So, You Want to Enter a Mentorship Program, Part 1: The Programs

As a 2021 Pitch Wars (PW) mentee, and a mentee hopeful in multiple programs over the past two years, I have some thoughts I want to share with other mentorship hopefuls. Especially now that I’m on the side of the application process and currently being mentored.

But first, a gentle reminder: There are many paths to publishing. A mentorship might be yours. It might not. But that’s okay. I promise, it’s okay. There are plenty of writers who applied to programs and were rejected only to get their agent and publishing deal through cold querying (including my PW mentor!). And just because you get into one of the programs, does not guarantee you an agent or publishing deal.

Again, being in a mentorship program DOES NOT GUARANTEE agent and a publishing deal. This is something that I’m constantly reminding myself on my PW journey. There are PW mentees from past years that get agents and deals. But there’s also plenty who don’t get agents. Or if they do, it’s with their next project. Or they get agented, but their PW manuscript (MS) has no luck on subs, but their next project does. And there are some mentees who never get an agent, but decide to self-publish. There are many paths to publishing and a mentorship program is one of the many. It’s less of the Fast Pass (RIP) at Disney World, and more of the single-rider line. It might get you on the publishing ride sooner than waiting in the regular line, but does not guarantee you a faster wait time.

Finally, please remember that this is just MY journey, and other mentee experiences may vary. I do not speak for every mentee, mentor, Pitch Wars, or their board. Also, please do your research and vet ANY opportunity you think about applying to, to ensure they’re legit.

Why Should You Consider A Mentorship Program?

If you haven’t given thought to applying for a writing mentorship program, there’s a few reasons why you should. If you’re new to the writing community and querying process, a mentorship program might be just the thing you need. If you’ve had no luck querying and have gone through several rounds already with a beta reader or Critique Partner (CP) an agented/published author/editor might see something new and give helpful advice. If you’re afraid that your MS isn’t quite ready for the query trenches but don’t know where to start, a program might be for you.

Reasons to apply for a mentorship programs are numerous and varied. It can also be nerve-wracking to send your MS off to somebody else, especially a program you’ve never heard of before. All the ones I’m including here are either ones I’ve applied to in the past or would apply to if I met their requirements, but always research before submitting. All information was taken from information available their websites or Twitter. Below is a Google spreadsheet which contains a list of all the programs.

Link to Unagented Mentorship Programs Google Doc

The Programs (as of January 2022):

Pitch Wars (PW)

Program Date: usually opens in Fall/September

Open to: Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), Adult (A)

Timeline: 3 months

Mentors: Agented/Published Authors, Industry Professionals

Site: http://pitchwars.org/new-start-here/

Provides: Two passes at MS and query letter, agent showcase

Location: United States of America (USA), Central timezone, open to international writers

Details: The granddaddy and perhaps the most well-known of all mentorship programs as it was first started in 2012. They’re also the ones who started the #PitMad contests on Twitter. Once a year agented/published authors apply to be authors. IF approved, they post their wishlists, mentor style, etc. When the submission window opens up (usually in September) aspiring authors with COMPLETE MSs submit their query, synopsis and first 10 pages/chapter to four possible mentors. The mentors then have about a month to go through subs, request more (usually fulls) before deciding on a mentee. Then there’s roughly a three month period for revisions until the agent showcase in February in which mentees post pitches for their MSs and the first couple hundred words for agents to look at. Agent requests are hidden until the showcase is over at which time the mentees are free to submit their requested materials to the agents.

Again, being in PW does not guarantee an agent. A mentee could be the darling of the PW showcase, but end up with no final offers. They could also have 0 requests during showcase, and still get an agent from cold querying. Mentees are also advised to research and vet all agents and don’t have to submit to an agent who requests.

The agent showcase might be the big shiny trophy that attracts you to PW, but honestly it’s not the most important part of it. What is important is making writing friends, learning new craft, and just pushing yourself and your MS to the next level.

Author Mentor Match (AMM)

Program Date: Opens January 12, 2022

Open to: MG, YA, A

Mentors: Agented/Published Authors

Timeline: Flexible

Site: https://authormentormatch.com/how-it-works/

Provides: 1 full MS pass, 1 query pass

Location: USA, open to international writers

Details: The second oldest of the programs listed, started in 2016. It’s similar to PW with featuring agented/published authors as mentors and the submission process. The major difference is that there’s no agent showcase or final time. If you need a more flexible revision schedule, AMM might be better for you.

RevPit

Program Date: Opens March 17, 2022

Open to: MG, YA, A

Mentors: Editors

Timeline: 2 months

Site: https://reviseresub.com/

Provides: Editor pass at MS, agent showcase

Location: USA, Eastern timezone, open to international writers

Details: Similar to PW in that it has an agent showcase, but usually a tighter revision deadline, roughly two months. It’s unique in that it’s one of the few mentorship programs that features editors as mentors instead of authors. Some of the editors are writers or agents on their own, while some are only editors.

