All posts by Gwen Jones

A New Direction

I heard somewhere in order to stay fresh and current, you need to reinvent yourself every ten years. I also read awhile ago it takes ten years or 10,000 hours to become a master at anything. Well, I’ve done both–invested both the hours and the years, plus more. So now it’s time to start the reinvention. And I’m starting by writing something new and moving on from what got me to where I am now.  And that begins with my representation.

I know the search engines would like to to remain where I was but to them I’m like–sweethearts, no matter what you say I’m overruling you right here. I’ve left my long-time literary agency, and not because they’ve done me egregious, but because I’m moving in a different direction and that’s not their forte. But look, I’m grateful for all the time and effort they put into me to make me a better writer. The time wasn’t wasted because I am.

So to those agencies visiting this as I begin my search, call me on it. If you have my query letter, ask to see more. Make me prove myself. I’m up to it and anything you can toss at me.

So let’s begin.

Happy National New Jersey Day from the Best Place in the World

I do not jest. Just because I was born, raised, and still reside here, you may think I’m a bit prejudiced. But it’s true. So we have high taxes. We get a lot of bang for our buck. We have mountains (well, big hills) we have the best beaches on the East Coast. Gambling. Weed’s legal. We have free community college if you keep your grades above failing. The toughest environmental laws. Tough gun laws, too, still legal but regulated. Medical insurance exchanges, and Medicaid if you qualify. A woman’s right to choose and marriage equality protected. Some of the best colleges in the world. The best diners, the best tomato pies, Pork Roll (don’t give me that Taylor Ham bullshit), frozen custard (NOT “soft serve.”) Crowded metro areas, but also the largest tract of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. And we’re free to hate our Governor. We always do, no matter what party they’re from.

We’re not prefect. We have flaws. We love to hate ourselves. We love to say we can’t wait to get out of our own state. But we go down the Shore every summer. We have a gazillion restaurants to pick from with every type of food represented. If we see a pizza delivery vehicle from Domino’s we know it’s going to somebody from out-of-state because… why? There’s a real pizza joint on every corner! Blueberries, tomatoes, cranberries, OH MY GOD–THE PEACHES!! There’s a lot of reasons to love living here and I’m sure, just as many reasons to say it’s the worst. But we don’t care. So go pump your own gas. We don’t have to and it’s still cheaper than yours. We’re staying right here.

Hello from the other side of the Air Conditioner

Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted, and I’m absolutely thrilled you’ve been waiting to hear from me! This heat’s kind of baked my brain, and I’ve really nothing original to offer, so consider yourself lucky you’ve been saved from my blather. But I’m feeling pretty full of myself today, as I just sent my agent the final draft of something I’ve been working on for way, way, WAY too long. I suppose I could tweak it a bit more, but to quote a saying I’ve heard lately, I’m not going to let the perfect get in the way of the good. Or maybe I’m underestimating myself. Maybe it really IS perfect. Time will tell if it ever lands on an editor’s desk. As self-deprecating as I tend to be, you’re never going to hear me overselling myself here. That’s what my agent’s for. So if you happen to be an editor on the lookout for suspense, mystery, snark, and a little sizzle of romance (as well as possessing an underlying respect for the Oxford Comma), forget the rest of this post and go to the top of the page. You know what to click next.

As for the rest of you, I’m catch up with you during sweater weather. It’s gelato time.


One of my students referred to a book she read recently that referred to a once-common publishing term known as the “slush pile.”  Which led me on a discussion on open submissions and small publishing houses and how a new author can get their manuscript read without first having it vetted by an agent…

In your journal for this week you refer to William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade and his mention of the slush pile. In any event, the slush pile is a real thing, books (or screenplays) sent “over the transom” as they used to say, which means without an agent or a targeted call for submissions. Some of the smaller publishers—and even some bigger ones, though NONE of the Big Five—will still take unagented or open submissions, which can be considered the slush pile of today. Some editors love them, usually what’s referred to as the “baby editors,” former editorial assistants who work under a senior editor and are now building their own list, as they’re always on the look-out for the next big author or trend.

Young editors/agents are often the best to query as they’re more open to submission, and a good website to keep an eye on is Publishing…and Other Forms of Insanity, as their posts always highlight new agents looking for clients. The site also lists publishers of all genres who accept unagented submissions, and it’s really eye-opening how many publishing houses are really out there. So much emphasis is put on getting published by the Big Five, but in truth, your chances for publication are much better if you query a smaller house. Many turn out to be hidden (or unappreciated) gems as far as how they value their authors, and many are willing to take a chance on new ones. And don’t discount their influence either as far as getting discovered. One of my favorite stories is of a small-house author making is big named Nelson Johnson, author of Boardwalk Empire. He published a book with Plexus Publishing, a small house out of Medford, NJ, and he was just lucky enough to have it read by HBO showrunner  Terrance Winter, who eventually turned it into a hit series for HBO!

I guess the moral of this story is you never know where your fortunes lie, and if the opportunity arises, just take it. You never know who’s reading!