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Tip Tuesday #52

I have another quick tip from Kay Em Evans.  Please give her blog a visit.  She has a series of great interviews!

If anyone ever attends a writers' conference, I would suggest approaching agents the first day there if you plan to pitch to them. Or, at least approach as many as you can, shake their hands. To me, this seemed counterintuitive. I thought it would be best to let everyone get settled in, relaxed, see my face around the conference -- then pitch to them days 2 and 3. I was also, admittedly, a little intimidated my first day. I wanted to feel everything out.

By days two and three, though, the agents were exhausted (having been hosting workshops AND getting pitched to by every attendee there). 

I think agents are definitely exhausted by the end of a conference, but if a natural meeting doesn't occur on day one, don't sweat it!  I imagine they're happy to meet writers even on the last day if it's done in a friendly, professional manner.

What about you, readers, what experiences have you had in approaching agents at conferences or similar events?  I'm curious!  Thanks for the tip, Kay!

Public Critique: Lori's Query

You guys gave some great input on Lori's synopsis!  She's super appreciative and would love it if you'd take a look at her query as well.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

BREATHE
(query)
By Lori Johnson

Dear (specific agent name):

Seventeen-year-old Taylor stumbles into chaos with an angelic face and an Irish brogue.  Breandán turns out to be an angel with a vindictive family. And they have no tolerance for humans, especially her. She holds the power to destroy them.

Breandán casts a spell over Taylor, and she dumps her boyfriend. An elderly friend that lives in the nursing home where Taylor volunteers declares Taylor is the Heir and gives her a bracelet that could start a war between the legions of angels and demons. Her friend dies before Taylor learns the power of the bracelet, and why Breandán and his family are terrified of it. Little does Taylor know that she is nothing but a pawn for an evil conspiracy determined to destroy the angels.

Breandán is temporarily banished from Earth for loving a human, which gives the demons their chance to obtain the Heir’s power. The demons need human hosts, and Taylor’s ex-boyfriend and his friends succumb to their lure. Girls from the community disappear, including one of Taylor’s friends. What Taylor doesn’t know is that she’s next. After Taylor betrays her ex and reveals the demon within him, the demons declare open warfare on the angels. Somehow Taylor must find a way to save her friends and Breandán, even if it means her own death.

I am querying you because (personal touch here). My YA paranormal romance, Breathe, is complete at 90,000 words. Per your submission guidelines I have (followed directions here). Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, (personal info follows)

Agent Spotlight Update

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to let you know that Stephen Barbara's profile is back up and he's looking for some great new talent.  You can view the updated profile by clicking here or on his link in the sidebar. 

Best to all who query!

Agent Spotlight: Mary Kole



Mary Kole is no longer a literary agent. Do not query. Please refer to her post on Kidlit for details:

http://kidlit.com/2013/07/31/switching-gears/

Awesome Peeps, Big Thanks

Writer JD Betts recently e-mailed wanting to know if she could feature my blog on hers, Sit. Desk.Write.  I said, "of course!" and here it is.  Thanks so much, JD!

I've also been collecting reviews, recaps, and takeaways of WriteOnCon.  I haven't had time to thank you all individually, so I wanted to put a big THANK YOU here and share your posts with others. 

Kelly Hashway's Blog - WriteOnCon Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
The Bluestocking's Blog - WriteOnCon Recap.
The Saucy Scrivener - Favorites from WriteOnCon.
Get Back, Loretta - Freaky Friday: WriteOnCon Edition.
Something Else to Distract Me - The Best of WriteOnCon.
Steven K. Griffin's Blog - WriteOnCon and Stuff Around the Web.
Northwriter - Friday Photos:  WriteOnCon and Weasels.
Routines for Writers - The Method of Finishing.
Seeing Creative - Cool Links Friday.
Layinda's Blog - WriteOnCon - The Gift that Keeps on Giving.
This Mom is Overdunne -  Humble Pie and Hard Drive Errors.
Harry Potter for Writers -  WriteOnCon -- My Notes.
Adventures in Children's Publishing -  WriteOnCon Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.
(W)ords and (W)ardances - Favorite WriteOnCon Posts
Sparkly Adventures in Writing Right - Shout-Out to the Girls Over at WriteOnCon.
Jay Eckert's Sharpened Pens:  What I Learned at WriteOnCon.
Writing Up My Life - Gratitude Smunday 21.
The Graceful Doe's Blog - WriteOnCon Follow Up.
Tess Quins' Blog - Keep Writing!
Cynde's Got the Write Stuff:  My Quick Review of the WriteOnCon Conference
The Open Vein - Fab-Five Friday & A Big Thank You.
Dancing with Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes - WriteOnCon Favorites: ...
Sandy Carlson's Writing Blog - WriteOnCon Part I, Part II, and Part III.
Dancing Down Serendipity Street - I <3 WriteOnCon.
AbsoluteWrite - WriteOnCon.
Christine Fonseca - WriteOnCon is HERE!
The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment - WriteOnCon Query Contest.
Tara McClendon's Blog - Thoughts on WriteOnCon. 
An Alleged Author - WriteOnCon!
The Sharp Angel - WriteOnCon 2010 Day One, Day Two, Day Three.
Inky Fresh Press - WriteOnCon & Book Giveaways.
Suzanne Lilly - Do you WriteOnCon?
Writers and Technology - WriteOnCon Post Mortem.
A Heart on a Write - WriteOnCon FTW.
Heather's Odyssey - WriteOnCon Highlights
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan - WriteOnCon Recap.
Rebecca's Writing Journey - What I Learned from WriteOnCon.
The Writing Room - What I Learned from WriteOnCon about Queries.
Writing. For Real. - WriteOnCon Aftermath.
Shades of Grey - WriteOnCon Recap.
Elizabeth May - Why I am "Trunking the Manuscript"
Day By Day Writer - WriteOnCon
Chronicles of a Writer's Life - What's Your Weakness.

I know I'm still missing a ton.  If you've recapped, reviewed, or blogged about WriteOnCon, please leave a link in the comments and I'll add it to the list!

Tip Tuesday #51

Today I have a great tip from Carolyn Flower who is newly agented.  Congrats Carolyn!  Check out her blog at Fanfreakingtastic.  Here's her tip!

Informing Your Manuscript, or, How to Use Your Friends and Strangers

I may be projecting, but I think it is common for writers to retreat into the worlds we're building and become insular in our thinking. This was true about myself, anyway. Over the last year and a half, however, I've definitely seen the benefit in looking outward for help in the writing process. In my completed ms, I'd written a mentally ill character. I was worried my portrayal wasn't accurate, so I asked a good friend who is a psychiatrist to read my manuscript. She gave the depiction of schizophrenia a thumbs up, but had some very interesting comments to make about the psychological state of some of the other characters. This experience prompted me to recruit readers with a wide variety of expertise. Another friend, a self-described redneck, was generous enough to read through and correct the hill country slang in my ms. He also made unexpected story contributions.

I am now working on a new ms. Having experienced the benefit of outside input, I have been in the business of interviewing experts to bolster the authenticity of my manuscript. What I've found is that people are only too happy to get a free lunch from a stranger and discuss what she's passionate about. I've met with a forensic anthropologist, medical entomologist, a parasitologist and a social worker. Each of the scientists invited me to her lab, and in the case of the forensic anthropologist, that means observing unidentified skeletal remains! (I am a major science dork, in case you can't tell.) I am hopeful I will get to meet with the city's medical examiner next.

While all of these conversations have improved my knowledge base, broadened my vocabulary, and made my story more real, the unexpected benefit has been the best of all - the gift of voice. All of these people are fascinating, and their demeanor, their words, their personalities, have informed my project. I now know I will always go through this process when shaping a story, even a non-technical piece. Interviews are fantastic creative spark producers.

In conclusion, as writers, we know we should have work critiqued by other writers, and peer review is hugely important. But what I've found is that input from experts can help bring your story to life, both early on through interviews and at the end, through manuscript critique. All you have to do is ask nicely and offer free food. 

This is awesome, Carolyn.  It sounds like you've been having some interesting lunches!  I'm way too shy to approach strangers for research info, but maybe I'll get the guts eventually.  This is very inspiring and encouraging.  Love the advice to have them read the manuscript as well.  Thanks!

Public Critique: Lori's Synopsis

Hello everyone!  Today I'm posting a synopsis for critique.  If you have the time please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  We all know how challenging synopses are!  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page

BREATHE
(synopsis)
By Lori Johnson

TAYLOR MICHAELS has an amazing boyfriend, is envied by her friends and is the most popular girl at South Forrester High School.  She has no reason to want her life any other way; her life is perfect. 