The next round should be interesting as they’re changing a lot about the submission process. To make it more accessible to writers, especially those who live internationally, they’ll no longer be any editor caps as some editors were maxing out with their submissions after only a few hours. They’re also requiring the full manuscript, meaning there will not be any contact between editors and potential mentees until the announcements are made. There’s a few other changes too, so I suggest visiting the official site for more information.

In the past, RevPit has offered Camp RevPit (think Camp NaNo) or RevPit #10queries event on Twitter in which writers can submit for a free chance at having their query and first five pages critiqued anonymously by one of the RevPit editors. Usually the events are a good way to learn the basics of a good query letter and opening pages, but I’ve seen some questionable takes over the years, so your mileage may vary.

Here’s the lessons learned post from my first attempt at RevPit if you wish to know more.

Write Mentor (WM)

Program Date: Most likely March/April 2022

Open to: Picture Book (PB), Chapter Book (CB), MG, YA,

Mentors: Agented/Published Authors

Timeline: 4 months

Site: https://write-mentor.com/2021-writementor-summer-programme/

Provides: Full developmental edit, agent showcase

Location: United Kingdom, British Standard Time, open to international writers

Details: Similar to Pitch Wars, AMM, and RevPit. You apply to be mentored by agented/published authors with an agent showcase in four months. However, it focuses more on younger age groups such as CB, PB, MG, and YA. It’s based in the UK, and all submission times are BST.

Write Mentor also offers a number of different programs and classes, some of which you have to pay for, but scholarships are available.

Authors of Colour (AOC)

Program Date: Most likely August/September 2022

Open to: MG, YA, A

Mentors: Agented/Published Authors

Timeline: Open

Site: https://www.avengersofcolour.com/

Provides: Query Package: 30 pages, query letter, synopsis, pitches, industry advice

Location: Open to international writers

Details: This is different than the previous programs for two major reasons. The first is that it’s open to authors of color ONLY. Hence the name. The second is that it only critiques submission packages– query letter, first 30 pages, synopsis, and pitches.

I’ve never applied, but I have heard of good experience with the program.

Write Team Membership

Program Date: January 1, 2022 – March 31, 2022

Open to: PB, MG, YA, NA, A

Mentors: Agented/Published Authors, former mentorship program mentees, industry professionals

Timeline: 3 months

Site: https://www.writeteammentors.com/open-inbox

Provides: Answers to writing questions, query package critiques for BIPOC

Location: USA, Eastern, open to international writers

Details: This is a fairly newish one. It originally popped up in December 2020 in which writers could enter a lottery. The lucky few chosen would get a chance to pitch their MS to agented/published mentors to revise and no agent showcase. Think of it as applying to AMM #PitMad style.

For 2022 they’re changing it to having in-house mentors who will answer writing/industry questions from January 1, 2022 – March 30th, 2022. BIPOC authors can request a chance for query package critiques.

Rogue Mentor

Program Date: Varies

Open to: Varies by mentor

Mentors: Agented/Trad-Published/Self-Published authors

Timeline: Varies by mentor

Site: https://www.roguementors.com/for-mentors

Provides: Varies by mentor

Location: USA, Open to international writers

Details: This one is the newest mentorship program, created after an AMM hopeful mentor didn’t get in, and discussed going ‘rogue’. Since then more mentors have gone ‘rogue’ and an official site has been created. Rogue Mentor is similar to AMM in that it has a flexible revision schedule with no agent showcase, but what’s offered varies by mentor. Affiliated agented/published authors can sign up to be mentors to aspiring authors. It’s not responsible for unaffiliated mentors who decide to ‘go rogue’ on own so check out the site before submitting to authors calling themselves ‘rogue mentors’.

Honorable Mentions

These are other writing programs which might be of interest, but not exactly like the other mentorship programs listed above. Links to the mentioned sites are in the names.

Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency (and other similar programs)

Madeline Milburn Literary Agency is a well-known agency in the UK and for the past two years they’ve had a mentorship program open to writers regardless of where they live in the world. I applied the first year and obviously didn’t get in, but what was attractive was the fact you didn’t need a completed MS, just a synopsis and outline of the story.

I’ve seen a few other agencies offer similar programs/submission process over the years that seem legit. Always do your research before submitting to such a program, but it could be the program just for you.

DV Debuts

This one is for DV (diverse voices only) debuts only, meaning, you already have a publication date. Debuts are paired with DV authors who help them navigate their debut year and beyond. The program itself debuted in 2021 and occurred from June 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021, and presumably will be available in 2022.

