Tag Archives: getting published

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

Agent aficionado

Pinch me, please. I have an agent!

After many months of queries and pitches, it happened. I received an offer of representation. And not just for one manuscript, but for three of them: a middle-grade novel, a children’s picture book, and a non-fictional proposal. My head is still spinning. Spin, spin, sugar!

Prior to the offer, I received plenty of the standard rejection responses, with the usual one-liner pass. Then I started to receive referrals to ‘other’ agents, invitations to query ‘other’ manuscripts, and even personalized feedback—still in the form of rejection; however, it was some of the nicest, kindest, rejection yet. And for me as a writer, this was truly encouraging. In speaking with these agents by email and phone, I learned that my submission was one of value, even if additional work was required to make it shine.

Then I met Kathy LaVergne of Word|Link USA—and the rest was simple. I said “yes” to her offer of representation and signed, sealed, and mailed the agreement!

I’m thrilled to bits to be represented by Word|Link. In the short time I have worked with Kathy, she has been incredibly kind, supportive, and quick—with all three manuscripts currently on submission, and editor’s comments surfacing in my in-box. I’m fantastically fortunate to be working with an agency that, according to Publisher’s Marketplace is one of the top 20 dealmakers in the United States.

My hubby, the analogy-king, sums it all up like this: “It’s like you’re Danica Patrick, you have a car, but now you’ve gotta go to the races.” He’s right, I’m in the driver’s seat and I’m on my way,  über excited, as I enter this next chapter in my writing life—one step closer to publication.

And I must must must extend a gargantuan thank you to my readers (friends, family, beta testers), and especially my critique group and fellow Restless Writers, for helping me get my manuscript to a level worthy of submission.

Having an agent still means more waiting, more finger-crossing, more cringing, and of course more rejection. But I am stoked. Bring it on!

BJ

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Turn your “first five” pages into fireworks

If you are querying (fiction) right now, like me, you will have learned, or are about to learn, the astronomical importance of your first five pages. They must be stellar. Genius. Da bomb. According to Elizabeth Sims, the very prospect of writing these pages “should not intimidate, but excite the hell out of you.”

I am working on a new Young Adult (YA) manuscript and once again, am squaring off with my first five pages. They have gotta rock. And they must be “honest, original, and brave” (thx Liz). So, in search of inspiration and technique tips on how to make my pages rock—and roll, I find myself on Jane Friedman’s award-winning blog, There Are No Rules. This is my ultimate go-to site for help and advice from the pros. This woman is on fire; she is a vault of information awesomeness for writers, like you and me. And who doesn’t love a late-sleeping, bourbon-drinking editor?

Let’s talk about the opening of your novel. Very few agents or editors will even read beyond the first page, first five pages tops. If your opening doesn’t grab them, you are paper toast. In those first five pages, you have to establish a hook, introduce a protagonist, highlight the main story problem, and establish the story’s setting, genre, and tone. And of course, not neglect your job of entertaining the reader. Page turns. You need page turns (or finger swooshes for all you e-readers out there).  

Jane has critiqued thousands of first pages and offers a superabundance of advice for compelling openings and killer characterization. She also did this really cool thing where she tweeted a stream of tips for opening pages. Score!

My top 10 favourite tweeted tips from Jane’s First-Five Critiques:

  • Don’t start stories that start in the conditional perfect. Just get to the REAL world, please!
  • Avoid dialogue that offers mini-biographies of people (to fill reader in on back story).
  • Avoid story openings w/characters asleep or waking up. Almost as annoying: Openings w/characters watching other characters sleep.
  • Most difficult part of 1st page critiques: Many writers have not found rhythm yet. Best way to illustrate, click here.
  • Problematic: Opening up w/character’s inner monologue, contemplating themselves/life. Are you as good as Dostoevsky?
  • I love an opening that in 300 words can make me really fall in love with (or hate) a character. I’m hooked!
  • I do not recommend you start your story w/character thinking, “This isn’t happening.” (This opening is in fact quite common!)
  • Very tough: Starting your story w/dialogue & little/no indication of who is speaking or what context is. Readers get lost.
  • Most writers overwrite. More detail/description, more explaining than needed. Even I do it. But you have to go back & cut cut cut!
  • Least favorite opening: Description of perfect weather outside, w/character waking in bed, peering out window, thinking about day.

Follow Jane (@JaneFriedman) on Twitter.

Looking for additional resources?

8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs the Reader at Page One, by Les Edgerton

“Now is the time to gather your guts, smile and let it rip.”

                                                                                                    ~Elizabeth Sims

Time to go turn those first five pages into fireworks! Katy Perry would be proud.

