CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

WHERE I LIVE through February 24th
MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON through February 24th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Carrie Pestrito Agent Spotlight Interview on 2/28/18
Claire Anderson-Wheeler Agent Spotlight Interview on 3/14/18
Hilary Hartwell Agent Spotlight Interview on 3/21/2018
Jennifer March Soloway Agent Spotlight Interview on 4/23/18

AGENT ELIZABETH BEWLEY AND AUTHOR LINDA WILLIAMS JACKSON GUEST POST AND MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley here to share about Linda's MG historical fiction MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON. I'm super excited to read it because it's set in the mid-1950's in rural Mississipi.

And FYI, I did an agent spotlight interview with Elizabeth last month so be sure to check it out to see what she's looking for.

Here's a blurb of MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON from Goodreads:


Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A powerful middle-grade debut perfect for readers who enjoyed The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Now here's Linda and Elizabeth!

How My Editor Became My Agent

Linda: When I was an un-agented writer admiring everyone else’s “success stories” from the sidelines, I always wondered why some authors switched agents. I spent six years trying to get just one agent to say yes to my manuscripts while some authors snagged the attention of two or three agents in the same timeframe. Though I was amazed at their success, I made a vow that if I ever got a yes, I would never switch agents. It was too much work to get the first one! Yet, here I am. I have switched agents even though my first agent was a good one. So why did I switch?

When I found out Elizabeth was leaving Houghton Mifflin, I was cool with it, at first. I thought, Okay, she’s going to another publisher. There’s a chance we’ll work together again. But when I found out she was becoming an agent, I was heartbroken! I thought, We’ll never work together again! I felt like a limb had been severed!

Elizabeth, what type of emotions did you have regarding the authors you worked with when you made the decision to switch from editor to agent?

Elizabeth: Looking back, I think that giving up my role as editor for talented writers like Linda was
one of the hardest parts of my decision process. Honestly, I felt nervous, wondering if I’d be able to capture the close connection that can develop between a writer and an editor. Also, it was a privilege to edit these books, and I didn’t want any of my authors to think that I took that privilege lightly. But, it was also time for me to make a change, so I had to brave my nerves and hope that I would have the opportunity to create new agent-author connections.

Linda: A few days passed, and I was still feeling down about not being able to work with Elizabeth as my editor. A thought crossed my mind: I could hire her as an editor on my next project if she’s open to it. The thought of her becoming my agent never crossed my mind those first few days. Never. Why? Because I already had a wonderful agent.

Elizabeth, did the thought cross your mind that any of the authors you worked with would become your clients?

Elizabeth: Not really! After being in the business for 15 years, I was hopeful that I would get referrals from writers that I had worked with in the past, but I didn’t contemplate representing any of my past authors. Most of them have terrific literary agents, already, so I wouldn’t have wanted to interfere with a good thing.

Linda: Then I had the craziest thought, I could ask Elizabeth to be my agent. I even ran the idea by one of my agent-siblings who thought that surely I had lost my mind. As I said, I already had a great agent, and her clients are a pretty close-knit group. So this was not an easy decision. But after a few more days of thought, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to continue working with Elizabeth—except, she would now be my agent rather than my editor. Still, I didn’t make the decision lightly. I Googled: “Authors whose editors became their agents.” I asked author friends who had switched agents why they had done so. I even talked to people who had switched jobs which had nothing to do with publishing what they thought of the idea. In the end, I finally emailed Elizabeth and asked her if she would consider representing me. And, for the second time in a two-year timeframe, I got a “yes” from an agent even though it was not through a traditional query.

Elizabeth, what were your thoughts when you received Linda’s nontraditional “query” in your inbox?


Elizabeth: From the moment that I first read Linda’s debut, Midnight Without a Moon, I felt connected to her work and to her voice. Her protagonist, Rose Lee Carter, feels so real to me, and I absolutely love being transported to Rose’s life in 1950s Mississippi. Talking to Linda and reading her work energizes me and reminds me why I love children’s literature and American literature. So, when she sent me that fateful email, I thought: wow! This is a really special opportunity. I felt honored.

Linda: You might be wondering why I felt so strongly about continuing to work with Elizabeth. Well, here’s why:

Elizabeth has edited two books that I’ve written: Midnight Without a Moon (she came up with that title, by the way) and A Sky Full of Stars. Elizabeth not only edits with a gentle hand—saying things like, “I don’t want to change too much and mess up the good thing you have going here,”—but she seems to have the ability to know exactly what I meant to write even when I didn’t write it. When I received my editorial letter for A Sky Full of Stars, all I could do was laugh. Every suggestion Elizabeth made was a plot thread that I had in mind originally, but I was too lazy to write into the story. It’s like she has the superpower of editorial x-ray vision and can see right through my laziness.

