Friday, November 16, 2018

Pitch letter sample

Here's a 'pitch' letter I wrote to Harper's, the place I'd most like to write for. Alas. The big boo-boo was maybe the "re: nonfiction query" since it's a pitch. A query is for a longer piece, to a lit agent or publisher. I did actually write an essay, here, which ended up at Comics Bulletin. For free. Where I was already writing reviews. For free. I never heard from Harper's at all. Still, I think it's a decent pitch. This was a hard copy letter, and I included a list of my previous publications, or some. Which I would not do now. You can find them all at my website:

john yohe
portland, or 97210
March 20, 2014

Harper’s Magazine
666 Broadway, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10012

re: nonfiction query

I nod hello to Spider Man, but he's distracted by the third Catwoman of the day walking by in a tight black body suit. I'm on my way to the Feminism in Comics program—t was that or Metaphysics in Comics—but I may be late, because getting through the mob of superheroes is proving difficult, especially with a life-size Totoro taking up the aisle. Except, it's a Bat Totoro: he has a bat utility belt and what must be a bat cowl.

This is the world of ComiCons: Comic Conventions, where the freaks come out to meet their favorite comic book writers and illustrators, or to see and obtain autographs from the newest tv movie stars. Or to just engage in what is called 'cosplay'—costume play. In the meantime in the main convention hall there are booths galore, from indie comic publishing companies like Dark Horse, to local comic book stores selling new and used single-issues, compilations, and graphic novels. There are also panels galore, on anything from how to break into the comics industry, to the unique problems gaming couples experience and work through.

I will be attending the Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle at the end of March, and propose writing an ethnographic-type essay, 3,000-6,000 words about this sub-pop-culture phenomenon. My main question will be, Why? What makes these ComiCons so popular, especially since many of the participants may not even read comics.

John Yohe holds a MA in Written Communication, and a MFA in Poetry Writing. He is a regular reviewer at the website Comics Bulletin. Recent published nonfiction pieces on pop culture include “The Many Faces of Red Sonja” and “Slayer! : An Essay in Thirteen Parts.” A partial list of published works is included. Please see his website,, for a complete list, with links.

John Yohe

John Yohe: Published writing

Creative Non-Fiction:

"Holy Water." Scheduled to appear in the anthology On Foot: Essays on hiking in the Grand Canyon. Vishnu Press. Flagstaff: 2014.

“Slayer! : An Essay in 13 Parts.” SLOW TRAINS. March 2013.

“Puerto Rico in the Late 60s.” SALT RIVER REVIEW. October 2010.

“Barefoot Running Allowed Me To Run Again.” BAREFOOT RUNNING SOCIETY WEBSITE. July 2010.

“Academic” WRITING ON THE EDGE. Volume 19 #2 Spring 2009. UC Davis. Davis, CA. 2009.

Book Reviews:

“Dynamite’s Many Faces of Red Sonja.” COMICS BULLETIN. February 2014.

“What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned by Sherman Alexie: A Review.” WORD RIOT.  February 2014.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 “Sanctuary.” COMICS BULLETIN. February 2014.

Wonder Woman Volume 4: War. COMICS BULLETIN. February 2014.

The Black Beetle: No Way Out. COMICS BULLETIN. January 2014.

Lazarus Book 1: Family. COMICS BULLETIN. January 2014.

Bandette Volume 1: Presto!  COMICS BULLETIN. January 2014.

X Volume 1: Big Bad. COMICS BULLETIN. December 2013.

“The Day of the Triffids by David Wyndham.” WORD RIOT. December 2013.

“Who Will Save Red Sonja? Enter Gail Simone.” COMICS BULLETIN. December 2013.

“Ten Thousand Voices by Rick Kempa.” RATTLE. Summer 2013.

“Keeping The Quiet by Rick Kempa.” BOXCAR POETRY REVIEW Spring 2011.

“The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg: a narrative poem by Edward Sanders: A Review.” CLOCKWISE CAT. Issue #18 Summer 2010.

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell: A Review.” Issue #7 February 2010.

