Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Checklist for Submitting Your Short Story to Anthologies and Contests

A glimpse into the minds of acquiring editors and judges for short (or any) fiction

Jodie Renner, editor & author  @JodieRennerEd

Have you tried your hand at writing short stories yet? If not, what’s holding you back? As award-winning blogger Anne R. Allen said in an excellent article in Writer’s Digest magazine, “Bite-sized fiction has moved mainstream, and today’s readers are more eager than ever to ‘read short.’” To check out Anne’s “nine factors working in favor of a short story renaissance,” see “9 Ways Writing Short Stories Can Pay off For Writers“, and there’s more in her post, Why You Should be Writing Short Fiction.

Here’s another Argument for Writing Short Stories, by Emily Harstone.  She says, “Writers who are serious about improving and developing their craft should write short stories and get editorial feedback on them, even if they are never planning on publishing these short stories. Short stories are one of the best ways to hone your craft as a writer.”

Okay, you’ve decided to take the plunge and craft a few short stories. Good for you! Next step: Consider submitting some of them to anthologies, magazines, or contests. But wait! Before you click “send,” be sure to check out my 33 Tips for Creating a Short Story Worthy of Contests, Magazines, and Anthologies (the next post below), then go through your story with these tips in mind and give it a good edit and polish – possibly even a major rewrite – before submitting it.

What are some of the common criteria used by publications and contests when evaluating short story submissions?

I recently served as judge for genre short stories for Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Contest, where I had to whittle down 139 entries to 10 finalists, but I wasn’t provided with a checklist or any specific criteria. However, a friend who regularly submits short stories to anthologies, magazines, and contests recently received a polite rejection letter from the editor of a literary magazine, along with a checklist of possible reasons, with two of them checked off specifically relating to her story.

While useful, the list of possible weaknesses is very “bare bones” and cries out for more detail and specific pointers. Editors, publishers, and judges are swamped with submissions and understandably don’t have time to give detailed advice for improvement to all the authors whose stories they turn down. Perhaps you could help me interpret and flesh out some of these fairly cryptic, generic comments/criticisms, and add any additional points that occur to you, or checklists you may have received.

Can you think of other indicators of story weaknesses that could be deal-breakers for aspiring authors submitting short stories for publication? Or do you have links to online publishers’ checklists for fiction submissions? Please share them in the comments below.

Here’s the list my friend received, with my comments below each point. Do you have comments/interpretations to add?

Checklist from a Publisher/Editor/Publication in Response to Short Story Submissions

“Thank you for submitting your short story to …. We’ve given your work careful consideration and are unable to offer you publication. We do not offer in-depth reviews of rejected submissions, due to time constraints. Briefly, we feel your submission suffered from one/several of the following common problems:”

“Tone or content inappropriate for…” (publisher / publication / anthology / magazine)
Check their submission guidelines and read other stories they’ve accepted to get an idea of the genre, style, tone, and content they seem to prefer.

“Stylistic and grammatical errors; too many typos”
Be sure to use spell-check and get someone with strong skills in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure to check it over carefully for you. Read it out loud, and where you pause briefly, put in a comma. Where you pause a little longer, put in a period. You could also try using editing software or submit it to a professional freelance editor. This last choice has the most likelihood of helping you hone your fiction-writing skills.

“Structure problems”
For a novel, this could mean some chapters could be rearranged, shortened, or taken out. For a short story, it could mean the time sequencing is strange; you've started too early, too late, or in the middle; or perhaps you have too many characters or too many plot lines. Or perhaps you've interrupted the story by dumping in a lot of backstory or explanations.

“Formatting problems made reading frustrating”
Be sure your story is in a common font, like Times New Roman, 12-point, and double-spaced, with only one space after periods and one-inch margins on all four sides. Don’t boldface anything or use all caps. For more white space and ease of reading, divide long blocks of text into paragraphs. Start a new paragraph for each new speaker. Indent paragraphs, but not by clicking on the space bar. Use Word's paragraph function. Don’t use an extra line space between paragraphs. Use italics sparingly for emphasis. For more specifics on formatting, see “Basic Formatting of Your Manuscript (Formatting 101)”.

“Characters were problematic/unbelievable/unlikeable”
Your characters’ decisions, actions and motivations need to fit their goals, personality, background, and character. And make sure your protagonist is likeable, someone readers will want to root for.

“Content and/or style too well-worn or obvious”
This likely refers to a plot that’s been done a million times, with cookie-cutter characters and a predictable ending.

“Word choice needs refinement”
This one could cover the gamut from overused, tired words like nice, good, bad, old, big, small, tall, short to overly formal, technical, or esoteric words where a concrete, vivid, immediately understandable one would be more effective.

