The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow

Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow, short fiction and personal experience articles. She co-authored the book, Linked to Someone in Pain. She has been published in such magazines as Relief Journal, Parents Express, Sunday Digest, and Highlights for Children. Joyce attended Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship. She is a frequent workshop leader at various writer’s conferences and women’s church groups. She has three children, Rebekah, Emily, and Adam; one grandson, Lemuel Earnest; one son-in-law, Joshua, and a neurotic parakeet who can’t seem to keep a name. Joyce leads a small fiction group called StoryCrafters. She enjoys baseball, football, cream soda, and needle arts but not elevators. She currently lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania. You can also visit her blog at:

Novel Writing: It’s Not an Olympic Sport but It Should Be

I know nothing about skiing. I figure if God had wanted me to careen down a mountain at a gazillion miles an hour, I would have been born with really long feet. But I do like to watch Olympic skiers race down the hillsides on two big sticks. Then there’s the popular figure skating competition. I wouldn’t know a double axel from a triple salchow if I fell over Dorothy Hamill on an icy road. But I do enjoy watching those amazing athletes twirl and jump and spin faster than my washing machine. And what about that Scottish sport curling? You know the one, where people toss a forty-two-pound stone down an icy path. It’s kind of like shuffleboard with a hangover—it doesn’t move too fast. I like to watch it, but truthfully, the only thing I know about curling is that my mother once curled my hair so tight my feet didn’t touch the ground for three days.

And so in honor of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the lesser known and untelevised Novel Writing Olympics. I mean really, sometimes novel writing feels like a downhill speed race. The events, in no particular order, are:

The Query Letter Slalom

The word slalom means to zigzag between obstacles. The obstacles along this course are those snaggletooth editors and agents who for some reason strike terror in the hearts and minds of newbie writers. In this event, writers compete for the attention of an agent or an editor by writing the most perfect query letter ever written. A letter that all at once must be pithy, smart, to the point, grammatically correct, and short enough to be read in the time it takes to tap the delete button. Many will participate, few ever medal.

The Synopsis Luge

In this sport the writer is forced to condense a 100,000 word novel into three sentences. It pretty much feels like you are careening down an icy, twisty track, flat on your back with nothing to hold on to except the sides of your desk chair, begging and pleading with your brain to work before you crash, searching for one word to take the place of eleven others, wondering how much of your subplots to include and . . . and well, the Synopsis Luge can get messy.

What About Bob-sled?

This event is not for the faint of heart. Although it doesn’t require a lot of physical athleticism, this event does require the Novelete to wait forever (without going nuts or gaining sixty pounds from consuming inordinate amounts of chocolate and or ice cream) to hear from the editor or agent who only recently suggested he or she might be interested in her manuscript. In this event it is important to have some friends along for the ride.

Speed E-mail Checking

Yep, in this event, writers check their e-mail every three or four nanoseconds. Little explanation is needed for this one except the focus is on endurance. If you plan to run, cultivate patience and exercise deep breathing frequently. If you’re over forty, you might invest in a sack of Depends because, well, those who participate in Speed E-mail must also compete in the Every Time the Phone Rings Hurdles, in which the Novelete scales couches, dogs, and LazyBoy recliners on her way to the phone, or digs

furiously through a bottomless handbag in search of the chirping cell. But then she is required to regain her composure in a heartbeat just in case it is “The Call.”

The Plotathalon

A favorite among Noveletes, this event is one that can be completed either By the Seat of Your Pants or with reams of paper filled with copious outlines of scenes and characters and subplots and arrows and squiggly lines as the contender works feverishly to find her/his story, to capture the through-points, and figure out what the heck happens next without bringing a potential reader to tears from boredom. There is great discussion in Novelete circles about the best way to compete, but all will agree that scoring a gold medal in this event is paramount. Trouble is, there are only so many gold medals to go around.

The Marketing Jump

This is where the Novelete makes the leap from artist to business person as she/he attempts to navigate the treacherous and often confusing course of media outlets, social networking, and blog tours, to mention just a couple of the possible hurdles in this event. Not a favorite among the contestants but necessary, even before she/he signs with a publisher.

So there you have it, the major events of the Novel Writering Olympics. There are, of course, lesser known events like the Chocolate Consumption Speed Track. But I suppose we agree that the one event we all love to participate in is the Great Signing of the Contract Opening Ceremony, in which the Novelete gets to shout and cry and go out to dinner and celebrate before the hard work begins and she/he must face the Super G Revise, Edit, Revise, Edit on a Deadline Alpine Slalom Course.

Let the Games Begin!

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow