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Tip Tuesday #90

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today's tip was sent in by Deren Hansen at the Laws of Making. It's a good one, like all Deren's tips! Make sure to stop by his blog when you're done reading here.

One of the persistent fantasies of the computer age is that if we give the machine the right data it will answer all our questions. From dating services that will find our perfect match to product recommendation systems that keep us abreast of the latest thing I-didn't-know-existed-but-now-desperately-need, computers are our new oracles.

Wouldn't it be nice if the machine could tell us whether our manuscripts were any good?

Perhaps, but computers don't work that way (something for which we should be grateful because if they did publishers would forget about authors and hire engineers to program an endless stream of bestsellers). What they can do is count, classify, and run statistics. None of that will answer an ultimate question like, "is my manuscript good?" but it can give you additional insights into your text.

For example, the Gender Genie, (mentioned in Tip #66 by Laura Lascarso) uses word frequency statistics to infer the gender of the author. If your main character doesn't share your gender and the genie reports your writing matches your gender more strongly than your character's gender, you may want to revise. If, on the other hand, the scores are relatively close, then that statistic doesn't give you much guidance.

There are a great many other text metrics, from word and phrase analysis (distribution, frequency, length) to readability and grade level. Among the web-based offerings, two that I like are Textalyser.net and UsingEnglish.com.

Textalyser is good for a quick check: enter sample text and study the analysis. It's a very simple site with interleaved advertising. You can use it anonymously.

UsingEnglish.com is targeted at teachers and ESL students, and requires registration (free). Once registered, you can store and analyze up to 20 documents. It's ideal if you want to compare sample text from throughout your manuscript to see, for example, if readability or grade level drifts. Of course you can delete text from the site once you no longer need it.

While I don't think you're in danger of anyone misappropriating your manuscript at either site, I suggest that you analyze text samples of a few thousand words. Analyzing your entire manuscript will only give you overall measures. Analyzing sample text every few chapters will give you a sense of trends and trouble spots.

I've posted a few more thoughts about text metrics on my blog, The Laws of Making.

Deren Hansen

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY AND DON’T FORGET ELANA JOHNSON’S DEBUT PARTY NEXT MONDAY

Hope you all are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend. My daughter and I are spending the weekend in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where I grew up, celebrating my aunt’s and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary with them and my cousins. I always love visiting Lake Michigan and the beach when I go back. It’s one of the few things I miss about there.

I won’t keep you long because I want you to relax and enjoy the holiday with your family.

But don’t forget that Elana Johnson will be here next Monday, June 6th. We’ll be having a party to celebrate the release of POSSESSION on June 7th.



I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Elana’s debut. I’m planning a BIG giveaway. See you then.

Agent Spotlight: Terrie Wolf

This week's Agent Spotlight features Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary, LLC.

Status: Open to submissions.

Terrie_Wolf About: “Terrie Wolf has traveled the world in search of good stories and great books. As a member of the international media, an award-winning journalist and promotions specialist, Terrie has learned what it takes to write well, get accepted and develop notoriety; not necessarily in that order! She is happiest when given the opportunity to pitch softly, edit gently and market fiercely. Terrie joined AKA in September of 2009 as the Foreign Rights Specialist in addition to her other talents. Wolf Literary Services and Anita Kushen and Associates merged in October 2009.

“Terrie mastered her skills in the literary world from inside the offices of several large companies, which include CBS, NBC, and Hobson's Press. She studied English Literature at Cambridge University, Creative Writing at NYU and Journalism at CU-Denver.

“Terrie's credits include the EMMY, Queen's Service Award (UK), La Voz y Papel (Spain), and Young Journalist of the Year.

“Terrie represents the books we share; the books which make us grow. Fiction: Inspirational (Things of Faith), Multi-Cultural, Women’s, Children’s (all), Romance (all), and Westerns. Non-fiction: Culinary/Cookbooks, Humor, Memoir, Religion, Music and Nature.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Since 2004, A.K.A has provided top-notch literary representation to writers in the Rocky Mountains as well as all over the world. Our mission is to empower readers through well-written, thought provoking, and entertaining works of substance.  We look to represent new and established authors. Our agent preferences vary, but our goal is the same: to represent words that endeavor to persevere.” (Link)

“AKA Literary, LLC was born in early-2010 and will continue to honor the established efforts of Anita Kushen and Associates while recognizing the needs of an ever-changing industry.” (Link)

Web Presence:

AKA Literary website.

AKA Literary Facebook.

AKA Literary Twitter.

Ms. Wolf’s Twitter.

LinkedIn.

What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

All genres of Romance, Graphic Novel, Western, Young Adult, Children's (All Levels), Women's, Multi-Cultural, Empowerment (Things of Faith), and Inspirational.

Non-Fiction: Cookbooks, Humor, Memoir, Religion, Music and Nature. (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Unknown.

Editorial Agent?

She mentions editing in her bio, so I believe she is as needed.

Clients:

There is a page of clients on the website.

Ms. Wolf’s clients include: Buffy Andrews, Matt Bille, Eric M. Black, Barry Broad, Louise Caiola, Mark A. Cohen, Tasha Cotter, Kevin Craig, Carrie Filetti, Penny Fletcher, Ian T. Healy, Cynthia J Koelker MD, Krista Krueger, Margaret Bhola and Diane Gage Lofgren, CJ Martin, Elaine Meece, Randy Peyser, Christian Piatt, Lee Richmond, Aaron C. Tate, Justin Zimmerman, among others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Ms. Wolf is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 0 deals in the last 12 months and 1 overall.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales. Ms. Wolf does not appear to report her deals.

