Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal (T.S. Eliot) Revisited


Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

A year ago I blogged about my idea of writing a paranormal story with “a wise older woman as the protagonist. Something like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer with the mother as the slayer,” as I put it then. (

Since then the paranormal genre has continued to explode, both in book format and in movies/TV shows. But, to my knowledge, no one has yet created my character, a strong middle-aged single mother of two teens who is also a writer.

And so, finally a year almost to the date since my previous blog on the subject, I have written it myself. In the tradition of Dickens and Conan Doyle, I plan to publish my story in weekly installments at my blogs: and

Please join me there.

From Requiem for a King

Nowan stopped when we reached the river bank and, letting go of my hand, parted the reeds so very carefully.

I saw it, then,

white and slender,

a bird made of light.

It walked in the water on its long, slim legs, perfectly balanced,

as if dancing to a music it could only hear.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

From Requiem for a King by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Contest for a YA Novel


by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban


I have stressed before, in this blog, the importance of the opening sentence, paragraph and page in any story.

With hundreds of manuscripts to choose from, agents and editors read submissions with one thing in mind: a reason to reject them. That is why your beginning must be perfect, a hook to grab the readers, reel them into your world and leave them begging for more.

If you think you have it, the perfect hook, I mean, and your story is aimed at young adults, you may want to send it to the Dear Lucky Agent contest running now at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog (
The contest is open from Oct. 21 through the end of Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010, EST.

Three lucky winners will get: 1) A critique of the first ten pages of their work, by the judge, Tamar Rydzinski, an agent at the Laura Dail Literary Agency. 2) A free one-year subscription to

Good luck and Happy writing.

How to Critique a Piece of Writing (Art)

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

The following is the best advice I ever read about giving and receiving criticism.

I found it at the Eastern PA chapter of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators website (

I think it is perfect as it is, so, without further discussion, here it is.


Criticism should be constructive not destructive. “I didn’t like the way you wrote (or illustrated) that” is never valid criticism. It always helps a fellow writer or artist to know the strengths of a manuscript or illustration as well as the weaknesses. A compliment offered first softens a “constructive” negative to follow. Try to tell your fellow writer or artist why something doesn’t work for you and offer possibilities for change. Always be encouraging. Not everyone will respond to a manuscript or illustration in the same way. Those receiving criticism should remember that any suggestion offered can be accepted or rejected. The author or artist has the final word on what stays.

Remember that you are in a critique group to get feedback. Often, your words or pictures can surround you so you can’t see flaws in your work. Try not to be too defensive when you’re criticized; be good-natured about it. All creators feel protective about their “children”.
A critique group can remain strong only when the sanctity of that group is respected. Thus, it is never okay to use the ideas or the research done by another member, to impose upon their contacts in the publishing world, or to reveal to others outside of the critique group the work-in-progress without the author’s or illustrator’s express permission.

Dare to Read by Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

A picture/photograph shows us what we have already seen, maybe in a slightly different way, or shows us the impossible and startles us, shattering our beliefs and making us think.

A piece of music sets the mood, the sound a direct hit to our brain.

A movie combines both  to tell a story: the images that create the world the characters inhabit, the music that elicit feelings. It has also words (dialogue) that communicate what the characters think.

Pictures, music and movies do not ask much of us. To look or listen does not require much energy.

Books, on the other hand, do not have pictures or music to lure us in. They only have words. Only words to paint a picture, to create a song.

Books demand action on our part and complete immersion, because the words must be processed by our brain to be translated into images and feelings. To do so, the brain calls on our knowledge.

That is why reading is, I believe, a more personal experience. And at the end, the most rewarding.

Would You Read More?


Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

To tease or not to tease that is the question. Whether to hook the reader on the first page with a teaser, the introduction of a later scene where the life of the protagonist is in jeopardy, or to trust the reader to give you time to build the setting, the characters, the conflict at your own pace?

The purist in me think it’s cheating to do the former, and yet …

In the old times, when Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Bram Stocker weaved their classic tales, teasers did not exist. The writers took their time to tell their stories with detailed descriptions, beautiful prose and long paragraphs, seldom broken by dialogue. And the readers stayed with them.

