What Not to Say in a Query

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a huge fan of candy corn.”

Okay, I know you’d never put that in your query (unless your book is about candy corn). It tells me something about you, yes, but it’s not actually relevant to the project you’re pitching me. You know better than to do that. However, here’s one of the most universal kinds of statements we do see in query letters:

“I’ve been writing since I fell out of my mother’s womb with a pencil in my hand.”

“I’ve been writing fiction since the third grade when I showed my first novel to my teacher Mrs. Zuckerman and she told me it was the best story she’d ever read in her life.”

“I’ve loved writing ever since I can remember.”

It tells me something about you, but it’s not relevant.

I know sometimes it’s difficult to think of what to say about yourself in the query. You can’t think of anything impressive, especially anything writing-related, so you figure you’ll just tell us how long you’ve been writing. Unfortunately…


Yes, it tells me something about you. Go ahead and include it if you really feel it’s the most important thing I should know. But sadly, I’ll ignore it.

The only time that kind of line is helpful and relevant is if it goes something like this: “I’ve been writing since I was three, at which time I won my first Caldecott Medal. By the age of seven I’d garnered two National Book Awards, one for fiction and one for non-fiction. I love writing so much that I continued, even though it took eight more years for me to finally win the Nobel Prize for Literature.”

See what I’m saying? Only if it’s relevant.

One of the reasons your lifelong penchant for writing is irrelevant is because plenty of wonderful, talented authors didn’t get published until later in life. Richard Adams published Watership Down when in his fifties. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish the Little House books until her sixties. Henry Miller was 44 when his first novel was published, Raymond Chandler 51. And don’t forget one of my favorites, Frank McCourt, didn’t publish Angela’s Ashes until he was 66.

So really, who cares if you’ve been writing since you were a child? Either you have a salable book or you don’t, whether you started writing at six or sixty.

Keep your query letters on-point and focused. Only include information that’s germane to the topic at hand. Besides the actual pitch for the book, include such details as whether or not you’re previously published, if you’ve won any awards for your writing, and what genre of book you’re pitching. If you can’t think of anything, just give us a logline on you.  “I’m a third grade teacher, I live in sunny Florida, and I look forward to hearing your response.” Keep it simple.

All clear?

P.S. My third grade teacher really was Mrs. Zuckerman and I did write my first novel then. It was about a horse who broke his leg and the rancher was going to shoot him, but the rancher’s daughter fought to save the horse, and went on to campaign for the end of shooting horses with broken legs. Now you know why I am not, today, a novelist.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/jmYgDD2t6dY

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. […] If you’re seeking an agent, Rachelle Gardner mentions what not to say in a query. […]

  2. Ned Dragston on December 17, 2018 at 4:48 PM

    OK. I am confused. This blogpost was about not leading with the “I was 5 when I decided I was destined to be a writer” kind of thing, and nearly every commenter here has responded with this very thing.
    Gobstruck and dismayed. Maybe you all can or want to write but you better work on your reading comprehension before moving forward.
    Or did I miss something here? Rachelle requested your “I have been writing since I fell out of my mother’s womb” stories?
    I call this writers’ selfies.

  3. Linda Lee - Lady Quixote on December 12, 2018 at 5:02 AM

    My writing career was launched on February 20, 1962. Astronaut John Glenn orbited the earth for the first time and I wrote a lengthy, detailed report for my third grade teacher.

    From the way my teacher reacted, I got the impression that my report was the best thing ever written — or at least it was the best thing that Mrs. C had ever read. I was eight years old and destined for literary greatness.

    Today I am in my sixties and the greatness hasn’t happened. Yet…. 😉

  4. Kamara Berland on June 14, 2013 at 4:34 AM

    I started when was 13 and I’m 17 now. Fell in love from the start! I just recently started-ish my 1st novel and was doing research for school. Your blogs really helped me!

  5. Andee on June 4, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I am 13, and I love to write, but I’m still working on my technique. My favorite books to write are fiction, although I have trouble getting past the intro.

  6. SusanV on March 19, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    I began writing at age 5. Endless stories about horses. My magnum opus was a book titled Pen is a Horse. Unfortunately, I ran the first two words together. It was not meant to be a comedy, and yet, somehow, everyone who read it laughed. Thankfully I got better and now have 4 published books (not self-published) with two more on the way. Still, it’s a shame I’ll never quite live down.

  7. Kira Budge on March 16, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    I actually wrote a short memoir on this subject a while ago! It’s published on my blog a ways back. The main point was that I’ve been very much into words and writing since I was very very little, but I started writing because of a creative school project in first grade. Since then, novelling has been my life.

  8. linda randall on February 25, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    In grade 9, my English teacher asks us to write a daily journal. Each week I’d bring in a story about what happened. Tears pour down her face as she’s laughing hysterically at what I wrote. At the end of the year I let her know it was all true, not fiction… 🙂

  9. is homeopathic hcg illegal in canada on August 15, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal website now 😉

  10. Kathleen Friesen on May 21, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    Interesting blog, Rachelle. That’s a question I’ve heard but didn’t know how to answer. I dabbled at writing, poetry mostly, when my children were small. But I was too insecure to do anything public with my love of words and their power. Several years ago, though, I enrolled in Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild – and loved it! As part of the course I wrote an article that was published in Discipleship Journal and then reprinted in Israel and Austria. It was a huge thrill to receive the reprint magazines even though I could not read them. Unfortunately, because of the personal nature of the article, it was published anonymously, so I’m not sure if that works in an author bio.

  11. […] and your book out there. I wish you a successful journey. © 2006 Sophfronia Scott Building A Rock Solid Query Letter Recently I reviewed a client's query letter. It was a ha…eny thing: she didn't say what her book was about! I […]

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  13. Rhymia on December 11, 2011 at 1:52 AM


    Wonderful blog post, saw on…

  14. Anny on October 24, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    I’ve told stories since I was 5 years old but I didn’t write anything until about 7th grade. My first hand at writing (with a real effort) was poetry. I had an English teacher right out of college who was still green and had ideals that hadn’t yet been beaten out of him by the constant disappointment of teaching Jr. high English. I’m betting his teaching methods has changed since then. 🙂

    I’m now a reporter so I write on a daily basis, but I’m working on writing fiction.

  15. […] a writer might be something you’ve always done (as we learned in the comments to this post!) But being a published author is like starting a new business or getting a new job. To succeed, […]

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  17. shari mc on October 19, 2011 at 1:34 AM

    In third grade my mom compiled all my short stories and “published” it for our extended family and close friends. In fourth grade I started on a chapter book about a mouse with a red shirt who went on lots of adventures.

  18. Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla on October 18, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    Somehow, I’ve never been able to write anything but first person narrative, which was very difficult In the time period I grew up when no one was allowed to write using the first person pronoun! That ended any ease of writing for me until ten years ago when I began actually studying the craft of writing, earning a Master’s along the way. What a relief to rediscover the “I” and the genre of Memoir!

    So I’ve been writing ten years, which means that my first book, which took me all ten years to write, just came out in April.

  19. JJ on October 18, 2011 at 1:45 AM

    (arrived here via the link in “Last Week in Books, which was posted on Nathan Bransford’s blog yesterday)

    One of my fourth-grade poems was published in a national teacher’s magazine. (Full disclosure: I searched for it among the back issues in the stacks at my university library and never did find it. But it makes a nice story though, doesn’t it?)

    I started journaling in junior high school and continue to this day. I still have every story I wrote in seventh and eighth grades under the inspired, supportive instruction of some marvelous English teachers. (Bless you all, ladies and gents, wherever you may be!)

    I practically bled angst-filled poetry in high school, and also managed to outline a novel based on a royal family named Rutabaggie. I was then convinced by an undergraduate writing professor that I had no talent and didn’t attempt to write serious fiction again for years. No, make that decades.

    In the meantime, I published quite a few professional journal articles and book chapters, and wrote lots of columns for community-based newsletters.

    I have written derivative fiction (fan fiction) since junior high, which was long before the notion of “fan fiction” even existed. I am currently trying to finish last year’s NaNoWriMo win and am researching my second novel (if the Rutabaggie outline counts as my first)…

    What a wonderful opportunity to reminisce! Thank you, Rachelle.