Recent sales include Christian Piatt's PregMANcy (not unlike Anne Lamott with testicles) to Chalice Press last December for release Spring 2012, and details on other deals will soon follow (info shared by Ms. Wolf via e-mail 6/11).

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Query by e-mail.  Put the title of your project in the subject line along with the date of submission.

See the AKA Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Response Times:

The agency has a stated response time of 12 weeks.  You may check the status of your submissions after that time if you have not heard back.  Stats on the web vary.  Keep an eye on the AKA Literary thread on AbsoluteWrite for current response times.

What's the Buzz?

Terrie Wolf is a Colorado-based agent with a growing list of clients and sales.  Information is somewhat scarce given the lack of interviews and deal announcements, but her clients seem happy with her representation and are quick to praise her.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

None that I could find online.

Around the Web:

AKA Literary thread on AbsoluteWrite.

How I Got My Agent: Katie Lee, client story at Guide to Literary Agents (08/2010).

A Blog Search on Terrie Wolf shows various client praise.

Contact:

Please see the AKA Literary website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 6/6/11.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 6/6/11.

***

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 #89

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today's nifty tips were sent in by Nazarea Andrews. You can find Nazarea at her website and blog. Please consider visiting after you read her tips below!

These are two tricks I use when fast drafting, to keep the flow going.

When I fast draft, I often use Write Or Die--which doesn't allow for special formatting (such as italics) so I use a symbol, such as * or ^ to denote when I want to place emphasis on a word or phrase. When I edit, it's easy to translate that into the proper formatting.

When I'm using MS Word, and come to something I want to go back to, or know I will need for reference later (character description, what they drive, important dates) I add a # and insert a note. Later, when I'm editing, it's easier to go through the document by symbol and notes to make sure I've kept details straight, or to fix a passage that I didn't like on first pass. It doesn't replace editing--not by a long shot--but it does help in keeping the little things straight, or referring back to things I know need more work without slowing down the first draft.

Hope that's helpful :)

Nazarea Andrews~

BETH REVIS INTERVIEW AND BOOK GIVEAWAY

Today I’m so excited to be interviewing Beth Revis. Her book, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, was released in January 2011 and was on the New York Bestseller List. I don’t usually read science fiction, but I was immediately sucked into the story. One of the amazing things is that Beth has created such a fascinating world on a space ship.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Hi Beth. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your book.

I’m just an everyday kind of person, nothing really interesting about me  I live in rural North Carolina with my husband and my dog, a big black Lab named Sirius. My book, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is a murder mystery set in space, telling the story of Amy, a girl from Earth, who is cryogenically frozen to be with her parents on an interstellar mission. When she wakes up fifty years early in a foiled murder attempt, though, she has to figure out who unplugged her…before whoever it is unplugs her parents.

2. I’ve read that you had many other books in your drawer and were contemplating quitting writing if this book didn’t sell. How did you get the idea for this story and did you have any idea that this was the one that would get you your agent and sell?

I have ten trunk novels—nearly all of which I tried to get published. I was very frustrated by the time I finished writing ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. I just didn’t understand why I’d been writing for so long and writing so much and nothing had been published yet. But when I finished ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I did feel that there was something special about this manuscript. Writing it was like magic—it flowed, and I reveled in the language as well as the story. I knew it was the best thing I’d ever written and that if it didn’t sell, I had no business writing.

3. We should all remember Beth’s experiences and have faith that it’ll happen for us too. You have an incredibly detailed map of the ship on the inside of the book cover. When did you design the ship in relation to your first draft? What challenges did you face in creating your world on a ship?

Somewhere around the first hundred pages of the book or so, I got out a legal notepad (my preferred brainstorming method) and drew a VERY rough sketch of the ship—it was seriously just a circle with some notes on it. After I signed with Razorbill, my publisher asked for the sketch and took it to a whole new level with the blueprint design!

4. That’s so awesome. You tell your story from Amy’s and Elder’s points of view. How did you develop their characters? Is there any of you in either of them? Did you find it more challenging because they literally come from completely different worlds?

I didn’t find it more challenging to write from such different points of view—I loved it! It was so much fun!! But even though they are so different, there is a little bit of me in each of them. Amy’s need for her parents and fear of waking up without them were pulled from my own fear of moving away to college far away from my family when I was still pretty young (I was 17). Elder’s desire to prove that he was worthy as a leader of the ship and fears that he wasn’t good enough definitely stemmed from my own desires to be published and fear that my writing wasn’t good enough.

5. You’ve already written the second book in the series. Did you have it planned out when you wrote ACROSS THE UNIVERSE? What did you learn about writing a series from writing this one? Do you have any advice for us aspiring authors trying to create a trilogy?

I just finished the second book, A MILLION SUNS, but I’ve not even touched the third book of the trilogy yet…the only thing I’ve written on it is the title!

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE started as a standalone novel. I didn’t change the ending—I always wrote it with a somewhat ambiguous ending, leaving it open to the reader to decide what happened to Amy and Elder. But in talking with my agent, I figured out a way to extend the story in a way that would fit a trilogy.

Writing the second book was very difficult because it wasn’t a part of my original plan. But I do believe that, as with any writing, you’re just developing a logical “what happened next.” Stay true to the characters, and you can write any number of books.

