July/August 2024

The July/August cover of Poets & Writers Magazine, featuring Julia Phillips, a white woman with short brown hair and blue-green eyes. She is seated with her arms loosely crossed and wears a black watch on her left arm. Above her, the Poets & Writers is rendered in pale blue and to her left, headlines in the same pale blue and white font.

Our annual Literary Agents Issue explores what agents wish you knew, including straight talk from the experts on how to connect, what it takes to sell your book, and how fast they should be answering your e-mails; a profile of Julia Phillips, author of the novel Bear; our twenty-fourth annual roundup of the season’s best debut fiction; a special report on the closure of Small Press Distribution; tips for getting indie bookstores to say yes to your book event; a poet’s account of the writing life in Alaska; plus writing prompts, contest deadlines, and more. 


Hope and Terror: A Profile of Julia Phillips

by Renée H. Shea
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In her second novel, Bear, Julia Phillips takes inspiration from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale to tell the haunting story of two sisters who encounter a mysterious creature in the woods that forces them to confront an unexpected truth.

Gina María Balibrera is a Salvadoran American woman with light skin and dark curly hair. She wears a black dress with a large floral pattern and sits in a field of flowers.

First Fiction 2024

by Various

Laura van den Berg, Jessamine Chan, Akil Kumarasamy, Ayşegül Savaş, and Julie Buntin introduce the authors of this summer’s best debut fiction: ’Pemi Aguda, Jiaming Tang, Michael Deagler, Yasmin Zaher, and Gina María Balibrera.

What Agents Wish You Knew: Straight Talk From the Experts on How to Connect, What It Takes to Sell Your Book, and How Fast They Should Be Answering Your E-mails

I’ll Read What She’s Writing: Advice for Agent Speed Dating

by Jade Wong-Baxter
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Agent speed-dating sessions can often be sweat-slicked, stressful situations. A literary agent clarifies expectations from her perspective to help writers optimally navigate their limited time with each person they meet.

When It Happens to You: What to Do When an Agent Makes Contact

by Amy Bishop-Wycisk
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Getting fan mail from an agent is a great thing! An agent and writer share about the beginnings of their partnership and emphasize the importance of taking your time to find people who are in community with your work.

Fair Expectations: What Can a Writer Expect From Their Agent?

by Michelle Wildgen
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Writers understandably want an agent who can do it all and more—while that might not always be in the cards, you should feel justified seeking a trusted advocate who communicates clearly and shows respect to you and your work.

Persistence, Partnership, and Keeping the Faith: What Your Agent Wishes You Knew While You’re Out on Submission

by Brenda Ferber
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After years of work, the submission process is another nail-biting endeavor on the journey to publication. An award-winning author compiles agent advice to soothe anxious nerves and encourages writers to believe in their book-to-be.

News and Trends

The Practical Writer

Publishing Myths: “Agents Don’t Read Your E-mails”

by Kate McKean
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In our column debunking the myths of the publishing industry, a veteran agent breaks down her submissions workflow and assures writers that their queries are getting read—and with care—despite long response times.

Set Your Pitch Apart: Getting Indie Bookstores to Say Yes to Your Book Event

by Ronit Plank
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Event coordinators and bookstore owners are often inundated with pitches. An experienced author shares some best practices for getting through the noise to catch booksellers’ attention and see your book in the spaces you love.

Opening Our Pages: An Editor’s Journey to Publishing Incarcerated Writers

by Sonya Huber
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The editor in chief of Dogwood describes some of the ways the journal makes itself more accessible for incarcerated individuals, including fee waivers and a commitment to working through the complex prison mail system.

The Literary Life

The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write an angsty poem that utilizes sound and diction to guide readers toward the light, a short story that employs subheadings to provide an alternate perspective, or a series of short musings that riff on amusing fragments of language.

Why We Write: How Poetry and Prose Helped Deliver Me From a 241-Year Prison Sentence

by Bobby Bostic
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A formerly incarcerated writer reflects on the healing power of words and how writing sustained him during the twenty-seven years he served in prison for a crime he committed as a teenager.

The Waiting Seasons: One Poet’s Life in Alaska

by Annie Wenstrup
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From her home just outside of Fairbanks proper, a poet subverts mainstream Alaskan imagery to conjure the reality of her writing life, which includes a local waste transfer site, muddy shoulder seasons, and slow internet.