Team Optimism

Not really a mentorship program, but a good website/newsletter to follow if you’re down with your writing or have mentorship/rejection fatigue from applying to mentorship programs or querying agents only to keep being rejected. Rejection can always sting, and easily turn into Imposter Syndrome. Being sent happy and optimistic thoughts on a regular basis or being encouraged to reach out and try again can help with the reject. Team Optimism has occasionally offered positivity passes, where you get nothing but positive feedback on your first few pages letting you know what you’re doing well.

Writer in Motion

I’ve discussed Writer in Motion before, having participated in 2020. Writer in Motion is a program where participants get a picture as a writing prompt and then have to write a 1,000 word story based on the prompt. They spend roughly a month documenting their piece and writing journey from initial thoughts and draft, to a self-edit, peer-edit, and finally editor-edited versions. It’s a great program to get you out of a writing slump, make new writing friends, learn some writing skills, and get to have a short story edited by an actual editor.

That’s it for this post. Next one will cover how to choose the right program and mentor for you.

5 Reasons Why You Should Participate in Writer in Motion

Last year I participated in Writer in Motion and this year I’m working as a forum moderator. If you’ve never heard of Writer in Motion, I highly suggest first checking out their site followed by my Writer in Motion journey last year. The next round of Writer in Motion (WIM) is getting ready to open soon. Spots open for marginalized writers on June 25th, all writers on July 2nd, with the writing prompt (aka picture) released on July 9th. After that you have roughly a month to write a 1,000 word story based on the prompt documenting your journey from a rough first draft to a pretty finalized edited version. Along the way you get to know your fellow WIM participants, exchange beta reads, have an actual editor give feedback on your short story and be invited to a virtual taco party at the ending.

Okay, so you now have a brief overview of WIM, why you should you participate in it? Well…

1. Get Out of a Writing Slump

Last year WIM came at a time when I was making no progress on revisions. Like a lot of others, I experienced anxiety from COVID and didn’t feel like doing anything creative, let alone write. I spent my free time being addicted to Animal Crossing. But WIM forced me out of my funk. I had a set weekly schedule so I could start my self-edit to finish in time for the beta edit and editor edit. There’s really no consequences if you don’t, other than not being able to share your posts with the others, but having a schedule with a simple goal of getting through 1,000 words each work was more attainable than getting through a 100,000 story with no fixed timeline. It still took about a month after WIM to be able to throw myself back into revisions, but I did push through. It’s gone through a few more revisions and beta reads since then and I’m officially querying a year later.

If you at a similar point but your WIP seems too daunting, you don’t even know where to begin for a new WIP, or need to rediscover your love of writing, I’d suggest giving WIM a try. Start small, and build up your creativity and energy before tackling something big. Who knows, that 1,000 short story might turn into your next MS– several past WIM participants have gone on to turn their stories into full-fledged novels.

2. Try a New Genre

In my round there were several writers who tried out a different genre or POV, including myself. At the time I’d been writing fantasy for several years. In my initial brainstorming session after seeing the prompt picture for the first time, I jumped around between genres and tones. I’d thought I’d land on a more fantastical one but was drawn more to the little fluffy contemporary piece that reflected a certain point of my life. Writing something set in present day instead of a magical 18th century land was a shift, but it was also refreshing. A chance to flex my writing muscles.

If there’s ever been a genre you’ve wanted to write but didn’t have a full-fledged story idea or weren’t sure how, WIM is the perfect time to experiment. You only have to write a 1,000 word short story, not a long novel. Same goes if you want to try a new perspective. Curious about second-person? Tired of third-person past and ready for first-person present? This is the chance to break out of your comfort zone.

3. Challenge Yourself

It’s also a chance to challenge yourself if you’re an over-writer. The 1,000 word limit really only comes into play for the beta and editor feedback to keep it fair, so for your first draft and final you can go over. Personally I’d recommend trying to stay as close to that 1,000 word limit as possible. It forces you to make the most of every single word. Don’t say something in twenty words when you can say it in ten. Cut back on the info dumping and make sure the reader has the bare minimum information required to understand the story. Watch dialogue, make sure it’s natural for the character but isn’t too long-winded. Delete/replace overused words. All lessons that came in handy with my later revisions.

If you’re an underwriter it can be a different kind of challenge. Sure you can write something less than 1,000 and be fine, but why not flesh things out a bit and aim for the 1,000 word limit? Draw things for your protagonist, make them fight for the resolution. Delve a bit more into their backstory or really paint the scene. Crank up the tension and stakes.

4. Fight Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome basically means believing that everything your write is horrible and should never see the light of day when compared to other writers. In my experience it most commonly kicks in after getting into a writing slump, reading somebody else’s WIP, or having nothing but endless rejections/bad writing news. Because WIM involves chronicling the journey of initial idea to final, polished work you can follow along and see how those incredibly written stories that put yours to shame started out. While there might be a few great first drafts out there, the majority are messy. Run-on sentences, misspellings, grammar issues, pacing, inconstancies. Even the best works start out rough.