“Overbearing or heavy-handed”
This probably refers to a story where the author’s agenda is too obvious, too hard-hitting, maybe even a bit “preachy,” rather than subtle, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

“Nothing seems to have happened”
This likely indicates no critical problem or dilemma for the protagonist, not enough meaningful action and change, and insufficient conflict and tension.

“Strong beginning, then peters out”
This is an indicator that your plot needs amping up and you need to add rising tension, suspense, and intrigue to keep readers avidly turning the pages. Also, flesh out your characters to make them more complex. Give your protagonist secrets, regrets, inner conflict, and a strong desire that is being thwarted.

“Needs overall development and polish.”
This indicates you likely need to roll up your sleeves and hone your writing skills. Read some writing guides, like my Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, or Writing a Killer Thriller. Also, read lots of highly rated published short stories, paying close attention to the writers’ techniques. Here’s where a critique group of experienced fiction writers or some savvy beta readers or a professional edit could help.

“We didn’t get it.”
This is a catch-all category that means the story didn’t work for a number of reasons. This could be an indicator to put this story aside and hone your craft, critically read other highly rated stories in your genre, then, using your new skills, craft a fresh story.

“While all of these criticisms open doors to further questions, we regret that we cannot be more constructive….”

That’s understandable. They just don’t have time to critique or mentor every writer who contacts them. But I hope my comments above help aspiring fiction writers hone your craft and get your stories published – or even win awards for them. Good luck! For tips on how to actually submit, check out “Writing Short Stories? Don’t Make These 4 Submission Mistakes“.

Also, I've started organizing and editing a few different anthologies, to be published through Cobalt Books. We're actively looking for submissions for both of these:

CHILDREN BEHIND TURNED BACKS – Exposing thePlight of Asian Children is a collection of fictional stories to help reduce child labor in South Asia. Future anthologies will help to fight child labor in other countries, and also human trafficking.

For writers in BC, Canada, I'm organizing an anthology called VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS - An Anthology Celebrating BC. If you live or have spent time in BC, be sure to click on the title to submit a story or poem to this anthology.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving
e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. You can find Jodie at,, her blog,, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


By Jodie Renner,, 

Here are 33 concrete tips for writing a compelling short story that is worthy of publishing or submitting to contests, magazines, and anthologies. Of course, these are only guidelines – like any good cook with a recipe, you’ll tweak them to suit your own vision, goal, genre, and story idea.
When referring to the main character, I’ll be alternating between using “he” and “she”, so just fill in the gender of your own protagonist.
1. Keep the story tight. Most short stories are between 1,000 and 7,000 words long, with the most popular length between 2,500 and 4,000 words. Unlike a novel or even a novella, a short story is about a small slice of life, with one story thread and one theme. Don’t get too ambitious. It’s best to limit it to one principal character plus a few supporting characters, one main conflict, one geographical location, and a brief time frame, like a few weeks maximum – better yet, a few days, or even hours.
2. Create a main character who is complex and charismatic, one readers will care about. Your protagonist should be multi-dimensional and at least somewhat sympathetic, so readers can relate to him and start bonding with him right away. He should be fascinating, with plenty of personality. But give him a human side, with some inner conflict and vulnerability, so readers identify with him and start worrying about him immediately. If readers don’t care about your character, they also won’t care about what happens to him.
3. Give your protagonist a burning desire. What does he or she want more than anything? This is the basis for your story goal, the driving force of your story.
4. Decide what your character is most afraid of. What does your heroine regret most? What is she feeling guilty about? Give her some baggage and secrets.
5. Devise a critical story problem or conflict. Create a significant conflict or challenge for your protagonist. Put her in hot water right away, on the first page, so the readers start worrying about her early on. No conflict = no story. The conflict can be internal, external, or interpersonal, or all three. It can be against one’s own demons, other people, circumstances, or nature.
6. Develop a unique “voice” for this story. First, get to know your character really well by journaling in his voice. Pretend you are the character, writing in his secret diary, expressing his hopes and fears and venting his frustrations. Just let the ideas flow, in his point of view, using his words and expressions.
Then take it a step further and carry that voice you’ve developed throughout the whole story, even to the narration and description, which are really the viewpoint character’s thoughts, perceptions, observations, and reactions. This technique ensures that your whole story has a unique, compelling voice. (In a novel, the voice will of course change in any chapters that are in other characters’ viewpoints.)
7. Create a worthy antagonist. Devise an opposition character who is strong, clever, determined, and resourceful – a force to be reckoned with. And for added interest, make him or her multi-faceted, with a few positive qualities, too.
8. Add in a few interesting, even quirky supporting characters. Give each of your characters a distinct personality, with their own agenda, hopes, accomplishments, fears, insecurities, and secrets, and add some individual quirks to bring each of them to life. Supporting and minor characters should be quite different from your protagonist, for contrast. Start a diary for each important character to develop their voice and personality, and ensure none of them are closely modeled after you, the author, or your friends.
But don’t fully develop any very minor or “walk-on” characters, or readers will expect them to play a more significant role. In fact, it’s best not to name minor characters like cab drivers, cashiers, and servers, unless they play a bigger role.
9. To enter and win contests, make your character and story unique and memorable. Try to jolt or awe the readers somehow, with a unique, enigmatic, even quirky or weird character; an unusual premise or situation; and an unexpected, even shocking revelation and plot twist.
10. Experiment – take a chance. Short stories can be edgier, darker, or more intense because they’re brief, and readers can tolerate something a little more extreme for a limited time.

