Posts Tagged ‘agent’
In typical fashion, the new year kicks off conversations about goals and fears–particularly the fear of not achieving said goals. I imagine this to be true for the majority of folks that breath, but I KNOW its a hot topic for writers. Writing and selling books is like asking people to expose their soft spots to the world and then letting everyone take pot shots at them. Sometimes you get high fives, but mostly you get snickers and frowns. Sometimes you get worse. Even when everything is handled professionally, being critiqued can cause a bucket load of insecurities to rise to the surface.
In a recent conversation with some of my closest writing buds, I reminded everyone that we had to go into 2014 with the right attitude. Some people may think it’s hokey, but I believe there is a difference between saying…
a) I want an agent.
b) I will get an agent when my writing and my understanding of the publication process is good enough.
In one sentence, the universe hears you say want and you get WANT, which wasn’t really what you were after with that statement. In the other sentence the universe hears WILL and that is a whole different animal. You’ve planted a seed. Now you have to give it time to grow roots. I’m a big fan of deadlines, they motivate me to stop procrastinating and get things done, but I’ve learned to never attach deadlines to the aspects of my success I’m unable to control. There is a difference between saying…
a) I will sell a new book every year.
b) I will continue to sell books. I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop trying. Good books will sell, so I need to write good books.
One of those sentences is a lot more attainable than the other.
I also try to remember that the next new thing is always a freaking weird thing first. What the heck am I talking about? Hindsight is not so easy to spot the first time around. All the GREAT new books and authors–the break-out stars, whether they were overnight successes or years and years in the making–came from an uncomfortable uniqueness that most people anticipated would be a big pit of failure. The very same weird thing that makes writers impossible to see coming, is what also makes them visionary. Everyone is looking for the next NEW thing. New is the operative word.
There is a big difference between saying…
a) I’m going to be the next Laurie Halse Anderson
b) My name is Kimberly Sabatini and there is not another person out there that can write the books in my heart and my head. My goal is to have a long and successful career, like Laurie Halse Anderson, where I write award winning books and where I’m an advocate and role model for teens, librarians, teachers and my fellow writers. I
want to WILL help Laurie disturb the universe. <3
That’s MY story and I’m sticking to it. I know it works because it’s gotten me here so far. Take a moment and think about your goals for the future and if you haven’t already been doing it…
*phrase them in the positive.
*take off all the crazy deadlines that run the risk of making you think you’re a failure. If you have big plans–give them room to unfold.
*know your role models and separate who they are from what the do.
*understand what it is that makes you freaking weird and then then ride that pony to the finish line. No one else has YOUR voice. Use it to disturb the universe.
You’ve got this!
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about revision today. I’ve got some RANDOM thoughts that have been marinating and I thought I’d share them with you…
*Right now, revision is a blast because I’m in the slay-the-monster-zone. The only thing stopping me from having a kick-ass, completed, manuscript to send out to my agent, is the fact that I’m a rather slow monster slayer. LOL! Even so, it’s a fabulous feeling and I’m really enjoying it. I’m pulling out my laptop every chance I get. (Have revision fort, will travel.) Even though things are going great, I’m prone to self examination, so I’ve been wondering…Why is this section of the writing process one of my favorites?
I think it’s because it consists of 50% structure and 50% intuition. I’m not in a place where I’m just doing the brain-numbing task of fighting with my horrible spelling and grammar. I gleefully have more than the bones of the story down on paper. My rough drafts, riddled with their own issues, are a full story. This means I don’t have to work in the place where I have ALL the ideas in the world. That can be overwhelming. Right now I’m walking the line between being creative AND doing the nuts and bolts work. It’s a really good balance for me. Of course, it always helps that there’s a light at the end of my tunnel to guide me home.
*Lately I’ve heard a lot of words bandied around–procrastination, fear and writer’s block. These are words I’ve used from time to time. In fact I pull them out at at regularly scheduled intervals in my writing process LOL! We all do. But as I’ve been pondering the joy of revision, I’ve realized that there is something to be said for revising my process as well as my manuscripts. Sure, I can write volumes about how and why my second book has gotten away from me during the process of being a debut author. I can talk to you about my emotional writing style and why I approach writing the way I do. I’ve got a zillion fabulous posts in me about these topics. You’ll likely even get a few of them from time to time, but I’m a growing girl. (No, I’m not gonna get taller than 5 foot 4 inches–no matter what I write.) What I mean is, if I open myself up to it, I’ll learn to revise myself, the same way I do my words.
K.L. Going once said to me...you can’t put a book on the shelf if you don’t put it on paper. It’s not a book if it is in your head–it’s an idea. That was a big turning point for me. But I’m also coming to realize that I need to expand upon that nugget of truth. What will I be doing the minute I put THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY in the hands of my agent? I’ll be working on CHASING ADAPTATION! It’s not just enough to get the book on paper, it’s important to understand what role procrastination, fear and writer’s block play in that process. They can be speed bumps or they can be excuses. They can be challenges to overcome or they can be blog posts that keep a writer from doing the real work. You know what I choose. I am discovering where and when to push myself to be the writer I want to be.