6. That’s great advice. Now let’s move on the business aspect of writing. Can you tell us about your road to publication and any struggles along the way?

Well, there were the ten trunk novels that never got published! I feel like an expert on queries—I’ve written them for nearly all the ten trunk novels and have the hundreds of rejections to prove it.

Some of my struggles include:
(a) get my writing up to snuff—I don’t think my writing was bad, per se, but I do know that my writing improved with time.
(b) Writing something marketable—I don’t think you should dictate how and what you write from the market, but there are two of my trunk novels that I can look at now and realize they will never sell merely because there is no market for them.

I think the best thing to do as a writer—or, at least, the best thing for me to do to overcome these struggles—was to find good, trustworthy critique partners.

7. What have you learned about what works and what doesn’t work marketing-wise from the release of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE? Do you have any tips on what debut authors should definitely do to market our book when it’s released?

Heh. In my last answer I said to write something marketable. But you know what I learned from ACROSS THE UNIVERSE? Don’t worry too much about the market. I thought it was going to be a huge struggle to sell it—it was sci fi, and there wasn’t sci fi in the YA market at the time. When I was querying, I went to my local bookstore and library and asked them for YA sci fi—the only thing I got was ENDER’S GAME and THE HOST—that was the extent of the selection. I was terrified when I started querying that no one would want the book because it was set in space…and in some cases, I was right. I got a couple of rejections that flatly said “space sci fi doesn’t sell in YA.” But then I got acceptances, too.

So, the short answer: if your book is good enough, you don’t have to worry about the market.

As for what debut authors can do to market their titles: the number one thing for any author to remember is that they are a writer first, not a marketer. I do think that a writer should have a website—they should be able to control the information on their own books online. It should be professional looking and easy to read and find information on. Do you need a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or anything else? No. If you enjoy them and want to connect to your readers—sure, go ahead. But it’s not necessary.

8. It’s good to know that the website is essential and you can do the other social marketing as you feel comfortable. What are you working on now?

I’m working on the final edits to A MILLION SUNS, the sequel to AtU, and then I’m turning to the last novel in the trilogy. I’m also just now playing around with a new idea for a book that I rather like…

9. When will the next two books in your series be released?

They should each be released the following year. So: A MILLION SUNS will be out early 2012, and the third and last book out 2013.

Thanks so much Beth for all your advice. And good luck. You can visit Beth at her website and her blog. I’ve been following her blog for a long time and really recommend it.

I’m giving away one copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. And Beth agreed to send the winner a signed bookplate. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on June 4thth. I’ll announce the winner on June 6th. International entries are welcome.

Don’t forget on June 6th, I’ll be having a BIG debut party for Elana Johnson. Her book POSSESSION comes out on June 7th. There will a BIG giveaway! Please come back and make it special for Elana. She’s such an awesome person who has helped so many of us on our road to publication. Let’s show her how much we appreciate it by supporting her on her special day.

And hope to see you next Monday.

Winner of SPARROW ROAD!

Ack! I just realized I forgot to announce the winner of Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor on Wednesday. Sorry everyone. Plugged the numbers into Random.org and the winner is...

PK Hrezo


Congratulations! Expect an e-mail from me shortly. Have a great weekend, everyone! And if you didn't win, consider adding Sparrow Road to your next order of books!

Agent Spotlight: Michelle Wolfson

This week's Agent Spotlight features Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency, LLC.

Status: Open to submissions.

Michelle-WolfsonAbout: “Michelle Wolfson formed Wolfson Literary Agency in 2007 and is actively seeking authors of commercial fiction in the following categories: mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, chick-lit, romance, women’s fiction, and young adult. She is drawn to well written material with strong interesting characters. She is also interested in practical and narrative non-fiction projects, particularly those of interest to women.

“Michelle holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from New York University. Prior to forming her own agency, Michelle spent two years with Artists & Artisans, Inc. and two years with Ralph Vicinanza, Ltd. Before that, she spent several years working outside of publishing, in non-profit and then finance, and she brings the skills she learned there plus a lifetime love of reading to the table as an agent.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Founded in December 2007 by Michelle Wolfson, Wolfson Literary Agency is a full service agency. We represent a wide range of commercial fiction and non-fiction projects.” (Link)

“Wolfson Literary Agency is a small agency dedicated to providing personalized service to a select group of clients whose books I absolutely adore. If I can't say that, I don't represent you.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Wolfson Literary.

Publisher’s Marketplace page.

Twitter.

Facebook.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Fiction: Mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, women’s fiction, romance (not category), and YA (not children’s picture books).

