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Friday, June 29, 2012

Agent Tweets~ The "#askagent" Addition

For those of you who don't know, #askagent is an awesome stealthy Q&A that pops up on Twitter now and then. An agent will usually say something along the lines of, "I feel like doing an #askagent in an hour. Who's with me???"

That's your cue to get prepared for any agents who might show up to address your burning questions about publishing.

You ask the question, making sure to include the hashtag #askagent in your tweet. It's an amazing opportunity to interact with literary agents and you can learn TONS by following the twitter feed, even if you're feeling too shy to ask a question.

Here are some questions and answers from a session earlier this week:

QUESTION: Can a YA MS have an adult perspective? I've heard it's rare, but haven't heard if this is automatically a bad thing. #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse Very difficult; more likely to turn itself into an adult novel if an adult perspective.#askagent

QUESTION: To clarify- can a YA novel alternate between a YA and adult POV, or must it only be a YA POV? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchill If it's a POV, rather than MC, perhaps. But does the book stay true to core reader? A challenge there. #askagent

QUESTION: Once you sign a writer, how much personal time do you spend on each client? What should we expect, roughly?

AGENT ANSWER by Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse: Impossible to quantity; a lot! Often couple rounds of edits then regular contact. V close professional r/ship. #askagent

QUESTION: I thought I read somewhere that publishers don't want pre-illustrated picture books. Did I misread, or have my genre wrong? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by Sandy Lu@sandylunyc: Publishers often work with their own list of illustrators. It's harder to sell both texts and illustration as a package. #askagent

QUESTION: Do you believe genre fiction can also be literary? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Annie Bomke@ABLiterary Usually the genre designation trumps a literary one. If you have a literary sci-fi novel, it has to be sold as sci-fi. #askagent

QUESTION: #askagent Say ur hooked on first chapter, second ch is mediocre, third is fine, and 4th-end is great. Would you rep? (i.e., "mostly" great)

AGENT ANSWER by:   Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchill If it's mostly great, then quite possibly. 'Mostly great' doesn't have too much of a leap to 'totally great'. #askagent

QUESTION: On that note what would you like to see more of? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse Contemp real-world stories. Always love intriguing thrillers! Luminous MG writing of any kind. #askagent

QUESTION: Do agents typically want new author to focus on nonfiction OR fiction? I write both #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by:  Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse If you get a fic deal best to follow up with more fic (publisher will prob want you to). At least start with one genre.#askagent

QUESTION: Is it bad to query two projects at once? Or should you pull subs on a book u don't think is as strong to query a new book? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by:  Jodie Marsh@Jodiemarsh31 I'd say best to let a sub run its course before next. Might be interest to follow up on from first sub with second. #askagent

QUESTION: #askagent Should those seeking representation cease using sites like critique circle, authonomy, bookcountry, ssf online writing workshop?

AGENT ANSWER by: Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchill No. Community helps. I've asked authors to come off Inkpop or similar, but only once I'd signed them. #askagent

QUESTION: Should specific projects in process of being submitted be removed or are they ok to remain on such sites? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchillThey're fine up there. I don't mind. If I offer to represent the author, I'll suggest they bring them down. #askagent

QUESTION: can a book with specific historical context be either, literary, comercial, or general fiction? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by:  Annie Bomke@ABLiterary Yes, it all depends on the plot and writing. #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by:  Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse I don't really see those distinctions - or not in children's/YA. All eds want quality writing with a commercial hook.#askagent

QUESTION: #askagent Ever rep'd a book that you weren't personally passionate about but that you knew was marketable?

AGENT ANSWER by: Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchill  I rep a debut 'cos I think it has a place in the world, & want to help make it happen. Sounds bit worthy. True tho. #askagent

QUESTION: #askagent How much of 'personal preference' is characterization? If 1 agent rejects full with that as deciding reason, fix or keep subbng?

AGENT ANSWER by:  Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse  If your wise critique partners love it, keep going. If the crit confirms your own instincts, take another look! #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by:  Annie Bomke@ABLiterary I'd say everything is subjective in publishing. One person might not connect to the characters, but another might. #askagent

QUESTION: #askagent If you really loved a story and its voice/concept but not the author, would that be an issue?

AGENT ANSWER by:  Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse Need to feel we can work together, openly + with enjoyment, for the long haul. If one side doesn't feel that then tricky! #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by  Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchill We just need to be able to work well together. They don't need to be a future bridesmaid. ;-) #askagent

QUESTION: How imperative is it to have a website or blog before querying?#askagent

AGENT ANSWER by:  Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchilll When I googled many of my (now) biggest authors, I couldn't even find a facebook entry. It didn't bother me at all. #askagent

QUESTION: Do previous writing credentials matter? Some credentials more alluring than others with so many different e-book pubs out there?#askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse I always look v closely at mss from MFA grads. But anything you've done before is interesting.#askagent

QUESTION: #askagent Is there anything you'd like to see more of genre/age-wise?

