Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

It's my last Thursday before summer, and so today you get one BIG Thursday Thought. Hopefully I don't come off as kind of a prickly b, but there's something I have to get off my chest.

I've been a school librarian for something like a dozen years now, and every year about this time people start asking me, "So, are you packing up all those books yet?"

Sigh. It's one of those innocent questions asked by people who don't really understand the logistics of the situation, but after twelve years of getting the same question about 10 times in the same month it gets very hard not to say something like -

"Yes, it's very hard work to pack up 11,000 books, ship them to our offshore Cayman Island storage facilities, wait three months, then ship them back into the country, unpack them, and put them all back onto the shelves according to Dewey. Really it's a miracle we manage it every year. It's funny though, you'd think with an entire room full of bookshelves we'd just keep them there over the summer, right? Where better to store books than bookshelves. Geez, wish I woulda thought of that before now."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Debut Submission Experience with World Traveler Tara Dairman

Today's guest for the SHIT is Tara Dairman. Her debut novel, The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin; it’s about the youngest restaurant critic in the history of The New York Times (she’s 11). Tara claims to be slightly older than 11. In 2009, Tara and her husband quit their jobs to take a very long, “around-the-world” honeymoon. Over the next two years, they visited 74 countries on 5 continents and ate more fabulous street food than they ever imagined possible. You can read their blog and see lots of pictures from the whole crazy, wonderful experience at AndyandTara.com

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

TD: I knew the basics: about how many editors you usually subbed to in one round, and not to expect to start hearing back from them for weeks (if not months). I feel like there’s a lot of information out there about querying agents, but fewer people are willing to talk publicly about their submission experience—which is one of the reasons I found the previous SHIT interviews on this blog so helpful! =) But those interviews also showed me that people’s subbing timelines and experiences can vary wildly.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

I guess that the big thing that surprised me was that I ended up getting an “R&R” from the house that ultimately bought my book. I had heard of people getting revision requests before being taken on by agents, but I didn’t really know that that was an option at the submissions stage—I kind of thought that publishers either bought the project and then worked on revisions with you, or flat-out rejected it. In my case, there were a few elements of the story that the publisher wanted me to beef up. Luckily, I connected very much with their suggestions, and they liked the changes I made with their guidance, so they ended up making an offer.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

TD: When I got the submission list from my agent, I did a quick Googling out of curiosity, but that was about it. I didn’t feel the need to do the kind of in-depth research I had done on agents I was querying because I trusted my agent’s choices. And really, isn’t that one of the reasons you hire an agent—to worry about that stuff for you?  =)

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

TD: We found out that we had interest from one house the day after we went on submission (which is very fast!), and my agent let the other editors know about the early interest, so I think that sped up the reading process for some of them. We ended up hearing back from about half the editors in the first week, one more editor about three weeks into the process, and the last few about six weeks into the process, after my agent had notified them that we had an offer. So I guess that’s about three weeks on average, though it varied quite a bit.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

TD: For me, working on a new project was key. That was something I hadn’t been able to do while querying agents, but I guess that something about actually having an agent—a partner in crime!—let me relax enough to get back to writing. I also recommend planning a vacation for part of the time that you’re on sub—anything that gets you away from constantly checking your e-mail/phone and reminds you that a whole, interesting world exists outside of your will-I-or-won’t-I-get-published bubble.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

TD: The big difference between editor rejections and query rejections is that editors usually give some sort of concrete reason about why they’re turning your project down. Most of my rejections from editors said nice things about my writing, even as they explained why the book wouldn’t work on their list. Those reasons varied, although a couple of editors already had food-themed MG or YA projects and didn’t think they’d be able to acquire another one.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

TD: The feedback I got on rejections wasn’t very consistent—each editor seemed to have her own reason for turning down the book, and it often didn’t seem to have much to do with the concept or the writing. When I shared earlier versions of the manuscript with beta readers, I tried to watch out for commonly-cited problems. If multiple readers pointed out that something was bothering them, then I probably needed to fix it. But I didn’t really get that from the editors (this time).

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

TD: I found out by phone, but smoke signal might have been faster! It was the first day of our let’s-distract-Tara-from-being-on-submission road trip, and we were driving through the South Dakota badlands—which, as it turns out, have pretty spotty cell service. We emerged from a dead zone and my phone beeped with a voicemail from my agent, saying she had some news and asking me to call her back. My heart pounded as I called her, and she was barely able to tell me that we had an offer before I lost service again. I called her back again, lost service again, called again, lost again, and finally got the bright idea to ask my husband to pull over. I finally got the rest of the news as we sat on the shoulder of the road.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

After we got the offer, we still had to hear back from a few other editors, which took a few days, then my agent had to do some negotiating. I accepted the revised offer a week after the first call, and then the day after that the news was up on Publisher’s Marketplace! I was actually expecting to have to sit on the news much longer than that, so I was kind of surprised by the speed.

I was still on vacation at this point and had limited Internet access, but had told my mom on the phone that it was now OK to share the news. I thought that she would just call a few relatives or something, but instead she went and posted about it on Facebook. When I found out about this, I had to scramble to get online and share the news myself so my mom wouldn’t totally be scooping me!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Amy Parrish Is A Genius and I Heart Her

Yeah, so if the title of this post doesn't significantly convey how I felt about my photography shoot on Friday, allow me to go into more detail.

Amy Parrish of Granville, OH is just frickin' grand. Loved her, loved her ideas, loved the fact that one of the first things she said to me when I got out of the car was, "So, how do you feel about climbing?"

Yeah. We got along.

She put up a few of the shots from my session on her blog, Parrish the Thought. Enjoy!