*This next thought is going to sound counter productive to my last one, but if you were paying attention you know that balance is important. I just suggested that it’s necessary for me to push myself harder through the parts of the writing and revising that are naturally hard for me. It’s true. It resonates. I believe it. But I’m also suggesting that an important part of revision is what I think of as The Feel. It reminds me of my son at his music lessons. As he’s learning the guitar, his instructor doesn’t want him to look at his fingers while he’s playing. He needs to know where his fingers are supposed to go. Playing has a feel. I had a very similar experience when I learned how to type. I spent lots of time looking at my fingers in the beginning, not believing that I’d ever be able to stop doing that. Then one day I realized I could hit those keys without thinking about where they were. Writing and revision are like that. They have a feel. You DO have to push yourself to show up when the work is hard. You DO have to understand you won’t always be comfortable in the different phases of this process. But you also shouldn’t be trying to push a square peg into a round hole. No one benefits from that. Not the peg. Not the hole. Writing is art–there are parts that have to be felt to be done “right.”
*Agents and editors have special-super-hero-vision and can see a manuscript in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend. They have a whole different skill set than I do, which means I want them to pull my manuscript apart. Their work is a pivotal step in the process of changing a manuscript (a solitary endeavor) into a book (a collaborative event.) BUT, even though I want my agent and my editor to pull my words apart, in order to get to an even better version of my story, I still need to bring my very best work to the table. Maybe it’s just me, but I liken the revision process to shopping for a very awesome birthday present for a friend. Sending out a completed manuscript is like giving a gift that is well thought out, nicely wrapped, usable, exciting and timeless. Sure, it’s about me too–a good book is going to benefit me as much as the agent and the editor, but when I’m working on the revision, I find myself having a sense of intimacy with my first new readers and that makes the process really wonderful for me.
*Or there are times when you’re revising and it feels like a you’re wrestling a giant octopus. Just ask my friend Amy. But hey, the cool part about that is you can wear those tentacle burns like a badge of honor when your done. *fist pump* So, what I guess I’m saying is that revision is awesome…even when it isn’t.
Any thoughts on revision? What do you love? What do you hate? Have you ever eaten octopus? I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m off to the revision fort!
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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away–okay…up until January 2011–I was given lots of advice during the great agent and editor search. I ate up the recommendations like they were Dibs, those bite size chocolate covered ice cream bites. But there was one piece of advice that I found hard to swallow–don’t jump at just any agent and/or editor who is interested in you. Hold out for the right one.
Intellectually that sounded nice, but in theory that felt more like asking me to put a piece of gum in my mouth and not chew it. I wasn’t sure I could do that. Would I even recognize a bad fit if I found one? Luckily for me, the fates intervened and everyone rejected me until the perfect fit came along. Ha! My agent Michelle Wolfson
makes me grateful for everyone of those BIG FAT NO’s. And one of the many ways that I know she’s the perfect agent for me–she sold TOUCHING THE SURFACE
to Anica Rissi
, my editorial soulmate.
This is a small bit of advice, yet the hardest for most people (desperate for validation) to wrap their minds around. But I’m passing it to you anyway. Yes, things fell into place for me in the right time. I was very lucky, but I also believe that I was freakishly open to not having a timetable for success. I used determination to drive me forward, but I also gave myself enough flexibility and forgiveness to let MY journey unfold in it’s own way. I know it’s really hard, but don’t settle–ever.
Thursday night, fellow Wolf Pack member Tawna Fenske was contemplating what to do with her hair during her yoga class. Because great minds think alike, uber agent Michelle Wolfson and I suggested a french braid would be the cure all to her yoga woes. I nodded off to sleep that night, content in the knowledge that I had done my grooming duty for the pack. Little did I know what I would wake up to on Friday morning…
From tawnafenske…@WolfsonLiterary hair too slippery to stay in braid. Speaking of hair @kimmiepoppins =Wolf Pack post-sale ritual: http://bit.ly/9wXSIR
Of course I clicked on the link and this is what I discovered…WOLF PACK POST-SALE RITUAL!!!!! Which led me to this post, which cemented my fate…KIERSTEN WHITE STARTED THIS!!!!!
Was this clause in my contract? Had I missed it? I was starting to wonder about my agency contract and the fine print that seemed to be getting smaller and smaller…
I could go on but these were the best ones my thesaurus had to offer.
So now what do I do? Tempt fate? Kiersten White is the NYTimes Best Selling author of PARANORMALCY and SUPERNATURALLY (out in August) and is writing the third book in the trilogy. Tawna Fenske has her first book MAKING WAVES out on August 2nd. The colored hair is WORKING!!!! I also would like to point out that even outside the Wolf Pack, there is reason to believe that paranormal hair is directly linked to literary success. Stephanie Perkins, author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, is rocking the blue!
And it won’t be a little piece of fake colored hair on a little comb–because honestly, I don’t want some fake little piece of success, hanging on by a hair’s breath. Too risky! Plus, I may have always wanted to do this and never had a good excuse. *grin* And honestly, if I do it…Linda Grimes, Monica Bustamante Wagner and Kasie West (all much more fair haired than I) will have to do it too. *wicked wolf pack grin*
I have a hair appointment with my FABULOUS Sister-in-Law, Christina Sabatini-Pierantozzi, at Soul Therapy on March 11th. So now I need to take a Kim "Pole" and see what you think. What color should I get?
If you haven’t heard me screaming and jumping up and down with joy–you may be suffering from undiagnosed hearing loss. Why all that hooting and hollering you wonder? It’s because my most amazing agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency sold my Young Adult novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE to the incredible Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse. *jumping, shouting, jumping, shouting*
I wish I had some crazy story to reel you in with, but the truth is…
GET YOURSELF A FANTASTIC AGENT WHO KNOWS EXACTLY WHO WOULD BE THE PERFECT EDITOR FOR YOU.
