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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, Joy McCullough-Carranza, and how YOU can win a publishing contract!

*In honor of Joy's accomplishment, the following will stay up as both my Tuesday and Friday blog post, so that more of you can read it and wish her luck with the remainder of the competition!*


Okay, let me back up a little...

The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition is an amazing opportunity, and authors from all over the world sent their manuscripts for consideration between April and October of 2012 (same timeline for the 2013 entry period). The competition is open to all unpublished, unagented writers and one lucky winner will see their manuscript published by Chicken House with the backing of a leading literary agent.

The Chicken House is a small, highly individual children’s book publishing company in the UK with an enthusiasm for new fiction, founded by *Barry Cunningham* in 2000. The international reach of the company is thanks to its association with the world’s largest children’s publisher, Scholastic Inc, who bought Chicken House in 2005.

*That would be THE Barry Cunningham~ the man who picked up, read, and signed JK Rowling's Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone (UK title)*

Following weeks of reading, deliberating and debating, the Chicken House readers have selected a longlist of just 21 incredible manuscripts. The next stage of the competition will see Barry Cunningham select a shortlist of five manuscripts which will be read by a panel of expert judges. The winner will be announced in March. There are links at the bottom of this post with information about how YOU can enter the competition this year. Here's where it gets very cool...

Joy is on Twitter @JMCwrites and she's really trying to get more interactive with the writing community, so say hi, please! Her website is www.joymcculloughcarranza.com
Joy was kind enough to let me pester her with some questions.  

How did you find out about the London Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, and what prompted you to enter the international contest (Joy was the only American to make the longlist)?

You know what? I don't remember! I saw a link on a blog or writing website - one that I don't frequent regularly, but somewhere I just happened to pop onto. I followed the link and was very intrigued when I saw who Chicken House published. I was kind of embarrassed about entering, though - it cost me a bit between the entry fee and the overseas shipping, so I felt like I was totally wasting money and it was ridiculous of me to enter. But now I'm glad I did!

What did you do to celebrate making the longlist?
There was definitely some happy dancing. Not much more. I found out a few weeks before I was allowed to really announce it, but there was some very excited emailing with awesome CP's. :-)

Tell us about your longlisted manuscript, FRAMED:
Sure! Here's my query:

While 12-year-old Charley loves escaping her dull-as-dirt family to hang out in her aunt’s art gallery and get lost in great paintings, she never expects to literally get lost inside a painting. Of a swamp. And get chased by a hungry crocodile.

When she escapes the crocodile (and the painting) only to discover that her Aunt Sapphire’s been accused of a major art heist, Charley realizes her freaky new ability to travel inside works of art just might help clear her beloved aunt’s name. After all, there are plenty of paintings on the walls of the Art Institute, where her aunt was captured on security cameras and then never seen again. Maybe someone inside a painting can tell Charley exactly what happened the night her aunt disappeared.

But before she can clear Aunt Sapphire, Charley has to find her. And to do that, she’ll have to get past seventeenth century Belgian pickpockets, witch-hunting Puritans in the New World, not to mention the diabolical thugs who may have set her aunt up in the first place (and who are after something a lot more sinister than stolen paintings).

Part historical adventure and part fantastical mystery, FRAMED is a 43,000-word novel for middle grade readers, which references all real paintings ranging from Titian to Goya to Seurat.


Did you go through a traditional query process with the MS before/while entering the competition?
Um, yes. I have queried FRAMED to around 45 US agents and while I have gotten 13 requests, 9 of those have already come back as no's. 4 are still pending, but I had definitely begun to give up on the manuscript when I found out about the Chicken House list.

Barry Cunningham is a big name--here's a little quote about him from JK Rowling:
‘If it wasn’t for Barry Cunningham, Harry Potter might still be languishing in his cupboard under the stairs… I doubt any of the writers with whom he has worked could be more grateful to him.’ 
How does it feel to know that he personally chooses the short list?
Oh my gosh. I don't even. No matter what happens, the thought that Barry Cunningham personally read my manuscript just absolutely floors me. He tweeted that all the manuscripts on the long list were "fascinating" and that had me walking on air for days. After so many agent rejections (and not just on this manuscript), this has been the first confirmation from inside publishing that my work doesn't completely suck. (It may be unpublishable, but it doesn't suck. :-)

Tell us a little about your fabulous self:
Before I came to kid lit, I studied theater at Northwestern University and wrote plays for fifteen years. But then my daughter was born, and she was obsessed with books from a very early age. By the time she was three, we were reading E.B. White and Laura Ingalls Wilder and C.S. Lewis and more, and after reading these amazing books aloud for literally hours a day, it's no wonder that stories began to come to me in fiction form. So now I write middle grade fiction. FRAMED has magical/adventure elements, but my other manuscripts are contemporary.

