Tag Archives: writing advice

On Reading & Writing: When a Monster Calls in a Hotel Room

I was in Virginia at a writing conference this past weekend, doing critiques, meeting with authors, and being on a panel of agents, with the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI. There are so many things I can talk about regarding the conference: how well it was run; why I think everyone who writes for kids should be an SCBWI member, what a lovely group of writers I met; the fantastic opportunity of watching Kwame Alexander and Judith Viorst in conversation; how lucky I feel to be a part of the children’s literature community, as a publishing professional and a writer. Really, I could continue this list for a very long time.

61guqyj17pl-_sx394_bo1204203200_But I want to talk about reading, and being a writer, and something that happened in my hotel room on Saturday night, after my long day of meetings and conversations with writers. I was so very tired. After dinner I went up to my room and got in my pajamas and took my book and crawled into bed. I’m in an MFA program right now, and one of the books I was assigned to read this week was A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness. For a variety of reasons it probably isn’t something I would have thought to pick up on my own. But it’s remarkably well written. It’s beautiful to look at. The level of craft in this novel is phenomenal. Now let me tell you the thing that happened.

I had to put the book down. I had to put it down because it made me cry. I don’t mean that I teared up but kept reading, like when Beth March or Fred Weasley died. Nobody had died, but I got to a point in the story where I was moved so much that I was crying. Crying, not tearing up or something. I had to put the book down so I could pull myself together. Of course I picked it up again, and finished it, and teared up a few times along the way. But when I had to put the book down? Well, that was something else.

I’m sharing this because that’s what I’m looking for when I look for new clients, and that’s what I strive to achieve as a writer myself. Not necessarily making people cry, but making people feel. That can be LOLs, tears, fear, compassion, connection…feeling. A fellow writer and friend of mine (hi Meghan!) says, “You know me, I’m all about the feels,” regarding what she’s looking for as a reader. And I wholeheartedly concur!

So, how do we achieve that, as writers? I think Lin Oliver, author, Executive Director of SCBWI, as well as one of SCBWI’s founders, really said it best at this past weekend’s conference. Lin quite succinctly said, “Be fierce. Create from the depths of what you feel.” Again, I concur. I believe that when we allow ourselves to be present to our feelings, and as artists we mine those feelings, that the results—our creations—can achieve the ability to authentically evoke feelings in others. Being present to the essence of funny. Being present to the finality of our own mortality. Being present to our grief or relief or fear or love or whatever. Being fierce.

So go do that, fellow writers! Be fierce.

 

 

 

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Picture Book Submissions, or how not to rant about the insane state of affairs in the world

tumblr_static_cats_umbrellas_vintage_postcard_kats-in-klompenLet’s not talk about real estate mogul 1%-er fascist scary political crazy people. Let’s not talk about bigotry and racism and feeling impotent against its magnitude. Let’s not talk about women’s reproductive freedom and that there are places where women are actually getting stoned to death and where girls aren’t even allowed to go to school. Let’s not talk about terrorism and school shootings and let’s also not talk about poverty or disease or feeling powerless about the destruction of our planet and natural resources. Let’s look at pictures of kitty cats. Yes, let’s do that. Let’s try to get our minds off the terrible, scary things for a moment.

Oh, I know! Let’s talk about some writing things! Let’s talk about things regarding submitting picture book manuscripts to agents, because this is The Blabbermouth Blog, and I’m a literary agent, and you’re probably here because you’re a writer. Right. Ok. I can do this!

Here are a few things to keep in mind when sending your picture book manuscript to an agent:

  • Follow an agent/agency’s submission guidelines. If you’re supposed to include the full picture book manuscript in the body of the email, do that. If you’re supposed to attach the manuscript to your email, do that. There’s no one right way to do this, there’s only the way the agent asks you to do it.
  • If you’ve written the text of a picture book but you’re not an author-illustrator, there’s no reason to send sample pictures with your submission (unless there’s some reason these pictures have to be included… like you can’t understand the text without them).
  • The author doesn’t find an illustrator for their book; the publisher does that after they decide they want to publish your book. So, unless there’s a very good reason to submit your book with an illustrator already attached (e.g. you wrote it together), there’s no reason to find someone to draw pictures for you. That’s actually a rookie move.
  • If you’re an author-illustrator and you need to include samples of your artwork, see if the agent makes exceptions to the standard “no attachments” rule. Or, provide a link to your website, which should have illustration examples on it. If you have a site that has a password protected aspect to it, provide a link to the site and the password for the agent to use. Make it as easy as possible for agents to see your work.
  • Only submit one manuscript at a time. If interested, an agent will follow up and ask if you have other manuscripts (because most folks don’t want to represent someone with only one executed idea). But we don’t want to be bombarded with a gazillion pitches in one email. It will suffice to just state that you have other manuscripts already written, which you can send on request.
  • Remember that the agents you are submitting your work to are just regular people, with families and interests and outside concerns. So, sometimes you might go to a writing sight to learn about submitting your manuscript, and first have to wade through a tiny rant.

Hope this has been helpful! Feel free to comment with writerly questions about other writerly things you’d like to see written about on this blog. I’ll try really hard not to include a rant next time.

Peace out.

 

 

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The Blog is Open to Questions on Writing & Publishing Today!

I’M DONE FOR THE DAY, FOLKS! I’LL ANSWER MORE QUESTIONS ANOTHER TIME. HOPE THIS WAS HELPFUL. LOOK BELOW IN THE COMMENTS FOR SOME GREAT QUESTIONS. questions

Post questions in the comments section about writing or publishing. Make it something general, not specific to me (i.e. not about my interests as an agent, not when I’ll open to submissions again, not my query guidelines). I’ll be answering all day (10/19/15). (I’m all done now…)

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