Tracy C. Gold


7 Creative Gifts for Creative Writers

It is the season of shopping! Er…I mean, giving. If you’re looking for a gift for a writer in your life, or if you’re looking for a gift for yourself (coming from someone who absolutely fills her own stocking), I’ve got some great ideas for you. These ideas are focused on writers, but many of them apply to any creative.

Most creative fields are rife with self-doubt. I speak for myself and for many writers and artists when I say that we can feel a great sense of guilt when we take time to work on our craft instead of doing more pressing tasks. Most writers I know have nagging questions in the back of their minds: “Am I good enough?” “Should I really be spending time on doing this?”

Here’s the thing: having someone in your life who supports you as a writer or creative can make the difference between giving up and persevering. Giving someone support for their dreams is more meaningful than any gadget or soft sweater.

And I joke about filling my own stocking, but the truth is that someone’s gotta do it. No one else is going to buy me socks, hair ties, chapstick, and candy. I enjoy all of those things, so I do it for myself. So if no one else is giving you the gift of encouragement to pursue your dreams? Do it yourself.

So, while a post like this may seem commercial, there is a layer of meaning here about believing in your loved ones, and believing in yourself. You deserve it!

Ok, enough sappiness. On to the gifts.

Yes, my own classes on writing or a coaching session make great gifts…but I also have ideas that don’t cost a cent. Full disclosure, all Amazon links are affiliate links (help me fill that stocking?).

Here we go! 
1. The gift of time. Especially for parents like me, there is never enough time! Think about what you can take off someone’s plate (or what you can take off of your own plate) to give the gift of time to write. If you want to make this into a cute physical object, you can make an IOU gift card which is good for, say, one night a week of dishes or laundry duty if that’s normally their chore, or a few hours of watching the kids when it’s normally your spouse’s time (or a few hours of babysitting for a non-spouse loved one). If you’re trying to clear your own plate, is there something you can say no to that’s filling up a lot of your time? A chore you can let wait? A dinner you can order instead of make?

The key is to then use that free time to actually be creative, or to help your loved one do so. This is where having a physical object or card can be a helpful reminder. Personally, I make a calendar event to block out time for myself to write. 

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Writing a Brilliant First Page: Mini Virtual Class via JHU Odyssey

Looking to join a community of writers and get some feedback on your work? Join “Writing a Brilliant First Page,” my monthlong virtual course with the Johns Hopkins University Odyssey program. This is a “lifelong learning” class that is open to anyone, anywhere. This is a LIVE, highly interactive course that will be limited to 20 students. I will, however, record each class, so if you have to miss one, it’s no big deal.

The last class I taught with JHU Odyssey filled up, so register before all the spots are gone!

More details and registration information at this link!

Dates:April 6-27, 2021
Meets:Tu from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM EST, 4 sessions
Location:Online: Zoom
Instructor:Tracy C. Gold (me!)

“The first page of your novel, story, or memoir is key to capturing readers’ attention. In this class, students will analyze excellent first pages from published works of various genres and apply what they learn to their own work. Each student will have their first page critiqued by the class.”

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Poem in “Erase the Patriarchy!”

Erasure is a wonderfully cathartic literary form. Take an oppressive text, and just cut away the worst parts. Or highlight the worst parts so that all the mitigating fluff is cut away.

I’m thrilled to have a poem in the recently published “Erase the Patriarchy! An Anthology of Erasure Poetry” edited by Isobel O’Hare. My poem cuts away the lyrics of a Justin Timberlake song about a guy cat calling a girl until the girl’s voice shines through instead.

The poems featured in this beautiful book show many artistic and creative approaches to erasure poetry. I was wowed and inspired: feelings that are hard to come by given world events.

You can preorder the book on Amazon, below, or get it now directly from University of Hell Press.

