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Friday, July 29, 2011

4 Ways To Stop Being A Lazy Writer/Cleaner

I was making my stepson’s bed yesterday and found crumbs and one of those thin, blue sheets of paper that you use to grab donuts. The only time I’d bought donuts was about four days before, and I didn’t think anything of it when he grabbed it from the counter and retreated to his room.

Now, I know a thing or two about eating in bed (evening ice cream while reading a book is my specialty), but I usually don’t leave things to rot in the sheets. For four days.

Finding that scrap of paper made me think about all the little donuts remnants we leave in our manuscripts, and how we think that a brief hand swipe over the bed and hiding evidence of naughtiness deep in the sheets is a substitute for actually doing the laundry. It’s not in life and donut-eating, and shouldn’t be in writing.

Here are 4 methods of avoiding laziness in writing:

1. Mow the lawn before you have a party for friends—Yes, the neighbors (critique partners/beta readers) will notice the care you take or don’t take with your property. It will impact how seriously they take you and how much they think you respect their time.

2. Get your iron out—Don’t put the manuscript in the dryer a second time to get the wrinkles out. They won’t stay that way, so get out your stinking iron and spray starch to make it last.

3. Dust in hard to reach places
—The tops of paintings and photos, the back of the bed post, legs of your kitchen table, etc. They (CPs/BRs/agents) might not notice how you’ve specifically taken the extra-strength cleaning spray to your adverbs and sentence length, but they’ll sense it by the lingering scent of hard work and the sparkle of your formatting.

4. Soak the dishes before you try to scrub off the gunk—I’m talking about serious pans from homemade lasagna—anything that took a heck of a long time, that you worked hard on, that looked and tasted delicious, and that left you sighing in contentment (aka, finishing a new manuscript).

It may seem like you’re being proactive by diving right into the clean-up, but in fact it’s the opposite. Patience is the tough part, but if you soak the pan first, the clean-up goes much more smoothly.

Don’t forget about
Operation Awesome’s Mystery Agent Contest on Monday, August 1st. Looks like they’ll be asking for a one-sentence pitch. I’m not sure what the genres will be, so keep checking the website.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Literary Vacations

Summer is almost over. School starts for my teenagers in about three weeks, and we didn’t go on a vacation this year (unless you call filling up a plastic storage bin with water, and telling my 2-year-old that it's a waterpark a "vacation").

If we do go somewhere in the future, I think we might need to take a “literary vacation.” After reading about possibilites on Salon.com, I have more than a few ideas.

Have you ever planned a vacation based on a book? You could visit:

Heidiland in Maienfeld, Switzerland-The Swiss Alps area that inspired the classic Heidi.

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, England-A medieval castle rumored to be that of the legendary King Arthur.

Jack London’s Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, CA still has displays of his manuscripts with scribbled edits and plenty of rejection letters from early in his career.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts where the author of such beloved books as The Very Hungry Caterpillar is honored.

Washington Irving’s home of Sleepy Hollow, New York where Irving may have pondered the plot of Sleepy Hollow while carving a pumpkin on his front porch.

The Birthplace of Hogwarts in Edinburgh, Scotland- Be sure to visit The Elephant Café, where JK Rowling completed her early novels.

Click below for a slideshow from Salon.com that highlights literary spots that would make an excellent trip for both adults and kids! Scroll down completely to see up to three pages of locales.

Slide Show of Literary Places

Have you visited any literary places?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Arrrrgh! Here There Be Fun Writing Tools, Matey!

When’s the last time you bought yourself a writing treat? Not computer writing software or a new mousepad, but something to actually write with—a funky pen, a cool notebook/journal, etc.
*Pirate sword pen--good for writing dastardly tales and pillaging small villages*

Well, guess what? It’s July…

…haven’t you heard of Christmas in July???

Now’s the perfect time to recharge for the rest of the year (or to recharge a friend) by getting back to the basics of writing on actual paper. I know—sounds crazy to some of us, so you can start by making edits of your typed manuscript on hard copy paper.

It’s amazing what you’ll catch when the words are on paper instead of your computer screen. It’s easier to see spacing errors, sentences that need to be switched around, and other things that spellcheck won’t notice.

Below are a few links that will get you started on the search for something that will make free-writing fun and edits/revisions a hoot (okay, so I don’t know that revisions will ever be a “hoot,” but you get the idea):

Writers Bloc: Pens, Notepads, Planners, Highlighters, Glass pens (these look pretty cool), etc.

Geddes School Supplies: Fun gel pens, writing accessories

X-treme Geek: Click here for such wonders as the rocket pen, the space pen, the massage pen, the farting pen, walking robot pencil sharpener, and more.

Pirate Sword Pen: This is a link to the sword pen shown at the top of this post

Don’t forget to check out
Mother.Write.Repeat. on Monday, July 25th. Krista V. mentioned that she’ll be starting her next round of An Agent’s Inbox that day, so polish your query letters, pitches, and first 250 words. Click HERE for a contest description.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exploring Voice With Christopher Walken And The Three Little Pigs

I'm sure you've all heard of Samuel L. Jackson being chosen to read the adult kid's book, Go the F*@* to Sleep. He plays the ultimate tough guy in films, so it seems appropriate.