And lastly, thanks to everyone who stopped in for A.G. Howard's CRAP interview. Check out her blog for the winner of the SPLINTERED swag giveaway!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

Liz has already proven that she is a terrible mother who does not deserve her child. After all, what kind of mother doesn’t even know she’s pregnant? I get that the "already" means she's proven that she doesn't deserve the child even before it's born, but I almost think this hook would be better if you chopped the "After all," of the second sentence and just used that as your hook. It's short and to the point.

Twenty-two year old Liz is shocked to discover that she is eight months pregnant. Sure, she’s gained some weight, and sure she’s been feeling a little off lately, but pregnant? She is too young to have a baby. Is she really? I'd say no, she's not. That might be *her* rationale but it's not really working here as a statement of fact. She hasn’t spoken to the father in months, and certainly doesn’t want to now. If the father doesn't figure into the story, don't mention him in the query. If he's not mentioned it's assumed he's not in the picture. It has taken eight months for her to even figure out that she is pregnant. Nonetheless, in a brief six weeks a new baby will be born, and she has a rapid decision to make. Choosing an adoption plan is the only thing she can do, and the only way she can survive it is to carry the detachment her denial provided along the way. Here's your crux right here - this is what you've been getting to with everything you've said before this. We don't need her rationale for why she's giving it up for adoption - you said so yourself she's already proven she doesn't deserve her child (or at least believes that to be true) She Use the proper name here, you've been sticking to the pronoun for a while. speeds through the process, visiting an agency, speaking to a social worker, and choosing adoptive parents, all the time believing she is simply a surrogate for the deserving parents Here we are again with this word "deserving" - this is your plot point and you're throwing a lot of distractions out in front of it. who will adopt this baby. I've highlighted all the uses of "eight months" and "months" in this first para. Lots of echoes here. Personally I think you can kill all of the rationalization and get down to the point - detachment, deserving - more quickly.

Now, Kill the "now" it makes this read like a synopsis instead of a query a week after signing surrender papers to finalize the adoption, Liz enters therapy hoping she will be able to you need some re-phrasing for simplicity in this sentence. "Will be able to" can be changed to a simple "can" put these events behind her and The last two clauses of this sentence are pretty much saying the same thing. Choose one to not weigh down the query return to life as normal.  Wait - has the baby been born yet? Is she still pregnant while going through therapy? After eight months of convincing herself she wasn’t pregnant, she finds no problem distancing herself from the supposed grief her therapist tells her she will feel. But as she tells the story to her therapist, who seems relentlessly insisting she have an emotional breakdown, she finds herself viewing her therapy as a game of chess she must win. Convoluted sentence here - we can assume she's telling her story to the therapist, I'd slash that and simplify. Accentuate the "chess" idea. He pushes her to accept her denial, and her emotional detachment as natural coping mechanisms, while she views them as proof that she is unfit to be a parent. And that right there is the sum-up of what your novel is about, right? Yet it's buried down here in the middle of the second para. When he invites her to explore her relationships with her family and her best friend, she struggles to maintain they’re denial is irrelevant. I don't understand what this sentence means - "struggles to maintain they are denial is irrelevant." You probably mean "their denial" but even then... denial of what? Her? Her relationship with them? Her pregnancy? Why can’t this just be something that happened? The deeper he digs, the harder she works to keep her composure. It takes the work with her therapist to help her realize that her decision is rooted in more than necessity. It is a life-changing event that will live in her heart forever.

At 76,000 words, Detached is a work of literary fiction. It is my debut work, and inspired by the true story of choosing an adoption plan. Thank you for your consideration. Good to state this here, that you know the system and the emotional intricacies. And I love the title, by the way, but it needs to be either ALL CAPS or italicized.

The story sounds quite interesting, and I like the implied complexities of this character, but that's where your meat is and it's kind of floundering along with the little details that aren't relevant to the query that I mention above. Also, as it stands right now my biggest hang up is that I don't know what her relationship with the therapist is - does she resent his digging? Does she get angry with him? Does she look at him as a partner or an opponent? You brought in the "chess game" idea but then you don't take the analogy anywhere. It sounds like a cerebral internal journey read, and I like the way you're approaching it, you need to carefully look at what the main sell is here before you pitch.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Author Photo Friday!

Well... I've got an appointment today to make my life better. Or something like that.

Today is the day I put on a dress, do my hair, paint my nails, and pack some comfy clothes to get the more casual shots that I'll probably end up using.

In any case, I think everyone is aware of the conundrum that (to me) is an author photo. So wish me luck.

And the poor photographer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Today we're going to talk about recycling, and other green-type things. Because that's where my mind has been.

1) I love going past these new green communities and seeing their slogans. My goal is to find one that says, "We're so green, we eat our own shit!"

2) I understand that packaging is a big part of the problem. No packaging. Packaging bad. Don't buy things that are over-packaged. But... if it's already packaged, then the damage is done. If nobody buys it, then the product that is packaged is wasted along with the packaging. This is a serious chicken / egg situation, if you ask me.

3) Have any of you ever been near a recycling plant? Wo - ow. Stanky. I know that sometimes you've got power through the bad to get to the good. I'm a country girl - I've smelled some smells, and that smell gets a gold star.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CRAP! A New Interview Series (& Giveaway!) Ushered in by A.G. Howard


I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Here today to usher in the new interview on Writer, Writer is my fellow debut author A.G. Howard. She's a great gal that I knew back when we were just anonymous screennames bouncing off the same agent entries over on QueryTracker, so I'm thrilled to be sharing the astounding cover for her book SPLINTERED, available from Amulet in January, 2013.

BBC: Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like? 

