Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thursday's Children 12/27/12 New Year, New Nest

Alright, so this is that awkward moment when you arrive at a friend's house for a visit and discover that nobody's home. And they won't be coming back.

I hope you will click on the link below and come visit me at...

My actual Thursday's Children Post is there.

"Everyone" has told me that WordPress is better for writers than Blogger. We'll see.
If you were following me before, I hope you'll follow me again. And of course, if you weren't following me, please consider doing so. I have some VERY exciting news to share in a week or two.

My new blog is being difficult about Linky Tools so while I figure all that out with Kristina's techy help you can grab the linky code below and jump onto the Thursday's Children Blog Hop here.

<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=177539" type="text/javascript"></script>
<!-- end LinkyTools script -->
And join the blog hop below...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thursday's Children 12/21/12

CPs & Betas

...in the words of Woody from Toy Story "If you don't have one-get one."

Ideally, get more than one. 
Just like agents, editors, and your eventual "audience", no two CPs/betas will have exactly the same reaction to your work. 
CPs and Betas help you be the best writer you can be.
How do they do this?

1. Honesty- Seriously, who doesn't LOVE to be told their book is fabulous, unputdownable, etc., but that's what your family and friends are for. To make your book as good as possible, you have to know what needs tweaking, or even a major overhaul. Objective readers and other writers can provide feedback that is worth their weight in gold.

2. Thoughtful Suggestions- As valuable as it is to know what isn't working, sometimes you have no idea how to fix it. This is where a CP's suggestions come in. Even if you don't take the suggestion literally, it can lead to a brainstorm of your very own.

3. Positive comments- Just as you must know what fell flat, you also should know what made your CP cry, in a good way, of course, or laugh, also in a good way, or say "wow", or keep on reading despite the long list of other things she should be doing.

4. Attention to detail (For CPs, not betas)-  This means actually paying close attention to what she's reading. For instance, I won a first chapter critique during a contest this fall. The person doing the crit complained that she didn't know by the end of the chapter whether the MC was "nine or nineteen". 
Yet, on page 2 I'd very specifically written, "Worse than the day sixteen years ago when my mother died. I was a baby at the time and don’t remember it." Boom.

5. Sharing the joys and tears- of both writing and trying to become agented/published, or whatever your writing goal happens to be. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary pursuit. 

Generally we're not able to do the prairie dog thing, pop up from our cubicle and fist-bump, or hand each other a tissue. So we do that via email, Facebook, Twitter... Cheering for contest wins, requests from agents, etc. And consoling each other when we don't even come close to winning the contest, or the agent rejects said request.

In some cases I've only read my CP's work, or they've only read mine, or we've just started an exchange...

But they are all people who inspire me to keep writing, to keep working at getting better, and whose own work and indomitable spirits inspire me. 
Thank you!
I wish you, and all of Thursday's Children, the very best of holidays and a successful writing year ahead. 
We're All In This Together. Alright, the acting might not have been brilliant, but there were some damn catchy tunes in this movie.

My CPs/Betas

Kristina Perez whose critique partnership also led to Thursday's Children

And here's Mr. Bean to remind you to focus on the important things this holiday season. Children, chocolate, and getting a good night's sleep.

Here's the Linky List Code for your blog
<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=176981" type="text/javascript"></script>
<!-- end LinkyTools script -->

And here's the Linky List! Come join us! Tell me what you look for in a CP/Beta.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thursday's Children 12/13/12

This week's Inspiration came from eavesdropping on Twitter.
Two Writer-Tweeps were talking, and one of them mentioned the TV Show WipeOut.

WipeOut - a metaphor for a writer's journey to publication.

Round One

You've finished your manuscript, your betas and CPs have had at it, you've polished and tweaked and can't think of anything to do to it that would make it better - you're ready to enter the competition. 

First Challenge: Querying, or The Big Balls.

There are at least 3 parts to a successful query:
Researching Agents, Writing a Kickass Query, Having an Opening Bit that Rocks

Along the way something often goes wrong...

And your doomed query languishes in the slushpile.

I've heard that 95-99% of Queries Never Escape the Slushpile

But IF you take your time, and study how others have effectively navigated 
The Big Balls, well, then maybe this will happen.

You've Beaten the Big Balls, aka Received a Request for a Full or Partial!
This is ENORMOUSLY validating.
Keep those requests. Read them often. Even if ultimately this is what happens.

It feels just like that.
Reading something like the letter 
I received from an agent a couple of years ago regarding my first book.
From my archived "File of Pain" as one of my CPs calls it...

Dear Rhiann, 

Thanks for letting me look at your partial manuscript.  

I love your voice.  It's subtle and very natural.  But I'm afraid the plot felt slow.  The idea driving this story, which you laid out in the letter, is terrific.  I found myself wishing this world were developed more right from the start in a more page-turning fashion.  

With this in mind, it's with regrets that I'm going to pass.  Sorry this didn't work out but I wish you the best of luck finding the right agent for this project.  Thanks again for thinking of me.

Clearly my MS didn't live up to the query letter. 

Words of Friendly Advice: When a letter from an agent starts off with a compliment and quickly segues into a "but", go get yourself a drink. And some chocolate. 
Maybe even a shoulder to cry on.

Here's another rejection for the same book. The "pass" was so vague that I asked for some clarification. Here's what she wrote.

Dear Rhiann,

We appreciate and respect that as a new writer, critical feedback is
key to honing your craft. We actually found your writing and pacing to
be quite engaging. Rather, it was the character development and use of
what have unfortunately become over-mined and archetypal aspects of
this genre that kept us from being fully won over. I hope this is helpful.

Alright, so this agent thought the pacing was fine, but didn't like the characters. 
I'm still working on revising that manuscript. 

IF you survive the query and the request, and maybe even a revise and resubmit, THEN you will have

Round 2!

I've heard that Round 2 is a lot like Round 1, only now you have a team-mate. 
You and your agent are strategizing.
He or she is contacting editors. 
You might be working on a synopsis for a sequel, or your social media platform, or a WIP. 
Or your wardrobe, in case Oprah wants you for her Book of the Month Club. 

Again, things can go wrong... 
I saw an agent tweet that she estimated 60-90% of agented authors get a deal. 
Which means 10-40% won't. I prefer not to think about that. 
But it probably feels something like this.

But let's say you get a Book Deal- Go, You!!
As you can see, everything is all fancy and dramatic now. 

Round 3 - The Big Leagues.

Think of the obstacles as Publicity/Marketing, Reviews, Competing Books, Foreign Rights, Film/TV etc.
At the end you might feel like this...

Except of course, you'll be holding your book.

Here's the code for your blog.
<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=176114" type="text/javascript"></script>
<!-- end LinkyTools script -->

And here's the Linky List. Join and tell us what inspires you and your writing!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thursday's Children 12/6/12

Agents Are People Too

As you may recall, last week I shared a bit about a phone call I had with an Agent-Person. 
Things didn't go exactly as I expected.
Having unintentionally misled her about my inspiration for TENDRIL gave me  this kind of feeling...

So, I emailed her and told her that I'd actually been inspired by my love of old cemeteries. 
Here's a photo of Hope Cemetery in the town next to mine. I walk here a lot.

Well, guess what? 
She adores old graveyards, lives near a fairly famous one, AND one of the things that initially appealed to her most about my book was the whole cemetery aspect. 
She even promised to take me to that well-known graveyard if I'm ever visiting. 
I would LOVE that. Here's a photo of it below.

Now because my week wouldn't be complete without an awkward moment, here's my second story. 
Agent-Person #2 had asked for a full a couple of weeks earlier. 
After Agent-Person #1 and I had our chat, I thought perhaps it was time to "nudge" a little.
It's always a good idea to have as many options as possible, just in case things don't go according to plan. My experience is certainly that they RARELY go according to plan.

So I dashed off an email saying that while I didn't have an offer, 
I definitely had an indication of strong interest... 
and when might TENDRIL reach the top of Agent-Person #2's To-Be-Read Pile? 

