Sunday, March 18, 2018

Theme Reveal #AtoZchallenge

Thank you for stopping by Operation Awesome today.

Operation Awesome is a group of writers, both published and unpublished.

We post tips on the publishing journey, from that first spark of inspiration to debut novels.

Our "theme" this year is coordinating our usual posts with the A to Z challenge.
You'll also get a chance to know us better on the weekend posts.
We hope you enjoy what we have planned for you.

OAtoZ #AtoZChallenge 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Synopsis Critique #16: Historical

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of AT THE HEM OF THE EMPIRE, a Historical novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


In 1838, Eighteen year old [this should be ‘eighteen-year-old’] Ann Neilson is living in poverty amid the Glasgow Wynds [can you explain what this is? I assume it’s Scotland, but the reader may not have heard of Wynds]. Her father’s enigmatic friend, John Smith, talks of emigrating to the convict free [‘convict-free’] settlement of South Australia. Ann naively admires John but she thinks him oblivious to her, until he unexpectedly proposes. Ann immediately regrets her shocked refusal [why does she refuse? Why is it shocking?]. John perseveres, and they become intimate, so must marry. Ann’s mother is unaware of the urgency, and opposes the match as she does not wish to lose her daughter [does the father have an opinion about this match? What does Ann think/feel about it?].

Sailing to Liverpool, they board the newly constructed railway to London. Ann learns of John’s less admirable traits after he tricks her into riding without a ticket [that’s sneaky, but are there other, more extreme examples of John’s less admirable traits?]. They discover only labourers are eligible for free passage to the Colony [Is this detail necessary?]. While Ann enjoys the sights of London, John purchases, without consultation, a berth on the first cargo ship to call into Adelaide on its way to Sydney [why is this significant?].

At Adelaide they disembark onto the beach. The roads and houses of the colony are rudimentary. The presence of Aborigines, and the murder of a shipmate has Ann questioning their safety. Meanwhile, the colony is suffering economic difficulties. With fewer opportunities than John hoped, he is keen to try New Zealand. John conceals the dangers to obtain Ann’s agreement [If Ann is the main character, it’s helpful to keep the focus on her throughout the synopsis. What is Ann doing/thinking/feeling while these things are happening to her?].

Settling in Kororareka, they establish a business [what kind of business?], and their family grows. Meanwhile, Maori relations with the European’s [Europeans] deteriorate. John downplays the risks, keeping Ann ignorant. The Maori attack, the town is ransacked, and their eldest [child] suffers a life threatening [‘life-threatening’] accident [In the last paragraph, it appears this child died. So it’s not a life-threatening accident, it’s a fatal accident. Right?]. Discovering the extent of John’s duplicity [How does she discover this?], Ann loses faith in him [which results in her doing what? How does Ann change?].

By 1890, Ann is a wealthy widow. After returning to South Australia, Ann and John prospered. They established a township, owned an elephant, even revisited Scotland [The last two sentences are good details, but belong at the beginning of the prior paragraph]. But Ann is chaffing at the restrictions placed on her by John’s will [what are those restrictions?]. A lifetime of subjugation has made her selfish and manipulative [if this is true, it would help to have a few more examples of how John treated her badly]. Desperate to be recognized as an individual, she is determined to establish her own bequests [to whom? Why?]. However, unwittingly, she is the architect of a very different legacy which has greater ramifications. Her youngest and middle daughters do not get along, unaware their attitudes have been shaped by Ann’s refusal to discuss the death of their 16 year old [‘sixteen-year-old’] sister, which she finds too painful to acknowledge. At their mother’s deathbed, the sisters open up, compare their experiences, and reconcile [is this the very different legacy you mention a few sentences earlier? Why is this significant? It’s good the sisters get along now, but is this the only legacy Ann leaves to the world?]


This sounds like an interesting story, but I’m finding myself wanting more details throughout the synopsis. Your reader is going to want to know what motivates your characters to act, because that’s much more interesting than how they react to things that are done to them. Here, even though it seems like Ann is the main character, a lot more of the focus is on John. As you’re revising, keep the focus on Ann and ask yourself what she thinks and feels, and how and why she takes whatever actions she takes in response to what’s happening around her.

