Today we announce the winers of the #manicpixel scavenger hunt and #CureFortheCommonUniverse cover reveal giveaway! And now here’s Christian…

Welcome back, scavengers! Glad you survived that crazy, pixelated city.

It would be exhaustive to list everything discovered on the CURE cover, so I’ll just name the top ten things I didn’t even know were on there (and a few that made me chuckle):

  1. “Six barber-pole swords”
  2. “A man reading a love letter written with invisible ink”
  3. “A lucha libre parade float falling in the street” alternately “Just the sweetest, fattest, blue-haired little baby chubbo that better end up on a t-shirt or I’m going to scream and cry at the same time. Scry? Cream? Hmmmm.”
  4. “A camouflage helicopter blasting David Bowie music (obviously)” alternately “the Quad City DJs copter blasting tunes to the neighborhood”
  5. “1/10 of a robo-squid”
  6. “The bottom of someone’s leg, wearing a purple-striped sock. This person must be a giant.”
  7. “Two happy green tripods talking about the upcoming presidential election (they’re both rooting for Trump).” alternately “A couple of gleeps having a sweet convo”
  8. “A rather muscular wrestler standing under a purple umbrella with his favorite child (everyone has a favorite).”
  9. “A potted succulent on a balcony.”
  10. “That yellow dog head is totally licking its own eyeball.” alternately “A dog-head sculpture. Maybe it’s a vehicle… If people ride in these, do they stick their heads out the window?”

And, of course, they can all by seen now, by you, in full, on the no-longer-pixelated CURE FOR THE COMMON UNIVERSE cover:

CURE Final Cover

Add on Goodreads.

Preorder on Amazon this weekend.

This eye candy of a book was pitched by John Cusick, bought by Simon & Schuster Teen, edited by Christian Trimmer, and designed by Greg Stadnyk with art by eboy. I feel obscenely lucky to work with such talented people and to have such a jaw-dropping luscious cover. I only hope the words inside live up to it.

As my friend Korey Hunt, who actually came up with the idea for a story about a video game rehab in the first place . . . MISCHIEF SCAVENGED.

But that’s not why you’re here.

You’re here to see if you won one of our five elite prizes, which, to remind you, look like this:

Prizes day 3 image

Ooh, look! The cover isn’t blacked out anymore!

Our five Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt winners are . . .

  1. Krys McCintyre
  2. Yamille Mendez
  3. Annette Weed
  4. Alicia Van Noy Call
  5. Tim Campbell

The Cotton Floozy will get stitching and Simon & Schuster will get printing and we’ll hopefully have your stuff out to you by December.

Thank you for hunting. I hope you enjoy the inside of the book as much as I enjoy the outside.

See you in June,

Christian McKay Heidicker

P.S! Thanks to all of the bloggers who participated: Christian Trimmer, John Cusick, Elana Johnson, Jennifer Bardsley, Valynne Maetani (friend and agent-getter), Brooke Lark (who designed my website and shot the prizes!), Carol Lynch Williams (who taught me a thing or eight about writing), and finally, Marie Davis Brian, The Cotton Floozy, who made the embroidery-posing-as-cross-stitch that elicited just as much drool as the cover, and whose company I misspelled several times throughout the blog because I’m not accustomed to using the word floozy.

Editor’s note: Both spellings (floozy and floosy) are acceptable, but there’s only one acceptable place to order top quality embroideries:

CURE FOR THE COMMON UNIVERSE Cover Reveal and Giveaway Starts Today!

Today the #CureForTheCommonUniverse Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt and Giveaway continues! Take it away Christian…



This is it, folks. This is your chance to easily win the CURE prize package:

Day 2 Central Image

An ARC of Cure for the Common Universe and an embroidery of ‘Nobody Puts Princess in a Castle’ from The Cotton Floozy!

Oo. Aah.

For a chance to win, just participate in the Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt.

Oh, look, here’s a pixel now!


What do you see?