But in our times of twitter, text messaging, and Netflix, readers, teenagers specially, are not so patient. They give you one page tops before tossing the book for the easiest thrill of any of the a fore mentioned devices. So to add a teaser to hook the reader seems to me, an inevitable evil.

Stephenie Meyer did so in her Twilight series, and no one will argue, it worked well enough. She called it a Preface, not a teaser. But in that, she’s wrong. For as Wikipedia tells us “A preface (…) is an introduction to a book (…) (it) covers the story of how the book came into being, or how the idea for the book was developed. (…)” (

Yes Ms. Meyer was wrong. But who is complaining? The teaser, by any other name, accomplished its mission: to hook the reader.

And so it is that after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to start my new YA fantasy with a teaser, not because I don’t trust the intelligence of my readers but because I recognize the pressure this vapid, high speed culture sets upon all of us.

I leave you then with my teaser (see below) and the question every writer asks, Would you read more?

They talk in whispers around me as we do around the dead, out of respect, I guess, or out of fear that our words would bring them back. But I’m not dead. I hear them and could, if I so choose, answer the ladies’ questions and join them among the living. Instead I block their voices and retreat inside my mind, to Father’s room, to the moment I first saw Mother’s broken body lying still against the wall, and the King’s guards, dragging Nowan away.

“He killed the queen,” Father says.

His laborious breathing is in my ear, his hands heavy on my arms, restraining me as if he fears that, left unchecked, I would run to him, to the boy who just killed Mother. But his fears are unfounded. I will not protect Nowan. Not after what happened this morning, not after I learned his love for me was but a lie.

My eyes follow the boy. There’s blood on his white shirt, blood on his hands, and a stream of blood runs from his nose, but there is no hate in his eyes now, no will to kill, only despair.

I look away from him and run towards the hearth, towards the place where Mother lies, calling her name.

“I should have killed him,” Father says, his voice hoarse with hate. “I should have killed him long ago, the day he first defied me.”

I hold Mother’s body in my arms, so foreign already in the stillness of death, and wish he had.

Publishing Seminar!

Come Join us at Mercer County Community College on

Thursday, August 12th from 7-9 PM for our informative Publishing Seminar!

Three Women, Three Authors, Three Approaches to Publishing

You finally finished “The Great American Novel.” Maybe you’re putting the final touches on that children’s book you’ve been penning. Perhaps you want to publish your memoirs for posterity.
How do you go from typing on your computer to holding the finished book in your hands? Join authors Mary Fran Bontempo, Carmen Ferreiro Esteban and Chrysa Smith in this two-hour seminar as they share their interesting, maddening, but ultimately fulfilling experiences about writing and publishing their books using traditional, print-on-demand, and self-publishing methods.
Tuition and fees: $65

We’d love to share our hard-won knowledge with you!  This seminar will give you essential information to help you to get your work published.

For registration and more information, click on the link below.

Setting: When Life Imitates Art

Summer weather in northern Spain, where I grew up, was unpredictable. Clouds often covered the sky, then rain followed turning the ocean a dark gray and the tranquil waters into angry waves.

But green or gray, I loved this ocean and the beaches of white fine sand in closed coves that marked the coast.

My favorite beach was called Aguas Santas. I still remember the first time I saw it. I was visiting my friend Felisa and it was her sister (three whole years older than we were) who took us there. We started early in the morning as we had to hike for almost an hour along the raised coast, then climb down the slippery steps carved on the wall of the imposing cliffs.

The sand was still wet by the receding tide when we reached the ground, but I barely noticed, my eyes caught in the beauty of the solitary arch that sat to our left. To our right several openings formed a tunnel like structure that called to mind the flying buttresses of a cathedral.

These arches had a mysterious, mystical quality for me, so it was only natural that when I wrote my first book Two Moon Princess, I made it into the portal Andrea, the princess of the title, uses to travel to another arch in northern California. The arch works as a gate only when the full moon rises.