But one January day, she stumbles upon the new guy at school, Breandán, and is immediately obsessed.  He is not only physically perfect, but mystical as well, even if he is a little full of himself.  Taylor is drawn to Breandán’s intensity and devotion, but loyalties and fear of the unknown pull her back to Erik, her current boyfriend.  Erik and his friends are aware she is attracted to Breandán and deem him a threat.  

While worrying over the Erik/Breandán dilemma, she seeks solace in routine.  Taylor is an artist and volunteers at a local nursing home where she teaches art lessons to the residents.  Taylor adopts one of the residents, Miss Champion, as a surrogate grandmother.  Miss Champion, ranting about an Heir and The Five Guardians, insists Taylor take her prized possession – a charm bracelet.  Breandán confronts Taylor about the bracelet. He is distressed she is wearing it and tells her she can’t possibly be the “Heir”, leaving her with more questions than answers. 

Breandán admits he can’t stay away from Taylor even though he should.  She suspects he can’t possibly be human.  Even with warning bells going off in her head, Taylor succumbs to Breandán’s spell and breaks up with Erik.  What she doesn’t know is that her choice has awakened a silent conspirator hell bent on destroying Breandán and his family.  She is nothing but a pawn in a plan to crush Breandán’s prophecy.   

Taylor meets Breandán’s family where she learns the bracelet represents the keys to the Gate of Darkness and to the demons that guard it.  She has the power to open the gates; all she has to do is choose the demons.  Breandán and his family are “guardians of the Aingeal – angels amongst humans” from the Realm of Light.  Breandán breaks the laws of his kind by loving a human and puts his world and powers in jeopardy.  Breandán’s mother betrays him to the Elders of Light and he is banished from Earth, leaving Taylor alone and vulnerable. 

Feeling off-kilter, she seeks Erik for companionship, which only intensifies her internal conflict.  She loves them both, but Breandán is gone and nothing will ever be the same.  She returns to her previous life and friends aware her heart has grown cold.

Breandán’s mother, poisoned by her betrayal and fearful for her family, compromises her role as leader of the guardians and returns Breandán to Earth.  Taylor is once again at an impasse; she can’t be with either Breandán or Erik.  But Breandán’s world continues to draw her in and she is unable to stay away.

Eventually Taylor faces the reality of her choosing her angel.  Breandán is in a precarious position. He must confront the risk of falling from grace with his own people and become as a human.  Taylor knows she must give Breandán up; she will never let that happen to him. 

Through a series of nightmares, Erik and his friends succumb to the demons from the Gate of Darkness and are threatening Taylor’s life.  Teenage girls from the community disappear, including one of Taylor’s friends.

Breandán and his brothers confront Taylor and tell her Erik has been taken over by a demon.  Taylor is the only one who can expose Erik and his friends for who they have become.  Taylor betrays Erik to the angels and is almost killed in the process.  The demons retaliate by declaring war on the angels.
With Taylor’s life in the balance and the existence of Solas threatened, the angels battle with the demons in order to save Taylor and their own world.  Taylor risks her life and rushes into the battle determined to save both Erik and Breandán.  Her love for Erik forces the demons away, but Breandán is wounded and one of his brothers is dead.  Breandán returns to his homeland in order to heal and Taylor is forced to remain with his vindictive angel family.  As we leave her, she is falling into a world of guilt and regret while she waits for her angel’s return.  This ending is intended to form the basis of a sequel and conclusion titled Prophecy.

Query Critique Contest

Hey everyone, one of our most active critiquers during WriteOnCon, Ishta Mercurio, is having a query critique contest at her blog, Musings of a Restless Mind.  She did a fabulous job in the forums, so I'm suprised to see so few entrants in her contest.  I'm hoping to send a few more her way.  It ends TOMORROW, 8/20, at midnight so you better get over there quick!

Ishta's work has appeared in KNOW: the Science Magazine for Curious Kids, and she's gotten a lot of positive feed back on her queries.  Natalie Fischer pointed her query out as a good example of a picture book query during WriteOnCon, and one of the YA queries she critiqued in the practice forum caught the attention of one of the agents during the actual event (revised!).

It's a great opportunity to get an extra opinion and set of eyes on your query.  Thanks for checking it out!

Agent Spotlight: Michelle Humphrey

This week's Agent Spotlight features Michelle Humphrey of the Martha Kaplan Agency.

Status: CLOSED to submissions as of 12/12/12.

Michelle Humphrey About: Before returning to the Martha Kaplan Agency where she was an agent 2009-2010, Michelle Humphrey was with International Creative Talent and Sterling Lord Literistic. Prior to these stints, she worked as an assistant for Renee Zuckerbrot Agency then Anderson Literary.  She has also worked as an English Teacher, proofreader, and Freelance Book Reviewer.  Her reviews have been published in Bitch, Bust, and The Women's Review of Books.

Web Presence:

LinkedIn.

Twitter.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:

Genres/Specialties:

Fiction: Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Literary, Commercial.

Narrative Non-Fiction: History, Pop-Cultural Criticism, Women’s Studies. (Link, Link)

From a Conference Bio (2012):

“She is particularly interested in historical middle grade / YA and multicultural stories, and would love a teen noir or an edgy murder mystery for teens.” (Link)

From an Interview (07/2012):

“Middle grade and Young Adult contemporary. Also, I'd love a murder mystery, something intricate, like an Agatha Christie YA or middle grade. I'm also looking for non-fiction picture books -- perhaps a biography about someone from the 20th Century who accomplished something important, but who appears to be a bit overlooked by the history books.” (Link)

From an Interview (02/2011):

“I'd love a middle grade or YA that takes place in turn-of-the-century France. I'd love an alternate history, or a steampunk. I'd really dig a retelling of Shakespeare.” (Link)

From an Interview (01/2010):

"What I'm looking for in YA: character-driven young adult fiction—mostly contemporary and historical. I'll consider paranormal—I do get several queries a week pitching supernatural stories, but I haven't found the right project yet. I'd love to work on a "futuristic dystopia" novel—something with very empathetic characters. I'd also be into a steam-punk novel, or some quirky new take on avatars. (That said: I'm not a sci-fi fan per se, but I like the occasional sci-fi element.) As for memoir, I like coming of age/humorous memoir. Something geared to a young female audience." (Link)

From an Interview (10/2009):

"I'm drawn to teen heroines. It seems like all the great battles happen for them: girl versus family, girl versus boy, girl versus best friend from childhood, girl versus popular crowd, girl versus Evil Creature of the Night. Who can resist?" (Link)

"I especially love World War II history and 20th-century history in general. If characters are likeable and dimensional, I could get into any kind of historical context, but 20th-century history is probably my favorite." (Link)

"I'm open to anything [middle grade], especially stories that are character-driven." (Link)

From an Interview (02/2009):

"I’m looking for YA (contemporary, historical, romance, quirky – not really genre fantasy, but I’m open to fantasy elements) – anything with a distinct voice. I am especially fond of subversive heroines – characters who break the rules and aren’t afraid to set themselves apart from the crowd." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

High fantasy or sci-fi, poetry, dramatic works, short story collections, adult fiction and non-fiction that do not fall into the above specifics. 

Quotables:

"Embrace rejection! Wink at it, laugh, maybe bake a rejection pie. You'll get there -- why not have fun along the way?" (Link)

"The most common problem is that the writing feels a little clichéd (i.e., it's something I've heard before, and it's not particularly vivid). Or, I just don't get a sense of a story happening. Even character-driven stories, I think, need a clue of the drama right from the beginning." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes, as needed. "If I love the voice, the plot, the characters, or the concept of the story, then I’ll talk to the author on the phone, and if I feel we could be a good match together – if we’re sharing the same vision for the work – then, yes, I’ll work with the author in revising." (Link)

Clients:

Carolee Asia, Kelly Easton, Margarita Engle, Monica Gallagher, Rhonda Hayter, Denise Jaden, Carolyn Kuehn, Laura Lacamara, Kekla Magoon, Tracy Marchini, Janice Margolis, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Tracey Martin, Jen McAndrews, Cady McClain, Kate Super, Roger Trott, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).  

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Please note, as of 12/2012, Ms. Humphrey is no longer considering queries.

