Category Archives: Getting published

The Sky is Not the Limit

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Photograph by: FRED CHARTRAND , THE CANADIAN PRESS

Chris Hadfield is just plain cool.

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Commander Hadfield, Canada’s most earthy space ambassador and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. His presentation resembled a TED talk, it was both inspiring and motivating, and wait for it—out of this world.

The thing that struck me the most is that he started dreaming what he describes as an “impossible dream” from the age of nine. Canada did not have a space program at the time, yet, he was determined to become an Astronaut. This meant preparing very early, advancing his education, learning to fly, learning to speak several languages, and learning to play guitar (now a terrestrial superstar by crooning David Bowie’s Space Oddity). He did these things and showed us ordinary earthlings that dreams do matter, even if only a slim possibility of manifestation, it can and will happen with dedication, preparation and patience.

There are days when I think finishing my current novel is an impossible dream. But I’m half-way there, I’m resuming momentum and receiving encouragement from my fellow Restless Writers. I can do this! And I will, because I am the commander of my writing career. I am dedicated, prepared, and ever so patient in the wonderful world of literary longings. My dream of becoming a novelist is too important to remain unlived. Sure, the odds are stacked against me. But I’m still going for it!

Thanks to extraordinary people like Chris Hadfield, who not only make us proud to be Canadian but who also show us how to make the impossible a reality.

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Filed under Author events, Books and stuff, Getting published, Inspiration

Are you super talented or just crazy?

Like many of you, I procrastinate by watching videos on You Tube.

Instead of writing, I find myself watching funny Jennifer Lawrence clips (that Katniss cracks me up) or the latest in Sophia Grace and Rosie (cuz I kinda love female rappers, even if they are only 8 yrs old—thank you, Ellen!). But have you ever tried to find a GOOD video about writing fiction? Book trailers do not count, plus, they are just weird.

I finally stumbled on a good writing video. If you’re a writer and have two minutes to chuckle (your protagonist can wait), check out John Hodgman’s advice to writers via the You Tube Channel known as THNKR. You might know him as an American actor, author and humourist, and he’s also been on The Daily Show and Attach of the Show (G4 TV) as a guest many times.

So, which category do you fall into? Crazy, mediocre, or super talented?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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Filed under Author Interviews, Books and stuff, Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas

It’s Been a PITCH of a Summer

The Restless Writers have had some challenges this summer.

The pages and word counts have evaporated kinda like sweat. It’s been a summer of renos, indexes, puppies, and house hunting. Our meetings have gone down more like patio parties and opportunities to kvetch about our lives and ‘honey-do’ lists. But there is hope! We have all managed to share new ideas and bring the early workings of new-fangled projects to the table (along with brie and butter tarts).

We have pitches. Four of them.

Creating a pitch can be a bit like peeling back the layers of an onion. We all know a well-crafted pitch begins with a brief sentence that describes the book. So we started there, then followed it with character and situation information. We did this while taking into consideration three key story sparks and of course, the ultimate hook. We managed to come up with a structure that worked for us, while keeping in mind that we were pitching to each other as a writing group and not agents. We were pitching ideas, not complete projects.

And this is how we did it.

THE PERFECT PITCH:

  1. WORKING TITLE
  2. LOGLINE (i.e. one sentence summary)
  3. GENRE (i.e. YA/Women’s Fiction)
  4. WORD COUNT
  5. SIMILAR BOOK TITLES (or similar author’s style)
  6. MAIN CHARACTER (and main character’s goal)
  7. SITUATION
  8. CONFLICT
  9. DISASTER
  10. STORY RESOLUTION

Perhaps this is a template that you too can use while you pitch your new project to your peers. Try it for a few different projects before you settle on one. While it is a bit scary, it’s totally worth it.

Now the real work begins. We are about to begin plot summaries and outlines.

Our pitch of a Summer is setting us up for a fantastic Fall!

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas

Out of the Mouths of Agents

Tip #27: Do not show up at an agent's office wearing this.