11. Start with a compelling scene. Short stories need to grab and emotionally engage the readers right from the first paragraph. Don’t open with a description of the scenery or other setting. Also, don’t start with background information (backstory) on the character or an explanation of their world or situation.
12. Start right out in the head of your main character. It’s best to use his name right in the first sentence to establish him as the point-of-view character, the one readers are supposed to identify with and root for. And let readers know really soon his rough age, situation, and role in the story world.
13. Put your character in motion right away. Having her interacting with someone else is usually best – much more dynamic than starting with a character alone, musing. Also, it’s best not to start with your character waking up or in an everyday situation or on the way to somewhere. That’s trite and too much of a slow lead-up for a short story – or any compelling story, for that matter.
14. Use close point of view. Get up close and personal with your lead character and tell the whole story from his point of view. Continually show his thoughts, feelings, reactions, and physical sensations. And take care not to show anyone else’s thoughts or inner reactions. You don’t have time or space to get into anyone else’s viewpoint in a short story. Show the attitudes and reactions of others through what the POV character perceives – their words, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, actions, etc.
Even the narration should be expressed as your POV character’s thoughts and observations. Don’t intrude as the author to describe or explain anything to the readers in neutral language. You want to keep your readers immersed in your fictive dream, and interrupting as the author will burst the bubble of make-believe they crave.
15. Situate the reader early on. To avoid audience confusion and frustration, establish your main character immediately and clarify the situation and setting (time and place) within the first few paragraphs. On the first page, answer the four W’s: who, what, where, when. But as mentioned above, avoid starting with a long descriptive passage.
16. Jump right in with some tension in the first paragraphs. As I mentioned, there’s no room in a short story for a long, meandering lead-up to the main problem, or an extended description of the setting or the characters and their background. Disrupt the main character’s life in some way on the first page. As Kurt Vonnegut advises, in short fiction, start as close to the end as possible.
17. Show, don’t tell. Don’t use narration to tell your readers what happened – put them right in the middle of the scene, with lots of dialogue and action and reactions, in real time. And skip past transitional times and unimportant moments. Use a few words to go from one time or place to another, unless something important happens during the transition.
18. Your character needs to react. Continually show your character’s emotional and physical reactions, both inner and outer, to what’s going on around him. And to bring the character and scene to life on the page, evoke as many of the five senses as possible, not just sight and hearing. Scents or smells are especially powerful and evocative.
19. Every page needs tension of some sort. It might be overt, like an argument, or subtle, like inner resentments, disagreements, questioning, or anxiety. If everybody is in agreement, shake things up a little.
20. To add tension and intrigue, withhold key information, especially about character secrets or regrets, but hint at them to arouse reader curiosity. Then reveal critical info bit by bit, like a tantalizing striptease, as you go along.
21. Dialogue in fiction is like real conversation on steroids. Skip the yadda-yadda, blah-blah, “How are you? I’m fine. Nice weather,” etc., and add spark and tension to all your dialogue. And make the characters’ words and expressions sound as natural and authentic as you can. Avoid complete, correct sentences in dialogue. Use plenty of one or two-word questions and responses, evasive replies, abrupt changes of topics, and even a few silences.
22. Each character should speak differently, and not like the author. Each character’s word choices and speech patterns should reflect their gender, age, education, social standing, and personality. Don’t have your kids sounding like adults or your thugs sounding like university professors. Even men and women of similar cultural backgrounds and social standing speak differently. Read your dialogue out loud or role-play with a friend to make sure it sounds real, has tension, and moves along at a good clip.
23. Build the conflict to a riveting climax. Keep putting your protagonist in more hot water until the big “battle,” showdown, or struggle – whether it’s physical, psychological, or interpersonal. This is where they’re challenged to the max and have to draw on all their courage, wit, and resources to avoid defeat and/or reach their goals.
24. Brainstorm to devise a twist at the end. Create a surprise ending to delight readers – something that’s unexpected but makes sense in retrospect. Give the readers what they hope for, but not in a way they expect it.
25. Provide some satisfaction at the end. It’s not necessary to tie everything up in a neat little bow, but do give your readers some sense of resolution, some payout for their investment of time and effort in your story. As in novels, most readers want the character they’ve been rooting for all along to resolve at least some of their problems. But be sure the protagonist they’ve been identifying with succeeds through their own courage, determination, and resourcefulness, not through coincidence, luck, or a rescue by someone else. Keep your hero or heroine heroic. And don’t let your conclusion drag on – tie things up quickly.
26. Provide a character arc: Your protagonist should have changed as a result of his recent struggles.
27. And a story arc – how are things different? How has the life of the main character changed as a result of what she’s just been through?
28. Hook ’em in right away. Now that you’ve got your whole story down, go back and grab the readers with an opening that zings. Write and rewrite your first line, opening paragraph, and first page. They need to be as gripping and as intriguing as you can make them, in order to compel the readers to read the rest of the story. Your first sentence and paragraph should arouse curiosity and raise questions that demand to be answered.
29. Cut to the chase. The short story requires discipline and editing. Trim down any long, convoluted sentences to reveal the essentials. Less is more, so make every word count. If a paragraph, sentence, or line of dialogue doesn’t advance the plot, add intrigue, or develop a character, take it out.
Also, use strong, evocative, specific nouns and verbs and cut back on supporting adjectives and adverbs. For example, instead of saying “He walked heavily” say “He stomped” or “He trudged.” Or instead of “She walked quietly,” say “She tiptoed” or “She crept.”
30. Make every element and every image count. Every significant detail you insert in the story should have some significance or some relevance later. If it doesn’t, take it out. Don’t show us a knife or special character skills, for example, if they don’t show up later and play an essential role. You have no room for filler or extraneous details in a compelling short story.
31. Try to make all descriptions do double duty. When you’re describing a character, for example, rather than listing their physical attributes and what they’re wearing, search for details that reveal their personality, their mood, their intentions, and their effect on those around them, and also the personality and attitude of the character who is observing them. And there’s no need to go into detail on everything they’re wearing. Paint in bold brush strokes and let readers fill in the details – or not, as they prefer.
32. Stay in character for all descriptions. Filter all descriptions through the attitude and mood of the main character. If your POV character’s aging father shows up at the door, don’t describe him neutrally and in detail as a brand new character. Show him as that character actually sees her own father.
Similarly, if a teenage boy walks into a room, don’t describe the space as an interior designer would see it – stay in his viewpoint. He is most concerned with why he entered that room, not all the details of what it looks like.
33. Pay attention to word count and other guidelines. As I mentioned earlier, short stories are generally between 1,000 and 7,500 words long, with the most popular length around 2,500 to 4,000 words. If you want to submit your short story to a website, magazine or contest, be sure to read their guidelines as to length, genre, language no-no’s, and so on. Also, for your own protection, do read the fine print to avoid giving away all rights to your story.