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“Writing Your Novel” Class at Johns Hopkins Odyssey

Finally write that novel you’ve always been dreaming about, with support and guidance. I’m excited to teach “Writing Your Novel” via Johns Hopkins Odyssey on Monday nights starting 10/5. Odyssey is Hopkins’ continuing education program. Everyone can join in the class. We’ll do live discussions on Zoom every week and this will be a small, interactive group. I’m bummed it won’t be in person but the silver lining is you don’t have to be in Baltimore to join! We’ll cover different systems for plotting and outlining, what makes a good novel concept, and processes for drafting. If you keep up with the course schedule you’ll have a rough draft of most of a novel by the end (and you can also do NaNoWriMo alongside the course). Please spread the word if you know anyone who might be interested!

The link to register is here: https://aapnoncredit.jhu.edu/CourseStatus.awp?&course=21F91925301

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How to Write a Good Edit Letter for a Book (Plus a Template!)

Critiquing an entire book can be daunting. I remember how nervous I was about the first full novel I ever critiqued. I wanted so badly to get to the heart of the novel and help the author figure out how to make it better. Even now that I am a full-time freelance editor who has worked with many published authors, I still look for ways to improve my edit letters so that they are inspiring, kind, honest, and thorough, but not overwhelming. 

Recently, I’ve seen a few people ask on social media about how to write better critiques. I’m not saying I have a magic formula figured out, but I write a lot of edit letters, and I’ve developed a template and system so that I am not reinventing the wheel each time I write a letter. Of course, I customize these as needed, especially when I work on a memoir or non-fiction book instead of fiction.

Why should you trust me? Well, for one, my clients say they love me. You can read testimonials and reviews from them on Reedsy. For another, many of my clients have been traditionally published, I have my Masters of Fine Arts, and I worked for literary agent Carrie Pestritto, who is now my agent. I am always open and learning, though, and would love to see your comments about how you approach edit letters!

So, here is how I approach writing edit letters for my editing clients. 

The Emotional Angle
Before I get into the nitty gritty, a note about the emotion of writing edit letters. My end goal is not to show off how good I am at critiquing someone (see: Guy in Your MFA). My end goal is to inspire an author to improve their work. It’s hard to be inspired when you’re crying, so I always endeavor to make my edit letters positive. I’m not going to go too deeply into the emotional element because this would get even longer, but I loved this post from Michelle Hazen on the topic. In the explanation of my process and template, I’ll briefly touch on the ways that I make sure I am being positive and thoughtful. 

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Editing Client Book Launch: Gary Vikan’s “The Holy Shroud”

Congratulations to Gary Vikan for the launch of his book “The Holy Shroud: A Brilliant Hoax in the Time of the Black Death.” It was a joy to work with Gary on this book. Judging from my email history, I’ve been reading drafts of this book for Gary since 2016. The world of publishing is long and winding and it is just so exciting to finally hold this book in my hands. It’s published by Pegasus Books, and it’s a beauty, with an insert of color photography.

Four years, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg for Gary. He has been working on the research behind this book for decades as he has searched for a way to debunk one of the world’s biggest hoaxes.

If you like a good detective story, you’ll love this book about an art historian who digs into the centuries of corruption and greed that drove an intricate piece of art to become falsely famous for apparently being the Shroud that Jesus was buried in. Even though carbon dating has long proved this impossible, crowds of millions still flock to see the Shroud on display and claim that it is a true relic. The research Gary presents in this book shows not only when the Shroud was made, but how, and by whom. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t Jesus’s true burial shroud.

Gary is going to be doing a virtual launch event on Thursday, June 4th at 7 pm, with WYPR’s Tom Hall. The event will include a brief reading, Q&A with Tom, and audience Q&A. If you’d like to hear from Gary, please register by using the following link:


Gary is also happy to set up custom virtual events for organizations and book groups. He’s a funny, engaging speaker. You can contact him via his website.

*Book link is an affiliate link to Amazon, which means I’ll get a few cents if you buy it!

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Doing an Unworkshop at the Highlights Foundation

I am writing this from a comfy couch in my very last hour at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA (and posting it from home a few days later!). This is the second year that I’ve teamed up with a group of writing friends that I met via Pitch Wars to do an “unworkshop” at Highlights’ lovely facility in the mountains, and I wanted to share my experience for others interested in booking a stay.

