Tag Archives: agent query

Conference Questions and a Shout Out!

A trip through the frozen corn fields of Minnesota and Iowa are in my future.  On April Fool’s Day, I will journey to the Quad Cities to attend a writer’s conference of epic proportion.

Not only does the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators have a great line-up, but one of the speakers is my very own agent.

Be still my heart!

In any case, I will keep my juvenile lit fans posted about trends and news that I gather from this illustrious event.  I will also pass along any and all info on the publishing business as a whole.  One of the speakers is presenting on marketing and self-promotion.  You can bet I’ll be scribbling notes for that one.

So, I ask, my dear readers, are there any burning questions you would like me to keep my ears open for?  I will happily compile a list of questions or concerns and see if I can ferret out the answers over three amazing days with agents, editors, authors and illustrators.

Likewise, any tips on meeting one’s agent face to face would be appreciated.  I already have things like eat no lettuce, wipe sweaty palms off before shaking hands and don’t vomit on Agent Awesome, but would be open to any other words of wisdom you’d like to pass along.

Oh yeah, and speaking of agents, I’d love to share the good news.  Another one of my rockin’ AQ writer friends has landed an agent to rep her incredible young adult novel.  Mindy is amazingly sweet, absolutely hilarious and has more talent than I have dust bunnies.  If you’d like to get in on the ground floor of her writing journey, please pop on over to her very new blog: Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire.

Know any other great writers, good news or industry info?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Price Check on Aisle 3: rating social groups

Price is one of the things I look for when buying something from the store.  Quality, durability and functionality also play a big role in what I buy and why.

As a member of several online writing communities, I notice that I am more active in some than in others.  If I were to buy them at Walmart, I’d have a value assessed to them so I knew which ones were worth my hard-earned cash.

One of my faves–and I won’t lie to make other networks feel good–is Agent Query.  AQ has a vast array of writers.  Some have very recently taken pen in hand, while others are seasoned veterans.  My only disappointment in the AQ arena is that their juvenile lit groups are not as active as I would like them to be.  I know, selfish, but there you have it.

Another great resource and community is the SCBWI.  The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators obviously provides me with the one thing AQ does not–child centric conversation and commiseration.

Likewise for Verla Kay and the BlueBoards.

Then there’s twitter and Facebook.  Both of which I fail at miserably.  While I love, love, love the tight writing of twitter, I don’t get on there as much as I should or provide great insight like I could.  Again, I’ve been limited in my contact over there and it is 100% my fault.

Facebook.  Hmmm.

I used to participate in a very active group of NaNoBuddies on Live Journal, but then they changed some things and, unless I upgraded to a paid membership, I had to sit through annoying video ads EVERYTIME I switched pages.  This saddens me to no end.

NaNoWriMo is my staple during the months of October, November and early December.  I live there.  I love there and I never want to leave.  I’m sure my family is relieved when NaNoSeason is over.  Obviously the downfall to this community is that it is filled with crazy wannabe writers who jump into the writing world feet first and fizzle out as the month progresses.  Definitely not a long-term support.  More like therapy for the insane! 

And blogging.  The love of my writing life.  I could blog all day if it didn’t feel like such a time sucker.  I am heartbroken when I don’t get to visit my fellow bloggers like I want to. 

Writer’s Digest Community–the name speaks for itself.  As an avid reader of the magazine for half my life, I can’t say enough about the integrity of its backer.  However, as a whole, I have found that interaction is a bit slower and somewhat one-sided than some of the other sites I frequent.  Though I must say my time on there has been well worth it in finding fellow writer and blogger, Elisa!

I won’t rate my social network groups, as I love them all for various reasons.  However, the fact that I will be starting back to work (outside my house) full-time means that I will have to prioritize.

Price check on aisle three.  How do you decide which communities to engage in?  Why do you spend more time in some than in others?  If you had to pick just one, could you do it, or would you find yourself cheating as time went on? 

Enough Already

Snow has been a pain in my rear this winter.  In the past five days, we’ve had two missed school days and one late start.  We had to cancel DH’s Christmas party due to icy roads and the internet and cable hibernated on Saturday. 

Enough Already!

Which makes me wonder, do editors and agents feel this way about our deluge of manuscripts? 

Today I checked out the Kidlit blog this morning to refresh the rules for the first chapter contest.  I browsed the comments, trying to size up the competition and saw a few questions that made me wonder just how attentive we writers are to submission guidelines. 

My guess is not very. 

Every once in a while, an agent or editor might be delighted with an unexpected submission.  However, my guess is that more often than not, they get as crabby as a mom with four school age kids after the fifth week in a row of snow days. 