*For anthologies Jodie Renner is organizing, scroll down to the two posts below this one.*

If you'd like to help children in Asia who are working long hours in factories, often without pay, please consider contributing a story to the anthology called CHILDREN BEHIND TURNED BACKS - Exposing the Plight of Asian Children. Resource materials will be provided.

If you live in BC, Canada, consider contributing a story or poem to VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS - An anthology celebrating BC. See down for more info.

And suggestions are welcome for themes for future anthologies.*
Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. You can find Jodie at,, at her blog,, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – an anthology with a BC flavour


Are you a writer or aspiring author who is living (or has lived) in British Columbia, Canada?

Would you like to see your BC-based story or poem in print in a high-quality anthology?

Calling all writers and poets from the interior of BC (or who have spent time there), including the upper Fraser Valley, the Cariboo, the Thompson-Nicola Valley, the Okanagan Valleys, the Similkameen, the Columbia-Shuswap, and the Kootenays, to submit a short fictional story, a short creative nonfiction piece (a fascinating true story, well told), or some poetry for an anthology in which BC’s recent history, varied lifestyles, rugged landscapes, or stunning natural features play somewhat of a role. 

For this first anthology in a series, we’re looking for entries that highlight interesting experiences (real or fictional) that take or took place somewhere in the interior of BC – in the Rocky Mountains, the rolling interior mountains, hills, and valleys; in forests or near lakes, rivers, or streams; in rural areas or towns or cities nestled in valleys. Your story or poem could incude experiences with BC’s wildlife, logging, mining, fruit growing, vineyards, skiing, hiking, backpacking, climbing, camping, boating, tourism, forest fires, or avalanches, featuring RCMP, fire fighters, fishers, farmers, Aboriginals, mountain climbers, fruit pickers, artists, musicians, hippies, students, or any other "BC types," and any activity or setting typical of BC.