I know it sounds easier than it is. I’ve been there. It’s worth it. I know that you can do it, so don’t give up. (((hugs)))
Well, that covers the first half of my title, but I know you’re wondering about the second half. It’s simple…I write about my Dad a lot. If you know me or my blog, you know how much he means to me and you’re aware of how much I miss him. But I have a great Mom and she’s been equally as instrumental in helping me to be who I am today. The thing is-it’s easier to write about dead people-they don’t argue with you, get disappointed or make you feel shy about expressing your mushy side. Dead people are extremely accommodating. They handle your neurosis with kid gloves. But sometimes, even if you’re not sure if you’ve used the right words, you have to take a risk and talk to the living people too.
My mom has been lifting me up for as long as I can remember…
She used to write little quotes and notes and tack them to the mirror in my room or put them in my lunch box. I grew up with one on my mirror that started like this…
"Being beautiful isn’t a talent…"
I looked at that every day and always knew two very important things about myself–my mom thought I was beautiful and she also thought that I was more than that beauty.
Back when I was growing up, a full Angelina Jolie mouth wasn’t popular or pretty. I can remember standing in front of that mirror and practicing how to hold my mouth so that no one would tease me. I did it so I wouldn’t hear someone say that my lips were so big that if I licked them, they could stick me to a wall. The mouth exercises never worked, but the quote was a good anchor to hang onto. Intellectually I knew how insignificant little comments like that should be-but it doesn’t work that way. We all know that.
My mother taught me that words have power and that I should use them both carefully and with abandon.
When my Dad passed away, my Mom asked my brother and I if it would be okay if she put our names on their stone. She wanted to write that Richard and Jean were the parents of Kimberly and Terry. She wanted everyone to know that raising us was the greatest accomplishment of their lives. Oh, the power of words…
As you continue to write and search and reach for publication, remember that you write for you and you alone and you do not have to be published to be the greatest accomplishment of someone else’s life. You write to fill your own soul and you love in order to fill the rest of them.
February 11, 2011
Congratulations!! Grandma always said you were a dreamer. Lots of people just dream and never do anything about it. Not you. When the time was right you took a huge leap, sprouted wings and landed safely in your dreams. You were blessed with such a wonderful talent and I am so proud of you. I’m sure Daddy is busting his buttons telling everyone how proud he is of his "beautiful baby"!
You are always in my heart.
The power of words…
I didn’t mean to wait so long to write the final installment of my quest to get an agent. (Sorry about that.) The good news is that I’m revising my tactics and actively pursuing ways to become a new and improved, more competent blogger. More to come on that later, but for now it’s back to the world of agenting. If you’re coming late to the party, grab a snack and catch up…
*The Truth About Getting an Agent – Part 1
*The Truth About Getting an Agent – Part 2
*The Truth About Getting an Agent – Part 3
It’s time to enter the Land of Revision BWWWAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Revision is an epic journey, especially the very first time you tackle something that is novel length. I’ve broken my journey down into four steps. I hope it helps you walk that lonely road. The first step is…
SIMPLE: You can start your giggling now…I thought REVISION was going to be simple. The first reason I believed that was–well– because I wanted to. I’d just completed the unthinkable–I’d written a novel from first page to last. I wanted to celebrate. I knew it wasn’t "done"–but I wanted it to be. I’d expended every ounce of my brain power to get that far on my journey and I didn’t really have a next level to take it to.
This is that perfect time to put your work in the drawer and start something new, feed the muse, read some books or do that mountain of laundry. I sort of did that, but I did it with training wheels and a pull-up on. I hired the lovely and talented K.L. Going to critique my manuscript. She was amazing, the experience was fantastic. I had everything I needed to move forward but…
STUPID: I was stupid. I received a wonderful, multipage critique letter from Kelly and I had no earthly idea what to do with it. I was not "developmentally ready" to revise. I hadn’t learned enough. Now that bit of information should not mislead you into thinking that I didn’t try. I really did. But the truth was–I didn’t know I was stupid at the time. *grin* So I made some surface changes and fixes, called it a day and started to send it out to agents.
The good news is that stupid doesn’t have to last forever. Somehow, while submitting to agents and beginning work on book two, I made the decision to always be reading at least one book on the craft of writing. It was a darn good thing I did, because it was the best thing I could’ve done. I took the time to learn what I did not know.
Here are some books that you might find helpful in the daily fight against stupid…
*THE FIRST FIVE PAGES: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile-Noah Lukeman
-I also recommend his other books…(I’ve currently read two more)
*THE PLOT THICKENS: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
*A DASH OF STYLE: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
*HOOKED: Writing Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One an Never Lets Them Go-Les Edgerton
-Just finished this last night, the quest to avoid stupid never stops.
*WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Everything You Need to Know, From Crafting the Idea to Landing a Publishing Deal-Regina Brooks
*WRITING & SELLING THE YA NOVEL-K.L. Going
*NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: Uncommon Ways to Revise-Darcy Pattison
*THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOKS-Harold D. Underdown
*WRITING IT RIGHT! How Successful Children’s Authors Revise and Sell Their Stories-Sandy Asher
-This book includes advice on PB to YA.
*SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS: How to Edit Yourself Into Print-Renni Browne & Dave King
*78 REASONS WHY YOUR BOOK MAY NEVER BE PUBLISHED AND 14 REASONS WHY IT JUST MIGHT-Pat Walsh
*THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: An Editor’s Advice to Writers-Betsy Lerner
*ON WRITING: A Memoir of the Craft-Stephen King
*THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises-James Scott Bell
*BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life-Anne Lamott
I learned valuable things and found inspiration in every one of these books. I urge you read and re-read these and other books on the craft of writing.