The Great Fires by Jack Gilbert: A Book Review” RATTLE #23. Fall 2005.


“Ready Or Not.” WRITING ON THE EDGE Volume 20 #2 Spring 2010. UC Davis. Davis, CA.

“What Works For Me: Using Six Word Memoirs As Icebreaker and Intro To The Writing Process.” TEACHING ENGLISH IN THE TWO-YEAR COLLEGE. The National Council of Teachers of English. Spring 2010.

“Academic.” WRITING ON THE EDGE Volume 19 #2 Spring 2009. UC Davis. Davis, CA. Winter/Spring 2009.


"Brainstorm." Flash fiction at SMASHED CAT. Scheduled for January 2014.

“The Jacket.” FAT CITY REVIEW. June 2013.

"Humiliation." BLACK HEART MAGAZINE. June 2013.

“La Chingada.” SOL: English Writing in Mexico. scheduled for July 2013. Mexico City, Mexico.

"Umbrellas." AMARILLO BAY Volume 14, number 4. November 2012.

“María José.” SOL: English Writing in Mexico: SOL Literary Magazine Anthology, edited by Eva Hunter. 2012: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. (Originally appeared in SOL: English Writing in Mexico. July 2011. Mexico City, Mexico.

“Horses.” SUBTLE TEA. Winter 2011.

“Riding Dragons.” SLOW TRAINS. Volume 10, Issue 1, 2010.

“A Northern Michigan Myth.” HURON RIVER REVIEW #9. Ann Arbor, MI. Spring 2010.

 “Masquerade” CELLARROOTS. Eastern Michigan University. Ypsilanti, MI. Winter 2008.

“Water” LEFT CURVE Literary Journal Oakland, CA. Spring 2006.

“Piñata” RIVERSEDGE Literary Magazine Winter 2006.

“Punta Concepción” BRIDGE Literary Magazine, issue 13, spring 2005 Chicago, IL.

“They’re For My Husband” BEST AMERICAN EROTICA OF 2004, ed. Suzie Bright, Touchstone Books, Simon and Shuster Publishing.

“What You Are” short story: LEFT CURVE Literary Journal. Oakland, CA. 2003.

“They’re For My Husband” LEG SHOW. May 2002. New York, NY.

“Violent Sex” RATTAPALLAX. New York, NY. 2002.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Query Letter Sample: La Chingada: Stories

Another sample query letter, this one for my short story collection. Comments and links follow.

john yohe
2651 xxxxxxx
portland, or 97210

October 22, 2012

Editorial Submissions-Fiction
Soft Skull Press
Berkeley, CA 94710

Re: La Chingada: Short Stories

A Mexican teen takes revenge on her sister’s killers. A Hispanic boy is pressured into taking part in a gang rape. A man spends a night with a young attractive heroin user. These stories and others, collected in my short fiction collection, LA CHINGADA, reveal the blurring of sex and violence in North American culture.

The audience for LA CHINGADA would include readers of Jim Harrison, Richard Ford, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Charles Bukowski, and Beth Nugent.

A list of published works, and a sample of published short stories, is included.

Thank you,

John Yohe

Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, deckhand/oiler, runner/busboy, bike messenger, wilderness ranger, as well as a teacher of writing. He has lived in Mexico, Spain, France, and traveled to six continents. His first full-length collection of poetry, What Nothing Reveals, is out now. A complete list of his publications, and poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing samples, can be found at his website:

This was a hardcopy letter, one of the last I've done, since Soft Skull at the time required it and I really really thought they would like my stuff. Alas. 

I included a hardcopy of sample stories, plus a list of my published short stories, and works in general, while still directing them online. I don't include a list of published stories in my queries anymore, or not for my novel queries, just reference some lit mags I've been published in, with a link. But I think for a collection that showing the lit agent a list of published stories is still a good strategy. Do I have any proof? No. I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Since it's a collection, I chose to do a one-sentence summary of some of the more powerful stories, a strategy I'd seen on the back blurbs of published short story collections. I still think that's a good strategy. 

