Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

How Your Writing Community Fertilizes Your Writing by Dana VanderLugt and Enemies in the Orchard Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Dana VanderLugt to share about her MG historical novel in verse, Enemies in the Orchard. It sounds like a fascinating WWII story and I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Set against the backdrop of WWII, this achingly beautiful middle grade novel in verse based on American history presents the dual perspectives of Claire, a Midwestern girl who longs for college even as she worries for her soldier brother, and Karl, a German POW who’s processing the war as he works on Claire’s family farm. This poignant and moving story of an unlikely connection will stay with readers long after the final page.

It’s October 1944, and while Claire’s older brother, Danny, is off fighting in World War II, her dad hires a group of German POWs to help with the apple harvest on their farm. Claire wants nothing to do with the enemies in the orchard, until she begins to notice soft-spoken, hardworking Karl. Could she really have something in common with a German soldier?

Karl, meanwhile, grapples with his role in the war as he realizes how many lies Hitler’s regime has spread. But his encounters with Claire—the serious girl with gentle eyes—give him hope that he can change and become the person he wants to be.

Inspired by the little-known history of POW labor camps in the United States, this lyrical verse novel is told in alternating first-person poems by two young people on opposite sides of the war. Against a vivid backdrop of home front tensions and daily life, intimate entries reveal Claire’s and Karl's hopes and struggles, and their growing attraction to each other even as the war rages on. What are their chances of connection, of redemption, of peace?


Before I get to Mackenzie’s guest post, I have my IWSG post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts this month are:  C. Lee McKenzie, JQ Rose, Jennifer Lane, and Jacqui Murray!

Optional Question: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book reviews do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?

I write reviews to support authors but write them for readers. I only review books I like because I don’t want to be unsupportive of authors. I don’t have time to write lengthy reviews. I only write a few sentences highlighting what I liked about the book. Sometimes I just rate them.

I have good news to share. In November, I reached 10 million page views. I'm really happy that so many followers are visiting Literary Rambles even if fewer people are stopping by and commenting on blog posts. I'm very grateful that so many people hopefully find Literary Rambles a helpful resource in their writing journey and to discover and support authors.

Follower News


I’m including Follower News in my IWSG post today. C. Lee McKenzie has a new YA release, Rattlesnake. Here’s a blurb: The desert town of Rattlesnake isn’t a destination. It’s a last resort. When Jonah's sure nothing can become worse, he discovers Catherine who’s been dead for over a hundred year. Now, she needs his help. And here are a few links: Website and Amazon

Now here’s Dana!

How Your Writing Community Fertilizes Your Writing

In 2018, I made the leap and began a low-residency writing program. During my first weekend of my first residency, I remember sitting around a table to introduce myself to other new students. We were asked to share a bit about our backgrounds and what had brought us there. Ranging from 20-something to 70-something, we had a diverse set of stories, experiences, and goals. But the one unifying characteristic was that each of us was committed to taking our writing lives more seriously. One person made a joke that she was willing to pay a lot of money to make someone do what she sometimes wanted to do and sometimes really wanted to avoid: write.

I understood this. I was a middle-school teacher and mom to three kids ages 12 and under. Part of the reason I entered a writing program was for its accountability. I deeply desired to write a book, but I knew that was less likely to happen under conditions that were self-imposed and based solely on my own willpower. I knew the burden of deadlines, something that many people are glad to leave behind when they finish school, were just what I needed again.

I completed a manuscript while in my MFA program, which became my novel, Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel in Verse, that was published this fall. The enormous gift of mentorship and accountability that allowed me to make my writing a priority is not something I take for granted. And while I learned much in my MFA program about craft and technique, perhaps the bigger gift I was given was the relationships that apprenticed me in how to make writing a life rhythm. While the act of writing is often a solitary practice, words blossom and grow with the fertilizer of a community who provides encouragement, accountability, and necessary nudging.

