Monthly Archives: November 2010

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

Ask an Author. Answer a Dream.

It’s Friday and I need your help.

I am going to try something new on the blog, and not just because @restlessmaria’s new favourite word is “diablogue.” But because we, Restless Writers, made a lovely new friend at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and she has oodles of intelligence to share with writers. And well, I/we want to know everything when it comes to getting published—in this lifetime.

I am talking about YA author Denise Jaden (LOSING FAITH) and she will be visiting our blog next week to answer YOUR QUESTIONS. I am prepping my must-answer-list for Denise and would love to include your questions in the interview.

But first, a quick introduction to Denise Jaden by way of 6 random factoids:

  • She is a professional Polynesian dancer
  • She once was a mushroom farmer
  • She is one tough cookie and can kick your ass
  • She just passed the 43k mark on her NaNo novel
  • She brought the biggest bottle of wine to our Hotel Tweet-up
  • Her debut novel, Losing Faith has been named a Best Book of 2010!

So, if you are living in the world of query mayhem and manuscript submission (like me), and you have burning questions on how to get published—post your question in “comments” and check back to the blog next week for a response.

 Stay tuned!

 Bjas

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Filed under Diablogue, Getting published, Success stories

Fries with a side of fries

Or, What happens when we try to follow the rules

Ever wanted to listen in on a Restless Writers’ meeting? Here’s a peek at our minutes from last Tuesday’s session. Because we’re all orderly & $#!T

fries with a side of friesRestless Writers, Nov. 16/10 (Birthday Edition)
Minutes

1) Call to order
• L and B pronounced the Tin Cup parking lot to be inaccessible and the entrances ill-designed.
     • Action: L to submit letter requesting management to make a frickin’ driveway on Upper Middle.
• L and B seconded M’s decision to choose fries with a side of fries for dinner. L harassed the waitress into recommending the steak sandwich. B made an initially healthy-dinner choice not so much by adding crispy chicken.
• B drew attention to the fact that she had 900 followers on Twitter, and four full manuscripts in the hands of agents. L and M were suitably impressed.
     • Tangent: B explained her smart writer-focused Twitter strategy; L agreed that unfollowing people who unfollow you is imperative; M agreed to start “tweeting dangerously.”

2) Banff writing retreat
• Potential dates in February and April were vetoed due to pre-existing vacation plans.
• Motion put forward by L to plan to hold the retreat pre- or post-Stampede in July 2011. Decision pending approval by the Wordbitches.
     • Tangent: L told us that Calgary was the STD capital of Canada. B and L are followed by Jann Arden, and both noted this with a “squee.” L hates Rush, so L and M are officially in a fight. To resolve the tension, all agreed that Blue Rodeo’s “Try” is awesome.

3) RW blog posts
• B is posting later this week
     • Action: B to approach Denise Jaden, author of LOSING FAITH and fellow SiWC attendee, about an interview for a post
• M thought posting the minutes from one of the meetings would be hilarious, and could be categorized as a diablogue. L and B rolled their eyes, but agreed.
     • Tangent: B led a discussion about what the group should do for New Year’s Eve. B wants to put on a fancy dress and go dancing. M wants to wear her Nine West platforms. L has a baby-sitter and has found her razor. Motion by B to hear Freedom Train at Geraldo’s in LaSalle Park. Decision pending band’s schedule and ability to find a date (affectionately nicknamed “Juan Carlos”) for M.

4) Planning for the next 6-month horizon
• B asked if we should “like, bring stuff?” to the next meeting. Hilarity and self-pity ensued.
• B stated for the record that we suck. L and M glumly agreed.
     • Actions:
          • B to bring most recent iteration of her non-fiction proposal and a query letter, and invest in a smartphone.
          • L will continue to make excuses for not querying agents, but will then actually start querying early next week. L will also share her hippie school parenting article.
          • M will edit her sleep essay and submit pages before next meeting, as long as indexing doesn’t get in the way.

Next meeting scheduled for Dec 16.
Meeting adjourned at 7:05 p.m.
Hugs.

Maria

Amendment, Nov. 18/10: It’s Banff that’s the STD capital of Canada (thanks Lori!). Apologies to all pure-as-the-driven-snow Calgarians.

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Filed under Diablogue, Group meetings, Trials and Tribulations

You Come Here Often?

We Restless Writers are still swooning over the great Twitter chat (Twat? Oh dear…) last week with the writing group from Calgary. One question we kept asking – and getting asked – was how we (the Restless Writers) met. It began like many of today’s great relationships do: online.

I had taken some writing workshops with Brian Henry and he suggested that I find a critiquing group for my work in progress. I had no clue how to organize, find or join such a group so Brian offered to put an ad in his popular e-newsletter.

It was like match.com for writers: “Single, writing female seeks same for mutually beneficial relationship. Groups ok.” I received e-mails from an established writer (whose group had broken up a few years prior) and another writer who, along with her friend, was looking to start a formal group that focused more (or at least equally) on the writing as it did on the wine.

Getting ready for our first meeting was like preparing for a blind date: Will they like me? Will I like them? Do I have the goods to keep them interested? We had a meal together and although things didn’t work out with the other writer, Beckie, Maria and I decided to keep going. Now here we are, over a year later, still as enamoured with each other as ever.

Although the wine flows freely and we drown ourselves in a river of melted Brie, the Restless Writers do eventually focus on the job at hand. I’ve basically re-written the first 100 pages of my WIP and it wouldn’t have happened without this group. And we’re not benefitting solely from the critiques at these meetings: the ladies are always bringing magazines and books for general interest or inspiration (i.e. when I had sexy-times-writer’s-block I was given Exit to Eden…consider me officially unblocked, ladies…).