Best of luck with this novel!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pass Or Pages March 2018 Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Young Adult Science-fiction and Fantasy novels. Any entry not falling under that umbrella will be deleted. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday March 14th. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Friday, March 9, 2018


Friday is here again, and that means you have the opportunity to win a query critique! Comment on this post-- along with one other blog post from this week-- in order to be eligible to win. You have until noon EST on 03/11 to enter by, with the winner announced in the comments section later that afternoon/evening. Also, please note, that if you do not leave your email address in your comment, do not have it listed on your Blogger profile (or somewhere that I can find it easily on your own blog), I will then pick someone else as the winner. The rest of the rules can be found here.

Good luck, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Synopsis Critique #15: Lower Middle Grade

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of MYSTERY OF THE MISSING CHIMP, a Lower Middle Grade novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Nine-year-old Tanner has special privileges at the zoo because his dad is the director. He uses these privileges [this phrase is a little awkward. Maybe ‘Because of that, he gets to spend time…’?] to spend time with his animal friend, Gloria the chimpanzee. The zoo keepers allow him into the back area of the chimp compound and let him help prepare Gloria’s food. When the keepers announce that Gloria is expecting, Tanner is excited because it will be her first baby. The special day arrives, and everyone is surprised that her baby is all white. Tanner is given the honor of naming the [albino baby] chimp. He chooses Angel thinking of his baseball team hat that Gloria once stole from him when he delivered her food. [This is great. It introduces us to Tanner, Gloria, and the inciting incident (the birth of Angel)]

The whole community [what community? Can you tell us where we are?], even the world, is excited about the new albino chimp. But then the excitement turns to horror a month later when the baby is suddenly gone. The police find no clues as to how it happened [I would change ‘how it happened’ to ‘what happened’]. However, [Take out ‘however’ and just start with ‘Blame falls on Tanner’] blame falls on Tanner when he is suspected of leaving the back gate unlocked one evening [it’s not just one evening, right? It’s the specific evening Angel disappeared]. His father cuts off his visits to the zoo until further notice. That means Tanner can’t console Gloria who is in crisis.

Tanner knows that he didn’t leave the gate unlocked but no one will believe him. He must find out what happened if his father is ever to trust him again. [Nice stakes, but it’s also because he’s close with Gloria and wants to find her offspring, right?]

Tanner sees a flyer at school for a circus coming to town that advertises a special surprise. He is sure the surprise is Angel. He begs his father to take him to the circus but hides the reason why he wants to go. When the surprise turns out to be a huge condor, Tanner’s hopes are smashed.

A chance call from his uncle, a New York museum curator, and something he says [remove ‘and something he says,’ since that phrase makes the sentence less clear] gives Tanner an idea. He searches the internet and finds a newspaper article about people who collect rare animals. He connects the article with the information from his uncle about a rumor [delete ‘about a rumor’] that a rich man is looking for an object to buy and builds a theory of who might have Angel. He tells his father, but the mystery remains as to how they grabbed the chimp. [Isn’t the mystery still where Angel is? It might also be how they grabbed Angel, but isn’t the more immediate issue finding Angel (and then they can figure out what happened afterwards)?]

Determined, Tanner goes looking for clues behind the chimp gate area, and finds a key buried in the dirt under the fence. The police must have missed it. With help from the Police Chief and his [Tanner’s] uncle, the thieves are caught, and Angel returns to the Zoo.

Even though Tanner is proved innocent of leaving the gate open, trouble isn’t over. The zoo keepers aren’t sure if Gloria will accept her baby back. There is a possibility she won’t. But Tanner isn’t ready to give up. He knows he is connected to Gloria and that she loves him. He also knows she recognizes his smell. He finds one of his dirty shirts in the laundry and rushes it over to the chimp compound. A keeper drapes the shirt onto Angel and lets Gloria see him in another room. At first Gloria shows aggression but calms down when she sniffs the baby. Gloria slowly approaches her baby and then pulls him towards her to snuggle. [You might need to clarify this a bit. Gloria accepts Angel because Angel smells like Tanner, and Gloria loves and trusts Tanner?]

The zoo keepers congratulate one another, and Tanner earns the praise of everyone, especially his father.


Really nice job with this, and it sounds like a fun story! You’ve kept the synopsis focused on Tanner, what he wants (to find Angel), the stakes (that his father will never trust him again if he doesn’t find Angel), and it all ties together nicely. I’ve noted a few places where greater clarity could help, but this is pretty much ready to go. Great job!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Debut Author News

Hey everyone!

Remember Mark Engels from the August 30, 2017 debut author spotlight?

His book, Always Gray in Winter, is up for TWO Ursa Major Awards. Best Published Illustration and Best Novel.