Elizabeth, why do you think it’s important that an editor (or an editorial agent) not put “too much” of his/her own ideas into an author’s work?

Elizabeth: I am in awe of talented writers, pure and simple, and I believe it’s my job to offer thoughts and suggestions that may inspire writers to take their work to the next level. I’m not afraid to dive deep into revisions with writers, but I always want to be sure that the author’s vision is respected.

Linda: In addition to being able to “see” exactly what I meant to write even though I didn’t write it,
Elizabeth also tends to love the characters that I’m always afraid she’ll ask me to cut from the story. In our second round of revisions for Midnight Without a Moon, Elizabeth felt like some of the family members needed to be cut in order to keep middle-grade readers from getting too confused. (Yes! Rose’s family was a bit larger in the original manuscript.) I was so happy when Elizabeth didn’t ask me to cut Rose’s aunt Ruthie, stating “Aunt Ruthie is the true tragedy in this family.” My thoughts: Yes! She totally gets this story!

When the rough-and-tumble character Shorty Cooper showed up in the sequel, A Sky Full of Stars, I absolutely loved him (He reminds me of some of my cousins!). But I was pretty sure Elizabeth would say he was too rough for middle grade and would ask me to cut him out of the story. I braced myself for this “suggestion.” Instead, Elizabeth loved Shorty as much as I did!

Elizabeth, what makes you fall in love with a character?

Elizabeth: Oh, that’s a hard question! I guess my short answer is that I end up falling for characters A
Sky Full of Stars—which you should!—you’ll recognize Shorty and think of someone in your life.
who are complicated—the ones who make choices that I can’t predict but that I can ultimately understand. In the cases of Shorty and Aunt Ruthie, I connected with them because they were both unique and universally relatable. If you read

Closing thoughts from Linda: As you can see, Elizabeth and I pretty much have the same vision for my stories. And the characters that I love to write—but am afraid no one will like—are the main characters that she loves to read. How could I not continue to work with her on future stories, especially if I’m going to continue to write stories about Rose Lee Carter and the pre-civil rights era Mississippi Delta? This, my friends, is why (and how) my editor became my agent.

Closing thoughts from Elizabeth: Thanks for this opportunity to talk writing, agenting, and Linda Williams Jackson!

Links for Linda:
Website: http://www.jacksonbooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaWJackson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004166352429
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lindawilliamsjackson/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14987480.Linda_Williams_Jackson

Links for Elizabeth:
Website: http://www.sll.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elizbewley/

Linda has generously offered a hardback of MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day and the whole week. The play that I am producing and running Front of House for my boyfriend has it's first show on Thursday that week.

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Friday, March 2nd I'll be participating in the Lucky Is Reading Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, March 7th I have an interview with debut author Jen Petro-Roy and a giveaway of her MG contemporary P.S. I MISS YOU

Hope to see you on Monday!

BRENDA RUFENER INTERVIEW and WHERE I LIVE GIVEAWAY and IWSG POST



Happy Wednesday Everyone! Before I get to my interview today, I have my IWSG post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Optional Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

That's an easy one for me. I write fantasy, and I love the magic and different worlds with fairies, elves, magical creatures, etc.. If I could go into a world like Harry Potter and live, I'd love it! So at least by writing about it, I can pretend that all this magic exists. And fantasy stories tend to be plot-based, which is something I like to focus on in my writing too.

What about you? What do you love about the genre that you write in?`

Now onto my debut author interview. Today I’m excited to have debut author Brenda Rufener here to share about her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE. I’m excited to read it because it deals with homelessness, something I feel passionate about like. This sounds like a strong story told in a realistic and sensitive manner that’s gotten good reviews.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

From debut author Brenda Rufener comes a heart-wrenching and evocative story perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, Girl in Pieces, and All the Bright Places.

Linden Rose has a big secret--she is homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea's life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.

Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea's story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she's worked so hard to keep.

Hi Brenda! Thanks for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

So great to be here, and thank you for having me. I am a technical writer turned novelist, mother of two, and an advocate and volunteer for homeless youth. I’d been writing stories since I can remember, won a few creative writing awards as a teen, and majored in English in college. I attribute my publication journey to the experience I gained as a tech writer. It’s where I learned to manage tight deadlines, meet daily or weekly word count goals, and view writing as a career instead of a hobby.

