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Friday, May 20, 2011

Setting Scenes with J. Peterman

For those of you who missed it, I wrote a post last October on the J. Peterman Catalog and was surprised that many of you though it was "only a television thing" based on the recurring character, Mr. Peterman, on the hit sitcom Seinfeld.

In the real-life catalog, each item for sale (ranging from clothing to antique coffee grinders) is described in a literary blurb designed to create atmosphere.

Many of the blurbs are over the top and make for highly entertaining reading, especially if you add a British accent (don’t ask me why—the company is based in Lexington, KY, but an accent makes everything more fun, so pick your favorite one and have at it). Read them and you could learn a thing or two about setting scenes.

And if you're short on novel ideas, you might just get a handful from the catalog. Check out this advertisement for luggage:

Try looking in the attic first. You don't have one? Then it's time maybe to go to the secret barn. Somewhere there is one. And it's filled with everything.

Look…there under that huge pile of saddles and hats…it seems to be the hood of a car. Oh no. It's the Packard. It's the 12-cylinder Packard convertible somebody (Emily?) once drove across the country. The doors are locked.

…but inside the car seems to be stuffed with old clocks, framed oil paintings, a leopard skin, books, boots, brass fishing reels, stamp albums…

You can't take it all in. At the other end of the barn you notice a marble table, a beautiful slim-wheeled two-seat carriage, a stack of a dozen carved chairs, a leather trunk…it's all too much at once…
You trip on something. What is it? A leather suitcase of some kind. You lift it by its handles. It has old European hotel stickers on it. You grab it and practically run…you'll come back to the barn some other time…

In broad daylight you examine it. A beautiful, mellow old leather Gladstone. (That's what they used to call them.) Rather defiantly and ruggedly old-fashioned looking. Strong enough to go down the Nile, across the Alps, through the Canal, over the oceans, but still small enough to carry aboard a plane. A thing like this would cost a fortune these days…

Heirloom Gladstone Bag (No. 1006). Rich Brown full-grain cowhide, handsome but meant to be abused. Brass fittings throughout. Cloth-lined. Big enough to swallow a lot, but not too big: 9-1/2” wide x 18” long x 14” tall.

Click the links for more entertainment and an interesting selection of beautiful/handsome/eccentric items from around the world :)

Main Website

One-of-a-Kind Page

Request a Catalog


On another note, I’m taking a break from blogging next week due to traveling. Where, you ask? Perhaps the outskirts of moonlit Paris, or the deep jungles of Burma? I’m afraid not. I’ll be in Iowa, visiting my parents.

Until June, happy writing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What the Agents/Editor Want to See

In case you missed last night's WriteOnCon Live Chat with agents Michelle Andelman (Regal Literary) and Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (FinePrint Literary, and editor Molly O'Neill (Associate Editor for an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books), here are a few yummy goodies to munch on:


Michelle~ Would love more magical realism, psychologically twisted thrillers, and dark, juicy relationship stories.

Joanna~ Is looking for a juicy YA gothic, horror, or a great thriller.

Molly~ Wants to see more humor and wit. As she cleverly put it, "Not EVERY moment of being a teen/tween is angsty!"


Both agents agreed that humor isn't something they see much of in queries, and it would be refreshing to see more.


Michelle~ "A first chapter that isn't all prologue and scene-setting and build, but drops me in the middle of emotion and/or action...love! "

Joanna~ "I love to see something unexpected and fresh in any genre in a first scene. And I am really tired of seeing stories that start TOO much in the action--to the point where I don't even care about the character yet."

Molly~ "A lot of people seem to think starting with some big action is essential. Personally, I'm more intrigued if I'm seeing an interesting motivation behind the action."

*If you'd like to read the entire transcript, click HERE*

Up Friday...I think I'm going to have more fun with the J. Peterman Catalog (for those of you who thought he was only a character on Seinfeld, there's a real company and they have a number of dandy descriptions for their clothing/other items).

Friday, May 13, 2011

No Time Like The Present

A friend of mine recently lost his father—a sad, sad thing to hear about. I don’t consider myself particularly elderly, but when your friends start losing parents, reality sets in and you begin to look at priorities.

Deaths of friends and family members always leave me empty for a period, and make me wonder how well I’m spending my time here—unguaranteed time.

Motherhood and family are the priorities that come to mind for me right now, and this sort of news makes me want to spend as much time as I can with my loved ones. I already spend too much time on the computer writing and blogging. I only have so many open slots, so I often spend “me time” writing and revising and plotting when my little one goes to bed. This could be quality time with my husband, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel selfish and guilty about it every now and then.

After all, dreams are dreams and, as such, come secondary to “real life” by necessity.

But then again, if I’m not putting any effort into my own dreams, then what example am I setting for my children, and for my husband for that matter?

He plays golf a lot, and that’s time he could be spending with me…but I don’t begrudge him that because it brings him joy. And I love that he has something that makes him feel good. His smiles upon returning home after a round of 18 become my smiles, his relaxation becomes my relaxation.