Interested in cheering him on (or seeing who else made the list)?  There's the link.

Best of luck, Mark!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

March 2018 Pass Or Pages Agent Panel

Meet the agents who will critique your Young Adult Science-fiction and Fantasy entries!

Kurestin Armada

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.

Moe Ferrara

Becoming a literary agent was fitting for the girl who, as a small child, begged her dad to buy her a book simply because "it has a hard cover." Growing up, she had a hard time finding YA books outside of Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine, and instead tackled Tom Clancy or her mom's romance novels. Though her career path zigzagged a bit—she attended college as a music major, earned a JD from Pace Law School, then worked various jobs throughout the publishing industry—Moe was thrilled to join the BookEnds team in May of 2015 as a literary agent and the subsidiary rights director.

Lindsay Mealing

Lindsay has been writing stories since she could first hold a pencil. It wasn’t until she sat down to edit a manuscript for the first time she realized her true love was not on the writing side of the publishing industry, but the business side. She began interning for Mandy in early 2015 and quickly realized agenting was what she wanted to do forever more.

Lindsay is a self-proclaimed nerd, loving everything science fiction and fantasy – from epic tomes to gaming. She fell head over heels with the SFF genre when she read KUSHIEL’S DART by Jacqueline Carey (she even has Phedre’s marque tattooed on her back).

Details for March 2018 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, March 12 at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Wednesday, March 14 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction and Fantasy
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS

You can also read more about the rules here.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of March 26th, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Working Toward a Goal: 100 Rejections in 2018

Common, and good, writing advice often takes the form of setting a goal: a reasonable goal, that is. For example, I could set a goal that I'll get published in 2018, but since I'm currently unagented and still a few drafts away from querying, that goal is not just outlandish, it's also out of my control.

A more reasonable goal would have been: query the book by the end of 2018. That's something that I can manage, something that is within my power, and something that's necessary, because I'll need an agent in order to get traditionally published, which of course is the dream.

This year I'm aiming for a somewhat lofty goal: I'm aiming for 100 rejections. If you want to know the reasoning for that goal, I'd urge you to check out the piece by Kim Liao that, as far as my internet digging can discern, laid out the original goal.

Great, now that you've read her wonderful piece and know the background, I'll explain my process for this goal.

So far, I'm really not doing a great job of meeting it.

We're two full months into 2018, and I've only garnered three rejections! I've had personal essays rejected from Racked,, and Electric Literature. So, as far as places that are rejecting me, I'm pretty comfortable with these three; they're all outlets where I would love to publish, and a rejection from them merely means that I'm aiming high enough.

It's the number of rejections that bothers me. Three, just three!

It's low because, to be honest, I haven't pitched that many things this year. Oh, in the beginning of January, I had the most lofty of ideas! I was going to go on a submitting rampage, sending out a barrage of poems, essays and queries that would overwhelm the literary world. Sure, most of them would be rejected. But you learn something with every rejection: you learn that maybe this piece isn't ready yet, or that maybe you should have sent it to someone who's more suited for it, or that whoops, that publication is closed to unsolicited pitches!

Each rejection adds to your knowledge of the field of publishing. More importantly, if you submit high quality material and it's rejected because it just doesn't fit, or the publication doesn't quite have the room for it, but the editors still like your work, they'll invite you to pitch again. They know your name by now. They remember you as that writer who does good stuff, yes, and maybe, if the stars all align and smile down upon you, there will come a day when they need to assign a specific piece and they reach out to you.

Honestly, I have a great excuse for having fallen so far behind on my rejection goal this year. I've not been well for much of the year, and that's made it hard to  make progress on my writing. But! I'm re-committing to my goal! To submit, to query, to send out a flurry of words and hope for some to land, but to rejoice in the ones that don't because, hey, they're just adding to my goal!

I'm going to check in with y'all monthly, with an update on what I've submitted and how many new rejections I've garnered. Hopefully, my journey will inspire and encourage you to send your words out as well!

Friday, March 2, 2018


It's Friiiidaaaay!!! Which means the weekend is just around the corner, thank goodness. If you would like to be entered to win a query critique, just comment on this post, plus one other post from this week. You have until noon EST on Sunday, 03/04, to comment. The winner will announced in the comments section later that afternoon. The rest of the rules can be found here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dear OAbby: What Goes in the Bio Section of a Query Letter?

