Neva Bryan

Guild friend and award-winning author Neva Bryan has helpful insight on various topics. She has sent me her latest newsletter, which I am pleased to post for your information.

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Neva's Newsletter
Welcome to Issue #2 

Hi! This is Neva Bryan, author of Sawmill Boys and St. Peter’s Monsters. Thanks for your support!

In this issue you’ll discover when to use began and when to use begun. We’ll also learn the secret of successful query letters.

If you enjoy this newsletter, I hope you’ll pass it along to a friend. There’s a button at the bottom to help you do that.

I am available for readings. I lead workshops (memoir, poetry, short fiction) and review manuscripts.

Happy reading and writing.


The Secret of Successful Query Letters

The writer sends a query to an editor or an agent to determine his or her interest in reading a completed manuscript. The query letter is designed to attract attention. When it is done well, the reader will ask you to send the entire manuscript and supporting documentation.

Often editors and agents will list specific guidelines for query letters on the company’s website. If they do, read the rules carefully and abide by them.  

The query letter should be succinct and gimmick-free. This single-page letter has three components. 

Component 1 — A first paragraph that hooks the reader. This one worked for me: “Wren Johnson is a young artist on the run. Orphaned when her father dies in a coal-mining accident, then tormented by her adoptive father, she flees the Appalachian hills she loves for the eastern shore of Virginia.” 

Component 2 — A second paragraph that provides main plot points and notes the length, title, and genre of the work. “When the man she fears finds her, she escapes to the Blue Ridge Mountains, crossing paths with Peter Sullivan. A homesick architecture student teetering on the edge of alcoholism, Peter grew up in the same hills that Wren fled. As he unearths her buried past, they are linked together in a chain of love, tragedy, and murder . . . a chain that binds them when they find themselves back in the coalfields. St. Peter’s Monsters is a 91,000-word novel of romantic suspense.” 

Component 3 — A third paragraph that offers a short blurb about your writing credentials. For example, you might say “My poems and short stories appear in Whatever Magazine and Whichever Journal.  Such and such contests have recognized my work, including blah, blah, blah.  I have studied with novelists Famous Author 1 and Famous Author 2.” 

End the letter with a call to action: “May I send you a copy of the manuscript?” Don’t forget to thank the reader. 

Writing a strong query letter is the best way to get your foot in the publishing door. Good luck!

Have You Begun the Beguine?

“We suddenly know what heaven we’re in when they begin the beguine.” 

I can’t resist sharing an excerpt from Cole Porter’s famous song “Begin the Beguine.”  A reader of this newsletter asked me to address the proper use of begin, began, and begun. That alliteration brought to mind Porter’s lyrics. 

Begin is present tense. I begin writing at dawn each day. That’s simple enough. 

It’s the next two pesky words that give us trouble. 

Began is simple past tense of begin. You can use it by itself. It doesn’t need a helping (auxiliary) verb. I began my first novel in 2005. 

Begun is a participle, which means it needs a helping verb in front of it. Has, have, and had are great little helpers. I have begun this newsletter to help other writers. She has begun to improve her grammar. He had begun to write with more confidence. 

If you use had or have or another helping verb, you MUST use begun, not began

INCORRECT – Have you began reading Sawmill Boys

CORRECT – Have you begun reading Sawmill Boys

INCORRECT – My workshop had began at noon. 

CORRECT – My workshop had begun at noon. 

INCORRECT – The book signing has not began yet. 

CORRECT – The book signing has not begun yet. 


Appalachian Heritage Writers Conference, Southwest Virginia Community College, Richlands, VA, June 19.

Arts & Crafts Show, Breaks Interstate Park, Breaks, VA, June 25-26.

Virginia Highlands Festival, Abingdon, VA, July 24, July 31, August 7.

Malaprop’s Bookstore, Asheville, NC, September 5.


St. Peter’s Monsters and Sawmill Boys are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Powell’s. You’ll find my books at many fine booksellers and retailers such as Clinch Mountain Arts and Crafts, Appalachian Arts Center, Crab Orchard Museum, Books Etc, Floyd Country Store, Family Drug Store, Coffee Buy the Book, Coffee Depot, Binding Time Cafe, Tales of the Lonesome Pine Bookstore, Malaprop’s, Sundial Books, Diana’s Bookstore, Capo’s Music Store, and Joseph Beth. If your local store doesn’t carry one of my books, ask the bookseller to order them. 

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Copyright (C) 2010. Neva Bryan/Brighid Editions. All rights reserved.
Neva’s Newsletter.
3820 Bull Hill Road
Saint Paul, VA 24283 

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