AGH: I did. I’m very visual and I actually like to “construct” my own book covers for fun sometimes. I always assumed it would be a dark gothic-type cover with Alyssa as the centerpiece and some sort of symbolic details woven in, like maybe the broken toys and the bloody roses. Here’s the mockup I made:

Granted, I was WAY off in the color scheme. But once I saw what they had done, I was thrilled. Choosing vivid colors lent a whimsical feel which is so important, so the reader goes in knowing to expect some strange silliness along with the creepiness. The model is beautiful, but also looks very innocent, like my MC. I also loved the fact that Alyssa’s face is partially covered by her hair (speaking of her hair, the model’s is exactly how I pictured it!!!).  One thing both our covers had in common was the actual vision: Alyssa front and center, and plenty of subtle details woven in (the bugs and flowers who talk to her, the snaky vines, the key around her neck, and her wild and haggard expression, because believe me, she goes through some crazy stuff…heh).

BBC: How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house? 

AGH: November, so about three months after I signed.

BBC: Did you have any input on your cover? 

AGH: Yes. My agent arranged a “Meaningful Consultation” clause in my contract, which meant I got to watch the entire evolution and actually had back and forths w/my editor along the way. But honestly, their ideas were so amazing, I hardly had anything to say. Although there was a lot of swooning going on. LOL

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you? 

AGH: Since I was involved throughout the process, it was a gradual evolution. My editor would send me mockups along the way to view and comment on.

BBC: Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art? 

AGH: There was a little bit of confusion there, because I’d told my editor I wanted to do a reveal, so they needed to let me know before it hit the online catalogue and went live. Then I was googling myself one weekend, and there it was, up in the catalogue. I emailed my editor LIKE FAST and she wasn’t even aware they’d already posted it. It had only been up that one day. Evidently, designing and editing are kind of worlds apart even though they’re both in-house. She did some checking around for me (this was on a Saturday, mind, so she really went out of her way there) and got the okay for my reveal. I had been in contact with a very delightful gal named Tami, who runs the lovely Krazy Book Lady blog. I appreciate her so much because she was so flexible and pushed aside everything so I could post it first thing Monday morning before anyone else got wind of it on the catalogue. I spent all day Sunday making my book cover reveal trailer, and then it all went off without a hitch. Whew!

BBC: How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like? 

AGH: The day I contacted my editor that the cover was in the catalogue, I actually had to make sure that was the final version because there had still been a little back and forth going on between the designer and the artist. So, two days before the reveal, unless you count watching the evolution.

BBC: Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release? 

AGH: Well, I have select group of online pals (my critters/beta readers) that got to watch every step of the progression w/me. That helped me reign in my excitement until I could share w/the world.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process? 

AGH: I didn’t realize it took both a designer and an artist (two separate entities) to make up the cover. I always assumed it was the same person doing both. But instead, the in-house designer looks for a freelance artist who has the qualities in their artwork that would best capture the book’s feel. Really, it’s pretty amazing how many people actually had a hand in it along the way. The model, the artist, the designer, my editor, the publicist. LOTS of involvement in-house and out of house.

BBC: Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety? 

AGH: Have your agent get a Meaningful Consult clause in your contract. It really does help if you get to have a little input, if for no other reason than you get to see the progression of the cover, and fall in love with it along the way!

Thank you so much for helping me introduce a new interview series here today, Anita. To sweeten the deal, Anita is offering a swag-pack giveaway of a SPLINTERED bookmark, button, and signed bookplate! Comment on the blog below and Anita will pick a winner using random.org. The giveaway will run through Sunday May 27 at 12 AM.

Good luck!

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Don't Care

That was my go-to phrase when I was a kid.

Parent: "Mindy, you didn't clean your room."
BBC: "I don't care."

Parent: "You're grounded you for a week."
BBC: "I don't care."

Parent: "You're making me angry!"
BBC: "I don't care."

As you can see, I learned early on that apathy is the biggest stick you can carry while walking softly. So my parents found the perfect book for me: PIERRE by Maurice Sendak.

PIERRE is the story of a young boy who uses that same catchphrase to dismiss, irritate and otherwise flaunt his independence to his parents. Tried beyond endurance, Pierre's parents go to the movies one night to get away and a lion marches into the living room and announces he's going to eat Pierre, who boldly claims -

"I don't care."

And is thus eaten.

After this little literary gem had been installed on my bookshelf, my parent's automatic response to my defiant "I don't care" was -

"Okay, Pierre."

Which was a really nice way to say, "Get your shit together or you'll be eaten by a lion."

I hear "I don't care," everyday in my job, and it never slips by without my brain tacking on, "Okay, Pierre." So Maurice Sendak is going to be with me for a long time, haunting my steps and reminding me to care.

Or be eaten.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

Sometimes a virus is more than just a medical problem, it's a political weapon. Here's the thing, this hook feels like it's for a techno-thriller or a medical mystery. Your genre is dystopian and that needs to be clear from the beginning. When I read your hook, my original reaction was, "Meh... OK but let's spice it up," then I was immediately confused once we got to princes and thrones, because I was already geared for a contemporary political thriller.

On the verge of his coronation, Prince Anton gave up the throne, eliminate some of these commas, if you read it aloud and actually give the correct pauses for the commas you'll feel the slow pace and set out to eradicate a devastating virus that causes its victims to slowly bleed to death. For over a hundred years, his family's power has come from their immunity; the only treatment is derived from their blood, but Anton's quest threatens their hold on the empire. OK that's actually very interesting - they've got power because they are the living immunity. So... what's his motivation here?

In the imperial capitol, Anton flaunts a fabricated playboy persona in order to shield what is most dear to him from public judgement. Abroad, Anton has cleared nation after nation of the virus. But his most difficult task lies ahead; eradicating the virus in the homeland of his estranged wife, Tia, a radiant beauty who hides a deep sorrow behind her delusional sense of optimism. The writing here is fine, but I'm going to raise some questions. It seems like if he were voluntarily giving up the throne and going out to all these countries to use his own blood to make people immune, which in turn will undermine his family's power - how the heck does anyone buy the playboy persona? He sounds more like Gandhi. Also, I assume from the mention of Tia in this para that she is "what is most dear to him." But why would the public judge him for loving his wife?