I know that I am loved too, and that writing brings me joy. So if I’m going to spend time doing it (at the expense of family time), I’m going to honor those that care about me by giving it everything I’ve got.

By pursuing your writing dreams with vigor and persistence, you ARE doing something for your loved ones.

Plus, how long can you afford to put things off because they live in your dream drawer? You never know how long you’ve got.

“No time like the present” is equally relevant when working on laundry or working on those writing goals you keep setting aside for next week, next month, or next year. “No time like the present” means sending a card to a friend or sending a query letter to an agent.

My point, fellow bloggers, is to not be afraid. Hit that send button on your query letter, write that next book, tell your loved ones how loved they are, and go for the 6-scoop-eat-it-all-and-win-a-t-shirt-and-your-picture-on-the-wall Challenge at your local ice cream shop this summer :)


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Novel Writing As A Sport (Via The Monty Python Boys)

Writing sketch comedy is best left to those with a particular skill set, but any writer can learn from observing a scene or two. Clever dialogue, pacing, elements of surprise, and reactions are part of most sketches and those are definitely things that novel writers strive to portray (though perhaps not with the elements-of-the-ridiculous that Monty Python tends to bring to situations).

We can learn a lot from sketch comedy—or that’s what I tell myself when I skip writing to watch Saturday Night Live. The Monty Python boys have taken it to another level, by writing a sketch comedy bit about novel writing as a sport.

The links below feature a fictional play-by-play account of Thomas Hardy writing his latest novel. The crowd gasps as he dips his pen in the ink, and groans when he starts by drawing a doodle. He finally writes his first word (“The”), scratches it out and draws another doodle. Three hours later he’s written one sentence.

It’s both a hilarious and accurate (depending on the day) depiction of writing. Pretty please click on the picture to read and/or listen to a funny rendition of a writer’s experience. Click HERE for the video (which only has a background picture~no actors).


Miss Snark's Secret Agent Contest for May will include MG and YA!!! Click HERE for early info.

A note for those of you querying Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, LTD (she takes adult and YA): Ditch the Prologues! Click HERE to see her post detailing why she strongly prefers not to see them in a manuscript.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Agency Alert, Agent Move, and Agent Contest!

Happy Friday! Here are some things that caught my eye this week:

Agency Alert

If you aren’t familiar with Hen & Ink Literary, I encourage you to check it out. The agency was formed in November of 2010 and founder/agent Erzsi Deàk was interviewed on Cynsations early this week (if you’re not following Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, do it now!).

Hen & Ink concentrates on children’s lit and is usually closed to submissions May to September, but there is an extended submission period this year. June 15, 2011 is the deadline for queries (until they reopen in the Fall).

From the Hen & Ink website:
Open to practically anything YA (ideally with crossover potential), but definitely contemporary, fantasy, steam punk, paranormal romance with an original twist – as long as we care about the character(s), we'll keep reading. Sweet spot is middle-grades with characters to die for and tons of atmosphere and picture books to be read again and again until the bindings fall apart.

Relevant Links:
Hen & Ink Homepage


Kathleen Ortiz announced her move to Nancy Coffey Literary and Media- see her blog post HERE for details.

Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary will be judging a Twitter Pitch Contest today and tomorrow with Sisters in Scribe. Click HERE for the contest post. Entries will open at 10am ET Friday and close at 11:59pm ET Saturday May 7th.

Lastly, since this Sunday is Mothers Day, here's a neat link from GalleyCat:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tick Tock

We always talk about the unbearable waiting that’s inherent to the publishing world, but, um, where did the first four months of the year go?

They flew by and now it’s May. Which means next month is June (this post does go beyond the obvious, I swear). Which means it’s time to reevaluate any goals you had for 2011.

If you’re like me, you may have identified some things you wanted to get done this year in terms of:

-finishing projects
-trying a new genre
-trying your hand at freelance work (see my link list under the WriteOnCon icon for “Places to Submit While You’re Waiting”)
-nailing a query letter
-getting an agent
-making social connections (yay for blogging friends!)

Almost half the year is gone! Okay, so a third of the year is gone, but I’m the kind of person who sets my clock ahead so I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I remember that I have 15 extra minutes to get somewhere…it’s a sick motivation/reward system, I know.

My point is, the only New Year resolution I’ve kept with consistency is increasing my leafy green intake (by the way, if you haven’t tried kale, it’s fabulous). It’s time for me to crack down on my goals, get organized, and stay motivated!
This post is meant to motivate you to enjoy the ride, but stay focused as well. You've got a big support system of bloggers, friends, and family, so don't be afraid to ask for help or a hug now and then :) You can do it and your dreams are worth it!

Feel free to click on THIS link for a daily affirmation message from Stuart Smalley (played by Saturday Night Live’s Al Franken). If you don't like Stuart Smalley, then go watch Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. Same message, more fight scenes.

CONTEST REMINDER: This Friday check out Sisters in Scribe for a twitter pitch contest with agent Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary!! Entries will open 10 AM Eastern time on Friday and close at 11:59 PM Easter on Saturday, May 7th. Click HERE for details.