You also receive a variety of feedback on your writing be it from the WIM participants or an actual editor. You might think that what you wrote was mediocre, but then you read a lovely compliment about your writing. Maybe somebody pointed out some small detail you included on purpose and really love, or saw deeper meaning in a line that was a throw away (yes, you so meant that all along). Or just a few words of encouragement. It’s amazing how one comment can brighten your day or writing confidence.

5. Make Writing Friends

Finally, participating in WIM could lead to new friendships. If I could give my younger self writing advice it’d be, writing doesn’t have to be a solo journey. There are a variety of resources, groups, and Discord servers dedicated to helping writers on their journey. WIM is one of those resources. Last year there was a Twitter DM group for participants. You’ll be assigned partners to exchange stories with, and are free to interact/comment on one another’s edits each week.

If you’re new to the writing community, take advantage of the connections and meet new writing buddies. If you’re looking for a beta reader, in need of querying advice, or banging your head against the wall over a certain section, see if anybody is willing to help (there’s probably at least one).

You can keep to yourself and not engage with the other participants, and some do. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you don’t have to. And sometimes having writer friends can make the difference between whether or not you break out of that writing slump, feel confident at trying a new genre or challenging yourself, and fighting imposter syndrome.

Conclusion

There’s no monetary awards for participating in WIM or first place for best short story. That’s not WIM’s purpose. It’s purpose are some of the reasons laid out above. To bring writers together and show how much a piece of writing can change from initial concept to final result. If you’ve written less than a hundred words or more than a million, you can still get something out of it. Even if you don’t take the plunge yourself, you can always follow along with the participants. But you won’t know, unless you try. So go check it out: https://writerinmotion.com/

2021 Update

I’ve come to the conclusion that my blog/website works best when I truly have news or information to share. And really, after Writer in Motion last year, there wasn’t a whole lot to share. I dove back into editing my YA Fantasy. Had others read it. Restructured the third act/climax. Tweaked the beginning. Applied to several mentorship programs. Got requests, but ultimately did not win. Eventually (probably next year leading into them) I’ll write a few posts on that process.

Right now, I have a few things lined up for the summer. I enjoyed Writer in Motion so much last year, I signed up to be a volunteer this year moderating the forums. I’ve begun querying my YA Fantasy. Fingers crossed some agent will fall in love with it as much as me and I’ll be able to write a post detailing my agent story along with tips for querying writers. In the meantime, I finally nailed down the story/characters for the YA Contemporary STEM plot bunny that’s been bugging me for the past couple years. I’ve completed a rough outline and hope to start drafting next week. I still love fantasy and have plenty of stories to tell in that world (including rewriting the one I shelved) but while querying I need a break from the world. Plus, I’ve been wanting to dig into my engineering side for the longest time with a story, and work through some family drama issues.

That’s all for now. Hopefully next time I’ll actually have some exciting wisdom or news to share.

Thanks for reading,

Kay S. Beckett

Writer In Motion Week 5: Final Thoughts

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

And Writer In Motion is finally over. Two months ago when I saw Writer In Motion blowing up my Twitter feed, I was hesitant. As an introvert, I’m really not that outgoing on social media (July was the most I ever posted as part of the WIMGames), nor like to share my writing until it’s been refined quite a bit. But I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and decided to take a chance by signing up.

Now a month later, after turning my rough outline into a polished piece of work with the help of two CPs and editor I’m glad took the chance. In the past month I’ve met some great fellow writers, have improved my writing, and even got to work with an editor for the first time, and would definitely recommend if you’re on the fence about trying it.

While a lot of the other writers took a darker and twistier approach with their fantastic pieces, I’ve come to love my little fluff ball and Ray and Luce. Luce’s dialogue was really fun to write, while on a personal level I can relate more to Ray. So much of her anxiety and fears came from my own pero

The hardest parts were settling on an idea once the prompt went live and working through Carly’s suggestion. I jumped around between ideas at the beginning before settling on one. Carly’s critique was helpful, but involved some deep developmental edits at the beginning and ending.

My other gripe is dealing with WordPress. It formatted my paragraphs weird when I copied and pasted my piece in, forcing me to edit it by hand. I’ve also lost count of the times it’s told me I’m not allowed to edit my posts as I’m typing them in draft form. Thank goodness it gives me the option to restore automatically saved back-ups. There’s also the weird thing WordPress does when I add hyperlink to past posts by turning them into comments I have to approve.

I also may have put my WIP on the backburner for part of the month so I could focus on my WIM piece. But they’re all minor things when compared to the positive. Next year if possible, I’ll probably do it again.