Anton and his forces he has forces? Why? If he's just going around like a reverse bloodmobile why does he needs them? return to the distant war-torn island where a tragic secret gave rise to his quest against the virus. OK - so here you're *toying* with answering my question from para one - Why is Anton doing this? Because of the tragic secret? Not sure you can float "tragic secret" out under an agent's nose in a query and expect them to bite at that for the motivation that moves the whole plot. From the moment they arrive their well practiced routine is thrown into chaos. Survival instincts have bred strange alliances. Tia is both hated by her countrymen for her past connection to Anton, and an integral part of the militias fighting Anton for power. Awkward sentence here before this comment, the "both hated..." implies that there's a "and loved for..." coming up, but you don't give us that. Instead you say she's an integral part of the militia fighting Anton... but the sentence isn't quite working. The public, desperate for a cure, become pawns in a violent clash of ideologies. Confused on what ideologies are clashing here? Why are they fighting Anton if he wants to give them his blood to cure everyone? If they don't want him to have power anymore, they would let him do EXACTLY what he plans to do by giving people the immunity, thus undermining his power.

As time runs out Anton's motivations are revealed to be not nearly as altruistic as the public's been led to believe. Again - so if the public has been led to believe he's a good guy, why is the army fighting him? He faces a choice between his own morals, and his love for Tia, only one of which can survive. How do his morals come into this? And how are his motivations not altruistic? You're going to have to come clean in the query about what his motivation is, and the "tragic secret," otherwise you're just floating this out there asking the agent to trust that you know what you're doing. And they see hundreds of queries a day from people who *don't* know what they're doing plotwise, so don't give them any reason to dismiss you as one of them.

WHAT THE WATER GAVE US is a dystopian novel complete at 99,000 words.

Ending thoughts - love the title, and the writing here is solid. You just need to get the actual motivations of your main character "out there" and not shroud it in secrecy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Talk - Books for Boys

Today on the Book Talk I've got a couple of good titles for boys. A lot of the time I hear people insisting that boys don't read as much as girls, to which I say, "No, you just have to give them the right books." Here are two examples of exactly the kinds of books that boys can dive into.

IN DARKNESS by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury, Jan. 2012) Shorty is a child of the slums in Site Soleil, a Haitian city torn to pieces by gang wars and daily violence. A gunshot wound lands him in the hospital the day before the earthquake of 2010 obliterates the city, bringing the building down around him. His only solace in the pure blackness is a voice that speaks to him of courage, and visions of a different time. Shorty is a twin, which is sacred in Vodun. His sister was stolen from him during the gang wars and he is now considered a half-soul. Touissaint L'ouverture, the Haitian rebel who led a slave revolt two hundreds years ago was born a twin as well, but his other half died as a child. From the confines of his underground prison cell in France to the rubble of modern day Haiti, the two half souls converge for an ethereal conversation about the future of Haiti, and their own purposes in life.

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2012) Aristotle depends on the summers to help define himself in 1987 El Paso. The youngest child in a family of much older siblings, Ari is constantly reminded that he cannot become what his older brother is - a jailbird. The summer after his fifteenth birthday he meets Dante at the pool, who offers to teach him how to swim. Dante's open and easy going manner immediately attracts Ari, who keep his own emotions as closed off as his father, a Vietnam war veteran.   Dante's love of everything spills over into animals, and he is nearly killed in the street while attempting to save an injured bird. The only reason he lives is because Ari shoves him out of the way, breaking both his legs in the process. Dante's family goes to Chicago during the school year, following a job lead for his professor father. Though Ari is reluctant to open himself up in the letters they exchange, Dante has no problem confessing his sexuality, and his feelings for Ari. As the next summer approaches, along with the return of Dante and his family, Ari is left to question if he can continue being Dante's friend, and if there was more than just friendship in his own feelings as well.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

More Mindy thoughts coming your way this Thursday:

1) Facebook really enjoys being the last word in social networking. When you accept a friend request from Bob it says,  "You are now friends with Bob." Yeah, 'cause before you were totally faking it.

2) I think nerd is just another word for someone who's discovered that 90% of society is bullshit and removes themselves from it.

3) When someone says, "Race ya!" and you immediately say, "You win," without breaking stride, it totally takes the wind out of their sails.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ohioana Book Festival & How Awesome It Is To Be Excited To Meet Someone and Then They're Excited to Meet You

This past weekend I volunteered to work at the COSCBWI (Central Ohio SCBWI chapter) table at the Ohioana Book Festival, and no, it's not just because I'm awesome and like to donate my time to good causes. (Although those things are true as well).

I've been blogging for a little over a year, and the course of those twelve months have brought me in contact with some amazing writers and bloggers, many of whom are from Ohio. So I took the liberty of walking right up to them and saying, "Hi, you kind of know me."

I got to meet Tricia Springstubb and Cinda Williams Chima who were both kind enough to give me interviews here on the blog when I had roughly 5 followers. I also met Rebecca Barnhouse, author of THE COMING OF THE DRAGON based on the tale of Beowulf (there's a companion novel out now - PEACEWEAVER) who was awesome and posed for a picture with me which I was really excited about even though I appear to be distracted by something shiny off camera. There were lots of people and things were moving around, so I was like a labrador puppy with OCD who just did crack.



Right next to Rebecca I found Leah Clifford, author of the A TOUCH MORTAL series. Leah is a longtime member of QueryTracker, which makes her even more awesome. And then she took a picture with me, which gives her another +10 Awesome.