Query Tips:

“I like them short and sweet: a quick teaser, a quick bio. I like queries that give me a sense of the writer's personality and style.  I think it's a great idea for writers to workshop queries with their writer groups.” (Link)

"I am drawn to very concisely written queries – query letters shouldn’t include a synopsis, but rather a description of the story that resembles the blurb on the back of a book – and there should be a certain amount of personality in that description – it should demonstrate that the author has really studied her craft, and knows how to write." (Link)

Synopsis Tips:

"I am pro-synopsis - no more than three pages, though. Not a fan of synopses in the query." (Link)

Response Times:

Fast!  Ms. Humphrey has a stated response time of three weeks on queries and 2-4 months on requested material. She often responds within days. If you do not hear back after the stated timeframe, you're welcome to check in with her (info via e-mail). 

What's the Buzz?

Ms. Humphrey is developing a list of clients and sales with a focus in YA lit. The clients I’ve spoken to absolutely love working with her.  She recently went back to working at the Martha Kaplan Agency after a year at ICM.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Contest Winners and Interview with Michelle Humphrey at Operation Awesome (07/2012).

Agent Spotlight on: Michelle Humphrey at Write About Now (02/2011).

Agent Perspective: Michelle Humphrey of ICM at Class of 2K10 (09/02/2010).

Meet Literary Agent Michelle Humphrey at All the Write Stuff (01/2010).

Agent Advice Interview with Michelle Humphrey at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (10/2009).

Agent Interview:  Michelle Humphrey at Denise Jaden's blog (02/2009).

Around the Web:

Martha Kaplan Agency on P&E ($).

Martha Kaplan Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

Successful Queries: Michelle Humphrey and Losing Faith at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog (09/2010).

How I Got My Agent: Caroline Starr Rose at the Guide to Literary Agent's blog (05/2010).

Agent Appreciation Day post on Michelle Humphrey by client Denise Jaden (12/2009).

Agent Appreciation Day post on Michelle Humphrey by client Caroline Starr Rose (12/2009).

Client Caroline Starr Rose's agent story on her blog (11/2009).

Client Denise Jaden's agent story on her blog (11/2008).

Contact:

Please see the submission guidelines above for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 1/16/14.

Reviewed By Agent?  8/30/10.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Guest Blogger: Ryan Sullivan on Query Writing

 

Ryan originally sent this in as a tip and I thought it would make a great guest post instead. He has some fabulous advice on query writing.  I hope you enjoy it! 


When I first started querying, I was doing it based on Publisher’s Marketplace alone. I assumed that since my agent’s name wasn’t clickable on the agency website, it meant he wasn’t accepting submissions. In reality, it’s because he didn’t have a Publisher’s Marketplace page. I didn’t know about QueryTracker or AgentQuery or any of those other ones until much later.

So, I did a lot of querying. After a while, I found Literary Rambles--and my agent. I still didn’t query him though. I figured I didn’t have chance, but I also didn’t want to get rejected by him, because I had gone through the list of all of the other agents I felt passionate about querying, and if he said no, I’d pretty much be done. In the end, I got a kick of confidence and queried him and a brand new agent. Both requested fulls. When he called me, I instantly withdrew it from the other. I’ve come to believe now that finding an agent really isn’t about finding somebody accepts your work, but rather somebody who you can work with and really trust. It may take time to find an agent that it clicks with--but it’s worth it.

My point in all of this is, I went through lots of different queries. I researched it as thoroughly as I could. I read blogs, forums, interviews--anything I could get my hands on--and along the way, I developed an idea of what works. (I might add, although you probably already know it, that every writer and every agent is different. Be sure to adjust it to each agent.)

A few ground rules:

1. Be brief. I think a lot of writers (and I’ve been guilty of this in the past too) see agents talk about brevity and either think they can ignore it, that their query will be so interesting it can go on forever, or that brief means whatever you could jam on one piece of paper. Not so much. A query, I think, should be about 2-3 paragraphs (I’ll get down to what I mean here later, with lengths for each).

2. Be professional. Always address the agent as “Dear Mr/Ms. ___,” and always end it by thanking them. Don’t use language you wouldn’t use in addressing your boss’s boss/the dean of your school, etc.

3. Be clear. Don’t make the agent work to understand you. Say what you need to say as clearly as possible. Be syntactically tight and grammatically correct.

4. Do not use rhetorical questions. They’ll come off as snarky (Has your cat ever died in a smelting accident? Daisy’s did.), obvious (Have you ever felt depressed?), or you-tell-me (Can they find the magic sno-cone before it’s too late? You tell me.)

My formula:

First paragraph:

Really, paragraph one and two are interchangeable, but I prefer to put the synopsis first. Here’s my reasoning: The synopsis is the most important part--if the agent isn’t interested in the premise of your book, it’s an instant no. So, if you put it first, either they read it, don’t like it and don’t have to bother with the rest, or they read it and are more interested as they move into the technicals. It’s a win-win.

Your synopsis should be tense, tight and just enough to get them interested. Don’t bombard them with information. You don’t need to introduce all plot lines, all characters or all settings. Keep this brief. I would say 4-6 sentences is ideal, but I wouldn’t recommend more than 8 (or more than one paragraph) for any reason. Also, conjunctions can be your friend here--they allow you to make things more tense, as well as allow you to prioritize things (I did a post on Conjunctions on my blog, the Writers Arsenal--see that for more specific advice).

Second Paragraph:

You need to do a couple of things here (all in 3-4 sentences):

Technicals--word count, title, genre--you got this.

Place yourself in the market. You don’t need to be an expert in the market, but show that you’ve read what you write. Don’t shoot for trends, but if your book has a market, you should know it.

Tell why you are qualified to tell this story. I’ve read this advice in several places, and I love it. This isn’t about your credentials, but about you. What makes you have a unique view on this story. (You can also put this in the third paragraph if it fits better.)

Personalize the query here if you can. If there’s a specific reason you’re querying this agent, or something about their clients that relates to you, feel free to mention it.

Third Paragraph (optional):

Tell about yourself. Do you have any school/job related experience that might qualify you to be a writer? Every agent wants different information about your background, so say what you need to say--in 1-2 sentences.

My Query (which got me a partial from a publisher, 2 fulls, and eventually lead to my representation):

[First paragraph synopsis redacted]

My YA romantic comedy, Operation: Hey Jude is complete at approximately 60,000 words. Recently, "boy" books like Jake Wizner's SPANKING SHAKESPEARE and John Green's PAPER TOWNS have gained incredible popularity, and I believe that's because the fit in a vein that is under-represented. While books by authors like Maureen Johnson are expertly written and hilarious, boys often won't read books with pink covers and pictures of girls on them. I also believe that since I am more near my teens than some authors, I have more of current understanding of teen life, and that comes through in my novel.

As for my credentials, I am a student at the University of Redlands, majoring in English Literature.
Thank you for your consideration,

And there you have it.

Tip Tuesday #50

I have another great Tuesday Tip today. Kay Em Evans sent this one in. Make sure you stop by her blog. She's been doing a great series of interviews and the most recent one was with award-winning author Nancy Werlin.  Here's the tip!

I participated in a pitch workshop at the conference where we worked on our verbal pitches (since we'd be verbally pitching agents there). One thing that really stood out was this: It's not always about "strict accuracy" in the pitch. It's about conveying/evoking a visual image in the agent's mind.

For instance, the agent giving the workshop (Laurie McLean) made a suggestion to one writer, explaining she should use a comparative to another book. I, unfortunately, can't remember the name of the book, but it involved unicorns. I talked to the writer off-to-the-side, and she said she wasn't going to use Laurie's suggestion because her main character wasn't a unicorn. She was missing the point. The book Laurie McLean named wasn't supposed to be a comparative with all the exact details as her book. It was supposed to evoke a certain visual image in the agent's mind.

(By the way, I spoke with the writer later; based on what she said, I don't think she received any requests from agents at the conference. I wondered to myself whether this had to do with the fact she refused to take literary agent Laurie McLean's advice.)

I think this could likewise be applied to queries. Of course you don't want to site things in your query that aren't really in the story, or are flat out lies. That would be very bad. But sometimes I get so wrapped up in the specific plotline that my query starts to ramble. Instead, I should be focusing on evoking an accurate VISUAL IMAGE in the agent's mind -- instead of focusing on telling the agent what the specific/accurate/actual plotline is.

Since I've been doing this, I've been able to cut my query pitch to 3 sentences. AMAZING for me, since I am quite obviously a rambler. :-)

Make sense??

Hope this helps.

K

Great advice, Kay!!  You definitely don't want to get too detailed with your pitch.  Details and particulars make the mind wander.  The idea is to peak the agent's interest, whether through a great plot hook or well thought out comparison.  Something concrete they can latch onto and visualize. 

