Why Write?

ouija-large-300Feeling particularly uninspired about blogging, I reached out to my online communities last week to see what folks wanted me to talk about. Thanks to those of you who responded! Your questions mostly looked like this:

  • Should I be writing in 1st or 3rd person? Which will sell better?
  • Should I be writing picture books or young adult novels? Which will sell better?
  • Why are there so many  online courses and webinars? Will taking one help me to get an agent?
  • What do you look for in a client? Does having an online presence help or hinder?
  • How important is it for me to have other people critique my work before sending it out to agents?
  • I’m out of ideas. Do you have strategies or tips for inspiration?

Before I answer these questions, though, I have a question for you! Why are you writing? I mean, I understand that writers want to get published and all, but why are you writing? For fame? For fortune? If those are your motivations, I strongly urge you to do something else. There’s a very good chance that you won’t get fame and fortune from your writing. Some people write because they have a gajillion stories running around in their overactive imaginations and they need the stories to see the light of day. Some people write because they have something important they feel they want to convey. Some people write because they find it fun. Some people write because they are just talented in that way, and they like to entertain people. There are so many other reasons people write, too. And you should know that of all the people who write, a very small percentage of them will land an agent. And of the ones who get an agent not all will get a book contract. I’m not telling you this to discourage you on your quest to get published though. I’m just saying, don’t write to get an agent. Don’t write to get a book contract. Write because you want to. Because you have to. Because you need to. Because you have something to say, or something you’re trying to work out. Write because it’s fun or a challenge or you’re called to do it. Write because you’re a writer. And then, do what you need to do to improve your craft. For some people, that will look like taking classes, or getting an MFA, or going to conferences, or being in a critique group, or doing webinars…There are a myriad of ways to improve one’s craft. Just keep writing. The answer to most of your questions is do things to improve your writing. How to do that will look different for everyone, because we’re not all alike. Only you know what will work for you. And now, some short answers to those questions.

  • Should I be writing in 1st or 3rd person? Which will sell better? What will work best for your story? What will sell better is a well written story.
  • Should I be writing picture books or young adult novels? Which will sell better? What are the stories you’re drawn to tell? Are they ones that would benefit from illustration? Are they for little kids? Are they for teenagers? What will sell better is a well written story.
  • Why are there so many  online courses and webinars? Will taking one help me to get an agent? I don’t know why there are so many online courses. It’s insane. Take one if you think you’ll get something out of it. What will help you get an agent is having a great manuscript. If taking a course can help you with that, then take one.
  • What do you look for in a client? Does having an online presence help or hinder? The thing I look for, first and foremost, is great writing and a great story. If the writer has an online presence that’s nice. If they don’t, I don’t care. What’s most important is the story. I will explore the second part of this question more fully, in another post.
  • How important is it for me to have other people critique my work before sending it out to agents? It’s probably a good idea. I mean, why wouldn’t you? Why would you want an agent, who gets a trillion email inquiries a day, who will find even the smallest reason to reject your query because of that overload, be the first person to look at your work? Why would you do that?
  • I’m out of ideas. Do you have strategies or tips for inspiration? Read, read, read, read, read! And I’ll blog some tips next week, too.

Any other questions? Give me your suggestions for blog posts you’d like to see, in the comments section below.


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Inside Scoop: Dish From a Literary Agent Intern – Dreaming… What is It Good For? Absolutely Everything

You’ve been reading my opinions, have seen my advice, and watched me run a contest. But I’ve never really gotten into the nitty-gritty of what I do with Linda, or why. Let’s remedy that now!

After graduating with my Bachelor’s in English and discovering that no, I couldn’t easily find a job (Surprise! Getting hired as an editorial assistant with no experience wasn’t happening!), I decided to go into a Master’s program that was focused on what I’ve always loved (which are books, in case that wasn’t clear).

At first, I was terrified I wasn’t doing the right thing and that I wouldn’t know what to do in order to pursue my dream. However, at school I found mentors, asked questions, and decided I was going to make it work because working in publishing is truly what I want to do. I took a lot of suggestions, joined some publishing associations, and as my first semester was coming to an end, I realized I had to start looking for an internship. So, I decided to talk about it with everyone, and I mean everyone (e.g. my hairdresser, the guy at the deli counter, every family member I have, my friend’s brother’s uncle). Because of that I found my internship with Linda. I was at a Women’s National Book Association meeting, discussing internships with a few women and Linda overheard and asked me to send her my resume. And that was that!