Non-fiction: Fun, practical advice books in any area, but particularly those that are of interest to women. Relationships, parenting, health/medical, humor, pop-culture. (Link)

From Publisher’s Marketplace:

“I handle commercial fiction and non-fiction with an emphasis on quirky, fun projects and practical titles that appeal to women. In fiction my taste is broad and covers mysteries and thrillers, women's fiction and romance, young adult, and the occasional memoir or fantasy (but not fantasy memoir, none of those please), and always commercial.” (Link)

From an Interview (05/2011):

“I tend to have very commercial taste, and fantasy is obviously very popular. However, I have never been much of a fantasy reader so I have to say that my taste in fantasy is pretty picky and very hard to describe. I think the best way to explain it is to say that I'm open to it. And when I like it, I love it. And then I'm the best champion for your work ever. Because no one will ever convince me that you weren't meant to be a bestselling author.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2010):

“I’m looking for the same things that I’m always looking for: standout writing with characters I fall in love with. I want a book that will keep me up late at night until my husband yells at me to go to sleep. I want characters that I’m dying to have another book about, whether it’s a series or not. If I don’t feel this way about it, then it’s really not for me.” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Picture books, middle grade, category romance, original screenplays. (Link / Link)

Quotables:

“My personal agenting philosophy is that I only take on clients whose projects I absolutely love and then I work my butt off for them. I believe in my clients so much that I take it extremely personally when their books don’t sell. I have a relatively small list of clients and am committed to building my list slowly and I’m looking for big, quality projects. I often see queries for things that I think will probably sell, but I don’t realistically have time to devote--at least not the kind of time I like to give each client--to that many people. So I am ultra selective. And I’m sure I pass on a lot of talented people.” (Link)

“I definitely think of myself as someone who falls in love with voice first and foremost. That’s what stands out and makes me really fall in love with a book. Although I really love a story that I just can’t put down, so maybe a great plot too. Yes, definitely I’m looking for a gripping plot. You know, the kind where I want to go to sleep at night but I keep telling myself one more chapter and the next thing I know it’s 3:30 in the morning. But I finished it! Although maybe it was the characters. I guess you could say it’s the characters that get my attention. The kind of characters whose stories I don’t want to end. The kind where I’m emailing the authors at 3:31 in the morning saying there’s a sequel, right?? Please, tell me there’s a sequel! That was a clear answer to your question, right?” (Link)

Editorial Agent?

She often asks for revisions before she signs a client, and I believe she is very hands on with her clients as well (as needed).

Clients:

Tawna Fenske, Alexandra Levit, AJ Menden, Tchicaya Missamou, Aimee Raupp, Kimberly Sabatini, Travis Sentell, Mark Di Vincenzo, Kiersten White, among others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Ms. Wolfson is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 4 deals in the last 12 months, 4 six-figure+ deals, and 19 overall.  Recent deals include 2 young adult, 1 reference, 1 sci-fi/fantasy.

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

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

“For fiction queries, please put “Query” and the title of your book in the subject of your email. For non-fiction queries, please put “Non-fiction query” and the title of your project in the subject. All queries should be typed directly into the body of the email and should include word count. Attachments will not be opened and will be automatically rejected.

“For fiction queries, please include the first 5 pages of your manuscript at the bottom of the email. Please paste them into the body of the email. I will NOT open attachments.”

See the Wolfson Literary website for complete up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

“I think the primary mistake writers make is forgetting that the query is supposed to catch my attention . And what's going to catch my attention? Your writing and your story. Not the fact that this is your first manuscript or your 23 rd manuscript. Not that you have no literary background or your mother really loves your writing. That stuff just gets in the way.

“I think the best queries look something like what you'd find on the back of a book in a bookstore. What's tempting you to buy that book, to want to read it? Those same things will tempt me to want to read your manuscript. Who is the main character? What is his/her conflict? What's at stake?” (Link)

Response Times:

Ms. Wolfson only responds to queries if interested. She doesn’t appear to have a stated response time.  Stats on the web show her responding to queries within days to a week or so if interested.  Her response time on requested material ranges from days to a few months.

What's the Buzz?

Michelle Wolfson is a highly respected agent with a select list of clients.  She has a great agenting philosophy and her clients really seem to respect and love her.  I’ve heard nothing but great things.

Follow her on Twitter @WolfsonLiterary where she’s very active (and funny) to get a peek at her personality and agenting style. 

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

An Interview with a Literary Agent: Michelle Wolfson at YA Fantasy Guide (05/2011).

Interview with Michelle Wolfson at The Novel Road (03/2011).

Interview with an Agent: Michelle Wolfson at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (03/2010).

Close-Up: Agent’s Point of View at B&N Community (02/2010).

Agents are Mysterious People - Interview with Agent Michelle Wolfson at Write On Target (10/2009).

Q&A with Michelle Wolfson, Super Agent at Kiersten Writes (09/2009).

Blog Posts:

In Defense of a Less than Huge Advance by Michelle Wolfson at WriteOnCon (08/2010).

Tweet Your Heart Out by Michelle Wolfson at Novelists Inc. (11/2009).

Around the Web:

The agency has a “News” page for updates on sales and clients.

Wolfson Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

Michelle Wolfson on P&E ($). Wolfson Literary Agency on P&E ($).

Client Monica B.W.’s agent story – Part I, Part II, Part III - at her blog, Love YA (01/2011).

The Query that Hooked My Agent (with commentary from Ms. Wolfson) at client Tawna Fenske’s blog (09/2010).

Successful Queries: Agent Michelle Wolfson and 'Timing is Everything' at The Guide to Literary Agents blog (06/2009).

To My Agent On Her Birthday, cute post by client Kirsten White (03/2011).

Agent Appreciation Day post by client Kirsten White (12/2009).

Contact:

Please see the Woflson Literary Agency website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 5/19/11.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/19/11.

***

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 #88

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today I have a fantastic tip from Jenna Wallace who blogs at Writing in the Dreamstate. She has a really interesting post up right now called, "How Many Queries Does It Take? -The Sequel" with an average based on QueryTracker stats. But before you run off to check it out, here's her tip!

Want to see at a glance how conflict and tension build through your manuscript?