  20. anne on October 18, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    i’ve always written in my day job, averages about 100 pgs/wk, so haven’t written fiction until about three years ago. now have about 1/2 a draft of a mystery novel, where victim gets killed w/a tampon, some short stories, and am starting a novel about a young woman who inherits a self storage facility in a radium contaminated area, so it can only be inhabited by people who are >65 (bone cancer takes about 20 yrs to develop). She turns the self storage units into living spaces for old people, one of whom is a concentration camp survivor who is beginning to have Alzheimer’s. No children or < 65s can live there, and no cats (large dogs ok).

  21. Paul on October 16, 2011 at 11:58 PM

    Coincidentally, I recently found a story I wrote when I was about ten years old (when unpacking some old documents), and it was about Uncle Scrooge and Huey, Dewey and Louie off on some adventure in the jungle.

    Not bad, really — for 50 years ago!

  22. Industry News–Oct 16 » RWA-WF on October 16, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    […] the agent query front, Rachelle Gardner offers “What Not to Say In a Query.” And Mary Kole of Kidlit.com provides some great general advice about not being too “cute” in […]

  23. Jessica on October 16, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    I wrote my first story for a fifth grade project that spiraled out of control when I couldn’t end it. Then I stopped for years and picked up writing again about 3 years ago with one unfinished story (that will likely never see the light of day again, if it hasn’t disappeared already).
    My first finished novel I tried sending out only to realize a month later that it was seriously not publishable. Now, after NaNoWriMo, I am working on the second draft of my second “novel” after finally finding my niche in writing! Hopefully this one does better!

  24. Susan Lynn Solomon on October 14, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I too have been writing since grade-school—or rather creating dreams: used to slip into sleep, imagining myself to be the heroine of a radio broadcast I’d heard before bed; inventing new perils to be faced until Roy Rogers rode into my room, took my hand, and together we faced down the black-hats (the villains had back gun-grips too—never those beautiful pearl ones Roy always turned into a broach for me just before I woke up). Over the years novels came in fits and starts—mostly fits, and never finished. A coherent, novel-length lie finally slipped from my brain to my fingers while I worked on a grant application eight years ago. I wrote, my client read, considered, read again, then took a week vacation. Rather than stick a black-handled gun in my mouth because of one more afternoon of television, I at last kept the promise I’d made to the grade-school heroine of my dreams. I’ve written for at least a few hours most days since. A couple of short stories have been published, one ready to be put on-line by a literary e-zine next month, a novel I’m beginning to shop, and a second finished in first-draft. Can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

  25. Juturna F. on October 14, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    I’ve been writing stories since middle school, when my group of friends all decided to try writing our own novels.

    It turned out about as well as you’d expect from an 11-year-old: 300 handwritten pages, no plot, tons of overdescription, and a ridiculous villain-love-interest-good-guy-no-really-he’s-the-villain.

    I’ve gotten better since then. Much better.

    Unless you count the story I wrote when I was in first grade. It was entirely backwards (starting in the lower right-hand corner and going up and to the left) and had absolutely no spaces.

  26. Joanne Huspek on October 14, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    Since I was given a pencil, of course. 🙂

    But here’s a question: What if you’re old (like me), but have actually won writing contests in the distant past? I’m talking when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Do you mention those, or like on a standard resume, just go back five years and hope for the best?

  27. Patricia Gligor on October 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    As a little girl, I read all of the Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries and I was fascinated with them.
    When I was ten years old, I wrote a poem, “The Night,” for my Sunday School magazine and it was published. When I saw my “byline” under the title of something I’d written, I was hooked for life.

  28. Stephany Mae Robinson on October 12, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Hello fellow word processors,

    I’ve been writing since my grandmother gave me my first journal at age 12 in the 6th grade. My father had passed away from cancer just a week earlier, so it was & still is great therapy for me! I attempted my first fictional novel at age 14, but never finished it. It was about a girl whose father was Vice-President of the country and headed for divorce.
    My parents were also in the middle of a nasty divorce when my father passed. Sorry to be so glum, but these are the circumstances of my path toward being an author! I appreciate them in retrospect. Happy Storytelling!

  29. Sra on October 12, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    The first thing that I remember making up was “The three little worms and the big, bad turkey.” when I was in 1st or 2nd grade.

    The first real story I remember writing was in 3rd grade. (It was pretty sweet, too.)

    The funny thing about me, I guess, is that I HAVE been writing ever since I can remember, but I am still a late bloomer in that I never even realized that I loved writing. Not until I was 23. Then it just dawned on me all the sudden that I have always written stories.

  30. Michael K. Reynolds on October 12, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    As always, another great article Rachelle. I posted it on the Writing Platform facebook page.

  31. Dan Lawlis on October 12, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Hi Rachelle,

    I haven’t been writing my whole life, but I’ve been drawing. I’ve been an illustrator telling stories with pictures (including ten years in the comic book industry) for about twenty-four years. So here’s a curious question, have you ever come across illustrators that have built up literary storytelling skills sans the words, and then translated those skills successfully to the world of writing?

    Dan Lawlis

  32. Sandy Stevener on October 12, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I didn’t start writing till I was in my 40’s. I was lying in bed, as an insomniac I often played stories in my head, then I thought “wow that was a lot better than the book I just read, I wonder if I can make it into a whole novel?” I got up and started writing and three hours later I looked at the clock. “Yeiks! I have to go to work in a few hours!”

    Ten years later my on again, off again hobby has produced three novels. Maybe someday I’ll get published, but until then it’s fun!

  33. Daphnee on October 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    I’ve shown interest in writing at the age of 9 and as I was still playing with my friends in the school playground, I’d write the story of our “imagined” games like I was a knight who would protect the princess with my two other best friends from the naughty boys (LOL yes that’s what I played…).
    But then I quickly lost interest in it firstly because my english wasn’t that great enough, but fortunately I LOVE reading…
    Anyway it was only at 11 that my lost interest for writing regained me… and this time it became a passion. (all this thanks to JKRowling!) I would write for leisure, either short stories or fanfictions or diaries… And now I am 16 and I’m still very passionate about it! Since I’m 11 I own at least 2 diaries – there was once when I kept 3…
    That’s it 🙂 I love your posts, it encourages me to write even more!

  34. Joanna V Hunter on October 12, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    My self-help book was published using a pseudonym for safety reasons. The book has won an award and I’d like to mention it in my query for a work of fiction. How would you suggest I word that?
    PS: FYI, I’ve just been informed that white wine goes with candy corn. 🙂

  35. discount jerseys on October 12, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    “I’ve been writing since I fell out of my mother’s womb with a pencil in my hand.”

  36. Jonathan on October 12, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I started my first novel in 84, but after re-reading and starting over the work 3 times am still only a third of the way into it. Luckily I did learn to finish the work before starting the editing now.

    Meanwhile, I didn’t figure I’d be able to get published until I turned 40 like my favorite author, James Michener. Having just turned that age, I’m trying to finish my current work in progress and send off queries. Lucky for me the plot has nothing to do with shooting horses.

  37. Jennifer on October 12, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    How can you define a time-line that consists of your love for writing. I remember from my childhood that I hated English and all that it held. For some reason the work we covered there in never appealed. I didn’t find it interesting when we were told to write about a particular subject, I always wanted to write about something else. For that reason, I never produced detailed short stories in my school years, not only that but the time restraints we had then was never long enough to make them interesting,

    My writing attempts started 3 years ago where I would write poems either for myself or people around me and have had some small friend requests regarding them. I’ve since started working on a paranormal romance novel, which I’ve been working on since January. I will have to hold my hands up and say I’m not the most strictest of writers, I find there can be periods where I don’t write and other times I find it hard to stop when I need the break. Though I should really do something to change that and get the head down more.

    Keep sharing your tips and posts with us Rachelle, they keep us budding writes in the know of how to put something and what not to do.

  38. Timothy on October 12, 2011 at 2:45 AM

    I love your swirling word cloud!