As Linda’s intern I get to do so many things that are teaching me about the publishing industry. I get to write for Linda’s blog; I’m learning to write reader’s reports and editorial letters; I’m understanding Google drive better and troubleshooting problems; I work on and organize Excel spreadsheets; I read queries and manuscripts and I listen to Linda pitching to editors on the phone. All of this has been an invaluable learning experience so far, and all because I put myself out there, kept going and didn’t give up on my dreams.

A lot of you might be thinking, “that’s all well and good, but writing is damn hard and finding representation is even harder!” This may be true, but the principles behind following your dreams don’t change much. With this in mind, I’ve put together some bits of advice I want to share with you.

Try not to be desperate. When you’re desperate you look, feel and sound sad and unwelcoming. It’s draining and not the way you want to start any kind of relationship with anyone.

Try to keep evolving. Say you are querying one way; maybe it’s time to switch up your pitch? Revamp your story? Try a different way to find representation?

If writing is your passion let it stay that way. Don’t take away from what you love to do with the hope of getting published. Getting published would be great of course, but not getting published can also just be a chance to improve your writing.

I believe that if you stay true to who you are, are open to failure, and always move toward your dreams, you won’t go wrong.

I’d love to hear your comments below with any tools you use to keep your dreams (writing or otherwise) in perspective.

Kim Photo BioKimberly Richardson is currently interning for Linda Epstein at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, while pursuing her Masters degree in Pace University’s Publishing Program. She also interns at the National Association of Professional Women. You can follow Kimberly on Twitter @kimberly_ann688.


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Quick Questions: An Interview with Scholastic Editorial Director Nancy Mercado

nancy mercadoNancy Mercado began her career in the Scholastic Book Clubs, where she worked for several years, which led her to Dial Books for Young Readers, where she worked as an editor and a senior editor for several more years, which led to her Roaring Brook Press where she was an executive editor for even more years. Now back at her old stomping grounds, Nancy is currently the editorial director at Scholastic Press.
Nancy’s had the good fortune of editing such books as the Charlie Joe Jackson series by Tommy Greenwald, the Birthmarked trilogy by Caragh O’Brien, I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell, Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer, Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis, and many others.

When not editing, Nancy is exploring the Brooklyn playground scene with her husband and two young children and spending way too much time on Twitter. For more information, about the books Nancy has edited, visit her on Goodreads.

And now, to the questions!

What book has come out in the past year that you wish you’d been the editor on? Why?

It didn’t come out in the past year, but I finally read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins over the winter break and fell in love with the way the author revealed character and backstory, her sense of pacing, and the vivid setting that made you feel as though you were having your own semester abroad.

What’s something you’d like to tell aspiring authors, that perhaps they haven’t yet heard from anyone?

Read, read, read.

(Just kidding.)

I think most advice for aspiring authors has been repeated ad nauseum so I’m hesitant to perpetuate that.

Okay, okay, probably, the most helpful piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard is from my author and friend Paul Acampora and it’s super simple: deconstruct the books you love. In other words, if you are stuck with something in your own writing (dialogue, how to move a character from one scene to the next, etc.) take apart your favorite book and see how they did that specific thing.

If you could travel back in time for one day, where would you go, what would you do, who would you hang out with?

Stand behind Dorothea Lange or Vivian Maier while they photographed?

Watch Martha Graham perform?

Sing back up for Celia Cruz or Stevie Nicks?

Have coffee with Angela Davis or Gloria Steinem?

Visit Diana Vreeland’s office?

Observe primates with Birute Galdikas or Jane Goodall?

Gah, it’s too hard to pick!

Basically I’m drawn to women who were complex and extremely disciplined.

Perhaps because I am neither.

If you won 50 million dollars, what would you do? Would you still work in publishing?

I would continue to edit and live in Brooklyn but I’d buy a house in Colombia and spend January-March there so I could avoid the horrible NYC winters.

What’s currently on your manuscript wish list? What’s definitely not on the list?

My wish list has essentially remained relatively unchanged over the years. I’m looking for:

  • Great books that will stand the test of time and become part of the literary canon of children’s books
  • Diverse voices that have been typically underrepresented in children’s books
  • Realistic, contemporary, chapter books, middle grade and YA novels
  • Humorous family and friendship stories with a hopeful quality to them
  • Quirky and distinctive voices ala Daniel Pinkwater or Polly Horvath
  • Books like the books I devoured when I was a kid (Some examples: the Anastasia Krupnik series, the Tillerman Saga by Cynthia Voight, the Austin Family Chronicles by Madeleine L’engle, The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald, the Shoes books by Noel Streatfeild, every YA novel ever written by Paul Zindel and Paula Danziger)

 Thank you for participating, Nancy!

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