Wednesday, March 31, 2010

S.M.M. (Save My Manuscript)

It’s been a week now since I finished Bob’s first draft. A whole week. And from a writing perspective, it’s been an awful interesting one.

Have I mentioned my love-hate relationship with revision? Okay, so maybe it’s just a hate relationship. But I didn’t want it to be this time. I wanted to enjoy the process, and not be so concerned about finishing the stupid thing. So I decided to come up with a new method.

Perhaps I should explain how I’ve handled revision in the past. It’s pretty simple: Write the book. Read through the book. Change the things that don’t flow well or make sense. Read through it again, change it again, and on and on, until you can’t come up with anything else to change.

I don’t like this method for a few reasons. First, it doesn’t allow for a very thoughtful approach to editing--you just dive right in, with no goggles, no wetsuit, and change whatever you feel like changing. Second, it relies too heavily on the first draft. Since you don’t plan for any major rewrites, you often don’t do any major rewrites, and the first draft’s overall structure remains largely intact.

This time, I’ve been trying to take a more thoughtful, less first-draft-oriented approach. I came up with a revision outline. I decided to focus on the biggest issue first, and then the next biggest, and then the next, until I get down to line editing the prose. But this hasn’t been working, either. I’m getting too bogged down in the minutiae when I’m supposed to be dealing with the bigger stuff. And I’m making myself batty. (Just ask my son and husband.)

So I’m asking for your help. I’d love to hear a bit about how you handle revision. How do you break down/build up your first drafts? And what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received on the topic?

Please, enlighten me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Prolific Blogger Award

Thank you, Myrna, for this thoughtful award. According to the award's inscription, a prolific blogger is "one who is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content." I fear I'm not quite as prolific as I'd like to be, as there are days when I feel about as intellectually productive as a mushroom, but I'm trying. And I appreciate the thought.

Here are a few other prolific bloggers worth checking out:

A.L. Sonnichsen of The Green Bathtub I'm sort of cheating with this one, since Myrna gave A.L. the award at the same time she gave it to me, but hey, out of the mouths of two or three witnesses, right?

Authoress of Miss Snark's First Victim Authoress's blog is all about critique. Submit an excerpt to her (when she calls for one, of course), and you're bound to receive at least a dozen great comments from her readers. She also hosts regular contests, with prizes ranging from query to full manuscript critiques from established agents.

Kelly Bryson of Book Readress Kelly isn't just another young adult fantasy writer--she's also a great resource for beginning and more experienced novelists. Check out her posts to pick up some great writing tips.

Liesl of Writer Ropes and Hopes Liesl isn't just another young adult fantasy writer, either. I discovered Liesl's blog after stumbling across several insightful comments she'd made on other writers' blogs, and she is just as insightful in her own posts.

Natalie Whipple of Between Fact and Fiction Of all the blogs I read, Natalie's is probably the one from which I've learned the most. She's also represented by the uber-awesome Nathan Bransford, so she's clearly doing something right.

Have a beautiful day, everyone!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Word of the Week Wrap-up

Thanks, everyone, for playing another exciting round of Word of the Week. Now on to the definition!

From the Merriam-Webster: Fulgurant means flashing like lightning. Keep that in mind as you read the winning entry, from JustineDell:

"When the man who bumped into her grocery cart gave her (a) fulgurant laugh, she almost smacked him."

Ah, so many ways to interpret one small sentence:)

Two points to JustineDell--and one to Myrna Foster, whose entry I had to puzzle over the longest to understand ("I'm not going to give you the full 'grr' rant, but there are days when I think telemarketing should be illegal").

Thanks again for playing. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Mary Kole

I’ve got another great one for you. Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Happy reading.

KV: You've mentioned your own writing a few times on your blog. What did/do you write?