What are you working on now?
I'm working now on a middle grade contemporary based on my own childhood friendship with an amazing girl who went on to become a competitive swimmer, a classical guitarist, a culinary school graduate, and an acupuncturist - and she's blind!

I've also been spending far too much time at the sewing machine lately, racing to finish a Harry Potter quilt for my daughter's birthday. I'm almost as proud of the quilt as I am of FRAMED! Though now that it's just about finished, I should be able to finish up the first draft of my WIP.


Best of luck to Joy~ we hope you make the shortlist and then win the whole shebang!!




Friday, January 25, 2013

Work-In-Progress Grants for Writers...and other reasons to join SCBWI

Today I have a little plug for SCBWI~ Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators.

If you write picture books, chapter books, middle grade, or young adult fiction (or nonfiction), please consider joining your regional SCBWI chapter. SCBWI has levels of membership for published and unpublished authors, so anyone interested in writing can join.

Not only does it give you access to regional critique groups/networking (and therefore precious interaction with other writers in your area) and discounts on conferences/classes, but you get a really cool bi-monthly bulletin/magazine with articles on writing. I always feel get a giddy kick out of getting mail from SCBWI.

AND SCHOLARSHIPS! By entering pages from one of my middle grade manuscripts, I won a full scholarship to my two-day regional SCBWI conference that included an agent/editor critique and a pitch session. It was a very cool experience that I never would have been able to afford otherwise.

AND GRANTS! We all know that being a published author doesn't necessarily pay all the bills and being a pre-published author pays...um, even less. SCBWI offers national and regional Work-In-Progress Grants to writers who are actively crafting manuscripts/stories/articles and who are seeking  publication. Grants of a few hundred dollars up to $2,000 are given to members each year.

SCBWI-Who we are and What we do
SCBWI Membership Benefits
Awards and Grants (check out your regional website for additional regional grant info)
Regional Chapters
REGISTRATION (Join Now page)

Is money tight? Consider asking your spouse or mother or sister or brother or friend to get you the membership for a birthday treat! The cost is $85 the first year with a $70 renewal fee each year.

Are any of you members of SCBWI?

Oh, and FYI:

*All members also have access to a discounts on a variety of goods and services including office supplies, computers, and rental cars.
*I just read this on the website (Membership Benefits page) and have never taken advantage of this...not sure about the details on these discounts, but they sure sound good :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Agent's Wish List (Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult)

For those of you on the agent hunt, Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency posted her wish list last week.

She's looking for Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult manuscripts!

Click HERE for her post with details regarding genres, etc.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Author Biographies You MUST Read

My husband does not read fiction. The ever-changing library stacks on our bedside tables would not be super good friends because my Enola Holmes mysteries (great historical middle grade by Nancy Springer) and Kate Messner books (you've got to read the Marty McGuire books) and Junie B. Jones books (Barbara Park is a GENIUS) wouldn't be able to relate well his copy of The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging (to be fair, this one was actually super interesting) and The Body Ecology Diet and his issues of Golf Digest.

Every once in awhile, he'll throw a biography or autobiography into the mix and I'll steal it to learn more about a historical leader or sports figure. I have to admit it, even if the legendary golfer Ben Hogan wasn't on my radar before I met my husband, I'm glad I know about the man now. People are truly fascinating (which I suppose explains Twitter...why else would people feverishly follow Justin Bieber through his day to see what he was up to~ "Oooo!! He got a hair cut!" "Oh no! Now he got a paper cut!").

ANYWAY, if you're like me and have a constant stack of fiction on your bedside table, why not throw in a few nonfiction gems that are a pleasant bridge between writing craft books and pure fiction. That's right~ I'm talking about author biographies and autobiographies. 

Here are a few that have caught my eye (okay, so they're not necessarily MUST read, as advertised in this blog post's title, but they sounded interesting to me):


Theodor SEUSS Geisel (Lives and Legacies) by Donald E. Pease

*The beloved Dr. Seuss. Enough said :)

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter

*There are tons of biographies out there about Tolkien. Take your pick of them, but DO choose one to read!

J. K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter by Marc Shapiro

*Again, there are tons of biographies out there on Rowling.


Boy: Tales of Childhood 

*This is a short memoir of Roald Dahl's childhood. I read this for a report in elementary school and still love it!

Autobiography of Mark Twain (100th Anniversary Newly Edited and Commented Edition)

*Samuel Clemens planned for this to be published a century after his death and it was kept in archives as promised until 2010. This one was listed at $2.99 for a Kindle version.

A Year in Provence By Peter Mayle

*A Year in Provence begins a charming three-book series about author Peter Mayle's life in France. Those who love travel memoirs with funny/poignant cultural and personal revelations about life, etc. will sink into these.

*Encore Provence and Toujours Provence
are the other books

That's all from me~ do you have any recommendations or author biographies and/or autobiographies?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Agent News/Tips via Twitter (and the BEST way to brag about your critique partners!)

