First contact for serious inquiries only should be by .
Your email should describe a little bit about you and your aspirations, your writing history, what training you've had and books you've read related to writing, and what your current situation and needs are.
Then you and Barbara can agree on a plan of action, and she will provide you with additional contact information as necessary to submit a manuscript to her or receive by-phone mentoring.
Please see the Services page for more details about the types of help Barbara can offer and the cost involved.
In order for Barbara to give your manuscript her best attention and not be distracted by unnecessary flaws, manuscripts submitted to her need to meet the following requirements:
Complete story: Barbara usually requires her clients to send completed manuscripts only--at least solid first drafts--unless she's teaching a course and looking at homework assignments. That's because it's very hard to really analyze a story and judge its solidity and overall structure if it's incomplete. She also has to avoid getting burned out on a manuscript because if she reads pieces of it more than two or three times, she's usually not as sharp with it as she would be on the first fresh read.
Digital vs. hard copy: Barbara prefers hard copy mailed to her. She checks, and is sensitized to, everything--including format. So your submission needs a cover letter, a cover page, the pages properly formatted and numbered, the chapters started halfway down the page, etc., and viciously spellchecked and proofed (more on these below). Only then can the story shine through for her. Otherwise, she's distracted by whatever's wrong, and she's having to stop reading to correct it. On a case-by-base basis, Barbara will consider accepting manuscripts as digital rtf-formatted files sent via email.
Spellcheck: Even though spellcheck can't "read," so it won't catch homonym errors ("it's" incorrectly used for "its," for instance), its use is still essential. It's a good proofreading tool because it will force you to go through your entire manuscript and perhaps see it with new eyes for once.
Grammarcheck: Barbara advises authors to use great caution with this utility because it can't read context and is configured to key into certain words and phrasing patterns. Thus, its results can be totally nonsensical, erroneous and even damaging. Writers are generally cautioned to avoid passive voice and the "to be" and "to have" verb forms, but grammarcheck will flag as passive voice a perfectly acceptable passage because it can't tell the difference between a mistake and an author's deliberate use of this device to create a needed effect in the story. Writers need to learn enough about grammar that this kind of misdirection can be avoided. If grammarcheck tries to tell you to rewrite a sentence because it doesn't like the order of the words (as in passive voice), you decide if that order works better for you than what grammarcheck recommends. Grammarcheckers have a lot of flaws, but they CAN catch things you miss yourself (they can also end up causing you to add more mistakes, too, though, so it helps if you're pretty sharp in the grammar arena yourself).
Repetition search: Writers should use the Edit>Find command to search through their manuscripts for overused words. Relying on these same words over and over to convey action and other story details is the mark of an amateur.
Publishing-Ready: Barbara will quickly get burned out and frustrated if you send her a poorly formatted manuscript with typos, misspellings and repetitive wording in it. It's important to make your submission as publishing-ready as possible, as if you're sending to a publisher, unless you want to work with Barbara on two, three or even more drafts throughout a long revision process. Also, spelling errors, typos and awkward wording will only make Barbara work doubly hard and wear her down, while preventing her from enjoying the story. What she wants is to be able to concentrate on whether the story is strong, structured dramatically and satisfying to a reader. Her job, then, is to help you remove everything beyond what you can see yourself that interferes with this enjoyment and the novel's success.