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Friday, January 28, 2011

Jane Austen Fans Wanted (and other important announcements!)

Are you a Jane Austen fan? Even if you haven't read her books yet, do you swoon over the accents, dresses, catty women and roguish men in BBC versions of Sense & Sensibility and Northanger Abbey? Have you at least seen the Keira Knightly version of Pride & Prejudice? Well, this is your lucky day!
*If not a fan, feel free to scroll down for other news :)

Ballantine Books is publishing an anthology of Jane Austen-inspired short stories in Fall 2011. Jane Austen Made Me Do It will include stories by bestselling authors like Karen Joy Fowler (who wrote The Jane Austen Book Club). You've got two-weeks left to whip out a delightful tale of romance, love, witticisms, veiled and not-so-veiled expressions of rudeness, upper-class snobbery, and good taste. Best of luck!

Dates of Entry: January 1-February 13, 2011
Entry Fee: $Zilch, $0, $Nada
Prize: $500 and an awesome publication credit to use in query letters (or to brag about at tea parties)
Length: A very tight window of 4,900-5,100 words
Main Contest Page: HERE
Official Rules: HERE
-Operation Awesome Mystery Agent pitch contest- 25 words tops. TIP- get it in as soon as they announce this contest next Tuesday, February 1st. They only take the first 50 entries, so get those pitches in shape this weekend, give them a polish Monday night, and have at it!

Danielle Chiotti and Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary have reopened for submissions. I think Danielle might take MG, but she’s more open to YA/Adult. If you want to submit MG to Upstart Crow, Chris Richman would be a more traditional choice. See their profiles HERE.

Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates has updated her “what I'd love to see in the inbox” list. Click HERE for her blog post.

Jessica Faust of Bookends, LLC posted about what she’s looking for (mostly adult, but seeking some YA). Click HERE

Louise Fury of Lori Perkins Agency, recently back from South Africa (where she did some awesome charity work), had a few manuscript-related musings on Twitter yesterday, including:
*If you can make me laugh out loud in the first 5 pages I will want to see more.
*ooohhhh, I love tween sleuths!
*No, Ninja is not a genre!

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY reported that Marcia Wernick and Linda Pratt have left the Sheldon Fogelman Agency to start their own firm, Wernick & Pratt. They will represent children’s authors and illustrators working on books for every age level, but do not represent authors of adult books. Guidelines are HERE.

*This is kind of a cool announcement, because Sheldon Fogelman is a snail mail agency (not that going to the post office should stop you from querying a good fit), so now these ladies can be reached more easily*

That's it for today! Have a wonderful weekend :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pitch Slam Summary, Twitter Style

**First, a little announcement: My blogging buddy Kimberly is giving away a $100 Writers Digest Gift Certificate —good for entry fees, books, webinars and more…and, FYI, agent Mary Kole (with Andrea Brown Lit) is having another webinar on February 3. If you sign up, you’ll get a 1-2 page critique. Awesome! Click HERE to enter**

Okay, did you all hear about the incredible Pitch Slam put on by Writers Digest last weekend in NYC? As part of the conference, over 500 lucky people were there for an exciting two hours of pitch mania with 50 agents. I can’t even imagine the pushing/scrambling that must have taken place to get a solid spot in front of a dream agent, hit them with a three-minute pitch, then dash desperately to the next one, hoping the line wasn’t too long. How crazy would that be? Thanks to Twitter, it's possible to know a little bit of what went on during the weekend, even if we weren't lucky enough to attend (the hashtag is #wdc11 if you want to check out the Tweets).

Agent tweets right before the storm of writers attacked:

*Holy Crap. Here come the writers.

*And the stampede begins...

Agent tweet a few minutes into Pitch Slam:

*And the line at @janet_reid's table is officially 3 miles long.