First Draft


The Magic Jar

“We’re lost, aren’t we? I can try Googling it on my phone.”

“Calm down Ray, we’re not lost. I’ve rode with my parents like a million times, I know where we’re going.”

“But Luce—”

“But Ray! Trust me, I’ve got this.”

“Alright,” she mumbled sinking down into her seat. “But if we go another thirty minutes and we’re still not there, I’m using Google.”

“You do that Ray. So you never did say, but how was your internship.”

“Boring. Did nothing but crunch data all day. Not as exciting as spending two months in Spain.”

“Yeah, except by the end of it I was dreaming in Spainish and English seemed like the foreign language.”

“Numbers aren’t much better. One day I was so frazzled by a project I spent ten minutes trying to text on my graphing calculator.”

“Nice. God, can you believe we’ll be seniors in college this year? One more year and we’ll have to be actual adults with jobs and stuff.”

“Don’t forget paying off those student loans.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Oh look the turn is ahead.”

“Where?”

“Behind the tree.”

“Luce, there’s a bunch of— oh, I see it now.”

With a jerk, the car turned left off the smooth asphalt and onto a narrow gravel road. It crunched beneaht the tires and sent clouds of white somke blowing up in front of the windshielf. The car continued to tear tdown the road, flying over the small hills like they weren’t even there.

“Geez Luce, there’s no need to go so fast.” Slightly afraid, Ray clutched her bag a little tighter to her chest. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“No, just trying to get there faster. You’re the one who was complaining about not getting an early enough start.”

The jolting of the car was a bit much for Ray, who closed her eyes. She couldn’t afford to get car sick when she was finally so closed to her goal. As Luce had said, they’d been running late all day. Summer was coming to an end as well, so Ray had to make this weekend count. Even if meant putting up with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s wild ride driving-style and swallowing every few seconds to keep the greasy hamburger from lunch down.

“We’re here!”

Relieved at the stillness, Ray opened her eyes and glanced out the window. Sleek, glass modern windows. Sturdy, thick log beams, appearing like they were cut yesterday. Two stories, with a balcony and wrap-around porch. A handcarved wooden ‘Welcome’ sign hanging over the entry.

“Where the hell are we?”

“What are you talkking about Ray? We’re at the cabin.”

“This is not a cabin… this is… this is the cover of one of those flashy magazines you see in the checkout lane of the grocery store filled with unrealistic homes you can never afford to live at.”

“That’s awfully specific… and do you mean the cabin from when we were kids? Luce, that place was barely standing then, and that was before the rossion got bad. Grandpoa tore it down and built the new one. I told you baout it, remember?”

“You just said he was building a new cabin, not that he was tearing down the old noe.”

“I thought it was implied. And what’s the deal? You said you wanted to spend a weekend together at the summer cabin. Who cares if it’s not the old one? The new one has a movie theater with a popcorn macahine and hot tub at back.”

“But it has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, and left the beaded bracelet on the porch post, seeing if it fit year after year. And there was the firepit overlooking the back where we’d make hot dogs and s’mores, and…” Loosening her hold on the package close to her chest, Ray opened the flap and peered inside. In a quiet voice she said, “and catch magic bugs.”

Reaching over the gray center console, Luce plucked out the small item Ray had been clutching protectively. “You still have this old thing?”

“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray, taking the item back. “It’s magical.”

“Magical? Ray, it’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper, glitter and ribbons in to catch fireflies in. Pretty sure we were more covered in glitter than the jar. Our moms told us to wash off in the lake before we’d be allow back inside, and that night we caught more skeeters than magic bugs. Remember that?”

“Of course I remember. That’s why I wanted to come back.” Nestled safely back in her lap, a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors looked like a minature stained glass window. The ribbons were fraying, close to losing the stolen Christmas bells tied to their ends. Glitter came away with each finger touch. Yet to Ray, their old Magic Jar was the more beatiful than a Faberige egg in all its glory.

“Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

“It’s just… we’ve barely spent any time together this summer, the last few summers actually. The last time we were here was like when, we were thirteen? Like you said, next year we’ll fully be actual adults… what if this is our last change to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray…” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “Do you remember what we’d do at the end of the night?”

“We’d release them.”

“Exactly! We’d release them because otherwise they’d die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they’d always come back. Just like we will. Trust me. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend for each other, no matter where we are. It doesn’t have to be at the cabin, it could be a city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we could catch. Promise?”

Ray stuck out her pinky finger in the crook of her friend’s. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. Now let’s get on inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat and you have to try my new sangria recipe. We might be a little tipsy tonight when we catch us some magic bugs, but it’ll be fun. Just like the old days… but with alcohol. Adulthood does have some perks, some magic. You just got to find it.