Here are a few pieces of news/advice from Twitter over that last few days~ enjoy!

AGENT ADDITION at Greenhouse Literary:

Sarah Davies@SarahGreenhouse
Big day today in the Greenhouse! Welcome to @johnmcusick who joins us. We're cracking champagne across his bows for a great future with us! 

*DID YOU CATCH THAT??? Agent John Cusick is now with Greenhouse!

Greenhouse submission guidelines a little tweaked for this new year, new era. Take a look: http://www.greenhouseliterary.com/index.php/site/how_to_submit …

John, Julia and I will be all over the US and UK this year. Want to know where you can meet us? http://www.greenhouseliterary.com/index.php/site/what_we_are_doing …

INTERVIEW with agent Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd.:

Sarah LaPolla@sarahlapolla
Jensen Ackles? Buffy/Willow tackle-hug? Mr. Knightley? My @Fizzygrrl knows me so well! Check out her interview w/ me: http://bit.ly/VatWqU 

Katie Grimm@grimmlit
My Kindle is empty! My Kindle is empty! Please send help aka query letters! #openthefloodgates

Katie Grimm@grimmlit
Answer to everyone who asked: yes YA/New Adult fantasy, historical fantasy, whatever. Send it. Worst that can happen is a rejection letter

Katie Grimm@grimmlit
Sure, your manuscript might be worth reading once. But how about 15 times? That's how much I read a ms before it gets published #truestory

Meet a new agent seeking clients NOW http://tinyurl.com/ar7wq85 Brittany Howard of Corvisiero Lit seeks romance, YA, MG, pic books & hist fiction

QUERY TIPS from agent Kate Schafer Testerman of kt Literary:

Daphne Unfeasible@DaphneUn
UPDATE! About My “About My Queries” - This post is going on three years old, but it's still chock full of good info… http://ktliterary.tumblr.com/post/40527994281/update-about-my-about-my-queries

Also, if you haven't heard about PAP-fest (Pitch-A-Partner), it's a great opportunity for you to PITCH YOUR CRITIQUE PARTNER'S MANUSCRIPT! What a cool idea and wonderful opportunity to gush about how amazing your critique partners are. Click the link in the tweet below (or click HERE)for more information, including the agent line-up:

Mindy McGinnis@MindyMcGinnis

Announcing the agents participating in the 2013 #PAPfest, an agent judged contest for MG & YA projects http://bit.ly/VE8eNn 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Two updates (one happy, one messy)

Just when I get back to blogging, I'm having to deliver a short post today for two reasons:

1) My 4-year-old projectile vomited last night on my teenage stepdaughter's bed (to be specific, on her boyfriend's coat) and then spiked a fever, so I've been occupied since then and don't have much time for a researched post related to writing.

2) If you check my "About Me" section in the margin to the right, you may notice that I've changed, "Mom to 1 youngster" to "Mom to 2 youngsters." (insert happy, tired grin) That's also the reason that I haven't responded to some blog comments on my post from Tuesday~ I'll get around to it, I promise! And I will be back to reading/commenting on your posts as soon as routines and stomachs settle down here :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Contests and Agent News (with intern requests)!

It's been a lovely break, but I'm excited to jump back into the blogging community with all of you!


-The amazing Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency is looking for two new remote interns! Click HERE for details.

-Likewise, FinePrint Literary Management, home to many stellar agents, recently posted this on Twitter:

Seeking a seriously smart & talented intern for a remote internship w FPLM! Please send resumes and cover letters to becky@fineprintlit.com.

-Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary Agency is looking for new YA clients and tweeted this (here's a link to the book she mentioned, Nobody But Us):

Oh! I'd also like a submission like @KristinHalbrook's NOBODY BUT US. Out Jan. 29th. Read it then submit to me if you got something like it!

-Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management is retiring from agenting. Click HERE for her announcement post.

Looking for your dream agent? Here are two upcoming contests:

Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent Contest:
Entry Day: Monday, January 14th
Entry Time: 12-5, EDT
Accepted Entries: Young Adult and Middle Grade, all genres
Click HERE for entry details

Cupid's Blind Speed Dating:
Entry Days: January 11,15, 18, 24, 29 and February 1
Genres: Most genres/age categories (Cupid will be posting bios of all the initial-round judges and what entry day they will be judging...for instance, those with middle grade manuscripts might want to enter on  January 15, when Marissa Burt and Tara Dairman~ middle grade writers~ will be judging)
Participating Agents: To Be Announced
Click HERE for a vital information post!

Publishers Weekly
Finally, in case you missed it, Publisher's Weekly posted its Best Books of 2012 list. Click the link for details.

The list mostly adult and nonfiction, but even the most ardent of young adult/middle grade novel enthusiasts can glean wisdom from reading books aimed at their own age group on occasion :)