I have a friend who started as a classmate—we now call each other writing soulmates—who meets me at my computer, via email, every morning. Because of the pandemic, we spent only two residencies together in person. We haven’t seen each other in person for more than four years, and yet we’ve walked together through early drafts, revisions, rejections, and the ups and downs of publishing. We also have journeyed through two cancer diagnoses, job changes, grief, and joy. We applaud each other’s messy drafts, are overly dramatic about the injustices of our setbacks, and exuberantly joyful at each other’s successes. She has earned the right to give me advice and to nag me when I’m procrastinating.

Students often ask me for writing advice, and I tell them to find others who like to write and share their work. But I know this is not simple. Pursuing relationships with other writers, joining writing groups, and being vulnerable enough to show up for workshops is not easy. Finding just the right partner whose life and writing style fits well enough to provide a symbiotic relationship involves equal parts coincidence and grace.

 In Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro writes about having a tribe. “I’ve never really understood competition and envy among writers,” she says. “We are competing with ourselves—not each other…We realize that we are part of the same species and that we need one another to survive. Though we write our books alone, ultimately everything we do involves some collaboration. Every good book you’ll ever read has the thumbprints of other writers all over it.”

When I stand in front of audiences to talk about my process or read excerpts, I’m aware of all the thumbprints on my work. I see the purple pen of my mentor who prodded me to delete every unnecessary word. I see the exclamation-mark laded email of my writing soulmate after I worked up the confidence to write a scene I was avoiding. I see the pages and pages of research provided by my go-to historian. I feel the prodding of my editor whose wise questions pushed me just a bit further with character development. And I remember my dad’s voice, whose family stories planted the novel’s earliest seeds.

I call my school presentations “From Seed to Story,” and talk to students about the way a story idea is like an apple seed that is planted, which given time, attention, and pruning, can eventually grow into a tree that produces a harvest.

My dad, the apple farmer, uses fertilizer. He tells people that if he didn’t, they wouldn’t want to eat, or even look at, the apples he’d produce. My community, all those whose thumbprints I see all over my new novel, are my fertilizers. Without them, there would be no harvest.

Thanks for sharing your advice, Dana. You can find Dana at:

Dana’s website: https://danavanderlugt.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danavanderlugt/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danavanderlugtwriter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danavanderlugt

Giveaway Details

Dana is generously offering a hardback of Enemies in the Orchard for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 16th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Dana on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Tomorrow I'm participating in the Let It Snow Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 11th I have an agent spotlight interview with Ashley Reisinger and a query critique giveaway

Saturday, December 16th I’m participating in the Dashing December Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 20th I have an interview with author Joanne Rossmassler Fritz and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Ruptured

Monday, January 1st I’m participating in the New Year New You Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, January 3rd I have an interview with debut author Mary Averling and a giveaway of her MG fantasy The Curse of Eelgrass Bog and my IWSG post

Monday, January 8th I have an agent spotlight interview with Leah Moss and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like the idea of our influences being thumbprints. :) Congratulations to Dana!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations on ten million views! And big congratulations to Lee and Dana.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Wow on all those page views! Congratulations! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful Dana has such a good writing partner.

Congrats on the pageviews, Natalie.

Pat Garcia said...

You have just convinced me to purchase and read Dani Shapiro's book, STILL WRITING ...THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF A CREATIVE LIFE.
I too believe that every good book has the footprints of some good
authors on it. If not, then why should a writer read another author's books.
Merry Christmas and a happy crossover into 2024.
Shalom shalom

Cathrina Constantine said...


I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie, congratulations on your page views! That's awesome!
Congratulations to Dana on her novel in verse, too. I think the writing community is a source of good fertilizer and I'm glad I have found a tribe.

Kate Larkindale said...

Wow! That's a lot of page views! Congrats!

Melissa said...

Both books sound very interesting! Best wishes to Dana & Lee!

Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

diedre Knight said...

Hi Natalie!

Like you, I often simply rate a book (never under 4 stars) because some applications want me to practically write a book in the review section ;-)

Congratulations to Dana! Enemies in the Orchard sounds good.