What you may not know is that Christopher Walken did the same thing back in 1993, when he went on a British television show to read "The Three Little Pigs."

GalleyCat (by the way, this is a great publishing industry blog to follow) posted the video yesterday. Walken is often cast as a tough guy, bad guy, loner, etc. and has appeared in films such as The Deer Hunter, Batman Returns, Pulp Fiction, Sleepy Hollow, etc.

He's also hilarious (if you haven't seen "The Continental" skit on Saturday Night Live, you're missing out...if you like that silly kind of stuff).

With "The Three Little Pigs," Walken's deadpan delivery and intonation make for a slightly different version and, to me, it's an example of how voice (literally) can change the feeling of a story. As a verbal storyteller, it's the little pauses, pitch of the voice, eye-contact with the audience, facial expressions, etc. that engage people.

As writers, we can do those exact same things with word choice, sentence length, sentence order, repetition, character details, and building suspense.

Click below to watch Christopher Walken retell "The Three Little Pigs."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Agent News And Advice~ Mid-Month Tweets

Before we dive into mid-month agent news/advice from Twitter, please remember that you’ve got until Tuesday (July 19th) to enter Becky Wallace’s critique opportunity by pasting the meat of your query letter in the comments of THIS POST. Feedback is golden...'nuff said.

Also, there are a couple of spots left in the Agent Pitch Contest with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst over at Yatopia (Holy bastion of amazing contests, Batman!). Don’t be fooled by the fact that there are already 50 comments on the post—some of those are not entries. Vickie is interested in YA and Adult Paranormal and Urban Fantasy (not MG).Click HERE to enter.

Aaaaaaaand, here we go:

Sarah LaPolla, Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Writers: Avoid "Have you ever wondered..." to open your query. If the answer is no (which it usually is), why will the agent keep reading?

**Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Lit Agency**
You have until 11:59pm EST FRIDAY to send me a query! After that all queries will be deleted unread until Sept 15th! #pubtip

Sara Megibow, Nelson Literary Agency
Know what I'd love to see in a romance submit? A contemporary with hero/heroine from a big family (a la Regency, but set in modern times)

Sara Megibow
The @YA_RWA panel at #RWA11 hosted fabu editors. I heard, "hmmm...YA horror would be great" I've had 2 of those today (and asked for both!)

Meredith Barnes, Lowenstein Associates
STOP JUST THROWING "LOVE" INTO YOUR BOOKS!! Love is *not*, in fact all you need (to tell a good story). Yes, even you, YA authors!

Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency
"fictional novel" is redundant. #rookiemistake Excusable, understandable, but still a mistake to avoid.

Jenny Bent
Sometimes I get queries that quote a nice rejection from another agent. Not sure that's a good idea. What do other agents think?

Jill Corcoran, Herman Agency (in reference to Jenny's above tweet)
@jennybent really bad idea. Makes me think the agent was just being kind, not that she meant it.

Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary
Two hermit crab submissions within a few hours of each other. Forget dystopia, we're now in a hermit crab trend.

Sarah LaPolla
Memoir/Non-fiction Writers: There's a fine line between "many will relate" & "too commonplace to be book-worthy." Don't be commonplace.

Sara Megibow
oooo- lots of delicious romance submissions in the inbox. Someone read my June newsletter and paid attention (me = looking for more romance)

Sara Megibow
More slush pile reading. I love when query includes your website address. *pats head* *publishing in 2011*

Retweet by Kathleen Ortiz of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Rep.
If you've written a book with a high word count, do not spend three paragraphs in your query explaining why. Just give the count.

Katie Grimm, Don Congdon Associates
Can someone please write me a historical YA using My Daguerreotype Boyfriend as a guide for the hunky love interest? http://bit.ly/lNHpr4

Jill Corcoran
for the many of you sending me demon & angel ms because I just sold one, I'm not looking to take on another. That ship has sailed for me

Meredith Barnes
Great diction, like the use of "ornery," makes this #query pop. Word choice is a key to getting that elusive "voice" into your query.

Sarah LaPolla
I like magical things w/ sci-fi & fantasy elements, but NOT: steampunk, vampires/werewolf/zombie/angel/gods, epic fantasy, hard sci-fi

Sarah LaPolla
That said - THINGS I LOVE AND WANT:YA: Horror, dark mystery, contemp. fiction w/ strong characters, magical realism, light fantasy, psych thrillers, witches/ghosts/monsters

And finally, in honor of the last Harry Potter movie coming out:

Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary
Tip if you are going to see HP7.2: BRING KLEENEX. (unless you are a cyborg.)

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Extended Entry List For Agent Contest!

Hi all! Here are two big chances to get your manuscript seen by an agent:

Today's elevator pitch contest with Bree Ogden of Martin Literary over at YAtopia has been extended to include ALL Young Adult and Middle Grade genres, not just those on Ms. Ogden’s wish list. Get over there and leave your entry comment by midnight tomorrow, July 13th! Click below.

