Dare to Read

December 15, 2010

Rejection Letters and Christmas

Filed under: On Publishing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 9:16 pm
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Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

I received a rejection letter today.

A personal one. One of those ‘It is not you. It’s me’ kind of rejection letter.

The kind that gives you hope.

For agents are way too busy to bother to answer unless they mean what they say. And if they do write you back, I was told, you are almost there.

Or so I want to believe.

Specially because this letter was quite lovely. For a rejection letter, that is.

Dear Ms. Ferreiro, it started.

Thanks so much for your query.  Though your writing is solid, with the plight of the princess and her whipping boy vividly portrayed, I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for this project.

I wish you much luck in getting TITLE published.

All best,


See? I told you it was lovely.

And she even got my name right.

What made this rejection letter even more special is that it was the second one.

No, I don’t mean the second rejection letter I’ve received–I’ve received so many, in fact, that I had lost count–but the second one from that same agent for the same submission.

Weird, I know.

And so I was thinking. You know how in English two ‘No’ means a ‘Yes’?

As in, if I say “I do not want nothing” I’m really saying “I want something”.

And remember how many times your Mother said, “No, of course, you can’t eat that cookie before dinner,” and you ate it anyway as if she had said yes?

So I wonder, could it be possible that this agent meant ‘yes’ by rejecting me twice?

She did write me an awfully nice letter.

And I’m sure she’s very busy, being Christmas and all.

So what do you think? Should I call her and ask?

For Christmas’s sake?

November 15, 2010

Why I write

Filed under: On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 3:38 pm
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Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For 30 days, thousands of people will be typing away at their computers. Their only aim: to finish a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month.

It is not quality but quantity that counts, the organizers say. And that puzzles me. What is the purpose of encouraging people to write a bad book?

To unblock creativity, I read somewhere. But I’m not convinced.

It seems I’m not alone.

“… there’s no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books,” Laura Miller reminds us in her article Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy (http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/11/02/nanowrimo/index.html).

And I agree. We don’t need more writers. We need more readers. And bad writing is not going to encourage people to read.

Besides, writers don’t need encouragement to make them write, more than fish need a coach to teach them how to swim.

Fish swim and writers write. No matter what.

We, writers, write because we have a compulsion–a gift or a curse I do not know– to do so.

We write even if our spouses say as they divorce us, “You better get a real job. For I don’t plan to support your writing.”

Mine did.

We write even if our daughter thinks it’s social suicide to read our book despite the fact that said book is a Young Adult novel and that her friends couldn’t put it down.

We write even if our boy tells us, in a sentence peppered with expletives we choose to forget, he will never read our book.

We write because we can. Because we must. Because our characters speak to us, urging us to tell their stories. And because we can’t forget the broken arch we once saw at low tide emerging from the mist.

We write to remember how it felt to fall in love and to stop the pain of the betrayal. We write to fill the hollow emptiness of an empty crib.

We write to connect to others, to share what we’ve learned by living, what we wish we knew when we were young.

And even if we knew no one will ever read us, we would still write.

Because we are writers, and writing is what writers do.

Yet, I must confess a deadline is not such a bad thing, for it does force us to write when we’d rather be doing something else.

So I decided to give myself a challenge to spur my creativity.

Not the challenge of writing a novel in 30 days, but that of posting the first draft of my new novel weekly here in my blog.

And I challenge you to do the same.

Dare to try?

October 14, 2010

How to Critique a Piece of Writing (Art)

Filed under: On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 11:21 pm
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

The following is the best advice I ever read about giving and receiving criticism.

I found it at the Eastern PA chapter of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators website (http://www.scbwiepa.org/critiques.html).

I think it is perfect as it is, so, without further discussion, here it is.


Criticism should be constructive not destructive. “I didn’t like the way you wrote (or illustrated) that” is never valid criticism. It always helps a fellow writer or artist to know the strengths of a manuscript or illustration as well as the weaknesses. A compliment offered first softens a “constructive” negative to follow. Try to tell your fellow writer or artist why something doesn’t work for you and offer possibilities for change. Always be encouraging. Not everyone will respond to a manuscript or illustration in the same way. Those receiving criticism should remember that any suggestion offered can be accepted or rejected. The author or artist has the final word on what stays.