So, now that I did some reading, I was no longer quite as stupid as a I was before, but now I was…
SCARED: I was really scared. Now I knew the truth–revision is a whole lot of work. At about this time I had submitted a query and/or sample chapters to 33 different agents. That number is a grand total, not a mass emailing. I sent a handful of well thought out submissions that were personalized. Sometimes I would get a request for a partial, other times I would get a rejection. Whenever I got a rejection, I would research another agent I thought would be a match. Sometimes there were agents where a lack of reply by a certain date was also considered a no.
I had two agent requests that seemed promising… In August 2009, Michelle Wolfson requested 50 pages. Of course I accidentally sent the document in the wrong format. *head thunk* She was really cool about it and from our brief emails and banter, I felt that this could be promising. The second agent, after reading a partial, requested a full in January 2010. I heard from this agent in March. She was terrific and gave me praise for what I’d done right with my manuscript and then proceeded to give me some advice on what would make it better. She offered to look at it again if I decided to make the changes. I was first and foremost appreciative that an agent had taken the time to point me in the right direction. I was also scared. I pulled out the critique notes that I’d been given by K. L. Going and almost had a panic attack–they were very, very similar. I hadn’t been able to fix it before, so what made me think I could do it now?
SKILL: I had acquired new skills. I’d been reading, writing and thinking like a writer. I’d been learning and growing and as I looked over all the notes and suggestions, something amazing happened–I knew what to do. It wasn’t going to be SIMPLE, but that’s okay, I wasn’t as STUPID as I used to be. I was still a little SCARED, but I think you should always have a little fear in your life to keep you on your toes. Besides I knew I had two things going for me, I had gained new SKILLS and I’d learned that there were always new skills to gain. I began to revise and a funny thing happened–I learned to LOVE the Land of Revision.
It took me about a week of mulling-it-over time, to figure out what I was going to do, then I began to write. About halfway through the revision I heard from Michelle Wolfson. It had been awhile and she apologized for the delay, but she was interested in seeing the full manuscript of TOUCHING THE SURFACE. I explained to her that I was in the middle of a revision and didn’t want to send it out until it was complete. She asked me to keep her in mind. I did. She was on my radar daily because she was on Twitter LOL! As I was writing, I was following and the more I saw of her, the more I liked her.
In October 2010 I finished my revision and sent it out to both agents. A month later Michelle Wolfson loved the story and wanted to have a phone conversation. I honestly didn’t have any idea what to expect. All I knew for sure was that I was so darn excited I could barely sleep. I finally had to do the Jedi mind trick on myself. I convinced myself that she wasn’t really interested and then took it down a notch and waited for the day of the call. We had a fantastic phone conversation. I was nervous, but it went well and she *drum roll* gave me revision suggestions. The recommendations were framed in a very positive way, stressing that she was still very interested and I only felt the tiniest bit of disappointment that she hadn’t made an offer.
In retrospect, I will always be grateful that she never made the offer that day. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes life is like pot roast–if you cook it too fast–you may not enjoy it as much as if you’re patient. I think if she had signed me, and then asked for the revisions, I might have ended up with a stomach ulcer LOL! The people-pleasing component of my personality would have kicked into high-gear and likely undermined the success of the revision. Instead, I mulled-it-over and did what I’ve learned to do–my best–for me. A beautiful thing happened–I knew what to write and just how to do it. I quickly made the improvements and then sent it back to Michelle. She was leaving on vacation and was taking it with her, but she wasn’t sure if she would get to it over the holidays. That left me only one thing to do…stalk her on Twitter.
In the meantime the other agent contacted me and said she still had me on her radar and would be reading after the holidays. I sent her the updated manuscript and then settled into wait.
I learned a lot from my time on Twitter. In light of all the debate about the importance of cyber interactions, I recommend you join the conversation. Not only did I discover a million things about Michelle on twitter, (she has young kids like me and adores Pop-tarts) I also saw first hand, the type of relationships she has with her authors (AWESOME! Kiersten White, Tawna Fenske and Linda Grimes to name a few) It was also evident that she has amazing connections with her followers: other agents, editors, writers, readers and book lovers for starters. As time went on and we bantered back and forth, I came to realize that she was the agent that I wanted. The other agent was wonderful, but I had a relationship with this one. It was so hard to wait for her to read the revisions, but I knew that if this did work out, I was going to be right where I belonged.
Then this happened…she signed another YA client. *head thunk*
I heard the news directly from Michelle and she assured me she was reading and loving SURFACE. She wanted me to know that this had no impact on her interest. Oh, the stress…LOL! I did the only thing I could do…I cyber stalked the new girl! I was fully prepared to dislike Monica Bustamante Wagner, but you can’t. She seemed sweet, her story ideas sounded amazing, she’s the mom of three boys too. To top it all off, she lives in Chile and english is her second language. I started "writer crushing" on her immediately and twittered over to her page and wished her luck with her awesome new agent. Of course, she WAS sweet and she thanked me for the good wishes and we struck up a friendship on the spot. (You may want to read her saga of signing with Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary–it’s on her blog and involves a trampoline!)
On January 6th, I…ME…THE GIRL WHO IS WRITING THIS…signed with Michelle Wolfson!!!!!!! (The excessive punctuation is deliberate!!!!!!!) I did a lot of jumping that day and there wasn’t even a trampoline in sight LOL!