And Woo hoo! Look at you and 10 million page views! That's awesome.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Loni Townsend said...

Congrats on all the views!

"I only review books I like because I don’t want to be unsupportive of authors." - I totally adhere to this too! Nice to know there are supportive people out there.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I love what Dana has to say about community. I know I'd never have become the writer I am today without my writing friends, almost all of whom are virtual (I think I've met only Jemima Pett in person, and that was after years of sharing our writing and critiquing each others' work). The IWSG has been an important way for me to connect with other writers.

As for reviews--I love what you say about writing them for readers, but to support writers.

cleemckenzie said...

Congratulations to Dana and to you on your successful blog! Hurray.

Liz A. said...

Having other writers to work with is so important. We can so easily get stuck in our own heads, and it's nice to have other perspectives, especially when we get too close to our own work.

Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats to Dana - sounds like a powerful story!
I don't write long review either - but I like to share what I enjoyed :)

Olga Godim said...

@Natalie: Ten million page views- wow! Quite a milestone! Congrats.
@Dana: A novel in verse is a demanding literary form. And I adore your book cover. It is amazing: emotional, atmospheric, and subtle.

emaginette said...

Congrats on your success. I'm so proud of you. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Pat Hatt said...

Congrats on all the views.

Thar is great when you can find someone who gets it and even if you don't see them in real life it's like they are there.

Danielle H. said...

I've had this novel on my wish list since I first read about it--I love historical fiction and NIV. Thank you for the interview today and chance to win a copy of this exciting book. I shared this post on Twitter, Facebook, and tumblr. I follow both Natalie and the author on Twitter and Instagram.

Computer Tutor said...

Your response to this question--"write reviews to support authors but write them for readers"--couldn't be more perfect. Isn't that what reviews should be?

Fundy Blue said...

Congratulations, Natalie! 10 million views ~ That's an accomplishment! Good luck with your new book, Dana. I enjoyed your piece on writing communities.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Enemies in the Orchard has a lovely cover.

Reviews definitely support authors. Even ratings help.
Congrats on your 10 mil page views. Impressive!

Carol Baldwin said...

I will share on FB and Twitter. I'd love to read this book. Thanks!

traveler said...

A captivating and treasure of a novel which would be greatly enjoyed and appreciated. Congratulations! saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Ten million views? Congratulations!!!

Dana's article is great. This is why you have 10 million views. You're working hard.


Samantha Bryant said...

Congrats on that milestone of viewers! @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

@melissa_trempe said...

A writing soulmate - I just love that you have eachother! What a wonderful story and interview. Thank you for sharing!

Greg Pattridge said...

Fantastic advice from Dana. I wish her much success on Enemies in the Orchard but let someone else win who doesn't have stacks of books waiting to be read. I will though add this title to my future read list.

Diane Burton said...

I like your attitude towards reviews—not giving negative comments or reviews. Me, too.

Jennifer Lane said...

Wow, congratulations on ten million views--quite an incomprehensible number. I like the concept of writing reviews to support authors but writing them for readers.

Valinora Troy said...

Congratulations on reaching 10 million views, Natalie! That is amazing!!! I always try to write as positive a review as I can. It's rare I would leave a negative review, mostly because if I disliked a book, I probably wouldn't finish it!

Donna said...

Congratulations Natalie![I am a follower.] Wonderful interview and great advice, Dana. I always love a story that weaves an historical fact that is virtually unknown to many...german POW's in the US is one perfect subject. It's also interesting that the prisoner in the story is from the same town as my mother, Ulm. Small world, isn't it?

tetewa said...

Congratulations on your success, enjoyed the post today. Sounds like an interesting read! tWarner419@aol.com

Donna K. Weaver said...

I agree with your reviewing philosophy. I like most books, but if one doesn't really work for me I don't review it.

Rosi said...

Congrats on your milestone. This sounds like a book I will enjoy. Thanks for the chance.

Tonja Drecker said...

Interesting to read after hitting the book. Thanks for giving me a heads-up on this, Natalie.