MK: I started out writing primarily YA and also did some middle-grade. I absolutely adore the conflicts that middle-grade readers face. There are a lot of forces pulling at them... they want to be individuals and define themselves, but they also want to remain loyal to their families and the kids they used to be. It's a really turbulent time. But YA also attracts me because I have naturally darker and edgier sensibilities.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

MK: While I was writing, I wanted to see the other side of the desk. I started reading slush for another agency and then, through my colleague, Jenn Laughran, started reading for Andrea Brown. I realized how much I was learning and enjoying the editorial aspects of agenting and came aboard from there. I also worked for Chronicle Books for a bit to get the editorial perspective. I think a love of books, writing and storytelling is what drives everyone who ends up in publishing.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

MK: I'm looking for a very hands-on and long-term relationship with each client. The best clients, to me, are writers who stay informed about the business and the market but who also yearn to grow, learn, and improve their craft. You can always tell when someone is a "lifer" and can't imagine doing anything else. Their determination and their willingness to evolve are what will make these kinds of writers successful in today's changing publishing market.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

MK: I came to agenting through my passion for novels, so it was a surprise to me when I ended up stumbling across so many fantastic author/illustrator clients. I have two author/illustrator projects coming out in 2011 so far (Lindsay Ward's PELLY AND MR. HARRISON VISIT THE MOON from Kane/Miller and Bethanie Murguia's BUGLETTE, THE MESSY SLEEPER from Tricycle), and their art, as well as their skill with blending visuals and text in their storytelling, is what drew me to them in the first place.

I also have a YA novel coming out in 2011 (Lisa Albert's MERCY LILY from Flux) and the emotional honesty and vulnerability of the main character really made that story come alive for me.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

MK: My favorite novels are contemporary MG and YA, often with a touch of magical realism. I'm open to lighter fantasy and some historical, though that is a very tough market right now. My favorite books are character-driven, with literary writing but strong commercial appeal. For picture books, my tastes run toward the decidedly quirky and humorous.

I tend to stay away from old-fashioned storytelling, high fantasy, science fiction and early reader and chapter book manuscripts.

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

MK: I'm interested in picture book authors but, because the market is tough right now and because picture book authors tend to be prolific, I need to fall head over heels in love with several of their projects, at least, before I even consider taking them on.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

MK: I discuss a lot of query snafus on my blog, but the most ineffective queries, to me, aren't personalized, start with rhetorical questions or other gimmicks, and fail to make me care about the character at the heart of the story that's being pitched. Bad writing in a query also bodes to bad writing in the manuscript, so poorly-executed queries are a big red flag.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

MK: I'm looking for funny MG or a great MG mystery and some darker YA. A too-close-for-comfort dystopian YA manuscript, like M.T. Anderson's FEED, is still at the top of my wish list.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

MK: Send a query and the first ten pages of your novel, copied and pasted, into an e-mail to mary@andreabrownlit.com. For picture book manuscripts, include the full manuscript after your query. No attachments, please, though I'm happy to look at art samples if you can link to them on the web.

Thanks again, Ms. Kole, for these great answers. And all you writer folk, did you check out her blog yet? Because you should. Just in case you need another link, here’s one: kidlit.com. Lots of helpful information for us kidlit writers over there. And if you’re getting ready to query her, you should definitely give it a look-see first.

Good luck, queriers! And thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Bob

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 59,000
Status: Doing a happy dance, a holy-crap-I-finally-finished-the-first-draft happy dance
Attitude: Can you be anything but happy when you’re doing a happy dance?

*Gasps* Can’t write--right now. Too busy--doing--happy dance. See you--tomorrow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Word of the Week

It’s time for another exciting round of “Word of the Week,” my very own improv game for writers! (Which means there are bound to be a few outlandish rules and gobs of pointless points). To play, just leave a comment that uses this week’s Word, with as many--or as few--other words as you want.

Keep in mind, your comment needn’t define the Word, just include it in an amusing or unexpected way. So if the Word were cookie, my comment might be, “Cinderello surveyed the kitchen with a distinct look of distaste. ‘Oh, and did I mention I don’t cook, i.e., chop, bake, or sauté?’” Remember, though, the actual Word will never be so non-outlandish, so don’t give yourself a headache trying to be too witty--the entries tend to generate plenty of wittiness all on their own:)

And now for the rules: First, please leave only one entry. Second, please make your comment something you’d be willing to share with your grandmother, your preacher, and your preacher’s grandmother. And last, but most importantly, please resist the urge to look the Word up. Trust me, you’ll like how this turns out much better if you do.