Write down your findings from this and the other pixels at any or all of the other blogs (listed below) and email them to me at or message them to C.M. Heidicker on Facebook.

For every three things you send, I’ll put your name in the hat (or my jeans pocket) again and again and again, and then I’ll draw five names out of the hat (pocket) and send prize packages to those people.

Go! Get started! Win it! Win it all!

Valynne Maetani

Carol Lynch Williams

Elana Johnson

Christian Trimmer

John Cusick

Brooke Lark

Brooke Kelly

The Cotton Floosy

#cureforthecommonuniverse #manicpixel

(I hope you’ll take some time to explore the amazing blogs.)

(I also hope this means that more than just my mom will participate.)

Tune in tomorrow to find out if you’ve won!

Happy Scavenging!

Go check out the book on Goodreads!

Prepare to be cured June 2016.

CURE FOR THE COMMON UNIVERSE Cover Reveal and Scavenger Hunt!

Today client-extraordinaire and brilliant author Christian Heidicker takes over the blog for this awesome cover reveal scavenger hunt and giveaway. Take it away Christian…!

Blog Header Day 1

Hello, everyone. My name is Christian McKay Heidicker.


Whew. That’s a mouthful. Let’s try . . .


There. Better.

You may be asking yourself, where’s the cover? I came here to see a cover.

Okay, first, have I told you how nice your hair is looking today?

And second, the cover isn’t here.

CURE’s cover art is a little intense to take in all at once, so for everyone’s safety, I’ve divided it into nine pieces (er, pixels) and spread them across the internet.


To make a scavenger hunt, of course. What’s the use of a book about a kid going to video game rehab if there isn’t some gaming first?!

Also, this will be your chance to take in all of the juicy (potentially scandalous) details of the cover before it’s fully revealed.

The art is reminiscent of books like I Spy or Where’s Waldo, so this scavenger hunt will work just like that . . . except instead of finding a cats eye marble or some seemingly friendless chump in a red and white striped sweater, you’ll receive ACTUAL PRIZES.


Day 1 Central Image

Five lucky winners will receive a signed ARC (advanced reading copy) of CURE FOR THE COMMON UNIVERSE (cover obscured for obvious reasons) AND an embroidery of one of the phrases from the book, hand stitched by the extremely talented Cotton Floozy.


For every three things you discover hidden in the nine pixels and email to or message to C.M. Heidicker on Facebook, I’ll enter your name again . . . and again . . . and again. (There’s a lotta stuff on that cover.)


Subject: Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt

Dearest Christian,

I found:

  1. A puppy made of garlic cloves
  2. A bottomless bowl of undercooked breadsticks
  3. A Christmas tree wearing lipstick
  4. Amelia Earheart’s monocle
  5. A bottomless bowl of overcooked breadsticks
  6. A Who*

*(Objects not actually on cover, but no less interesting than what’s really on there.)


So, no, the cover is not here. But fear not! Tomorrow, I’ll be posting their whereabouts on this blog and at (You can also follow them with #cureforthecommonuniverse and #manicpixel.)

Tomorrow, the Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt begins!

In the meantime, go check out the book on Goodreads!

Again, the cover is exquisitely complex, and in my personal opinion, AMAZING. It was designed by Greg Stadnyk with art by eboy (that of Miley Cyrus fame).

Prepare to be cured, June 2016.

Three Muppet Songs For When You’re Feeling the Query Blues

Sometimes you need to go to your happy place. Mine is pretty much any Muppets movie ever. Here are a few Muppet songs for when you’re feeling the query blues…

Movin’ Right Along, “The Muppet Movie”

Highlight: I’m ready for the Big Time; is it ready for me?

You Can’t Take No For An Answer, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”

Highlight: You gotta hang on to your optimistic outlook
And keep possession of your positive state-of-mind.

Rainbow Connection, “The Muppet Movie”

Highlight: I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be

Congrats to Kat Helgeson on Her Debut Deal!