Use Text Highlighting in Word to do this.

· Assign each conflict thread (internal, external, and relationships) a different Text Highlight color.

· Go through your manuscript and highlight each scene of conflict in the appropriate color.

· Use Save As to save this document with a different filename.

· Zoom out to 10 or 20% view so you can see multiple chapters at one time.

· Start at the beginning and look to see if there is a good balance of conflict threads.

· Look for chapters that have little to no highlighting – these may be lulls in the tension. Make note of the chapter/page number so you can address it in your working document.

I’ve just done a post on this, complete with screen captures, if you want to see examples:

http://inthedreamstate.blogspot.com/2011/05/visually-mapping-tension-in-your.html

Cheers!

Jenna

ASK THE EXPERT SERIES- INTERVIEW WITH AN 8TH GRADER

First, I’m going to announce the winner of SECOND FIDDLE by Rosanne Parry. The winner is:

JOANNE FRITZ!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so that I can have your book mailed to you.

Today I’m excited to start my Ask the Expert series. It’s where I interview kids between 5th and 12th grades about how they find out about books.

Today I’m interviewing an 8th grader who loves to read.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your school, and what you like to read.

My name is Justin, and I go to an Ann Arbor middle school. I tend to read mostly science fiction and fantasy books.

2. How do you find out about the books you read? What about new books coming out?

A lot of the time I find out about new books from friends when I see what books they are carrying around and reading. I find out about new books coming out when I see posters at bookstores or read about them online. I read about them in ads for books on Facebook and on Wikipedia.

3. Interesting that you find out about books on Facebook and Wikipedia ads. That’s not places I would think to go to. What are you reading now? What books are you waiting to be released?

Right now, I am reading the Isaac Asimov books; that will take a while to finish. I am waiting for the sequel to I Am Number Four to be released. I am also waiting for the next book in the Eragon series and the next book in the Wheel of Time books.

4. I can’t wait for the I Am Number Four sequel too. I found about the series from my daughter and her friends. Do you buy most of your book or get them at the library? How often do go to a bookstore?

Whether I buy books or get them from the library depends on the time of year and the book. If I have recently received a gift card to a book store, I use it to get newer books. I usually get books from the library when they are older or not as many people are interested in them. I don't actually go to bookstores very often; just enough to get 2-4 books a couple times a year.

5. Do you read any teen book blogs, author blogs, or author or publisher websites? Become a fan of an author on Facebook? Why?

I don't follow any blogs or websites regularly. However, when the sequel to a book is taking an abnormally long time to be released, I may search around the internet to see if/when it will be released. I really don't have the time to follow any sites, and they usually are not updated regularly with new and interesting content.

6. I can definitely see how time would make it hard to follow blogs. Eighth graders are busy! Has your teacher recommended any blogs or websites to your class or to you?

My English teacher has recommended Teenreads.com to my class. Also, I have her added as a friend on Facebook and I periodically see and follow links that she posts.

7. Are there things your favorite authors could do that would make you more likely to visit their website, their blog, or become a fan on Facebook?

If authors had websites that looked nice, loaded quickly, and were updated on a daily or weekly basis, I would follow them.

8. Have any authors visited your school? Who? Is there anything you’d recommend that an author do to make their presentation more interesting to you and other kids at your school?

I believe several authors have visited my school, but I really don't remember. Something on age appropriateness: we aren't little kids, don't treat us as such. Also, they could keep things moving; when they just talk and talk and talk and go off onto tangents, we get bored. Enthusiasm would help presentations immensely. Another thing is to make things interactive: ask questions, answer questions, make sure we are participating.

You’re right. Authors shouldn't talk down to kids and should make the presentations interactive. Thanks for all your great advice Justin and for taking the time to answer my questions.

For those of you commenting, how do your kids find out about books? And if you have a kid between 5th and 12 grades willing to be an expert, please e-mail me at rmarma2@yahoo.com. Put Ask The Expert in the subject line. I have a few interviews lined up but am looking for other kids to interview.

Don’t forget that the next WriteOnCon event is tonight at 9:00 pm EST. It’s a live chat with Mary O’Neill, an associate editor at Katherine Tegen Books and agents Joanna Stampfel-Volpe and Michelle Andelman. I’m planning to attend. I really recommend them. I always learn so much. Hope to see you there.

And be sure to come back next Monday when I interview Beth Revis and give away a copy of her awesome book ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. I’m so excited she agreed to an interview. And on June 6th, I’ll be having a big debut party for Elana Johnson. Her book POSSESSION comes out on June 7th. I’ll be doing a BIG giveaway.

Hope to see you next Monday.

Interview with Sheila O'Connor Author of SPARROW ROAD (And Giveaway!)

Hello everyone! Casey here. I'm sharing an interview with Sheila O'Connor today. Her middle grade debut, Sparrow Road, releases tomorrow and it sounds truly fantastic. Kirkus confirmed my suspicions in giving the title a starred review!
Sparrow Road…the crumbling country estate, a former orphanage, is a place readers will want to explore. It is suffused with a sense of longing, the same wistful atmosphere surrounding the characters in this beautifully written novel, with its leisurely revelation of secrets and sad events of the past. .. Readers finding themselves in this quiet world will find plenty of space to imagine and dream for themselves. (Fiction. 10-14) Kirkus Review (starred review)
Sounds amazing, right? Here's the summary from Goodreads:

It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O’Rourke's mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road– a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie.

Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road–from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it's an unexpected secret from Raine's own life that changes her forever.

An affecting and beautifully written story of family and forgiveness, Sparrow Road is an incredible gift.

To celebrate Sheila's release day tomorrow I'm buying a copy for one lucky commenter (when I order one for me!). Please read the following interview and see the details below for your chance to win.

Hi Sheila! We're so happy to have you on Literary Rambles today. Can you start things off by telling us a little about yourself and your books?

With the release of Sparrow Road, I finally get to think of myself as a writer for readers of all ages. My first two books were strictly for adults, although teens did read them. I hope Sparrow Road is a book for everyone.

I have to tell you, after reading the summary and advanced praise on your website for Sparrow Road, I’m dying to read it. It sounds delicious! What was the seed of the story? How did it evolve?

I was a resident at the Anderson Center, an artist colony in Red Wing, Minnesota. I had spent an amazing month in the company of artists full of good will and creativity, and one afternoon I looked out my window and thought: What if a child came to live at a place like this? What a lucky thing that would be. A few years passed, and one day I sat down to begin a book—with no real idea of what that book would be—and Sparrow Road was born.

Well, you ended up with something great! The premise is amazing. With everything the story has to offer, what do you most hope your young fans take away from the tale?

For me, Sparrow Road is a testament to the power of imagination and the many ways in which the creative process empowers and heals. I hope readers of all ages see themselves as creators—whether they’re daydreamers, or quilters, or musicians, or painters. It’s also a book about hope and generosity—how deep our goodness runs.

What a fantastic message. I think creativity in every sense is empowering for children (and adults!), too. You describe a fun, somewhat nontraditional childhood in your website bio. How much of your early years influenced your writing?

You’re right, it was a non-traditional childhood and I think all the books I’ve written mirror that in some way—in part because I wished I’d seen my own life reflected in literature when I was young. It’s important to me that my fiction tells the truth of children’s lives—so my characters live in divorced families, and blended families, foster families, single-parent families, and traditional families. All of those are real and true—and all offer their own challenges and gifts.

Are there any anecdotes or hidden gems in Sparrow Road or your other books readers might find interesting?

That’s a great question. One very astute third grade boy recently told me that he thought Sparrow Road was really a book about imagining a book—and he was totally right! I was floored when he said it because I thought it was my own secret intention, but there he was at nine years old, discovering it between the lines. Of course, kids are brilliant.

What a great story. Kids are amazingly perceptive. Do you have a favorite quote or scene from the book you'd like to share or talk about?

Oh, that’s a tough one. Early in the book, one of the artists Diego Garcia encourages Raine to think about the good that comes from spending every day in silence. (Everyone at Sparrow Road must stay silent until supper.) He says to Raine, “Ask yourself, What if? Or think about what was or what could be. And suddenly like magic, you’ll be drifting in a dream.” That’s the enchantment of Sparrow Road—all the wonder that waits ahead.

I’ve spent the last twenty years or so as a poet-in-the-schools, encouraging young people to honor their hearts, trust their imaginations, and put their dreams to paper. So I’m happy to hear Diego give such sage advice.

Sage advice, indeed. It sounds like Sparrow Road has a lot to offer readers. Everyone’s putting a lot of importance on self-promotion these days. What is your stance? How has the marketing and promotion side of publication been for you so far?

Well in truth, I’m happy just to write, and I’m happy teaching writing to my graduate students and to young people. That feels like part of the work I’m on this earth to do; I’m not sure I was put here to do self-promotion. And yet it’s true, the work of spreading the news of the book falls to authors these days, and so we must. Recently, when Sparrow Road got a starred review in Kirkus, I was thrilled to share that news with friends—which in this day and age meant posting it on the internet. With my previous books, it meant a cake at supper. Now, it’s all so much more public. Everything. And the book business just reflects that. We don’t much live in private anymore.

My first job is to write the best book I can, because without that, there’s not good news to share. In the end, I believe books live in the hearts of readers, so I am most at home connecting personally with readers through book clubs, libraries, schools etc. This to me is good work, and while it may promote the book, it doesn’t feel like self-promotion, it feels like community.

I love your approach, Sheila. It sounds like you've found a good balance. Keep putting your books first - we want to read them! What is your writing process like? How do you stay on task and motivated?

I’m a fulltime professor in a MFA program, so writing time is scarce for me. For that reason, I have to be disciplined about my work. I learned long ago that a novel requires hours and attention, so when I have a book in-progress, I write seven days a week, for four to five hours a day. Sometimes more. And I don’t allow myself to quit until I’ve put in the hours. After a few years (or many years) of keeping that commitment, I’ll finally have a book.

What amazing commitment! You're an inspiration for working writers everywhere. Can you divulge anything about your current work-in-progress?

I have a new book forthcoming from Putnam in fall 2012 tentatively titled Keeping Safe the Stars. It’s a tale of three very spunky, delightful free-thinking siblings all of whom have incredibly great spirits. I am deeply in love with the Star children and hope the world will make a home for them.

Oh, I can't wait to meet the Star children. They do sound delightful. Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest on you and your books?

I wish I had something snazzy like the Bronte museum to offer readers, a place where you could come and see childhood trinkets and little tiny white gloves, but instead I have my author facebook page. It’s free, it’s open to the public, anyone can visit, so I hope you will stop by. Leave a note. I love to hear from readers. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Minneapolis-MN/Sheila-OConnor/178586645491731. I I also have a website www.sheilaoconnor.com. The photo of the girl with the baseball mitt is me.