In short, it gets tiresome to field queries that don’t follow basic guidelines.  To review:

  1. Unless you are writing non-fiction or are a super-star, do not query an incomplete manuscript.  Period. 
  2. Do not submit the minute you complete your manuscript.  Manuscripts need rounds of edits and “just finished my first novel” is a sure sign not to sign.
  3. Send only what is asked for.  We are in love with our own writing and want everyone to see it in its entirety.  Quash the urge.  Go to agent or editor websites and find out what they want sent and how they want it to arrive on their desks.  A snail query to e-queries only is a waste of trees and agent patience.
  4. Don’t tout your first place win for the International Society of Poets in your bio.  Everyone owns the plaque and has been invited to spend their money on $60 anthologies of really bad poetry.  If you don’t have writing credits, it’s okay.  There are agents and editors hungry to find the newest best-selling author. 
  5. Likewise, don’t tell them your grandmother loves your manuscript more than her nightly martini.  She’s your grandma (insert at leisure: kids, mom, spouse, best friend, neighbor) and will lie to stay on the Christmas list. 
  6. For the love of all things holy, do not send a picture book to a YA contest or a romance novel to a horror agent.  To do so is to clutter up cyber space and eat up everyone’s time.  It’s like adding six inches of snow to a forty mile an hour wind.  Unless you’re God, don’t do it.
  7. Know the very basics of manuscript formatting should you include more than a query letter.  Most websites that cater to writers (including agency and publishing house sites) have sections devoted to double spacing, one inch margins, chapter breaks, cover pages and fancy fonts.  If you don’t know these things, check out Agent Query asap.

Please follow these basic guidelines to keep the slush at a minimum.  In the long run, it should help staunch the blizzard of queries to agents and editors.  This should lighten their moods and make them more apt to read all of our queries more closely.  Henceforth giving writers a better chance of actually having their manuscript requested, read and repped. 

Willy nilly submission practices only garner rejections.

If we all do our part, we can stop the hands-in-the-air, enough-already expletives from those we wish to woo. 

Have you made rooky mistakes when querying?  What tips can you provide other writers to help the right manuscripts make it to the right desk?

What’s Community?

I hear this phrase a lot.  I use it often myself.  The Writing Community this.  The Writing Community that.  It is spoken as if the first letters should be Capitalized.  Like the White House or the Swine Flu.

This shows a level of importance.  But what exactly does Community mean?

To me, it is a connection to other writers and industry professionals.  This sense of Community refers to real life connections as well as those floating around in cyber space.  Yet it is more than the sum of my writerly relationships.  It is a feeling of belonging.

Writing has always been a solitary business.  Writers often lock themselves away while drafting their newest masterpieces.  Editing typically occurs in the confines of a private space–whether it’s an office, a closet or the library.  We sit alone typing out submission packages and our trips to the post office are not group efforts.  At least not in my experience. 

Waiting can be a lonely endeavor.  And since much of the querying process consists of waiting, writers need something to keep from going insane.  Hence the Community.

But is there more to the Writing Community than support, waiting games for which AQ is famous for and commenting on each other’s blogs? 

Over the last nine months I have watched AQers come and go.  I hope some of those leaving have reached their dreams and not simply given up.  I pray that the handful of steadfast AQers all reach the best selling list.  They are fabulous cheerleaders, mentors and individuals in general.  Not to mention their writing rocks.

If any one of the core group on AQ got his/her book published, I would stand in line for its release.  But I am one person.  It takes thousands for a sell-through and many more to reach break-out status.  Which makes me wonder, does the Writing Community have a role in helping writers reach these benchmarks?

Is there a new level of support to help debut novelists?  Or is the line drawn when we are asked (even silently) to lay out our hard earned cash?  What about the established mid-listers in our midst?  Do they need something different?  If so, what can the Community do for them?

What steps will/do you take to support the members of your Community?

warm wishes to my writing buddies~ cat

The Blocks

Mondays fill me with apprehension.  I’m excited to get back in the swing of writing, yet I inevitably come down with a bad case of The Blocks.

I know, it sounds bad.  And it could be if left untreated.  Without proper care and attention, The Blocks spread rapidly and affect a writer’s mental health.  Severe cases can damage the circulatory system and result in a total loss of heart.  If you, or someone you know, may be a victim of The Blocks, seek support immediately.

General Overview

The Blocks is a mental health infliction that causes writers to question the worthiness of their work.  Typically found in aspiring writers, the onset of The Blocks has two common causes. 

  1. Unresolved Writer’s Block: a milder form of The Blocks contained to a specific project. 
  2. Rejection Letter Overload: a mini-depression brought on by the lack of a book contract.

Signs and Symptoms

Typical symptoms include blankly staring at the computer screen.  The writer may sit up suddenly, smile and gently tap their fingers on the keyboard as if preparing to write.  Inevitably, this is followed by slumped shoulders and a long-winded sigh.  Occasionally, the writer will engage in sudden bursts of typing, followed by a compulsive use of the delete button. 

After a few hours of alternating between blank stares and typing outbursts, activities such as internet surfing and solitair may increase to an almost frenzied pace.  Surfing may completely replace typing.  As the days pass and mental health deteriorates, writers affected by The Blocks become Master Fibbers.  They quickly exit computer programs when Significant Others appear and their faces will transform from an I-just-swallowed-the-goldfish look to a ginormous I’m-working-my-tail-off grin.

A sense of paranoia sets in.  Grand conspiracy theories are hatched regarding the publishing industry.  No amount of discussion can persuade a writer affected by The Blocks that editors and agents do not rip writer wannabees to pieces, chew them up and spit them out for pure sport.