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

Final Version


The Magic Jar


“Put. It. Down.”

“Googling directions will only take a minute, Luce.”

“I’ve rode with my parents a million times Ray… don’t you trust me?”

Ray trusted her oldest friend with a lot of things, but riding wasn’t the same as driving. It’d been eight years since they last summered at the cabin, and Luce had visited a handful of times since. The two-hour trip had already ballooned into three and there still was no sign of the turn-off. At the rate things were going, they probably wouldn’t get to the cabin until late when they’d be too tired to—

“Hey, did you hear me?”

Owlishly, Ray blinked then mumbled, “Yeah, I heard you.” Arms squeezing her drawstring backpack tightly, Ray fidgeted in the tan faux-leather seat while her right hand clutched her phone. “But if we’re not there after thirty minutes, I’m using Google.”
“Stop being such a worrywart Ray. I’ve got this.”

The words did little to relax Ray’s grip on her phone or arms around her backpack. “So… how was your internship? You haven’t really talked about it.”

“There’s not much to say,” shrugged Ray. “Analyzing data all day wasn’t as exciting as spending two months in Spain.” While Ray had enjoyed listening to the details of Luce’s vacation, she would’ve preferred being in the same time zone or continent for the summer. Then she could’ve listened in real time.

“True, but job experience looks better on a job resume and couldn’t they hire you after graduation? Graduation… can you believe we’ll be actual adults with jobs and stuff next spring?” An uneasy knot began to form in the pit of Ray’s stomach, preventing her from answering. “Oh look, there’s the turn. See? No Google required.”

Despite Luce’s confidence, Ray’s thumb didn’t move from the screen. Just in case. With a jerk, the car turned off the smooth asphalt and onto gravel. Crunching the small rocks beneath its tires, the car tore down the narrow road sending clouds of white smoke billowing behind. Arms still around the backpack protectively, Ray closed her eyes to ignore the feeling of weightlessness as they bounced over small hills. “There’s no need to go so fast.”

“You were complaining about not getting an early enough start.”

Each bump in the road tightened the knot, encouraging the greasy hamburger from lunch to come back up. Getting car sick during their only free summer weekend was the last thing Ray wanted; it’d taken forever to coordinate their schedules before parting ways in the fall for college. She wasn’t going to let anything ruin it, even if she had to deal with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride driving.

“We’re here!”

The car came to a merciful stop and Ray allowed herself to glance outside. A two-story house with a balcony and wrap-around porch featuring sleek, modern windows and sturdy, wooden beams stood out against a familiar wooded background. A hand-carved ‘Welcome’ sign hung over the double entry doors.

The knot grew larger at the wrongness.

“Where are we?”

“At the cabin, duh.”

“That’s not the cabin,” gestured Ray wildly, “That’s the cover of some fancy home magazine.”

With a puzzled look, Luce tilted her head to the side. “You mean the cabin from when we were kids? That place was barely standing. Grandpa tore it down when he built the new one.”

“You just said he built a new cabin, not that the old one was gone.”

“I thought it was implied. You wanted to spend a weekend together at the summer cabin; who cares if it’s not the old one? The new one has a Jacuzzi, Ray. A Jacuzzi.”

“But… but…” The knot was now a giant tangled ball squeezing her chest; Ray hadn’t factored the possibility of the cabin no longer being around in her carefully crafted plan. “It has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, made daisy chains, roasted s’mores, and…” Opening the backpack, she peered inside. “And caught magic bugs.”

Reaching over the center console, Luce plucked out a small item from the top of the bag. “You still have this old thing?”

“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray. “It’s magic.”

“Magic? It’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper and glitter for catching fireflies. We were so covered in glitter our moms told us to wash off in the lake before stepping inside. Remember?”

“Of course I remember, that’s why I wanted to come.” Snatching the jar back with her free hand, Ray frowned at Luce’s unimpressed reaction. Nestled safely in her lap was a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors. Frayed ribbon ends, close to losing their stolen Christmas decoration bells, dangled off the sides. Gold and silver glitter half-flaked off. To Ray, it was as beautiful and wondrous as the day two little girls made it. Even if one of them could no longer see the magic.

Perching her sunglasses on top of her head, Luce’s voice took on a serious tone. “Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

She didn’t think she’d been that obvious, but she must’ve for Luce to be concerned enough to use her full name. Taking a deep breath, she pondered her response. Talking about feelings was always more of Luce’s thing. “It’s just… we barely hung out this summer, or the past year. Like you said, next spring we’ll be actual adults. What if this is our last chance to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray… you’re not the only one worried about our future.” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “But don’t you remember what we’d do after we caught them?”

Ray’s head bobbed up questioningly.