When I stopped jumping I realized, six years had passed since I’d lost my dad. His death at 57 was unexpected and I’d never imagined, at that point in my life, needing to rethink what I thought was written in the stars.
We can’t always win, sometimes we lose–everyone does. But we need to keep in mind, that if we’re lucky, we learn that we write our own story and if it isn’t going as planned–then we revise.
It wouldn’t be a SCBWI Conference if we didn’t start off with this…
The lovely, talented and very funny Lin Oliver. Lin remarked that there were 35 people at the very first LA conference. We’ve come a long way baby! When asked how many people in attendance were first time conference goers-there was a sea of hands raised. I think that’s soooo wonderful. Welcome to the SCBWI tribe everyone!!!!
*drum roll please*
IT’S LOIS LOWRY!!!!!!!! Author of my favorite book of all time-the Giver. I can not adequately express how excited I was to hear her speak.
Lois used fan letters to show that almost everyone has two burning questions for her…How do you get your ideas and do you have a dog? *grin* Yes, she does have a very cute dog, but I have to admit it had never crossed my mind to ask. On the other hand I’ve always wanted to know where she got her ideas. I’m going to touch on two…
A SUMMER TO DIE (1st Book)
-Lois had a sister that was her best friend, worst enemy, side-kick and the person who taught her how to read.
-Her sister died leaving her own young children behind.
-In order to cope with the grief, Lois would tell her own 5 year-old the stories of her sister. After awhile her child was bored with her grief as all young children should be.
-Lois told the stories to herself instead…
She reminded us to "give sorrow words…"
-Lois’ father was suffering from dementia. One day while looking through pictures together, they came upon a childhood picture of Lois and her sister. Her father couldn’t remember what her name was and then when reminded, he couldn’t remember what had happened to her. Lois had to remind him that she had died. His grief was such that it was like he’d heard the news for the first time.
-They continued to look through pictures and came across another of the two sisters and once again her father couldn’t remember. Lois told him that her sister had died and once again it was a brand new pain for her father.
-On the way home in the car Lois began to wonder about the idea of removing painful memories from people’s lives.
-She decided she was going to write about a group of people in the future who’d found a way to be happy, comfortable and safe-removed from painful stimuli.
-The book became more complicated as she began to write it, but this is where the story started.
I walked away from Lois Lowry’s keynote speech feeling as if there is no other way to create, than to use writing as a way to explore your own feelings and thoughts. I know that it’s tempting to try to write to market and trend (and it never hurts to know what is going on) but I do believe that the very best writing comes from that place we aren’t sure we should allow other people to see…
Of course there was an additional moral to her presentation…If you want to be a great writer-you need to get a dog! ROTFL!
Creating and Recreating the Picture Book: Three Views
*Jane Yolen (JY) Author
(Awesome tidbit-Jane was the first keynote speaker at the very 1st SCBWI Conference and the 2nd member of the SCBWI. How cool is that?)
*Mark Teague (MT) Author/Illustrator
*Patricia Lee Gauch (PLG) Editor/Writer/Teacher
This was hands down the best Picture Book Panel I’ve ever heard. Here are some of the things that resonated with me…
JY-Things that haven’t changed about Picture Books…
-The amount of work it takes.
-How dedicated writers are.
-How much authors/editors need to know.
JY-Picture books need to have lyricism-a musicality of language.
JY-A PB is about compression-words have to do double or triple the work.
JY-Child centeredness does not mean that you have to have a child in the book.
JY-Pick your words as carefully as a poet.
-Children use big important words too-it just has to be the "right" word.
-Sometimes you can make up the words-but this is a magical ability so take great care.
JY-Make it illustratable-think in pictures.
MT-Think about if your illustrations will serve the story.
PLG-It doesn’t come from your head.
PLG-Don’t squeeze any idea too hard.
Lin Oliver asked if Picture Books would be better if the author and illustrator collaborated more?
PLG-I’ve learned to keep them apart. Writers are verbal and artists are not, so they would have trouble winning an argument. LOL!
MT-It strikes me as a good tradition and cites Lewis Carroll (Alice and Wonderland) being a tyrant to his illustrator.
JY-You have to respect the genius of the illustrator.
Before we leave for our next session, we gave a great big thanks to all the SCBWI RA’s who do so much to make the tribe great.
Of course I yelled really loud for my Eastern NY RA Nancy Castaldo!!!!
Next up was the Pre-Assigned Workshops-What Makes Your Work Publishable: Today’s Market in Children’s Books.
My first Breakout session was with Alessandra Balzer-Co-Publisher of Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins)
My second Breakout session was with Alexandra Cooper-Senior Editor (Simon & Schuster) I know the picture is a little blurry, but she was so enthusiastic and fun, this one captured her personality.
At this point in the day, my stomach is yelling for some of that chicken, hand cooked by Lin Oliver *grin*. Unfortunately, my group of rabble rousers was tardy and we ended up in the farthest possible location from the the podium LOL! The food was still major yummy though.
The upside was that we were in snagging distance of our own pot of coffee LOL! Go Jeff!
Eileen, Gina, Kim and Jodi
Suzannah, Justin, Jill, Jeff and Scott.
Our Luncheon Keynote…all the way over at the podium was none other than kid-scaring, best-selling children’s author R.L. Stein.
See him waaaaayyyyy over there? His speech was on Writing for Fun And Horror but I laughed so much I hardly took any notes. :o) He was so fun to listen to. My favorite part of his speech was when he shared his favorite fan letters. My two favorites are…
"I’m your biggest fan. I’ve read your books so much my parents have to escort me to the bathroom."