What makes this anthology unique?

Besides the BC setting and flavour, this anthology, unlike many others, will provide contributing authors with free critiquing and interactive editing of the stories submitted--but only if needed. If your story is already of a high quality, it will just get a light proofread and a green light. If it's “almost there” and looks like a good candidate for inclusion in the anthology but has a few rough edges, you’ll have an opportunity to work closely with a professional editor to take your story up a level or two and hone your writing skills in the process, at no cost, resulting in a polished, error-free story for the anthology. And as the author, you of course will have the final say on editorial suggestions.

Proceeds from sales of the anthology will to go to a reputable charity, as yet to be decided by the group.

What kinds of submissions will be considered?

For this anthology, we're looking for stories that pulsate with life, where your main character is challenged in some way; stories with some tension, that hook readers in with a compelling tale, make them feel like they’re right there with the characters, and engage them emotionally. Our aim is to publish high-quality, curated, and edited stories with a “wow” factor, and also some poetry.

To get a better idea of what we're looking for, please read the guidelines in the blog post above this one. Here's the link:

As we've received a few good memoir-type stories, with interesting information on various regions of BC, feel free to submit something like that too - perhaps an incident in your childhood in BC? We're not looking for rambling travelogues that are mostly description, but a story revolving around something interesting (preferably fascinating or exciting) that happened to you, that includes a problem or dilemma that needed to be solved, and is told using scenes, action, and dialogue, with your reactions to what was going on. Something needs to go wrong, to make an interesting story. You can of course fictionalize it, if you prefer. Just let us know if it's fiction or nonfiction.

Before putting a lot of work into a story, it would be best to contact Jodie first with your idea, in case it's not really something she's looking for here.

Advantages to contributing writers:

You’ll see your name in print and your poem or polished story published in a high-quality anthology.

Each writer whose work is chosen to be included in the anthology will receive a free print copy (trade paperback size) of the anthology, which will also be available in electronic form for e-readers.

After production expenses, all royalties will be donated to a worthy charity, yet to be decided. Suggestions on this are welcome. Thanks to author Denise Jaden for suggesting LitWorld, which looks like a great charity to support, as it helps with childhood literacy in underdeveloped countries. We're also considering Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders. Anyone else have a good idea for a worthy charity?

Please join the Facebook group BC Writers, Authors, and Editors to hear about new developments on this -- and the next BC-based anthology, focusing on coastal and island communities -- as they unfold!

Submission requirements:

Who can submit: This anthology is open to anyone aged 14 and up, living in British Columbia, Canada, and also to people who now live elsewhere but have lived or vacationed in the interior of BC.  This is open to writers from Hope to the Rockies, from Terrace to Prince George, from Houston to Osoyoos, and everything in between. Tell us your stories!

(A future anthology will concentrate more on the coast, Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and the Gulf Islands, and perhaps another one for Northern BC.)

Theme: The story or poem needs to depict an interesting incident taking place somewhere in the interior of British Columbia, with the unique characteristics of the region somehow showing through. 

Length and formatting: Short stories and creative nonfiction, 500 to 5,000 words long, double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point, one-inch margins all around. Poems should be up to two pages long, single-spaced. All entries need to be in Microsoft Word and submitted electronically as an attachment to an email to: or Do not send PDFs.

Genres: For this anthology, short story entries should be relatively contemporary (1940s to now), take place in the interior of BC, and be generally realistic, so no historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, or horror. Some paranormal elements will be fine.

Deadline: October 31, 2015. Publication: early December 2015.

Send your submissions to: or

Checklist for short stories and creative nonfiction:

__ Is my story told through the point of view of one main character?

__ Does it take place in British Columbia, Canada?

__ Does my main character encounter some kind of problem, conflict, or challenge?

__ Am I showing how my character is feeling and reacting to what's happening?

__ Does the story contain enough tension and conflict to keep readers worrying about the protagonist and keep them engaged?

__ Is there some resolution at the end, for some reader satisfaction?

__ Is my story between 500 and 5,000 words long?

About the editor and publisher, Jodie Renner:

Jodie Renner, a former teacher and school librarian with a master’s degree, is a sought-after freelance editor and the multi-award-winning author of three writing guides and two e-resources for writers and editors. She’s also a respected blogger and speaker at writers’ conferences and to writing groups across North America. Jodie has also served as judge for novels and short stories for many contests, including Writer’s Digest and the Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival contest and anthology, and as editor for the Penticton Writers and Publishers 2015 Anthology.

Jodie will be presenting workshops for writers at the Shatford Centre in Penticton over the fall and winter, and is also involved in organizing the Okanagan Valley Writers' Festival, to be held in Penticton on April 8-10, 2016. She is also presenting two workshops at When Words Collide in Calgary in August.