 Writers with The Blocks may become lethargic.  Those with severe cases refuse to boot up their computers, and some have been known to spontaneously throw their monitors across the room or burn half-finished manuscripts in fits of mental instability. 

  Treatment

To completely recover from The Blocks, a writer must follow these steps, repeating as necessary, until stability has returned.

  1. Find Support.  Writers groups abound.  Living in the boondocks is no longer an excuse for solitary confinement.  The internet brings like-minded writers to your desk top.  Agent Query is fantabulous.  The SCBWI is the bomb for juvenile lit writers.  Likewise, mystery guilds and romance associations can be found with relative ease.  I found my first group of support buddies through NaNoWriMo.
  2. Meet the Professionals.  A list of my favorite blogging editors and agents can be found on my sidebar.  Find ones you like and log on.  Subscribe to writer’s magazines and attend conferences.  As professionals in the publishing industry, they usually have something…professional…to say.
  3. Hone Your Craft.  Never does the old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” apply more than in the art of writing.  Writing is a mixture of talent, practice and perseverence.  You will not be an overnight success.  You will pay your dues through writing, editing and killing your darlings.  You will join the multitudes who have spent years penning words to find the right flow.  That’s okay.  It’s how we learn.
  4. Take Yourself Seriously.  If you won’t, nobody else will. 

Prognosis

Good.  However, if left untreated, the death of writing dreams may occur.

How do you shake off the writing doldrums?  If you have a tried and true method of getting back in the writing swing, please share it with others who may be suffering from this debilitating disease. 

If you are a current sufferer of The Blocks, take that first step and comment on a writer’s blog.  You may find a supportive friendship you never dreamed possible.

I hope this post finds you dreaming big and will give you the confidence to break through The Blocks and take control of your writing life.

~cat

Realism: It’s in the Details

Last night I snuck found a small bag of Whoppers in the left-over Halloween stash.  I don’t really like malted milk balls.  Yet, when I popped one in my mouth, I was instantly transported back in time.

In my youth, Whoppers meant movie marathons with my uncles, shoveling manure with my cousins and having more freedom than children should be allowed to have.  They were the best of times…

The worst of times centered around my third grade teacher.  I’m not sure if she was a real one, but she sat in the desk and we called her Teacher.  I think she was a failed musician.  My clue?  The fact that we all had to learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the violin–everyday–after which Teacher would cry at her desk and leave us on our own to tell time, count money and not beat each other up.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely accurate, but it is what I remember.  That and going across the monkey bars so many times my palms would blister into huge water pockets and I would walk around with them bandaged.  Those bandages were a matter of pride.  I lost so many layers of skin I’m surprised there are lines left to read.

The point of all this reminiscing is that the best things in life are chock full of details.  So, too, is great writing.  Just ask editor, Lynn Price.

On an AQ chat, we pondered how much of ourselves we should put into our writing.  My answer: the details.  Nothing brings characters or situations to life better than small details.

In one of my middle grade novels, I have a boy who associates learning to read with his weepy, whiney violin-playing teacher.  My beta readers loved this detail.  It’s also something I could’t have made up.   Thankfully, I didn’t have to, as my life is full of tiny experiences that breathe realism into my writing.

I did miss a plane once because my uncle had to stop for his Pepsi fix.  I know that you can run someone’s head over with a blue, banana seat bicycle and leave a nice tire track, but no lasting damage.  I have felt the stark terror of waking up with DH’s hands wrapped around my neck in his sleep-induced attempt to thwart a bad guy. 

If necessary, I can accurately portray how mind-numbing physical fatigue is.  Seriously, after an eighteen-game volleyball tourney that spanned seven hours, I was so exhausted I left the gym with fewer brain cells than I had going in.  I was quarrelsome, defensive and unmotivated.  I had no problem blaming others for my mistakes.  And no, I’m not usually like that.

The flip side of that is the adrenaline rush of being the hunter and the hunted.  After one stint on the course with my youth group, I’m a paintball addict.  Just thinking about it is energizing.

As writers, we should never memoir-ize our novels.  Quite simply, our lives are not that interesting.  Our readers would yawn their way through the first few pages before chucking our books into the nearest burn barrel. 

Yet, well-place details, taken from our experiences, can make the difference between flat characters and ones we cry for at the end of a book.  They can turn mediocre scenes into compelling reads.  They make fiction feel real and allow us to fall whole-heartedly into the pages.

I have no problem picturing my MC running to catch her plane after driving around town to assuage her Pepsi fix–her one weakness in an otherwise highly regimented life.  Suddenly she is thrust into a life-changing situation.  Maybe it’s sitting next to Mr. Wrong instead of having a seat to herself in first-class.  Or maybe she missed the plane that crashed.  Or maybe an airport cashier read her aura, making her question her entire life and everything she’s ever believed in.

While the possibilities are endless, the details make it fly. 

For my readers: What makes a character feel real to you?

For my writers: How much of yourself do you put into your work?

~cat