Dear OAbby is a new feature on Operation Awesome where we answer your questions! It's an advice column by writers, for writers, chock-full of information about writing, querying, the publication process, etc. If you have a question you'd like answered, just send it to All questions may be edited for clarity and/or space, and will be posted anonymously, with no identifying information.

Dear OAbby,

A few years ago I took a "by application only" class with one of the top authors in the same genre that I write in. Is that something I should include in the bio part of a query letter?

Querying Author

Dear Querying Author,

As with many questions in life (and in the world of writing and publishing), the answer to your question is a definitive 'maybe.' It really depends on what happened during the class. Did the author work directly with you on your book? Was the book you were working on during the class the same book you're querying now? Did they give you any solid critique or compliments you can use to your advantage in a query? For example, if the author told you, "this book is the best example of a realistic were-fox/mermaid relationship I've ever seen in print!" then feel free to to put something like, "I took a by-application-only class with Author X, and after reading an excerpt of my work, they said this book was the best example of a realistic were-fox/mermaid relationship they'd ever seen." Something like that is concrete (and complimentary) enough to use the precious space in a query letter on.

'By application only' might be useful, but again, it depends on the details. Were you chosen from a pool of thousands of applicants? Did your selection depend on a writing excerpt, and was the writing excerpt from the book you're currently querying? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then it's probably not relevant in a query.

On the other hand, if you took the class and didn't get any positive, personalized feedback on the work you're currently querying, then it's probably not worth including. Instead, if you choose to include bio information in your query, it should be one or two items that will really sell you as an author. Did your writing win a prize in a prestigious contest? Are you an #ownvoices writer? Is your novel about a time-traveling doctor in Scotland, while you are also a time-traveling doctor living in Scotland? These are good kinds of credentials to include. If you don't have these credentials, then just leave out the bio! Typically, agents don't expect bio information, nor will they look askance at a query that doesn't include it. Focus on the plot and characters in your book and maybe a couple of comps.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

March Pass Or Pages Details

We are always thrilled when the stars align and we're able to bring you another Pass Or Pages contest. Getting agents' insights into what works and what doesn't in a submission is so valuable to writers. We learn something every round we feature, and we hope you do, too!

In March, we'll feature entries from Young Adult Science-fiction and Fantasy novels. Don't send us MG entries; we can tell the difference. Yes, historical fantasy is okay. As long as there is a speculative element and it's for Young Adults, we'll take it. Any other questions? Ask in the comments or on Twitter @OpAwesome6.

Here are the important dates for this round:
March 6th: Agent panel announcement
March 12th-14th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
March 26th-30th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Introducing Karis, the newest OA blogger!

Hello, hello, all you fabulous Operation Awesome readers! My name is Karis, and I’m the latest addition to the OA blogging fam! I am so happy to be here, and so, so excited to get to know a brand-new community of writers and readers on the Internet!

If you’re wondering, here’s a little about me: I’m a 20-something American/Canadian writer who was born in South Carolina, raised in Italy, schooled in Germany, Kentucky and New York City, and is currently back in the sunny (and unbearably hot) American South.

I feel like there was a lot in that sentence! Ha. Let’s break it down: first and foremost, I’m a writer. I’ve been writing since I had my first disappointment in a book’s ending and decided I, a seven-year-old, could do better. I feel like I’ve known pretty much from then that my goal and desire was to be a published, career writer.

These days, I work as a blogger (my personal blog is at and freelance writer for various websites around the web — I’ve written for, Bustle, Ravishly, and then bookish sites like and YA Interrobang. My main topics of concern are mental health (I was diagnosed with depression years back and have since been very open about its ups and downs); young adult novels; and relationships...okay, fine, it’s mostly just recountings of the failed dates I’ve been on, but still! It’s very funny ;)

I’m also a novelist. I write young adult contemporary fiction, and I’m working on a massive revision and then will fling myself into the query trenches, wholeheartedly. YA novels are my deepest passion, and I aspire to be writing them for many years to come. I just...teenagers are the future, they’re bright and vibrant and hilarious, and also YA is just so much less cynical than adult fiction.

When I was four years old, my parents moved the family to Perugia, Italy, so they could work with evangelical churches there. We bounced around a bit and finally settled in Trieste, this little port town on the Adriatic that has got some of the best views, architecture, and weird culture around. This city has my heart. It’s also mildly famous for being the city where James Joyce began writing Ulysses…#NoBigDeal.