Then about an hour later, while I was doing this on Twitter... 

I saw that Agent-Person #2's child was having surgery.
Which led to this kind of feeling.

Until I discovered I'd gotten an auto-response. 
Her query email was turned off because she's closed to queries until next year.
 (That email was the one I'd used because it was the only one I could find). 
So then, I was like...

A couple of hours later she emailed me (because she had read my email after all). 
She asked how long she had. I emailed back to let her know-while at the same time apologizing for my crappy timing, and sending wishes for her child's speedy recovery. 
She wrote back and told me not to worry,
 if she hadn't wanted to look at email, she wouldn't have.

Remember that agents get inspired too, and having shared inspirations might even be what brings you and your eventual agent together. 
Oh, and remembert that they are real people with their own problems. 

And of course-remember to join the Thursday's Children Blog Hop! 

Here's the code for you blog 
<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=175134" type="text/javascript"></script><!-- end LinkyTools script -->

And here's the Linky List...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thursday's Children 11/28/12

Perils of Querying

As some of you know, I've been querying TENDRIL. I was trying to approach the whole process cautiously and scientifically. By that I mean entering pitch contests to get feedback and help on my query, querying in batches, testing the waters with various incarnations of my query letter, and not blanketing AgentLand all at once with a desperate cry for representation. 

Rather unexpectedly I got a request from an agent for a phone call.
I can't go into details, and this isn't a THE CALL post. Though, I would LOVE to be doing one of those...

This is more about a deer in the headlights experience.

Based on her email, I thought we would be discussing her suggested revisions-and we did. 
I hoped she would tell me what she liked about TENDRIL-and she did.

I was worried that I would have technical difficulties using Skype-which I didn't.
I was worried that I would involuntarily start imitating her accent, because I sometimes do that when I'm talking to someone whose accent isn't like mine-but I didn't, THANK GOD.

Unfortunately I was not prepared for her to ask me why I queried her specifically. 
I mean, I had reasons, but  I didn't explain them eloquently. AT ALL. It was more like...
"Um, well, I saw you on Twitter. And then I went to your site. And your bio said stuff that seemed as though TENDRIL would be right up your alley..." 
See what I mean? Sounds more like a lame Match.com convo.

Perhaps even more tragically, I was not expecting her to ask me how I came to write the story, what INSPIRED me (here's the tie in to Thursday's Children) to write it. 
I, who have been spending nearly a dozen Thursdays rambling about inspiration, drew a complete and utter blank. Damn pathetic.
What I came up with was something along these lines...
"Uh, er, I have always liked fairy tales, and I liked the movie Tangled a lot, but of course because I wanted to write for a YA audience, and not copy anyone else's work, I had to make it different. So, uh, I..." 

Well, I'll spare you the rest. It was lame. And not even true. Because what really inspired TENDRIL was my love of old cemeteries. That's what got me started. Thinking about a girl who discovered she could communicate with the lost souls in a graveyard. I didn't even realize I was writing a retelling until I was a good halfway through the first draft.

Hopefully you've gotten a laugh at my expense, and if an agent wants to discuss revisions with you, bear in mind that he/she might also want to discuss INSPIRATION and other matters. 
Thankfully for me she was still expressing interest by the end of our chat.
If it all ends up going nowhere, at least I'll be ready next time. 

Here's the Linky List!

And here's the code for your blog...

<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=173989" type="text/javascript"></script>
<!-- end LinkyTools script -->

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving & Thursday's Children Double Up Blog Hop


Yes, combining Inspiration and Gratitude makes perfect sense.

I am devoting this post to Writer-Mentors. 

The Givers. 

The ones throwing contests and clinics, holding out a hand to those traveling behind them. 

Even though they are also writing, editing, revising, parenting, "spousing", teaching, and a million other things.

After writing three books I finally decided to work on my "Social Media Platform". Twitter, Facebook, and blogging connected me to other writers. Through them, I learned about the world of Contests and Clinics and Blog Hops. Oh, my.

