Have you ever noticed that a lot of big, beautiful cookbooks are published during the holiday season, and then boom—right after New Year’s Day, we are inundated with diet books? In the publishing trade, January is a time for transformation, with plenty of self-help books to help you create a new persona.

In that spirit, we proudly present the Author Enablers’ Writers Challenge for the new year: Try writing something new and different. Don’t go easy on yourself; take a risk. For instance, if you write thrillers, how about a tear-jerker, feel-good romance? If you write for children, try your hand at an epic poem. Have fun, and let us know how it goes. We’ll be busy writing a textbook on quantum physics.

Dear Author Enablers,
I am an aspiring poet with some minor success being published in local magazines and poetry collections. My style is composed in traditional rhythm. I wonder if I am limiting my success by continuing on this same path. However, I am reluctant to abandon my style for the popular prose. Should I stay true to myself or adopt the free style of verse, changing my tune?
Susan Marie Davniero
Lindenhurst, New York

Our four cents: The wonderful thing about writing is that you can experiment with different approaches, styles and forms without anyone seeing your work until you are ready to show it.

Why not venture outside your comfort zone and see what happens? A mediocre poem is the worst possible outcome (in which case you can hit “delete”), but you might surprise yourself and come up with something spectacular. You’ll never know if you don’t give it a whirl.

Dear Author Enablers,
I have an idea that would involve interviewing many high school administrators and former students. The book is about how these people can influence a student’s life from both an academic and an athletic viewpoint.
What is the best way to approach them? My concern is that they will not respond because I do not have any “cred.” Do I send them a brief synopsis of the book to let them see how their comments will be used?
Kenn Olson

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

You’d be surprised how cooperative some people can be if you make your request professionally and courteously. Reporters have been doing this for years. Most people like to talk about what they do and everyone wants to be appreciated. Offering a synopsis is a fine idea. Be sure to have a trusted, skilled reader proofread your query letter before you send it.

Dear Author Enablers,
I have never made an attempt to write a full-length original novel before, but I’ve always believed I could with a plot that gripped me enough.
I finally have a plot, but the concepts are a little . . . sensational. I wonder if it’s wise to write a first novel that in no way could escape the Banned Book lists. Should I put it on hold until I’ve managed to write a well-received book before attempting to publish a work that examines sensitive topics like religion, sexuality and the way our society treats these topics?
Amberlee Garrison

Lindenwold, New Jersey

Write the book you want to write! Writing a novel is a lot of work, and if you aren’t passionate about your work, it’s unlikely anyone else will be. Many successful novels are sensational in the way you describe, and not all of them were written by established novelists.

It’s a good idea to find thoughtful, intelligent readers to give you feedback along the way. This might be a writing group, a teacher, an agent or a friend who p literature and will give you honest criticism. (From the sound of things, it probably shouldn’t be your mother.)

Questions about writing and publishing? Email them to Kathi and Sam. Please include your name and hometown. 

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