"I’ve read 40 of your books-and I think they’re really boring."
He also reminded us that we have to be open to everything as a writer-you don’t know what the twists and turns are going to be. He had planned to write comedy and only wrote horror because he didn’t want to turn down a job.
Lastly, he touched everyone in the room when he got all choked up talking about receiving a compliment from his hero Ray Bradbury. It is nice to know that no matter how big you become, you still can have heros. *heart squish*
Breakout session #3 with Lisa Sandell-Editor (Scholastic) and author.
The last keynote speaker of the day is Jules Feiffer.
This was one of those speeches where you know that you are listening to a legend and every word is important. The speech is a continuous flow and it is almost impossible to pick out a piece of excellence, because the whole experience is amazing.
Here are some of my favorite things…
*At the time Jules was illustrating for his friend, Norton Juster, he was poor and did his illustrations for the Phantom Tollbooth on tracing paper. The originals have not survived and his thoughts on this were…"Norton didn’t tell me he was writing a classic."
*I have a long history of so whats. (meaning wrong turns on the path to success)
*It was spite that got me into children’s books.
*On entertaining the possibility of failure and letting it get him down–I’m going to make failure work for me.
One of Jules favorite illustrations from the Odious Ogre. "At my age, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to play like a kid…"
Jules Feiffer picking on me because my kids names are Irish sounding and I’m Polish and my hubby is Italian. He also wanted to know what the heck a Fishkill Frog was LOL! But he was lovely and signed the book for the elementary school library with a frog illustration just for the kids. Lots of fun!
Me and R.L. Stein…he gave me Goosebumps *grin*
The lovely and talented Jane Yolen.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a spaz I was meeting my idol Lois Lowry. I have no idea what the heck I said, although Nancy Castaldo was at the table and may have things to hang over my head for the rest of my life. All I know is that it was amazing and I’m very very grateful that she doesn’t look too frightened. Going to hang this one on my bulletin board…motivation for excellence.
I know you can’t even imagine Sunday living up to the sheer awesomeness of Saturday’s Conference, but it does. I swear. I’ll prove it to you in my next blog.
I’m back and gratefully a little smarter than I was in Part 1 and 2 of this adventure. When I left off, I’d just joined SCBWI and even more shocking–I’d signed up for the SCBWI 2007 Eastern NY Conference. I’m not sure what possessed me, I’m not super spontaneous on a normal day, but to make it even more of a head scratcher–the conference was on my 2-year-old’s birthday. OK-maybe a little break, even from this cutie, wasn’t a bad thing for a mom of three boys under the age of six. It felt important–I was compelled to go. Of course, my super, fabulous husband has supported me from the beginning and so the term "Daddy Party Weekend" was born. LOL!
Of course the birthday was fully celebrated later and on multiple other occasions, but I still wonder how I ended up at that conference… All I can say was something was pushing me. Was it my Dad? I’d like to think he was giving me a nudge in the right direction.
I went, but I almost didn’t make it through registration. I walked down the step into a room full of people who I didn’t know. I was sure they knew that I was a kid-lit impersonator. I came so close to leaving–then I saw one face that I knew…
Chris Shave and I taught together at a local Intermediate school and he was my life raft for the day. I had someone to hang out with and to sit with at the lunch table. Thank you, Chris. (((((hugs)))))
****I need to interrupt this blog for an important public service announcement…if you’re ever at a conference by yourself–with no one to hang out with. (Example: eating room service alone at your first NY SCBWI Conference) COME FIND ME!!!!! I know how bad that feels, so hang out with me instead. We will now return to our regular programming.****
Once I settled down and decided to stay, my life changed forever. I met the two most wonderful role models an aspiring children’s writer could ask for–Laurie Halse Anderson and K.L. Going.
I didn’t take pictures at that original conference, so I’ll borrow this one from Laurie’s book tour of Chains. If you’re interested, my very first blog post EVER was inspired by Laurie and written about her. (ORIGINAL BLOG POST) It took me two months of cyber stalking the Mad woman in the Forrest to get up enough courage to write that first post…but I did it.
Later, when I saw Laurie at the book signing in the picture above, I broke into tears as I proudly told her that I’d completed the first draft of my novel and it was because of her. I’ll never forget her sincere interest in me. It made me feel like a legitimate writer for the first time. I love this lady even more because she cried with me and told me more wonderful things that I’ll never forget…
She told me to remember that she once stood where I was standing and the reason she was here was because someone else had done for her, what she had done for me. She said that Children’s Writers are the finest people in the whole world and when I make it (and she knows I will) I will pay it forward and help other aspiring writers on their journey.
So in case you’re wondering–I’m planning on making it. I have something to pay forward and amazing people who believe in me.
I know–I could have died happy right after that experience, but by golly the writing gods have a purpose for me and they were hammering home their point that day. They say lightening can’t strike twice, but I also met K.L. Going and was equally as inspired by her. Then I discovered she was giving a very intimate local Writer’s Workshop in a couple of weeks and I could also get a 10 page one-on-one critique. I decided to go, but first I had to start writing my book…
I had an idea. It was a beginning. It’s morphed and changed and grown since the summer of 1997, but I had an idea and I wrote 27 pages down and I had my critique. It was perfect. Kelly gave me enough thumbs up to keep me going and lots of ideas on world building and a million other things I didn’t know. Then I began to work on it. Kelly has a motto and its by my desk where I can see it every day. Be yourself. Have an Opinion. Tell the World. My work was cut out for me.
The following year, with my first NY SCBWI conference (room service and all) under my belt, I returned to Kelly’s workshop again. It was one year later and I purchased a double critique and sent her my first 20 pages.
*K.L. Going’s Workshop
I was nervous. It had been a whole year and what if what I’d written stunk? I was feeling like this…
I could have flown to the moon and back when she commented about my persistence IN CLASS!!! She said that she’d seen a HUGE improvement in my writing since last year. Then we talked and once again she pushed me in the right direction and I learned another extremely important lesson–the whole story can be in your head–but no one can read it unless it is on the page. I needed to stop revising so much while writing my first draft. I gave myself permission to just write.
I also gave myself a couple goals. I’d just applied to the Rutgers On-on-One Conference in October. I didn’t know if I’d get in or not, but I was going to have a finished draft by the date of that conference. Then when I was done revising, I was going to hire Kelly to critique my full manuscript.
I finished the first draft AND got into Rutgers.
The day I put the last words on the paper–I laid my head down on my desk and bawled. I hadn’t known. It was shocking to figure out that I hadn’t been sure I could really do it–write a whole novel. I also realized that I had no idea how the story was going to end until I finished it. I finally understood that this story was my emotional journey, just as much as it was my characters, and no matter what happened to this book in the future–it existed. I existed. I now occupied the world in a brand new way. Everything was perfect–well until I had to learn all about that thing called revision. But for now, lets just enjoy this magic moment. Revision is a story for another day. But keep in mind, you don’t get an agent without being able to revise…stay tune and I can prove it to you. Of course I learned the hard way. *grin*
I know–I owe you part three of my agent journey–it’s coming. But right now, there are a few things that I must share with you. They are things that make my life fabulous…that are not Michelle Wolfson. This in no way should be taken as an indication that Michelle Wolfson is not fabulous. She is uber amazing!! In fact, it wasn’t easy to find things that make me as happy as Michelle Wolfson. *grin* But…I’ve now reached the point where my cheeks have been smiling for so long, I have to stop thinking about her in order to prevent premature wrinkles. I’ve now realized that strangers look at me funny when I start to jump up and down, hoot and holler and pinch myself in public. People in the grocery store can be soooo uptight.
So, in order to prevent wrinkles and ensure adequate food for my family we are going to try to get back to earth from time to time.
Here it is–my list of fabulous things that I think you might not be able to live without once you try them. Michelle would have been on this list but unfortunately she can not be purchase on-line or in stores at the moment. Polish that query letter–she’s worth the effort and in the meantime be sure to follow her on Twitter #sheishilarious.
Here’s my short list…
All right, I admit they may not be the most attractive boots on the market, but by golly they are the warmest and driest boot I’ve ever shoveled snow in. They are waterproof and insulated and easy to get on and off with helpful built in handles. They have lots of quirky cute designs but I went neutral. It’s a little like having a tattoo-I plan to have these for a long time and I know I get bored and my tastes change. So, no tattoo in case you were wondering and If I need to spice it up–I’ve got stickers.
I didn’t originally purchase my Bogs for winter wear. I got them for puddle stomping and yard mucking and three-boy-chasing but my feet have never been so happy while shoveling the snow. My only regret is that I didn’t have them last year when this happened…
Next up-keeping with the theme of footwear…
2. Down Booty Slipper.
They are light, warm and purple. They also amuse me because I giggle very time I say down booty *giggle* You can’t go wrong with these, they are little down comforters for your feet. Ahhhhhhhhh
3. Cashmina Sheets
Santa brought a set for the boys and I’m very thankful to that jolly old elf because those boys kept crawling under my comforter, with ice cold feet, trying to steal all my fluffy, warm happiness. These sheets will NEVER leave my bed until spring. (Ummm I mean I WILL wash them and put them right back on but other than that-a staple!)
I love them soooo much I even got a set for my babysitter-which may not have been the best idea because I haven’t seen her since. I’m hoping that has everything to do with us being sick and nothing to do with complete hibernation. We’ll find out Tuesday when I try to break out and go to dance class. In case you need to get yourself a pair ASAP…google Cashmina Micro Plush Sheets. Don’t forget to compare prices. They differ, but all the sheets seem to be great-I’ve ordered from three different locations because they were sold out EVERYWHERE!
I’ll make this my last fabulous item of the day because you need time to go track these items down. This one isn’t warm or fluffy but you could use it in bed while wearing your slippers…
4. Stonyfiield Organic After Dark Chocolate Ice Cream!!!!
Honestly, not a lot to add here that you can’t figure out on your own. Just keep in mind I’m a complete chocolate snob and know of which I speak. Go grab a spoon!
Hmmm so where were we? Oh, that’s right–Dad just died, pregnant with 3rd child, recently discovered the benefits of being an emotional risk taker and now dedicated to being a children’s book author.
I’m sure you’re all saying… “Blah, blah, blah–sweet story and all–but what has this got to do with the truth about getting an agent???”
It’s coming. I promise. I’ll also add–Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary— well worth the wait.
It’s June of 2005 and although I’m now dedicated to being an author of–something involving children literature–this little guys is still one of my best creations EVER!
My 3rd little boy. *heart squish* We thought for sure he was going to be a girl. He corrected that notion straight off by taking a well aimed whizz on my head–twice LOL! From the moment I laid eyes on him, I’ve never missed having a girl. I’ve felt pretty lucky to have my very own super hero and–if you squint–he looks almost exactly like Mike Jung.