On Friday, I’ll reveal the definition, announce the winning comment (or comments), and award as many--or as few--points as I choose. And then we’ll all have a good laugh and give the winner (or winners) a virtual pat on the back.

All right, you ready for the Word? It’s fulgurant, which is an adjective.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Holly Root

Boy, do I know how to pick ’em, if I do say so myself:) Today I give you Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency. Enjoy!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

HR: I started out working as an editor in Nashville, my hometown. When my husband and I moved to NYC, I wasn't completely sure I wanted to keep going as an editor, but I knew I loved working with books. I found agenting and knew that was it.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

HR: I think my agenting philosophy and my life philosophy are basically the same--do good work and do right by others. I hope to work with people who are out to do the same. I also believe that you never stop learning--as an agent, a writer, an editor--and like to work with others who see it that way too. I expect my clients to be brilliant writers, and to be professionals who can work respectfully with me and their team whether everything's going perfectly or when it gets trickier.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

HR: You've just opened the door to my favorite subject: My clients' books, and why they rock! These three months coming up are huge months for client releases:

In March:

Susan Kearney's JORDAN (Grand Central), the third of her SF romance series The Pendragon Legacy, which plays with Arthurian legends in a futuristic, space-travel setting--I honestly think these books are some of Sue's best writing yet, they are so unique and create such amazing worlds.

Addison Fox's WARRIOR ASCENDED (NAL), the beginning of a new paranormal romance series about the Warriors of the Zodiac--I initially signed Addison on the strength of a YA project, so she's definitely multitalented, and this is the beginning of many exciting things for her as a writer.

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins (Hyperion Books for Children), which is a debut paranormal for young adults; I knew within 50 pages that I would just cease to exist if I did not get to represent it. How lucky am I that Rachel is just beyond fun to work with to boot!

AND FALLING FLY by Skyler White (Berkley), which is a dark fantasy that blends vampires and neuroscience in a steampunk-tinted world. I pitched this one to the editor by saying "I need you to trust me and just read this book that is so brilliant I almost can't describe it" because Skye's vision is so singular that it really just has to be experienced.

Jenny Gardiner's WINGING IT: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me (Gallery), which is just the funniest and most surprisingly touching account of owning a parrot with a serious attitude problem. I'm a bit of a birdaphobe but Jenny, who is also an exceptional novelist, kept poking me about this bird book she wanted to do. So finally I caved and told her to send it, and then had to eat my words with whipped cream on top because it was so funny and heartwarming. It did not, however, change my opinion of be-winged terrors.

In April:

Libby Malin's MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA (Sourcebooks), which is a smart backstage comedy set at a floundering soap opera--sort of a 30 ROCK meets ROMANCING THE STONE. Libby has such a knack for taking high-concept rom-com setups and imbuing them with unexpected depth and pathos.

Next up is Kay Cassidy's debut contemporary YA, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY (Egmont), which is a girl-empowering story about a high school secret society out to change the world for the better that anyone who loved Meg Cabot would totally dig. Kay is the embodiment of everything the Cinderella Society is about and you will most definitely want to be a Cindy too when you finish this book. Kay also created a program for libraries called The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, which you can check out at kaycassidy.com/hunt.

And then Lori Devoti's urban fantasy AMAZON QUEEN (Pocket/Juno), which is her second book about a family of modern-day Amazons. Nab the first, AMAZON INK, too for the full experience of Lori's fabulously character-driven take on the original tough chicks. Another great example of an author taking the conventions of a genre and bringing her own strengths to it in a way that feels completely fresh.

In May:

Chelsea Campbell's THE RISE OF RENEGADE X (Egmont), which is a hilarious boy-narrated YA novel about a world of superheroes and supervillains and the one boy caught between the two. We just optioned film rights to this one to Disney and it is honestly laugh-out-loud funny. Chelsea's voice is compulsively readable, and her main character, Damien, made me maybe want to be a supervillain too.

Stephen Betchen's MAGNETIC PARTNERS: Discover How the Hidden Conflict That Once Attracted You to Each Other Is Now Driving You Apart (Free Press), has wonderful information for anyone looking to understand their relationship better. Steve takes some high-level concepts and makes them so accessible; his approach to guiding couples to greater happiness is truly empowering.