And the good times kept rolling, as I walked past a familiar face and thought, "Hey... I know that lady." Checked the name and why yes, yes I did know that lady. But I had to get back to my booth and do my duties so I did, all the while not-so-casually glancing down the way to see if she was still at her table. Duties observed, I skittered my butt over to meet... Julie Anne Lindsay, the blogger extraordinaire behind Musings From the Slushpile, and author of DEATH BY CHOCOLATE and BLOOM. I had a surreal moment when I introduced myself and she started bouncing up and and down because *she* was excited to meet *me,* despite my awkward introduction of, "Hi, we know each other, but you don't know we know each other," before I handed her my card with my name and (much more recognizable) Le Chat Noir avatar. And hooray! She's fun and awesome! And a good dresser!


And while meeting all the YA people who have been so kind and awesome while holding the door open and letting me into their incredible world, I made sure I didn't leave before meeting Donald Ray Pollock, Ohio native and author of the short story collection KNOCKEMSTIFF and THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME. The man is one of my literary heros. And he signed my books... weekend complete.



Monday, May 14, 2012

The Stories We Tell

All of our lives can be retold as stories, some of us are just able to do it better than others.

People tell me all the time that my life sounds so fun, so odd, so... interesting. It's not. I've got a 40/wk that I actually love, but I'm also on the treadmill five days out of the weekly seven for half an hour, struggling to not eat drive-thru food more than I have to, and leaning a little closer to the mirror everyday to see how many more grays have spawned during the night. I also consistently forget to change my oil and lock my keys in my car ridiculously often.

I'm not any different from you, or any other average human being. The trick is to make myself *sound* interesting, which I've come to realize, is an inherited ability.

As everyone probably knows by now I spent five days in New Mexico with my crit partner, RC Lewis. It was awesome, except for the extra day spent in the airport. When I finally got home 36 hours later than scheduled my mom said, "Let me get my coffee, then we'll sit down and you can tell me all about it."

Then my sister called me to "hear all about it."

I suddenly realized that maybe not all families function in this way. Perhaps storytelling is something I was raised on, intrinsically absorbing the threads of my genetic plot as we invited anyone who had been on a trip, had an extraordinary experience, or we just hadn't seen in awhile, to "tell us about it."

From my German great-grandfather's accent laden stories of coming over on a ship alone when he was just fifteen, to my Irish grandmother's tales of growing up in an orphanage along with her five siblings, to my obscenity-laced overblown narrative of eight hours sitting on my ass in Albuquerque, our stories are part of a larger web that we've learned to spin from those who came before us.

So tell your stories tell your kids, and maybe when they're older they'll still want to sit down with you and share theirs.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

 “You are safe. I will protect you.” Those are the words Marylin hears after she’s told of an apocalypse.  The hook isn't "hooking" me. I don't know if opening up with a line of dialogue is a good idea. It might be a gamble that pays off in that it's different, but I personally don't find it working for me.

<---- You definitely want to be right justified Days bring about earthquakes that shatter cities, newscasters that turn their cameras away, and people that believe the ignorance they see. Now this, I like. The phrasing and the cadence is nice. Rephrase a little to make this your hook, and I'm listening. Safety comes in the form of Sanctuary, a post-Christian religion that took over once Christianity was seen as a disturbance. Interesting, and it has my attention. However "post-Christian" and then the phrase "once Christianity was seen as a disturbance" had me re-checking the sentence. Is Sanctuary a replacement for Christianity? Or did Sanctuary engineer the downfall of Christianity? And who saw Christianity as a disturbance in the first place? And among the chaos of disasters, the voice comes to Marylin. He tells her the date when fire will perish society this phrasing doesn't work, leaving the remains to those of Sanctuary. Though, there is a clause. Again, clunky phrasing. If only one misplaced soul What do you mean by misplaced soul? Anyone who isn't a member of Sanctuary? survives, the whole plan can be ruined. This information must stay a secret to ensure Marylin’s fate. I get why that would need to be a secret, but why tell her in the first place then? I'm also a little confused on the timeline here - the apocalypse is already happening, right? Earthquakes, anarchy, etc. Yet it sounds like there's one Final Event coming, the Fire that the Voice speaks of. So Marilyn is living in a society that's already in shambles, about to be totally eradicated and she's the only one who knows? Do the other members of Sanctuary know? Why her? Is she already a member of Sanctuary? 

<---- Doubts plague her thoughts. Technically, doubts are thoughts. This ending will create a revival of religious freedom and destroy immorality, but it also might mean losing her beloved children who were not promised to survive. Clunky phrasing on the previous sentence at the end, do a rephrase. Your meaning is clear, just need a polish. She asks the voice in her head these dire questions. He abandons her with no answers. Insecurities are eating her insides, when the secret escapes into the fragile public. How does the secret escape? Is she the only who knows? Riots break out and now nothing about Marylin’s vision is certain, including her survival. It sounds like the world was already a damn precarious place, why would these riots even make a ripple on the surface? And has the secret been released in connection with her? Is she being targeted as the messenger? How does the secret escaping impact her survival specifically?

<---- THE REGENCY STORIES is a 69,500 word dystopian novel targeted to the adult market.

<---- My name is [redacted]. I find right now I’m at a fork in my life, whether to unwillingly choose my life as an actuary or fulfill my dreams of being a published author. I found my story while visiting a garden in Nashville, TN, of which I mention in THE REGENCY STORIES. It seemed twenty-four hours later I had the book written in my head, waiting to be typed out. I currently have no writer’s background, though THE REGENCY STORIES has prospects of a series and I have other ideas of books tucked away in my head. No offense, they don't care. Pretty much everyone who is querying has a day job and wants to be a writer, so it's of no interest to them. Same with the genesis of the story. If you have no experience in publishing that's totally fine (I didn't either), but don't mention it.

