Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hey! Hey! Writer Spotlight!!!!

Everyone please help me welcome Emily Cushing for our second ever Writer Spotlight!!! (And that link there goes to her twitter, so go follow her, too!)

These spotlights are a lot of fun, and I can already tell Emily has a super cool MG story that I hope I get to read someday! Just wait, you're gonna want to, too. Promise. :)

Also, at the end of the interview I've posted her query and first page. PLEASE help her out and give some of your invaluable support and advice! That's what we're all here for, right?

Now heeeeeere's Emily......

What category/genre do you write?

Middle grade--specifically mystery, adventure, and historical. In this book, Maggie's modern-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy's life. The two stories interweave (Maggie's story is told in the odd chapters and Butch's in the even.) For example, Butch is in a town after a bank robbery in 1901 and then Maggie and Jake go to that same town looking for the loot in 2012. At the climax, the two stories come together. I have loved doing research about Butch Cassidy. My family and I visited the house where he was born, his parent's gravestones, and the Best Western Butch Cassidy Inn (talk about friendly folks.) We even visited the town in Scotland where his grandparents lived.

How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.

RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY'S GOLD is my first work of fiction. My WIP is up to 10,000 words. It's another mystery involving Maggie, Jake, Grandpa Jim, and of course, their beat-up Winnebago, Blue Bessie. 

Do you outline or write from the hip? 
I outline. But it's my slave, not my master.

(Haha! Love that!)

When do you find time to write?

I have five children. Yep, you read it right, FIVE children :) Ages twelve down to thirteen months. That doesn't leave a lot of time for writing. So I mostly write when everyone's at school and the baby's napping. And occasionally I stay up wayyy too late.

Have you had anything published or other credentials?

I have my Master's degree in Elementary Education (which may explain my love for middle grade.) I have three published magazine articles and I created a marketing website, Giveaway Today. Writing daily posts for the website was a lot of fun. A few years ago I published a daily inspirational calendar called One Heart, Many Voices

Is there anything/anyone that has changed the way you write or look at writing? 

I'm part of an amazing writing group. We meet twice a month. I couldn't have written this book without their incredible feedback. And although receiving feedback stung at first, I've developed thicker skin and I'm a much better writer because of what I've learned from them. 

The feedback I've received from entering contests (like yours ;) has also been invaluable.

Do you have a favorite book(s)/author(s)?

A few of my favorite children's authors include Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, and JK Rowling is a genius. Ready for some complete nerdiness? The last Harry Potter came out right before my anniversary. My husband and I went to dinner and spent the night at a hotel. As a gift, I gave him Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and brought a copy for myself. We spent part of the night reading (I said part of the night--we're not that nerdy ;)

(LOL! That's awesome!) 

What's your favorite music to listen to while writing? And writing snack food favorite?

I've tried to listen to music and it just doesn't work for me. I've had to quit buying chocolate chips because if I get stuck while writing I head to the freezer and grab a handful--not good for the hips. 

Anyone you want to give a shout out too?

Dee over at, Brenda Drake, Kat Brauer, and I met Julie Decker through your "Come and Get It" contest. Their feedback and encouragement has been amazing.

Anything else you'd like to share:

Three random facts about me:
I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order in less than 20 seconds.
I was born with a deeply-grooved geographic tongue. The first time my mom saw it, she rushed me to the hospital because she was afraid I had some sort of strange illness.
I met my husband on the first day of 8th grade. He had a mullet, I had 5-inch high bangs.


Alright, that interview made me laugh more than once! Super curious about the tongue thing now. lol And I totally had to switch to semi-sweet chips so I'd stop sneaking into the freezer. :)

I've posted Emily's query and first page just below, because you guys are awesome and helpful and she could use some of your priceless critiques! 



Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy wants to be brave and spontaneous. But she's not. Especially when it comes to school bullies and flying by the seat of her pants. So when she and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy—farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West—she crumples her "to-do" list to prove she really can be daring and impulsive.

And at first, searching for gold with Jake and their quirky Grandpa Jim in his beat-up Winnebago is the grand adventure she's always wanted. But Maggie's newfound courage falters when she learns they must outsmart and outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure.

The race is on. But just as Maggie and Jake think they've solved the mystery, Jake is captured and all the "to-do" lists in the world won't save him. Maggie’s his only hope…if she can find the courage. 

RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY'S GOLD is a middle grade mystery in which Maggie's present-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy's past until mystery and history collide. This book stands alone, but can open the door for a series that exposes readers to fast-paced adventures across the fifty states.

With a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, I have taught both elementary and middle school. I am a regular attendee of writers’ conferences and have three published magazine articles. I created the successful marketing website, Giveaway Today, with an apex of 176,000 page views per month.

First Page:

Twelve seconds until summer vacation. Maggie stared at the classroom clock, counting down the last seconds of sixth grade. Someone in the back of the room began chanting, “Ten, nine, eight—”

Everyone else joined in, “Seven, six—”

Almost time! Maggie thought, sitting at the edge of her seat.

“Five, four—”

Just a few more seconds.