That photo is fantastic (and I love your website). Last question! What’s one interview question you haven’t been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!

What’s been the best part of publication so far?

So glad you asked! The best part so far has been the day I spent with some third and fourth grade students. Their teacher, Mrs. Gainey, had read them an advanced copy of Sparrow Road and the kids had so many smart things to say about the book, so many insightful observations. One boy raised his hand and said—“Reading Sparrow Road made me want to write my own book.” That was a dream fulfilled.

That does sound like a truly fantastic experience. Thank you so much for the interview, Sheila. I wish you and Sparrow Road the very best. I expect great things!

Readers, if you'd like to enter for a chance to win Sparrow Road simply leave a comment with your e-mail address (if it's hard to find) by Tuesday 5/17 midnight. If you spread the word about the interview in some way and/or are likely to review the title if you win, let me know and I'll give you an extra point or two (honor system). I'll announce the winner 5/18. Good luck!

Tip Tuesday #87

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today I have a neat tip from Paula Kay McLaughlin who blogs at Write Now. Give her a visit. Among other great posts on writing, Paula features a querying writer and their project each Tuesday for her Writer Spotlight series.

I stumbled upon a useful writing tool around midnight several months back. I was totally exhausted, but all these thoughts and visions swirled in my head that weren’t formed yet. If I waited, if I went to bed and tried to find them again in the morning, they would be as gone as my younger size-four figure. So I let my eye lids close and kept my fingers tapping.

At first it was strange not to see the letters appear on the screen in front of me, to trust that I was hitting the correct keys. When I summoned the strength to lift my lids and peek I figured I’d find: amdla knfsl;d khr aweyra;k. But there were readable, full sentences there so I closed my eyes again.

What I discovered was by turning off one sense others became more acute. Duh, right? We all know this. Ray Charles is a heck of a musician and some may argue much of it has to do with the fact he can’t see.

But back to writing, this is what closing my eyes and writing did for me and what it might do for you too:
  • It stopped me from hitting backspace or delete, from re-working that previous sentence, from finding the just-right-word that may end up getting deleted anyway, from rereading that earlier line, that earlier chapter . . . Instead it pushed me forward, which, if you’re like me, forward in a first draft is a good thing, yes? Second and third drafts are where that other stuff comes in. In short, it freed that part of my mind, my thinking, so I could stop obsessing over the stuff that didn’t matter—yet.
  • Writing with my eyes closed allowed me to see, hear, and feel what my characters were seeing, hearing, and feeling (emotionally) with more clarity.
  • When inside my head I could better look around the room, the woods, the world my character was in and notice even more of the details.
So there it is, for what it’s worth. A stumbled upon technique for writing certain scenes, for first drafts, and for when you’re really, really tired and another cup of coffee will not help. Wear ear-plugs too, what the heck, why not? And if you’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop—go on, close your eyes. Sure other patrons will look at you strange—but it’s not like you’ll see them, right?

- Paula

*Warning: This technique is not recommended while sitting on the stern of a boat in stormy weather, while in the wilderness with chocolate (or honey) in your snack bag, or while your kids are downstairs—alone—preparing a Mother’s or Father’s Day breakfast that may involve sharp objects, bickering, matches or hot surfaces.

ROSANNE PARRY INTERVIEW AND BOOK GIVEAWAY MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY

First, I’m going to announce the winner of THE SHIFTER by Janice Hardy. The winner is:

KIKI HAMILTON!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so that I can have your book mailed to you.

Today I’m so excited to be interviewing Rosanne Parry. Her book, SECOND FIDDLE, was released in March.

Hi Rosanne. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your book.

I think my editor writes terrific flap copy, Here is what he wrote about Second Fiddle.

It is 1990 and the wall that separated Communist East Berlin from the capitalist West has finally come down. For Jody this means moving back the States with her dad who’s retiring from the army and saying goodbye the two best friends she’s ever had.
Before they part ways the three girls plan one last adventure, a trip to Paris where they’ll compete in a classical music contest as a string trio. Winning will (almost) make up for the fact that they’ll soon be separated. But as they walk home from their final music lesson the girls witness a terrible crime and must act to save a Soviet soldier’s life. Getting to Paris becomes urgent as the girls discover that the border between friend and enemy is not as clear as it once was.
In this fast-paced tale of music, friendship and adventure, Rosanne Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, offers a sensitive portrayal of military families at a pivotal moment in history.

My editor made me write my bio, which I do not love to do. It always feels awkward to write about myself in the third person, but I wrote this bio very late at night when I was in a silly mood and he thought it came out well. So here you go.

Rosanne Parry moved to Germany in the spring of 1990 just as the Berlin Wall was coming down. She ran away to Paris for one glorious weekend with her soldier husband, first-born baby and an enormous purple stroller. The three of them are best friends to this day. Rosanne is the author of Heart of a Shepherd, which has been honored as a Washington Post’s Best Kid’s Book of the Year, a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year and a Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year. She also plays the violin for which she has never been honored with a prize of any kind. She now lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in Portland, Oregon, where they raise four children, three chickens, five kinds of fruit and their voices in the occasional song.

2. I love the mention of the purple stroller in your bio. That’s so original. I’ve read that you used your own musical interests in crafting Jody’s musical talents. What were they and how did you use them in your story?