  39. Karen Nolan Bell on October 12, 2011 at 2:42 AM

    The first book I remember is Black Beauty. I loved that book til it was mangled and missing pages. Since I couldn’t write yet, I made up stories for anyone who would listen (including my stuffed animals and dog). I dressed up in costumes from my cousins and became a storyteller. Then I read my first Hardy Boys mystery. I love mysteries! So, now that I’m old and nearly died a couple of years ago, I am back to my first love. At least now I can type. My intense passion for a good story has found an outlet. Move over Agatha.

  40. Elise Daly Parker on October 11, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    Loved books and writing since I can remember, but especially loved telling and being told stories. I would sit fascinated at my Irish grandmother’s feet as she spun tales of life in the “old” country. I started out as a psychology major in college, but had a fabulous, creative, sensitive Freshman English professor. She even had us over to her house one evening for pizza, which was very new to me. Though we had very specific writing assignments, she told us that if we had a story in us that needed to be written, we could do that instead of one of her assignments. I took advantage of that and wrote a story about the very same grandmother’s death. The response was so encouraging, I switched my major to English. Even worked in publishing that summer…and caught the bug. I have been a writer and editor ever since; over 30 years now!

  41. McKenzie McCann on October 11, 2011 at 9:31 PM

    I really got into poetry at age eleven and discovered novels at thirteen.

    I’m always a little nervous to talk about myself because it inevitably leads to how old I am. Some people want to work with minors, and some will run away screaming.

  42. Mary Jo on October 11, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    I’ve always been more of a reader than a writer. But when I was in college, I started writing short stories and became a writing minor. I took a bunch of writing workshop-type classes. I went into publishing after college and didn’t write again until a. I left publishing. b. my sons were in high school and I had more time to think…

  43. Jill on October 11, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    I wrote several masterpieces of literature in the 3rd grade, but due to the process of degeneration, I can now barely craft a sentence.

  44. Charity Bradford on October 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    LOL, love those.

    Late bloomer here too. I always wanted to write, but didn’t start until my late 20’s. Even then it was more of a hobby, a way to stay sane. Now that I’m getting closer to 40 I’m serious. The truth is, I needed the life experience before I could write something worth reading.

  45. Freddie Remza on October 11, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    Okay…I didn’t start writing until 2007. That was the year I retired and actually had the time to write. You see, I was the teacher who assigned the writing and spent hours in the evening with the red pen. (Not too terribly different from the tuba player who taught students how to play, retired, and now plays in an orchestra).
    I’m writing now because it serves as an outlet for my creativity and I’m finding the whole process quite rewarding on a personal level. But don’t think for one minute that I don’t take my writing seriously. It is not a hobby with me…it’s a new career and a way I have found to reinvent myself.

  46. Beth MacKinney on October 11, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    I tried to write my first book when I was in first grade. It was awful, but I figured out quotation marks for dialogue, so it was worth it. I remember loving books from the day I was able to read my first one on my own, and at the time I couldn’t think of any higher ambition than to be a writer. It’s been my goal since I was five years old.

    I started submitting when I was in high school, never realizing that you have to make sure the editor really wants the kind of thing that you’re writing. Obviously no sales.

    I worked at a publisher in the art department and got to know a few editors, one of which became a friend and was very encouraging. After I took the ICL course, she was my first sale.

    The most exciting thing for me to date is when a Magination Press editor considered one of my picture book manuscripts for a few months. It didn’t sell, but I was blessed that she liked it enough to try to get it through the editorial board.

  47. CD Coffelt aka Huntress on October 11, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Late bloomer. January Oh Nine, in fact.
    As I grew in skill, fascination with the business end of publishing increased as well. Love, love, love it.

  48. Kristin Laughtin on October 11, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    When I was four or five (at some point before I started kindergarten), I was very frustrated that I didn’t know how to write yet. I wanted to make stories like the ones my parents read to me! So I got out a Magna Doodle and wrote a letter full of squiggles to my dad. I was quite nonplussed when he couldn’t read it.

    The first story I remember writing was a novel for my third grade teacher, about a detective who looked like a sea anemone who got framed for a crime by a bad guy whose hair looked like a sea anemone. My teacher didn’t know what a sea anemone was. I still thought my story was awesome.

  49. Toby Speed on October 11, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    This is fun. I’ve been writing since kindergarten. That year the stories were only three lines long. I wrote a chapter book about a frog family in second grade.

    Had some poetry published in Seventeen as a teen, then stories/poems in literary magazines, then some picture books, and am now writing my second murder mystery. After many years holding down a day job, I am looking forward to write-tirement!

  50. karen lee Hallam on October 11, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    oh, of course i’ve been writing a long time. Read my first or second grade diary to the class–thinking they would somehow be amused by it. Then later on, around twelve I exercised some demons by retelling (with exaggeration) a traumatic event, which happened in my life. All the kids were reading with fervor–until the bus driver stole it away– never to be seen again.
    Then it was all Poetry and Poetry reading, some I created. Until I had kids and had to read middle grade books-day and night. Now I am writing MG–one down, and one in progress. 🙂

  51. Tirzah on October 11, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    When I was ten I discovered poetry I liked. By elevan I was attempting to write my own. It was really, really bad and I knew it.

    When I was 13, I wrote a ghost story during English class because I was bored. A friend snatched it off my desk and read it, they liked it and passed it around class. It was first time I realized that other people MIGht like my writing. I did get reprimanded for disturbing class.

    In high school, my English teacher made me put a story in the school fair because none of the high school students would put one in. I got a ribbon. It is the third most embarrassing thing a teacher ever made me do. I have not forgiven her. I was teased unmercifully. 🙂

    I then had two poems picked for the senior year book. They were horrid. I think the person in charge was on the pipe. 🙂

    But I’ve went on and had several poems pubilshed in a few journals and print anthologies. I’m still working on my fiction writing.

    I finished two full length novels that will never see the light of day—about romatnic werewolves…enough said about that.

    I’m now 80% done with a comedy novel. It has promise, maybe.



  52. demetrabrodsky on October 11, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    I have been writing since I was able to eat solid food…JOKING! This is great post. Will share. : )

  53. Janet on October 11, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    The earliest actual writing I recall was a monthly newsletter I wrote for my unit of the Junior American Legion Auxiliary at the ripe old age of 9. In 5th grade I was assigned as a reporter for our grade school newspaper and moved up to editor of that publication the following year.

    My first ficton/creative writing was in high school when I wrote poetry, short stories and a truly awful children’s book. Simultaneously I was a reporter and section editor for my high school newspaper and served as co-editor of our senior yearbook. During my senior year, my interst in drama combined with my total lack of acting ability led me to write a screenplay. It was quite possibly even worse than the aforementioned horrid book.

    When I went on to college, I tested out of all the entry-to-mid-level Comp and Writing classess, so my first and only college level writing course was Advanced Expository Writing (which I’m proud to say I aced).

    Throughout my career, my day jobs have all involved writing of some sort. I’ve written and edited corporate newsletters on topics as varied as installing a condensing unit enclosure, how to close sales, featured employee profiles, items related to environmental responsibility, creating a business succession plan, and…well, you get the idea. I’ve written copy for collateral pieces and ad layouts. Oh, and I have written more press releases than I care to even think about! For well over 30 years I have written all manner of things that have been published under other peoples names.

    Two years ago I decided to change that and started writing “Normal Is So Overrated,” a narrative non-fiction that relates the story of my survival and recovery from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. The goal of the book is to provide information and support to people who now find themselves or a loved one facing that challenge. It’s in the third (and hopefully final) round of revisions and my publisher is pushing for it to be out on e-book before Thanksgiving.

    As part if my platform-building efforts, I became a contributing writer for “Woods & Irons Magazine,” writing monthly non-golf-related features. I also wrote a short story that won an award at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference.

    My current WIP is a novel I hope to have drafted by the end of November. Oh…and I’m still working tha 40/wk day job.

    Okay, that was a long answer. Short version: I really have been writing since I was a kid, but I started my professional writing career about two years ago. My goal is to have my first full-length book published before my 60th birthday rolls around next month.