<---- I have gotten into touch with (Agency Name) through the AAR website, then researched more to find good reviews of your agency. Thank you for your time, (Agent First Name), and I hope to hear back from you at your earliest convenience. I also thank you for considering and reading my query. A full manuscript is ready at your command if you find interest in my book. I hope you see my literary skills as an asset to your company. Have a great day! Again, you're adding length to your query for no reason here. They know you got in touch with them, they assume that you liked what you saw because you queried. I know you're trying to show that you've done your research, but there are better ways to do that. For example, you could say, "Because you represent title X, which deals with apocalyptic themes, I thought you might be interested in my manuscript." After that, a nice simple, "Sincerely -" is the best way to sign off. 

The story itself sounds compelling, but some of your phrasing here needs work. Also, my biggest issue is that I'm not quite clear on when I am in the future. It's obviously not the world ending as I know it right now, because Christianity is still around. So are we 50 years into the future? 100? And also I need to know more about Sanctuary... is it a super-secret underground society that only a chosen few who hear the Voice know about? Is it a big movement that the Voice is driving people towards in order for them to be saved? I need that end-all be-all Organization Character fleshed out for me a little more before it can be a really strong query.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Talk: Non-Fiction Friday

I've been hitting the non-fiction rather hard lately. I'm editing right now and I find it all too easy to let the voice of other fiction writer's that I'm reading slip into my brain, and sometimes override my own voice. I know, you're thinking - who's louder than you?

In any case, I've got some more non-fiction recommendations for you. They're not beach reads, but for those of you who desire a little something to pique the gray matter into churning a little more than usual, I've got you covered.

INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY by Janet Reitman offers an in-depth and even-handed look at Scientology. Reitman begins with a biography of L. Ron Hubbard, traces the origins of Scientology in connection with the Dianetics movement and follows Scientology into the present day, including it's outreach and public relations efforts. Her journalistic writing is meticulous and compelling, with enough voice to keep you reading when the facts are flowing.

LAST CALL AT THE OASIS by Karl Weber - released in tandem with the documentary of the same name, this book considers the pending global freshwater crisis. Less than 1% of the world's water is fresh, and once it's gone... well, let's just say we'll miss it. A lot. Educate yourself about the shortage and the possible solutions to the crisis. OASIS  is also available right now as a giveaway on Goodreads.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts today are of a the TV lean. In case you haven't noticed, my internet at home has been spotty as hell, which leaves me watching early evening programming and wondering what disease I'll contract next.

1) I remember when it wasn't legal for prescription drugs to be advertised on TV. It's pretty much all you see now, and I'm very tired of watching graying people enjoying their lives via picnics and boating while a friendly and responsible narrator explains what drug has made them so happy. For the sake of entertainment, I'd like to see the side-effects acted out during those twilight hour picnics: sudden rashes, nausea, bloating, sexual dysfunction, stroke, heart attack, and possible death. Now that's an advertisement.

2) The Clue Crew on Jeopardy has the best job in the world. Paid flight to awesome and interesting international locations in order to shoot a five to ten second clip while standing near a historic beach or antiquated chess set. Me want do that.

3) Even my wacky brain can't come up with a good way to film a reality TV show about writers. There's only so much entertainment to be had out of watching people stare at their laptops and refresh their browsers. Maybe if we cut off fingers for every form rejection...

And speaking of form rejections - I'm being interviewed by AQC member Michelle4Laughs over on the For the Love of Writing blog. Michelle asked me to talk about getting the call from Adriann Ranta, so if you want to know how the decade long drought of form rejections ended (WITH all my digits attached), check it out!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Successful Author Talk with Debut Author Brandy Colbert

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is my fellow Lucky 13'er Brandy Colbert, author of A POINT SO DELICATE, in which a ballet prodigy's life begins to unravel when she is forced to admit to the role she played in her childhood friend's abduction. Brandy grew up in the Missouri Ozarks and graduated Missouri State University with a Journalism degree. Fifteen days later she moved clear across the country to Los Angeles. Brandy has been writing since she can remember and has the many, many spiral-bound notebooks with her childhood stories to prove it. A POINT SO DELICATE will be available from Penguin Fall, 2013.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?

BC: I’ve always called myself a pantser, but now I’m not so sure. I don’t stick to a detailed outline – never have – but I do outline in my head. Before I start a novel, I spend several days thinking about the characters, their struggles, and even specific scenes. I start an email draft once ideas begin coming together so I can keep track of everything, in case I forget. The notes are very haphazard (they rarely contain full sentences and they’re not written in chronological order) so I don’t quite consider it outlining. But I suppose that means I’m not exactly a pantser, either.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

BC: I’ll usually spend about eight to 12 weeks on a first draft. That one is almost always just for me. I write pretty fast, but a lot of things change in the second draft. Revising is more rewarding, but it’s also very difficult, so I prefer drafting. I think the fast pace allows me to be a little freer. My first drafts are messy in terms of plotting and they need a lot of work, but I love them.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

BC: One project at a time is all I can handle. I get so involved with the characters and their world that it’s hard for me to switch back and forth between two projects. That being said, I don’t always finish a project in one pass. I’ll often start a draft, set it aside for a while, and pick it up again when I’ve figured out how to move forward.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

BC: I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old, but I started writing for publication six years ago, in 2006. My main fear was not finishing, as I’d had trouble with that in the past. I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo; I finished the first 50,000 words within the month of November, and then finished the novel a few weeks later. I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m always working on something, but NaNo was great motivation for that first book.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

BC: Three. All YA novels. All were queried and rejected so many times I lost count. I actually signed with an agent for that first novel, but we parted ways after six months, due to incompatibility. (It really is all about the right fit!)

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

BC: Like I said earlier, I’m never afraid to set aside a manuscript if the story isn’t working for me at the moment. But I’ve picked up and reworked manuscripts after they were sitting on the back burner for years. Even if I only use a few elements from the original version, I still consider it incredibly helpful.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

BC: I’m represented by the amazingly fabulous Tina Wexler of ICM, who pulled my query from the slush pile (!). I know that referrals can be helpful and a lot of people have success pitching at conferences, but I didn’t know any other writers when I was querying and I’d never attended a conference, so I always assumed I would get an agent through the traditional query route. I emailed my query to Tina early one morning and she’d requested the full by lunchtime. She got back to me in a couple of weeks with the kindest words about my writing and a revise-and-resubmit request. I was absolutely on board with her suggestions to make the book better, turned in a revised manuscript six weeks later, and signed with her a couple of weeks after that. Best decision ever. Tina is my Dream Agent to a T.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?