WANTED: Beta Readers for Lori

Hi everyone!  I hope you had a great weekend.  I did some catching up on school work and blog stuff, but I had plenty of time to spend with my family, too.  It was lovely.

I have a WANTED ad today for Lori Johnson who is looking for beta readers for her YA novel.  Check out her details and excerpt below.  If you're interested, please e-mail her at lodjohnson (at) comcast (dot) net.

Hi. I'm looking for beta readers who are writers as well. Three teen girls have read my novel and they love, love, love it (Their words, not mine). What I'm looking for is an objective opinion and someone who doesn't mind telling the truth. I'm willing to return the favor. Following is an excerpt from the first chapter. If anyone is interested, please let me know. Thanks.

BREATHE
By Lori Johnson

The first time I met him, it wasn’t an accident. I didn’t know it was a planned chance meeting. He chose me and it didn’t take much for me to reciprocate. I only had to see him once. Once was enough. I fell for him and fell and fell, but he knew I would. I never had a choice. That’s what happens when he’s omnipotent and you’re not.

Dark rolling clouds passed over. Erik pulled me closer; the biting January winds chilling me through my down jacket. No one thought to go inside. This is what we did every morning – hung out in the senior parking lot until the first bell rang. Our group of friends was compact and closed to new entries. We’d all known each other since we were little kids. Sounds boring, I know. But when you live in a transient town like Greenston, Georgia, locals stick together.

“I’ve got to see Coach,” Erik said as he stroked my long hair. “See you in English?”

“Yeah, sure, I . . .” I began. His lips closed over mine, kissing me breathless.

Easing back; my face hot, I tried to remain casual. “Erik, not here. People are watching. Later.”
He blew out a stream of air, dropped his arms and mumbled words I couldn’t, and probably didn’t want to hear. I reached for him to make things right, but he turned away, probably to teach me a lesson. He sauntered off, waving at the lowly ones he felt were worthy of his attention.

“I’ll miss you,” I called after him. He turned and grinned.

That chiseled body. The tousled blond hair and piercing blue eyes. I couldn’t get enough.

“I’m gonna throw up,” Courtney groaned; making gagging sounds. “How can you be so romantic? You two are boring. Just go ahead and do it.”

I narrowed my eyes, tossed my hair over my shoulder and said under my breath, “Sure, that’s your answer.”

Courtney grinned. “Okay, okay, okay. Taboo subject – but you have no idea what you’re missing.”

“Court,” I warned. “Just because I love you as my best friend and just because you’re Erik’s cousin doesn’t give you the right to butt in . . . If he’s happy, why can’t you be?”

“You do what you want. I’m telling you, as your very best friend who knows a little something about the subject, it isn’t normal for an eighteen year old guy – it’s all they think about. Understand?”

“This is not a subject I’m willing . . .”

“Oh my gosh! Would you look at that?” Courtney cried. Her eyes were peeled toward the lower parking lot.

“At what?” I followed her gaze. A guy, I hadn’t noticed before, was practically slinking as he slid out of a

Porsche and walked toward the school. He appeared pretty cute from where I stood, and Courtney sure was in a heated tizzy.

She grabbed my elbow and dragged me toward the door. “Did you see that guy?” she babbled. “I’ve never seen anyone that hot!” I assumed that was a good thing, and I was sure I’d never hear the end of that.

At the same time Courtney babbled about the hot guy at school, the other two girls in our little group, Olivia and Sarah, AKA Beauty Queen One and Two, ran up to us. “Did you see him?” asked Olivia. “Got-a-mighty-damn! Too bad I’m taken.”

“There are no words; no sonnets – more like male perfection,” sighed Sarah. The tittering conversations continued until a second warning bell pierced our ears.

WriteOnCon Farewell and Thanks

I'm guessing you've seen this elsewhere by now, but here is the final 2010 WriteOnCon vlog, our farewell...




Thanks so much EVERYONE for attending, bearing through the Dreaded 403, and generally just being AWESOME.  You guys were outstanding in the forum!  I mean, we hardly had to moderate at all.  You've been amazing.

Please feel free to read back through the archives if you missed anything.  The content is going to stay up all year, every year.  The forum too, though we will be moving some things around. If you want a chance to have me or one of the other organizers critique your query, we have a contest going on until Sunday at midnight EDT.  You can find that here. Make sure you keep an eye on the WriteOnCon blog for upcoming news.  I'm afraid you can't rid of us until 2011.  We have PLANS.

That said, it's definitely been a CRAZY week and I have to... uh... go pay attention to my kids now.

<3333

Agent Spotlight: Steven Chudney

This week's Agent Spotlight features Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency.

chudney_agency About: After more than fifteen years in book publishing, Steven Chudney founded The Chudney Agency in 2002, specializing in children's books. Previously he held various sales and marketing positions at Viking Penguin, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and Simon and Schuster where he was the first marketing director and then director of licensing and brand development. His last publishing position was with Winslow Press where he held the position of Senior Director of Marketing, Sales & Subsidiary Rights. He has sold and marketed every type of book imaginable to wholesalers, independent bookstores and chain stores, and his work experience has given him strong contacts with editors and art directors in the industry.

For his complete bio, see The Chudney Agency website.

Status: Accepting submissions.

What He's Looking For:

Interests: Children's picture books (author/illustrators only) through young adult as well as select adult material including general wonderful fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and some humor. He is not looking for fantasy, paranormal, or nonfiction for children or adults.

From the website:

"At this time, the agency is only looking for Author/Illustrators (one individual), who can both write and illustrate wonderful picture books. The author/illustrator must really know and understand the prime audience's needs and wants—the child reader! Storylines should be engaging, fun, with a hint of a life lesson—and cannot be longer than 800 words.

"With chapter books, middle grade and teen novels, I’m primarily looking for quality, contemporary literary fiction: novels that are exceedingly well-written, with wonderful settings and developed, unforgettable characters.

"Some favorite authors of mine are Gary D. Schmidt, Sharon Creech, Polly Horvath, John Green, Garret Freymann-Weyr, Lisa Yee, Sarah Dessen, Mark Zusak, E.L. Konigsburg, Ann Martin, Sara Zarr, Janet Tashijian, Gabrielle Zevin, Blue Balliett, Christopher Paul Curtis and Cynthia Kadohata. On the adult side, John Irving, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, Joanna Trollope, Donna Leon, Sue Monk Kidd, Sarah Waters, and Oscar Hijuelos, are favorites.

"I am completely open to all kinds of subjects, including coming of age, gender, faith and spirituality (but not religion) and humor, etc. I am also interested in books that cover cultural issues, both here and abroad—I grew up in Israel and so love books about the Middle East. And I’m open to all other genres like mysteries and historical fiction (see below).

"I do love historical fiction. But note that due to lack of publisher demand, I'm not looking for Civil or Revolutionary War era novels. Also, Dust Bowl and Depression era novels aren't of interest now, as well as novels about the slavery era too, which are not in great demand right now (unless they are highly unusual and superbly written.)

"I'm looking for historical fiction that will excite me, young readers, editors, and reviewers, and will introduce us to unique characters in settings and situations, countries, and eras we haven't encountered too often yet in children’s and teen literature." (Link)

From an Interview (11/2007):

"I like all the different age categories, especially middle grade and teen novels. Here I really love a meaty, wonderful novel with great and memorable characters. I tend to shy away from genre or 'hot,' trendy type books. I'm not a fan of fantasy and must be one of the few agents not looking for any of that or science fiction. So, to use gardening terminology (I just moved into my first house ever), I prefer to work on novels that will become perennials, rather than annuals." (Link)

If you're interested in the adult projects he's interested in, see this page on the agency website.

What He Isn't Looking For:

Fantasy, science fiction, trends (i.e. vampire or gossip girl type books), picture book text or illustrations (unless you're an author/illustrator), board books, novelty or lift-the-flap books, leveled or early readers, fables, folklore, traditional fairytales, poetry, 'mood pieces,' stories for 'all ages,' message-driven stories, non-fiction, most adult novels, plays screenplays, film scripts. (Link)

"Due to lack of publisher demand, I'm not looking for Civil or Revolutionary War era novels. Also, Dust Bowl and Depression era novels aren't of interest now, as well as novels about the slavery era too, which are not in great demand right now (unless they are highly unusual and superbly written.)" (Link)

Editorial Agent?