“We’d release them so they wouldn’t die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they always came back. Just like we will. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend to get together.” A promise to return. Hesitant— for promises could always be made with the best intentions, but broken later— Ray didn’t say anything. Luce continued, “It doesn’t have to be at the cabin. There’s the city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we can catch.” Extending her pinky finger she asked, “Pinky promise?”

Luce’s pinky wavered in the air. Promises could be broken, but they could be kept too. And hadn’t two little glitter-covered girls once made a promise to be friends forever? Ray’s phone fell softly with a thump onto her lap as she shook Luce’s pinky. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. Let’s go inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat. Tonight will be just like the good old days, except we might be a little tipsy on my new sangria recipe when we catch us some magic bugs. Adulthood does have some perks and magic. Trust me.”

The tightly knotted lump in Ray’s chest went limp, unraveling at her friend’s earnest smile. Returning it with her own, she squeezed Luce’s hand. “Maybe being actual adults won’t be all bad. If the magic bugs can come back, we can too. We’ve got this.”


All Writer in Motion posts:

Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal

Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline

Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft

Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit

Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit

Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version

Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts

Writer In Motion Week 4: Editor Feedback and Final Version

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime

This past week has been a crazy one. My initial plan for the week was to have my final draft based on editor feedback finished Tuesday, and up by Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. Instead the beginning of my week involved playing internet roulette while trying to work from home and beginning my graduate level fall classes. Between trying to get work done while I had internet and figuring out how to attend classes when I didn’t have internet, I wasn’t left with a lot of time figuring out how to incorporate editor feedback.

My editor for Writer In Motion was Carly Hayward and she was awesome. Like my CPs she pointed out the small easy fixes, while giving me a lot of things to think about. Suggestions such as digging deeper into Ray’s POV and her reactions, and the friendship and banter between her and Luce. She also suggested maybe teasing a secret to amp up the tension in the beginning, and pointed out things I hadn’t noticed before. It was all good advice and pushed me further as a writer than any of the previous edits had. Carly was also really nice about her feedback, putting my fears at working with an editor for the first time at rest. She also mentioned what she loved about the piece such as the friendship between Ray and Luce, and how I threaded the knot/string bit throughout the story.

Thanks to some of the other WIM participants’ conversations, I discovered I no longer had to keep it to the 1,000 word limit. The limit was only in place so all WIM pieces were the roughly the same length for swapping with CPs and editors. After that, they could be as long as the writer wanted. Of course, I still tried to instill some sort of limit. First it was just an extra 50 words. Then 100. 200. By the end, my total count ended up being 1,206. Quite a change, but the extra two hundred words added to the story and Ray’s character.

Initially I was going to follow through on Carly’s advice to add some of the deleted banter into the beginning. But the more I got into Ray’s headspace, the more I realized that was not the direction to go in. She’s anxious, it’s been years since she and Luce have spent time together at the cabin, or more than a few hours with each other. Luce spent the majority of the summer on a different continent and with them graduating in the spring, there’s a serious chance their jobs will force them apart permanently. Because it’s been so long, there’s still the natural teasing between friends, but also a little bit of awkwardness. I also tried to show more of that anxiety and Ray being super focused on her plans. Towards the end, I expanded more on Ray’s reaction to Luce’s suggested promise, showing her hesitation and gradual acceptance by letting go of the phone she’s been holding the entire time.

Then, because Carly was so gracious, I sent her my changes for one more critique as I was unsure if I managed to pull off the changes she suggested or simply made it worse. Luckily it was the former, and she loved the changes I made, as do I.

My little fluff story about two friends learning and accepting that just because they have to grow up, doesn’t mean they have to grow apart has come along way since the rough outline from the beginning of the month. Here it is at last:


The Magic Jar


“Put. It. Down.”

“Googling directions will only take a minute, Luce.”

“I’ve rode with my parents a million times Ray… don’t you trust me?”

Ray trusted her oldest friend with a lot of things, but riding wasn’t the same as driving. It’d been eight years since they last summered at the cabin, and Luce had visited a handful of times since. The two-hour trip had already ballooned into three and there still was no sign of the turn-off. At the rate things were going, they probably wouldn’t get to the cabin until late when they’d be too tired to—

“Hey, did you hear me?”

Owlishly, Ray blinked then mumbled, “Yeah, I heard you.” Arms squeezing her drawstring backpack tightly, Ray fidgeted in the tan faux-leather seat while her right hand clutched her phone. “But if we’re not there after thirty minutes, I’m using Google.”
“Stop being such a worrywart Ray. I’ve got this.”

The words did little to relax Ray’s grip on her phone or arms around her backpack. “So… how was your internship? You haven’t really talked about it.”

“There’s not much to say,” shrugged Ray. “Analyzing data all day wasn’t as exciting as spending two months in Spain.” While Ray had enjoyed listening to the details of Luce’s vacation, she would’ve preferred being in the same time zone or continent for the summer. Then she could’ve listened in real time.