Remember that you are in a critique group to get feedback. Often, your words or pictures can surround you so you can’t see flaws in your work. Try not to be too defensive when you’re criticized; be good-natured about it. All creators feel protective about their “children”.
A critique group can remain strong only when the sanctity of that group is respected. Thus, it is never okay to use the ideas or the research done by another member, to impose upon their contacts in the publishing world, or to reveal to others outside of the critique group the work-in-progress without the author’s or illustrator’s express permission.

August 3, 2010

Publishing Seminar!

Filed under: On Publishing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 3:09 pm
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Come Join us at Mercer County Community College on

Thursday, August 12th from 7-9 PM for our informative Publishing Seminar!

Three Women, Three Authors, Three Approaches to Publishing

You finally finished “The Great American Novel.” Maybe you’re putting the final touches on that children’s book you’ve been penning. Perhaps you want to publish your memoirs for posterity.
How do you go from typing on your computer to holding the finished book in your hands? Join authors Mary Fran Bontempo, Carmen Ferreiro Esteban and Chrysa Smith in this two-hour seminar as they share their interesting, maddening, but ultimately fulfilling experiences about writing and publishing their books using traditional, print-on-demand, and self-publishing methods.
Tuition and fees: $65

We’d love to share our hard-won knowledge with you!  This seminar will give you essential information to help you to get your work published.

For registration and more information, click on the link below.


March 25, 2010

What I look for in a manuscript critique

Filed under: On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:24 pm
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Writing is a lonely business. A critique group is the writer’s way to connect to others, to get feedback and discuss your characters as if they were real, without your sanity being questioned.

It takes courage to bring your manuscript to other people’s attention, even more so to receive their critiques with an open mind, without taking them as a personal attack and becoming defensive.

Yes, you love your story and you want everybody to love it too. But it’s rare the story that cannot be improved in a rewrite. The comments of other writers that see your work for the first time and come to it from different perspectives could be an invaluable help in creating a stronger piece.

This does not mean you must take all the advice offered. In fact, it may be impossible to do so, because sometimes the changes suggested by different members contradict each other. But if the majority agrees on some point, you may want to reconsider and change that particular part.

A negative critique can be overwhelming, especially for new writers. For me, the best critique is one that is balanced, one that offers both a positive evaluation and a carefully worded statement of the work weaknesses.

I like positive comments not only because I need praise, who doesn’t?, but because it is as important for me to know what is working in my story than what it’s not. A critique that only states what doesn’t work let me wondering whether there is anything at all I should leave as is, or, even worse, whether it’s worth to tell this story in the first place.

That is why I do not take a manuscript to be critiqued until I have a detailed outline and I know where I’m going with it. Too many opinions, especially negative ones, when the story is still a seed in my mind will break it for me. I take it when I have a first draft and want other people’s opinions to consider and incorporate, if I think them appropriate, in my next draft.

On the other extreme, if you believe your story is perfect as it is, don’t bring it to a critique group, as you will probably resent any suggestions for change. If you think it is ready, send it to an agent/publisher instead.

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

March 5, 2010

Good writers borrow, great writers steal. T.S. Eliot

Filed under: On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:26 pm
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Vampires, angels, zombies and fairies have invaded the shelves in the teen section of the bookstores these days.

As a writer of Young Adult novels, I have read my share of them, and enjoyed reading them well enough, while calling it research. But after a while they all started to blend in my mind. The good guys were always young and beautiful, the bad ones, still young, but ugly. And not being either young or beautiful myself, this started to bother me.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to have a wicked and wise older woman as the protagonist? Something like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer with the mother as the slayer?

After bouncing the idea in my mind for several days, I presented it to my friends and fellow bloggers. They both liked the idea and even volunteer to co-author my story. Then, Mary Fran went to the bookstore and found a book which she thought had stolen our idea, and panicked. Wouldn’t we be copying if we wrote ours now?

I told her,”No, of course not. My story is different.” How could it not be when I had not read those other books?

It was only later that I remembered a surrealistic moment I experienced last year when reading Diane Gabaldon’s novel Outlander.

Both, Outlander and my young adult novel Two Moon Princess, involve time travel.

