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Friday, September 30, 2011

Agent Contests and a Call For PB Manuscripts!

Operation Awesome is having their October Mystery Agent Contest on Saturday (TOMORROW!), so keep an eye on the website—the entry spots usually fill up quickly. Acceptable categories and genres for the 2-4 line pitch will be announced tomorrow as well.

Yatopia is having an awesome pitch contest with agent Mandy Hubbard! Just leave the required info about your middle grade or young adult novel in the comments of THIS POST. Anyone who grabs her attention will win a full manuscript request! Entries close at midnight, October 5th.

Reel YA is hosting a one-line pitch contest with agents Weronika Janczuk and Sarah LaPolla! Two winners will be chosen (by random.org) to send their logline to the agents for a personal critique. Enter by Monday, October 3rd.

Picture Book Writers- Call For Manuscripts! Agent Suzie Townsend wrote THIS POST earlier in the week. If you write picture books, check it out!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Motivates You?

In addition to inspiration, writing has a lot to do with motivation. Yes, there are actual deadlines for authors, but much of the in-between business gets done because of self-imposed BIC (Butt In Chair) time. Because of the nature of fiction, there aren’t always clear steps to getting a story down and getting the characters right. One of my favorite sayings is,

"Every day I get up at 6:00 AM to wait for Inspiration. If she doesn't show up by 6:05, I start without her."

While writers, no doubt, have natural traits of mental reserve in the face of not-so-great odds (yay for being stubborn and passionate and slightly masochistic!) and can generate a HUGE amount of self-motivation, it’s no surprise that sometimes we run out of steam.

And then what do you turn to?

What or who motivates you to do your very best in a field where quality is subjective? Because let’s face it, nobody’s going to know if you’re giving this whole writing thing your best shot except for you.

Who is your motivation?

As a child, I was a people pleaser. I was the youngest and loved to make people laugh (which, in hindsight, mostly annoyed everyone). I also loved to get good grades, truly enjoyed school, and wanted to please my teachers. I wanted to do well at soccer for my team. Most of all, though, I wanted to make my parents proud. I clearly remember that feeling. I wanted them to be proud of me.

It’s funny, because now that I’m a parent, it’s the opposite. I want my kids to be proud of me. I want them to see a mom who has a strong passion and gives it her all. And it makes me wonder—were my parents doing the same thing? Was I their motivation?

Today I urge you to think about two things (and feel free to answer in the comments!):

-Who motivates you to keep writing?

-In your life, are you the muse for someone? Are you their motivation? If so, a few words of encouragement go a long way :)

See you on Friday.

Here are a few photos of my motivation:

Me & My Charley-bear, age 2

My Mr. Baseball, age 13

My Homecoming Princess/Future Egyptologist, age 16

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jenny Bent Internship Opportunity, Contests, and The Writerly Wisdom of Jack Handey

Before I get started on today’s post, I urge you to head over to Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver’s blogs today~ they’re a writing team repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown (yes, that’s right, bow down everyone!) and they’re on a mission to break 300 followers. Their giveaway prizes include critiques (perfect for both published and pre-published writers!) and this awesome stuff:
INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY: Amazing agent Jenny Bent is looking for three more interns to read for her! See the details HERE and apply soon~ she filled up very quickly last time!

CONTEST ALERT: Enter your query and first page at Krista V’s blog to be considered by an agent seeking MG/YA fiction. Contest starts at 10:00 AM (EST) this Monday, September 26, and closes at 50 entries. Click HERE for details.


For those of you who don’t know, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey (click on the link for his Wikipedia page-he's a real person, not a pen name) was an ongoing segment on Saturday Night Live where Jack’s memories and musings were shown as written text on the screen while his voice (a nice monotone, a bit like Tom Bodett) would read the words. Soft music generally played in the background, serving as a nice little juxtaposition for the choice pieces of wisdom he’d empart.

One of the tricky things about writing fiction is delivering the narrative with authority, so that the reader can simply sink into your story. At the same time, you have to offer a fresh enough idea or premise to make room for stimulation and intrigue. People like Jack Handey have done the world a service with his quotable quotes that are both:

-cozy and familal in tone and delivery
-hilarious examples of delivering a bizarre twist and thinking outside the proverbial “box”

Okay, so I’m not sure if you can actually learn anything from these that’s applicable to writing, but I think they’re pretty funny. Here are a few gems to mull over:

Instead of having "answers" on a math test, they should just call
them "impressions," and if you got a different "impression," so what,
can't we all be brothers?

To me, it's a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when
you walk around. That way, if anybody says, "Hey, can you give me a
hand?" You can say, "Sorry, got these sacks."

During the Middle Ages, probably one of the biggest mistakes was not
putting on your armor because you were "just going down to the corner."