AGENT ANSWER by:  Julia Churchill@JuliaChurchilll I'd like to see a bit more balance towards 9-12 and younger in my inbox. #askagent

QUESTION: Should writers be wary of agents with no list of clients? Even if they are associated with reputable company? #askagent

AGENT ANSWER by: Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse Depends! Could be good new agent - which could mean you are top dog! I did fab deals for my 1st client.#askagent

Always feel free to check out the hashtag #askagent to see what you've missed lately! 

I'm off to another baseball game this morning. Being on pre-evacuation notice for the fire here hasn't brought my interaction with baseball to a halt (my stepson plays in a different area, so we'll be driving into a non-smoky area with our "essentials"-packed car in case something crazy happens in the few hours we're gone).

Have a great weekend, and happy reading/writing!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Duty Calls...

Heading downtown to do my civic duty. Last time they didn't end up needing folks, so I got home by lunch. We'll see what happens this time.

Too bad I don't have a fancy phone so I can browse blogs while waiting (yup, I still own a flip phone...I'm so behind the times).

Have a great day, and don't forget about the 1st page contest with Tricia Lawrence~ this Friday on Daisy Carter's blog!

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Should I Serve At A Literary Barbecue?

I need a little help. I'm thinking of throwing a themed barbecue this summer for my friends (whose interests run the gamut when it comes to reading, and are familiar with everything from picture books to Harry Potter, from YA genre reading to Chaucer, from George R.R. Martin to John Grisham).

Bilbo's birthday feast, Lord of the Rings
Can you suggest some foods/beverages mentioned in novels that might be a good match for a summer feast? I've got a few recipes from Pat Conroy novels (the man is a fan of South Carolina Lowcountry Cuisine and so am I), but I need more suggestions.

Main dishes, side dishes, desserts, you name it!

I'm looking for fun, whimsical, and (of course) TASTY!

Thanks so much for your help~ if I end up doing the BBQ, I'll be sure to post a final menu list :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Agent-Judged Competition Announcement

If you thought summer was supposed to be slow in publishing (some agencies and publishing houses have "Summer Fridays," which shortens the work week...not that these gentlemen and ladies don't work weekends on a regular basis), don't let that lessen your motivation to get an agent!!

Fabulous contests seem to be popping up everywhere. Ruth Lauren Steven and Michelle Krys are teaming up to bring you Christmas in July!

WHAT IT IS: A writing contest featuring 30 pitches, 10 agents, judged over 1 week.

WHO CAN ENTER: Anyone with a polished manuscript in children's books (picture books, middle grade, young adult) OR adult (all genres except erotica).

ENTRY MATERIALS: Query letter and first 500 words.

WHAT TO DO: Mark your calendars now!! Follow the blogs (not required, but highly recommended) of Ruth Lauren Steven and Michelle Krys. Read the next contest post on June 25th for more details. Polish up those query letters and first 2 pages~ use critique partners to really prepare!!
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And don't forget the first page contest with the amazing Tricia Lawrence on June 29th on Daisy Carter's blog. In fact, get over to her blog right now~ she's just posted more details about the contest!
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On a related note, the QueryTracker post today is written by Ash Krafton~ she discusses her personal experience with writing contests:

Using Writing Contests To Improve One's Game

Friday, June 15, 2012

Baseball and a First Page Contest (with an AMAZING agent!)

Baseball has taken over my life in the last couple of weeks. My stepson is on the high school team now, and has had one day of practice a week, followed by four to five days of double-headers...I'm thinking that practice and game schedules should be reversed, since we haven't won a game yet :(

Anyway, my writing/blogging productivity levels have been doused with Gatorade runs, drenched with driving duties, and doomed by the fact that I've been plotting ways to amuse a 3-year-old for 6-8 hours at a time (rather than plotting a new WIP). Frustrating, but seeing your kid at bat or on the mound is worth it. I realize that he is actively experiencing his last days of childhood, and it's bittersweet to watch.

ON another note, if you're seeking an agent and write picture/chapter books, middle grade and/or young adult fiction, you MUST put the following contest on your calendar:

Blog: Fresh as a Daisy, Daisy Carter

Contest Entry: 1st Page of your completed, polished manuscript

Date: June 29th

Agent (drumroll please): Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency!!!! She is not open to queries (other than recommendations and conference attendees), so this is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get your work in front of her!!

Here's some info from her agency bio:

Tricia is the "Pacific Northwest branch" of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 17 years of working as a developmental and production-based copyeditor (from kids book to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist hoping to learn from Erin and Joan about agenting.

As associate agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won't let go. 

Follow Daisy's blog NOW, so you won't miss any updates!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Letters of Note: Mark Twain

Letters of Note is a very cool website edited by Shaun Usher. It "is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos."