2. I love that you started as a technical writer because I'm a contract writer. It gives me hope that I can make the leap. Where did you get the idea for WHERE I LIVE?

Linden’s character lived with me (in my mind) for a while. My family went through a stage of
housing insecurity during my early teen years and for a short time, we were essentially homeless–waiting for a rental to come up that we could afford. Money was tight and we stayed with relatives and slept on couches. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I remember friends wanting to come over and hang out, but I was always saying no, embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t have my own room, or home for that matter. In fact, I was sleeping on a relative’s couch, sharing the living room with the rest of my family. I didn’t have it as tough as some homeless teens, but in writing this book I was able to draw on personal experiences, pull from emotions and insecurities that I had as a teen living on the brink of homelessness.

3. Those must have been hard experiences to draw on. I know that you are a passionate advocate of homeless youth from your bio. Share a bit about this and how you drew on this when writing WHERE I LIVE.

The main character, Linden Rose, is partly inspired by a group of incredible women I spent time with in college as a volunteer for a literacy program. I worked with young women facing adverse circumstances, many of them homeless. These women were tenacious, unwilling to give up, even in the face of incredible adversity. Drawn to their persistence and positivity, I wished teen-me had known these women when I faced a similar situation. I may not have felt so alone in my experience. Where I Live is a tribute to those strong and resilient women.

4. Your book has been getting great reviews as a sensitive and realistic portrayal of Linden Rose, your main character. Share how she developed as a character. What advice do you have for others trying to write about a character that may be going through some sensitive problems, like homelessness, abuse, etc.

Much of my research on homelessness came from working with homeless teens. The personal experience I had with homelessness allowed me to draw on my own struggles and insecurities, but having worked with homeless young adults gave me a different perspective.

If you don’t have firsthand experience with a sensitive topic you are writing on, research is critical. Read nonfiction and fiction portrayals, volunteer, meet people who can help shape you as a writer by showing you their situations. Then seek readers who will help you avoid stereotypes, tired tropes, etc., and always offer to pay your sensitivity readers.

5. That sounds like such a fantastic experience to work with these teens. I don’t feature that many contemporary authors. What are keys to a good, riveting contemporary plot like yours?

For years I thought world building only applied to fantasy, but it’s just as important when writing contemporary. To me, the best novels draw the reader into the setting. Whether that’s building a fictional town and giving voice to the people who live there or creating an atmosphere that the reader gets lost in, world building is essential.

My books tend to be character-driven. I find knowing my characters, their motivations and desires, are critical to plot. Building a riveting, contemporary plot requires the writer to sit back at the scene level and ask if that character would really say or do what you’ve added to the page.

6. What was something that surprised you about working with your publisher? Why?

How it takes a village to publish a book. From your editorial team to sales and marketing, the number of hands involved in bringing a book to the shelf astounds me. When I was a kid, I thought books magically appeared on the shelves. Not exactly. I’m also amazed at the work that goes into creating the cover. The jacket changed a few times for Where I Live. We had remarkable graphic designers and amazing artists help create the perfect cover.

7. Looking back on the time from signing with your agent and your book release, what are essential marketing and building your social platform steps you did or wish you did during this time period?

Valuable advice I received early on in the publishing process was to find a social platform you enjoy. Some authors are amazing at Twitter while others share the most beautiful Instagram photos. Finding a place that feels good to you matters. Currently, I am bouncing back and forth between Twitter and Instagram and spending a bit more time on Instagram. It’s a happy place.

8. I've heard that advice too that you should focus on what you enjoy. What are you working on now?

I’m excited to share my next book, coming in 2019, Since We Last Spoke. You’ll meet Aggi and Max, two teens torn apart by unimaginable pain and guilt over the loss of their siblings. This is another book close to my heart that focuses on a love that’s desperately trying to survive, in spite of everything coming against it. I’ll be sharing more about this book in upcoming months.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Brenda. You can find Brenda at:

Twitter:  @BrendaKRufener or https://twitter.com/BrendaKRufener
Intstagram: @BrendaRufener or https://www.instagram.com/brendarufener/
Facebook: @BrendaRufenerAuthor or https://www.facebook.com/BrendaRufenerAuthor/

Brenda has generously offered an ARC of WHERE I LIVE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day and the whole week. The play that I am producing and running Front of House for my boyfriend has it's first show on Thursday that week.