"I am very involved. I read and critique every manuscript that leaves the Agency for submission, whether it's a picture book or a novel. I comment on voice, character development, storyline--the whole gamut." (Link)

"I do get involved editorially on all my clients' manuscripts, both picture books and novels. I routinely work with my clients on as many revisions as it takes to bring out the best in every manuscript. Once I've placed a manuscript with a house, I then switch gears and begin to work with the client on marketing, promotion and sales concerns." (Link)

Quotables:

"I have as much contact as is needed. We communicate heavily via email, but I also schedule lots of phone chats, especially with my novelists. I like to consider what I have with my clients a partnership, and I value good communication and trust between us. I've become very friendly with some clients, not quite friends, but enough that our friendship certainly takes the hard business edge off our relationship." (Link)

About the Agency:

"After more than fifteen years in book publishing I founded The Chudney Agency in 2002, specializing in the wonderful world of Children's books. [...] I have had the good fortune to work with new and established writers and illustrators, pairing them with the right editor at the right publishing house, and guiding and managing their careers. Working with sub-agents covering TV and film rights, as well as foreign language agents in key territories and countries all over the world, I continue to be excited about the opportunities for my authors and illustrators." (Link)

Peeves/Dislikes:

"Writing that really isn't ready to be submitted, sloppy presentation, and manuscripts that aren't properly formatted. Also, it never is a good idea to submit material not requested by the agent--make sure you send what was requested." (Link)

"I don't like receiving material I don't handle (like fantasy), or messy/disorganized submissions, or receiving incomplete submission packets. It seems lots of folks don't know how to properly and professionally represent themselves. And folks that vaguely refer to their submission as "stories" even if they may be novels--rather than be very specific about the category. And those that call their novels "fictional novels"--all novels better be fiction!" (Link)

Web Presence:

The Chudney Agency website.

SCBWI.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker, & AuthorAdvance.

Clients:

A client list is available on the Chudney Literary website. Clients include:

Authors:

Jessica Alexander, Mary Jane Beaufrand, John J. Bonk, Julie Bowe, Dia Calhoun, Dorian Cirrone, Jan Czech, Tanita S. Davis, Elizabeth Stow Ellison, Tess Hilmo, Debbie Reed Fischer, Stacey Goldblatt, S.A. Harazin, Lisa Harkrader, Deborah Lynn Jacobs, Kristen Landon, Diane Les Becquets, Wendy Lichtman, Alice McGinty, Taylor Morris, Susan Heyboer, Leda Schubert, Michael Spradlin, Julie Stiegemeyer, Gaby Triana, Barry Varela, Amy Brecount White, Cynthia Willis, among others.

Author/Illustrators:

Jason Deeble, John Campanaro, Carol Baicker-McKee, Carlynn Whitt, Jeffrey Weigel, among others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Mr. Chudney is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 14 deals in the last 12 months, 1 six-figure+ deal, and 55 overall. Recent deals include 5 middle grade, 5 young adult, 2 picture books, 2 humor.

Mr. Chudney was a Top 20 Picture Books Agents in Publisher's Marketplace as of August 6, 2010.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: Yes.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

NOTE: Mr. Chudney will not review any submissions that do not follow his guidelines. Check the WEBSITE for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Picture books:

Snail-mail up to two dummys with full text and art, or art samples, with at least 3-5 full-color page. Do not send original art. Include a brief bio and a SASE if you want materials returned. Indicate if you're working on a new project. Include the full submission history (to editors, not agents).

For e-queries send a query ONLY.

Chapter books - Young Adult:

Snail-mail the first 50 pages or so (round to nearest chapter), a 2-page (max) synopsis of the entire novel, and a cover letter with a brief bio (do not send a resume). Make sure you indicate the age level and/or genre, word count or page count, and briefly describe the next novel you're working on or thinking about. Include prior submission history to editors (not agents).

For e-queries send a query ONLY.

Query Tips:

"The ideal cover letter should be pretty brief (no more than one page, and not in six point typeface!) and tell me a little about the project being submitted--just enough to whet my appetite. A brief and relevant bio about the writer is needed, too." (Link)

Response Times:

Mr. Chudney has great response times. It seems he usually responds to queries within a week, maybe two for snail-mail, and within a week to a month on requested material.

What's the Buzz?

Steven Chudney has a strong list of authors and sales, and is refreshingly clear on what he is and isn't looking. I've seen more than one client describe him as "fantastic" and "communicative," which suggests he's attentive. However, since posting this profile in 2010 I've received two negative reports (see comments) that he drops clients when they don't sell as expected. Prospective clients should take note and proceed as desired.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Interview with Agent Steven Chudney at Writing Snacks (2009?)

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency at Cynsations (02/2008).

Agent Interview: Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency at Cynsations (11/2007).

Around the Web:

Agent Appreciation Day posts by clients Judy Palermo and Amy Brecount White.

The Chudney Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

Steven Chudney on P&E and The Chudney Agency on P&E.

If you're interested in client stories and small bits of praise, look through Google blog search. Here is one that stood out to me by Tess Hilton.

Couple pictures and some notes including Mr. Chudney from a 2008 SCBWI conference at Judy Bryan's blog.

A few notes on Mr. Chudney from a 2005 SCBWI Iowa conference at Michele Reginold's blog.

If you have a MediaBistro account, there is a "Pitching an Agent" article on The Chudney Agency there (2004).

Contact:

Please see The Chudney Agency website for contact and query information.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Tip Tuesday #49

Well, you know I'm going to suggest you register and participate in WriteOnCon, right?  But I also have a fabulous tip from Racheal today.  Check it out!

Note: this trick only works for Firefox users. Apologies to Internet Explorer and Safari users. There is a Chrome extension for WiseStamp as well. There are tricks that you can use with certain email providers to do the same thing, I just don't know what they are.

I send a lot of emails and a lot of them are queries which are basically just the same, slightly-tailored letter over and over again. I keep them pasted in a Word document for easy access. Now I have an even easier way.

Firefox has an add-on called WiseStamp. It allows you to create multiple signatures and easily insert them to a wide variety of email programs including Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, and more. It also allows you to create signatures for other things such as Facebook, Twitter, and AIM.

Just download the add-on and a little icon will appear in the bottom right corner of your browser. Click on this and click "Edit signature." Put what you want your canned email to be in the box on the page.

Now to insert the canned email, just open up a new message on your favorite email program. A similar icon should appear above the text box. Just click on it, click on the name of the signature you want to insert, and there it is! All you have to do is make the required tweaks, put in a subject and address, and hit Send. =D

Unfortunately it seems that you can only have two signatures (default labeled "Personal" and "Business" though this can be changed) so you could do two different forms of your query, or do one plain query and one query with sample pages. 

What a neat add-on, Rachael! I could see that being really useful. Once you send a test query to yourself and get it all dialed in you shouldn't have to worry about formatting or typo issues either, just personalizing the query.  Awesome!

WriteOnCon Back Up!

It looks like WriteOnCon is back up for most people.  It may take a little longer for the rest of you.  Let me know (in the comments) if you're still having trouble.  Also, if you've left a comment on my blog for one of the WriteOnCon posts, PLEASE go leave it on the main site, if you have the time.  The presenters are more likely to see them there, and I want them to know they're appreciated.

Thank you!  After things have settled down, I'm going to boost today's Tip Tuesday back up.

ETA:  The website goddess is saying to close and restart your browser.  If that doesn't work, maybe try clearing out your cache/cookies.  If that doesn't work, just give it some more time. We had to switch servers and it's taking awhile for everything to get smoothed out.

Elana is still posting the content up on her blog here:  http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/

HEY!  If you still can't get on to the WriteOnCon site we have a backup chat HERE for tonight's LIVE panel at 9 PM EDT.  You'll be able to see and send questions just like the people on the WriteOnCon site!

WriteOnCon: Bringing the Funny

Site supposed to be up within the hour.  Here's the latest post!

Wow. Can you believe we have the amazing Rachel Hawkins here? She's the author of HEX HALL, one of the best YA novels I've read this year. Yes, I might be a little biased. Whatever. She's frawesome! She's here to tell us how to bring the funny to our writing.

Bringing the Funny


I never set out to write funny books. When I first sat down and started on the book that became HEX HALL, I was convinced I was writing a dark mystery full of DEATH and BLOOD SACRIFICE and all sorts of other things that were IN NO WAY COMICAL.  Yes, my book would be like if Anne Rice and Flannery O’Conner had a baby (You know. Through science.) I would pose for moody author photos, wearing lots of eyeliner, and maybe some black velvet. Okay, so I hadn’t owned anything black velvet since an unfortunate flirtation with the Goth look in 9th grade, but whatever. The point is, I would write spoooooky books full of Angst and Danger.

