Sending Out a Finished Manuscript, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

From the Help Desk of Beverley Bittner.

PJ has been working a long time on a mystery novel. She is finishing it and wants to know if she should send the whole thing to a publisher.

First, congratulations on actually finishing your story, PJ. That’s the first big step of writing. Marketing is the second (and some say the hardest) part. Here are some ideas that may help you:

Study the markets. You probably read a lot of the kind of story you have written. Make a list of the publishers of some of your favorites. Most are in the annual book, Writer’s Market, available at your public library.

Follow the publisher’s instructions. Many publishers will ask for a cover letter and two or three chapters. If you don’t understand what they want, ask. Always send return postage with any mailing.

Don’t think it will be easy. Expect rejections. John Grisham, in an interview in The Christian Communicator, Sept. 1999, said, “When (my) first novel was finished, the response was one rejection slip after another.” Finally he found an editor willing to take a chance on him. 5,000 copies of “A Time to Kill” were printed. Grisham bought 1,000 of them himself and sold them out of the trunk of his old blue Volvo. His second novel “The Firm” captured the attention of Doubleday and the rest is history. By the way, those first edition copies of “A Time to Kill” are now worth about $4,000 each.

We welcome everyone of like interests to be part of our world of reading, writing, and lifelong learning. E-mail us your questions, comments, or ideas.

—Beverley Bittner
Copyright © 2000

About Beverley

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Power That Counts, by Pauline Vaow [guest post]

In our rural area, it is not unusual for the electric power to go out during a thunder and lightning storm. Sometimes the lights will be out for hours and when they come back on, they may still be dim for a while.

Our Lord Jesus tells us to let our lights shine brightly out in the open. He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:15).

A dim light from under a bushel is not good enough. Just as a candle lights up a dark room and a flashlight shines upon a path at night, so our light of faith must shine in our little corner of the world. It will brighten our surroundings and give us and others cheer.

If we put a lighted candle under a container where it will not get oxygen, the flame will go out. When the electric power goes out, we put our candle on top of the table in a holder so it will shine brightly. So our love for Jesus should shine forth for all to see.

Copyright © 2000, Pauline Vaow

About Pauline

If the Writer’s Block had had an official membership list when it started, Pauline Vaow would have been first on it.

Born Pauline Fenton, she is a Corry native and Corry Area High School graduate of 1968. She married Robert Vaow on June 14, 1975. She has the distinction of still living in the house where she grew up.

Pauline also grew up in the Salvation Army. She has attended church there most all her life. You can find her somewhere in the building almost every day, helping out in the soup kitchen, the clothing room, dusting the sanctuary, teaching Sunday school, or even preaching the sermon when the officers in charge are away.

She tells this story, “One day I was cleaning in the sanctuary and I said to myself, ‘Why am I doing this? No one will even notice.’ It seemed to me the Lord said, ‘I will notice. I have chosen you for this work.’ It showed me that all work is important when it is done for God.”

Pauline enjoys Bible study, crocheting, and writing stories about animals, especially dogs. She wants to learn to illustrate her stories herself.

Mittens Writes a Letter, by Lorraine Dahl [guest post]


WHERE are you? All of a sudden your ex-girlfriend shows up and me and all my belongings are HISTORY from our house. I’m scared Where are you? I miss you!

She took me to her daughter’s house in Columbus. I hate it in Columbus! They have a mean cat that chewed off a piece of my right ear when I was a kitten, remember? I don’t know WHY I have no brow over my right eye. Do you? I am so beautiful, why would anyone want to harm me? My grey coat and the white mittens on my front feet (hence the name Mittens) and the white knee socks on my back legs are so unique. I only want to love and purr and be stroked. (Hey, isn’t that what a cat’s life is all about?)

It was HORRIBLE in Columbus. I usually hid behind the warm dryer in the basement. I’m lucky they put the essentials down there. Then two NEW LADIES came to get me. Linda (the daughter) and Lorraine (the Mom) put all my stuff in their truck. I sure was hiding! They found me and tried to stuff me into the plastic box they brought. They got me in there once and (ha! hat) I escaped! But they caught me again.

WHAT was to become of me? WHO were these women? WHERE were they taking me? I was so frightened all I could do was mew like when I was a kitten. I made myself as small as possible. We arrived at their house and they made two trips in. They didn’t like making the trips in the rain as Linda’s natural curly hair frizzes in the wet and Lorraine’s goes straight, but they got the job done and took me in at last! And WHERE were you? Not there. I was so frightened. I was afraid that I was going to be killed! Is this the last trip to the Vet that many animals talk about? If so, I was going to MY death with as much dignity as I could possible manage. I stopped making noise and curled into a tiny ball.

WHAT a surprise! In this small room (they call it a cedar closet) was my food and water dish all filled and my hooded box with fresh litter. My scratching box was in the laundry room (they need to get catnip). Then they took me into MY VERY OWN ROOM! (They call it a library.)

On the single bed they had made me a nest of blankets. It is SO cozy! They had salmon for dinner and brought me some bones and juice and skin. It was wonderful! It was 50000 good I ate real fast and most of it ended up on the carpet in MY room but it was OK. Linda cleaned it up and never even yelled at me.

They finally told me that you were in JAIL and I could stay with them until you got out. They called me their “loaner cat.” It sure could be worse. I could still be in Columbus.

I will wait for you and write to you. I miss you!

Your beloved cat,


Copyright © 1999, Lorraine Dahl

About Lorraine

Lorraine Dahl is a charter member of Writer’s Block, and an enthusiastic booster of the club.

Affectionately known as “Grandma Fred” to her many friends, Lorraine is the writer of the popular “Mittens Writes a Letter” stories on our website.

Lorraine acquired her nickname at her workplace. She was one of the first women to take on a “man’s job” in the shop at Associated Springs in Corry. Lorraine earned the respect of her male co-workers and stayed at the job for many years.

For several years, as a United Auto Workers representative, she wrote a monthly column for the shop newsletter, the Springboard. Now retired from the shop, she still participates in union and shop retirees’ activities.

Never idle, Lorraine enjoys crafts and has many ribbons from fairs for her work. Like many writers, she is a voracious reader. Some favorite authors are Dean Koontz, Robin Cook and John Jakes.