In Outlander, a nurse from 1945 England travels to XVIII century Scotland where she falls in love with a native.

In Two Moon Princess, a girl from medieval Spain travels to modern day California and then back to her world with the American boy she fancies.

But that is all they have in common, the time travel part. The story line, characters, voice and intended audience are totally different.

Yet, when I reached the last sentence in Outlander, I almost dropped the book. The sentence paraphrased eerily close the last sentence in Two Moon Princess. How could that be possible? I hadn’t read this book when I wrote mine.

So, maybe Mary Fran is right. Maybe my vampire book will not be totally original. But that won’t stop me from writing it. After all, according to Plato, there are only six basic plots, so any story we may tell has been told thousands of times already in a slightly different way.

We, writers are like children playing with dolls, dressing them with a new outfit and making them look new every day. And as long as we have fun doing it, why should we stop?

As I did in my previous blog ‘Rejecting Rejection’, I’m going to give you two sentences.—the two endings I mentioned above—and ask that you leave a comment telling me which one you prefer and why.

Please do, you’ll make my day.

#1. “And the world was all around us, new with possibility.”
#2. “Around us, the New World stood still, waiting.”

And in case you wonder which one was mine in the Rejecting Rejection blog, the answer is # 1.

So, congratulations to the winners. Oops, I said there will be no winners. So, I rectify congratulations to everybody that left a comment, and thanks so very much.

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

Please follow my book reviews at https://carmenferreiroesteban.wordpress.com

August 16, 2009


Filed under: On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 1:46 am
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I love stories. That is why I’m a writer. And the story behind Kings, an NBC show that just ended its first season, is one of the best I have seen on TV in a long time.

            It’s the story of David, the shepherd boy who defeated the giant Goliath with a sling. A story most of us know from reading it in the Bible when we were children, but retold in a modern setting.

            Kings takes place in a country called Gilboa (Israel comes to mind) caught in an unending war with its northern neighbor Gath.

            The giant Goliah is a tank. And David is the young farmer turned soldier that blows up the tank in the pilot episode. He also rescues the king’s son and by doing so, is thrown into the web of intrigues of palace life, as he blindly at first, cautiously later, follows the orders of the king he worships. A king blessed by God to Whom he talks through rain and thunder. Until the day David comes. King Silas knows his time is over, but won’t step aside and will eventually defy God Itself to stay in power.

            Not only I find the story brilliant, the dialogue is smart and haunting.

            “We give up what we want when we want power,” King Silas tells his son, chewing the words and then spitting them in a pitch perfect delivery.        

            “The mother of the hero,” he tells David’s Mother.

            “The hero of my son,” David’s mother answers, returning her king’s stare unperturbed,

            “You can have whatever you want,” the king offers David, “even the proverbial half of my kingdom.” Then as the boy’s eyes fall on his daughter, “Half my kingdom it is.”

            There is not a simplistic distinction between good and evil in Kings. All the characters are written as complex human beings, from the wide eyed innocent Shepherd (David’s last name) to the queen’s nephew (a perfectly disturbing Culkin Macaulay of Home Alone fame).

            Kings is a fascinating story of greed and love, and trust and betrayal. It is storytelling at its best.

            If you write, if you want to write, or if you simply love a good story, watch Kings. It is available on line at NBC.com until September 20.

            And if you learn whether Kings has been renewed, please let me know.


Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

July 26, 2009

In Search of The perfect Query. Or How Far Would You Go to Get Published?

Filed under: On Publishing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 9:29 pm
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Carmen Ferreiro Esteban






Dear Publisher to Be,

Zamparo, this guy I met last night over at the Emporium, asked me to contact you if something bad happened to him. He’s dead now, back at the hotel, so I guess that qualifies as bad, and that’s why I’m sending this e-mail to you.

He said you might remember him as you two met last month at the Writers Workshop in Philadelphia and, I quote, “you were impressed with the first chapter of his manuscript, Publish or Perish.”

I’m attaching the complete manuscript to you now as he instructed me to do. Afterwards I will send a press release stating that you have it.

From then on, its fate and yours will be in your hands. Meaning that once they—the men that killed Zamparo—know, they will try their best to stop you from reading the story that would uncover them was it ever to become public. So, it seems, your best protection would be to publish it as soon as possible.