Meredith Barnes, fantastic assistant to super-agent Janet “the Shark” Reid, was tweeting agent tips throughout the conference:

*Your pitch is comprised COMPLETELY of your main character (name, age) and what CHOICE they face. Drop backstory/"situation."

*If you're getting rejections, look at your novel and query. Don't exhaust all queriable agents before you rework things!

*YA wordcount (via Mary Kole): 45k words up to 95k words. 100k words is pushing it, esp for a debut.

*35k is ballpark for mg. But 30k is skirting the low end of the range, so keep that in mind!

*For #kidlit, always mention your protag's age in the query. MG readers are 9-12, 35k words. YA 14 plus. Remember kids read up!

*"Quiet" literary fiction can do BIG things! It's about how "dramatically and passionately" you write about your subject.

*Should I hire a ghosteditor? @Janet_Reid: BULLSHIT! You want to be a writer, you've got to write your own book.

*Once you're getting "microadjustments," like you'd get from a line editor, you're ready to sub!

*How do you know when your ms is ready? If ur getting comments that resonate as something you *need* to revise...keep revising.

Post-Pitch Agent Tweets:

*I've seen 32 writers in 1 hour. good news: requested a small handful of good stuff :D

*The intensity of Pitch Slam was quite the scene. Found a few gems, saw a few tweeps & met very excited writers! Good time all around.

I was sorry to miss the excitement, but felt like I was almost there thanks to Twitter. Cool information abounds. And by the way, just because you’re on Twitter and follow people does NOT mean you have to Tweet all the time (or at all), so don’t be intimidated!
FINAL NOTE: If you missed the WriteOnCon LiveChat with Pippin Properties, click HERE to read the transcript (pssst, it includes a little info on what they like to see in queries!).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Art & Books: Monet, Warhol, Pooh, and Walter the Farting Dog

**REMINDER**Don't forget about the WriteOnCon Live Chat with Pippin Properties on Monday, January 24th at 5:00 PM. It'll be fun and jam-packed with awesome information! Click HERE for details.

Claude Monet and Andy Warhol represent two different visions when it comes to the art world, as do A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh) and William Kotzwinkle (author of Walter the Farting Dog) when it comes to children’s literature.

I was in an art museum in a certain city a few months ago, and my friend and I had a blast perusing the modern art floor. Stunned by its beauty, confused by a few exhibits’ media enhancements, and disturbed by a display or two, it made for a well-rounded afternoon.
The image that’s still burned into my mind is a contemporary piece with a very scary baby doll in a crib surrounded by items that she’d thrown on the floor in a fit of rage. It took up an entire corner and I believe it had an audiovisual accompaniment that I’d rather forget. There was also a unique photography series highlighting toast. It was the crazy-haired, red-eyed baby that left me considering the similarities between art and books.
Once you put a book out there for public scrutiny, it’ll get every opinion imaginable: this stinks, this is gorgeous, I can’t read this, I can’t put this down, I don’t get it, this changed my life, this is the strangest example of literature I’ve ever come across, this is the best thing I’ve ever read, this is a potty book (as in, a book that’s only fit for reading on the toilet and then flushing with the other excrement), this is incredible and anyone who doesn’t get it is a moron, etc.
There are so many styles that you can’t help but find books that you love and books that you just don't connect with. I think it’s fabulous that all these different types of written expression, like multiple types of art, can exist under one enormous roof~The Publishing World Library (or amazon.com). Some agents prefer big books with big hooks, some prefer quirky topics, and some go for a more classical style that might have more longevity.
Though I don’t write in numerous genres, I can appreciate the work that goes into all of them. I truly appreciate modern trends and new formats that are gaining popularity (graphic novels, novels in verse). But inside that art museum, I just didn’t get it in some cases. I couldn’t help thinking that I’m probably just old-fashioned and ignorant when it comes to the art world.
I suspect that if I were artistically inclined, I would be more open to admiring certain exhibits. As it was, I was left thinking that my preferences are probably due to my lack of art education. It was an eye-opener and an excellent opportunity to learn more about different types of creative expression. I can appreciate the work that goes into something without understanding it…just don’t ask me to drop $20,000 on a photograph of toast quite yet.
Has anyone else had an experience with unique forms of expression lately?