This query feels short. I could have added a page count, but I felt for a short story collection that that could change at any point, that some stories might get the ax. I suppose I could have estimated. I'm not sure what else I could have added, especially since my bio feels bloated. I was at this point deciding to take out my academic creds, which I still do. My thinking was to present myself as an interesting person rather than a MFA clone. I still do that.

I think I could have given more one-sentence summaries of more stories, to show more variety.

I have queried lit agents for this collection as well, with this same letter, I believe.

There is the question of calling the collection La Chingada, since that's a harsh term in mexican spanish, but I figure(d) go for it, be shocking, and find a publisher that wants to be shocking as well. Alas.

My other query letter samples, here, here, and here.

Some of the stories mentioned in the letter and in the collection:

Friday, November 9, 2018

Query letter sample: Masked Man

Here is another query letter sample, this one for my novel Masked Man. This was in hard copy format, thus the header, which I'll leave in for posterity, but note that you wouldn't do that for an email query: just start with their first and last name (no Mr/Ms even).

I do remember this particular agent I was querying a second time, since he'd asked for the full manuscript of my novel CAT, based on my query letter for that. (see link for that). I'm not sure that was a good strategy, since he didn't end up liking CAT. He said he didn't find the main characters sympathetic. So, I thought I'd try him with a satire/comedy, which he did not like at all. Though he did reply back with a personal letter to say so. That's about the most successful I've been with querying.

Note that I didn't include a list of short fiction published, nor did I even list places I've published short fiction in the bio. Oops. Nor even did I put in a personal note to him reminding him that he'd liked CAT et cetera. Which he chastised me for. Always put in some kind of personal note to them. Just a paragraph to let them know, why them?

On the other hand, I still think this is a good query: It summarizes and shows what is at stake in the first paragraph, and shows that readers of certain other western-ish books might like it. Plus have "Maria Jose" as already published.

My bio here reads 'academic', which I go back and forth on whether that's good or bad. I've lately taken out my academic creds and listed my unique jobs, which to me seems more interesting. But, I could be wrong. Maybe it's not either/or.

john yohe
__________ dr. #g
jackson, mi 49203

February 22, 2012

_________ Literary Agency
______Central Park W
New York, NY 10025

Mr. _____:

A retired ASU philosophy professor, after losing his wife to cancer, heads south, by horse, dressed as a famous masked ranger to rescue a “mexican señorita” he's seen in a dream. He is accompanied by an Apache community college poet dropout. Getting to Mexico and finding the señorita, María José, is the easy part. Getting out, in the middle of a narcotraficante turf war, is not.

My novel, MASKED MAN, is a satire/homage to southwestern novels from both sides of the border, including those by Ed Abbey, Cormac McCarthy, and Roberto Bolaño, with (ir)reverent nods to Cervantes' Don Quixote, the original buddy story. Word count: 50,000. Pages: 192

An excerpt from the novel was published as the short story “María José” in the online literary journal SOL: English Writing in Mexico, and selected for their “Best of 2011” anthology:

John Yohe was born in Puerto Rico. He holds a MFA in Poetry Writing from The New School for Social Research, and a MA in The Teaching of Writing from Eastern Michigan University. He now teaches writing full-time at Jackson Community College. A complete list of his publications, and poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing samples can be found at his website:

Thank you,

John Yohe

The first 20 pages or so of Masked Man can be found here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

New short story at HST!

A new short story of mine now up at HorrorSleazeTrash! I'm not giving the title here so as to avoid all the Russian porn addicts coming to my blog. Warning: the HST site is NSFW, though the content, and my story, is harmless and I hope fun. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Query Letter: Geronimo's Cave

Here is another sample query letter, this one for my novel Geronimo's Cave. Like my last query letter example (found here), I tried to put the agent right in the story in the first sentence, and then give a 'big picture' look of how the story fits in.

What I did not do: show what is at stake, or what Singer's obsession might be, which are supposed good strategies. I'm not so sure that 'what is at stake' is applicable in all cases, and not in this one. I could be wrong. It's happened before. But, if you see anything of use for your own query letter, feel free to steal it! Comments/feedback welcome!