Maureen Lipinski's NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS, which is a sequel to her A BUMP IN THE ROAD and a guaranteed laughfest for anyone who's deep in the new-mommy trenches. I was lucky to nab Maureen very soon after my move to Waxman and she has been keeping me in giggles ever since, both in her books and on her utterly charming blog (nowthatyoumentionit.typepad.com).

That actually tells you just about everything you'd want to know about what I represent. It also tells you that no, I will not in fact be sleeping for the foreseeable future! Not every month is like these, so I'm choosing to enjoy it.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

HR: I do both fiction and nonfiction. For fiction, commercial women's (I'd love to see more projects with book-club appeal along the lines of my client Lisa Patton's WHISTLIN' DIXIE IN A NOR'EASTER), romance (mostly paranormal although not exclusively), and a very select few mysteries. I love young adult and middle grade fiction, which is a growing portion of my list, particularly middle grade. If you've got a good one please do think of me!

On the nonfic side, I tend to know it when I see it, but a strong sense of voice, a great platform and the ability to make me really think are essentials for both prescriptive and narrative projects.

I don't rep hard SF or epic fantasy, thrillers, picture books, true crime, poetry, or screenplays.


KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

HR: Focus on the story. I don't need to know how long you've been writing, or what demons writing helps you exorcise, or any of those things. Just tell me a story and I'll go with you.

But if you must have a peeve, I am a relentless devil's advocate so if you ask me a rhetorical question in a query, you can bet I'm on the other end of my computer screen responding obstinately.


KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

HR: I am always looking for something that will truly transport me--make me ignore the cats and husband (temporarily) because I just cannot stop reading (they're used to it, don't worry). I love humor, but am tough on anything that tries too hard to be wacky. I love finding writers whose words just ooze confidence and make the reader know they're in excellent hands. Notice how subjective all of that is? :)

As far as specifics, I mentioned above that I'd love to find a middle grade. It doesn't mean I'm not looking for other things but there's definitely a nice opportunity there if you've got a killer MG ready to go.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

HR: E-mail, with ten pages in the body of the e-mail below your query, to hollysubmit@waxmanagency.com.

Thanks for these great answers, Ms. Root--and for adding about a dozen books to all of our to-read lists:) If you’ve got a polished manuscript that fits her tastes, send her a query. Right away. Honestly, Ms. Root is one of the agents at the tip-tip-top of my list, and she should be at the top of yours.

Good luck to all you queriers! And thanks to all you readers for your great feedback and advice.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Few Good Contests

Just dropping in to inform you that a few good contests have popped up around the blogosphere.

First, check out Myrna’s FABLEHAVEN giveaway. Bestselling author Brandon Mull stopped by her little corner of southern Nevada this week to give a speech at the elementary school, and while he was there, she snagged a signed copy. Now she’s passing it on to one of us. To enter, just leave a comment on the aforementioned post. The contest closes on Friday, March 19, at noon, so hop to it!

Next, Callie Forester of Chimera Critiques is hosting their first contest. They’re giving away a twenty-dollar gift card to a bookstore AND a first-chapter critique. To enter, write a short paragraph--you’ll find the prompt in the contest post--and leave it in the comments. This one closes on Saturday, April 10, at midnight, so you have some time to come up with an entry.

The Tenners are also having a fun giveaway. The gift basket’s huge, so I’ll let you look up the contents yourself. To enter, just tell them what book you’re reading right now. This contest closes tomorrow, March 18, just before the stroke of midnight, so you’d better hurry.

Finally, if you haven’t entered Nathan Bransford’s Bracket Challenge, you have a few more hours to do so. The prize is fantastic: a partial critique from one of the industry's finest, or a book by one of his clients. What's even better is that that partial doesn't have to come from a finished manuscript. And don’t worry--no prior knowledge of anything having to do with college basketball required. Pointing and clicking, while not recommended in the voting booth, is still a fairly reliable method for picking March Madness winners:)

Well, there you have it. If there are any others I’ve missed, feel free to talk them up in the comments.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The End

I’m neck-deep in Bob’s climax now; the end is so close I could drown in it. Still, I’m not completely satisfied with it, and I don’t think it’s completely satisfied with me (which is why it’s trying to drown me). Me and endings get along about as well as Edward and Jacob--which is to say, we’d really like to kill each other, but for our protagonists’ sake, we don’t.