Because the Italian school system is so different from the American one, I attended an American boarding school in Germany for the last three years of high school. That So many stories! I lived in a dorm with 12 other teenage girls, and when I say there were shenanigans galore, I mean...come on, you stick 13 girls between the ages of 13-18 in one creaky house in the wilds of the Black Forest, what do you expect? We had fabulous times.

After four years of college in Kentucky, I moved to New York City to pursue a graduate program at NYU. I never finished that program, for financial and medical reasons. That’s a huge bummer, but one I’m working through my throwing myself fully into my novels and personal essays.

As for my role here, I’m going to be blogging about the writing journey, especially as it pertains to the query trenches; I’ve also set a goal of 100 rejections for 2018, so will do a regular update on that: what’s been rejected, what’s been accepted, and how many pints of ice cream I’ve devoured in the meantime ;)

If you’d like to connect with me on the Internet, your best bet is Twitter, where I’m @KarisRogerson, or Instagram, where I'm @karisselizabeth. Come say hi and let’s be buds!

A few quick fun facts about me include: I am obsessed with New York City and will claw my way back to that city eventually, and settle down so firmly they’ll bury me there. I broke my nose five days before my high school graduation, so I did graduate with a cast on my face, and I do still have a scar from that (on my knee). I speak 2.5 languages. Trampolines scare me so much I haven’t been on one in years. My middle name is Gertrude. I worked at the Sochi Olympics and met Al Roker. I have been to 23 countries (almost one country per year of life!). I’m deathly afraid of flying. Relatedly, I’ve been on something like 100 flights in my life.

Alright, so here’s the thing: all of those facts are true, except for one. It’s like a really extended version of “Two Truths and a Lie.” So leave a comment guessing at which factoid is false, and then tell me the weirdest thing about yourself!

Friday, February 23, 2018


It's that time of the week again! Post a comment (and comment on another OA post from this week), to be entered to win a query critique. Must comment by noon on Sunday, 02/25, EST. Check out the rest of the rules here.

Happy entering! 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

OA's New Feature: 'Dear OAbby' Advice Column

Operation Awesome wants to answer your questions about writing, finding an agent, the publication process, and more! Consider this new feature an advice column, with your questions and our answers (when we don't know the answers, we'll collaborate with other writers and publishing professionals to get those answers!).

Send an email to with 'Dear OAbby' Question in the subject line. Feel free to go as much into detail about your situation as you want; we may edit for space and clarity. Nothing is off-limits here - ask specifics, generalities, what-ifs, or theoreticals. We will keep the author's name, and any other identifying information, confidential.

Looking forward to answering your questions!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Queen's Rising

1- What's your favorite breakfast dish?


2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Loyal. Friendly. Easy going. Introspective. Empathetic.

3- How are constellations inspiring to you?

I love everything about the night sky. I feel like there are stories in the stars if we would only stop and take the time to admire them.

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book in an exciting location?

I don’t have a picture yet of my book in an exciting place, but I do have a picture of me with the first finished hardcopy I received. And if you couldn’t tell, I was pretty excited.
Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Since I am 3 weeks from launch, a few of my short-term goals are to experience the publication (which is so exciting but also a little nerve-wracking!), continue building my platform, have a good launch party and do my best on my second round of edits for Book 2 (which should be coming any week now!). Long term goals include finishing TQR series with the best books that I can produce, and continuing to improve my craft.

6- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I love how endearing her characters are! She is such a fantastic writer that I was wholly invested in not only Finnikin but with the secondary characters. They feel like real people to me, and I often miss being in their world.

7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I have to say my two younger sisters (the book is dedicated to them). They are the reason why this book even got published. I handed them the first draft to read three years ago, not sure if it was even good, and they absolutely loved it. And their enthusiasm about the book was the reason why I queried agents. My sisters have seen the book throughout its many drafts, but I think they simply love Brienna and her world.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope my readers will feel/relate to Brienna’s struggles to know where she belongs and who she wants to become. But there is also a particular scene (one of my favorites to write!) where I hope to catch my readers by complete surprise.

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Working with my editor! She has truly helped me reach the next level with my writing. She has not only helped me draw out deeper emotions and conflicts within my characters, but also examine my pacing and my overall structure (elements I often struggle with!).
Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

10- Would you share a picture with us of your book and your dog?

Of course! This is my dog, Sierra. She often sits beneath my desk when I write (as pictured). She’s very good about letting me know when it’s time to take a break from writing to go throw Frisbee in the yard.

11- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Jourdain often responds with a, “Hmm.” Which Brienna learns is his manner of halfway agreeing with someone or his way of avoiding an answer.

12- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

I love Laia and Elias from An Ember in the Ashes. I remember when I first picked Sabaa’s book up, I planned to read a few chapters. And before I knew it, I was halfway through, and I could not put it down! It is one of the best dual narratives I have ever read.

13- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I think I have to go with Brienna. She has a devious side, but she is also trustworthy.

14- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

Supporting diverse authors. Buying their books and spreading the word about their books are two things that help tear down the walls in publishing and give more readers stories and characters that represent them.

15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

Beautiful covers always draw my attention. But beyond the cover…I typically open up to a random page and read a paragraph. If it grabs my interest with witty dialogue or lyrical writing, I will definitely buy the book!

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Oh dear. This is a tough question. I think the answer that carries the most weight here is the number of books sold. Publishing is a business, after all. But in my heart, I want to measure it by my readers. The people who have read my book and loved it, who have been encouraged or moved by my story. Because that is what I want at the end of that day.

17- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading! As a girl, I was a voracious reader. And with each book that I read, the more I wanted to write my own. I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not want to be a writer. The first book I ever wrote was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (I think I was around 6 when I wrote it and even took it upon myself to illustrate).
Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

18- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I knew right away that I wanted an agent to guide me through the process and be in my corner, because publishing can be scary and confusing. I honestly did not understand all the inner workings of publishing when I first drafted TQR, and I felt as if I would have a really hard time as a self-published author (I had 0 network connections and no following). So when I got such an incredible agent, I trusted her to know which editors and imprints would be a good match for me.

19- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

I think anything that utilizes social media is very helpful for marketing and promoting, whether it’s a blog tour or a giveaway or a cover reveal or a street team. An author might not even see all the engagement, or fully know how many people have seen their post(s), but social media is such a good way to connect with others and find readers who may love your book.

20- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer in the comments?

What would you like to see more of in YA Fantasy?

21- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Thank you again so much for this interview! I love to connect with readers, so don’t be shy to come find me on social media!

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved, some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. Who will be that queen?

Rebecca Ross grew up in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, lively dog and endless piles of books. She received her bachelor's degree in English from UGA and enjoys rainy days, endless cups of coffee and DIY projects. Rebecca writes fantasy for young adult readers. Her debut, THE QUEEN'S RISING, is the first book in a trilogy and came out February 6, 2018 from HarperTeen.

Visit her online at

Instagram: @beccajross
Twitter: @_RebeccaRoss

The Queen's Rising

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Quiz!

I made a thing. And it was my first ever, so it is not perfect, but I hope you'll forgive me. And play along! Let me know in the comments what book you got, and if you've already read it.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Good-bye, #OAFlash Fiction & Hello, #QueryFriday

Sadly, not all blog features stick around forever, and that is why #OAFlash Fiction is going away. But! To take its place, comes #QueryFriday. To find out how you can get an outside opinion on your query, keep reading...


Queries are the first step in the journey to seeing your book published. As a professional letter to an agent or publisher, it is intended to interest them in your work. The end game of a query letter? To entice the agent/publisher to request MORE of your work. So stressful? Queries? Oh, yeah. But never fear, as Operation Awesome is here!

On #QueryFriday, one lucky commenter will be chosen for a query critique. Fresh, outside eyes are often helpful in pinpointing problematic areas within a query. Your critique will be respectful of your feelings, while trying to add just a bit more shine/clarification/strength to your query. And if your query is already pretty dang good-- we'll tell you!


1.) You must comment on the #QueryFriday post in order to enter, as well as comment on one other Operation Awesome blog post from that week. This will be checked, and failure to comment on another blog post will result in your entry being invalidated.

2.) In case of being the winner, please make it easy to contact you. If you are not comfortable with leaving your email in your comment, then please make sure that your blogging profile has your contact information listed.

3.) Entry comments will be accepted until Sunday 2/18, Noon, EST. The winner will be selected by a random number generator, and announced Sunday evening in the comments section.

4.) Your critiqued query will be returned to you via email, in an attached document, with notes in the margins, within 7 days.

5.) If you have won a query critique, you will not be eligible to win another until 3 months have passed. Critiques will not be done multiple times on the same query. If you enter again, it must be with a query on a new story.


Good luck! 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What Do You Love About Writing?

