Tag Archives: SiWC

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.



Filed under Author Interviews, Diablogue, Getting published, 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!


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


Filed under Inspiration

You haven’t missed the deadline for the CBC Literary Awards…yet

For those of you joining us at Surrey International Writers’ Conference later this week, maybe you can find some time between workshops, Blue Pencil Sessions and Night Owl events to polish a piece to submit to the CBC Literary Awards. The deadline is November 1, 2010. Canadian citizens, whether living in Canada or abroad, and permanent residents of Canada are eligible to enter.

Check out the awards website for more information and to submit your entry online. You can also read winning texts from previous years, access writing tips from the pros, and read interviews with former winners and jurors.

The CBC Literary Awards is Canada’s only literary competition celebrating original, unpublished works in both official languages. There is a first prize of $6,000 and a second prize of $4,000 in all three categories (original and unpublished short story, poetry, and creative non-fiction), courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition, the winning texts are published in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and on the CBC Literary Awards website, and the authors and their winning entries will get exposure on the CBC.

If you don’t find what you need on the website, try contacting the Awards Team at Literary_Awards@cbc.ca or 1-877-888-6788.

Good luck!


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Filed under Awards and contests

Giving my organizational tools a makeover

This is me before I gave my organizational tools a makeover.

Fall is a busy time for the Restless Writers. This is when we set our writing goals for the year, and get back into the swing of our meetings post-summer hiatus. We’re writing and tweeting and Facebooking with abandon. Two of us are preparing for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and one is also trying to maintain some semblance of a personal life (way to go, Lori!).

Sounds like a lot, right? I for one am feeling a bit frazzled.

I am a natural multi-tasker. Worker-bee by day, writer and indexer by night; full-time wife, aunt, and friend; and caretaker of three demanding cats, I’m a busy gal. Like most women I know.

In general, women are better multi-taskers than men. Yes, I’m gonna throw it out there. I’m not necessarily saying that women are naturally better equipped to handle more than one task at a time—I’ll leave that to biologists and neurologists to make that argument—but somehow women have gotten pretty good at it.

The men I know have the ability to focus on one task at a time, work on it until it’s done, and then get started on something else—piles of laundry, ringing telephones, and deteriorating manicures be damned! I’m envious of this ability. I can almost understand why some young women turn to ill-gotten prescription drugs to finish the items on their to-do lists. (No, no, I kid! I can barely swallow an Advil.)

Busy as I am, I continue to accept new projects and develop new ideas every day. So what’s going to help me hunker down and work with the focus of a man? I’m giving my two main organizational tools a makeover:

Old: The To-Do List – Ah yes, that seemingly helpful list of things that you have to do, today, this week, this month. A to-do list is a mind-numbing, never-ending and self-created abyss of worry and guilt. Toss it.

New: The Get-‘Er-Done List – If I know I only have three hours one day for my projects, I have some idea of what I can get done. My list for today would be 1) write and post a new blog post (check!), 2) edit my latest short story, and 3) find five markets to submit the story to next week. A total of three things that I can achieve in three hours.

Old: Editable Calendar – I did try this. I got one of those big editable whiteboard calendars and installed it in my home office. But moving those little stickers around and re-writing my notes reminded me of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy and co. come across a room-full of Nazis in a castle who are planning their conquest on a map of Europe. *shudder* Not really my style.

New: Mobile Calendar – I use my BlackBerry for everything from checking Twitter, texting my husband, tracking my workouts, taking photos of my nieces and sometimes even making phone calls. Why didn’t I think of using its organizational functionality earlier? I’ve started scheduling in dedicated research, writing and editing times right into my BlackBerry calendar, and it’s working very well so far. Seeing how much I’ve accomplished each week keeps me motivated.

What tools do you use to keep your projects on track? And do they need a fall makeover?



Filed under Life and stuff, Motivation, Trials and Tribulations

Countdown to SiWC

Surrey, here we come!It’s less than a month until the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC). Here’s what I’m doing to prepare:

Logistics: This is all the stuff that makes it all feel real—booking a hotel room, buying plane tickets, figuring out how the heck to get from YVR to Surrey without breaking the bank or getting lost in the public transit puzzle.

Reading: I love it that my favourite pastime can also be considered pre-conference research. I’m booked into a Blue Pen Café session with Canadian author Tim Wynne-Jones, so I am reading his latest, “The Uninvited,” and two of his Rex Zero books. Ian from A Different Drummer Books will be ordering me a few other Wynne-Jones titles, just in case.

Writing: For my session with Wynne-Jones, I have to decide which piece I’d like critique on. Should I pick one of the short stories I currently have under way? A chapter from my novel-in-progress? Or do I write something brand-new to put under the microscope? Decisions, decisions…

Learning: And more decisions! Which workshops do I want to sign up for? Are there specific authors I want to hear from (Graphic Novels with Diana Gabaldon)? Or is there a particular topic that is relevant to something I’m working on right now (Creating Characters that Jump off the Page with James Scott Bell)? Or something else that piques my interest (like Steampunk Spotlight with Arthur Slade)?

Connecting: Most of all, I’m gearing up to meet other writers, especially those who I’ve met virtually via Twitter and the Restless Writers’ blog.

Are any of our blog visitors heading out to SiWC? Are any of you SiWC veterans with tips for us newbies?



Filed under Author events, Motivation

Making the most out of a writing conference: Five tips

The Restless Writers are planning to attend at least part of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) in October. This highly respected conference is a whirlwind mix of workshops, keynote speakers, master classes, trade shows and editor/agent appointments, plus a Blue Pencil Café where writers can connect directly with speakers.

The speaker line-up is exciting—Anne Perry, Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, kc dyer, Tim Wynne-Jones—plus there’s a whole host of editors and agents from the literary and film industries, all hoping to sign some great new talent.

I’ve just been through two jam-packed conferences (the Indexing Society of Canada annual conference in Montreal and the Canadian Public Relations Society annual conference in Regina), and I’ve picked up a few tricks to make the most out of any conference experience:

  1. Rest up…you’re going to need it: Most conferences pack heaps of activities into two or three days. So take your vitamins, boys and girls, and get a lot of sleep beforehand.
  2. Have a learning strategy: Decide what you want to achieve at this conference. If your current WIP is an agent-ready non-fiction proposal, focus on maximizing your time in those one-on-one appointments. If you’re still in the first-draft stage, plan to check out “Creating Memorable Characters” or “Worldbuilding.”
  3. Reach out at the networking events: Even if you’re not the schmoozing type, take a deep breath (and some mints) and start talking to other conference attendees. You might find yourself befriending an editor who works with the agent you’ve been trying to snag, or a picture-book writer who knows some phenomenal illustrators. One serendipitous meeting might be the best thing that happens to you.
  4. Be inspired: You’ve just heard Robert McCammon talk about perfecting dialogue and you’ve had a breakthrough on a key scene. Go ahead—skip lunch to spend some quality time with your laptop. This is why you’ve used valuable vacation days to attend this conference. Get writing!
  5. Review and reflect: You’ve just had three days of intensive workshops, stimulating conversations and the odd epiphany. Don’t let it go to waste. Take some tips from 8-bit Holly, and act on what you’re learned.

If any of our readers have tips for making the most out of our experience at SiWC, we’d love to hear them!


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Filed under Author events, Writing resources