As Abby Stevens mentioned in her comment on Myrna’s post, endings should flow naturally out of the storyline; they should be the inevitable crescendo the rest of the book has been driving at. They tie the interior and exterior action into one tidy bundle, and the best ones leave us with a soft sigh of satisfaction as we close the book for the last time.

So what makes endings so tricky? They should just pour straight out of the book, right? Maybe it’s this expectation, this fear of getting it wrong, that trips me up. So as much for me as anyone, I’m going to look at some classic books with classic endings, and describe how they got it right.

1. ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card: The plot of Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece is riveting, the characters memorable, but it’s the ending that really takes this book from good to great. When it comes to endings with a twist, this is one of the first that springs to mind, and yet the ending doesn’t feel contrived. Ender and his team of child warriors do exactly what we think they’ll do: They annihilate the Bugger threat. It’s the how that takes us by surprise.

2. THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Another superb example of a climax that flows naturally out of the story’s setup. Because Suzanne Collins outlines the rules of the Hunger Games early on, we know exactly how the book will end: Every tribute, save one, will die. Still, the scene doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it is more complex, and has a much more far-reaching impact, than we ever could have imagined.

3. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee: Talk about tying the interior and exterior action into one tidy bundle, not to mention two seemingly divergent storylines. When I read this book in junior high, I didn’t appreciate how masterfully its climax resolves Scout’s years-long fascination with Boo Radley, the fallout from Tom Robinson’s trial, and Harper Lee’s overall theme about killing mockingbirds. It’s a not-too-big-not-too-small conclusion that is as beautiful as it is haunting. (That final scene on Boo Radley’s porch, in which Scout sees her world through his eyes, remains one of the finest moments in all of literature for me.)

Of course, there are hundreds more examples of fantastic endings, but I’ll leave those to you. What endings have left you with that satisfying sigh, and why?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Michelle Wolfson

Oh, have I got a good one for you. Today’s interview features Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

MW: This was a career switch for me getting into agenting when I decided that I wasn’t happy with the things I’d been doing previously. However, I feel that agenting takes advantage of the skills I learned in my previous jobs/careers--people skills, sales and marketing skills, finance--and applies them all to books and reading which I love. I started out as an assistant at an established agency, made a couple of sales there, and then moved on to start building my own list, first at another agency and then at my own starting in January 2008. I love this work and finally feel like I’ve hit on the perfect career for my personality and skills.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

MW: My personal agenting philosophy is that I only take on clients whose projects I absolutely love and then I work my butt off for them. I believe in my clients so much that I take it extremely personally when their books don’t sell. I have a relatively small list of clients and am committed to building my list slowly and I’m looking for big, quality projects. I often see queries for things that I think will probably sell, but I don’t realistically have time to devote--at least not the kind of time I like to give each client--to that many people. So I am ultra selective. And I’m sure I pass on a lot of talented people.

As for what I expect from the agent-author relationship, I guess what I hope for, and what I have gotten in virtually every case, is mutual respect. I believe in clear, honest, and open communication. I think that I am a good communicator and likewise I expect them to tell me if something is not working for them. We are partners with the same goals and I expect our relationship to proceed as such.


KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

MW: Three projects coming out soon are:

IN THE SHADOW OF FREEDOM by Tchicaya Missamou and Travis Sentell (Atria, August 2010), an incredibly inspiring memoir about Tchicaya’s heroic journey from child soldier in the Congo to US Marine. Here I was drawn to this unbelievable story. Tchicaya, now owner of The Warrior Fitness gym in California, is an unbelievable example of the American Dream.

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White (HarperTeen, September 2010), the first book in a trilogy about Evie, a 16-year-old girl who has the ability to see through paranormals’ glamours. I signed Kiersten for a different book that didn’t sell, but as soon as I read PARANORMALCY, I knew we had something special. This book just sparkles and I can’t wait for the world to meet Evie!

SORCERESS, INTERRUPTED by AJ Menden (Dorchester, October 2010), the 3rd book in the Elite Hands of Justice series. I just love this superhero romance series. I think it’s fun and flirty and she’s got a great voice and super characters.


KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

MW: My taste tends to lean towards more commercial fiction and non-fiction. I like mysteries and suspense, thrillers, women’s fiction and romance, and young adult. My taste in fantasy/paranormal varies widely so go ahead and query me, but I make no guarantees to like it or even to read fast.

Ok, I just deleted a whole bunch of stuff I definitely don’t represent because it was stuff I don’t generally like, but I hate to rule it out because if you can pass my ick factor test, I’ll fall in love with it. So if it’s adult/YA, I’m pretty much open to anything.

I don’t represent middle grade, children’s picture books or original screenplay.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

MW: Oh, loaded question. I could list a million pet peeves, but the truth is that I ignore virtually all of them and just get to the heart of the query in order to properly evaluate the project. That said, a clean query is always preferred over a sloppy one. So a few of my favorite pet peeves:

*Please address as Dear Michelle or Dear Ms. Wolfson, not Dear Agent, Dear Sirs, Dear Mr. W., Dear Wolf

*Don’t spend 3 paragraphs talking about you before you tell me about your book. I’d love to get to know you…after I fall in love with your book.

*Don’t use spam filters. If I do reply, they are an annoying extra step that make me sorry I took the time to reply.

*Don’t put a return receipt on. It makes me feel like you’re checking up on me.

*Put your query in the body of an e-mail, unless someone’s guidelines specifically ask for attachments.

*Don’t query to ask if you can query or if I represent a specific genre. Either do some research or just send it.

KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

MW: I guess I don’t classify it as assertive or obnoxious. If I find the query interesting, I will generally look at the pages. If I’m on the fence, I may look at the pages and may not. If I’m not interested, I’ll usually just move on. I think it’s fine to include a few pages. I prefer not to have someone send a few chapters, which sometimes happens.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

MW: I’m looking for the same things that I’m always looking for: standout writing with characters I fall in love with. I want a book that will keep me up late at night until my husband yells at me to go to sleep. I want characters that I’m dying to have another book about, whether it’s a series or not. If I don’t feel this way about it, then it’s really not for me.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

MW: E-mail is the only way to query me and expect that I will read it.

Thank you, Ms. Wolfson, for these answers. And just because I love you guys so much, I’ll save you the trouble of looking up her e-mail address--it’s query@wolfsonliterary.com. Now don’t everybody query her at once:)

As always, good luck to everyone who does. And don't forget to leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Recommendation: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

I was planning to write a beautiful, lyrical recommendation for THE BOOK THIEF today, almost as beautiful and lyrical as the book itself. But then Lady happened.

(That's what I call my eight-month-old daughter. Most of the time. Last night, not so much.)

Suffice it to say she had a very, VERY bad night last night. The worst night in the last half of her life. I managed to fall back into bed at the top of the hour for three hours in a row (I know, because those bright red numbers, same minutes, different hour, were the first sight that greeted me every time I stumbled back into my bedroom), but never fell asleep in between. If my life were a book, there'd be some sort of symbolism in that, I'm pretty sure. Last night, it just struck me as annoying.

So I'll leave the book recommendation to you, since I know a lot of you have read it. How did you first come across THE BOOK THIEF? And what did you love, or hate, about it?

Monday, March 8, 2010

To Be, or Not to Be, Content

One of Honey Bear’s favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:11: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

It’s a lovely thing to write, of course, but what makes it even lovelier is knowing that he wrote it from jail. Paul, as it turns out, spent a lot of time in jail; scholars often refer to the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon as the prison epistles, since he penned all of them from the slammer. And yet there he was, in jail, reminding the Philippians, and all of us, that it’s not about the prison, but the prisoner. That it’s not about life, but the liver (not the organ, mind you, but one who lives). We can all be as content, or not, as we choose to be.

Honey Bear is great at this, at living in the moment. Me, not so much. There’s always something nagging at me, some little voice reminding me that life will be better when.

Funny thing is, that when is always changing; no matter how swiftly I pursue it, it’s always sliding out from under me, like my shadow in the golden hour of afternoon. In junior high, I was certain high school was the paradise I’d always waited for. But once I got to high school, I just wanted to get to college. Once I got to college, I just wanted to graduate. And once I was married, I just wanted to have kids.

I’m not sure why, since I’ve never been much of a baby person. (My mom and sister still tease me for holding up a diaper when I was fifteen and asking, “Uh, which way does it go?”) But as I mentioned in this post, there was a time when I wanted babies so badly that I was issuing silent hexes on every pregnant woman I passed. For two years, I was miserable, or, at the very best, not content.

And now I look back and realize there were so many good things about that time, before Honey Bear and I had kids. (All of you parents are chuckling right now, I know, but really, I’m trying to be serious.) Honey Bear and I were so young and in love that we could barely look at each other without giggling, and our quaint basement apartment, with its two bedrooms, crown molding, and almost empty fridge, was positively palatial.

(You may be wondering about the fridge, but honestly, after sharing a refrigerator with five other girls, having an almost empty one was nigh unto Elysian. That other fridge was so crowded that our milk would often freeze--and that was on the warmest setting.)

We’re still young, of course, and still very much in love, but it’s not the same now. We don’t exist just for each other anymore. And sometimes, I miss that. I think I miss it more because I didn’t fully appreciate it back then.

Now my writing career has given me another chance, since where I am right now--unpublished--is not where I want to be. But whether or not I reach that summit, I’m determined to love the climb. Because I’d much rather live in the middle of all these lovely words than outside of them. There is contentment in that.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Andrea Somberg

Here’s another interview with another awesome agent, Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc. Happy reading.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

AS: I've always loved to read, and so I thought publishing might be a good fit. At the time I thought everyone in the industry just sat around reading books all day--what could be more perfect than that?! Turns out the reality is quite a bit different, but, regardless, I still love my job. In college I had an internship with the Don Maass Agency during one summer, and I realized that agenting was the right career choice for me. I was an agent there for a few years after graduation, before becoming an agent at Vigliano Associates. I joined Harvey Klinger Inc. in the summer of '05.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

AS: As far as my personal agenting philosophy goes, persistence is huge. It's such a subjective industry, one of the most important things is matching a book up with an editor who really believes in it, and will champion it in-house. Sometimes that means going to 40+ imprints and publishing houses.

As for the agent-author relationship, communication is really important. I like to know that my client and I are on the same page, and that I have a full understanding of what they want, both for their book, and their career.


KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

AS: My client, Rachel Keener's second novel, THE MEMORY THIEF, will hit the shelves this March. It's a beautiful novel about two very unique women trying to find each other, and of the power and strength of family. It was Rachel's writing that definitely grabbed me at first--THE KILLING TREE is one of the only books that has ever made me cry--but Rachel, herself is amazing. She is one of the sweetest, most talented, people I've ever met. Actually, if you have a book group and are looking for a new selection, I highly suggest you contact her--her website is www.rachelkeener.com, and includes her contact information. She really likes to talk to book groups, and if you're not in her area (she lives in North Carolina), she'll call in on speakerphone.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

AS: I'm actively seeking both fiction and non-fiction, including literary, commercial, young adult, middle grade, genre (romance, mystery, sf/fantasy), memoir, pop-culture, how-to, self-help, humor, interior design, cookbooks, business, and health & fitness.

I do not represent picture books.


KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

AS: I get over 50 queries a day, and sometimes it takes me a week or so to respond. Sometimes authors will follow up within the very same day to see if I've received their e-mail. Unfortunately, that just adds to the e-mail clogging my inbox, which means it will take me even longer to respond to the initial query.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

AS: For non-fiction I'm looking for good writing and an idea that fills a hole in the marketplace. For fiction, so much of it is about voice. Does the writing draw me in? Am I engaged? Do I find the main characters to be sympathetic, compelling protagonists?

KV: What's the best way to query you?

AS: Send an e-mail to me at andrea@harveyklinger.com. Include a query letter and the first five pages of the manuscript within the body of an e-mail.

Thanks again, Ms. Somberg, for all of this helpful information. As you can see, she’s truly a Renaissance agent, with her fingers in a lot of books, so I’m sure a lot of you will have projects that match her interests.

Queries away, suggestions below!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yep, It's Definitely Awards Season

Thank you, ChristaCarol, for this spiffy-looking award. My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to tell you five fun things about myself. I’ll let you decide if I succeeded:)

1. All right, I admit it: I’m just another huge LOST fan. A friend recommended the series to us a year or two ago, so we borrowed Season One from the library and have been faithful devotees ever since. (Except to Season Three, which was positively dreadful. Honestly, if you decide to give it a go, let me know when you get to Season Three and I’ll just give you the highlights--which will amount to about three sentences of plot description--so you can skip the whole darn thing.)

2. I’m an even bigger college football fan. I can spend an entire fall Saturday, from nine in the morning until ten o’clock at night, flipping back and forth between college football games--because they all affect my team somehow. I can even outlast Honey Bear, who usually abandons me sometime around the second quarter of the second set of games.

3. I took a social dance class in high school, so I can swing/waltz/foxtrot/cha-cha about as well as your average DANCING WITH THE STARS celeb:)

4. I was going to be a world-class volleyball player, until those pesky junior high coaches all but murdered my career back in the ninth grade. (Five-foot-two, apparently, isn’t tall enough to be a world-class volleyball player.)

5. And on the topic of world-class talent, I could very well be the next grand master of Minesweeper. Although I haven’t played in months, my current best time is 96 seconds on the advanced board.

I also need to pass this award on to a few other bloggers, so here are my picks:

bclement412 of Abyss
Empty Refrigerator of Empty Refrigerator
lora96 of LitDiva
Myrna Foster of Night Writer

How fun-tastic!

Monday, March 1, 2010

"I Can, Too!"

Large isn’t the first word I’d use to describe my son’s bedroom. Or the second. Or the third. You know the kind--it’s the starter-home special, the just-big-enough-to-fit-a-(small)-bed-and-maybe-a-dresser second bedroom. But Honey Bear and I are magicians, or maybe just delusional, because my son’s bedroom contains the one (small) bed, not one but two dressers, and a poofy rocker-recliner the color of warm caramel.

The rocker-recliner’s great. We found it on clearance at our local if-we-teleported-the-place-to-the-East-Coast-it-would-squish-the-entire-state-of-Rhode-Island furniture outlet, and it’s so soft and, well, rock-y. Honey Bear has visions of someday moving it to the family room (when we actually have a family room, that is), but right now, it lives in I-gots’s room, in the corner. And gets in the way.

That's what it was doing last week, at least. I-gots--that's what my son called himself up until a few days ago--wanted to play in his room, so my eight-month-old daughter and I were sitting in the chair, watching, and throwing off I-gots’s groove. A random toy had somehow slithered behind the rocker-recliner, and that, of course, was the toy he wanted to play with.

“You can’t get it right now,” I told him. “We might squish you.”

(We’re not quite as big as the furniture outlet, mind you, but then, I-gots’s not quite as big as Rhode Island.)

“I get it!” he assured me.

“No, I-gots. You can’t.”

So I-gots backed out of the tiny gap he’d been trying to squeeze through, and I thought to myself, “See what a good mother I am? And I-gots is such an obedient child.”

Well, I-gots is pretty obedient, but on that particular day, he was in more of a problem-solving mood. If he couldn’t get the toy from one side of the chair, then maybe he could get it from the other.

I realized what he was doing once he started pressing himself into the other gap, and responded accordingly.

“No, I-gots,” I repeated. “You can’t get the toy right now.”

“I get it!”

“No, honey,” I said, a little less patiently this time. “You can’t do it!”

And then I-gots reared back, in all of his two-year-old glory, and put both little hands on his hips, and exclaimed, “I can, too!”

His words--and mine, after hearing myself say them like that--stunned me. Of course he COULD do it; in fact, when I looked down at that moment, I realized that the toy was right there, a few inches in front of him, barely behind the chair at all. But hearing myself say that out loud--“You can’t do it!”--made me realize how much I never wanted to hear myself say that again.

I want to be I-gots’s cheerleader. I want to be the supporter of dreams. I always want to be able to say, “Yes, I-gots, you can.” Because even if he can’t, he has to learn that for himself. No one, especially me, should tell him otherwise.

I am Mom, after all, and that makes me, if nothing else, a believer.