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

Q & A WITH AGENT PETER KNAPP

Happy Monday Everyone! I'm excited to have agent Peter Knapp here from Park Literary & Media to answer some of your questions.  You can read his updated Agent Spotlight to learn more about what he's looking for in submissions.

1. What's the first thing that turns you off in a query letter?

Hopefully nothing! In truth, though, when a query fails to excite me, it is usually no one problem but instead an issue of the pitch failing to come together as a whole. It’s similar to how I evaluate manuscripts that I am considering: I’m not looking at any one area of craft (just world building or just pacing or just characterization, etc.) but instead how all of these work in concert with one another. The elements of your query need to coalesce in a similar way: are you giving us a character we can care about; are you defining the core premise of the story in a way that is compelling; are the stakes clear; is the tone of the query exciting and fitting for the premise and genre? I know, I know: agents are hard to please (it’s our nature—and certainly one of the reasons we are in the business of negotiating), but so are readers.

If I do have specific query turn-offs, they are: opening with rhetorical questions; too much space spent on talking about the themes of the story or the inspiration behind it; a lack of focus to the premise (aka, lots of plot threads are dropped into the query but it’s unclear what’s at the center of them all or how they braid together).

2. What does 'I just didn't love it enough' really mean? 

I’m not sure how helpful this is, but it really means just that.

Think of your own reading tastes. Do you remember that book that everyone was saying they LOVED and you can hear the caps in their voice? But then you bought your copy (they wouldn’t lend you theirs—it was too precious) and with great excitement jumped in, only to think: really…this? Or think about a novel that is so near and dear to your heart that you carried the paperback around like a talisman for weeks after finishing it. But when you asked your friend what they thought of it three whole weeks after telling them they HAD to read it so that they might understand you better, your friend answered, “I’m only on chapter three but I’m liking it so far,” and all you can think is, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” because it’s clear they will never finish it, it’s clear that they don’t get it—what’s worse still, that they don’t get you.

I’m sure hearing from an agent that this business is subjective can sometimes feel like they’re just finding a way to be kind while turning you down, and perhaps they are, but it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong: this business really is rooted in the opinions of individual readers. One agent’s “I didn’t love it enough” is the next agent’s, “This is my heart in book form.” I’ve passed on manuscripts that have gone on to sell in big deals and that are beloved by readers. I’ve been the only agent to offer on manuscripts that have gone on to sell in big deals and are likewise beloved by readers. Keep writing, keep querying, and don’t worry if one agent didn’t love it enough – they’re just not your reader, and that’s okay.

3. World building is a huge category. If an agent says, 'work on world building' What are they most likely talking about? 

World building is a huge category, and so they might be talking about any number of things within it. All I can say without reading a specific manuscript is that two of the big issues I frequently see with world building are too much world building that isn’t rooted in narrative, or world building without clear and consistent rules.

The first issue—too much world building that isn’t tied to story—has to do with info dumps and too much exposition, especially in the beginning of the book. Often, writers feel the need to tell too much about their world in the first chapters before it is relevant to the story and its characters, and so it begins to feel like our story is being interrupted by little encyclopedia entries. This is a problem for a few reasons: first, it can kill the pacing in the beginning of the book, before you’ve fully hooked your reader, and so you risk losing them; second, it makes it so that the reader is overwhelmed with information and receiving it in a way that doesn’t “stick”. In The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gotschall talks about how people’s brains have evolved to learn through narrative: we remember facts when they’re part of story better than when we get them in isolation. So, if a reader tells you that they “don’t understand how that spell works in chapter 15,” you might be inclined to defend the manuscript by pointing to a long section in chapter three where it is explained in detail, but don’t be too quick to dismiss the reader as inattentive; the problem may be that you didn’t deliver the information in an exciting, narratively driven way such that your reader is more likely to retain the information.

The second problem—not having clear and consistent rules—is a big one with stories that have magic systems. Magic systems have to be airtight and the rules of magic should be established relatively early in your book. A problem I often see in fantasy is that a character will find themselves facing some dire problem, and lo and behold, suddenly the magic is able to do something new that allows them to escape their situation (often they just have to concentrate hard or access some deep emotional connection to their magic so that they can access new and previously unknown powers). This always feels a little like cheating because it isn’t grounded in the rules that were previously established for the world and so it feels like the magic system is being twisted to help the plot along rather than forcing the character to do something truly clever within the confines of the established rules. It’s just too easy, and it ruins the credibility of the world building.

4. Do you judge the project by the query alone, or do you also read the first couple of pages sent before coming to a conclusion?