I entered GUTGAA. Boy, did that make my head spin! Although I didn't make it to the agent round, I learned a lot and met some fabulous people. And I won a critique.

I still have NO idea how Deana Barnhart pulled off something that HUGE and COMPLICATED with such patience and grace. Clearly she's an organizational genius. Not to mention, a saint.

I entered a couple of Flash Fiction contests on the Writer Unboxed Facebook group
and on Suzanne Palmieri's blog.

Then there was Hook, Line and Sinker. I didn't make it past the first round there. But it was still fun.


Dee Romito at Writes For Apples not only knows about all the contests that are going on, she's involved in most of them, not only H,L&S, but also... Agent Trick or Treat.

Trick or Treat with and Agent

Kimberly Chase and Brenda Drake (more on her later) were also part of Trick or Treat. Because of their spirit of generosity, the original twelve slots became THIRTEEN. And I squeaked in and got a request for a partial because of it. Yay!

Somewhere in there was this one. Thank you Jamie Corrigan !

Sharon Bayliss hooked me up with The Curiosity Quills Haunted Writing Clinic & Contest,

where I was mentored by the kind and insightful James Wymore. His help led to a request for a partial!

Through that contest and Sharon's Title Contest, where TENDRIL was one of the winners, I connected with Jessa Russo.

There's also this going on at Talynn Lynn's Ink in the Book blog.

Registration extended through Thanksgiving

Heather Webb's Pitch Like a Rock Star Contest came next, as I recall.
Heather's kindness resulted in three runner-up 5-page critique prizes. Yup, I got me one of those.

I also did a couple of contests hosted by groups of YA writers

from the people at YAtopia

and another one from Oasis for YA which got me a crit of TENDRIL's first 250 words

And here are two more contests I'm looking forward to-

PitchWars - Brenda Drake strikes again! And brings a whole posse of helpful writers, editors, and agency interns along with her. Thirty-one awesome volunteers to be exact. Check her blog to see who they are.

And yeah, The Thanksgiving Blog Hop was Brenda's idea too. Clearly the woman NEVER sleeps. I call her Bionic Brenda. She doesn't know that though.

Also coming up is #PitchMas Feaky Snucker 's Brainchild. I don't know what Feaky's real name is. I think she might be in some kind of Librarian Protection Program.

Holiday PitchFest 2012

The best parts of all these contests? (aside from the occasional ms request)
New friendships, mentoring, helpful feedback.
If I'm ever in a position to extend the same kind of helping hand to fledgling writers, believe me, I will.


You are MY inspiration!

If you'd like to join Thursday's Children this week here's the Linky List

And if you'd like to grab the code, here it is

<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=171981" type="text/javascript"></script>
<!-- end LinkyTools script -->

And here's our Theme Song!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Double Duty Thursday's Children & Thanksgiving #3 Blog Hops

What do Thursday's Children and Thanksgiving have in common?
They both happen on Thursdays, of course,
And they both have themes of family (one a family of writer-friends, one the more traditional view of family),
but also...this week they have a Love-Child Blog Post.



(November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)

I know, I know, Louisa May Alcott and "love-child" are really awkward together. 
But I am both inspired by and thankful for Louisa, who wrote about family (see there's a connection).
Why is she inspirational?
Well, of course she was a strong, creative spirit who didn't let 19th century conventions, poverty,
or a wing-nut father (who preached "the sweetness of self-denial") slow her down. 
She was a feminist and an abolitionist, in addition to being a hard-working, prolific and successful author.
She hobnobbed with rock-stars.
Well, the 19th century New England equivalent anyway - Thoreau, Hawthorne, Emerson.

But mostly because Little Women was the first "YA" book I read that made me cry.
And cry. And cry. I simply COULD NOT BELIEVE Beth died.
I knew her. I loved her. How could she be dead?
This is a book I will not reread as an adult. 
I'm afraid it would be uncomfortable.
There's a pretty good chance I'd find Little Women maudlin, and I might laugh at my fragile child-self for having loved it so much. And then all the magic would be gone. 