I used to be very superstitious when it came to querying agents. It started when someone told me the best time to query was between January and June, but I took it to another level. I started trying to get into the minds of agents (i.e. Would s/he be more receptive to my email in the morning or afternoon? Should I wait until mid-week in case s/he had a crappy weekend? Etc.). It was exhausting, not to mention…unhealthy.

Thankfully, the conference I went to last autumn cured me of my Agent-related OCD. The agent/editor panels were a revelation—instead of guessing what made agents tick, I was able to sit back and listen to them tell me. On the off chance there are other A-R OCD sufferers out there, here some pearls of wisdom, straight from the agent’s mouth:

What agents are seeing too much of:
- Vampires and werewolves
- Mid-life spiritual memoirs
- Heavy YA (i.e. young girls being severely abused)
- Talking animals in children’s books

What would agents love to see:
- Judy Blume-like contemporary middle grade
- Chinese spy novel set between two World Wars
- Historical thriller that lends to a series/branding

What can an agent bring to the table:
- Editorial experience
- Other opportunities to create revenue streams (i.e. speaker services)
- Someone who will champion your work to the world

What agents look for in a new author:
- Writing is becoming very voice-driven and it must be engaging and distinct (i.e. don’t try to write like J.K. Rowling)
- Emotion on the page that evokes a visceral response in the reader
- A great title can make the difference in an agent giving attention to your query
- Have an understanding of the publishing business so you know what your work has to go through before it’s printed
- Critique partners are essential in getting your manuscript ready for an agent, who will then take it up another notch before going to publishers

What all aspiring authors should know about agents:
- Agents take on new clients in cycles, depending on their current list, and much of getting an agent depends on timing
- Summer is not a slow time to query—it’s always busy (one agent signed a client on Christmas Eve! Another one found her client at a drag show!)
- A good query has a hook (logline), book (plot) and cook (bio)—don’t get too clever/cute/wordy

What agents think of social networking:
- Interacting on Twitter and Facebook demonstrates to editors/agents that you are serious about being a career author and building a network
- Unless you get 60,000+ hits per month, having a blog is not as important for fiction writers—the story is what really matters
- Remember that the internet is like a live microphone—be nice and supportive online because agents and editors and readers will Google you
- Think of Google as your virtual resume

What agents think of self-publishing:
- It’s ideal for traditionally-published authors who already have a readership base or who’ve regained rights to previously-published work
- Do it properly (e.g. hire a professional editor, graphic designer)
- Digital publishing is growing, but it’s still one piece of the author’s puzzle
- Agents/editors act as gatekeepers for quality control and can offer brand management (i.e. media outreach) that an author can do alone, but is infinitely harder
- “Debut” is not a dirty word in publishing and often no data is better than bad data when it comes to sales tracking
- It can be tricky trying to move from self-publishing to traditional—40,000 copies sold through self-publishing may be interpreted by a traditional publisher as either not enough copies sold or that it’s been sold to everyone who will buy it
- If your genre is hard to categorize or you have plenty of time to self-promote, self-publishing may be a good option for you

What should you ask an agent when you get “the call” (or, more likely, “the email”):
- How do you work (i.e. does contact occur via phone, email, etc.)?
- What’s the plan from here? What do you see as next steps in terms of short and long-term strategy?
- What do you connect with in the book?
- What revisions do you suggest?
- What’s your experience with my kind of book?

What’s the biggest thing Lori learned from the agents?
- Agents are, remarkably, regular people. And like other regular people, there are some you click with more than others. They have good and bad days, they have personal preferences when it comes to books (and, one would assume, other things), they love their authors and they love what they do. Most importantly, they all want to find new authors with fresh voices and exciting ideas.

As you may have gathered, it appears that the best time to query your dream agent is…right now. Seriously—if your Chinese spy novel set between two World Wars and query letter are as perfect as you can make them, it’s time to send them out into the world.

If your voice is strong, pace is unputdownable, timing is right and you don’t include glitter with a lemon-scented query letter, today could be the day you get an agent.

LD

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Trials and Tribulations

Some of us write great stories. But all of us live them.