“True, but job experience looks better on a job resume and couldn’t they hire you after graduation? Graduation… can you believe we’ll be actual adults with jobs and stuff next spring?” An uneasy knot began to form in the pit of Ray’s stomach, preventing her from answering. “Oh look, there’s the turn. See? No Google required.”

Despite Luce’s confidence, Ray’s thumb didn’t move from the screen. Just in case. With a jerk, the car turned off the smooth asphalt and onto gravel. Crunching the small rocks beneath its tires, the car tore down the narrow road sending clouds of white smoke billowing behind. Arms still around the backpack protectively, Ray closed her eyes to ignore the feeling of weightlessness as they bounced over small hills. “There’s no need to go so fast.”

“You were complaining about not getting an early enough start.”

Each bump in the road tightened the knot, encouraging the greasy hamburger from lunch to come back up. Getting car sick during their only free summer weekend was the last thing Ray wanted; it’d taken forever to coordinate their schedules before parting ways in the fall for college. She wasn’t going to let anything ruin it, even if she had to deal with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride driving.

“We’re here!”

The car came to a merciful stop and Ray allowed herself to glance outside. A two-story house with a balcony and wrap-around porch featuring sleek, modern windows and sturdy, wooden beams stood out against a familiar wooded background. A hand-carved ‘Welcome’ sign hung over the double entry doors.

The knot grew larger at the wrongness.

“Where are we?”

“At the cabin, duh.”

“That’s not the cabin,” gestured Ray wildly, “That’s the cover of some fancy home magazine.”

With a puzzled look, Luce tilted her head to the side. “You mean the cabin from when we were kids? That place was barely standing. Grandpa tore it down when he built the new one.”

“You just said he built a new cabin, not that the old one was gone.”

“I thought it was implied. You wanted to spend a weekend together at the summer cabin; who cares if it’s not the old one? The new one has a Jacuzzi, Ray. A Jacuzzi.”

“But… but…” The knot was now a giant tangled ball squeezing her chest; Ray hadn’t factored the possibility of the cabin no longer being around in her carefully crafted plan. “It has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, made daisy chains, roasted s’mores, and…” Opening the backpack, she peered inside. “And caught magic bugs.”

Reaching over the center console, Luce plucked out a small item from the top of the bag. “You still have this old thing?”

“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray. “It’s magic.”

“Magic? It’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper and glitter for catching fireflies. We were so covered in glitter our moms told us to wash off in the lake before stepping inside. Remember?”

“Of course I remember, that’s why I wanted to come.” Snatching the jar back with her free hand, Ray frowned at Luce’s unimpressed reaction. Nestled safely in her lap was a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors. Frayed ribbon ends, close to losing their stolen Christmas decoration bells, dangled off the sides. Gold and silver glitter half-flaked off. To Ray, it was as beautiful and wondrous as the day two little girls made it. Even if one of them could no longer see the magic.

Perching her sunglasses on top of her head, Luce’s voice took on a serious tone. “Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

She didn’t think she’d been that obvious, but she must’ve for Luce to be concerned enough to use her full name. Taking a deep breath, she pondered her response. Talking about feelings was always more of Luce’s thing. “It’s just… we barely hung out this summer, or the past year. Like you said, next spring we’ll be actual adults. What if this is our last chance to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray… you’re not the only one worried about our future.” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “But don’t you remember what we’d do after we caught them?”

Ray’s head bobbed up questioningly.

“We’d release them so they wouldn’t die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they always came back. Just like we will. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend to get together.” A promise to return. Hesitant— for promises could always be made with the best intentions, but broken later— Ray didn’t say anything. Luce continued, “It doesn’t have to be at the cabin. There’s the city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we can catch.” Extending her pinky finger she asked, “Pinky promise?”

Luce’s pinky wavered in the air. Promises could be broken, but they could be kept too. And hadn’t two little glitter-covered girls once made a promise to be friends forever? Ray’s phone fell softly with a thump onto her lap as she shook Luce’s pinky. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. Let’s go inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat. Tonight will be just like the good old days, except we might be a little tipsy on my new sangria recipe when we catch us some magic bugs. Adulthood does have some perks and magic. Trust me.”

The tightly knotted lump in Ray’s chest went limp, unraveling at her friend’s earnest smile. Returning it with her own, she squeezed Luce’s hand. “Maybe being actual adults won’t be all bad. If the magic bugs can come back, we can too. We’ve got this.”


And it’s done! Come back next week when I post my Writer In Motion wrap-up. Also check out my previous posts on my Writer In Motion journey including my earlier drafts to see how far the story has come:

All Writer in Motion posts:

Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal

Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline

Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft

Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit

Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit

Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version

Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts