Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Where Do I Go From Here? Notes on Querying Your Manuscript.

I recently went to a workshop for writers ready to take their work to market. It was for those who wanted to get their manuscripts in front of agents and editors. I heard the question, "Where do I find them?" (Meaning agents and editors.)

I decided to share what I learned in the workshop, along with my favorite places for finding agents and editors who are taking unsolicited manuscripts. It goes without saying that joining organizations like SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) provides an abundance of resources on this topic, and attending conferences puts you in direct contact with the movers and shakers in the industry. Many of the success stories I hear among my fellow writers, their "big" breaks, happened as the result of a conference.

But you know you can't rest on your laurels and just submit to that one agent you made a contact with and hope all your dreams will come true. These days, it takes many, many queries, with no hope for a response unless they are interested.

So, where do you go? Of course, SCBWI has resources for market on the website, as do may other writing organizations.

I like querytracker.com. I do the free version, which gives me plenty of information. With a few clicks, you can check out an agent or editor, if they take unsolicited manuscripts, the genres they represent, links to other information about them, and add them to your list (interested, queried, even if they replied).

There is also agentquery.com. I have used this in the past, but abandoned it for querytracker. It might be useful for others who don't think like me, which is most of the population.

Literary rambles (http://www.literaryrambles.com/) was suggested by the moderator of this group. I know of this blog well. I refer to it frequently. She does interviews with agents and editors and often finds out what kind of manuscript this agent/editor is looking for.

Manuscript Wish List (http://mswishlist.com/) is another terrific source for finding agents and editors looking for the kind of story you have written. You can also find posts on this on Twitter at #mswl

Lastly, if you are serious about writing and getting published, you need to be on Twitter. There are reoccurring pitch parties during which agents and editors watch for 140 character story pitches tagged with the hashtag and the genre. It they favorite your pitch, it indicates that they are interested in seeing more. There are others, but the pitch contest I know best is #pitmad by Brenda Drake (http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/). The #pitmad parties happen four times a year, and only last a day, so have our pitch ready and don't forget to tag it (#pitmad #YA) so agents and editors can find it.

So those are some places to search for the perfect agent or editor who is looking for a manuscript like yours. Make sure you do your homework and the manuscript is polished and ready for submission. You never get a second chance at a first impression.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book Review: Alex and Eliza

I am not a fan of romance novels, except certain romance novels. I am also one of the few who hasn't been obsessed with Hamilton, the musical.

Still, "Alex & Eliza," by Melissa de la Cruz, is a perfect love story for the YA audience who love the musical "Hamilton," and those who don't. I haven't seen "Hamilton," and don't know much about it, but I still enjoyed the story of how Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton fell in love and worked around the arrangements of marriage for power and wealth to marry for love.  It was nail biting in the end, and the plot was not predictable. True love prevails, so you have to like that! Especially since that doesn't seem the case for Eliza's sisters.

This made me want to see "Hamilton!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gangbanger trailer

Finally! A book trailer for my latest book, "Gangbanger." This 45 second video is like a summary of the book. A picture really is worth 1000 words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Famous Last Words - Some Thoughts on Writing Endings

Endings are difficult for me, especially when writing them. Sometimes I know what the ending is, or should look like, before I start writing the story. That does not make it any easier. As I approach the end of a novel I am working on, I'll want to rush to the finish line, or I'll worry about loose threads, or I'll wonder if the ending is satisfying enough.

There is reason to worry. A bad ending can ruin a book for a reader. An unsatisfying ending can leave them hanging. The goal is to bring a story full circle and to a satisfying conclusion. To leave the reader closing the book with a feeling of being swept away.

No pressure there.

A good ending feels like a natural conclusion to the story. Having someone or something new appear and save the day will not work. The characters have to drive the ending, with tools that were there earlier in the story. Author Raymond Chandler said, “The solution, once revealed, must seem to have been inevitable.”

A good ending shows growth in the character. Along with the external conflicts, a good story shows depth by taking its characters on an emotional path as well. This inner conflict is resolved by showing a change in the character, and gives the story heart.

It is satisfying to see a story come full circle. In some way, the end should resemble the beginning.

Make sure all subplots are resolved. Leaving loose ends is sloppy storytelling.

Don't philosophize to the reader. This is a common complaint about the ending of Dan Brown's novel, "The Lost Symbol" where the character spends too much time thinking about his experience while watching the sun rise. As James V. Smith Jr. explains in Writer's Digest, "Keep description to a minimum, but maximize action and conflict. You have placed all your charges. Now, light the fuse and run."

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: Everything Everything

I read Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon, because I heard it was coming out as a movie (on May 19!) The story sucked me in immediately and reminded me of the Bubble Boy on Seinfeld, because main character Madeline lives in a house sized bubble. Allergic to the outside world, her everything happens inside the same walls, with her loving and protective mother and a full time nurse she adores.

Then love changes everything.

Get it, read it, then see the movie. Or not. I can't tell you yet if the movie is worth seeing. I can tell you the book, with its interesting storytelling through texts, drawings, graphs as well as traditional chapters is compelling, and surprising. I'm not sure I like the ending, but I can accept it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Dream Author Panel

I have had the pleasure of "meeting" many authors going to book signings, promotional events, keynote speeches and conventions. My favorite format is a panel, where there is more than one voice being heard and answering questions. This is a great whether it be authors, editors, or agents. But the very best presentations come from authors, the creative individuals who make imaginative worlds come alive.

So, this is my dream author panel. I'd love to see these people get together and hear the advice they'd give the rest of us.

Suzanne Collins
 I'd like to hear from Suzanne not only about The Hunger Games series, which I loved, but because she had several books published before her blockbuster hit. I'd like to hear about her earlier work, and what happened when The Hunger Games became a sensation. 

Neal Shusterman
I have been a fan of Neal Shusterman's work ever since I read "The Schwa Was Here" in my child's middle school book club. It was such a different and fun book to read. His newest book, "Scythe," won a Prinz medal honor in 2017. I'd love to hear how he gets his ideas, and more about his craft.

Gary Paulsen
Who hasn't read something by the author of "Hatchet?" Greg Paulsen's work is remains relevant and fresh, although it isn't always set in the modern day as newer writers are advised. I'd like to hear his thoughts on that.

Kate DiCamillo
She is the queen of middle school literature. Who wouldn't want to hear the secrets of her magic?

Amanda Hocking
 I have never read anything written by Amanda, but her success speaks for her. I would like to see her on the panel if only to detail how she succeeded as a self published author. Publishing is more and more accessible with small press and self publishing options, as entrance into the Big Six (or is is five now?) is more and more elusive. Amanda might feel a bit out of place, not being a writer of children's fiction, but I am including her for her "expert" knowledge on self promotion and nontraditional publishing.

Please post your suggestions in the comments. I'd love to hear about authors who inspire you. And if you are interested in hosting a conference or event, check out Eventbrite.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: Asking For It

Irish author Louise O'Neill does not shy away from the very heavy subject of rape in her YA novel, "Asking For It," where the beautiful, vain and somewhat superficial Emma O'Donovan wakes up to a reality that she can't remember and the terrible aftermath of shame, regret and suspicion.

For those who are hesitant, the violence happens off screen, as Emma blacks out and remembers nothing. The tone of the book is divided into two parts, the before and the after. Emma, at age 18, is confident that she is the best looking of her friends, that she can attract any guy she sets her sights on. Her friendships are shallow, and selfish, except for her longtime friendship with the boy next door, patient and level-headed Conor.

Her confidence is taken from her by the actions of others on a night she doesn't remember; and the reactions of her peers, her parents, her friends on social media, and her community. The reader is plunged into the darkness of her soul, feeling every emotion as Emma attempts to make sense of her world now.

"Asking For It" is a gripping read, it is an important one, too. It is a start of a conversation that has to happen about rape, consent, and slut shaming.