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Erin Cleary


Represented by Sheila Fernley
of Storm Literary Agency
  • Erin Cleary

Boiling It Down

One great thing about being a part of the KitLit writing community is that there are a lot of activities and contests that help writers hone their craft, make connections, stay aware of changes in the market, and—if the writing gods are smiling upon them—get noticed. March is huge for writing activities and even on this 5th day, I have already been busy with preparing for and participating in contests for this month.

“Boiling it down” is a nice metaphor for what I’ve been doing all week. Much of what I’ve done involves condensing my stories into the smallest possible elements. All the ingredients are still there, it's just a more concentrated version of the original. This is a great mental exercise and a test for the quality of the writing that is being boiled down.

On the 1st, I entered #PBParty, a manuscript contest based on a query letter and 60-70 words of your story. Stiff competition with 1,005 entries, but it is a worthwhile experience to try....We’ll see how it goes.

Yesterday I tried out #PitMad, a Twitter pitch party where you post your book’s pitch and hope the participating agents and editors will notice it and ask for you to submit the story to them. You have to boil your story down to 250 characters, including all the relevant hashtags. This is a challenge in itself, but a skill that is helpful to practice.

That skill carried over into yet another contest I entered yesterday called #50PreciousWords. This is an annual contest run by Vivian Kirkfield, a brilliant children’s book author. The challenge is to write a complete story in 50 words or less. I loved this challenge and ended up with two stories. I could only submit one, but the other has potential to be expanded into a full picture book manuscript, and I'm looking forward to working on that. The competition is fierce, with entries expected to surpass 800, but I’m still in there trying to get noticed! If I am not among the winners, I will still use that way of thinking about a story in its most minimal components: a beginning, middle, and end, with a rising conflict and a satisfying conclusion. If I can do this in 50 words, then that will only help me build a longer story.

Here is my entry for this year's #50PreciousWords.



by Erin Cleary

Grandma knitted Howard another itchy sweater.

He tried to lose it,

unravel it,

shrink it,

outgrow it.

Nothing worked.

“Please, no more itchy sweaters!” Howard cried.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” Grandma smiled…

but she kept on knitting.

And the next time, Howard got

an itchy

pair of socks.


“Boiling it down” is a mantra that connects to my blog post from last month: Focus. Even though I’m doing more, I’m trying to sift out the distractions and extraneous words from all that is writing for me, then boiling it down so I can continue to find focus. I’m looking forward to the growth and experiences that await in the rest of the month.

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