I hope if dogs ever take over the world and they choose a king, they
don't just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with
some good ideas.

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them
down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

If you ever crawl inside an old hollow log and go to sleep, and while
you're in there some guys come and seal up both ends and then put it on
a truck and take it to another city, boy, I don't know what to tell you.

Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word
itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words "mank" and
"ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery and so is mankind.

Okay, this one is a bit mean...but it clearly demonstrates how Point Of View impacts writing (okay, no it doesn't...I'm reaching here) and it's a fine example of the dichotomy between adult and kid perspectives:

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going
to take my nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old
burned-out warehouse. "Oh no," I said, "Disneyland burned down."
He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a
pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but
it was getting pretty late.

And just because this is, for the most part, a blog about writing and books, here's Jack's take on reading:

Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there,
in the room talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books.

Want more? There’s a whole website.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Most Important Thing I Learned From A Conference

I'm exhausted (both physically and mentally), but I couldn't be happier. If you've never been to a writing conference, I highly recommend finding one (see the sidebar to the right for some resources).

Being surrounded by amazing faculty members (agents, editors, and other industry professionals), authors, and writers makes for a stimulating environment. My head and heart are still buzzing with knowledge and energy.

Due to conference etiquette, I can't tell you much of what I learned in the sessions. After all, these folks make money off the info they present, so we're not supposed to share the juicy stuff. All of the agents and editors were incredibly friendly and approachable, and author/illustrator Adam Rex was one of the best speakers I've had the pleasure of hearing.

If you have the opportunity to attend any sort of session with either of the ladies from Nelson Literary (Kristin Nelson & Sara Megibow), make it happen. Period. And if you have the chance to hear Viking editor Kendra Levin speak on revision, make that happen too.

Okay, since I can't just gush about it all without sharing anything, I will tell one choice piece of advice. It comes from a very well-known agent who was doing a first page session. She read first pages from attendees and told us when she would stop and reject. It was incredibly helpful to see how quickly agents hone in on craft issues and choices that wouldn't be a fit for them. Okay, are you ready???

Get your notebooks out.....


This could be the difference between your manuscript being a success and it being flushed down the publishing toilet...


"Never mention bodily functions on the first page! Ever."

Tee-hee! Hope that was helpful :)

(I assume potty books for toddlers are the exception)

Have a lovely week, everyone. I plan on catching up with your blogs soon!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Agent News and Contests

*I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to this weekend's conference put on by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI, so I may be a bit late commenting on everyone's posts for the next couple of days. If you aren't a member of SCBWI and you write picture books, middle grade, or young adult fiction/non-fiction, please check it out. It's a great organization that offers lots of support to writers, both aspiring and published!

And guess what? I get to hear Adam Rex speak! He wrote Fat Vampire (among other books~ picture books too!), which I finished reading last night. If you think you know vampires, give this book a try. Seriously :)

Okay, okay, on with the show.


Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary is now open to queries!

-Ms. McKean's Literary Rambles page

Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow tweeted this on Wednesday:

Writers: Query lines aren't officially open yet, but I'm unofficially ready to read, so send away!

Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency is now closed to queries except for referral or conference attendees.


MSFV September Agent Contest- Opens on Monday, September 19th. See the post for submission windows/times. Genres: Adult fiction (except science fiction), MG & YA fiction (except science fiction)

Claire LeGrand’s Teen Pitch Contest: Know any teens who love to write? They can win a mentorship with an author! Have them submit their one-sentence pitch idea and Claire will pick a winner. Entry deadline: September 18, 11:00 PM, CST.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mid-Month Agent Tweets

After skipping the month of August, mid-month agent tweets are back! Here are some great/fun tips and thoughts that amazing agents have shared so far this month. Be sure to follow these fabulous folks on Twitter if you’re not already doing so (their Twitter names are underlined).

cjdrayton Catherine Drayton (InkWell Management)
Anyone writing a YA psychological suspense novel? I keep hoping that a stunning manuscript is going to land in my inbox!

sarahlapolla Sarah LaPolla (Curtis Brown, Ltd.)
#writingtip If it's obvious who is speaking, you don't need dialogue tags. Narrative is much cleaner when you remove unnecessary "said."

SaraMegibow Sara Megibow (Nelson Literary)
Phone call this morning, "I DID send a query via email but HAD to call and tell you about it in person too."

SaraMegibow Sara Megibow
Here's the thing about phone call queries - authors don't get to call potential readers and say "But you'll LOVE it!"

literaticat Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary)
Love a good MG or YA mystery? Looks like there is a cool new blog afoot... http://sleuthsspiesandalibis.blogspot.com/

SarahGreenhouse Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary)
A new day, a new world - and @juliachurchill and I are on the prowl, turning over those rocks in search of sparkling manuscripts beneath.