Another person asked a similar question: “At what point do you stop reading and hit the reject letter?” I will answer both here: as soon as I decide the book is not for me. Sometimes, this happens with the query letter…the premise doesn’t intrigue me enough or the story doesn’t have a focus or it feels too close to something on my list or there’s no emotional hook to the query (which is really critical for me). Often, I decide to pass once I’ve started the sample pages: the writing doesn’t do it for me for one reason or another. And sometimes, I request a manuscript and read beyond the first ten sample pages but discover that as I keep reading, I begin to lose steam because the plot meanders (this happens a lot in second acts) or the pacing feels sluggish or the story jumps the shark somehow—or often some combination of problems. In any case, as soon as I realize that the submission has lost me, I reject it. This doesn’t mean, though, that as soon as I see a problem in a manuscript, I reject it. If there’s a problem but the manuscript still has me hooked, it is often because I have the editorial vision to know how to fix it, and so I am still excited to be reading it and will even start taking notes to go over with the author.

5. Why might you or another agent request a partial vs a full, or vice versa? If there might be interest, why not just go ahead and request the full?

Honestly, I’m not sure – with my queries, I always request full manuscripts if I’m interested!

Thanks for all your advice, Peter!

Here's what's coming up:


Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE and my IWSG post

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day!

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!




FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy Friday Everyone! I hope you are having a good start to your year and are reading some great books. I'm definitely reading more right now and enjoying it. I am excited to be participating in the For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck In Books.

Just want to remind you of my Monday debut author interviews and guest posts that include a giveaway. I also have agent spotlight interviews with literary agents with query critique giveaways for aspiring authors. Please take advantage of this all and enter my contests.

I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered. Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA. If you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.



To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through February 15th telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 5th I'll have a Q&A with agent Peter Knapp

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE and my IWSG post

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day!

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Wednesday, February 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Carrie Pestritto and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Friday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:











GWENDOLYN CLARE INTERVIEW and INK, IRON, AND GLASS GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Gwendolyn Clare here to share about her YA fantasy INK, IRON, AND GLASS. It sounds like a fantastic story with diverse characters, a page-turning plot, and an amazing world. I can't wait to read it. Before I get to my interview, I've got two things to share.

WriteOnCon Is Back

WriteOnCon is back! It's an online conference, and this year's conference is Friday, Feb. 9th through Sunday, Feb 11th. It looks really good and has a lot of good agents and writers. I think I'm going to go. The new organizers do charge a fee, but the maximum is $15.

LoveAtFirstChapter

LoveAtFirstChapter is a new online service launching on Feb. 14th by some YA authors who are friends. You can sign up to receive free first chapters of YA books and if you are an author, submit your book to them. If they like it, they may offer your first chapter too.

Now back to my interview with Gwendolyn!

Here’s a blurb of her book from Goodreads:

Can she write a world gone wrong?

A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation by her mother—a noted scriptologist.

But when her home is attacked and her mother abducted, Elsa must cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative 19th-century Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of pazzerellones—young people with a gift for mechanics, alchemy or scriptology—and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and a tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.

In this thrilling debut, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created—and only she can stop it.

Hi Gwendolyn! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

In college I was very focused on becoming a scientist. I double-majored in biology and geology, and in winter I practically never saw the sun because of all the labs. But then I took a year off before grad school and had some time to breathe, and that's when I started writing seriously with the aim of publication.

2. That's awesome that you were able to take a break and write like you wanted. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I'm a big fan of the Myst video game series, and I wanted to write a story about an artificial world that explicitly addressed the parallels to colonialism. This idea began as a short story about Elsa's mother, but as I was writing it I realized that the implications for the next generation were fertile ground for a novel. So Elsa became the protagonist, and that entire story became backstory.

3. What a fun way to come up with a story idea. I love your world building. The scriptology, magic ink, and steampunk sound really unique. What was your world building process like?

The Agatha Heterodyne law (or the inverse of Clarke's law) states that any sufficiently analyzed
magic is indistinguishable from science. My world-building process leaned on this principle -- scriptology is effectively portal magic that has been analyzed and harnessed into a scientific discipline. That's my speculative element, from which the rest can be extrapolated.

So how would Italian history change if scientists had access to magical abilities? Probably the biggest world-building challenge was figuring out how to not send all of European history completely off the rails. For that I needed a secret society of scientists whose primary goal is to keep their amazing skills away from the political field -- a goal which may not always align with Elsa's mission to rescue her mother.


4. Wow! You're making me wish that I had a science background like you. In INK, IRON, AND GLASS, scriptology is a branch of science. Did you draw on your scientific background in creating your story? If so, how?

