Time for PitchWars 2018


My name is Emily Damron-Cox, and I’ll be submitting my middle-grade manuscript to Pitchwars this year.

What is PitchWars?

In August, scores of hopeful writers pitch their completed manuscripts to author-mentors who help prepare them for an agent showcase. PitchWars provides an incredibly supportive community for writers. To find out more go to: http://pitchwars.org/new-start-here/

What is #BoostMyBio?

Many of this year’s PitchWars mentors trawl Twitter feeds for potential mentees. #BoostMyBio provides them with a taste of the upcoming projects–and for the writers who created them.

Presenting (drumroll…)

boy in black v neck shirt with looking straight to the camera with a shocking face expression

Photo by Mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

 My Middle-Grade Fantasy, BROWNIES OF BROOKLYN

When 10-year-old Mac’s father is deployed overseas, Mac comes to live in Brownstone Brooklyn with relatives he’s never met. Here he discovers a whole world of magic, where mischievous sprites called Brownies exist, but so do terrifying demons that attach themselves to neighborhood bullies to assert their evil influence.

With Mac’s new friend’s father facing an unjust deportation, Mac, and his friends, Ali and Caity beg the Brownies to intervene. But even the Brownies’ help is not enough to save Mr. Kaouri. In this story of tolerance, friendship, and overcoming of obstacles, the three kids must learn to develop their magical powers so they can defeat the demons once and for all, and rescue Ali’s father before he’s sent back to his dangerous land.


At 74,000 words, BROWNIES OF BROOKLYN combines the magic of THE LOST HEIR by E.G. Foley with the intrigue and tone of K. Milford’s GREENGLASS HOUSE.

Writing Process

My greatest joy was watching a nine-year-old beta reader tear through an earlier draft of BROWNIES OF BROOKLYN in three sittings. Since then, I’ve worked with five skilled critique partners who have helped me hone plotting, character development, and overall craft.

After some great advice last fall, I cut a couple of subplots and 8,000 words from my story, but I need help determining how else to restructure. I’m passionate about getting this book into the hands of young readers, and I’d love to work with a mentor who believes in this project as much as I do.

About Me


At a recent march for immigrants’ rights

I studied children’s book writing and illustrating at Parsons School of Design and am a member of SCBWI. With my military upbringing and as a practicing psychotherapist in Brooklyn, the issues facing both military and immigrant families have always been close to my heart…and now more than ever.

Juicy tidbits: I love to cook, eat, swim, and bike ride (especially in the morning or at sunset after a long writing session). My critique partners and I go on retreat to Cape Cod every summer, where, yes, we cook, eat, swim, bike ride, write, (and also dish about politics).

My favorite way to unwind is to watch comedy videos with my artist husband. I’m convinced that laughter is the very best way to end the day!

The dog character in my book is loosely based on Mindy, the Best-Dog-in-the-World, who now watches over us from Sirius, the dog star.

Some Favorite Books

Catch You Later, Traitor (Avi)

Dogsbody (D. Wynne Jones)

Fish in a Tree (L. Mullaly Hunt)

Girl With the Red Balloon (K. Locke)

Greenglass House (K. Milford)

The Hate U Give (A. Thomas)

Holding Court (K. C. Held)

Howl’s Moving Castle (D. Wynne Jones)

The Incorrible Children of Ashton Place (M. Wood)

Last Bus to Wisdom (I. Doig)

The Lost Heir (E. G. Foley)

Love, Sugar, Magic: A Dash of Trouble (A. Meriano)

Moon Over Manifest (C. Vanderpool)

Mysterious Benedict Society (T. Lee Stewart)

The Penderwicks (J. Birdsall)

Some Fun Facts about Brownies

In Celtic traditions, Brownies were wee men who appeared at night to help with unfinished chores while weary households slept. But they were also found in other cultures under different names and in various forms. Brownies inhabited the same liminal spaces as elves, leprechauns, gnomes, fairies, and sprites. (I’ve always wanted help while I slept, haven’t you?)

In the late-1880’s, author-illustrator Palmer Cox popularized the Brownies and turned them into a multi-cultural, egalitarian band of helpful and mischievous sprites. Cox’s books were translated into a score of languages and distributed to children around the world.