BC: I queried for four years before I signed with my agent. I don’t know if I was ever very good at figuring out how to target my queries. I extensively researched the agents I queried, but the ones I assumed would like my work (based on the clients they represented) were rarely interested, and the ones I never assumed would request pages were the most enthusiastic. (Fun fact: I queried Tina with my first manuscript and received a rejection upon query. Just because one of your books isn’t right for an agent, that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in your subsequent work.)

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

BC: All of this has been said before, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t give up. Start another project while you’re querying so you don’t drive yourself crazy with the waiting. Only query agents who represent what you write and follow their submission guidelines. Be polite. Be professional. Trust your gut. And remember that this is a job and if you want it to be yours someday, treat it as such before you even have an agent.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

BC: It’s a tad bit early for marketing, as my book won’t be out until fall of 2013. But I do have a blog and a Twitter account. I’ll build an official website and set up a Facebook author page closer to publication.

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

BC: One thing Tina mentioned during The Call was that she couldn’t find a lot about me online. I was surprised at first and then realized she was right—at the time, all I had was a locked-down Facebook account and a Twitter account that I’d had for a few years but was just starting to use regularly. I think it’s smart to build a platform before you sign with an agent, but I don’t think it’s necessary when you’re writing fiction. The quality of writing is the most important part; building an online presence can come later.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?

BC: In my case, it’s too early to tell, but I certainly think it can’t hurt. Personally, if I enjoy talking to an author on Twitter/blogs/Facebook/etc., I will most likely want to read their books. To be honest, I struggle with social media sometimes. I’m not shy, but I am a fairly private person by nature, so it can be difficult to open up to people I don’t know in real life. In addition to the privacy factor, I worry that no one will care about my journey/ what I’m working on/what I think is the smartest show on television right now. But at the same time, I’m friendly and truly enjoy meeting new people, especially those who have the same interests or career path. I’ve met so many wonderful people through Twitter— authors, writers, and readers alike—and hope to meet many more along the way!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Last Call At The Oasis

Obviously the topic of this documentary is very close to my heart. I think the graphics I have included here don't need much more explanation from me. Take a look, then have a drink. And be grateful for it.

After you do that, check out Take Part and support Trevor's Law by signing the petition to increase assistance to areas affected by disease clusters caused by water contamination.

Tweet it. Share it. Talk about it.

Not a Drop to Drink TakePart.com and Last Call at the Oasis Infographic” width=
Via: TakePart.com


Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday MORP

When I was in high school we had a dance called the MORP dance. Yeah, that's "prom" backwards. The idea of the MORP dance was that you came looking like crap, danced badly, and made a fool of yourself on purpose.

Really, MORP wasn't that different from prom for someone like me, but you get the point.

I mention it because I'm going to reshare my vlog that I posted last Friday on the Friday the Thirteeners blog. Just so you're not wondering why the hell I did what I did in this vlog - the Thirteeners take Truth or Dare's every Friday from our lovely followers. Mine was to share a video from high school or share pictures of yourself as a teenager.

I decided to talk about boobs a little bit too, but that's just to make it more of a human interest story. Enjoy!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Today's volunteer took an interesting approach, addressing me as if I were the agent in question. I'm flattered, I may have even quirked a smile.

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

An avid reader of your blog, I enjoy your nothing is sacred sense of humor and straight-to-the-point approach to writing and editing. I understand you're interested in quirky, character-driven picture books, and I'm pleased to submit for your consideration Pippa Blackpool and the Mystery of the Disappearing Mansion, my 900-word picture book written for ages 4-8. This is a good intro. I didn't take the time to personalize all my queries, as personalization can be one heck of a time consumer. In this case though, it's flattering without groveling, and if the author can get this same style injected into a query to an agent, it's a good foot forward.

Pippa Blackpool loves pretending. Meh - what 4-8 year old doesn't? Whether she's a maiden in peril, locked in a castle tower, an acclaimed I'd strike "acclaimed" for pacing archaeologist on the hunt for ancient same with "ancient." Artifacts are by nature, ancient. artifacts, or a renowned detective investigating an important case, nine-year-old Pippa's always I'd do a slight rephrase here. Try saying the 5 words before this aloud and you'll see why. looking for mystery and adventure. Your hook is okay, I like the examples you give but the very first sentence isn't hooking me the way it should. However, I'm not the end-all be-all of picture book querying so this could be perfectly acceptable.

The only thing she loves more than pretending is pretending in her spooky old house, with its rickety rafters and cobweb-covered ceilings. AHA! Okay this sounds like the crux of your story here. She lives in a creepy house? GREAT! That's cool, and puts a new spin on her "pretending."But when her modern-minded parents decide to redecorate and fail to ask her opinion, a series of curious events prompts her to investigate. I like it, again I think that this is where your hook is - a re haul of the house is causing issues - that's your story, not that Pippa likes to pretend. She observes the work crew hauling dilapidated door latches, streaky stained-glass windows, and other bits of her beloved home into the backyard. She can't see what is happening This feels a little awkward as you just said "she observes" but then are following up with "she can't see." Even though you're talking about two different things (one observed, one not) the reader doesn't get the division of the two until later in this sentence., but there are mysterious noises emanating from behind the high hedges. Plus, her parents are acting suspicious and strictly forbade tense issue with forbade? her to play there. What's happening in her backyard? This is, perhaps, the biggest mystery Pippa's ever investigated. EXACTLY - so let's toss it out there first!