  54. Amanda Papenfus on October 11, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    I started writing in first grade with the encouragement of my teacher Mrs. Decsman. I remember she had us write little stories and I wanted my characters to talk in them, so she taught me how to include dialogue. While I continued writing stories and continued getting encouragement from teachers, I always go back to her as really getting me started.

  55. Kathy Janzen on October 11, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    I wrote off and on as a child, mostly poetry. What I loved more was reading. I spent recess and lunch hours in a corner of the playground reading. I bought books, clipped things out the paper and wrote all the poetry I like in a notebook. It was not until highschool that my writing started to get noticed in school. My teacher read my paper out for the class to see how she wanted her papers to be written – I was hooked! I haven’t stopped since

  56. Kristen Carmitchel on October 11, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    I wrote terrible stories about great tragedies when I was a kid. Usually involving twins or triplets.

    Then I grew up and taught English classes and had kids.

    Now I’m sticking my toes into the writing world again — we’ll see where it goes.

    Thanks for your posts — I’m finding them all very helpful.

  57. Susan S on October 11, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    I plagiarized my first book when I was five. We can’t really call it “writing” because I wrote “The Bird Book” – complete with text copied from the actual published book and (awesomely laughable) illustrations I drew myself.

    As far as original writing – I wrote my first full-length (80,000 word) fantasy novel when I was 15. It shall never see the light of day.

    I returned to writing at 24 and 31, but it wasn’t until I hit 36 that I actually started to take craft seriously.

    I am now 40 – with four manuscripts written in as many years…and finally to a point where the work is publishable. This isn’t an easy road, or a short one, but it is also one I love more than anything.

  58. Sarah M. on October 11, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to put the image of their mother’s open womb in the mind of their potential agent. Or anyone for that matter. I can tell you that my mother would want to stay out of this.

    I tried writing my first novel at about 10 when I wrote about a girl vacationing in Hawaii who’d get stuck on a deserted island with a boy and they’d have to learn to work together to survive. I think it’d classify as an adventure/romance. But writing a whole book was HARD so it was quickly abandoned.

    Then at 14 I started writing a science fiction disguised as fantasy which lasted about five chapters. But the writing bug has been with me ever since so I’m pretty sure I have some publishable writing by now (32).

  59. Joy Weese Moll on October 11, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    My first novel was written in the third grade and was also about a horse. Co-authored by my best friend, the handwritten book on Chief tablet paper was about a talking horse named Charlie.

  60. Kathryn Elliott on October 11, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Wow, a Caldecott Medal at 3? Makes my macaroni art seem terribly subpar. A wise editor suggested I follow the three P’s when crafting a query; professional, pertinent, plot. In other words, no candy corn talk, pitch the right agent for your genre and don’t forget to tell them what the book is about! Dumbs down the process a bit, but you get the general idea.

  61. Lyn Sofras on October 11, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Ah, but what you DIDN’T tell us was whether Mrs Zuckerman really did tell you it was the best story she’d ever read in her life! You see that’s the kind of encouragement you need whether you are 7 or 70!
    As for me, I used to make tiny books covered in tiny print telling tiny stories for my tiny dolls in their well, not-so-very-tiny dolls’ house. And they loved reading them, just as Mrs Zuckerman enjoyed your horse story.
    I suppose I was about five or six when I started, but who’s counting?

  62. Leah on October 11, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Short stories: on and off forever.

    Blog posts on topics ranging from book reviews to my three-year-old kid: three years

    A novel: Eleven months, 21 days to be exact. Not that I’m counting…

  63. Reba on October 11, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    ha-ha-….I’ll keep it simple.
    Late bloomer.
    Thank you Rachelle ;0)

  64. TNeal on October 11, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    As a kid, I didn’t especially like to write. Doodle, yes. Oodles and oodles of doodles.

    But write? No.

    I loved to tell stories (especially if they got me out of trouble).

    I find today storytellers write so the writing passion for me didn’t take hold until in my fifties.

  65. Jessica on October 11, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    I have an English degree and was an English teacher. I would say as far as studying the craft of writing has been serious for the last two years.

    Academic writing is far more prevalent in my field of work since I am obtaing a Master’s in Ed.

    I took a Creative Fiction class at the University that I loved so much. It made me start writing again. I wrote when I was younger and did well with academic writing but fiction writing is much more complex. The writing is not so bad but the constant redrafting is what takes the most time.

    Besides, I have a way to go before anything is even Query Ready and I am okay admitting that.

    • Jessica on October 11, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      Obtaining, sheesh. I may need some work in the editing department as you can tell ;).

  66. Eric Dean on October 11, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    My third grade teacher was also amongst the first to mention that I could write well (for my age at least.) Weird.

    There’s a famous quote that says every writer has one million bad words in him or her, and once those words are gone he/she can write something worth reading. I started writing seriously about a year and half ago and I have about 800,000 words to go. It’s a good thing I’m only sixteen. Maybe once I reach the 25% mark I’ll be ready to publish an article or something. 🙂

  67. terri tiffany on October 11, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    I love that so many people didn’t get published until they were older:)
    I’ve been writing since fifth grade and was accused of being a plagiarizer in tenth grade by my English teacher because my essay was good. Made me stop writing for a long time.

  68. Toni Franklin on October 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Well honestly I don’t know when I started writing. I mean I wrote in school for school requirements. I really doodled with poetry for a while and still do. But I always had a problem with writing short stories in class. 1 1/2 page to be exact. I always scored 3.5 or 4 (4 being highest) on my writing test in grade school. Finally I just started writing things down, adding on to it and between my friends loving what I wrote and me loving to write I stick with it. So I can’t really tell you when it started. Just that it is addicting and won’t stop.

  69. Ronald P. Chavez on October 11, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Great news! Winds of Wildfire finalist 2011 New Mexico Book Awards. The winners will be announced at Awards Banquet on Nov 18 in Albq. NM.
    Amazon Review
    “Ronald Chávez writes with the pace and feel of a Michael Crichton thriller and the frankness of Walt Whitman. The imagery of Chávez’s New Mexico is breathtakingly distinctive.” http://www.timeoftriumph.net

  70. Jeff Jensen on October 11, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I’ve been blogging since I was about forty. NOW, about this candy corn…. !!!!

  71. Lindsay Harrel on October 11, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    My first masterpiece was created when I was 6 years old: “How to Make Mud Pie.” It was shortly followed by stories about my monster family, two friends named Beary and Nutny (a bear and a squirrel…catchy, right?), and people on another planet who got sucked into a black hole.

    I began writing seriously in high school, when I took creative writing and became an editor for our literary magazine.

  72. Michelle DeRusha on October 11, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    I think we newbies get into trouble when we don’t have many accolades or published works to list — so we try to fill the space with something, anything — thus the “I’ve been writing since I was 3.” Luckily I hadn’t been writing for very long (I am a late bloomer — started about 5 years ago), so I couldn’t rely on that crutch in my query letter!

  73. Marilyn on October 11, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    I’m on the late bloomer list now at 55, writing a novel and becoming quite addicted to it. Prior to this I’ve written over 50 technical papers and book chapters, but could never figure out how anyone could write something as complex as a novel. I needed to grow up up before I had the perspective that allows me to try this.

  74. Barbara Scott on October 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Rachelle, what a coincidence? I wrote my first mini-book in third grade as well. It was a romance about marrying some little boy in class I had a crush on and having his baby. Boy, did I get a spanking for that from my mom! Always pushing the envelope, I guess.

    Then in 4th grade, we published a collection of short stories, and mine was titled “The Milk Bottle Circus.” Kinda catchy, don’t ya think?

    Fun post today!

  75. Annie on October 11, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I started writing when I was young. I thought it was a game that everyone wanted to play! (After forcing a friend to play a writing game, my mom reminded me that sometimes other kids want to play different games.) As a result, I have some horrific/hysterical “manuscripts” hidden away in my parents’ basement. Narnia rip-offs, anyone?

  76. Elaine Cougler on October 11, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Hello Rachelle
    I’m number 73 commenter so I guess I don’t have to tell you how spot-on your posts are. Thank you from both my aspiring published author self to my innermost secret ego self. I save a lot of your articles and hope one day to meet you in person.
    Have a great day!