RRRRINGGGG!! The class erupted into cheers.

Maggie jumped out of her seat, slung her pink backpack over her shoulder, and slipped out the classroom door. As she ran down the school’s rickety old steps, she pulled the “to-do” list she had carefully prepared the night before out of her back pocket.

Five minutes. That’s how long she’d given herself to make it to Slotz Convenience Store. She studied the large crowd in front of her and took a deep breath. She examined her bright green digital watch, pushed the start button, and took off running. 

“To your left,” she called, pushing past a circle of fifth grade girls in a group hug.

“Watch out.” She darted around a curly-haired girl rummaging through her backpack. Just a few more steps and Maggie would bust out of the crowd. She glanced at her watch again. One minute down, four to go. So far, so good. She thought she just might make it in time.
“Coming through.” Maggie sidestepped a large boy picking gum off the bottom of his shoe.

Boy, was she wrong.


  1. I love what you've done with this query since I last saw it during WriteOnCon. It's so solid now! Best of luck in your search for representation!

  2. Great interview. "He had a mullet and I had 5-inch high bangs." Haha.

    The query and first page are solid! This sounds like something my son would love. Good luck!!

  3. Aww, thanks for the shout out. I love, love, love RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY'S GOLD. i can't wait for it to come out in book form soon. ;)

  4. I don't have any criticism, because your query is great and your first page drew me in. I think I saw this on GUTGAA and I thought it sounded like a great MG read. Love the idea of a series of adventures across the 50 states. Best of luck!

  5. I've seen this pitch on some of the blog contests; I don't tend to read a lot of the MG stuff since I feel like I have no expertise whatsoever in the genre; it's so different than YA. I love the story idea. I think your query is strong. The only thing I would suggest is I don't think you need the line "But she's not." below:

    Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy wants to be brave and spontaneous. But she's not. Especially when it comes to school bullies and flying by the seat of her pants.

    Do you see what I mean? I think you can get away with the next sentence and we get that if she WANTS to be brave and spontaneous, it probably means she isn't but is working toward it. Kind of takes the wind out of the sails with that little line and it works without it. Take that for what it's worth. Good luck querying!!

  6. Great interview, Cupid! I've seen Emily's entry in a contest or two and it's really cool to meet the author. (I've had my Harold in those same contests.)

    Awesome query and first page, Emily! I think this is such a cute story. Kids will eat it up! It reminds me a little of Holes and I love how the history is mixed in with the mystery.

    I wonder if you need the "And" in your second paragraph of your query, but that's really just a tiny, and maybe petty, thing. I'm sure your query will capture an agent's attention and the first page will make them want to read more. Well done!

    Good luck!

  7. Hi Emily! Okay, before I start, I have to tell you that I ALSO have a geographic tongue. I did not know this until my last dental appt, when the hygienist told me. (I am over 20. Okay, over 30. Um, 40.) Does this mean it came later in life? Got worse? Just escaped my notice? No idea. My father has what's called a "perforated tongue." Alright, enough about that.

    Your novel sounds really fun and intriguing! First, a few things I liked about the query:

    1.) "So when she and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy—farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West" - wow, fantastic condensing of lots of info into a concise query-friendly snip.

    2.) "But Maggie's newfound courage falters when she learns they must outsmart and outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure." Great way to clearly tell us the conflict, which is then followed by MORE conflict (Jake's capture)

    3.) "until mystery and history collide." LOVE this. If I was an agent, I'd request a full on this cleverness alone.

    Advice: "she crumples her "to-do" list to prove she really can be daring and impulsive." I just want a tiny bit more here. Why does she decide to change at this juncture? Is it that the adventure is so big, she finally has to stop saying 'no' to adventures?

    The first page is wonderful. The pacing is practically perfect and you give us a good idea of Maggie's personality in just a few short paragraphs! Only thing I would change is the word "examined" (re: her watch). Examined makes it sound like it takes a long time, but she's presumably already familiar with the watch and it's more likely she just glances at it to check the time, then pushes the button. This is a very small thing, of course. It just took me a little out of the story.

    I think it's great. I want to know why she's so compulsive about doing things within certain time limits, and I'd keep reading just for that -- not to mention the mystery/history angle.

    Good luck.

    Evonne Lack

  8. Fabulous query and first page, totally drew me in and I wanted to read more. The interview was even better--could see why Emily would write perfectly for MG, she gets how to make the oddities funny in a good way. Can't wait to see this published, hope it's soon.

  9. AHHHH JK Rowling is your hero?! Mine too! My blog is partially dedicated to her :) You are now my favorite :)

    Awesome query. I think I've seen it before; maybe with the Authoress? Only crit: you can combine the first three sentences to make it sound less clunky, like "...spontaneous, but she's not - especially...." Hope I helped :)

  10. Thanks for your kind comments and feedback. I really appreciate it. And thanks again to the marvelous Cupid for having me!!

  11. I don't know how I missed this! I know I'm a little late, but wanted to say that not only is Emily's story a ton of fun, but she is so super sweet. :)