In Cox’s books, Brownies often spoke in rhymes. As a published poet, I’ve continued this tradition. Here’s one example:

 As elementals, many say we’re mischievous and full of play,

 But if an injury befalls we’ll end our games in Brownie halls,

 And rush to save whoever needs by harnessing our fastest steeds:

Shank’s mare and seagulls, dog, or seal, so speedily, we’ll dose and heal.

Some Creepy Facts About Demons

In my book, demons are the natural enemies of Brownies. They appear as toothy land or sea animals, and sport leathery bat-like wings, which enable them to menace Mac and his friends from the skies. The demons’ aim is to create chaos in the world–they are the ones behind all the wars. And they work on susceptible people to overpower and oppresss others.

The demons’ language takes the form of creepy rhymes. Here’s a snippet:

Smattering, chattering, Brownie dear,

We’ll wipe your mug from ear to ear,

 Boil your toes in a kettle drum,

 Gnaw your bones when we are done.

Me As a Mentee

I’ve gone through many drafts of this book (about 1,000 and counting??) cutting out characters, subplots, filtering lines, dialogue tags, you name it! My writing group will attest to my dedication, and to my commitment to making this manuscript the best, most publishable book possible. I would love, love, love! to work with a PitchWars mentor to make this dream come true!

A Spoonful of Metaphor


20180214_154924.jpgAfter spending way too much time scrolling through social media, my mind closes down to metaphor to an alarming degree. Then, when I turn to my own poetry or prose, the same tired phrases and bedraggled clichés chase their tails around my head.

Is there any medicine for this modern malady besides unplugging all electronic devices and retreating into nature for months at a time?

Well…yes. I’ve discovered a powerful antidote: poetry. The very act of reading a poem–preferably out loud–throws open the windows of my mind. Curtains flutter at the window; imaginary landscapes draw into view; new ideas emerge and my creative self breathes again. Even my dreams contain more vivid and colorful imagery!


Some years back, I heard U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins—great master of metaphor and whimsy that he is—read at the National Arts Club in NYC. Years later, one of his lines still lodged in my brain:

“…when we have compared everything in the world to everything else in the world…”

Collins was referring to poetic metaphor, but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall the poem or remember its name.

Luckily, when I put that line into a search, Voilà! the entire poem popped up! Eagerly I read…

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night —
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky —

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks….

–From Billy Collins, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, 2007.

My favorite use of metaphor sneaks up on me unawares, when one thing is described using the language of another. Here’s an example from Collins’s poem, “Shadow.”

“…how tired I am of reading and writing,

tired of watching all the dull, horse-drawn sentences

as they plough through fields of paper.

“…tired of being dragged on a leash of words

By an author I can never look up and see…”

–From Billy Collins, The Art of Drowning, 1995.

How well I can relate to these sentiments. And yet, after spending a few minutes chewing over some juicy metaphors—where poems multiply like baby rabbits or proliferate like guppies, and prose writing is likened to trudging carriage horses or reluctant dogs—when next I put fingers to keyboard, my writing executes joyful cartwheels in the cool grass, and I join those ranks of poets and writers who strive to compare everything in the world to everything else in the world.



Scholes, R. (1969). Elements of Poetry, Oxford University Press: NY, London, Toronto.

For access to thousands of poems: https://allpoetry.com/


How you keep your own poetry and prose vibrant and fresh?

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment.

I’d love to know what you think!



Ghosts and Ghouls: Why this Brooklyn neighborhood goes crazy for Halloween



Every year, Park Slope goes nuts for Halloween. Residents decorate stoops and houses with pumpkins and ghosts, witches and ghouls–the half-dead and the haunted.

Thirty years ago, when I first moved to this neighborhood, I was struck by all the quirky, homespun Halloween decorations that sprang up like mushrooms in early October. My favorite decorations were always the ones that local residents dug out of their dark imaginations. Like Darth Vader draped over a gas lantern, its hollow eyes spookily glowing; and the handpainted tombstones in a front areaway announcing the death, resurrection, and final resting spot of its occupant.20171012_163817.jpg

This year, I thought some more about why Park Slope is so enamored of Halloween. To begin with, there’s the obvious presence of families and children, of artists, writers, and musicians; and the less obvious presence of Wiccans and clairvoyants and of longtime residents with memories stretching back generations. After living here long enough, I’ve heard tell of spirits that move among us. More sensitive neighbors have reported ghosts wandering bloodied and bandaged in Long Meadow, or staring ghoulishly at night from the top floor windows of Litchfield Villa.


