Janet Sumner Johnson
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Pitch Madness! and Giving Back


10, 2014 |

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A year-and-a-half ago on a whim, I entered a little contest (under exaggeration there) called Pitch Madness. Amazingly I got in and had all kinds of interest, all of which led to an offer of representation! Woo hoo!!

Brenda Drake is one of the most giving authors I’ve ever encountered, and I owe her a lot, so today I want to do some giving back of my own. If you haven’t heard, Pitch Madness is open for entries TODAY! Right up until 11:59 EDT. All entries time-stamped before that time will be considered (no cut-offs!). You can find more information HERE. But seriously, if you are seeking an agent, you should enter. Really.

Now, I am not claiming to be an expert, but I have had a lot of success with my past pitches, SO . . . as a way to give back, from now until 4:00 PM EDT (of Monday, March 10th), I am offering to critiquing/helping with anyone’s pitch who wants help.

Simply send an e-mail to rjljohnson (dot) janet (at) gmail (dot) com with PITCH CRIT in the subject line, and the pitch you want critiqued in the body (remember, the pitches can only be 35 words). Feel free to ask any specific questions there, too. I will respond in the order they’re received.

Please spread the word, and wishing all the Pitch Madness entrants the best of luck!

Speak up:



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Ice-Cream Eating Celebration Contest!


06, 2013 |

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Holy Cow, has it really been a MONTH since I posted?!
Unbelievable. So I stayed busy doing this:

And this:


Not to mention THIS:


And while I didn’t really think ya’ll would be stagnant
while I was gone, all kinds of good things happened:

One of our very own members of the HackySack Club, MelissaSarno, just SIGNED WITH AN AGENT!!, so head on over to her blog and read about it!

Note: New members to the Hacky Sack Club are always
welcome and we DO seem to have some good mojo going. Just saying.

Also, my Hacky Sack Club partner in crime, Amy Sonnichsen’s
Fablulous CP, Krista VanDolzer [of Mother.Write. (Repeat.)] announced theBOOK DEAL she just signed!!

And JessieHumphries, from my NaNoRevMo group, announced herawesome TWO-BOOK DEAL with Amazon.

Anyhoo . . . so much good stuff going on for our friends that
Amy and I couldn’t just let it slide. We are holding a Celebration Contest!

And since all good celebrations need ice-cream, we are
having an Ice-Cream Eating Celebration Contest! Woo hoo!

So here’s how it works:

Amy and I are going to battle it out to see who can eat the
most ice-cream
in 20 seconds. Too easy, you say? Our 9-year olds are going to
be the ones stuffing the ice-cream in. Still too easy? Another child will hold
our hands behind our backs to keep us from cheating. 

And you’ll get to see the whole thing on video!! How cool is

BUT, it gets better. There will be PRIZES!!

All you have to do is guess who will win. Me? (uh,
yeah). Or Amy?

Everyone who guesses right (on either blog) will be entered
into a drawing for your choice of

 a 10-page
critique from BOTH Amy and I,


Surprise Package D (gosh I love me a surprise
package). Could be a book. Or two. Or a gift card. Or, who knows? Maybe even A

Just post your guess in a comment before
Sunday, May 12, midnight EDT
, and come back next Monday, May 13th,
for the ice-cream eating event! Winners will be posted shortly thereafter.

So go on, take a guess! But just know . . . this is me,
Toughest, Ice-cream eating-est, Brain-freezing-est contestant around! Just

Speak up:



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Lessons from Renting


22, 2012 |

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 Over the years, I have lived in many a rented house. Though it is not always my preferred state of things, I have learned a few things:

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m rambling on about my housing likes and dislikes. Here’s the thing. It kindof reminds me of critiquing . . .

When you critique someone else’s work, it’s easier to see the problems. And it’s easier to see what is well-done. It just is. You aren’t married to it like you are with your own work, and you can use a more discerning eye.

Personally, I can’t tell you how much I have learned about my own writing by critiquing others’ work. Both from the good and from the bad. Critiquing is not just helping someone else, it’s helping yourself.

Do you have critique partners? What have you learned from critiquing others’ work?

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Conference Advice


24, 2011 |

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This past weekend, I went to my local SCBWI region’s annual conference. I had a great time, and my head is swimming with all the great advice and inspiration shared by the speakers.