KOrtizzle Kathleen Ortiz (Nancy Coffey Literary)
"My book will appeal of fans of 'The Twilight'." #dontevenknowwheretobegin

RT by kate_mckean Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary)
A cover letter ("Below are my synopsis and pages.") is not an acceptable substitute for an actual query letter. #pubtip

*Random comment by Jess~ Ms. McKean reopens to queries on 9/15/11!

RachelleGardner Rachelle Gardner (WordServe Literary)
it’s the author’s job to come to the agent with a publishable book: http://bit.ly/oVYZfS

AgentKristin Kristin Miller (D4EO Literary)
Back to work after vacation and reading queries. LOTS of them don't have pasted sample pages. PLEASE paste sample pages. 5-10 works.

AgentKristin Kristin Miller
After all, your query might suck, but your pages might be amazing. I'd hate to have missed out b/c of a crap query.

RT by MarleneStringer (The Stringer Literary Agency)
Even when writing in 1st person, tell us your main character's name as early as possible. I hate having no idea who is talking #writetip #fb

sarahlapolla Sarah LaPolla
Queries I never want to read: "Girl feels invisible. Meets hottest guy ever. Finds self-worth through his love. OMG he has a secret."

sarahlapolla Sarah LaPolla

sarahlapolla Sarah LaPolla
BTW, a male protagonist who suddenly finds self-worth because a hot, confident love interest is totally into him is equally vomit-worthy.
*Random comment by Jess~ Sarah LaPolla's tweets rock :)

SaraMegibow Sara Megibow
#MashUpMonday - I would love to see a submission of epic science fiction. Crazy huh? Patrick Rothfuss-in-space kinda thing.

See you on Friday!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Best Books For Autumn Reading

The last two days have been crisp and chilly in my corner of Colorado, and a few loaves of pumpkin bread were baked yesterday. A few days ago, I drove to get muffins at 7:30 AM and the temperature on the electronic bank clock said 46 degrees.

Fall is my favorite time of year (not sure if you caught that from my blog title), so I thought I’d offer a couple of my favorite books to read during the season of changing hues.

Please pipe in with your recommendations as well!

Picture Book: The Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (who won the Caldecott Medal for this)

Though it’s not specifically about fall, this darling book captures the changing of the seasons with quaint simplicity.

Middle Grade: Harry Potter, of course! Most of them start with him going back to Hogwarts in the fall.

Danny, Champion of the World (Roald Dahl)—When Danny and his dad go pheasant poaching, there’s a distinct feeling of autumn in the air. There’s also mention of crisp apples, specifically Cox’s Orange Pippins (which, as Danny points out, is a delightful name for a type of apple).

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. (Kate Messner)—The cover alone screams, “It’s Autumn—read me!”

Young Adult: I’d love to hear your recommendations on this category!

Adult fiction: Most anything by Maeve Binchy or Jane Austen—What can I say— I’m a woman.

Cookbooks: I love reading these any time of year, but Fall is when I gear up for cooking. At my core, my heart and stomach crave savory over sweet, so any cookbook with the word “Tavern” in it is sure to hold Autumn-y delights to me. The most recent I’ve read are The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook and City Tavern Cookbook. Yum.

What are your favorites (old or new) for Autumn reading?

I’m off to a conference, so my apologies if I don’t get around to your blogs today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Internship Opportunity With An Awesome Agent!

Love to read middle grade and young adult fiction? Have an extra 10 hours each week?

The amazing
Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency is looking for a remote intern. This means that you don't have to live in NYC. No publishing experience is necessary!

All you need is a cover letter, a list of your 10 favorite books, and a list of the last ten books you read.

Click HERE for details!
**UPDATE** She must have gotten lots of applications, because the remote position is closed already. Sorry! See her post HERE. An 0n-site position is still available. Go ahead and follow Jenny's blog if you're not already doing so~ you never know when more opportunities will become available!

*And for those of you who read my last post, the 40th b-day party for my hubby went off without a hitch. He had no idea!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Planned Parrrrrty Surprises

How confident am I that my husband never reads my blog?

Confident enough to tell you that I don’t have time for a proper post today because I’m rushing around, trying to get ready for his 40th birthday surprise party on Sunday. Today's my only day to get stuff done without him noticing, so I've got to get moving.

A few party numbers first:

1 bachelor pad located on the golf course, courtesy of his brother.

35-45 golfer buddies.

2 food suppliers: Me and my mother-in-law.

1 big keg of beer and additional beverage choices.

1 really big pirate picture of my husband on a really big poster board, suitable for signing.

Hope your weekend is as fun as mine!