I still have the book of course. That's it above. It is OLD. The cloth binding is all frayed and the pages are yellowed. This book had seen some hard times long before I ever held it in my hands. God knows how many girls had sobbed over it.
All those tears, sighs, and whispers make it smell wonderful.

Although I admired Jo, she intimidated me the way field hockey girls did (no offense to any field hockey players who might be reading this). Amy was the character who was most like me. Modeled after Louisa's real sister May, she was the youngest in the family, she was artistic, and okay, yes, she was a bit spoiled. Interesting for me personally, Louisa took in May's daughter after May died of childbed fever. Her name was Lulu (also my daughter's name). I didn't know that until I did some research for this post.

The town in Massachusetts where I grew up is not far from Concord, where the Alcotts lived. Here is a photo of Orchard House. It was built in 1690.
My favorite part was the graffiti. Yes! May/Amy drew on the woodwork. 
Such a minx!
Those very real drawings made me feel connected to both the story and its author almost as much as crying buckets over Beth. They held so much more immediacy for me than the carefully cosseted artifacts in the rest of the house.

Orchard House has its own Blog if you're curious to learn more about it.

When I was twelve I had my first fangirl crush on an author. 
I read everything Louisa wrote, and when I'd read all her books, I read them all over again. 
But none of them touched me like Little Women. I can't even remember how many times I read it.

Thank you for making me cry Louisa, and showing me the awesome power of literature. 
And when one of my CPs said my book made her cry no less than three times-I was thrilled (even if she cries easily). 
It's the litmus test for me.
And yes, one of these days I will write something about current authors who inspire me. Promise.

If you'd like to join our weekly Thursday's Children Blog Hop, grab a spot on the Linky List.

And here's the code to use in your own post.
<!-- start LinkyTools script -->
<script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=171979" type="text/javascript"></script>
<!-- end LinkyTools script -->
And here's our Theme Song too!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Blog Hop #2

In case you missed it, Brenda Drake is hosting a wonderful Blog Hop. 
Click on the link below the turkey to join.

Today's post is about my best friend, who also happens to be my husband. 
We met in art school, two of four students who actually showed up to Art History class in a blizzard. Apparently he spent the hour writing a note to his friend in New Hampshire about the cute girl in his class. *blushing*
Here I am at the time.

He was really preppy, I think he might even have been wearing a bow tie. I politely ignored him. Unfortunately I don't have a "Before" picture of him. 
But below you can see the result of my, um, influence. His family was none too pleased.
These are photos of our passport photos, taken just before we went to the U.K. 
Yes, it is a bit of a twist on the Pygmalion and Galatea story...because I did eventually fall in love with him.

In those days my creativity was channeled through hair gel and painting. He always cheered me on in art school, and told me my realistic portraits were great, even if everyone else was doing angry abstracts and conceptual work. And after some rough class critiques he cheered me up (I cheered him up too, of course). 

We got married and had a decorative painting business together for a couple of years - murals, faux finishes, that sort of thing. Our company was called Nymph & Satyr Designs. We never got sick of each other, even spending EVERY waking moment together.

But, I really want to talk about my husband and writing.

My very first attempt at a novel remains unfinished, but he read what I'd written and said I should keep writing, that I was good at it. He still thinks I should finish that book. 
It's called THE ISLANDS OF PENOBSCOT BAY. Look for it on bookstore shelves in 2030 or so.

He was the first person to read all three of my finished books. He read the first one at least three times, because I changed it repeatedly based on agent feedback. 

He helps keep me sane during the roller-coaster ride of querying, rejections, requests, more rejections, R&Rs, and so on. 

He keeps telling me "it will happen-don't give up" and I like to think he's right. We're even making a BIG move, in part so that I can keep writing and not have to go back to work full-time.

I'll always remember the moment he came into the kitchen, hugged me, quoted a line from my most recent book TENDRIL, and said "No matter what, keep writing. You are too damn good not to make it."
That made me cry.
Hopefully one of these days his faith in me will be rewarded. 

p.s. In case you're wondering, neither of us has a mohawk now.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thanksgiving Blog Hop!