Then I sat down to write. In my opening scene, I had a girl, Sophie Mercer, arriving at a creepy boarding school with her mom. It’s August, and the school is located on an island off the coast of Georgia, so the humidity is pretty intense. As they get out of the car, Sophie’s mom asks her what she thinks about the place. Sophie’s reply? “Awesome. I always wondered what it would be like to live in someone’s mouth.”

I stared at that line.

I deleted it.

I wrote it again.

I looked at it some more.

“Okay,” I thought . “So my Super Dark Book O’Death starts with a joke. Big deal. It’s kind of a smart-ass joke, so that’s acceptable. It’s not like The Funny is taking over or anything.”

So I kept writing, finally getting to the end of Chapter 1, where a werewolf attacks Sophie. “Yes!” I thought, fingers flying over the keys. “Werewolf attack! Nothing funny about that!” But as the werewolf charged Sophie, preparing to rip her throat out, did my intrepid heroine scream a four-letter word, or an awesome disemboweling spell? Nope. Sophie opened her mouth, and out came: “BAD DOG!”

This time, I didn’t even bother with the delete button. I closed the whole document and walked away from the computer. For the next few months, I tinkered with HEX HALL, the voice in my head going, “No one wants funny in their paranormal. It’s like the opposite of peanut butter and chocolate. How many funny books featuring the BRUTAL MURDERS OF TEENAGERS have you read, moron?”

But here’s the thing: When I was writing a dark, serious, angsty paranormal, I wasn’t having that much fun. When I was writing about Sophie doing pratfalls, or making an inadvertent dirty joke to her crush, I was grinning at the keyboard. So I gave in. I wrote a Funny Book (that yes, just happened to feature the brutal murders of teenagers.)

Luckily for me, it turned out that people did want funny in their paranormal, and I learned a very important lesson about why it’s so important to be true to your own voice. Of course, it meant I had to return that black velvet ball gown to the store, but that’s neither here nor there.

So if you’re thinking about Bringing The Funny, the best advice I have is: DO IT. I wasted too much time being scared of The Funny!

As for more specific advice:

1)      If ALL your test readers think a joke isn’t funny, it probably isn’t. If it’s just one or two, though, keep it in. The Funny is HIGHLY subjective, after all!

2)      Make sure The Funny is in keeping with the rest of the book. For example, HEX HALL originally had jokey, faux-fairy tale chapter titles, like, “Wherein Our Heroine Cries Like a Dork, Uncovers a Mystery, and Makes Lifelong Enemies.” Now, I thought this was HILARIOUS, but it didn’t take me long to realize that those chapter titles really, really clashed with the tone of the book.

3)      Have fun with all kinds of humor. I love a good witticism as much as the next gal, but then, a well-timed physical gag makes me crack up, too. Remember there are lots of types of funny, both big and small. Use all of ‘em!

Rachel Hawkins is a 30-year-old former teacher who left teaching to take a chance and get serious about finishing that book she’d always wanted to write. Her first book, HEX HALL, was the result of that leap of faith. She’s a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama and lives with her husband and four-year-old son. The second book in the HEX HALL series, DEMONGLASS, comes out March 1, 2011. Rachel is currently hard at work on the final book in the HEX HALL trilogy.

WriteOnCon: Demystifying Illustration

Still getting the site fixed.  Getting closer.  Here are the 9:00 am EST posts!

The Illustrators of Studio 5 join us for a three-part series on Demystifying Illustration. First they discuss "Plussing the story."

PART ONE:



PART TWO:



PART THREE:

WriteOnCon: Myths & Misconceptions!

Hey all - here are the fab vlogs by Holly, Molly, and Martha to keep you happy while we work on the site! 

Have you always wondered what agents and editors are REALLY thinking? Tune into this amazing Q&A session with literary agent Holly Root and editors Molly O’Neill and Martha Mihalick. Don't miss this fascinating inside look at publishing!

Please note: We've posted this discussion in two parts due to it's length, but believe me you'll want to watch the entire thing. Enjoy!

P.S. Special thanks to Holly's husband Jon Root for his mad vlog editing/moderating skills.



Get Ready for WriteOnCon

Hey all!  The lovely Shannon Messenger wrote this up and I'm stealing it to share with all of you.  I can't beleive WriteOnCon starts tomorrow.  Are you ready?!?

As some of you may know (or I hope you do), about three months ago the seven of us teamed up with a bold and slightly daunting goal: to create a totally free online writer’s conference, mainly for kidlit writers–but everyone is welcome. Ever since, we’ve been working like mad to put together the best conference we possibly could, and I have to tell you guys: it is going to be AWESOME.

And it starts tomorrow! I can’t believe it’s finally here!!!!

No one is more stunned than us at how many amazing people we have contributing to the conference. Make sure you check out the unbelievable schedule we have posted:

http://writeoncon.com/about/schedule/

*all times EDT, LIVE events are noted in blue and will take place here. Content will take place on the main WriteOnCon site. Click here for more info about how this will run. Click here for information on the live events.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010:

6:00 AM: Welcome Keynote by author Josh Berk
7:00 AM: Refining Your Craft with Each Book by author Janette Rallison
8:00 AM: Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O’Neill
9:00 AM: Myths and Misconceptions by literary agent Holly Root, and editors Molly O’Neill and Martha Mihalick
10:00 AM: Illustrating Children’s Books by author/illustrator J.H. Everett and studio (series of 3, posted every 20 minutes)
11:00 AM: Bringing the Funny by author Rachel Hawkins
12:00 PM: Becoming a Career Author by literary agent Catherine Drayton
1:00 PM: Writing Middle Grade by author Jon Lewis
2:00 PM: Voice by literary agent Elana Roth
2:30 PM: Live chat with literary agent Suzie Townsend
3:00 PM: Writing a Query Letter by author Jodi Meadows
3:30: Joanna Volpe’s query critique
4:00 PM: Author Branding by author Shelli Johannes-Wells
5:00 PM: Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Revision by editor Kendra Levin
6:00 PM: Pie in the Face (how characters react to situations) by author Rosemary Clement-Moore
9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals chat LIVE (Elana Roth, Kathleen Ortiz, Martha Mihalick)
10:30 PM: Working with Agents and Editors, a live Workshop with literary agent Mark McVeigh

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


6:00 AM: Romance in YA by author Lisa Schroeder
7:00 AM: Plot and Pacing by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk
8:00 AM: Using an Independent Publicist by author Lauren Becker
9:00 AM: The Revision Process by author Cynthea Liu (series of 3, posted every 20 minutes)
10:00 AM: Transition From Self-Published to Traditional Publishing by author Jennifer Fosberry
10:30 AM: Joanna Volpe’s query critique
11:00 AM: Live blogging event: Queries with literary agent Natalie Fischer
12:00 PM: Creating Memorable Characters by literary agent/author Mandy Hubbard
1:00 PM: Reaching Out to Schools and Libraries Before You’re Published by author Stasia Ward Kehoe
2:00 PM: Sex in YA: The ABC’s of Hooking Up by author Suzanne Young
Live chat with literary agent Natalie Fischer
3:00 PM: Keynote Address by author Lindsay Eland
3:30 PM: Writing Genre Fiction by author Julia Karr
4:00 PM:  Do’s and Don’t’s of Querying by literary agent Kate Testerman
5:00 PM: Authentic/Edgy YA by author Kody Keplinger
6:00 PM: How to Make a Character Collage by author Tera Lynn Childs
7:00 PM: Live chat with literary agent Jennifer Laughran
9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals chat LIVE (Anica Rissi, Joanna Volpe, Suzie Townsend, Mary Kole)
10:30 PM: Building an Online Presence, a live Workshop with author Daisy Whitney

Thursday, August 12, 2010


6:00 AM: Writing With a Real Life by author Lindsey Leavitt
7:00 AM: Writing Advice from PJ Hoover and the Texas Sweethearts
8:00 AM: Writing Realistic, Captivating Dialog by author Tom Leveen
9:00 AM: How to have a Successful Author Event at a Bookstore by Calondra McArthur
10:00 AM: Q&A by literary agent Steven Malk
10:30 AM: Writing a Complete Story Even Though it’s Part of a Trilogy by author Michelle Zink
11:00 AM: From Submission to Acquisition: An Editor’s Choose Your Own Adventure by editor Martha Mihalick
12:00 PM: Transitioning from Adult to YA by author Risa Green
1:00 PM: Rhyme in Picture Books by author Tiffany Strelitz
2:00 PM: The First Five Pages by Kathleen Ortiz
3:00 PM: Writing Thrillers for Young Adults by author Kimberly Derting
3:30 PM: Picture Books and Easy Readers by author Shelley Thomas
4:00 PM: Staying positive in the face of rejections by author Crystal Stranaghan
5:00 PM: Avoiding Character Stereotypes by literary agent Mary Kole
6:00 PM: Creating New Mythologies by author Aprilynne Pike
9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals chat LIVE (Michelle Andelman, Molly O’Neill, Kate Testerman)
10:30 PM: The Revision Process from Both Sides of the Desk, a live Workshop with literary agent/author Regina Brooks

***

I’ve read/watched most of the materials they’ve provided and I promise you, they are fantastic. There is a wealth of information there–you’re going to love it. We’ve also built an awesome critiques forum where you’ll be able to post samples of your work for feedback. Not to mention several agents have been kind enough to donate personalized page critiques that we’ll be giving away throughout the conference like door prizes. Yeah–it’s going to be epic!