The path to publication can be extremely frustrating, full of rejections, doubt, and uncertainty the whole way. It's great to take a step back every now and then to remind yourself why you write in the first place.

For me, I write because the characters chattering in my head need somewhere to go. Putting them on the page, expanding their world, and letting them come to life is the most magical thing I can do. When I'm not writing, my brain can get awfully crowded, and it's a relief to sit down with a blank Word doc and let my characters play.

I also love playing the 'what if' game. Writing lets me experience things that may never happen in real life, but can play out on the page. My characters can make terrible decisions, and I get to follow them through the accompanying consequences.

What do you love about writing that keeps you coming back to it, even when you're fed up with the publication process?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Meet Megan Bannen in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Bird and the Blade

The colors on this cover seemed an appropriate choice for today.

1- What song do you think is today's equivalent of "Everybody Hurts"?

I was a huge R.E.M. fan when I was a teen, although my teen years happened well before "Everybody Hurts". Today's equivalent? Hmm, maybe something Avett Brother-y? "No Hard Feelings"? And, hey, speaking of R.E.M. Carrie Fountain's 2018 novel, I'M NOT MISSING, is not only a fantastic book but a wonderful homage to R.E.M. I can't recommend it enough.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Funny, unpretentious, anxiety-ridden, musical, kind.
Note: Funny, unpretentious, and kind are values I strive for, but I don't know how well I succeed. I definitely don't succeed at "musical" but that never stops me from bursting into song. I am, however, quite successful at being anxiety-ridden.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

In a recent interview with Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, Jason Reynolds talked about approaching his writing career as a service, that we, as writers, work in the service of kids. That resonates with me, and I think that idea is the same reason why I became a librarian, too. Books helped me grow up by showing me that the world was bigger than I imagined, and that I was not alone in it. As a librarian, I've been putting stories in kids' hands for a long time in the hope that they will find stories that do the same thing for them. Now, as a writer, I hope I'm offering a story that will move readers, expand their experience of the world, and inspire them to ask questions about who they are and what they think and where they fit in the world.

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book with your favorite fountain in Kansas City?

There are bajillion fountains in Kansas City, but my favorite is the one at Crown Center because you can play in it. Fountains should be played in, I think.

Meet Megan Bannen of Kansas City in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

My short term goal is to finish another YA book this year and maybe possibly a middle grade novel as well. My long term goals are to keep writing and improving my craft and (hopefully) selling. I don't ever need to be a bestseller or a household name, but I'd sure like to have a writing career ten, fifteen, twenty years from now.

6- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

One book? One?? There must be a twenty-way tie for my favorite book. So, off the top of my head, I'll go with I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak (or really any book by Markus Zusak. That guy could write the phone book, and I'd read it). Ed Kennedy (the protagonist) is unapologetically vulnerable and self-deprecating and yet he figures out that he has as much potential to act and do good in the world as any other human being. Most of us are not exactly born to greatness, but we can do great things. And that part at the end when WARNING: SPOILER Markus Zusak puts himself in the book to prove his point?? Brilliant. Just brilliant.

7- Can you enlighten us as to what makes KC BBQ legendary?

It's the sauce, people. The sauce. Not the rub. The sauce, in all it's smokey-spicey-vinegary-molassesy goodness. Quite frankly, I'd eat just about anything slathered in Gates barbeque sauce.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

If there's one emotion I want the reader to experience while reading this book, it's longing. All three of the main characters in THE BIRD AND BLADE are longing for something they can't have (or think they can't have). In terms of a particular scene, I wrote the entire book because of the ending, so I definitely want the end to stand out in my readers' minds. More specifically, I hope that scene will inspire readers to question what it means to be brave and heroic, and to examine how we tend to privilege the male narrative (defeating others) over the female narrative (sacrifice and resilience).

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

I've written a blog post on this very topic! I have a Master of Arts in English, and I used to teach secondary language arts, and I've been a librarian for most of my professional career, but the one thing that truly taught me how to write was theater. I did theater all through high school, and I went to college on a theater scholarship. I learned the Aristotelean plot structure from theater. I learned character motivation from theater. I learned subtext from theater. I learned pacing from theater. Most importantly, I learned how to take criticism from theater. That last point? Pure gold. If you can learn how to listen to critique and use it to make your art better, you've learned the most important thing you need to know about doing any artform.

10- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Khalaf rubs his bottom lip with his thumb when he's stressed out or trying to work through some difficult issue. Jinghua refers to it as "Khalaf's Thinking Face."

11- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

Sorry, but I definitely cannot limit my response to just one title. As a librarian who works with kids and teens, I'm thrilled to see so many great #ownvoices books coming out this year, especially by my fellow 2018 debuts: LOVE, HATE AND OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed, AMERICAN PANDA by Gloria Chao, A GIRL LIKE THAT by Tanaz Bhathena, A BLADE SO BLACK by L. L. McKinney, and PEASPROUT CHEN: FUTURE LEGEND OF SKATE AND SWORD by Henry Lien are just a few that come to mind, and they're all wonderful. Also, I can't wait to get my hands on Kati Gardner's BRAVE ENOUGH.

We know something about Gloria Chao and her awesome American Panda book around here. That interview was not too long ago!

12- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Timur Khan is a self-centered, irascible jerk and yet he loves both Khalaf and (by the end) Jinghua ferociously.

13- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

The author motivates me more than anything. I love to meet writers, to listen to them talk about what inspires them to write. It's that human connection that makes me want to buy a book and read it.

14- How will you measure your publishing performance?

This is going to sound so barftastic, but quite honestly, I'm already successful. Just getting this far? Success. When I first started writing THE BIRD AND THE BLADE, I didn't intend to publish it. Writing that book was the one thing I did for myself at a time in my life when my sense of self seemed like it was being erased by motherhood. It wasn't until draft four or five-three years later-when I finally thought, "Hey, this might be good enough to publish." If this book inspires readers to learn more about the Mongol empire and the Song Dynasty? Success. If this book leads readers to seek out novels set in times and places with which they're unfamiliar, especially those written by #ownvoices authors? Success. And if this book causes even one non-reader to love reading? Huge, glorious success.

15- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

Well, here's my two cents, and since my book isn't out yet, I can't really speak to its efficacy. One of my husband's favorite phrases is "Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art" (pretty sure Constantin Stanislavski first said those words) and I think that sums up what little marketing philosophy I have. The truth is that I have no control over the market or how readers are going to respond to anything I write. The only thing I can do is write the best book of which I'm capable. So, I plan to write the next book and the next, developing my craft, and focusing on the art rather than myself in the art. In short, I'm just going to be the most genuine person I know how to be and write the best book I can write, and hope that leads to book sales in a roundabout way.

16- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

What's the book that made a reader out of you and why? (For me, it was MY FRIEND THE MONSTER by Clyde Robert Bulla which I read when I was in the third grade, a book about a shy, awkward kid like me who found a friend in a monster.)

17- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of The Bird and the Blade. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. While most of her professional career has been spent in public libraries, she has also sold luggage, written grants, and taught English at home and abroad. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names.


The Bird and the Blade

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


I've had several conversations with my writing friends lately about how everyone's writing process is different. That's why there's so much writing advice out there. We're all trying to find our way, and when we find something that works for us, we want to share it with everyone else.

I've never been the type of writer who can switch between projects easily. Before I had an agent, that wasn't a big deal, because I was the only person who cared what I was writing and when. Now, though, I'm accountable to someone else. So in the fall, when my agent gave me revision notes on my manuscript, I dropped the WIP I had been working on all summer and threw myself into revisions.

But after the revisions were done, it was not as easy to throw myself back into the WIP. With the holidays and everything, I ended up taking a three month break from it. I wanted to get back to work. I just couldn't.

And then I noticed some of the writer people I follow on Twitter using a hashtag I hadn't seen before: #AHundredOrDie. I tried just stalking them for a little while to figure out what it was all about, but I eventually broke down and asked (human interaction! so stressful!). Beau (@INukeYou) started doing it in December to get out of a writing rut. Basically, the idea was to commit to writing at least a hundred words a day. The rationalization was that a hundred words was manageable no matter what kind of day he was having.

I agreed. A hundred words is nothing. I mean, the word count for the first two paragraphs I wrote for this post is over a hundred words. Over the next few days, a little over a hundred words at a time, I got through my writer's block and was able to make real progress in my WIP. Some days I only wrote a hundred words. Other days I wrote over a thousand. But I made sure I wrote every day. Having accountability buddies is a strategy many writers use, and this one was the perfect amount of casual commitment for me.

It helped (is helping!) me so much, and that is why I wanted to share it with you. Will it work for everyone? No writing advice does. But if you are feeling stuck, or feeling guilty for not writing, try to write a hundred words. We'll cheer you on at #AHundredOrDie.