For the next year or maybe it was an eternity–lets be honest–I wiped a lot of butts. I had a newborn, a 2 year old and a 4 year old. Hell, I’m just lucky I survived LOL! My ability to stay afloat was illustrated in my Christmas card for 2005. I stuck with two very important goals in the making of the card…
…find the easiest way to deal with outfit stress and containment. This was the only way I could get a picture without someone running away LOL! I also have to give a nod to photo technology for making this picture possible because I have a pepto-dismal pink tub.
So, I dabbled in poetry and then in picture books. I couldn’t wrap my mind around something that wasn’t “bite sized” (I had no earthly idea that size and level of difficulty are not related when it comes to the world of outstanding picture books)
Even within my comfort level, I didn’t write much, but I learned another important lesson that has come to serve me well–I always have time to think. I’ve now come to call these days “Mull-it Days.”
Not this kind of mullet…eeewwwww
My mull-it refers to using that computer on top of your shoulders. Mull-it days have replaced the days that used to make me feel bad about myself because I couldn’t sit to write. I mean, come on, with the Sabatini Zoo Crew there were days I didn’t even get to sit at all! So, I’ve learned that there’s value to writing and plotting and developing characters in my head while my kids are at the play ground, or while I’m doing laundry. It’s important to push yourself, but there is also value in learning what works for you. Maybe to write a unique book, you have to be a unique person too. You also have to have a little courage thrown into the mix.
Courage is an interesting thing. Some people find it when someone else validates them.
Other people are cliff divers–they just jump right in without thinking. Ummm….that scares the heck out of me in case your wondering. If I’m taking a cliff dive, call the cops–I’ve been pushed! I’m the kind of courage that comes in baby steps. You’re gonna see me revving my engine for a good bit before I hit each speed bump one at a time. *grin* Slow and steady…they should write a fable about that.
In the summer of 2006 I entered a short story contest (Hudson Valley Tale Spinners) in my local paper. I didn’t win or garner any attention, but I decided to have my little courageous moment and emailed the the POC at the paper and asked what I could do to improve my writing. He contacted me and said he doesn’t normally provide feedback to contestants but he very kindly looked up my entry. (Give me a high five for asking!) He told me that while it was well written, it was (honestly) boring. He said it much nicer than that, but that was the truth. I thought about it and decided that this was good news. (Can you tell I’m a cup half full kind of a gal?) I decided to focus on the fact that my writing was good-he could have said it wasn’t! And when I thought about it, yes, the story was boring. It had no hook. In fact it was the same thing that 12 other people wrote about–lesson learned. I was going to keep that on file.
FYI just because I file something, it doesn’t mean I’ve completely absorbed it right away. Repetition is key. I promise I’ve got it now…ask my agent *grin* But that agent is still a long way off…
This is where I send my deepest apologies to Writer’s House and hang my head for being ignorant and clogging up the slush pipe. *blushes with shame* I finally decided to send out my first picture book submission. (Honestly, I’ve blocked the exact date from my memory.) But I can tell you that I sent it to Writer’s House Literary Agency because of one very important reason–LOOK HERE TO SEE THE REASON–the building was adorable! This loosely translates into–I didn’t know my ass from my elbow and had no business submitting to an agent, but by golly, I was even to green to know that. *sheepish grin*
It gets worse. This is what I sent them. I KNEW that it was just a matter of time until they were calling me back telling me that they couldn’t live without me!!!!!!!!!! (Just a reminder–this occurred in 2006 and I did not sign with my agent until 2011) Time to get your chuckle on folks…
Reginald Jones was a very nice boy
He always said “Thank You” and picked up his toys
And although there were days he had construction to do
He played with his brother, who only was two
Now Reggie was nice, but he also was clever
He could count up to five-teen and sing all his letters
He knew all his colors like red, green and blue
He puzzled and sculpted and painted things too
When you’re nice, when you’re clever that seems like a lot
But there is one more good thing that we almost forgot
Reginald Jones was funny as well
That spry little guy had great jokes to tell
Like all boys and girls who have swell things to tell
There are a couple of things that he doesn’t do well
When things don’t work out the way Reggie might think
Well, that’s when that boy can sure make a stink
For example there’s problems with tying his shoes
Causing ranting and raving and lots of boo hoo’s
He yells “I CAN DO IT!” so everyone hears
But he won’t let his Mom create bunny ears
Reggie has problems with wetting at night
But he always insists that he’s doing it right
Dad thinks a wake-up’s a good thing to do
But that boy picks a puddle instead of the loo
Reginald Jones can squeeze out the toothpaste
But the squirt on the floor just seems like a waste
Then he insists that he give it a rub
His mother just sighs…now there’s some in the tub
When Reginald Jones pours his drink in a cup
It is guaranteed someone will mop the floor up
Next time they’ll guide his hand up and down
So he’ll sneak in the fridge when no one’s around
Last but not least Reggie can’t blow his nose
Air comes out of his mouth and shoots down to his toes
That boy gets upset when his mom holds his head
He just likes to use his finger instead
Reggie is clever, funny and nice
But when his parents describe him they never think twice
Independent, willful, a bit stubborn too
A boy with his own mind about what he should do
They are proud of their son and know that what makes him tough
Will serve him quite well when the world gets too rough
They are also aware that when Reggie gets surly
It’s probably best that he go to bed early.
Ummm as you might have guessed–they were KIND in sending me a form rejection. But I also did the smartest thing I possibly could.
I had a lightbulb moment, I revved my little courage engine and in April of 2007 I became an official member of the SCBWI. This was one of the smartest things I’ve EVER done in my quest to get an agent…I’ll tell you all about it in installment #3.