  77. Clara Rose on October 11, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    This is fun.

    I had my first oral reading experience when I was seven; it was the start of my love for books. Where the wild things are… I still remember it so vividly.

    My first book, Clara and the devils triangle consisted of sheets of notebook paper tied together with yarn. It was fully illustrated and thankfully it has vanished with the years.

    For Christmas this year I will buy Where the wild things are… and read it with my seven year old granddaughter.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  78. Joan on October 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    I have been writing since about the 4th grade. The first truly memorable composition was “Soap Sudsy Soul Seeker”, based on an eventful visit from my pastor to a farm house where I grew up where he fell into a tub of wash water on the back porch. I drew from Psalms 51:7 and ended with, “wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow”.

    I went on to write Sunday School Quarterlies and corresponding leadership guides for a major denomination.

    I have mostly written for pleasure, speeches, short stories and journals, where I have revisited my roots growing up in a very rural setting. My daughters have encouraged me to hone selected pieces and publish.

    I ejoy reading your blog and all the comments.

  79. joan Cimyotte on October 11, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    I began writing a graphic novel when I was in seventh grade. At the time it was called funny papers. By doing this it honed my drawing skills probably more than my writing skills. I am an artist and worked in theatre for 25 years as a scenic painter. I have returned to my fine art background and have a houseful of paintings. I am also a singer songwriter. I’ve written plays and novels and short stories. All these things are similar in that it is difficult to generate revenue from any of it and it is totally irrelevant to mention in a query letter.

  80. Krista Phillips on October 11, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    My first ever query letter said something VERY similar to this. I learned not long after that how bad it is to start a query like that! I still blush at those stupid first few query mistakes!

    I never wrote a novel until recently, but I’ve always loved to write in school. Unfortunately, school taught me to write BADLY. (that’s a whole other subject though!) After my husband and I got married, I was talking with him about how I would LOVE to write a book someday. He said, Why don’t you? So I started on one, and made it to chapter three, then got stuck. I worked on that book for YEARS… I think I might have gotten to a chapter 6 once, then erased those three chapters.

    But in 2007, God reignited my desire to write, I put my old WIP in a drawer, and started on something new. I finished 3 months later (then spent two years trying to edit the thing!)

    So, long story short, I count myself a relative new “writer” in the realm of novels anyway:-)

  81. Elaine on October 11, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    I was heart-broken when I brought home the first story I’d written in school. My older brother told me that writing “pbpbnpbpbnm” under scribbled shades of blue didn’t count as a novel; it had a devastating effect I didn’t complete my first manuscript for years after that put-down. 😉

  82. Rochelle on October 11, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    I figured out that I could copy other writer’s styles in 7th grade. I did not enjoy Jack London, but my English teacher did. He made us read White Fang, and then write our own story. I had two teachers after that ask if I read a lot of London. In grade school, after reading The Road Not Taken, I wrote a lot of poetry. My 4th grade teacher thought I had plagiarized and made me tell her the process I went through to write. Then she had me write more.

  83. Janet Johnson on October 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Great suggestion about a “logline about you.” That I understand. Thanks!

  84. J.L. Murphey on October 11, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Hmm, I wonder if Rachel is actually reading all these, I think with a devious glint in my eye. Anyhow, I’ll sound off.

    I started writing poetry and short stories as a youngster. When I was twelve I won a prize from Arthur C. Clarke for creative fiction. Yes, this is actually true and spent a great deal of time with him as a result. He encouraged me to journal my experiences because who knows what I would write later in life. I did and still do. See, my father was military intelligence and my mother worked for an agency later known as the CIA.

    So later in my mid twenties, I’m still journaling, I meet several authors through family connections of both fiction and nonfiction. One lived on St Simons Island. You may have heard of her too, Eugenia Price. She told me once as I was reading through a manuscript she was writing, Lighthouse, “Sweetie, if you want to become a writer…just write and write what you know.”

    I published my first nonfiction two years later. Currently, I have broken into the fiction market this past year with, you guessed it, an espionage suspense. I do write what I know and just write it.

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 11, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      You DOUBT that I’m reading the comments on my blog??? For shame.

      • J.L. Murphey on October 11, 2011 at 6:41 PM

        No, actually I figured you probably were. Was trying to be funny and fizzled. I honestly don’t know how you do it all. Soooo many comments.

  85. Jessica Kelley on October 11, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    We did “Young Authors” every year in my elementary school, and my stories were all kind of tragic.

    First grade was a flamingo in a zoo whose fellow flamingos died and he asked all the other animals to be his friend but no one would until a little bluebird came along.

    Second grade was something about a kitten and there was a mean dog next door who broke off his chain with such force he crashed into something and died. I was a weird kid.

    Third grade was a blind girl who kept undergoing failed surgeries until finally her parents accepted her for who she was. I don’t think an animal died in that one, and I won the third grade award for that one. :0)

  86. Darci (Page Traveler) on October 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    I wanted to write a fantasy fiction novel when I was probably twelve, so I started brainstorming. But when I came back to it some time later I was like, “Wow, this is terrible.” So I threw it out and gave up. I finally got up the nerve to try again this year (15 years later) and it seems that even though it’s rough, I have a lot of people who like the story and my creativity with it. I know it needs work, because I’ve never really been a writer. But I have been an avid reader. And that gives me confidence that I can shape the story into what it ought to be. I hope it works 🙂

    And Rachelle, I have SO enjoyed reading your blog. I probably won’t ever query you, since you don’t cover the genres I’m interested in, but you give great advice and wonderful insight into a world I’m completely unfamiliar with, and I think I speak for many when I say I really appreciate it. So thank you, and keep it up!

  87. Joe Pote on October 11, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but can’t say I ever had major ambitions to be a professional writer.

    I do, actually, have a serious question on this topic, though.

    I am a structural engineer and have authored and co-authored numerous technical publications. I haven’t thought of myself as a writer, but as an engineer who sometimes writes.

    Now, more recently, I have written and published a book, titled “So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce…” on the topic of a biblical perspective of divorce. Here again, I didn’t set out to become a writer; the book was just a natural overflow of a series of Sunday School lessons developed for my class.

    So, here’s my question. In discussing myself or my book, do I call myself a first-time author, or an experienced author?

    I actually have a lot of experience in technical writing, and definitely made use of those skills in wirting the recent book.

    However, the audiences and styles are so vastly different that it hardly seems worth mentioning…except that it does sort of relate, just not in a very obvious manner.

    Any ideas?


    • David Todd on October 11, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      Hey, fellow civil engineer! I’m civil-environmental.

      I have a fair number of conference papers, engineering articles, technical reports, etc. to my credit. I have them listed on my website, and normally will include a summary of that in any writing letter or resume I send out.

      I figure it can’t hurt.

      • Joe Pote on October 11, 2011 at 12:19 PM


        I like your website! It has a sort of renaissance feel of a creative mind with a wide variety of interests.

        Thanks for sharing!

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 11, 2011 at 12:17 PM

      In queries and pitches, you could say something like, “As an engineer, I’m an experienced technical writer with numerous (#?) published articles/books to my name.” Then if you want to list them or even link to them on your website, feel free, but it’s not necessary.

      • Joe Pote on October 11, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        Sounds good! Thank you, Rachelle!

  88. Bri Poster on October 11, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I used to always carry a notebook and a pencil with me, especially after the Harriet the Spy movie came out when I was 7.

    We wrote books in my third grade class and had them laminated and bound (mine was by the unfortunately long title of “The Three Little Girl Bears Go To School”). Later in the year, we made poetry books out of leather and yarn.

    So, I started young and haven’t stopped!

  89. D.E. Stanley on October 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    I never read until I was out of school, but the root of my writing started before. I was in High-School, and had somewhat cheated on every paper I had ever written (and gotten away with it). Once I received Christ my conscience wouldn’t let me do this anymore, so I actually did the research and write my last paper myself. When I turned it in the teacher read it and called me to her desk.

    “Dustan, where did you get this paper from?”

    “I wrote it!”

    “This reads like a college paper. Are you telling me the truth?”

    “Mrs. Humphrey, listen. I have copied every paper I’ve ever given you. This is the first one I’ve ever actually written myself! I swear.”