When I first moved to the States from Spain, I lived in northern California and the beach I describe in the book reflects one of the many I remember from the Sonoma Coast. But for the arch. The arch I made it up.

Except it was really there, I learned later. A couple of miles north of where I was staying, there is an arch that closely resemble the one from my childhood memory. It is called Goat Rock Beach. If you don’t believe me, or if you do but want to see it, click here ( and scroll down a bit.

The beach in Spain is now called The Cathedrals and you don’t have to hike to get there, you can drive and park on top of the cliffs. But if you want, you, too , can stay at my friend’s house as it has now been made into apartments (handicapped accessible) (

Don’t forget to mention my name if you ever go there. And just in case don’t stand under the arch in a full moon or you may end up in California. Without suitcases.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy summer!

Pride and Prejudice and Two Moon Princess

My young adult fantasy novel, Two Moon Princess (Tanglewood Press), came out in paperback this week.

Many adults I’ve mentioned this wish me good luck, but they don’t even consider reading my book. They assume they wouldn’t like it because it’s marketed for young adults.

This assumption baffles me. To say a book is Young adult (YA) means teens can read it, but that doesn’t mean an adult cannot enjoy it too. Reading young adult books, I want to tell them, will help you keep in touch with your inner teen. This will not only keep you young but also, if you have teens, will help you connect to them.

I’m an adult and love young adult novels. I don’t think I’m the only one. But it seems to me that many people that like YA novels don’t acknowledge this. I’m not sure why.

There are several reasons that determine whether a book is considered young adult or adult reading. The age of the protagonist, the theme of the book, a requirement for, if not a happy ending, at least some hope at the end are some of these reasons. The quality of the writing and/or strength of the story is not.

Yes, I agree, some young adults books are shallow and poorly written, even those, maybe especially those, that become best sellers. But the same can be said of books aimed at adults.

As Don Marquis puts it: “If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves.”

Two Moon Princess is a realistic fantasy. It is the story of a medieval princess that crosses to modern day California through an arch by the ocean. I love fantasy so it was only natural for me to incorporate some fantasy elements in my story. To my surprise, since my book was first published in 2007, I’ve also realized that many people dismiss fantasy as an inferior genre.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Many bright, interesting people like fantasy. Among them Albert Einstein. Yes, that Einstein, the one with the crazy hair who changed physics with his theory of relativity.

“When I examine myself and my methods of thoughts,” Einstein said, “I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”

And also, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

And I totally agree with Michael Dirda when he said:

Many readers simply can’t stomach fantasy. They immediately picture elves with broadswords or mighty-thewed barbarians with battle axes, seeking the bejeweled Coronet of Obeisance … (But) the best fantasies pull aside the velvet curtain of mere appearance. … In most instances, fantasy ultimately returns us to our own now re-enchanted world, reminding us that it is neither prosaic nor meaningless, and that how we live and what we do truly matters.

If you need some more convincing you can read the first chapter of Two Moon Princess at:

And whether you agree or disagree with me, please come see me on Friday June 25 from 7 to 9 PM at the Doylestown Bookshop (16 South Main Street, Doylestown, PA 18901, Phone: 215-230-7610). And in the meantime visit me at

How to break into print: Contests and Workshops

Writing a query letter and sending it to agents and editors is one way to get your work read. But it’s not the only way.

Submitting to literary contests, can be another option.

The Guide to Literary Agents ( is running one right now (from May 12 to May 26) for unpublished fantasy/SF adult/YA fiction novels.

To participate you must submit the first 150-200 words or your novel. If you are one of the three winners, the judge, Roseanne Wells (a literary agent at Marianne Strong Literary Agency) will critique the first 10 pages of your work.

Having finished a YA fantasy novel recently, the contest is just perfect for me. Not only because it gave me an excuse to postpone writing that dreary query letter, but because it forced me to polish my first page which I have also sent to the June Meet the Editors workshop (SCBWI Eastern PA chapter).

So don’t be shy and send yours too.

And if you happen to attend the workshop, please come and say hello.

Good luck.
Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

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