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Writing Right: The Blog

New Words, New Worlds

Have you ever stopped to wonder why words mean what they mean--and when they came into use? Take this word for example:

Hostile (adj.). Late 15c., from Middle French hostile: "of or belonging to an enemy" (15c.) or directly from Latin hostilis: "of an enemy, belonging to or characteristic of the enemy; inimical," from hostis: "enemy" (see guest (n.)). The noun meaning "hostile person" is recorded from 1838, American English, a word from the Indian wars. Related: Hostilely.

Interesting? Only if you're fascinated by the development of the English language. The study of how words evolved--usually from foreign words, sometimes from slang--is called etymology. Look up a word in Webster's Dictionary and you'll likely get very little of a word's parental background. Look up that same word in an etymological dictionary, and you'll see it all, from earliest usage right up to the present. Read More 
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Literary Agents: When To Submit

When is the best time to submit a proposal to a literary agent? Or is there a best time? I had been wondering for a while when I came across something from the agents of Bookends Literary Agency, who were recently asked which months they would consider good- versus bad-submission months.

Jessica Faust: I tend not to read any submissions in the month of August. This is the time of year when I take my break to recharge and read only published books. While you can certainly submit in August, it will likely sit in August and sit through the month of September when I’m focused on my clients and getting back in the swing. It’s October when I am likely to really sit down and get my reading in. The tough part about this question is when a good or bad time is depends not on the calendar, but on what is happening in my business. Lately, for example, I haven’t been reading as many submissions since I’ve been busy with my clients. I took on a few new people earlier in the year and have been focused on getting them into the hands of publishers. Next year, I could spend September and October desperately seeking new clients. So for me, submit whenever you want to submit and I appreciate your patience as you wait on my clients and other work. Read More 
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