For those of you still looking for ideas for Christmas, here’s one: Chicken Soup for the Soul O Canada by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Amy Newmark.

This week, I received a call to do a media interview for Chicken Soup as I am a contributor to this edition! My story, From Vile to Vegas appears in Chapter Nine: Life Lessons and is about a home reno project—one that was full of drips, drama, and dazzle. Sure, renovations aren’t typically associated with celebrating Canadian culture but why shouldn’t they be? I think being Canadian is about having a story—and we all have them. I had written the story based on personal experience, and my writing group encouraged me to submit it. The journey to flow, form, and function (it was a bathroom reno) was honest, humorous, and oh so frighteningly real.

Chicken Soup for the Soul O Canada is full of inspirational, amusing, and encouraging stories that will touch the heart of any Canadian. Stories include a wide range of topics written by Canadians, from daily life to Canadian holidays, along with tales from tourists and visitors. In addition to the 101 stories contributed by everyday Canadians, personal bonus stories from Amy Sky, Marc Jordan, Matt Duchene, George Kourounis, Laura Robinson and lyrics from Liona Boyd’s upcoming album, “The Return,” start every chapter.

Being a part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family has been a positive experience for me. If you like to write (and need some publishing credits under your belt), check out their submission guidelines at www.chickensoup.com. They are always looking for new contributors to share stories of hope, courage, and inspiration.

Has anyone else been published in Chicken Soup? What was your experience like?

BJas

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Filed under Author Interviews, Book Reviews, Books and stuff, Getting published, Success stories

You Think Querying is Tough???

LD

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Filed under Getting published, Trials and Tribulations

If You Want an Agent, You Need Backspace

I learned about the Backspace Writer’s Conference the way I learn about most things: Twitter. An author I follow tweeted about his new agent and his blog detailed the experience (Backspace played a huge role).

I cannot emphasize enough what an amazing opportunity this conference provides to authors looking for an agent. Unlike most writing conferences that offer a couple of anxiety-ridden pitch sessions, Backspace provides genre-specific workshops where authors spend hours having their query letters and opening pages critiqued by agents seeking new clients.

Not all participants receive offers of representation, but at the very least they should come away inspired and informed enough to make their manuscript query-ready. I received multiple requests for my women’s fiction manuscript, but of equal importance was the opportunity to connect with writers who have become beta readers, cheerleaders and swoon-worthy drinking buddies.

I’ve also completed a children’s chapter book that I’m ready to query, but only YA was being represented in the workshops. Luckily, Backspace offered agent/editor panels on both days and writers were able to pitch their work to them following the sessions. This allowed me to connect with agents who represent children’s fiction (more referrals and requests for pages).

Since I went totally budget on the accommodations and was able to score a cheap flight, the entire conference cost me just over $1,000—obviously a significant chunk of coin, but think of it as an investment in yourself…that’s how I sold it to my husband :-D

LD

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Filed under Author events, Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Writing resources

House of the rising prose

A story lives here

What differs slightly from the short story, a folk song, flash fiction, and say, microfiction? Short prose.

I am doing this post to remind restless Maria to enter her work(s), because she happens to be a prosalicious genius. The kind of genius that pulls you into another world, teases your every sense, then punches you in the stomach (in a good way, of course). This contest is for Maria, and writers like Maria. So, listen up!

The Writers’ Union of Canada is accepting submissions until November 3, 2011 for the 19th Annual Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers. The winning entry will be the best Canadian work of up to 2,500 words in the English language, fiction or non-fiction, written by an unpublished author.

The prize is $2,500 for the winning entry, and the entries of the winner and finalists will be submitted to three Canadian magazines.

Writers Kevin Chong, Anne Emery, and Sylvia Fraser will serve as the jury. This competition is open to all Canadians who have not had a book published in any genre and who do not currently have a contract with a book publisher. Original and unpublished (English language) fiction or non-fiction is eligible.

HOW TO SUBMIT.

Time to let go of that manuscript. Good luck, Maria (you in?) and to all!