Jodie has published three writing guides to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller (all available in both e-book and trade paperback). These books are all available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore or library, and Red Tuque Books in Penticton, BC.

Jodie has also published two time-saving, clickable e-resources for writers and editors: Quick Clicks: Word Usage – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips and Quick Clicks: Spelling List – Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips.

Jodie grew up in a remote mining town in BC’s coastal mountains, and also lived in Vancouver for many years (where she attended UBC and SFU and taught in schools) and on Vancouver Island for a few years. Growing up, she vacationed throughout BC, and her extended family is spread around southern BC. Jodie reluctantly moved to Ontario at the age of 32, where she raised a family, taught English, French, and Social Studies for many years, was a school librarian for a few years, and attained a master’s degree in French Literature at the University of Western Ontario. Jodie returned to BC every summer to visit. She moved back to BC for good in April 2014, and is thrilled to finally be back, living in her "homeland." She lives in Penticton, in the South Okanagan, and enjoys taking road trips in every direction from there, stopping often to snap photos.

Jodie is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Penticton Writers and Publishers.

Here's the notice about this anthology in the Okanagan School of Arts, Shatford Centre website:



Books by Jodie Renner:
~ Captivate Your Readers – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction 49 reviews, overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars
~ Fire up Your Fiction – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories 108 reviews, overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars
~ Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction 88 reviews, average 4.6/5 stars
~ Quick Clicks: Word Usage – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips , , 15 reviews, 4.7/5 stars
~ Quick Clicks: Spelling List – Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips , , 21 reviews, 4.9/5 stars

Sunday, June 14, 2015

CHILDREN BEHIND TURNED BACKS – Exposing the Plight of Asian Children


Do you or would you like to write short stories or other fiction, especially stories with a young protagonist (7-14 years old)?

Would you like to help reduce child labor in Asia?

Could you write a compelling short story with a third-world child as protagonist if you were provided plenty of background information?

Would you be willing to donate your story to be included in an anthology for sale, the proceeds of which would go to help rescue kids enslaved as factory, mine, or industrial workers, working long hours in poor conditions, often without pay?

If so, join us in producing CHILDREN BEHIND TURNED BACKS – Exposing the Plight of Asian Children.  (Thanks to Steve Hooley for this great title and subtitle!)

Editor and award-winning author, Jodie Renner, and publisher Cobalt Books are organizing a high-quality anthology of well-written short stories very loosely based on actual stories of young children freed from forced labor in Asia. 100% of the royalties from this proposed anthology will go to Save the Children, a highly respected charitable organization dedicated to helping needy children around the world.

For this first anthology in a series to help third-world children regain their childhood, an education, and a future, we'll concentrate on children under 14 employed in factories and mines in South Asia: Nepal, Pakistan, and India. Resource materials will be provided to the writers to read the stories of real South Asian children working in difficult situations, to use for background information.

Future projects will hopefully expand to situations in China, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

*Please scroll down to see the guidelines for stories for this anthology.*

How long should the stories be, and who is the target audience?

At this point, we're aiming for about 10 to 12 short stories total, average length 1,500 to 5,000 words each, so the anthology would be roughly 20,000 to 50,000 words long.

The target readership is young people to adults, aged 11 and up, North Americans, Brits, Australians, and other people in developed countries who can make a difference in the lives of Asian children who have been denied their childhood. School librarians will love it.

Deadline and expectations:

We have decided to extend the deadline until we receive enough appropriate submissions to publish a high-quality anthology. Promising stories will receive editing assistance, if needed, to bring the story up to standard.

As we expect to receive many stories for possible inclusion in this anthology, some submissions may not be accepted, similar to the process for any other reputable short story anthology. Your story will need to be compelling and written in the point of view of a fictional Asian child.

You will need to go over your story several times to make sure it's of a high quality, with no typos, spelling errors, or grammatical errors (except of course in dialogue!). If the story is strong but just needs minor suggestions or a final polish to clean it up, our editorial committee will do that, and send it back to you, the author, with the changes visible in Track Changes, and comments and suggestions in the margin. You will have lots of input into the final version published.

See an author CHECKLIST below.

How will the anthology be sold, and how will it benefit the children working in arduous conditions in factories in Asia?
We will sell the anthology in both e-book and trade paperback form, initially through Amazon and expand from there. It is expected that all contributors will promote the anthology on social media and in their communities and also hand-sell some copies locally.

All the writers and editor Jodie Renner (and possibly other editors, if needed) will donate our time and skills for free, so after paying the cover designer, printer, and distributor, 100% of the book royalties will go to a respected charitable organization. Specific details to be shared when you contact me.

For accountability, Jodie will regularly forward to all contributors the book sales stats and the receipts from charities for our donations from book sales.