    She looked at me and smiled. “Good work Dustan. Really.”

    I went and sat down feeling like a million bucks and with a seed planted in my heart.

    Now, I’m sure that the paper was not that great, but I do know that a good teacher with some creativity can really make a difference in a kid’s life.

  90. Bertha Grizzly on October 11, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    I started writing when I was 4 years old. I wrote very short stories and poems and found the entire process exhilarating. Moving on to slightly longer short stories, I fell in love with diagramming sentences (and to answer your question, no, I didn’t have many friends.) Aside from my blog, I am working on my first novel which I hope to publish next year.

  91. Jill Kemerer on October 11, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Since I had an obsession with the Black Stallion series, I would have not only read your book, I would have joined your campaign! Too funny!

    I wrote my own tongue-in-cheek magazine when in fifth grade (I still have it, to the horror of my children), and I wrote a series of books (I use that term loosely) titled Four Cousins about my sister and a few of our cousins. They were really bad.

  92. Jen Machajewski on October 11, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    Wrote a short story at age 8 about finding a stray dog in a grocery store. I nearly fainted when I read the opening of Because Winn-Dixie. Alas, MY story ended with both the dog and girl, each with broken legs and chicken pox. My last line: “And everything went back to normal.” NOT a line of greatness. It DID teach me that a cute idea isn’t enough. (And that Kate Dicamillo is an inspiring story teller.)

  93. David Todd on October 11, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Hated English all through school, especially composition. Except for Mr. Abusamra in 9th grade, didn’t get much encouragement from teachers. Ducked English in college.

    Wrote Christian lyrics for a rock song (a pastiche, actually, but not a parody) when I was 24.

    Began writing my first novel in 2000, when I was 48.

    Began writing serious poetry in 2001, when I was 49.

    Began writing non-fiction op-eds and articles in 2003, when I was 52.

    I turn 60 in December. Time is running out.

  94. CrankyAshley on October 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Thank you for this information. Since I’m new to this, I’m always looking for hints and tips.

    My story:
    Up until last October, I could honestly say that I hated to write. After telling my SO several ideas I had for worlds I had never seen he suggested that I start writing. At first I resisted, but due to lack of work I got bored. I haven’t stopped since. This past August, I finished my first novel.

    I have a number of other ideas, some I’ve started writing and others waiting for that spark. I hope that I continue to love writing so that these ideas can see the light of day. I’m taking one of these ideas and participating in NaNoWriMo this year alongside my SO.

    Thanks again

    *SO = Significant Other

  95. D.E. Stanley on October 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Candy corn is truly wonderful. That’s all I have to say about that.

  96. Alexa Maxwell on October 11, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    I have been writing since I was about 10, I think, also about horses (in fact I also wrote a story about a 3-legged horse (racehorse, what else?)I was published in Cricket Magazine at age 12. Since then, it’s been slow 🙂 But am working on a travel memoir, currently in Spain, and that CAN’T be bad, no matter what comes of my writing!

  97. Sarah Thomas on October 11, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    These are so much fun! I started writing before I could write. I would fill any blank piece of paper with what looked like words to me. When my older brother learned cursive writing he would pick out actual letters–usually an “e” or an “l.” I guess you could say in those days I went for quantity over quality.

  98. Susan Bourgeois on October 11, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Rachelle, you’re hilarious and you are a talented writer.

    I’ve had a passion for writing since I started writing love letters to my now husband back in high school (I know, no one cares but that’s where it started).

    I think that’s where I first learned to express my feelings well. From there a passion for writing grew. I never thought about it until you asked where it all began.

    I think people write great books later in life because they’re able to draw from decades of inspiration. It makes sense.

    I know not to mention trivial details in a query because I studied the process long and hard (cliche).

    I’ve been writing as a passion for over four decades (I’m 56). I’ve only recently, these past three years, begun to center on manuscripts.

    It is something I have been longing to do for years. I co-authored a good book of non-fiction but I did not realize I had to have a platform in place.

    It was complete in less than six months and I am very proud of the book.

    I made the decision to switch to fiction and I am presently working on a novel that my family and I feel will be something special.

    I wouldn’t have written it had the idea not been unique and a great story.

    I’m hoping it will be optioned for a movie.

    I will follow up immediately with a cookbook.

  99. Dianne Liuzzi Hagan on October 11, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    I was angry that I couldn’t read and write until first grade (that’s what happens when you are the fourth of five children). But as soon as I knew how to, I wrote my first short story The Cat that Could Fly. I wrote a mystery novel at ten and lots of stuff ever since. Now, at fifty-four, I’ve completed my memoir, Shades of Tolerance: A Biracial Love Story, and I’m writing essays and thinking about fiction again.

  100. Heather Marsten on October 11, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Coming out of mom’s womb with pencil in hand must have been very difficult for mom.

    I wrote short stories in school and was on the school newspaper.

    I have a question. Twenty-five years ago my therapist suggested I write my life story. I wrote the memoir and sent it out – it was so poorly written that I cringe when I read the pages. Still, the story was compelling and agents wrote back personal replies – many kindly suggesting that I study writing. The story is a tough one to read, and they were kindly responding to the raw pain on the pages.

    I am re-working the story now. When I send out a query would it be helpful to point out the names of the ones who responded to my first attempt at writing my story? Would that interest an agent?


    • Rachelle Gardner on October 11, 2011 at 12:12 PM

      Probably not, Heather. I recommend starting fresh.

  101. Richard Mabry on October 11, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    I’ve been writing since my mother first taught me to print my name before I started school. I’ve had extensive experience since then: school assignments, term papers, chart notes, checks, and my signature on mortgages.
    Oh, you mean “writing” writing. That’s a different story.

  102. Lori on October 11, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    I started writing when I was 20, took the Famous Writers Course in fiction at 27 and here I am 45 and about to finish my novel. 🙂

  103. Else on October 11, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Caldecott’s given for illustration, not writing, isn’t it?

  104. Margaret Piton on October 11, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    I submitted my first magazine article at 10 (it wasn’t published,) won a couple of writing contests in high school, was a summer intern at The Columbus Dispatch and at the US Information Agency,got my first business writing job after I finished my MA, co-authored my first book that same year.
    Since then I’ve been a business reporter for three daily newspapers in Canada, was a weekly travel columnist for The Globe and Mail for 11 years, have written for national magazines in the US (Working Woman, Transitions Abroad, the Rotarian) and Canada (Canadian Business, Macleans, Physicians’ Management Manuals, etc.) and for several other large daily newspapers (Cleveland Plain Dealer, LA Times, Baltimore Sun.)
    I’ve written three plays (one had a staged reading) and now I’m trying to sell a suspense novel and starting work on a guide to budget travel in Russia.
    All this, and I’m still only 36 (LOL.)

  105. Valerie Norris on October 11, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Before I could write stories, I told them. My cousin would spend the night and say, “Tell me a story,” and I’d make up a story starring Nancy and Valerie, blond, curly-haired twins.

  106. Noelle Pierce on October 11, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    I’m a sort-of late bloomer in that I haven’t been writing my whole life. I was more content to read what others wrote, until about two years ago, when a story came to me and wouldn’t let go. Once I started writing that one, I was toast–my muse was in overdrive. He’s since checked in periodically, while he waits for me to finish the pile of ideas he threw at me.

    As far as including it in queries, I’ve been struggling, and have settled on a simple statement of my writing group memberships (i.e., RWA), since I got nothin’ else. 🙂

  107. Susan Husk on October 11, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Sometimes people do not realize they have been writing a long time. Putting thoughts to paper includes writing letters faithfully to a best friend or pen pal, writing research papers, writing thoughtful notes on every greeting card, sending the summary annual Christmas letter, poetry in college, or being the one the office consults to have a sensitive letter edited with just the right language. It is all practice that improves one’s expression. Think about it. You may have been writing longer than you think.

  108. Kelly Combs on October 11, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    I came in 1st place in my 2nd grade poetry contest with this little ditty:

    Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern in the air.
    Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern give me a scare.
    Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern on a stick.
    Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern quick quick quick.

    I have no idea what it means.