For me, this group is essential. They hold me accountable, bolster my self-esteem, help me through the rough spots and make me a better writer. In fact, they have all the qualities you could ask for in a spouse writing group.

LD

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Filed under Blogging, Group meetings, Inspiration, Starting up, Writing resources

“Passion, honesty + fun”: Restless Writers chat with the Wordbitches

On AirWriting groups have their own chemistry. The Restless Writers thrive on spontaneity, adaptability and flexibility (not to mention butter tarts). We’re not sticklers for submission deadlines or critiquing guidelines. When @restlessbjas and I found out that our Twitter friends in a writing group from Calgary have actual rules for their meetings, we got curious.

The women in this group, who totally own their “wordbitches” hashtag, are a kick-ass group of writers working in a variety of genres. At the Surrey International Writers Conference (SiWC), they told us a little about their writing group, but I wanted to hear more about how they operate. So, we organized a little Twitter chat last Sunday so the Restless Writers and the Calgary crew could continue the conversation.

We kicked off the chat promptly at 10:00pm EST. A bit late for me, but perfect for those who have to put kiddies to bed first. Using the #wordbitches hashtag, we jumped right in.

First up—what makes this group tick? According to @trish_loye, it’s the diversity of genres and backgrounds in the group that makes them gel. @Ironic_Mom also pointed out that, while they don’t take themselves seriously, they take their craft seriously.

It turns out that SiWC and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta played a part in how this group came together about four years ago. While the number of members has gone up and down over time, they’re sticking to what they consider capacity at seven members. And the chemistry is working. @Ironic_Mom said “Only those who can stand passion, honesty + fun stay.”

They have a sophisticated system for managing the five or so critiques that happen at each meeting: @Ironic_Mom says “ding” when time’s up. (The Restless Writers might have to adopt this tactic. We’re a bit chatty.)

Another of their tricks is to do the readings and critique in the order the submissions are received; so the earlier you submit, the better the chance you will get feedback in that week’s meeting.

Each writing group has its challenges starting out. We swapped stories about the colourful characters who didn’t quite fit with the group at the start. (What was the exact phrase, @RestlessLori? “Newbie wing-nut”?) That first meeting can be terrifying, as @elenaaitken said, and I’m impressed this core group of gals stuck it out.

We had a few Twitter friends join in the chat, including @comedyoferrers, @DancesWithChaos and @offbalancepaige. This gave us the chance to observe that women in writing groups = enthusiasm for wine and Brie.

We were blown away by how much this group gets accomplished. They work, they blog, they commit to 500 words a day, they manage kids and DHs (short for “Dear Husband”—we learned some new terms during this chat). How do they do all this? The answer: their work and the group is a priority. Everyone has their ways of squeezing in mini-writing sessions during the day. While carrying pen and paper around at all times, learning to say “no” to the boob tube and bribing your children are all effective tactics, it also sounds like having a supportive family makes a huge difference.

We got a lot accomplished during the chat:

1) @Ironic_Mom purchased the wordbitches.com domain name.
2) We decided that we absolutely must organize a joint writing conference/Brie-orgy in Banff in 2011.
3) @RestlessLori coined the word “booey” (see her blog post for definition).
4) @elenaaitken finalized that day’s word count at 1904.
5) I decided that “diablogue” is an awesome word and I must have it at all costs. (We’re writers. We get to make up words all the time.)
6) @trish_loye snagged the remaining peanut butter cups from her kids’ Halloween stash.
7) @restlessbjas became an unofficial spokesperson for www.grocerygateway.com.

The hour-long chat passed too quickly for me. There’s still so much we can gain by sharing our best writing practices with each other. Here’s to next time!

If I missed any very important points, ladies, please share them here. Later, #wordbitches!

Maria

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Filed under Diablogue, Group meetings, Success stories

Ten reasons why November is the perfect time to write

Now!The Restless Writers were considering participating in NaNoWriMo this year. But one lingering bout with the flu, one schedule so busy that peeing had to be optional, and one flood of new freelance work all added up to a resounding not this year.

This doesn’t mean we’re not writing. We just have to do without the accountability, tips and motivational supports built into the NaNoWriMo community.

For those of you like us who are not part of the NaNo tsunami, here are some reasons why this month is still a great time to write:

10. We’re fresh off the flight from SiWC. Time to leverage that motivation into some ambitious word counts.

9. No-one’s getting any younger.

8. It’s getting cold outside, but it’s nice and toasty in front of your computer.

7. You won’t feel bad when you see those “Wrimos” tweeting their daily word counts, because you’ll be holding your own. (P.S. Tweets count…don’t they?)

6. Tweeting word counts—and not embellishing—will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, like a snifter of Drambuie.

5. Even though Scrivener for Windows isn’t yet available, now is a great time to check out some other software, like PageFour, RoughDraft and WriteWay Pro and see what you want to put on your Christmas wish list. See more options here.

4. What else will you do during the post-Halloween and pre-Christmas shopping and party marathons?

3. You still have two months to reach those writing goals you set for yourself last New Year’s. (Unless you’re @RestlessBJas, and you set your goals in September.)

2. There are no more reality show finales to distract you.

1. You’re a writer. This is your calling. Today is just another day that you have the chance to bring your stories to the world. So get to it!

Good luck to Wrimos and non-Wrimos alike!

Maria

PS: This was our 100th post. Cue the balloons, party hats, and wine in a box!

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Filed under Inspiration