My love of science definitely influenced the decision to write a novel that centers a bunch of mad scientists as main characters, instead of casting the scientists only as villains. But real-life science is often slow, meticulous, tedious work that wouldn't make for very compelling reading, so it was actually a challenge to strike the right balance between realism and reader expectation. I hope the story communicates the excitement of science without getting too bogged down in the frustration of it.

I did draw on computer science as a direct influence when figuring out how scriptology should work. While I couldn't make that connection explicit in the book -- there aren't any computers! -- scriptology functions a lot like an object-oriented programming language, where ink is the code and the universe itself executes the program.

5. Your story has been described as a real page turner with a fantastic plot and plot twists. Are you a punster or plotter and how did that work for you when writing this story? Share some of your plot secrets with the rest of us.

I used to think I was a plotter, until I met serious plotters and realized they actually wrote down their outlines. (Weirdos.) So I'm somewhere in the middle of the spectrum -- I like to know where the story begins, where it ends, and a few of the major set-pieces I need to hit along the way before I begin drafting. More of a plot skeleton than an exact road map. While I still mostly identify as a plotter, I also believe that no outline survives contact with the first draft, nor should it.

The best plot twists arise organically from decisions the characters make. Surprising the reader with plot twists isn't the most important part; the most important part is that the twists feel consistent and believable in retrospect. To set that up you need a deep understanding of your characters, which you may not have yet at the outlining stage. So I do like to leave room for the characters to run off in an unexpected direction, and not cling too tightly to the original outline.

6. I'm more of a plotter like you, so your advice is really helpful. Tell us a bit about Elsa as a character. Was there anything that surprised you about her?

lsa's a socially maladjusted introvert who's too smart for her own good -- which makes her probably the most similar to teenage-Gwen of all the characters I've written. But she does still manage to surprise me, because her homeworld is so different from Europe and she's observing everything with an outsider's perspective. I set the novel in Italy partly because I'm half Italian, and there's something particularly delightful about Elsa's mental commentary on a culture I identify with.

7. You’ve also written a lot of short fiction, poetry, and flash fiction. Did any of that help you with writing your novel?

When I was teaching myself how to write for publication, I exclusively worked on short stories for the first couple years. Short fiction is a great training ground for developing your craft toolkit. While not all of the techniques transfer over to novels, short stories have the advantage that you can practice the whole process -- drafting a beginning, middle, and end; revising; even submitting and dealing with rejections -- all with a relatively low investment. So my time focusing on short fiction absolutely prepared me both to write the novel, and also to survive the (occasionally soul-crushing) submission process.

8. Your agent is Jennifer Azantian. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I landed an agent the old-fashioned way, through the query process. (And you can too, I promise! There's only three ways to stop being an aspiring writer: you quit, you die, or you get published.)

That's not to say it wasn't a struggle. INK, IRON, AND GLASS was the fourth novel I completed and queried. Partly it was a matter of improving my craft with each project, and partly it was a matter of getting the right material in front of the right agent at the right time. I also did an epic quantity of research on how to write query letters and on the agents themselves, so I could aim my queries in the right direction. Even after you sign with an agent, the need to keep yourself informed about the business side of the industry never goes away, so best get used to it now!

9. That's great to know that querying works! I saw on your website that you went to the Baltimore Book Fest and the SWFA Nebula conference this year. How did you arrange those events? How else are you spreading the word about your book?

Some YA book festivals are pretty exclusive and your publicist has to wrangle you a spot, but with science fiction and fantasy conventions, it's often just a matter of volunteering to participate as a panelist. I don't know that I'd recommend festivals and conventions as the best return on investment -- the travel expenses add up quick -- but if you enjoy going to cons, then the promotional and networking opportunities are nice side-effects.

I am also promoting in the usual ways -- a blog tour, a local release party, etc -- but the truth is that writers don't sell books, at least not directly. Readers are the ones who determine which books become successful. So my philosophy is to focus on having genuine interactions (online or in meat-space) with other people who are passionate about the genre, and hopefully some of them will fall in love with my book and advocate for it.

10. What are you working on now?

I've just finished a draft of the sequel to INK, IRON, AND GLASS, so while I'm waiting on editorial comments, I'm giving the creative coffers time to refill.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Gwendolyn. You can find Gwendolyn at:
Website: www.gwendolynclare.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gwendoclare
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gwendolynclare/

Gwendolyn has generously offered an ARC of INK, IRON, AND GLASS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 10th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Friday, February 2nd I'm participating in the For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 5th I'll have a Q&A with agent Peter Knapp

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE and my IWSG post

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day!