    But I’m a late bloomer writing for publication, first submitting something around 40. Three years later, I’m in Gary Chapman’s Love is a Verb Devotional that came out Oct 1st. So it’s all good!

    (But how did that jack-o-lantern get in the air and on the stick?)

  109. Lydia Sharp on October 11, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    This is really fun.

    I finished my first book as author/illustrator when I was six(?). All I remember is that it was about a family of squirrels and it involved a PC (this was before the time when PCs were a common household item of every American family… do they even call them PCs anymore? idk).

    I entered my first short story competition in third grade. It was a real competition held by the state, divided by age group. My story was about a boy who found a secret portal in his attic that led to a witch’s realm (that looked a lot like a city sewer tunnel, now that I think about it), and he had to kill her because she was the one causing every young child’s nightmares. I didn’t win. Or even place. But my third grade teacher thought it was brilliant and told me to keep writing more stories.

    In high school I went through a poetry phase, quickly followed by a screenwriting phase. I also started my first novel (which was about vampires, ha!) but never finished it. I worked as an editor for the school paper and wrote movie reviews for it. Good times.

    Thanks for letting us share our randomness! 😀

  110. Walt Mussell on October 11, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    I’ve been writing since third grade when my teacher gave us a sci-fi based creative writing assignment. I immediately outlined my novel and began in earnest. I never finished that piece. However, my teacher gave me a good grade anyway as the assignment was for a short story and she was tired of reading all the rewrites of my first chapter.

    By ninth grade, I learned the beauty of brevity, entering a “100-words-or-less” essay contest at my English teacher’s urging. I took the grand prize of $100. This remains the most I’ve ever been paid on a “per word” basis for anything I’ve written.

  111. CJ Marsicano on October 11, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    Since at least junior high school, which would mean around 1980 for me. Being a musician first at the time, it was always a good alternative creative outlet.

    When I got onto the Internet in 1997 I ended up starting an e-mail newsletter about professional wrestling – one of the first, i understand. That led a few years later to a point where I was getting paid $30 a column for writing about it on a now-defunct pop culture website. That website collapsing in 2001 only served to intensify my writing jones even more. Now I have two book projects almost ready to go, a story credit under my arm, and a music blog where I try to keep my writing skills sharp.

  112. Nathan Rudy on October 11, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    I’ve been writing since first grade when I wrote a magnum opus of 10 triple lined pages about two cars who safe people from drowning. It was ripped from my life, because my mother used to gun her Saab over the flooded Passaic River (way south, where it’s only 20 feet or so wide) on her way to work. It was built so tightly it floated like a boat, and my little seven year old brain thought it was awesome.

    Only now after pulling people out of cars in downtown North Plainfield, NJ after Hurricane Floyd how fricking stupid that was.

  113. Mariam Kobras on October 11, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    I used to write a bit as a teenager. My Mom always told me I should write a novel, but I was too lazy. Then three years ago, when I got a laptop for Christmas, I sat down and did it. Got picked up by a publisher on twitter, and I never wrote a query letter.

  114. Victoria on October 11, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    LOL at the broken horse campaign book!

    I wrote a book when I was 5, about a lost guineapig. I can remember finding it again when I was oooh, maybe the lofty age of 8 or 9? And being shocked and horrified by how terribly bad it was.

    This trend continues, so that I am always shocked by the appallingness of anything I wrote more than a year or so ago. It’s safe to say I too, am probably not destined to be a novelist.

  115. haley on October 11, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    My first story I ever really seriously worked on was when I was about seven. I think I have the file on a floppy disk somewhere… alas my laptop doesn’t read floppy disks, so I may never know. It was about a little girl who was abused by her father so she left and lived with the native americans, and she became a warrior. later she left and went back with her father because she found out she had a baby sister and she needed to take care of her. when her baby sister was old enough to take care of herself, she went back to the indians and married her childhood sweetheart. That’s right, I was a romantic at age seven too!

  116. Heather Sunseri on October 11, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    I was a late bloomer. But I love, love candy corn. Can’t believe I haven’t bought a bag this year. Have you heard of the candy corn M&Ms? I really want to try those.

  117. Katie Ganshert on October 11, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    It was third grade for me too! My teacher was Mrs. Aronson and I wrote a story about leaf people.

  118. Naomi Rawlings on October 11, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Question. If the amount of time we’ve been writing isn’t that significant, why do so many places ask how long we’ve been writing seriously? (which is definitely different from the writing-since-third-grade deal).

    I had an appointment at ACFW, and the first question the editor/publishing VP asked me was how long I’d been writing. It’s also information my agent, as well as numerous other agents, requests queries state.

    I’ve been writing seriously for three years, btw. And I find a lot of industry professionals don’t care for that answer. There seems to be this idea that someone needs to write for five years before he or she is ready to be published.

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 11, 2011 at 12:26 PM

      Naomi, I think it’s helpful information when you tell us how long you’ve been seriously studying the craft of writing. Sometimes I find it helpful when people tell me specifics like, “I’ve been studying fiction writing for about 5 years and in the process, completed four novels. This is the first one I feel is publication-ready.”

  119. Peter DeHaan on October 11, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    I’ve been writing for about 35 years, which started with poetry (alternately inspired by teenage angst or puppy love). Although my vocations seldom had writing as their focus, it has been a reoccurring theme in every job I’ve had.

    By the way, I’d like to pitch a story idea that I’ve been fixated on for the past five minutes. It’s about a horse with a broken leg and…

  120. Stephen King on October 11, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    I’ve been writing boring academic stuff for about a decade and a half. On the creative front, I failed at NaNoWriMo a few years ago and didn’t try again till this past January. But I suck that way.

    • Jen Machajewski on October 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM

      Are you trying NaNoWrMo again this year? I’ll be a newbie giving it a try next month. Sure, failure is always an option (TM – Mythbusters) but giving up doesn’t have to be. Or maybe completing NaNoWrMo isn’t a requirement for writing success? Annoying but true: don’t give up.

      • Heather Gilbert on October 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        Just a heads-up on the NaNoWriMo–make sure you stretch it to 80,000 words if you’re thinking about writing adult fiction. I was thrilled when I completed a 50,000-word adult paranormal fiction novel in a month, only to find it’s too short to be marketable. Learned the hard way! 50,000 is standard length for a YA novel.

      • otin on October 11, 2011 at 6:07 PM

        I never understood why people do that Nanowrimo. It seems to me that a rushed product is all that would come of it. I think that if a person gets to twenty thousand words, then they should just slow down and take their time. Just my opinion.

        • Heather Gilbert on October 11, 2011 at 9:12 PM

          I found that NaNoWriMo is a great way to finally FINISH writing a novel. It trains you to sit down (say every night) and just get it DONE. Yes, it takes some major editing afterward. But it’s a great way to in the habit of getting words on the page. I personally loved my NaNoWriMo novel, but haven’t wanted to put in the effort to add 30,000 words so it would have a crack at getting pubbed as the adult fiction novel it is.

  121. Glynn on October 11, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    I wrote a mystery novel (by hand) when I was 10. No one but me thought it was the best thing they had ever read.

  122. Sharon A Lavy on October 11, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    I used to love candy corn too. But since my weight loss surgery I react to sugar with an insulin rush and get really sick and dizzy. Sadly I must leave sugar alone, even candy corn.

    I know TMI.

    Thanks for all your posts Rachelle.

  123. Timothy Fish on October 11, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    I wrote my first book in kindergarden. It was about some lions who, as I recall, ate a hunter. Our teacher had some of the sixth graders come to our class to copy down our stories. We draw pictures and then she formed the pages into books. I’ve still got mine and I pulled it out and read it a few months ago. My five-year-old self was a better storyteller than I realized. His control of language wasn’t perfect, but the story was sound.

  124. otin on October 11, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Honestly, I’ve always had a knack for telling twisty stories, but I never wrote anything after high school. Three years ago I bought a laptop with the intention of writing a book. Eighty short stories and two years of blogging later, I finally wrote one…and then two…and soon to be three. I’m 46 now. I hope I can get one published before I’m 60. lol

  125. Jeffo on October 11, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    Sixth grade was my year of writing fiction, and I was going to be a writer, dammit! And then I went into junior high school, and I can’t remember a single bit of fiction that I wrote until…last year. I’m not sure why there was such a huge gap.