YAtopia Contest with Bree Ogden

Also, the Twitter Pitch contest with Kristin Miller of D4EO Literary is going on today on Monica BW’s website, Love YA ! Can you describe your MG/YA novel in 140 characters? The contest will close Thursday, July 14th at noon (EST). Click below.

Twitter Pitch Contest with Kristin Miller

PLUS, don't miss this critique opportunity at Becky Wallace's blog. This lady used to be a full-time editor, so she knows her stuff. Read the details and post your query letter for a chance to win! Deadline is Tuesday, July 19th. Click below.

Becky Wallace's Critique Contest

This Friday's Post: Mid-July Agent Tweets

Friday, July 8, 2011

Agent-Judged Contests And Amazing Teen Writers

Here are a few upcoming agent-judged contests (click blue title for more info):

Natalie Fischer Revision Contest- Going on NOW at EbyssWriter's blog. Will be open until July 11 or up to 50 entries (hovering around 32 entries as of this post).

Miss Snark's First Victim, July Secret Agent Contest- Opens on Monday, July 11. Categories are Adult Fiction (no humor) and YA Fiction.

Twitter Pitch Contest with Kristin Miller of D4EO Literary- Tuesday, July 12. 140 characters describing your finished YA or MG novel. I love these~ they really challenge you to condense your plot into a short, appealing pitch. Monica B.W. is your awesome hostess. Links: Kristin Miller's blog, Kristin Miller's Wish List

An Agent's Inbox Contest- The fabulous Krista V. of Mother. Write. Repeat. will be having another agent contest, with the rounds starting July 25. Last month's contest with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst was a great success. Go follow Krista's blog now, so you can be sure to receive updates! Click HERE for contest guidelines from last month for an idea of what to expect.


The Teen Blogfest hosted by my blogging friend Brittany (of Hills and Corkscrews) is winding down. Tomorrow is "Ask the Teen" day, so be sure to visit the participants' blogs for some firsthand answers from the teen mind. They're looking for questions from YOU!

*There's a shortage of "Ask the Teen" questions, so PLEASE send a question regarding teen reading habits or writing or trends or anything teen writing/reading-related to brittany (at) hillsandcorkscrews (dot) com

1. Brittany from Hills and Corkscrews

4. Rachael from Writers' Chasm

6. Nick from Writing Fire

7. Laura from Laura + the voices

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Care To Know What New York Editors Are Looking For? Do THIS.

Amazing agent Kristin Nelson (of Nelson Literary Agency, based in Denver) recently spent six weeks in New York, meeting with editors to find out what they’re drooling for these days. Care to know more?

You need to follow NLA’s monthly newsletter to find out. In this month’s issue, Kristin gives a breakdown of what editors are thinking about in terms of submissions.

There are some juicy tidbits involving Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult manuscripts.

Thrillers, steampunk, action-adventure, family dramas, epic fantasy, romance, literary voices, emotional depth—they're all mentioned, but you'll have to read the newsletter to find out the context.

Click below to sign up now, and get all the info:
Nelson Literary Agency Newsletter

Don’t forget to visit the following teen blogs to support their writing efforts during the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest:

1. Brittany from
Hills and Corkscrews
2. Gracie from
I Am Writer Hear Me Roar
3. Taryn from
A Fool's Golden Paradise
4. Rachael from
Writers' Chasm
5. Will from
Tales of the Harbingers
6. Nick from
Writing Fire
7. Laura from Laura + the voices

Friday, July 1, 2011

Find Out What Your REAL Audience Thinks!

Brittany over at Hills and Corkscrews is the amazing teen blogger/writer hosting the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest. Adults don't participate, but this is a great chance to see what the teen mind is thinking when it comes to books and writing.

Pleeeease feel free to steal the non-participant badge (above) and spread the word! Show your support for some amazing future authors, not to mention the people who are the target audience for many of us.

And guess what? As part of the blogfest, these cool cats are willing to critique your work. Wouldn’t it be cool to know what a teen audience thinks of your idea and first pages?

Deadlines for Critique Entries: Get your blurbs (she'd like your query letter pitch paragraphs up to 250 words) to Brittany by July 4, First Pages (up to 500 words) by July 7. Send your submissions to brittany (at) hillsandcorkscrews (dot) com with the subject line: Submission: (insert Blurb or First Page or both). Click HERE and scroll down a bit to get more info on blurb/first pages restrictions (must be PG-13, etc).

Also, the final day of the blogfest is reserved for "Ask the Teens." Please submit questions regarding teen reading and writing to Brittany as well (by July 4).

The following teen bloggers are participating:

3. Rachael from Writers' Chasm

5. Nick from Writing Fire

6. Laura from Laura + the voices

Here’s the schedule of posts by the participants. Again, this is a wonderful chance to hear (okay, read) the voices of teens who deserve attention for being passionate about writing and reading:

July 1, Fri- Introductions
July 2, Sat- On Reading
July 3, Sun- Excerpts
July 4, Mon- Interviews
July 5, Tues- Blurb Critiques
July 6, Wed- Giveaway/contest
July 7, Thur- On Writing
July 8, Fri- First Page critiques
July 9, Sat- Ask the Teens

What are you waiting for? Go visit these incredibly proactive young writers this week and next! Please help spread the word.