much we love and miss her. The photos will be part of our tradition on her birthday for the rest of our lives.

The last year has been difficult but, ultimately triumphant. Theo is an utter joy to us, now a wild and rambunctious 2.5-year-old. We savor even the most mundane moments with him in ways that we didn’t before. My relationship with Todd, my husband, is stronger than ever. I’ve done a huge amount of inner digging, and grown into a person I never would’ve been without this experience. The editorial business is thriving and I get to do what I love every single day.

Another facet of the last year has been connecting with other loss parents. The “Dead Baby Club,” as I jokingly call it, is a club nobody ever wanted to be in, but we are. After I posted about Nora’s death, I heard from so many of you who’ve lost pregnancies, babies, or children. Nobody talks about this kind of shattering loss. Children aren’t supposed to die. It breaks the natural order.

But they do. Sadly, so sadly, they do.

When this tragedy happens, parents sometimes feel alone because it’s too terrible, too impossible to talk about. The world wants to shield its eyes and pretend. There’s a cultural taboo surrounding the topic. So, all too often, we suffer in silence, except when we meet another family in our shoes.

I love this picture of Nora. It’s a reminder that her short life was filled with all the love we could possibly give. Whether she knew it or not, she was never alone.

Coming Together

This has gotten me thinking about community, and reaching out to other loss families who have experienced the unimaginable. I remember what it was like to be broken open in the most vulnerable moment of my life, sitting there in the hospital that Monday evening, and learning that Nora would absolutely die. There’s just not a lot of support for a family on that horrible day.

As the anniversary of Nora’s birth and death rolls around, and I’m thrust back into these memories, I want to tell you about a cause that means a lot to me, if you’ll listen. This year, my family has made a donation in Nora’s honor. I’d love for you to join us, if you feel at all compelled. While I can’t personally be there to support families facing baby loss as it’s happening to them, there’s an organization that does just that.

And it does something else incredible. It provides them with tangible memories of a life gone too soon: those same kinds of photographs that mean the world to us now.

A Request in Nora’s Honor

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a nonprofit organization that you may never have heard of. I hope that’s because you’ve never needed them. They service any parents in a hospital setting who are facing stillbirth or neonatal death. They provide a network of photographers who will come at no charge to the family, at all hours of the day and night, and take pictures of the baby and family. These pictures are usually heart-wrenching. But beautiful. And oh-so-significant to families who may only get to spend a few precious moments with their babies.

My family didn’t personally use their services. We brought Nora home initially, because we didn’t know exactly what was wrong. We had photographs taken there. But if we’d spotted her condition earlier, we probably never would’ve left the hospital. From experience, I know how amazing it is to have pictures of my baby. I never thought I’d lose a child. But families experience it every day. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep serves them in their time of most desperate need. It supports photographers who volunteer their time and talent to step into the worst moment of a person’s life. Think about walking into that room for a moment.

Please excuse me for using my platform for a cause. But I want to help Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and enable them to do their very important work, if I can. If you feel so compelled, please make a donation to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in Nora Pepper Macdonald’s name, or the name of any other child who survives only in your heart.

We’re thinking about you today and every day, baby girl!

Seeking Editorial Assistant: Mary Kole Editorial is Hiring!

Updated: THIS OPPORTUNITY IS NOW CLOSED TO APPLICANTS. THE POST REMAINS FOR REFERENCE ONLY. THANK YOU!

Whew! The time has finally come for me to train and work alongside a talented and passionate fiction expert in my editorial practice. Business is booming and I would love to expand my offerings and availability with a specialist in proofreading and manuscript analysis.

I will continue to be the primary editor on every project, but I am looking for someone to do proofreading work, research comparative titles, and otherwise support me and my clients. I will train you in my editorial approach, including the concept of interiority, so that you may become proficient in applying my principles to manuscripts down the road.

Familiarity with my work is a big plus. Ideally, I am looking for a long-term relationship with the right individual.

About You

The ideal candidate must be well-read in the current marketplace, with a focus on picture books, middle grade, and young adult, but, ideally, with wide interests elsewhere as well. I work on genre and literary fiction outside of the kidlit space, and have recently been doing a lot of narrative nonfiction, for example. The ability to reference contemporary published titles in an informed way is key. (The ability to read quickly while retaining information is also a huge bonus!)