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Hope to see you on Friday!

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MOLLY O’NEILL AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Molly O’Neill here. She is a literary agent at Root Literary.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi Molly! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Molly:
1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I actually became an agent exactly two years ago this week! This week also marks my 15 year anniversary of working in the kids/YA publishing industry. So while I’m on the newer side as an agent; I have a deep background in the industry and bring a lot of different skill sets to my approach. The first 5 years or so of my career I worked on the Marketing and Publicity side of the business at Clarion Books and later at HarperCollins (it feels like yesterday, but it was such a different time! We were all trying to understand what these new-fangled things called blogs were. And I spent many a phone call telling authors that, yes, it would be a good idea if they set up a website so they could be found on the internet); then I moved to the Editorial side the industry for a number of years (some of which were particularly intense years, since one of the first projects I signed up as a young HarperCollins editor was a dystopian trilogy by a then-unknown author named Veronica Roth! :)

After working as an editor , I briefly side-stepped into a 2-year stint at an Executive at hybrid tech/publishing start-up; when that role ended I knew I wanted to come back into books, but from a different angle than any of those I’d already explored. Agenting seemed the natural way to bring all those seemingly-disparate layers of my career together, and I dearly love the work of building books and bookmakers and careers all at the same time.

About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Root Literary is a new agency founded by veteran agent Holly Root. Currently there are three of us full-time: Holly, Taylor Haggerty, and myself. Our clients benefit from our proven skills in identifying talent, negotiating advantageous deals, and advocating for our books all the way from submission to publication. We offer our clients broad-based industry insights as well as individualized strategic thinking to empower each author to define and pursue their own unique path to success. We love what we do, and we do it best in partnership with authors who combine skillful storytelling with the drive to build a lasting body of work. We’re also a future-focused agency, borrowing tools and systems from the tech, sales, and start-up industries to help maximize the impact, efficiency, and global reach of the work we do on our clients’ behalf.

What She’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent middle grade and YA, both fiction and nonfiction. I represent illustrators who do work across the full publishing spectrum (picture book illustrations, jackets/covers, spot art and interiors, etc). I represent a number of illustrators who are also authors. And while some of my author clients write picture books, they typically work in other genres, too; I’m not actively seeking clients who only write picture books. I also selectively represent clients in a handful of adult genres/categories.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I love a book that makes me laugh, in any category. I’d also be thrilled to add a great love story to my list, one that feels sweeping and epic and memorable, with stakes that somehow rise above ordinary high school life. Epic friendships, vibrant settings and/or smart world-building thrill me, as do stories that play with our accepted notions and understandings of things like memory, time, faith/belief, science, or language in unexpected ways. I’m on a perpetual hunt for magical realism (and authors who understand that magical realism isn’t just a synonym for fantasy); for stories that bend and meld genres; and for dance/theatre/arts-themed books, or any story that pulls the curtain back on a microcosm of tween/teen experience. And it’s vastly important to me that the books on my list thoughtfully represent the diversity of the world that and uphold the common dignity and humanity that we all share; if that’s something you’ve likewise aimed for in your writing, you should send it my way!

What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I’m not seeking picture book texts unless you are also an illustrator. Otherwise, I’m pretty open, and it thrills me to no end when I get surprised by/fall in love with books or types of stories that I didn’t even know I was looking for, so I’m hesitant to put too many parameters on my inbox.

Agent Philosophy:
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

A dedication to the craft of writing always impresses me: I like to say that a common thread between all of my clients is that they are perpetually growing, evolving, and challenging themselves to become better authors and illustrators today (and tomorrow!) than they were yesterday. I also think it’s important that my clients care as much or more about the young readers they’re writing for than they do their own fame or success -- that sense of purpose can help steady the course when a client might otherwise lose heart or get frustrated by the inevitable highs and lows of a creative career.
As an agent, strategy guides me -- the strategy looks different for each of my clients, because the work that each one is doing is different, but if you’re my client we will always spend time thinking and talking about the why behind each of the choices we’re making about your career. I also care about helping my clients to thrive as creatives and successfully balance the complex layers of having a creative/professional/sometimes-public life, so we tend to talk often about navigating the many steps of one’s career as an author/illustrator beyond the first “yes.”