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing resources

How I survived my first call with an agent

I feel like the luckiest writer on the planet right now.

I am currently querying three projects: a Middle Grade Novel, a Children’s Picture Book, and a Non-fiction Proposal; and this week, I was freakishly fortunate to receive a call from a literary agent (Squeee!). I’m thinking the solar flare this week had something to do with it—that, or maybe the countless months of hard work.

It kinda went down like this: Can you hear me? Yes. Yes. Followed by some giddy small talk (aka: personality test, no doubt); the writing (well, obviously); and next steps. End. Crash (this part was presumably, just me).

The opportunity to win the attention of an agent for an entire hour feels a bit like winning the lottery. It also somehow authenticates that hey, I might just be a real writer. I have graduated from queries to…CALLS! This particular agent was fan-friggin-fantastic; she was kind, complimentary, helpful, and attentive. She believes we are a writing community and should help each other out wherever we can. Afterall, we are in the business of promoting the importance of literacy.

Because this experience is all new to me (and I knew when the call was coming), I did oodles of research in a short period of time. And I’m sharing it with you IF and WHEN you get a call, or even “the” call.

7 things to do BEFORE you get a call from an agent:

  • Research the Agency, the Agent, & her clients. 
  • Read: “Getting THE CALL” (Rachelle Gardner’s Rants & Ramblings Blog).
  • Read: “What to Ask an Agent” and prepare a list of questions.
  • Review the status of your manuscript submissions: who has it & who has expressed interest (be prepared to talk about it).
  • Think about marketing your book & how you would bring it!
  • Think about your future plans & next projects (you’re not a one-hit wonder, are you?).
  • Relax (Yeah, I tried that. It was pretty much impossible).

Okay, so you’re wondering if she offered representation, right?

Status: she’s looking at all my projects, has offered some incredible feedback and has asked that I do some revisions and resend. She would like to continue the conversation, but has not offered representation…yet.

Beckie

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Author Denise Jaden chats with the Restless Writers

If you’re a writer and you want to get published, listen up. Author Denise Jaden has some advice for you!

I first met Denise at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and I must say, this girl has got it goin’ on. She is smart, savvy, and one talented author.  LOSING FAITH, released by Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster in September, has been named a best book of 2010. I read LOSING FAITH and could not put it down. The characters jump off the page and into your heart. A great read for teens!

Thank you Denise, for being our first author interview on the blog and for talking to us about writing and the writing life.

Tell us about the moment you got to first hold your book and see your name in print. Did you do a happy-dance, or better yet, a Polynesian-happy-dance?

What I did was not nearly as dignified as Polynesian dancing! Lots of jumping up and down, and screaming. When I first received my ARC’s, I only got two of them, so I treated them like precious jewels for the longest time. Anyone who wanted to touch one had to wash their hands with soap first. This may seem a little over the top, but seriously, after so much work and waiting, it does feel a little like a baby.

What inspired the story of Losing Faith?

I lost a close friend when I was sixteen. I think there’s a lot to explore with losing someone close at a young age, and especially when your questions about what happened to them are not clear.

What exactly is a blog tour, how did you organize it, and was it worthwhile?

To be honest, I didn’t really know what a blog tour was when I began organizing mine. That may be the reason that mine’s probably not typical. From what I understand, a blog tour is a string of guest posts, interviews, or other promo surrounding a central theme (i.e. the release of a book) during a condensed period of time. I’ve seen blog tours that run from anywhere between one week and two months, but I really didn’t want it to lose momentum, so I went with two weeks. I think next time I would try to condense it all into one week, actually. As bloggers and other writers asked me for interviews or guest posts, I kept a schedule and asked each one if I could fit them into my official blog tour. They were all happy to be a part of it. Then I added extra prize packs to encourage people to follow along on the tour. I think it was worthwhile. It didn’t cost me anything except time, and it really did get word out on the internet about LOSING FAITH.

What other marketing strategies would you tell authors to do upon publication and down the road?

I tried to say yes to almost everything that came my way. It’s hard to know what is useful, and I think some marketing ventures may be totally successful with one person and not at all with another. I kind of enjoy marketing, but if it was a real bother, I wouldn’t have done nearly as much. As far as what I recommend, I guess I’d say do what you enjoy. If you enjoy handwriting postcards and sending  them to bookstores, go for it. If you enjoy hanging out on Twitter and coming up with fun ways to get people talking about your book (because hopefully you won’t be doing all the talking-up yourself – that’s no fun to read) then do that. Bookmarks have been a great thing to have on hand, and I use them in place of business cards now.

Do you outline before you begin a new piece of work or just make it up as you go?

