Annelies Cowan. Letter of a Fallen Female War Hero. Grade 11, Age 16. 2012 Silver Medal, Mixed Media.

Zara Asked:

Do you have any advice for a young aspiring author who is looking at agents and publishing houses to query. How can I narrow down the search and what makes a good query letter? Thanks!

Ned Answered:

Zara, If you’re looking for agents and publishers, get Writer’s Market. It’s a book — I suppose you could get an e-version but it’s the sort of book you want to circle things in and write notes in — that lists all of the agents and publishers in the business. From small independent houses to big-name representatives, if they work in books, they’re in Writer’s Market.

Remember when you use Writer’s Market to be targeted. Specificity is important in publishing. Read More

DJ Cleavinger. Multiple Personalities. Grade 7, Age 12. 2012 Gold Medal, Mixed Media.

Sarah Asks:

Dear Ned,

Do you ever have a problem with rediscovering your character’s voice after taking a break from a piece of work and then picking it back up again later? It’s not the same and I don’t really know why. It’s the same character and the same events are occurring, but when people read it they notice a difference that I didn’t pick up on while writing. Does it just take practice or is it like losing your own voice? What I mean is will it come back with time or do you just need to keep rewriting until you find it again?

Ned Responds:


I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you are writing a book, and you take a break from it, and you come back, and the characters don’t make sense, you have a deep character issue in the book and it may be fatal. Read More

Tori Jackson. Newspapers. Grade 12, Age 17. 2011 Gold Medal, Painting.

This month, Ned Vizzini explains how to get your writing out in the world and begin developing a professional identity.


Siaree Asked:

I read in April 2011’s Ask A Writer (Getting Your First Story Published) that when you were in high school you wrote short pieces for the New York Press. I have been looking for a newspaper that publishes high school student work. If you could give me some advice on how to make this happen, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

Read More

Tyler Paige. Characters Stereotyped With Typefaces. Grade 12, Age 18. 2011 American Visions Medal, Design.

In this month’s Ask Ned, Ned explains how to write dialogue for a screenplay.

Bruce Asked:

I started my first screenplay and I seem to be stuck on a problem with it. After writing a scene, I reread it and the dialogue sounds flat and artificial. How do you write dialogue that is natural and conversational? Thanks.

Ned Answered:

There are different considerations when you’re writing dialogue for prose or screen. In a book (or short story), you have more of a chance to do “natural and conversational” dialogue. You can have characters say, “Hey.” “Hey.” “Yeah. So… what’s up?” “I dunno… I’m good.” There’s room for that kind of realism and readers can even be charmed by it.

But in a movie, it’s a no-no. Movies don’t have “natural and conversational” dialogue. Read More

Carolyn Kettig. Zeus. Grade 10, Age 15. 2011 Gold Medal, Photography.

In this month’s Ask Ned, Ned explains how to bring a story to life on film or television.

Reyna Asked:

I’ve always written short stories with the hope of bringing them to life in an actual television series or making a movie based on my work. Do you have any advice or insight for a writer who wants to see their work on the screen?

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Madison Koczo. Mannequins. Grade 11, Age 16. 2011 Gold Medal, Mixed Media.

In this month’s Ask Ned, Ned explains how to handle self-doubt and negative criticism.

Maddie Asked:

I’m 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Reading and writing have made a tremendous impact on my life, so much that I want to become an author and possibly an editor for a publishing company. Recently my teachers have been complaining about my writing skills. Normally I take criticism very well, but it’s just a little disheartening when you build yourself up just so someone can bring you down. Do you ever feel disheartened or have doubts about your writing skills?

Read More