Editorial Agent:
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

Yes & no! Having been an editor for a number of years, editorial muscles are ones that I can flex easily. However, as an agent, the kind of editorial work I’m doing is very different than an editor  will later do, and just because I was once an editor doesn’t mean I’m trying to overstep my role & do their jobs for them. Most of my “editorial” work would better be described as early-stage developmental work -- trying to help the author/illustrator identify the heart of the story they are telling and how that awareness should impact the shape of the narrative. That same understanding of what the creator feels is most important about their story in turn guides me when I think about who would be the right editors to submit to, who would potentially know how to support that author and/or illustrator’s work. I’m also using my knowledge of the industry’s trends, evolution, and history to help a reader think about how to set apart their story in distinctive ways, so that it has the best possible chance at finding a publishing home, and, ultimately, readers.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?


9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Not a dislike, but I do have a preference, if you’re a novelist. If you have one readily available, please send a synopsis along with your query and first ten pages (and since someone will surely wonder: the synopsis “counts” separately; you don’t have to reduce the sample pages to less than ten to include the length of your synopsis); it’s not essential, but I do find it a useful tool. And this is definitely a personal taste--my colleagues Holly and Taylor don’t find synopses useful in nearly the same way I do, which just goes to show that there are a million different kinds of readers, even among publishing professionals.

Response Time:
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I’ve just re-opened to queries this week after moving over to Root Literary, so I don’t have a precise gauge on this yet.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:
11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Yes, but with the caveat than an author has to be willing to see self-published work with new eyes. If you’re inviting agents and publishers into the process, it requires a different flexibility than working own your own. Traditional publishing means a collaborative process, which in turn often means re-thinking and re-defining what it means to reach an audience and tell a story that resonates. For authors who have published with smaller presses, their next book likely needs to be one whose themes will connect with a larger audience (rather than being niche or overly regional) in order to successfully make the leap to a larger house.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

If anything, I think the role of an agent has become more important, in helping clients navigate the myriad of possibilities and determine how best their goals can be served by the different possibilities available to them. I also think that agents tend to have an granular understanding of the industry and its players and evolutions--historical, present, and future--from being immersed in it day after day, year after year, that’s hard for a writer to gain from the outside looking in, and that expertise is part of what an agent shares with their clients.

Clients:
13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent:
       Remarkable educator and Nerdy Book Club / Nerd Camp co-founder Colby Sharp. (His debut, THE CREATIVITY PROJECT, comes out in March so you should all go pre-order it right now!);
       Ambassador to School Libraries and great friend to book creators, publishers, and readers alike, John Schumacher (AKA Mr. Schu);
       Middle grade author Lynne Kelly whose utterly wonderful SONG FOR A WHALE comes out in March 2019;
       Debut Iranian-American YA Author Adib Khorram whose DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY should be one of your most anticipated reads of Fall 2018;
       Temre Beltz whose middle grade THE SECRET STORY OF BIRDIE BLOOM is one of the books I most want to travel back in time & give to my own past kid-self (Winter 2019);
       Author-illustrator and naturalist Emily Dove, who is currently illustrating SPENCER AND VINCENT, a tale of two jellyfish brothers coming in Spring 2019;
       Debut author K. J. Reilly’s WORDS WE DON’T SAY, a powerful contemporary YA;
       Insta-famous illustrators like Taryn Knight (AKA Taryn Draws) and Joy Hwang (AKA Mom is Drawing); and other artistic author/illustrator talents like #KidlitChat co-moderator Blythe Russo; writer/maker/educator Emmy Kastner;
       and many others you’ll hear about soon!

Links and Contact Info:
15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.


Additional Advice:
16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

Give yourself permission to take creative risks; they can pay off tremendously! And even if they don’t, you’ll have grown as a writer/illustrator by stretching yourself, and growth can only get you closer to your goals!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Molly.

Molly is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through February 3rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com
Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

CALL FOR QUESTIONS FOR AGENT PETER KNAPP

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Peter Knapp, an agent at Park Literary & Media, has generously agreed to answer some of your questions. You can read his updated Agent Spotlight that he recently approved to see what he's looking for. Please leave your questions for Peter by the end of Wednesday, January 24th. Peter will pick questions to answer that I will post on Monday, February 5th.

Here's your opportunity to ask your burning questions. Hope you'll take advantage of it.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 22nd I have an Agent Spotlight Interview with Molly O'Neill and query critique giveaway

Monday, January 29th I have an interview with debut author Gwendolyn Clark and a giveaway of her YA fantasy INK, IRON, and GLASS

Friday, February 2nd I'm participating in the For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 5th I'll have a Q&A with agent Peter Knapp

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE

Hope to see you Monday!