  126. Susan L. Anderson on October 11, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    Started writing about 2 1/2 years ago after attending the Christian Retail Tradeshow in Denver. We market our games there as vendors (cactusgamedesign.com). I walked the halls during a break and looked at impressive book covers and decided I have something to say. This came at a time when the laundry had settled a bit after rearing six kids. Our youngest was launching into middle school.

  127. Leigh D'Ansey on October 11, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    I’ve been writing fiction since I was very small. I can’t remember my teachers’ names but I was often praised for my short stories. They were very morbid, often about animals or people who suffered grisly ends. I was in my 30s by the time I made a concious decision to write a story where no-one died.

  128. Charissa on October 11, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    Thanks for the tips!

  129. H. Renee on October 11, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    Fannish my little pony things since about second grade. (I’m an eighties child!)

    Actual writing since 8th when a friend challenged my statement that I could do better.

    Still trying to do better, but I can see much more clearly how hard it is now!

  130. Nicole Basaraba on October 11, 2011 at 3:52 AM

    THANK YOU Rachelle for this post! I always wondered exactly what agents thought of this. I wrote a blog post a while back about authors including it in the first line of their bios. I think its also not a great opening line for a bio and these little ancedotes should be exactly that: ancedotes in places such as in blog post comments section. 🙂

  131. Kate Larkindale on October 11, 2011 at 2:49 AM

    I’ve been writing as long as I can remember (with a few breaks). My first story was published when I was six, in the Kid Stuff pages of our local paper.

    I had a fantastic English teacher when I was 12, and she really pushed me on my way. I started my first novel at 13. I finished it much later….

  132. Mary Ruth Pursselley on October 11, 2011 at 2:35 AM

    I’ve been writing since I was six. My Yorkie terrier and I would spend all day trekking across vast deserts, escaping evil villains, nearly drowning in violent rivers, etc. (adventures which my mother loosely categorized under the heading ‘playing outside’) and then we’d come inside in the evenings and I’d chronicle the day’s escapades on primary paper, usually in crayon.
    I was fourteen when I realized that writing wasn’t just something fun I liked to do, it was what God wanted me to do as a career.

  133. The Attorney At Large on October 11, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    I wrote Duran Duran romantic fan fiction in junior high for my friends, long before anyone knew the term “fan fiction,” and I hope to heaven all those college-ruled notebooks have been subsequently destroyed. So. Incredibly. Mortifying.

  134. Roberta Codemo on October 11, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    I’ve been writing since I was five years old. My earliest attempts were reminescent of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories. My first novel regurgitated The Exorcist. I am currently working on a horror novel.

  135. T Denise Clary on October 11, 2011 at 1:59 AM

    Wow, thanks for the reminder!! I wrote a book about a dog for a third grade writing contest. The winner’s book would get published from a publisher. I wanted to win so bad!! I didn’t…

    Funny how I remember what the winner’s story was about, but can’t remember what I wrote about. All I remember about my book was it was about a dog.

    Guess that’s why I didn’t win!! If the books own author can’t remember the story, yet can remember the winner’s story…

    LOL 😉

  136. Shannon Young on October 11, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    I started writing properly a little over a year ago, and by that I mean writing because I felt I had something to say not because it was an assignment. As a kid I was more drawn to reading other people’s stories than making up my own.

    Here’s a question for Rachelle or anyone else out there who might know: should you ever include your age in a query? I’m on the young side (under 25), and I don’t know if that’s something the agent will want/need to know. I’ll be querying a completed travel memoir.


    • Rachelle Gardner on October 11, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      Shannon, age is not a factor at the query letter stage. If you enter into conversations with an agent for potential representation, that’s a good time for it to come up.

      • Shannon Young on October 12, 2011 at 1:28 AM

        Thank you Rachelle! I really appreciate all of your helpful advice on this site.

  137. Olivia Newport on October 11, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    When I was four, I made up a flannelgraph story about a little girl who was looking for Jesus. She searched high and low all over the place until she finally found him in her heart. I remember the Sunday school room where I practiced telling it with flannelgraph characters and eventually garnered and audience. Then I acted out whispered stories in my dark bedroom when I was supposed to be sleeping for several years. Later my brother and I had a favorite patch of brick patterned wallpaper, and each brick representative a different story that we would simply take up where we had left off with my first series of characters. Finally my fifth grade teacher put my imagination to work in constructive ways followed by pretty much every English teacher through high school. They even told my mother I would “go far.”The rest is history.Still waiting to go!

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 11, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      Olivia, I have always known you to be an over-achiever. Now I see where it all started!

  138. Nancy S. Thompson on October 11, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    Let’s see, I’m 47, almost 48, and I’ve been writing for 19…months! Yes, I’m one of those old farts who took up the craft late in life. I only wish I’d known how much I loved writing back in fourth grade then maybe I’d be farther along by now. Perhaps I’ll be as lucky as Adams & Chandler. My fifties are only 2+ years away!

  139. Michelle DennisEvans (@MichelleDEvans) on October 11, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    I wrote …. and (hides ) illustrated my first book when I was 11 and 3/4.
    And it sits proudly on our book shelf. Now and then we pull it out and my kids and hubby have a good belly laugh.

  140. Joanne BIschof on October 11, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    I wrote my first story in third grade about a brave coyote. Definitely, nixed that detail from query letters :)I just remember how my mom’s enthusiasm to bind several copies to share with my teacher and close family really encouraged me as a little writer. It’s amazing the power of an adult’s enthusiasm on a young mind and heart!

  141. marion on October 11, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    Rachelle, I love your 3rd grade novel idea. I think you just need to develop it beyond the campaign, which your heroine will discover is impractical.

    I loved English at school. I had a very good teacher when I was about 10, who got us all writing stories.

    And I’ve had those pathetic attempts over the years. Notably a romance novel where I couldn’t even get the chronology figured out.

    But I never really had anything to write about until my mid-50s, when a historical person really grabbed me on a personal level. At a time when they were at a dead end in their life. Except they weren’t really, of course. And the story’s been evolving since.(I’m currently revising the first draft.)

  142. Linda Woods on October 11, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I’ve been writing stories since my early teens and only have one REAL publication, in a scientific peer-reviewed journal. I am still working on my first REAL novel. At about 65,000 words now and that’s just the first draft. So, I’ll have to undoubtedly cut out all the garbage from that first draft so only the REAL story remains.That means I’ll have to keep writing more to finish this first novel. I don’t want it to be full of crap.

    • marion on October 11, 2011 at 1:04 AM

      But I thought mainstream novels could be 100,000 words–or more, if it’s interesting. Is that right, y’all?

      Of course you’ll have to cut, but you might need to expand some sections too. Whatever the story demands.

      • Mary Ruth Pursselley on October 11, 2011 at 2:31 AM

        If I’m not much mistaken, an ‘average’ novel (whatever that is) is usually between 70,000 and 100,000 words long. I hope that’s correct, because if it’s not I’m in heap big trouble.

  143. Cacy on October 11, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    I attempted to write my first novel when I was in the fourth grade. It was about two friends (named after my two best friends at the time) who would capture a fugitive from the law, or they would have if I’d ever finished it. I still have that notebook I wrote it in floating around. Actually, it was the first thing I ever posted about on my blog. Good times.

  144. RayS on October 11, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    1) If your novel had been published, it would have been popular with horses at least.

    2) Poetry since I was 14 (took 7 years to write a Real Poem – traditional bardic apprenticeship). First two novels at 62 and a few short stories scattered along the way. Two more novels and a memoir in progress.

  145. Josin on October 11, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    I’ve been “writing” since my mom gave me a “My First Sony” tape recorder when I was about 3. Somewhere, there exists an epic tale on tape about a boy running amok in a supermarket, pelting people with hot dogs as he swings from the lights.

    My first written story was from when I was 5. Hawaiian Dave (maybe Hawaiian Bob…) refused to clean his room until he had such a mess he built it into a rocketship and moved to the moon.

    I’ve always made up stories (true of most people, I think).