I also did not include a list of my published fiction after the letter, which I had been doing with previous letters (which you'll see in the weeks to come). Lit agents don't ask for this anymore, and so I mentioned some literary magazines I've been published in, the most well known that they may have heard of, and hope if they're really interested, that they'll go to my website to see more. I do not know if they would, though visits to my website do go up when I send out query letters.

Alas, I received no nibbles on this from lit agents. I also tried querying indie publishers, and did get a nibble or two, but they were so indie as to be not even survive beyond responding back to me. Alas alas alas....

Note: Apparently, using Mr or Ms is now considered too formal, and you should just use their first and last name. Or so I've read.... 

Also also, this is the last time I ever still used actual an print letter for some agents. At this point, it was still a mix of both email and snail mail. Now, it's almost always email. But if you were doing print, you would put your address and info first, then theirs. Thankfully, it's easier now, but that means it's easier for everybody, and lit agents now get more queries. Though it's easier for them to pass. With email queries, you may now never get a reply back if they're not interested. It's not personal, but don't ever bother them by following up, and don't ever every call their office!

Begin query letter:

Mr./Ms. Their Name,

After a divorce, his sister's descent into addiction, and the death of his mother, TONY SINGER, a teacher at Mesa Community College, in Arizona, gives up his job, and his life, and goes off into the Superstition Mountains, to a cave once used by Geronimo, to die. While there, he receives visitors, both real and imagined (and remembered). This modern mash-up of two myths, the Christian Temptation of St. Anthony and the Tibetan Life of Milarepa, re-tells the lesson found in many spiritual paths: giving up everything.

Audience for Geronimo's Cave: readers of Sherman Alexie, Roberto Bolaño, Jim Harrison, and Kim Addonizio.

Geronimo's Cave
Literary fiction
Word count: 52,929

Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, deckhand/oiler, runner/busboy, bike messenger, wilderness ranger, fire lookout, as well as a teacher of writing. MA in Written Communication from Eastern Michigan University and a MFA in Poetry Writing from The New School for Social Research. His short stories have appeared at, Rattapallax, ENTROPY, Best American Erotica of 2004.

A complete list of all his publications, including essays and reviews, with links and samples, can be found at his website:


Twitter: @thejohnyohe

Thank you,

John Yohe

 The first 20 pages or so of Geronimo's Cave can be found here.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Query letter: CAT

Here is an example of a query letter for my novel CAT, for either a literary agent or an indie publisher. This is the one query letter that has gotten nibbles: requests to see the full manuscript. Alas, that's as far as I've gotten. What I would add, somewhere, is a paragraph saying why I'm querying that particular literary agent or publisher. I will post more query letters in the weeks to come, so you can see how my format has changed (not that that has necessarily increased interest). I don't put my blog and Twitter anymore, but who knows, maybe that helped? Feel free to borrow and steal anything you can use for your own query letter!

Their Name,

Ash and blackened earth. An elite wildland firefighting hotshot crew reaches the edge of a wildfire with chainsaws roaring, tanker planes and helicopters overhead. Cutting and digging line, they hope to catch the fire before it spreads out of control.

CAT: OR A SEASON IN FIRE follows DANNY SINGER during his first season on an elite wildland firefighting ‘hotshot’ crew, and his relationship with a female coworker (CAT) and the rest of the crew have as they travel the American west fighting forest fires for one summer.

With wildfires in the news every summer, CAT offers a look into the lives of wildland firefighters behind the media screen. My writing style comes from writers such as Hemingway, Sherman Alexie, Robert Bolaño, Jim Harrison, and Edward Abbey. This story would also appeal to readers of non-fiction works like Young Men and Fire and Fire On The Mountain.

Word count: 54,594

Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, deckhand/oiler, runner/busboy, bike messenger, wilderness ranger, and fire lookout, as well as a teacher of writing. His writing has appeared in ENTROPY, Rattapallax, Left Curve, Fence,, Best American Erotica 2004, and many other literary journals. A complete list, with links, is available at his website:

Twitter: @thejohnyohe

Thank you,

John Yohe

The first 12 pages of CAT can be read here.