Monthly Archives: December 2010

How To Almost Win An Agent

A few weeks ago I was waiting for my kids to get ready for school and decided to check out Twitter. As luck – as in, horseshoe up the butt luck – would have it, @knightagency had just tweeted about their latest and greatest contest, She’s Just That Into You, which would be starting in moments.

In a nutshell, Deidre Knight would be looking for a new client via the agency website. The first 175 people to leave a comment on the Knight Agency blog could send in a query letter. From those, Deidre would pick her top 30 entrants, who would then send the first 10 pages of their manuscripts. It would then be whittled down to 10 entrants and 3 chapters, then 3 entrants and full manuscripts.

All of you querying writers know that this is a fairy-agent-god-mother situation, so I immediately bribed my kids to give me 10 minutes of peace so I could enter. My typing lessons from high school (yes, I’m a fossil) didn’t fail me and I managed to get into the first round. Since this step was based on luck rather than writing, I didn’t get my hopes up.

But when I saw that I’d made it to the second round, fantasies of book tours and Oprah appearances filled my head. Daydreaming turned to obsession. I even considered holding off on my queries until the contest was over, lest I disappoint the legion of agents out there looking at my contest-winning-worthy query.

Needless to say, I did not win. Nor did I make it to the next round. I did, however, learn an important lesson – one that I’m always telling my kids but have never truly put into practice myself: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. In other words, I didn’t win (this time), but that’s okay. At least I tried.

LD

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Filed under Awards and contests, Starting up, Success stories

Let us write! Let us write! Let us write! (sung in a falalalala kind of way)

Holiday meetings are the best.

Our writing group held its final meeting for the year and oh what fun it was! There were pretty gifts and sprinkled cupcakes—and heck, even prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. And PAGES; yes, we managed to consume treats, whilst still making time for each of our critiques.

We worked through 2 queries (1 rated PG-13; 1 rated G), 1 red carpet synopsis, 1 alien picture book manuscript, and 1 sleep-inducing essay (or not) for the insomniacs among us. We were also fortunate to receive personal feedback from LD’s 6 year-old son, aka the Simon Cowell of children’s literature, who we lured a critique from with Lindt chocolate Kinder eggs.

All in all, it was a productive meeting, with ‘minutes’ to boot, albeit recorded on a yellow sticky note (the jumbo kind—with lines). It was a terrific meeting, stuffed full of encouragement and advice (and a party dress exchange?) as we journey the road together to that paranormal place called publication.

And so, for the record, here are the sparkly business bits.

Restless Writers commitments for 2011:

  • LD: to tweak her query & synopsis for sending to agents in January
  • LD: to do a proposed table of contents for her humour non-fiction project
  • LD: to submit a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • MM: to revise her sleep essay for submission to the Globe & Mail
  • MM: to clear her plate of indexes (for good, this time)
  • BJ: to revise her picture book and send the baby to agents
  • BJ: to continue querying her middle-grade fiction

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all! May you have the time, the wine, and the gusto to write your pants off this season.

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Motivation

My Latest Twush*

I’m now slogging through immersing myself in the query process and have been going on Twitter binges (Twinges?), where I follow the followers of a blogger/writer I follow (do you follow?). Although the initial motivation was to increase traffic to my blog, the real satisfaction is coming from the discovery of new (to me) writers. This online community of aspiring and established authors is incredibly generous with tips as well as encouragement (similar to our own BJas), and I want to spotlight one of my new favourites.

Indie Book Collective was started by Cristyn West, Kait Nolan and Rachel Thompson. It’s full of great articles such as “SEO For Dummies” (like they’re writing just to me!) and “Why You Need a Blog”, this site offers advice in addition to online workshops and tutorials regarding online publishing. They are the Sundance of ePublishing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and don my armour for the next round of queries (Kidding! Agents aren’t scary! At all! Beckie says so!).

LD

*Twush = Twitter + Crush

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Filed under Blogging, Motivation, The collective skirt, 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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Filed under Getting published, Success stories, Writing resources

Listening to my inner teenage rebel

When I was a teenager, I went through a rebellious phase.

You did too, I bet. Maybe you refused to eat your vegetables. Maybe you skipped classes, rolled up the waistband of your kilt, or told your mom you were going to a sleep-over when you were really hitchhiking to Hamilton for a concert. Maybe you experimented with mind-altering substances, got a tattoo, ran with a rough crowd, or stole a car. Don’t worry—I won’t judge.

My parents had their hands full. They tried talking to me, yelling at me, bribing me, grounding me, and locking me out of the house. When my surly inner rebel didn’t vacate the premises, they gave up and shipped me off to boarding school.

It must have worked. I attended—and excelled at—all my classes. I made friends and contributed to the school newspaper. At the right time, I applied to some prestigious universities and got into my top pick. After graduation, I merged into the workforce, where I continue to toil happily with hardly a peep. I grew up. To the casual observer, my inner rebel was successfully squashed.

But when it comes to my writing—the part of my life that’s all mine and where I have full reign—that teenager with the Doc Martens and bad attitude gets to have some fun. She gets to swear, take risks, make mistakes, rail against routine, and explore the back-alley world that normally stays so well hidden.

Here are some of the things my inner teenage rebel likes to say that I can apply to my writing life.

“You can’t tell me what to do!”*
There are some things you can’t escape (the basics of grammar, spelling and punctuation being among them). But creativity is about breaking the rules. Go ahead and write in the 2nd person if it amuses you—it might end up looking just as terrible as when I dyed my hair black, but the exercise might bring you some great new ideas. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
*Note: This does not apply to situations with your boss, accountant, or gynecologist.

“I’m going to run away from home!”
We Restless Writers famously write away from home. If I didn’t have the Great Canadian Outdoors or the local pub to escape to, my writing would never happen. So pack yourself up with the basics—feel free to use a bindle—and retreat to your favourite off-site writing spot. Different surroundings and unfamiliar faces may be what you need to get the words flowing.

“Just leave me alone!”
This is a variation on the running away from home idea. But this is more about “a room of one’s own” than slamming the door of your house and never looking back. Writers need time, space and solitude to listen to those voices in their heads. You have every right to sneak up to your study, lock the door, and listen to depressing music while you write.

“I’m getting a tattoo!”
Or a mohawk. Or heavy black eyeliner. Or rainbow-patterned roller skates. Or whatever it was that signified you were going against the grain and trying to express yourself. The same holds true in your writing life. Be exceptional. Writing is about standing out, about telling the story that only you can tell. Try out new styles and genres, until you discover your authentic voice.

Do you have an inner teenage rebel? Don’t ground her—you should pay her more attention.

Maria

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Filed under Motivation, Trials and Tribulations