Which leads me to the real point of this post. I answer the WriteOnCon email, so I know a lot of you are wondering how it’s going to work, afraid you’re going to miss out. So here’s the general idea, to set your minds at ease:

Everything conference related is going to take place on the conference website:

http://writeoncon.com/

At the scheduled times, we’ll be posting blogs/vlogs from our contributors for you to read/watch at your own convenience. If you miss one, it’ll still be there when you get around to it. You’ll just have to look through the older posts. And you’ll be able to leave any questions you might have in the comments section of the post. We can’t guarantee that our contributors will be able to answer all those questions, but they’re going to try.
All of the live events (which, FYI, are any of the events with blue text in them in the schedule) will be taking place in the chat section of the website:

http://writeoncon.com/chat/

All you have to do is show up at the right time and join the event. To the best of our knowledge there will be no limit on how many people can attend (well, unless we get more than 25,000 people attending, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen) and everyone will have a fair chance at having their questions answered.

BUT–in order to keep things organized–all live events are going to be moderated, and here’s what that means. You will type your question into the chat bar and hit send. It will disappear, like it was sent, but it will not show up in the chat. That does not mean you need to send it again. I can assure you–we’ve tested it a million different ways–it went through.

What happened is that it’s in the queue (which only moderators can see), waiting for a moderator to send it to the agent or panel when they’re ready. So please–as someone who will be moderating several of the chats–I am begging you: do not keep sending your question over and over and over. We’re going to do our best to get as many questions answered as we can, and the more you flood the queue, the more it’s going to slow things down.

Want to increase your chances of having your question answered? Here’s some question asking pointers:
- Keep your question general. Remember, hundreds of people will be reading the chat, and their books are different from yours. Stick to questions that everyone will benefit from.
- Keep your question short. If it takes an entire paragraph for your question, it’s probably too in depth for the chat, and it’s just going to slow things down.
- Keep your question polite. All the agents/editors are donating their time and energy to the conference, so be respectful. They’re here to help, even if they rejected you at some point in the past.
We are planning to have transcripts made of all the chats and panels, but there’s a chance something might go wrong, so if at all possible, we highly recommend you be there for the live events, so you don’t miss out.

The final feature of the conference are the forums, which can be found at:

http://writeoncon.com/forums/

You have to be registered and logged in to use the forums, so if you have not already registered, I suggest you do so here:

http://writeoncon.com/forums/ucp.php?mode=register&sid=3979ccc4673e4783fc219bb38c473a79

In the forums you’ll find different threads where you can chat, hang out, enter to win door prizes, and post pieces of your work for critique. And we have a few, no-brainer rules for the forums:

- If you post something for critique, repay the favor by critiquing someone else’s work
- Keep your critiques helpful and constructive
- Do not harass the industry pros with PMs (private messages). They will tell us if you are, and then we’ll have to block that feature for everyone.
- Keep your language clean and always be respectful
-If you see anything untoward going down, please alert a moderator or email us

And that’s really it. We’ve done everything we can to make the conference as simple and user friendly as possible, and we’ll be around to answer questions if any problems arise. We have a huge number of people registered, so we’re looking forward to an awesome event, and we’re so grateful for your enthusiasm and support! Hope to see you tomorrow at WriteOnCon!!!!!

YA Fantasy Showdown

Hey guys!  I'm guessing you all know WriteOnCon starts this Tuesday (so excited!) but did you know there's another awesome event taking place?  The YA Fantasy Showdown, brainchild of YA writer/blogger Heather Zundel.  Here are the deets:

Something is going down. Something big.

How would you like to see Edward duke it out against Hermione? Or Katniss and Katsa? Well, guess what? You can, in the first ever YA Fantasy Showdown. In celebration of Suzanne Collin’s final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, a group of bloggers are pitting some of the best-known characters in YA in the ultimate showdown. And you get to pick the winner.

That’s right. You read the battles, evaluate the characters, and vote for who has the honor of moving on to the next round. It’s a tournament like you’ve never seen before (because there’s more). The authors have been asked to participate and advocate their character in writing their own version of the battle. It’s going to be truly epic. Or at least a good way to pass the time until Mockingjay comes out. It all goes down August 10th.

The pairings are already up on the website.  Cool, eh?  I hope you'll join in and vote for your favorites.  I'm really curious to see how this will play out!

Agent Spotlight: Jennifer Laughran

This week's Agent Spotlight features Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.

Jennifer Laughran About: "Jennifer began her career in agenting after working as a long-time children's bookseller and buyer. She is also the founder of the extremely popular YA event series "Not Your Mother's Book Club". She joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2007. Always on the lookout for sparkling YA and middle grade fiction with unusual and unforgettable characters and vivid settings, she is drawn to all kinds of books, whether realistic comedies or richly imagined magical adventures. However, the common thread in her favorite stories is an offbeat world-view. Jennifer adores simplicity, but she is not interested in the conventional, predictable, mechanical, gimmicky or ordinary. Jennifer loves funny books, thrilling books, romantic books, books that make her cry, and all-around un-put-downable books... and her true favorites are all of the above.

"Jennifer attends several conferences each year. Past conferences include Willamette, Writer's League of Texas, NE-SCBWI, Book Passage Children's Writers Workshop, and Big Sur Children's Writer's Workshop. She spends most of her free time... well, reading, what else?!" (Link)

Status: Accepting submissions.

What She's Looking For:

Interests:  "Children’s and YA only—realistic YA and middle-grade, humor, mystery, adventure, light fantasy and YA romance." (Link)

From her Bio:

"Always on the lookout for sparkling YA and middle grade fiction with unusual and unforgettable characters and vivid settings, she is drawn to all kinds of books, whether realistic comedies or richly imagined magical adventures. However, the common thread in her favorite stories is an offbeat world-view. Jennifer adores simplicity, but she is not interested in the conventional, predictable, mechanical, gimmicky or ordinary. Jennifer loves funny books, thrilling books, romantic books, books that make her cry, and all-around un-put-downable books... and her true favorites are all of the above." (Link)

From an Interview (06/2010):

"I would dearly love to see something that I have never seen before. I should rephrase that. Something AWESOME that I haven't seen before. I actually really like realistic middle grade stories, and teen stories about human teenagers. I wouldn't mind fantasy if it is really well executed historical-fantasy or adventure-fantasy. I like well-done mysteries and thrillers. I love a great romance. I am a sucker for unusual setting, and I like things to be upbeat -- Funny is great, bittersweet is great, but I am not into things that are depressing or unrelentingly bleak." (Link)

From an Interview (04/2010):

"Oh, I am always looking for sparkling, awesome Middle Grade & YA novels. I'd love to see more middle grade of all kinds - adventure, realistic, comedies, mysteries, and fantasy. And cool high-concept YA like Hunger Games. I am actually quite full up on paranormal/fantasy YA, but if something was truly unique I might still be interested." (Link)

From a Contest (04/2010):

"At the moment I have a yen for upbeat and fun books that remind me of Glee... not that it has to be set in show choir per se, but I'd love a fun MG or YA book set in a theatre, band camp, dance competition environment or similar.