*NOTE: I happen to think the Walter the Farting Dog books are hilarious, and have bought two for my nephew. I also like Winnie the Pooh.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Chat With Roald Dahl

I cried when I found out that Roald Dahl had died. I was ten years old (1990), and he was my favorite author. I only knew a little about the actual man, through reading his memoir Boy, but felt as though he were a twinkly-eyed grandfather figure telling me a story every time I opened a book.
*Image of Roald Dahl in his "writing hut"*
He had such authority as a narrator. I immediately trusted the words and fell into the books, from Matilda to The Witches to James and the Giant Peach to my absolute favorite, Danny the Champion of the World. I was awfully sad to find out that no more stories would be written by Mr. Dahl.
Since then, I’ve discovered his adult literature, but I most often return to his children’s novels. In the back of my copy of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More is an interview conducted in 1988 by a family friend. Not too many people were allowed to come into his inner sanctum, especially not people from the media. Dahl himself said, “I have worked all my life in a small hut up in our orchard. It is a quiet private place, and no one has been permitted to pry in there.”
The interview (available for free in several places) still fascinates me, so I thought from time to time I’d post a question/answer. It’s a nice way to see the thought process behind one of the most beloved children’s writers ever.
Question from Todd McCormack: What is it like writing a book?
Answer from Roald Dahl: When you’re writing, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up. But it’s a very, very long, slow process.

A lovely description by a lovely man. Enjoy your week!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Guilty Pleasure, A Professional Must

Last year was the first time I attended a writing conference, and I’ve since vowed to attend at least one a year. It was a revelation for me. The nervous energy coursing through my body (from the second I picked up my registration badge to the moment I sat in a chair opposite an agent to make my first pitch) was delicious.
For a stay-at-home-mom, I’m sure my feelings were intensified by the simple act of interacting with fellow adults, but there was something more. I was surrounded by people who loved to read, loved to write, and were willing to dedicate a weekend to studying their craft and comparing notes. Plus, I got to talk to super agents Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary) and Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary) during the cocktail hours!

Being somewhat new to writing (at least on the novel level), somewhat shy, and somewhat eager to get out of the house without worrying about changing a diaper, I was blown away by:
A) How stimulated I was.
B) How much I came out of my shy-shell, mainly due to the friendly nature of everyone present.
C) How much I learned, that would NEVER have been learned through internet research or reading agent interviews.
D) How much fun I had.
Oh, and never underestimate the pleasure of going to a session outside your genre. I had an absolute blast at a session called, “The Pointy Thing Goes in the Other Guy" (medieval/historical weaponry) and even got to hold an authentic Japanese Katana. My 15-year-old stepdaughter, a lover of the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Japanese swords are featured in the book) was so jealous.
On the top right are a few links that can get you started in your conference search. I can’t say enough about the benefits of attending a writing conference, and encourage you to make a commitment to a 2011 guilty pleasure/professional must of your own :)
Oh, and see my blogging friend Donea Lee’s post on the Pikes Peak Writing Conference HERE.
**Don't forget about the Secret Agent contest on Miss Snark's First Victim. Submissions are Monday, January 17!
**Mark your calendars for Monday, January 24. WriteOnCon is hosting an awesome Live Chat with Pippin Properties (they represent Kate DiCamillo, among many other incredible authors) at 5:00 EST. Click HERE for details.
Have a wonderful weekend :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And The Medals Go To...