If you are interested in helping this worthy cause by putting your skills at writing fiction or creative nonfiction to good use, or have further questions or suggestions, please contact Jodie at Use "Anthology for Kids" in your subject line.

How will it work for the writers?

For those interested, please contact Jodie Renner with your idea before starting your story, as she needs to coordinate all stories. At that time, she will send you a package for resource materials. The idea is to read through the background information, then make up your own story, using bits and pieces of info from the various stories.

If your story is accepted for publication in the anthology, you will of course have your name included as author of your story.

You'll also have your photo and a short bio with links on our "About the Authors" page. This is a great way to get a story of yours in print to add to your bio.

You will also receive a free print copy of the anthology.

And of course we will all have the satisfaction of making a difference for children in dire, inhumane situations.

Thank you for considering helping with this very worthy cause.

If this project works, we can consider other similar projects to help underprivileged children or to help end human trafficking and slavery. Please contact me with any ideas you may have for other projects like this.

Please share this with writers you know. Also, please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment boxes below. Thanks!

CHECKLIST for Authors Submitting a Short Story for CHILDREN BEHIND TURNED BACKS - Exposing the Plight of Asian Children

_ Is my story realistic, rather than cartoon-like or with obviously make-believe characters and elements?

_ Is my story written from the point of view of an Asian child living in difficult circumstances?
   Can be in first-person ("I") or third-person ("he" or "she"). Try to capture that child's "voice."

_ Is my protagonist’s life handled in a sensitive manner, respecting the child’s resilience, strength, and determination?

_ Does my story have the potential to expand a North American child’s knowledge, vision, and understanding of conditions for children in underprivileged countries?

_ Will my story engage the interest and emotions of young readers and adults and hopefully encourage them to try to do something to help others who are less fortunate?

_ Will my story interest and appeal to young people aged 11 and up, and hopefully to adults as well? 

_ Does it contain an opening “hook” to incite reader curiosity? 

_ Will it hold readers' attention to the end?

_ Does my story have enough tension and conflict to make readers worry about and care about the young people depicted?

_ Does my story end well for the young protagonist?

_ Do the narration and dialogue reflect the ages and situation of the children in the story?

_ Is my story between 1,500 and 5,000 words long?

_ Have others checked my story to make sure there are no:

  - Overly long sentences

  - Words young people may not be familiar with

  - Unnecessary or meaningless words

  - Spelling and grammatical errors

_ Submission requirements – Please send it in a Microsoft Word document, not a PDF.
   Formatting: Times New Roman font, 12-point, double-spaced, paragraphs indented, no extra space between paragraphs.
*Don't double-space by clicking "enter" or "return" at the ends of the lines! that causes all kinds of problems! Here's how to double-space your story: Ctrl+A, then Ctrl+2.
Or leave it single-spaced and we'll double-space it.

Who is Jodie Renner and how is she qualified to edit and publish this book?

A former middle-school teacher and school librarian with a master's degree, I'm now a respected editor, publisher, and award-winning author, with two websites, a blog, and a strong social media presence, including over 4,500 Facebook friends. As such, I'm in an excellent position to organize and provide editorial guidance for an professional-looking, high-quality anthology of short stories based on the lives of these unfortunate children. I will of course promote it to all my contacts on social media, locally, and in my email newsletter.

I have edited a lot of short stories and judged short stories for many contests and anthologies, including Writer's Digest, so I will lead the editorial committee, who will make the final choice on which stories will be accepted.

Since I have published five books to date through my publishing company, Cobalt Books, the plan is to hire a professional cover designer to create a high-quality cover, then edit, format, and publish this anthology through Cobalt Books.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. Jodie is a well-known blogger and has been active on two group blogs: Crime Fiction Collective, and after several years, she just stepped down from the award-winning blog, The Kill Zone. You can find Jodie at,, her blog,, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Books by Jodie Renner:

~ Captivate Your Readers – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction 51 reviews, overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars

~ Fire up Your Fiction – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories 108 reviews, overall average of 4.8 out of 5 stars

~ Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction 88 reviews, average 4.6/5 stars

~ Quick Clicks: Word Usage – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips , , 15 reviews, 4.7/5 stars

~ Quick Clicks: Spelling List – Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips , , 21 reviews, 4.9/5 stars 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Enter for a Chance to Win an Autographed Copy of Captivate Your Readers!