BJ

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Filed under Awards and contests, Getting published, Motivation, News, Writing Contests

Hollywood calling…and waiting on the one

Taking the lead from our wordbitches friends, and given that fall is staring me in the face, I thought I would recap what I wrote this summer and set my goals for fall.

As for my writing summer, it all started with a phone call from Hollywood. A major studio was interested in a screenplay that I co-wrote. I can’t believe I just typed that. The script required a slew of revisions. So, we revised, we stressed, we cried, we screamed, we revised some more—then we resubmitted. This script (a psychological thriller) generated increased interest, particularly in other genre samples. So, we dusted another script off (this time, a sci-fi/comedy) and polished the hell out of it. Then, we were asked, “what else are you working on?” GULP. So, we resurrected yet another script (a mythological horror). Are you counting here? This is screenplay number three in the span of a month. Lesson: when pitching, always have at least three projects ready to pimp.

I can tell you that three’s a charm. The response from the studio was that’s “the one.” So, naturally, we revised some more. Lots more. And into the wee hours of every. single. night. My summer was a blur. We managed to turn a solid treatment into a polished, albeit draft, screenplay. The experience was excruciating and even unbearable at times, yet somehow gratifying beyond belief. This screenplay now sits in the hands of fate and we wonder if it has that x factor; will it be “the one?”  

While I was engaged in this process, I was also doing revisions with my agent in response to publisher feedback on a picture book (currently on submission). And again, I revise. And I wait. I’m almost certain my next flurry of revisions will be on my middle grade novel which is also ‘somewhere out there’ on submission. Lesson: fall in love with your characters because you will be spending a very long time with them.

Between revisions and more revisions, I also managed to paint an entire house, landscape @LoriDyan’s backyard, tend a vegetable garden, plant fifty trees, read three novels (not enough), contract a flu (followed by an eye infection), reno a kitchen, tremclad the house, build a shed with the hubs, attend Pilates each week, and let’s not forget—work full time.

I need a vacation from my summer. Hear that, universe?

On that note, I formulate my goals for fall as I do every year at this time.

Here goes:

1) Plan a fruitful and wordalicious writing retreat with the Restless Writers.

2) Review my MG novel (a hefty yet inevitable task). Oh, the revisions I’ll make!

3) Put a serious word-count-dent in my new YA novel.

4) Begin book 2 of a 3-book children’s picture book series. Book 1 was published in Spring, see it here.

 5) Promote Chicken Soup for the Soul: Oh Canada where my story, From Vile to Vegas appears, to be published this November.

6) Plan my Oscar speech? (okay, so a girl can dream)

What are your writing goals for Fall? Are you waiting on “the one?” 

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation, Success stories

Burlington Public Library presents Publishing Boot Camp – Starting soon!

Military boots with camouflage pantsWriters in southern Ontario, take note! Burlington Public Library still has a few seats available for its Publishing Boot Camp, a six-week intensive program that will give you the momentum to finish—and publish—your first book.

The program is geared towards writers of all kinds: writers with a manuscript tucked away in the bottom drawer or an idea for a proposal; wordsmiths with an interest in writing and publishing as a career; and professionals who would benefit from publication. It’s for writers who are serious about taking steps towards publishing.

Each week’s session offers information, tools, guests speakers who are insiders to the publishing industry. The sessions cover a range of topics: from helping participants understand what type of writer they are, to an introduction to the publishing process, to deciding whether self-publishing is for you. Guest speakers include: a self-published author, a freelance editor, a published adult fiction author, a bookstore owner.

The instructors are:

  • Sharon McKay, a multi-award winning author of 25 books and a veteran of the newspaper, magazine, television and film industries.
  • Linda Pruessen, a publishing professional with 20 years of editing experience, most recently as editor-in-chief at Key Porter Books.

Publishing Boot Camp takes place every Tuesday, October 4 to November 8, 2011, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at Burlington Central Library, 2331 New Street, Builders Room. The program costs $200/person (plus $35 optional materials kit), payable in advance at the library. Call 905-639-3611 ext. 1321 for more information or check out www.bpl.on.ca.

Can’t get to Burlington? Check out the resources and events for writers available at your local library.

Maria

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