The Incomparable Brenda Drake is hosting a...

Bloggers will be posting about whatever makes them thankful.

1. I am thankful for Brenda Drake, whose spirit of generosity towards unpublished/unagented writers is LEGENDARY.

2. I am grateful for being laid off exactly four years ago.
At the time it was traumatizing. As I sat in a mandatory seminar for the "dehired" I saw duplicates of my own shell-shocked face. Diligent, conscientious Lisa Simpson-type workers who'd always gotten good reviews, often put work before family and self, agonized over taking a sick day, got to work early and stayed late without pay, etc. All for what?

Being part of a "down-sizing" pushed me off the hamster wheel. 
Made me think about what I'd done in my life so far and what I wanted to do with whatever is left of it. Thanks to unemployment benefits I had some time to breathe, and to try something different. Something I'd always wanted to do. Write a novel. I've now written three. Maybe some day one or more will even be published.

3. I am grateful that I finally know what I want to do when I grow up.
No matter what job titles I hold in the future, they won't define me the way they have in the past. I'm a writer now. First. Always. No matter what. And no, I don't use a vintage typewriter, but it's cool looking, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thursday's Children 11/8/12 Mary Norton

Guess I'm in a bit of a nostalgic mood this week. Or maybe trick or treating reminded me of childhood days...
I've already blogged about George S. MacDonald who was one of my favorite childhood authors.
Mary Norton (1903-1992) was another.

She wrote THE BORROWERS series in the 1950s and 60s.
I had long been obsessed with the idea of wee folk (pixies, brownies, faeries, and so on).
But Mary's characters were different. 
They were much more like us-with names ALMOST like ours. Take the Clock family for example: Homily. Pod. Arriety. Mary was brilliant.
They had no wings or magical powers. In fact, Borrowers were terrified of us, "human beans". Being "seen" by one of us was an event that could, and did, have catastrophic consequences.
They lived with us-only we didn't know it. Again, brilliant. 
They "borrowed" food, and other things too. Paper clips to use as grappling hooks, wooden spools to sit on, cigar boxes for beds. Arriety had to do her lessons with an ENORMOUS pencil.

For years I left items I thought might be useful beside a small hole in the hallway floor of our house.
Miniature marshmallows, safety pins, bits of yarn. 
They were always gone in the morning (thanks, Mom!).

THE BORROWERS had everything a wonderful (children's) book should have-
Great characters who are funny, lovable, interesting, scary
Enough danger and adventure to make "that's all for tonight" the worst words in the world
Series potential-although I have to say none of the books was as good as the first
A world the reader wants to be part of - and here the parallel world, in miniature, is such a great hook

It had great illustrations too, which were like doodles, and rewarded careful scrutiny. 
This is Pod paying a visit to Aunt Sophy, also known as "Her". She had a penchant for Madeira which made her believe Pod was a hallucination. When she was all liquored up, Pod could "borrow" whatever he liked, and not even worry about being "seen". Love the chamber pot under the bed.

THE BORROWERS was also responsible for my first bad boy crush. 
Spiller was the type of Borrower who lived outside, which was akin to living on the wrong side of the tracks. He was wild, and made his own rules.
He and Arriety had a bit of an adversarial relationship-but I think she liked the way he challenged her and persuaded her try new adventures.
Below is Robert Sheehan, who played Spiller in the movie version. If I'd been fourteen year old Arriety I would have totally gone for him.
Note to Self: Inspired by Bad Boys. Future Thursday's Children post.

And speaking of the movie version-the one with John Goodman.
Though unlike the book in significant ways. I enjoyed it anyway, but as its own thing.
It did provide a line that I'm quite fond of, (it was Pod's originally, his response to Arriety's plea to go "borrowing" with him).
Said with an English accent, à la Jim Broadbent, "No. No. And again. NO."

Here's our Theme Song...

Here's the code to the Linky to put on your own post.
<!-- start LinkyTools script --><script src="http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=171061" type="text/javascript" ></script><!-- end LinkyTools script -->

And Here's the Linky List! What inspires your writing?