I’ve done both, but I’d say that I prefer outlining now, even if it’s just a loose outline. I try to write a new book (a first draft) each November, and it’s difficult to sail through and write a book so quickly without some guidelines of where you’re going.

Do you have a set writing schedule/word count goal every day or just try and cram in whenever you can?

During Nanowrimo, I try to write 2500 word per day. Other times of the year, I stick to a time schedule. I usually work for about an hour to an hour and a half a day without interruption (not even Twitter!)

How do you balance time to write vs. everything else in your life?

Very badly. Haha. But seriously, it’s not easy. I homeschool my son, which is time consuming, plus I do bookkeeping for my husband’s business and I’m a professional Polynesian dancer. It all keeps me very busy. I don’t let anything get in the way of my one hour of writing time each day, but I still haven’t really found a logical place to fit things like blogging, marketing & promotion, and returning emails. Those get done eventually, but usually under duress. LOL.

On your website, under advice for writers, you say “Writing can be lonely, but it isn’t a lone process.” Do you have a support group that you turn to for critique, advice and motivation?

Yes! And I could not be a published author without them. And you can’t have them! I’ve met my writing friends from various places—many I made on Critique Circle and one is a long-time friend who I’ve known since before either of us were writers. It took me years to nail down a solid group of people who I work well with—I enjoy their writing and can help strengthen it in ways they can understand and vice versa. We don’t work as a group—just all as individuals—and we usually swap full manuscripts via email. I don’t have anyone local that I work with, so this has all been done via online networking.

For those of us querying our pants off and getting partial/full requests, can you tell us how many full requests you received for “Losing Faith”? And how long did you query before you got “the call”?

Oh gosh, this is hard to remember! From what I can see in my past emails, I think I queried about 30 agents over the course of about four months. I had at least 8 full manuscript requests and I’d say another half-dozen partials. I started querying in July 2008, stopped querying to revise in October, and then when it went back out I got a really high request rate and had several agents interested by November. I signed with Michelle Humphrey (now at ICM) in November, 2008. I also queried two other manuscripts unsuccessfully before LOSING FAITH, so I’ve racked up my share of rejections, and know all about the pain and suffering!

If and when an agent contacts you, what 3 questions should a writer ask before hanging up the phone?

I’ll assume first of all that you know the basics: make sure you’re querying reputable agents who aren’t charging you money other than a percentage of any sales. One of the most useful things I found out during the author agent interviews was how the agents felt about the premises of other books I had written. I wanted an agent for the book I was querying, yes, but I also wanted a career agent—someone who hopefully wouldn’t turn down my next book, because that leaves an author in a very awkward and unfortunate position. I’d also ask about their communication style. How soon can you expect to hear back from them on questions? How many other clients do they have? Do they have any editors or imprints they have in mind to pitch your book to? How many will they send out to at once? Will the agent be working with you editorially on your books? What is their sales history in your genre? Okay, that’s more than three. But really, you should not be afraid of this phone call. Most of it will be the agent telling you what he/she loves about your manuscript. Let the agent carry the conversation, and if they don’t cover any of the above questions (which they probably will) you can ask them as you feel more comfortable. Agents are in the business of sales, so they’re generally pretty comfortable carrying a conversation.

What’s the one thing you would tell yourself about writing/getting published if you could go back in time?

It’s very exciting and I’m enormously thankful for where I’m at, but self-doubt does not disappear with a publishing contract. In fact, it probably increases, as people will feel free to tell you exactly what they think of you and your writing once you’ve gone “public”.

Do you have a favourite writing snack?

Sugar snap peas – the crunchiness helps me think!

For more about Denise and other fun stuff, please visit her website. And while you’re there, watch the book trailer for LOSING FAITH.

BJas

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Filed under Author Interviews, Diablogue, Getting published, Success stories

Write short to build publication credits

Participants at yesterday’s “How to Get Published” seminar in Hamilton, led by Brian Henry, heard some advice about how to move from writer to author. Brian said that many agents and publishers are more likely to read your submission if you’ve got proven writing skills—and that means publishing credits. Up your odds of acceptance by writing and publishing articles and short stories.

There are more and more markets for short story writers popping up every day. And you needn’t look any further than your local newspaper.

I’ve been enjoying the winning stories from the Toronto Star’s Short Story Contest for the past three weeks (it sounds like it took a long time, but the Star published one per Sunday). Today’s Sunday Star featured the first place entry, “Take One Down” by Zach Leger. Congratulations to Zach. GTA-area short-story writers should consider entering this contest next year. Your short piece could net you the $5,000 first prize plus the tens of thousands of readers who pick up the Star.

For more contests and markets for your short pieces (and news about future seminars), visit Brian’s blog, Quick Brown Fox.

Maria

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