A former newspaper reporter, I currently work as a magazine freelance, and am an active member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, and focused much of my attention on British literature of a mysterious and spooky nature. Like Pippa, I possess a particular fondness for the peculiar. Nice bio, very good.

This is a multiple submission. Not need to clarify  that, They assume so.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

The writing here is solid, with the exception of a few rephrases and nits for flow, but your main issue is that you need to get that spooky house, an unwanted remodel and disembodied voices out there first thing. Re-evaluate that first sentence and take what you absolutely need out of it, then dribble those little drops throughout that second para. Get your hook out there! What makes you original ? Why is Pippa's situation different from any other curious kid.
And lastly, I'd really question some of your word choice in the query. Observes, dilapidated, emanating... it feels wordy, and it might make the agent question whether your use age-appropriate language in your picture book.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Talk - PRECIOUS BONES by Mika Ashley-Hollinger

Before you jump into the book talk for today, hop on over to the Friday the Thirteeners blog. I took a dare... complete with vlog. Enjoy yourself at my expense!

I won't be the last person to compare Mika Ashley-Hollinger's amazing debut novel, PRECIOUS BONES to Harper Lee's iconic TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Raised in the isolated swamplands of 1948 Florida, ten-year-old Bones sees nothing odd about her name, the fact that she has a pet pig who sleeps in her bed, or the various items belonging to other people that her father, Nolay, brings home because they don't seem to be using them.

Bones asks a lot of questions about her world, not understanding why some people look down on her because her mother is white and her father is a Miccosukee Indian, why her black neighbors have to sit in a different part of the train when they go into town, or why people don't appreciate the wisdom of a brain-damaged war veteran who takes note of everything that passes by from his bench in front of the gas station.

The real world penetrates into Bones' swampy haven when one of the Yankee land-grabbers that Nolay ran off his property turns up dead. Her father is under suspicion and living in the shadow of the electric chair unless someone can prove he wasn't involved. Bones would rather take matters into her own hands than leave everything up to the local sheriff, who moves slower than pond water.

Together with her best friend Little Man, Bones braves the swamp, the folktale fears of her childhood and the wandering gators in order to find the evidence that will make her father a free man.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Those thoughts, they keep on coming. Pesky little pests.

1) The CDC should use Sneezies to illustrate how an epic virus could wipe out the entire population. It's a kid's game, but it's also one heck of an apocalyptic teaching tool.

2) Flying is an odd, odd thing when you really think about it. You're 30,000 feet in the air, sitting next to a total stranger. Take the plane away and... odd.

3) When you whistle in public and all are by yourself, people move away from you. Humming has the same effect.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An SAT with Debut Author K.A. Barson

It's back to life as usual for yours truly, which means you guys get an interview today! Today's SAT guest is a fellow Lucky 13, author K.A. Barson. She graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She can usually be found in her messy office sporting no make-up, bed head, and sweats. Her YA debut, 45 POUNDS, is about Ann, a sixteen-year-old girl who doesn’t fit—not in her blended family and certainly not in Snapz! clothes—is convinced that if she could only lose 45 pounds, her life would be perfectly normal. She soon learns that is nothing perfect about normal. 45 POUNDS will be available from Viking Children's Books, Summer 2013.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?

KB: I’m both. I start with a plan, but it inevitably goes awry while writing. After I write a draft, I re-plan—with better understanding of my characters and story—and write again.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

KB: My first novel, which is really bad and hidden away, took about a month. Lately, it’s taken a lot longer: between six months to a year for a draft. Revisions are another story. I haven’t finished those yet, so as of now, they take forever.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

KB: I have several projects in various stages of completion, but in general, I focus on one at a time.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

KB: No, when I first sat down, I thought I could write anything. I was fearless and stupid. The fear didn’t come until I realized how much I didn’t know. Now I have to conquer it daily. What I wouldn’t give for a few more fearless, stupid writing sessions!

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

KB: About three. One will never come out of from the trunk. One will need to be dismantled, re-visioned, and started fresh—someday. One is being revised right now. Another is newly revised and out on submission now.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

KB: Yes, once, but only because there was nowhere else to take it. It was a weird combo of fiction and non-fiction based on a family hobby. The potential audience was too small, the plot was weak, and the writing wasn’t very good. Not much to work with, so I let go and focused on other things. I have other books that I’ll come back to revise later with fresh eyes and better skills though.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?

KB: Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. It’s a pretty traditional story. I queried. She asked to read the full. A couple weeks later, she offered to represent me.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent? 

KBL I queried two other agents and got rejected almost immediately. After six months of research and talking to people, I put Sara Crowe at the top of the list. When I revisited my query, I realized that I hadn’t mentioned two really important things—the title and what made it different from other books. I revamped and queried Sara exclusively because I really wanted to work with her.

However, I queried a few agents years ago—way before I should have—with that now-and-forever-trunked piece. (I don’t count those.)

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

KBL Yes. Finding an agent or editor is like finding the perfect mate. You want someone who wants you as much as you want him/her. (Think Cheap Trick.) Don’t just look for any agent. Look for the one who enthusiastically wants to rep you. If you get a rejection, don’t take it personally; it only means that agent is not your match.

If you constantly get rejected at the query, the problem might be the query. If you get a lot of rejections on the work, take another look at it, and never submit until you’ve had other readers—the more brutal the better—vet it first.

Finally, don’t give up. You might be one query away from a yes.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

KBL Since my book won’t be out for over a year, I haven’t done much yet. I joined a couple groups of other debut authors for support and group promotion and have participated in some blogs (like this one, for instance). I have a website, I’m also on Twitter (@kabarson), Facebook, and Goodreads.

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

KB: I built my initial website before the agent/book deal and am adding to it as I go.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?

KB: I hope so. It definitely helps get the word out.