"I'd also love an epic romance, along the lines of Jennifer Donnelly's TEA ROSE or GONE WITH THE WIND -- the kind of book that you get lost in and feel that you really know the characters, root for them, cry over them... I was thinking recently that an epic romance/alt historical set in South America might be really cool. Like, imagine EVITA as a YA book. This might be something that only lives in my own imagination, but, worth putting it out there. :-)

"Also I'd like a cool YA thriller, particularly one that is super-fast-paced and has a unique setting. But I am constantly surprised by the things that I fall in love with that I never expected to. So... you know, try me!" (Link)

From an Interview (03/2010):

"I would love some funny wonderful classic-feeling Middle Grade fiction, like THE PENDERWICKS or Andrew Clements. It is extremely hard to write.  I would also like high-concept, unputdownable, truly stellar but highly commercial YA.  Wouldn’t everyone?" (Link)

From an Interview (06/2008):

"I gravitate toward character-driven stories with a strong voice. A typical answer, right? I love books with ensemble casts, too, like those set in theaters or restaurants or big, busy families. My taste is eclectic--I like old-fashioned stories, family stories, comedies, mysteries, adventures, hybrids--and some books that don't have a category at all." (Link

What She Isn't Looking For:

Adult fiction, picture books, early readers, nonfiction, high fantasy, religious stories, or talking animals. (Link)

"Ugh. I am so NOT fascinated by trends. I am the opposite of fascinated by them. I would say 95% of my inbox at the moment is paranormal romance with some sort of creature (mermaid, selkie, siren, werewolf, unicorn, vampire, zombie, mummy, or some combo like selkwolf or mercorn) - and I am totally not interested, unless it is truly, totally genre-busting. I have enough. No more room at the inn! (Link)

Quotables:

"I am much more an email person than a phone person, though I do call when there is good news to share. I am an open book when it comes to the submission process and anything else. My clients know they can be in touch with me any time they like--I am a very communicative person, so I think they are satisfied that I am really here, and really paying attention." (Link)

"There is always a market for AWESOME." (Link)

About the Agency:

"We are a mid-size literary agency based in California celebrating over 2,000 titles sold. We bring the best of both worlds to the table—the personal client attention of a small agency and the clout of a larger one. We invest a great deal of care in each project and each client. We devise a strategy at every stage of the writing process, from conception, to editorial, to publication, that is tailored to the client and will enable us to find the best publisher for his or her books. We are seeking long-term relationships with writers and illustrators whose careers we can develop and whose talent we can foster." (Link)

"We're looking for fresh, different, and new. As a largely West Coast based agency, we follow in a tradition of West Coast innovation in our passion for discovering new voices and sparking new trends. We're a part of the NY-centered publishing world but also cultivate the advantage of an insider's/outsider's perspective. We have access, standing, and visibility but also think outside the box. Our agents make regular trips to New York, attend industry conventions, and participate as faculty at writers' conferences all over the country. We ensure a high profile for our clients and keep our fingers on the pulse of publishing." (Link)

Her Advice to Writers:

"Most problems I see in slush would be solved if the author was a better reader. If you want to be a good writer, read a lot. Read a lot of children's books, read a lot of adult books, read a lot of classics, read weird things on subjects you don't normally touch. Now read some more. No no, that isn't enough, read more." (Link)

The following pages are also available on the Andrea Brown website: Submission Advice, Dos and Don'ts, Tips From Our Team.  

Dislikes/Peeves:

Pre-queries and certain followups. (link)

Editorial Agent?

"I want the manuscripts to be in the best possible shape before they go out. However, the author is the artist, and I don't believe in imposing my sensibility on their work. Therefore, while I do give notes, the notes I give tend to focus on clarity rather than extensive re-working." (Link)

Web Presence:

Andrea Brown Agency website.

Publisher's Marketplace page.

Jennifer Represents.

Literaticat's Finger Trap (no longer posts there).

Not Your Mother's Book Club.

Not Your Mother's Book Club blog.

Twitter.

Facebook.

JacketFlap.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker, AuthorAdvance.

Clients:

Adam Selzer, Calef Brown, Daniel & Jill Pinkwater, Daniel San Souci, DL Garfinkle, Erin J. Lange, Gina Willner Pardo, Gwenda Bond, Ilene Wong, Ilsa J. Bick, Jaclyn Dolamore, Jennifer Groff, Jo Whittemore, Kate Messner, Linda Joy Singleton, LK Madigan, Mara Rockliff, Margie Gelbwasser, Matt Faulkner, Patrick Samphire, Sonia Gensler, Tara Kelly, Tiffany Trent, and Whitney Miller.

There is also a select list of Andrea Brown Lit titles on the website.

Sales:

As of this posting, Ms. Laughran is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 13 deals in the last 12 months, 2 six-figure+ deal, and 31 overall.  Recent deals include 3 young adult, 2 middle grade, 1 fantasy, and 1 picture book.

NOTE:  PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.  You can also see a sample of her deals on the Andrea Brown website here.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).  

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Brief query in the body of the e-mail.  Put QUERY in the subject line.  Include publisher submission history and previous publishing credits (if applicable).  Only query one agent at the agency.  Note if it's a multiple submission.  PB: Include full text.  Fiction:  Include first ten pages.  NF: Proposal and sample chapter.  Illustrators:  Two to three jpegs of children and animals.  No attachments.

See complete, up-to-date submission guidelines here, as well as the agency's General Advice, Do's and Don'ts, and Tips.

Query Tip:

"FYI, I delete queries that don't follow sub guidelines, are for something I don't rep, aren't addressed to me. Everyone else gets response." (via Twitter)

Response Times:

The agency tries to respond within 4-8 weeks but has a no-response policy in place for busy times (see below).  Ms. Laughran usually responds within a month, often very quickly, and she seems to respond anywhere within a week to a couple months on requested materials.  If you don't hear within 8 weeks, however, assume rejection.

"We will make every effort to respond to your e-query within 4-8 weeks. Occasionally, it may take longer. We respond as quickly as possible, but we receive a large volume of submissions, and more than one reader is involved in the review process. Due to this large volume, we are sometimes not able to respond to every query personally. Therefore, if you have not heard from the agent you queried within 8 weeks, please assume that we are not interested in your work." (Link)

What's the Buzz? 

Great!  Ms. Laughran has been an agent at Andrea Brown Literary since 2007 and has invaluable experience as a bookseller, buyer, and reviewer.  She has a great list of clients and sales, the backing of an extremely well-respected agency, and is very passionate about books.  Her clients seem very happy with her representation.  Follow her on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to stay in the know.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews and Q&As:

Publishing Interviews: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary at YA Highway (06/2010).

Marvelous Marketer: Jennifer Laughran at Market My Words (04/2010).

Writing Wednesday with Jennifer Laughran, Agent Extraordinaire at Margie Gelbwasser's site. (03/3010).

Guest Post: Ask Agent Jennifer at Justine Larbalestier's blog (02/2010).

Introducing Jennifer Laughran/Not Your Mother's Bookclub at Beth Kephart Books (07/2008).

Going to Market! an interview with Jennifer Laughran on book selling at Class of 2K8 (07/2008).

Agent Interview: Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency at Cynsations (06/2008).

Ask the Agent thread on AW featuring Jennifer Laughran (2008-2010).

Heidi R. Kling's Author Chat: With...Jennifer Laughran, Famous Book Buyer/NYMBC Founder! (08/2007 - pre-agent).

A Conversation with a Bookstore Buyer at The Flux Blog (03/2007 - pre-agent).

Select Blog Posts:

Open Thread (07/2010).

Mythbusting 101 (07/2010).

The Great Big All-You-Can Stand Super-Self-Promotion Post (07/2010).

Query-stats and Mint Chocolate Chip (06/2010).

What is YA anyway? (06/2010).

The Luxury of Choice (06/2010).

There's Always a Market for Awesome (06/2010).

Time to Part Ways? (05/2010).

Work Your Inner Fierceness (05/2010). 

Books I Have a Crush On (05/2010).

Prequeries and Followups (05/2010).

A Bird in the Hand (05/2010).

On Rejection (04/2010).

This is only a sample!  Definitely subscribe.

Around the Web:

Check out the Andrea Brown Lit Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop that Ms. Laughran often attends.

Agent Appreciation Day posts on Jennifer Laughran by clients Sonia Gensler, Kate Messner, and Patrick Samphire.   

Agent Jennifer Laughran Talks Juvenile Writing at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. (07/2009).

Andrea Brown Literary Agency thread on AW.

Jennifer Laughran on P&E.

Andrea Brown Literary on P&E (recommended).

Ms. Laughran was the Secret Agent at Miss Snark's First Victim April 2010.  You can dig through the archives that month and read Ms. Laughran's comments.

Contact:

Please see the Andrea Brown Literary website for contact and query information.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.