Doing an Unworkshop at the Highlights Foundation

10 Oct The Barn at Highlights Foundation

I am writing this from a comfy couch in my very last hour at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA (and posting it from home a few days later!). This is the second year that I’ve teamed up with a group of writing friends that I met via Pitch Wars to do an “unworkshop” at Highlights’ lovely facility in the mountains, and I wanted to share my experience for others interested in booking a stay.

You probably know Highlights from their wonderful magazines for children, but they also have a campus where they offer workshops for writers, work with groups to provide custom events, and offer “unworkshops” year-round for writers to make their own retreat weekend. In an unworkshop, writers come to campus whenever they want, and use their time however they want. Highlights provides delicious meals, which writers can eat while chatting with other unworkshoppers, or take back to their cabins to enjoy in solitude. The campus includes a beautiful barn with meeting rooms and a dining room, several one-writer cabins with private bathrooms, a farmhouse with five rooms and five bathrooms, and a lodge with a meeting room and several private bed/bathroom suites. Each room has a chair and desk for writing, plus bug spray and a flashlight!

When you arrive, there is no official check-in. You just find your name on your cabin/room and the key is in the door.

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Picture Book Giveaway for “Nita’s First Signs”

7 Oct Baby reads "Nita's First Signs"

As my baby becomes a toddler, we are learning lots of new sign language together to help us get along until she can communicate with words. We love reading “Nita’s First Signs” (affiliate link) written by Kathy MacMillan, illustrated by Sara Brezzi, and published by Familius. Honestly, learning a few basic signs myself was a challenge I had to conquer before teaching them to my daughter. “Nita’s First Signs” is parent (idiot) proof, and made learning signs like “milk,” “more,” and “all done” very easy for me, and thus for my daughter. It’s a wonderful board book with sections that pull out to show details about each sign.

Book for toddlers about sign language

I give this book to my friends who are expecting new babies, so I thought it would be a great book for my first official giveaway. Besides, I know Kathy from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she’s amazing, so I’m always happy to boost her.

So, how do you enter to win this book? Sign up for my newsletter (below) before 10/15! I’ll pick a random subscriber to win a copy and announce the winner in my newsletter. I’ll reach out for your address, and send the book to you anywhere Amazon offers free Prime shipping. 


I promise you won’t get inundated with email—I plan to send emails once a month, max. They’ll be stuffed full of great resources about writing, editing, the publishing process, and parenting, with a side of news about my own writing career (and future giveaways)!

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Here are a few pictures of my daughter and my dog being adorable with our copy of “Nita’s First Signs”! (Don’t worry, I’m sending the winner a new one without any baby boogers or dog slobber!)

Baby reads "Nita's First Signs"

How to Evaluate Whether a Publisher is Traditional or Vanity

18 Sep

I just got an email from Submittable about a call for full manuscripts from Atmosphere Press. With the recent discussions of financial transparency on publishing Twitter, I thought I’d share thoughts about this call and the spectrum between traditional, self, and vanity publishing.

Disclaimer: I only know what’s on the email from Submittable and Atmosphere’s website and I could be totally wrong, but this is an example of how to analyze publishers based on what I’ve learned after years of my own submissions and my editing clients’ submissions.

To start, I’ll define traditional, self, and vanity publishing.

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Pitch Wars Advice Blog Hop

18 Sep

Hi, Pitch Wars mentee hopefuls! You are probably reading this after you have submitted your Pitch Wars applications, while you’re waiting to hear from potential mentors. Or perhaps you’re spotting this before the official blog hop, or this post has come up a year or two down the road at another stage of the process. Either way, I’m here to share my advice as a two-time Pitch Wars mentee. I also applied a third time because I loved it so much and didn’t get in that third time (okay, alright, it was greedy to apply again!).  

Here are a few thoughts that should be helpful for you at this stage of the game. 

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17 Ways to Cope with Rejection While Querying Literary Agents

12 Aug

Querying literary agents can be a long, hard road. It was for me. I sent out almost 400 queries for several different books over 6 years before signing with literary agent Carrie Pestritto.

It sounds rosy now that I have hit that milestone. Yay, I made it! But let me tell you, it was a hair-pulling, fit-throwing, soul-killing, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad emotional journey. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (well, okay, maybe on a few people…). The whole six years weren’t like that, of course. Or else I certainly would have given up. But the times when I got several rejections on a full manuscript on the same day? Yup, those were pretty bad.