Proofreading is a large component of the job, so the ideal candidate will be proficient in grammar, usage, and formatting. English training at the college level (or above) will be given top consideration. Also key is the ability to summarize what you’re reading so that we can discuss projects. Eventually, providing micro- and macro-level feedback will become a bigger part of your role. In terms of editorial work, you must already have some affinity for giving constructive response to writing in progress, but this skill will be developed according to my editorial philosophy.

From a logistical standpoint, I’m looking for someone with good time management skills, who is very communicative, can set and then meet (or exceed!) expectations, and is otherwise honest, punctual, and responsible. You are going to be a key part of my business, and so I want you to think of this as more than just a side-hustle.

Just the Facts

It’s okay if you’re still a student, but I hope to work with someone who has a good handle on their other time commitments. Student schedules tend to fluctuate, but reliability and availability are key for me. I’m busy year-round!

I love entrepreneurial, self-starting personalities, but I ask that you not engage in any other freelance editorial work during your tenure at Mary Kole Editorial. It’s perfectly fine with me if you have another job, even in a related field, but you will be contractually excluded from acting as direct competition.

Pay is hourly, and you can expect to work up to 20 hours per week, but the ideal candidate would have bandwidth for more hours, if needed. I can guarantee 10 hours of paid week per month during our training, though my goal is to transition to approximately 20 hours (or more) per week.

Training is paid, and there is a 30-day probation period before the official hire. The pay is $16 per hour with room to grow, paid twice a month. You are a 1099 contractor responsible for filing your own taxes. Unfortunately, I am not in the position to provide any employee benefits.

I am looking for US-based candidates at this time, who are able to legally work in the US. Within that parameter, the job can be performed remotely from anywhere, though I will ask that you be available for check-ins with me during my business hours. I am on Central time. I do not discriminate against anyone who wishes to apply–all are welcome! The only necessary tools are a computer with Microsoft Word and Internet access…as well as your passion, knowledge, willingness to learn, and creativity, of course!

How to Apply

Please write a cover letter that explains why you’d like to work as my editorial and research assistant. Make sure to discuss your most relevant experience and how it qualifies you. Include a recent resumé. Be sure to note your availability and location. I’d prefer if you copy and paste this information into the body of an email. Yes, I’m evaluating how well you follow directions.

I hope to use the month of August to make a decision, but depending on response volume, I reserve the right to go into September! I will respond to every submission, but please give me up to two weeks after the deadline for applications, below, before checking in. The next phase of the process will involve a phone interview and sample editorial work.

THANK YOU FOR THE INCREDIBLE INTEREST! THIS OPPORTUNITY IS NOW CLOSED TO APPLICANTS.

I can’t wait to work with you!

Callout for Successful Query Letters!

Have you gotten an agent or a publishing deal with a compelling query letter? Would you mind sharing that letter with me so that I can use it in a very exciting class that I’m teaching? (I can’t reveal the class just yet, but stay tuned for news this fall.)

I am always on the lookout for awesome examples of query letters, but I obviously can’t use a query from my agenting days without the author’s permission. If you’d be willing to generously allow me to reprint your query in an online class and discuss its strengths, I would be so grateful! (I’ll even throw in access to the online class for free to the writers whose queries I end up picking!)

This callout is for queries you’ve used successfully to get an agent or a publishing offer. They can be in any category or for any genre.

Please email them copied and pasted or as attachments to: mary at kidlit dot com

Thank you so much for your willingness to share your awesome queries with the next generation of aspiring writers!

Seeking Writing Service Providers!

Do you (or someone you’ve worked with) provide non-editorial services to writers? Services can include:

  • Graphic/cover design
  • Book layout
  • Formatting for Kindle/ebook publication
  • Book production
  • Self-publishing consulting/services
  • Marketing/PR
  • Social media support
  • Ghostwriting
  • Illustration

This is an opportunity to be included in a resource guide.  I’m always getting requests for ghostwriters, cover designers, book formatting, etc.

Please contact me at mary@kidlit.com or leave links in the comments. For all service providers, I will ask for examples of successful work you’ve done, so be prepared to talk about your services, your experience, and give a sense of your pricing. If you’re a writer who has used a service that you are THRILLED with, please spread the good word and let me know. Thank you so much.