Because my most recent manuscript features Mark Twain, one of my writing friends sent me a link to correspondence between Twain and a children's librarian at Brooklyn Public Library.

The man wrote to Twain and explained that he'd been fighting to keep The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on the bookshelves. The book had been banned from the children's department and transferred to the adult section (due to Huck's coarse behavior and language), and the librarian wanted Twain to offer a word or two that would demonstrate Huck's good character.

The following is Mark Twain's reply:


I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

(Signed, 'S. L. Clemens')

Click HERE to read the entire post (including the librarian's letter), or to browse other letters in the collection.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Taking a "Novel" Approach to Gardening

Here are pictures of my garden last year (in September):

We grew things that we didn't think were possible in the not-so-great Colorado soil of our backyard. Pumpkins, corn, and WATERMELONS!

As you might notice, the garden got a little out of control. The pumpkin vines went absolutely crazy, and it was hard to pick weeds when there was so much leafy ground cover to sift through. There's a beauty in it for sure, and eating watermelon from our own backyard was extremely satisfying...but it was basically a crapshoot. We had no idea in May if we'd end up with anything at all.

Here we are, so far, this year:

Climbing beans, climbing peas, carrots, spinach, onions, and cucumbers (left to right). We’ve got trellises and drip irrigation, water walls for the tomatoes (not shown)…all in all, we are determined to make things GROW. We want a good product and are being proactive about.  Not that we absolutely know what we’re doing—it’s kind of all a game, and the seductive power of gardening items at Home Depot has quite possibly set us up for disappointment. That said, we’re trying in a different way. A more organized way.

I feel like my writing approach has evolved as well. I feel more invested in doing the prep and follow-up work to create a better product—I’m trying, at least. Nearly three years from the time I first penned my first novel (a post-pregnancy-induced chick lit novel that I now realize was really just a love letter to food journalism, cooking shows, and Gilmore Girls), I finally feel like I’m learning how to craft a novel—how to go back after first drafts and add nuances that make for a richer harvest o’ story.

And my product is getting better for it. I'm all for experimenting, but it's become more important to me to really have an end-product that I think is query-worthy. I don't want to waste months on a random idea plucked out of the sky, without evaluating how it might fit into the marketplace, etc.

Now, of course I still love the idea of a little wildness...so I decided to sneak in a few pumpkin vines and herbs in a separate area to get my experimental fix in:

Sage and mint (both of which grown like fragrant weeds)

Pumpkins in the making

Has your approach to novel writing changed over your journey? Do you find yourself using the same methods with each project, or do you experiment with new approaches?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Movie Trailer

I saw this trailer on Rachel Alpine's blog, and immediately showed it to my nearly-17-year-old stepdaughter. She LOVES the book by Stephen Chbosky, and can't wait to see this movie (scheduled to come out this September).

Here's a summary from Wikipedia:

The story is narrated by a teenager who goes by the alias of "Charlie"; he describes various scenes in his life by writing a series of letters to an anonymous person, whom he does not know personally.[2]

The story explores topics such as introversion and the awkward times of adolescence. The book also touches briefly on drug use and Charlie's experiences with this.[3] As the story progresses, various works of literature and film are referenced and their meanings discussed.

The story takes place in a suburb of Pittsburgh during the 1991–1992 school year, when Charlie is a high school freshman. Charlie is the titular wallflower of the novel. He is an unconventional thinker, and as the story begins he is shy and unpopular.

The book was third on the American Library Association's list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009, for reasons including the book's treatment of drugs, homosexuality, sex, and suicide.[

Will it be on your list of must-see films?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Two Contests for Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers

Happy Friday, indeed. My little one and I spent seven hours at a car repair place yesterday, on an errand that was supposed to take two hours tops. Turns out the bargain used car we bought from a dealership auction had a few issues that we didn't, well, bargain for. 

Anyway, I'm ecstatic that it's Friday~ two fabulous library programs await me and my girl, one of which includes a person dressed up as Mother Goose...which will either be really neat, or a little scary.

Here are two contests for those of you with a completed, polished manuscript:

OPERATION AWESOME: This month's mystery agent is looking for a variety of MG/YA plots. Get over to the website for more details, and be sure to enter right as it opens today at 10:00 AM, EST. They'll take the first 50 pitches, then close the contest. Click HERE or above for the website. UPDATE: Closed~ keep an eye out for July's contest (they always hold them close to the 1st day of the month).

YALITCHAT.ORG: This fabulous group is hosting Pitch Slam 2!  Four amazing agents will judge and comment on pitches for middle grade and young adult manuscripts. This one is open until Monday, June 4th, and I've already seen requests made on some of the pitches~ holy exciting! You need to be a member to participate, but YALITCHAT is free and easy to join (there is a sign-up area on the top right of the website). Click HERE for rules, agent profiles, and other details.