Yesterday marked the American Library Association’s 2011 Youth Media Awards. Many awards were announced, including the prestigious John Newbery Medal (outstanding contribution to children’s literature), Randolph Caldecott Medal (for picture books), the Printz Award (young adult literature) and the Coretta Scott King Book Award (for African-American authors who contribute to children’s/YA literature). The four big winners are as follows (Click images for details)
Newbery Medal- Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool
One of the coolest things about this book is that it was written by a DEBUT author!! How awesome would that be--to win the Newbery Medal with your first novel...crazy awesome (though she might feel an eensy-weensy bit of pressure to write an incredible second novel). I'll admit that I'd never heard of this book, but you can be sure it's on my TBR list now!
Caldecott Medal- A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Printz Award- Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi
Coretta Scott King Award-One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia

On the upper right part of my side bar you'll see a link that will allow you to read excerpts of these fantastic books!

(FYI-The 2010 Newbery Medal winner was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead)
-Middle grade and young adult (among other genres) agent Natalie Fischer is leaving Sandra Dijkstra Literary for Bradford Literary Agency. See an announcement on her blog HERE .
-The Secret Agent Contest on Miss Snark's First Victim this month will be for middle grade and young adult novels!!! See HERE for early-info details. Entry submission is on Monday, January 17.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Submission Material Magic Trick: Turn your query letter into a synopsis

For today, I thought I’d share a little magic trick that’s made my life easier lately.
Many agents are looking for succinct, tight, 1-2 page synopses. Writing a summary for an entire novel becomes scary because people generally start at chapter one, then proceed through the book, making note of something important that happens each chapter. This is how people end up with eight-page synopses.

My solution: Use your query letter to create a one-page synopsis (single-spaced, non-indented paragraphs, with a space between paragraphs).
Okay, your query letter should be around 250-300 words, no more (at least that’s what we’re told, but I've seen well-written exceptions). Are you always struggling to trim it down? Cutting extra sentences that you wished you could keep? Well, good news!
No, I’m not suggesting you write an 800-word query letter. I’m suggesting you use that base, and PRETEND that you have more room to write. Simply add in those sentences that you trimmed, and modify it to become a toned, energetic, athletic-looking synopsis.
What to include:
1) Introduction to protagonist and setting
2) Plot point 1
3) Plot point 2
4) Plot point 3
5) Black Moment
6) Conclusion and complete reveal…demonstrate that your protagonist has completed a character arc.
You can add in necessary characters, but there’s not much of a need to describe them in detail. Their motivations/personality should be clear by their actions in the synopsis.
Keep it simple, keep it tight, and try approaching it as though you were simply expanding your query letter.
NOTE: this is purely my suggestion, and hasn’t been agent-approved or anything like that…but if you’re having trouble meeting a 1-2 page requirement, feel free to give it a try!
FINAL NOTE: In the spirit of magic, here's a fun post from GalleyCat:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hi Again/Mark Your Calendars!

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I had a relaxing break with lots of food and fun while visiting with my parents, sisters, nieces, and nephew in Austin, TX. My husband, however, came back with a sore back. Can you imagine why?



Okay, enough silliness.
A few announcements for the coming weeks:
1. Authoress and Miss Snark’s First Victim are back for 2011 (she got an agent over the holidays!!), and the first Secret Agent contest will be announced with guidelines on Monday, January 10th. Keep an eye on her website on Monday for details.
2. Amazon is having a debut novel contest starting January 24th (taking submissions through February 6th). The categories are Adult and YA (sorry middle grade writers!). Winners get a $15,000 contract. Click HERE for more information.
Random Tidbit-
Nelson Literary Agency just emailed their January newsletter (sign up for free HERE) and they listed several things they're looking for in 2011, including:

MG for boys- A current client has a super exciting project I’ll be shopping soon. Would love to see more innovative stories in this realm.

YA-any and all. I love that we are seeing more contemporary, non-paranormal stories, but if it’s an inventive story even in the hot trend, we’re open (*she also mentioned YA Steampunk in the newsletter)

What’s up next? **Friday’s post will showcase a magic trick involving submission materials. Get your wands and keyboards ready :)