I'm pleased to announce that I'm running a Goodreads Giveaway of my new book, Captivate Your Readers - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, until March 30. Three winners will receive a signed copy of this book in the mail (trade paperback). Click on the link below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Captivate Your Readers by Jodie Renner

Captivate Your Readers

by Jodie Renner

Giveaway ends March 30, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

This third guide to writing compelling fiction by respected editor and award-winning author Jodie Renner provides concrete advice for captivating readers and immersing them in your story world. It’s all about engaging readers through techniques such as deep point of view, showing instead of telling, avoiding author intrusions, writing riveting dialogue, and basically stepping back and letting the characters tell the story.
Today’s readers want to lose themselves in an absorbing story. Renner shows you how to provide the immediacy and emotional involvement readers crave in fiction, the direct, close connection to the characters and their world. And she does it in her usual highly accessible, reader-friendly style, with plenty of subheadings, concrete tips and examples.
This book is available in both e-book form and print through all Amazon websites, and also in print at many independent bookstores and libraries.

Praise for Captivate Your Readers: 
“Jodie’s books are packed with practical writing and editing advice. Get ready to improve your manuscript today.”
– Steven James, author of Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules
“Want to write solid, marketable fiction? Read this book. Regardless of your experience level, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS gives you clear and concise tools that will help you create a believable story world and spin a good yarn.” 
– DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Dub Walker and Samantha Cody thriller series
“Jodie Renner nails it! Captivate Your Readers should be at the top of every new and experienced writer’s arsenal, as well as a preferred resource for every teacher of writing. Her no-nonsense, easy-to-understand approach is perfect. Bravo, Jodie Renner!”
– Lynn Sholes, bestselling author of the Cotten Stone series and The Shield 

Chapters include:
· Introduction to Point of View in Fiction    

· Draw Readers in with Deep Point of View

· How to Avoid Head-Hopping

 · Create a Complex, Charismatic Main Character

· Character Descriptions – Learn From the Pros

· Your First Pages Are Critical

· Let the Characters Tell the Story

· How to Avoid Annoying Author Intrusions

· Keep Your Dialogue Real and Riveting 

· Show Important Scenes, Tell Transitional Ones

· Avoid Overwriting – Subtle is More Sophisticated

· Show Character Reactions to Bring Them to Life

 · A Strong Fictive Voice Needs Attitude 

· Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue

 · 33 Must-Do’s for a Winning Short Story 

About the Author:

Jodie Renner is an award-winning author, sought-after independent editor, well-known blogger (The Kill Zone blog), and presenter at writers’ conferences and to writing groups across North America. Jodie is also the author of the writing guides Fire up Your Fiction and Writing a Killer Thriller, as well as time-saving, clickable e-resources such as Quick Clicks: Word Usage and Quick Clicks: Spelling List.
Books by Jodie Renner:
~ Fire up Your Fiction – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories
~ Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction
~ Captivate Your Readers – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction
~ Quick Clicks: Word Usage – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips , ,
~ Quick Clicks: Spelling List – Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips , ,
~ Quick Clicks: Grammar Tips (out soon)
~ A Newbie’s Guide to Writing Fiction (out soon) 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Links to Recent Articles of Jodie's on Other Blogs

Since the release on February 28 of my latest writing guide, Captivate Your Readers, I've been busy with a blog book tour, posting articles with tips on writing and promoting your fiction.

Here's a list of some of my recent articles on other blogs, plus an interview of me and a review of my new book. Please click on the title to go to the post.

Tuesday, March 10: Review of Captivate Your Readers on U Self-Publish website.

Monday, March 9: "Create a Fascinating, Believable Antagonist" on The Kill Zone blog

Sunday, March 8: "How to Write a Prize-Worthy Short Story" on Anne R. Allen's award-winning blog

Friday., March 6: "Learn How to Captivate Your Readers with Jodie Renner" on Read, Write, Muse blog

Thurs., March 5 - "Book Giveaway Promos Compared: Goodreads, Rafflecopter, and the New Amazon Giveaway" on Janice Hardy's Fiction University blog

Monday, Mar. 2, 2015 - "Use Attitude When Introducing Characters" on Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog

Feb. 23: "Make Sure Your Characters Act in Character" on The Kill Zone blog.

Feb. 17: "Avoid Overwriting - Subtle is More Sophisticated" on Janice Hardy's Fiction University

Feb. 9: Indie BookContests 2015 on The Kill Zone blog

Feb. 5: "How to Slash Your Word Count by 20-40% - and tighten your story without losing any of the good stuff" on Janice Hardy's Fiction University

 And finally, the very popular list of Writers' Conferences & Book Festivals in 2015

Do you have any craft-of-writing or publishing or marketing topics you'd like me to write about? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

Besides blogging at The Kill Zone Blog and elsewhere, Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Fire up Your Fiction, Writing a Killer Thriller, and Captivate Your Readers. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List – Commonly Misspelled Words at Your Fingertips and Quick Clicks: Word Usage – Style and Usage Tips for Busy Writers and Editors. You can find Jodie at,, and on Facebook and Twitter.
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