It’s not that hard for everyone. But it is that hard for many writers. Wendy Heard sent 500 queries before finding her agent. Joy McCullough wrote 10 books before getting one published (5 before getting her first agent).

I hope that the querying journey is easier for you. But whether you’ve racked up hundreds of rejections or you’re only on your first few, I’m here to share some tips that helped me cope with all the rejection.

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After Almost 400 Queries in 6 Years, I Have a Literary Agent!

8 Aug Literary Agent Carrie Pestritto

I have awesome, amazing news that I finally get to share today. I am now represented by literary agent Carrie Pestritto of Laura Dail Literary Agency!

I am so excited to be working with Carrie! As some of you know, I interned for Carrie a few years ago, and I’m thrilled that I now get to be her client. Carrie’s superpowers include communicating at the speed of light, bubbling over with writing and revision ideas, connecting her clients with each other, exuding positivity, keeping organized, and, of course, selling books. We’ll be focusing on picture books for now—they fit into working mother life a little easier than full novels—but I’m excited to have Carrie’s guidance on all of my writing.


I have been querying agents for about six years. Because Carrie and I had an existing relationship, the journey to becoming her client was a little untraditional, but over my years with friends and editing clients in the query trenches, I have seen many different paths toward literary representation and publication. The basics of my journey are below, though I’ll probably share more details later. It’s been six years, after all. I’ve learned enough for several blog posts (and have written about query basicsquery etiquette, and dealing with R&Rs in the past). To hear when I have more news and insights to share, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter @tracycgold.

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18 Etiquette Guidelines for Querying Literary Agents

11 Jun

A few months ago, I decided to close down the editing company I cofounded, Sounding Sea Writers’ Workshop, as my cofounders had moved on in life, and managing a company presented extra complexity compared to being a sole practitioner. I’m now reposting the content I created for Sounding Sea on my personal website.

Querying is unlike anything I’ve experienced in any other industry: it’s guided by unspoken rules. Everyone has slightly different ideas of what those rules are, and newbies can be left completely oblivious.

I’ll cover some basic guidelines for tricky situations that come up when you’re querying. These guidelines come from talking to other querying writers, and partly from seeing querying from the other side, via my internship with agent Carrie Pestritto (though she hasn’t seen this post, so these are my views, not hers!).

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How to Get a Literary Agent: Basics for Beginners

11 Jun

A few months ago, I decided to close down the editing company I cofounded, Sounding Sea Writers’ Workshop, as my cofounders had moved on in life, and managing a company presented extra complexity compared to being a sole practitioner. I’m now reposting the content I had created for Sounding Sea on my personal website.

Thanks to some recent pitch contests, I’ve been talking to a lot of new writers who are thinking about approaching literary agents. Below, I’ll break down the basic process of seeking literary agents and explain some of the common vocabulary that trips newcomers up. Note that this post is primarily geared towards writers of fiction and memoir, with a few notes for non-fiction writers to keep in mind.

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Webinar: What A Game of Thrones Can Teach Writers about Multiple POVs

6 Jun

Update: this webinar, and a transcript, for those who prefer reading, is posted here.

If Game of Thrones inspired you to write your own epic fantasy, join me for a free webinar about how to manage multiple points of view. I’m recording live and doing an exclusive Q & A next Wednesday at 3 pm New York time. The main webinar & transcript will be posted afterward.

I’m a huge fan of the show, but for this webinar, I’ll mainly be talking about the first book. Read, or reread at your own risk (I’m now halfway through the audiobook of A Clash of Kings, 40-some hours later). You don’t have to read the book to understand the webinar, but the webinar will certainly spoil the first book, and potentially the whole series. Spoiler alert! You’ve been warned.

I’ll cover the following concepts:

1. How to choose which character narrates a scene

2. How to decide whether a character deserves to have a POV section at all

3. How to avoid confusing your readers 

4. How to choose between first person and third person

5. How to make each voice distinct

Thanks to Reedsy for hosting me!

Register for free here.

A Guide to First Person from Reedsy

12 Mar

I adore writing and reading in the first person. Escaping into a character’s mind in first person carries me away into fictional worlds. I help a lot of my editing clients navigate writing first person, or decide whether to write in first or third person. Reedsy, a database of freelance editors, designers, and other publishing experts, published some of my thoughts on the matter, along with other great advice on writing in first person.

Read the whole post about writing in the first person here.