Huge congratulations to the wonderful Kat Helgeson on her debut young adult deal! From Publisher’s Weekly:

KatHelgesonAuthorPhotoCatherine Laudone at Simon & Schuster has acquired Kat Helgeson‘s young adult novel, Bidder’s Choice. The story follows two teens entangled in a cutthroat school tradition: a prom date auction. Publication is set for summer 2017; John Cusick of Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal for world rights.

BIDDER’S CHOICE is Kat’s first solo project. GENA/FINN, co-written with Hannah Moskowitz and told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts, is coming in Winter 2016 from Chronicle Books. Check it out on Goodreads, and find Kat on her website and twitter.

Happy Pub Day to A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD by Hannah Moskowitz!

History of Glitter and Blood cover

“One of the bravest, most well-crafted voices that I’ve read in a long, long time.”–Bookshelves of Doom, a Kirkus Reviews Blog

“This novel of friendship, love, and fighting for one’s beliefs should find a place among fans of the modern fairy story.”–Kirkus Reviews

“The author’s talent is evident as she ambitiously tackles complex themes of violence, sexual awakening, politics, and even infertility. A unique. reading experience.”–School Library Journal

“A very clever and inventive bit of storytelling. I’ve never seen such an extraordinary depiction of racism.”-Clare Doornbos, bookseller, DIESEL, a bookstore

“Am I Any Good?” Taking the Measure of Yourself as a Writer

Am I any good?

I get this question a lot. Mostly at conferences, in one-on-one critique sessions. It usually pops up late in the conversation, after I’ve discussed the writer’s sample pages and given my critiques. Then there’s a pause, and the aspiring author sitting across from me looks as if he’s about to make some awful confession, like the curtain of polite discourse is about to fall, and we’re going to get to the real, unvarnished and possibly painful truth.

“So, am I any good?”

There are subtle variations. Sometimes it’s “Is this any good?” or “Do you think I can get this published?” But even when the question seems to be about the pages in hand, I can tell the real question is:

“Me— am I any good at writing, a craft which defines my life and my hopes and anxieties? Am I any good at this thing, which is another way of asking: am I, as a human being, as a person, any good?”

And that’s a lot to ask a guy you’ve only known for ten minutes.

An important thing we writers often forget is this: We are not our writing, and we are not our manuscript. It’s so easy to take criticism personally, to hinge our egos and self-worth to 100,000 words eked out on the evenings and weekends while our families and jobs clamor for our attention. I’ve often heard the advice “You need to claim yourself as a writer. When people ask, say I am a writer.” Which is great, but perhaps the better thing to say is “I write.”

I write. I also play music. I cook. I watch too much television. I read. I dance (poorly). I spend time with my friends. I’m a literary agent—a job I love. I’m many things, which is what I remind myself when I’m not feeling too hot about my writing (which is often).

Remember too that you are not your manuscript. No one book or selection of pages can cast the final vote on whether you are a good writer. By my definition, a good writer keeps writing—and crummy manuscripts are part of that process.

I think where this question really comes from is the idea of talent. Sure I can hone my craft, I can work hard, but if I don’t have the talent— something kind of mystical and inborn— I’ll never make it. Yes, some people have an innate knack for telling a story or writing a pretty sentence. But in my experience, the relationship between talent and success is slim. It’s the hard-workers, the grinders, the folks who write a lot, then listen and take criticism and grow, that make it.

So when authors ask me “Am I any good?” I always respond with a question of my own.

“Do you want to keep writing?”

Some hear this question and then, slowly, smile—not for my benefit, but inwardly, to themselves. They’re anticipating their next productive day, their next great story, the bliss of meeting a new character.

Yes. These folks, I think, are good.


Just look at this gorgeous cover for Sharon Biggs Waller’s follow-up to A MAD WICKED FOLLY:



Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls’ father is a plant hunter, usually off adventuring through the jungles of China.

Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan fails to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid, meaning that he will be thrown into debtors’ prison and the girls will be sent to the orphanage or the poorhouse. Elodie’s father has one last chance to return to China, find the orchid, and save the family–and this time, thanks to an unforeseen twist of fate, Elodie is going with him. Elodie has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China.

But even if she can find the orchid, how can she find herself now that staid, responsible Elodie has seen how much the world has to offer?

You can pre-order THE FORBIDDEN ORCHID (which is coming from Viking this February) on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or check it out on Goodreads.

You can also find Sharon at her website, on Facebook, and on twitter.


Stuff like this really warms an agent’s heart. Here’s Hannah Moskowitz’s NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED on Buzzfeed’s MOST INFLUENTIAL LGBT BOOKS list…


Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.16.16 AM

In addition to the many lists featuring this book, including a starred review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Kirkus recently placed NOP on its list of “11 Books That Grab You From Page One,” — of which Hannah’s is one of only three y.a. titles featured!

Check out NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED on Goodreads and order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, andIndiebound. Find out more about Hannah’s award winning novels on her website.

A Pretty Much Foolproof, Never-Fail, Silver-Bullet Query Opening

Hello there.

A few days ago I posted about my move to Folio Literary, and what I’ll be seeking.

As I rev up the ol’ query inbox (which is already rumbling with submissions), I figured I’d take a moment to talk a bit about the query letter.

How— I mean, for serious, how on earth— does anyone write a query letter?

It seems so difficult. Not only are you trying to put your best foot forward and stand out from the dozens— no, HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS— of other queriers, you’ve got to summarize your manuscript (impossible), make it sound exciting (huh?), comp it to other titles (um), talk a bit about yourself (embarrassing), and keep it all under half-a-page (yeah okay no).

As if writing the book wasn’t hard enough in the first place.

A lot has been written on strategies for great query letters. There are templates and forms online, webinars, talks, and even whole conferences dedicated to the subtle art of the pitch. I myself have gabbed on for hours about this subject without taking a breath. So how best to break down all this information, to actually put it to use?

Where, John (you might be heard to ask), does one *start*?

Though there are many paths up the mountain, for the sake of expediency, allow me to offer a…

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.36.34 PM

Firstly, and I can’t stress this enough (and believe me I’ve tried)— open your query:

Dear [Actual Name of Agent],

That is, the name of the agent you are querying, spelled correctly, as opposed to…

Dear Agent,

Dear Sirs,

Dear Ms. Cusick,

Dear Mr. Quetip,

Or just…


…which makes me feel like I’m being pursued by a creditor.

Some agents prefer last names, others are less formal. Me, I don’t mind “Dear John,” despite the connotations of heartbreak. But it’s hard to go wrong with a Mr. or Ms. followed by the agent’s surname.

Next, I recommend following a little formula. Ready? Don’t panic because it kind of sounds like math.

Here it is:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.39.00 PM


Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.39.40 PM

So, X (your main character or protagonist) is Y (in the general place, time, circumstances of the protagonist’s every day life when the novel begins) until Z (the thing that makes the story a story happens).

Here are some examples.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.41.38 PM

Harry is the main character. At the beginning of the novel he’s a sad British boy (as opposed to an awkward pale girl or rambunctious mouse). That is, until Z: the thing that makes the story a story (and not just a boring portrait of a sad British boy’s life) happens.

Reading the above, I already have a sense of the genre, style, and even the market for the manuscript proposed, and the querier has only written a *single line*. Now, the writer has room to go into more detail, offer comp titles, and give a short bio. He or she has hooked me right out of the gate, without preamble. And if this first line sounds good, I’ll be much more interested to read whatever comes next.

Here are a few more examples:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.44.01 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.44.10 PM

Get the idea?

So, if you find yourself stuck with your query letter, try this formula.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.45.22 PM

If you know any other query tips or techniques, or of useful online resources for query letter templates, etc., please post them in the comments!