I was reminded that agents and editors are nice, normal people, too. When you find yourself in the query trenches, it’s easy to forget that. And same goes for award-winning authors.

Also, I got to meet Caroline Tung Richmond who blogs at Adventures in Space. This is the first time I’ve met a fellow blogger in person (and of course, I didn’t have a camera), but we had a great time visiting!

Anyway, over the years, I have attended several conferences, and I wanted to impart a bit of advice to anyone considering going to one.

  1. GO. Find a nearby conference, bite the bullet, and pay the enterance fee.
  2. Sign up for a critique. This means you need to sign up early. And it costs extra. Plus it may break your heart. But trust me when I tell you it’s worth it. These are the people who know the business. They know what they’re talking about. Even the stuff that hurts to hear puts you that much further ahead.
  3. Volunteer. Okay, I can hear the groan. You don’t have enough time. Or you doubt you have anything to offer. Or you’re nervous because you don’t know anyone. . . . I’m telling you to push past that. I have done it both ways. My first few conferences, I didn’t dare volunteer. But when I finally got up the courage to do it, I enjoyed the conferences so much more. Not only did I meet a lot more people, I got a special name tag. *pauses while you all turn green with envy*
  4. Take notes. Because that stuff you think you will remember? You won’t.

In short, my advice is to participate as fully as possible. There’s nothing like a conference to boost your writers morale and get you inspired to finish your WIP. The more you put in, the more you get out. (cliché, I know, but still true).

Have you ever been to a conference? What was your experience?

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The Best Laid Plans . . .


27, 2011 |

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Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to go to France for two weeks as a tour guide. No, I am not French scholar. And Yes, it was a LOT of work to get ready.

But as a favor to my sister (for whom I would do a lot because she is just that awesome), I went and posed as a confident tour guide. I not only learned all kinds of French history, but all kinds of random tidbits about life. For example, cobblestone may look cool, but it’s really not fun to walk or drive on. 
Still, I digress . . . now that I’m back, I get to subject you with all kinds of travel log writing analogies. Bwah ha ha ha! (Your ears should be ringing with my evil laugh.)
So, here we go . . . the first thing we visited after dropping off our luggage was the Eiffel Tower.

This iconic building fascinates me. It was built for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1889. It was meant to stand for 2 years before it would be dismantled. Then they upped its life to 20 years, and finally, with the coming of the radio and its usefulness assured, they decided to keep it.

It’s hard to imagine, from our current frame of reference, that the French would ever have considered taking the Eiffel Tower apart. But back then it was something of an atrocity to many. Modern art at it’s worst, so some people thought.

Now we can look back and breathe a sigh of relief that they revised their plans. Somehow, Paris just wouldn’t be Paris without it.

Writing can be a bit like this. We lay out our plans. We set our goals. We write our books and think that’s the end.

And then the first critiques come back.

We revise our work and sigh with relief that that’s done.

And then the next batch of critiques come back. I’m sure you get the idea.

What’s important to remember though, are the breathtaking results from your efforts.

Oh wait! How’d that get in there? I meant to post these . . .

So when you’re working on that next draft. Just think of the Eiffel Tower and all the future audiences you will wow.

It will be worth it.

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Win a Ten-Page Critique with Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown!


23, 2011 |

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For all of you writers of YA and Adult fiction, Vicki and I will be giving away a 10-page critique by the fabulous Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown as part of our upcoming Brawl ‘n Haul Contest from March 28 to April 1. And there are plenty of other great prizes for those who aren’t into writing. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!

If you aren’t yet, be sure you’re following both my blog and Vicki’s. And though she’s on a blogging break until April 6, go check out Sarah’s blog where she publishes novel excerpts, short stories, flash fiction, memoirs, and personal essays.
(And if you want to enter but don’t have a way to follow, contact me via my handy-dandy “Contact Me” tab. Vicki and I are low stress.)

T-minus 5 days and counting until the fun begins!

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Three-Month Mentorship


22, 2010 |

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There are so many amazing contests going on write now. Surely, among them, you’ve heard of Angela Ackerman’s 1000-Followers contest over at The Bookshelf Muse. This amazing woman is offering not just critiques, but a THREE-MONTH MENTORSHIP.

I know! Who wouldn’t want someone standing by you for three-months, helping you through this lonely and crazy writer’s world we navigate? This contest is open until Wednesday, September 29, so go check it out.

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