You probably know Highlights from their wonderful magazines for children, but they also have a campus where they offer workshops for writers, work with groups to provide custom events, and offer “unworkshops” year-round for writers to make their own retreat weekend. In an unworkshop, writers come to campus whenever they want, and use their time however they want. Highlights provides delicious meals, which writers can eat while chatting with other unworkshoppers, or take back to their cabins to enjoy in solitude. The campus includes a beautiful barn with meeting rooms and a dining room, several one-writer cabins with private bathrooms, a farmhouse with five rooms and five bathrooms, and a lodge with a meeting room and several private bed/bathroom suites. Each room has a chair and desk for writing, plus bug spray and a flashlight!

When you arrive, there is no official check-in. You just find your name on your cabin/room and the key is in the door.

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2017 Pitch Wars Potential Mentee Bio: TURNED AWAY

I somewhat can’t believe that I am writing one of these again, but here I am: entering Pitch Wars with a shiny new YA manuscript for the third year in a row! I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015, chosen by the awesome Rachel Lynn Solomon, and in 2016, chosen by the awesome Diana Gallagher.

Why am I entering again if I was lucky enough to be chosen twice before, you may ask? Maybe I am tempting fate by seeking ANOTHER mentor as amazing as the first two, or fellow mentees as supportive, wonderful, and generally life-affirming as my friends from 2015 and 2016. Maybe I am a glutton, hoping for more of a good thing. Certainly, I love deadlines, structure, and constructive criticism. I’ll need a lot of help with this year’s book, as I’ve never written a full-length historical novel before, and whew, that’s tricky. Also, I’ve learned enough about this industry to know that the writers who succeed fight for every opportunity, even if it means their hearts could be broken by rejection. I’m not going to let this opportunity pass me by. Besides, I have a lot to give back to the Pitch Wars community, and would love to provide counsel and comfort to a new group of fellow mentees with my perspective from past years.

So here I am. Still unagented, though not for lack of hustle and revision. Still fighting. Ready to teach my battle techniques to the writers fighting alongside me, striking down the foes of rejection and self-doubt.

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Query and First Page Critique: YA Fantasy Dual POV

Earlier this month, I posted about giving a few critiques away in exchange for donations to charity.

This week, I have feedback for writer Ally Ovary, who generously donated to the White Helmets, a neutral organization rescuing Syrian civilians.

My line notes are in bold and brackets, and I have overall thoughts below.

Dear Agent:

A princess controlled by an evil shadow and the thief she sentenced to death become unlikely allies when they try to uncover the truth about one murder and prevent another.

I am seeking representation for my young adult fantasy novel, CURSED STARS, complete at 101,000 words. [I love this query format, which lets us know what to expect in the rest! 101,000 words is at the upper limit for YA fantasy, but not a red flag. The title seems a tad familiar (star-crossed lovers?). A more specific title could be better, but it also sounds intriguing, so I’m ambivalent about it without knowing more about the book.]

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Pitch Wars Interview with Lana Pattinson and Her Mentor, Marty Mayberry

We have an abundance of wonderful Pitch Wars mentees this year, and I volunteered to host interviews for a few mentees who didn’t get on Brenda Drake’s site before the glorious agent round began. Enjoy learning about these awesome teams!

This post includes…

Mentee Lana Pattinson

Lana Pattinson






Twitter & Website 

Mentor Marty Mayberry

Marty Mayberry







Lana, why did you choose your mentor? 

There were such great mentors to choose from this year! But I knew I had to submit to Marty right away. She’d mentored the year before, so she already knew the time involvement needed. She seemed like she’d be a firm but low-key mentor, which is what I needed. And finally, when she professed her love for kilts, I was IN.

And Marty has been super easy to work with. She’s a machine, such a fast worker it makes my head spin. She has amped the romance to a capital R in my manuscript, and for that I’m thankful. And mostly, I’m thankful that she believed in this manuscript and encouraged me to get my revisions done.

Marty, why did you choose Lana as your mentee? Read the rest of this entry »

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