I would if I were you.

You see, Zamparo’s death will give the book free publicity. And with him being dead and all, you will be making all the profit.  What is there to lose except your life? As it will be at risk if you don’t publish his manuscript.

Besides, Zamparo deserves to be heard. He was a nice guy, and he really wanted his book published even if he had to perish to make that happen.

As for me, don’t worry, I’m nobody, just a messenger that never existed but in your mind, and soon will be

Gone forever,


For those of you who wouldn’t want to go that far to get your book published (dying is after all kind of irreversible), here is a link to the Preditors and Editors’ website where you will find expert advice on what an editor is looking for in a query: http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/pubquery.htm.

From my own experience:

The perfect query is the one that sells your book, whether it’s perfect or not is a matter of opinion.

Make your query professional, but not boring. 

Make it engaging, original, AND specific to your story. To do this, you may try to:

            Write the query in the voice of your character,

            Start with your first paragraph,

            Or ask the question(s) your book answers (this works best for non fiction).

And when you are absolutely, positively sure that your query is ready, send it to Query Shark (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/) for a critique.

Good luck and Good Writing

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

June 10, 2009

A Killer Beginning

Filed under: On Publishing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:10 pm
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Pearl DSC_0015

by Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

A killer beginning doesn’t guarantee publication but may be your only chance to catch the editor’s attention.

With publishers receiving thousands of manuscripts/queries every month, it is a mathematical impossibility that they read them all. If you are lucky, an overworked editor will pick yours and read your first line. In those precious seconds the future of that novel you worked so hard to create hang in the balance. It is that first line that will determine whether he/she will read more or discard your submission to the reject pile together with your dreams.

The importance of the first page is no secret. First Page readings are a part of most Writers conferences and workshops. In them, editors/publishers read different first pages and explain why or why not they would keep reading.

Over the years, I have collected a list of things editors look for on a first page. Among them: memorable, relatable characters, engaging story telling, and a good sense of place. Editors, tell us, want to be tickled, surprised, transported to another place and time. They want to know by the end of the first page to whom, when, where and why this is happening and they want to care enough about your characters that they cannot stop reading.

Also, I almost forgot, they want the piece to have a voice, that elusive element “they recognize when they see it.”

Not bad, for a mere 250 words.

Never to be discouraged, last year I decided to create a perfect first page following all the advice above and send the resulting creation to a local workshop. It worked. They chose my piece and, apart from some minor tinkering the three editors like it well enough.

But my triumph was short lived. My first page was perfect, thank you very much, but I had no idea where to go from there.

So this year I decided to go the traditional way and write the story first. I sent my first page to the same workshop. This time they didn’t choose it. I didn’t mind. Not too much, anyway. I know I am on the right track. The story is strong in my mind, the characters are speaking to me, and the setting is gorgeous. I have even found my voice.

So, for now, I’ll stick to the writing and worry about creating that perfect beginning when I’m done.

In the meantime, I leave you with several killing beginnings taken from published books I and other readers have added to a thread I started some months ago at Goodreads. You can check them at:


You are welcome to add yours there or here as comments.

And don’t forget to keep writing.

May 23, 2009

Espresso, Latte or Mocha

Filed under: Uncategorized — carmenferreiroesteban @ 2:09 am
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Carmen Ferreiro Esteban  by Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

Coffee and writing being my two drugs of choice, EspressoLatteMocha seemed to me the obvious title to represent the three roads to publishing we’ll be discussing in this blog.

Espresso, coffee only, dark and strong, stands for flying solo. Yes, you have guessed right, I’m talking about Self Publishing, because, in this case, you’re on your own.

Latte is the route I chose. The coffee (my book) and the milk (a publishing house) were partners in the deal.

Mocha stands for “On Demand”, for what would be sweeter for an author than print books somebody already wants?

So whether you are an espresso, mocha or latte kind of guy (and guy stands for both boy and girl, woman and man, I checked) please feel free to stop by and ask your questions. Soon your manuscript, the coffee, if you please, will be on the way to become a fancy beverage. Whether that would be an espresso, a latte or a mocha, that’s for you to say.

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