Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Liars Are Truthful at the Writers Coffeehouse

By Dawn Byrne

How excited was I when I opened the Writer's Digest May/June issue and found an article by Marie Lamba and another by Janice Gable-Bashman?! I had just talked with these authors at the Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse in Willow Grove days earlier. As members of the Liars Club, they shared information on writing and marketing, with Marie leading the meeting.

The last Sunday of each month, I'm inside the Barnes & Noble at 102 Park Avenue in Willow Grove from noon to 3 PM. And so are the Liars. Marie is the author of the YA novels, What I Meant..., Over My Head and Drawn. She's also associate literary agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Janice is the author of Wanted Undead of Alive (with Jonathan Maberry) and "Predator" (coming October 2014). South Jersey Writers' Group founder Janice Wilson and I thought Marie's information on marketing and writing craft helpful and inspiring.

Marie explained that editors and agents aren't out to get writers, nor do they enjoy rejecting queries and book proposals. "Agents and editors love books." She tipped her head forward, parting her hair, to show her grey roots and lifted her foot to display cat socks to prove she's just another one of us, very busy and human. But what convinced me more, was learning she works on commission and could wait two years to receive pay for a book with which she'd been working. Plus there's no guarantee that she'll get compensated at all. It's easy to understand why agents and editors are so selective with choosing a project. They need to believe in it and the author.

Random House published Marie's first book, but she self-published her second. "Self-publishing can be viable and productive," she admits. It's more respected now than when it first started.

Marie will always get back to you if you email her. This may not be possible for some agents, though. Very organized, Marie refers regularly to her spreadsheet, using her time efficiently. She has fourteen clients and can receive 400 emails a week, so she utilizes eight interns to help with this workload. Since the recession, many people in the publishing industry were cut, so developmental editors are hired by writers themselves to prepare their work for the eyes of an agent or publisher. I loved hearing that Marie has a good critiquing group for her own work, and suggests the same for all writers.

Rude writers won't hear back from Marie and she is reluctant to pitch a manuscript to a rude editor. If you submit to Marie, she may Google you. This is an easy way to find out who you are beyond the manuscript proposal you sent. If you badmouth editors or agents, again, no email from Marie. Editors and agents know each other and share information about writers. And don't sound desperate publicly. I like Marie's idea of venting frustrations over rejections, or not hearing from an editor, privately with a friend.

Multiple submissions are a very realistic way to go, but don't mass query. The form query not specific for the agent you're targeting will stick out in a negative way, even if you do get the agent/editor's name correct.

A writer can grow old waiting for a reply from an editor or agent. "Nothing is exclusive," warns Marie. But three weeks is a proper length of time to allow exclusive rights to your work if you feel this may benefit you.

Switching to the topic of craft, Marie displayed a copy of Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. Marie praised Cameron's suggestion to write three pages of anything first thing in the morning to unblock a writer's mind. These morning pages, along with a playful work space, boosts creativity and enjoyment of our work. Since I had already read Cameron's book, I purchased another one suggested at the meeting, on my way out of the store: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

The Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse is free and attendees can ask professionals questions and talk with them after the meeting. Information on current trends, and what's not so hot, is valuable coming from an insider in the business. When you attend, bring business cards. Everyone's encouraged to network. I've found interacting with other attendees helpful and exciting too.

About today's guest blogger:

Dawn Byrne, a grandmother, writes inspirational and fictional stories about families from her New Jersey home. She's a member of the South Jersey Writers' Group, facilitates the Juliette Writers' Group, and teaches Sunday School. Dawn strives to leave a small carbon footprint, reads classical literature and has stories featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives: 101 Daily Devotions to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire You and Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas. Her website is


  1. Fun post! Thanks Dawn :) And, FYI, today my socks are striped, and as for the shall not speak of them. Hope to see you and many more writers at future Writer's Coffeehouses.

  2. Great post, Dawn!!! I have to make it to one of these and soon


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