A cursory internet research on “Ghosts of Park Slope” confirmed what I’d already suspected. The casualties of war–both the Battle of Brooklyn fought on this soil, and the Civil War, which left many families grief-stricken when young sons were lost–may well account for both the ghostly activity in Park Slope and for our enduring fascination with Halloween in this Brooklyn neighborhood.



How do you celebrate Halloween in your neighborhood?

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment.

I’d love to hear what you think.



Expect the Unexpected from Children’s Book Illustrator Tomi Ungerer



IMG_20150506_050515.jpgIn the 1970s, talented French illustrator, Tomi Ungerer was living in New York City. I still remember his brilliantly funny ad campaign for the Village Voice: Expect the Unexpected. Ungerer’s posters featured images like a stork delivering a baby to an elderly couple—the man was wheelchair-bound. Another showed a bare-chested man wading in the ocean and holding an open-mouthed fish that was about to swallow a yellow submarine.


Tomi Ungerer was born in Strasbourg, France, during World War II—a traumatic childhood, to be sure. I know this experience shaped Ungerer’s artistic images and sensibility. There’s an edge to many of his works—even his children’s books, like No Kiss for Mother, which is full of dark humor and pathos. Ungerer was also known for the public relations campaign he did for his native city, wherein, he produced scores of startling images like the famous Strasbourg Cathedral turned upside down to form the heel of a fashionable shoe!

A few years ago, I spent an exhilarating hour at the Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg, which, according to the website, opened in 2007 and houses 8,000 pieces of his work, including children’s books like Flix (cover art shown above), and Ungerer’s collection of antique mechanical children’s toys (below). IMG_20150506_050057.jpgThe museum, also known as Centre International de l’Illustration exhibits Ungerer’s erotic and semi-pornographic works like Kamasutra des Grenouilles (Frogs’ Kamasutra), as well as works by fellow illustrators Saul Steinberg, Ronald Searle, and André François.




While majoring in Illustration at Parsons School of Design, I was a great admirer of Tomi Ungerer’s expressive line, his bold palette, and daring sense of humor. Expect the Unexpected pretty much sums up Ungerer’s entire oeuvre, and his illustrations still make me laugh!

Do you have a favorite illustrator who has captivated you? I’d love to hear your comments.



This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind


The most breathtaking books are sometimes the hardest to review. Such a one is This House of Sky, Ivan Doig’s memoir of his growing up years in 1930-40s Montana. Few authors manage to sustain the pure language of poetry for over three hundred pages, but Doig does. In 1975, after spending half the day reworking the opening sentence of his manuscript, he confides in his journal:

“It would be magnificent to do the entire book with this slow care, writing it all as highly charged as poetry–but will I ever find the time?”

And highly charged his writing is, from first page to last. Here’s an excerpt from page one:

“The stream flees north through this secret and peopleless land until, under the fir-dark flanks of Hatfield Mountain, a bow of meadow makes the riffled water curl wide to the west. At this interruption, a low rumple of the mountain knolls itself up watchfully, and atop it, like a sentry box over the frontier between the sly creek and the prodding meadow, perches our single-room herding cabin.”

The sheer beauty of Doig’s writing swept me along in a broad river of words. It wouldn’t have mattered so much what he was writing about. The subject matter happened to be the lost world of Montana–the stark, primordial land, and those who worked it. Doig’s memoir featured his sheepherding, Scottish-American cowboy father who taught his son everything he needed to know to survive off that land. Most impressively, this unschooled, hardscrabble father encouraged his son to attend the University of Chicago and become a writer.

Steeped in the rich cadences of Montana ranch life, Doig succeeded in rendering his boyhood memories, manner of speaking, and cherished people into poetic language. And in this way, opened a window for us to a now vanished world.


What author has transported you to previously unimagined places through the use of rich, metaphorical language?

Please leave your comment below. I love to hear your thoughts.