I played the violin as a child and loved it, but hadn’t touched my violin in decades. When I started writing this book I began playing every day as a way to get my head in Jody’s character. At first, I sounded really awful. But with a little practice and some new strings for my very old violin, I started to love it again. My very favorite part of the whole book journey has been playing duets and trios with my daughters who play violin and piano. It reminded me of what an empowering experience it was to play in an orchestra in middle school.

3. I played violin as a kid too. I’d sound horrendous if I tried it again. That’s awesome you started playing again. You lived in Germany from 1990-1992. How did you use these experiences in creating your settings and your overall story? Did you have to do any additional research since it’s been awhile since you lived there?

A lot of the background information for the story was based on things I learned in conversations with my German neighbors or read in the German papers. Much of the chaos surrounding the reunification of Germany was not big news in the States. For example, I read in a German paper about a reporter who had heard that Russian soldiers were selling their weapons to pay off corrupt officers who would beat them if they didn’t give them money. The reporter took 400 Deutsch Marks to the border and was shocked to discover that he could buy a dozen Kalashnikovs, a box of land mines and a grenade launcher from Russian enlisted men looking for cash. He was offered anthrax and poison gas, as well, but was afraid to transport them in his car. It was fascinating and that information was a key part of the setup of the story. But I couldn’t use it until I found a translation of the original article an archive.
Living through an experience is not enough for a book. You really have to independently verify everything. Sometimes the simplest things proved the hardest to check. You’d think train schedules and fares would be easy, but nobody keeps out of date travel guides. I had to look in the archive of a travel book company. I kept a list of all my research references, which included books, documentaries, musical scores, maps, websites, recordings, and photographs. The list ran to more than 60 sources. I love historical fiction, but it is painstaking in ways that other genres are not.


4. You’re right we didn’t know about all that. That’s scary what a little money at the border could buy. Jody and her friends are just finishing 8th grade. Yet they are quite independent and go on a trip to Paris on their own. How did you handle making their independence believable? Did you face any challenges in doing this?

I have taught at a school on a military base and one of the things I remember is how resilient and resourceful the kids were. They tended not to be afraid of strangers and were not at all shy about figuring out an unfamiliar system. And because their parents were soldiers, they could all read a map!  So I was confident that the daughters of a general, a sergeant major and a diplomat would not be flummoxed by the challenges that came their way.

One of the things that changed the most in revision was the point at which the girls realize their parents know they are in Paris alone and have come to look for them. In my first draft, the girls didn’t find out their parents had been looking for then until the very end. I tried switching that point of discovery to earlier in the story but it never worked as well as the first draft, so I went back to my original idea. In a contemporary story, it would never work but Second Fiddle is set in 1990 before cell phones and surveillance cameras and many of the things that are now in place to recover lost children. So as long as the girls didn’t come across a television set or a radio, they would be in the dark about the ongoing search for them.

My critique group was also a great help in keeping things authentic. I have only been to Paris once, but among them they had lived in Paris as a high school exchange student, a college exchange student, the child of a diplomat, and a street performer. They really helped me think about traveling from a teenagers point of view and kept me grounded in terms of how far a person could walk in a day, and which parts of the city would feel safe, and what kind of reaction they would get from typical Parisians. I’ve been very lucky in my critique group, and I have an acknowledgement of them and the many others who helped me on my website.


5. You had a choice about whether this story would be a MG or YA book. What went into your decision that it should be a MG story?

The simple truth of the matter is that I am tragically unhip. Ask any one of my children, they’ll tell you it’s true.  I like YA lit, but I’m not sure I’m the best person to write it.

I could have written Second Fiddle for an older audience. They could have had a different kind of relationship with the soldier they rescued. They could have met far more dangerous people on their journey. But when I thought about what my main character really wanted most, it had nothing to do with rebellion or romance. Jody loves music. She wants to be with her friends. She wants to do the right thing and help someone who is in danger. Those are solidly middle grade issues.

The nice thing about keeping the focus on Jody and her music was that it developed into a story where music became a way for her to make a connection across cultures. That was a lot of fun and has really resonated with readers who also play music.

6. You’ve had two other books published—DADDY’S HOME, a board book, and HEART OF A SHEPERD, another MG book. Can you tell us about your road to publication and any bumps along the way?

My road was more long than bumpy. I am blessed with an amazing community of writers in Portland. Heather Vogel Frederick, Susan Blackaby, Carmen Bernier-Grand, and Virginia Euwer Wolfff have all been generous mentors to me over the years. I started writing when I had 3 children under the age of six. I decided to take the time I had at home with all of them to develop my writing. If I wasn’t getting anywhere by the time my youngest started school, I’d set the writing aside and go back to teaching—a profession I dearly love.

But when my fourth child had been in kindergarten for two weeks, I got a check in the mail from Oregon Literary Arts for almost a thousand dollars. It was a fellowship to help me finish my work in progress. That was a life-changing letter. I decided to stick with it. I got an agent, Stephen Fraser, several months later, and about a year after that we sold Heart of a Shepherd to Jim Thomas at Random House. Jim and Steve have both been wonderful to work with. They have almost 50 years of experience in the business between them, and I am very grateful for their willingness to give me the time I need to get my stories just right.

7. That’s so cool how you made your internal deadline for getting published. How did you market your book? Did you find there were any challenges unique to being a middle grade author? Were there any specific blogs or other marketing tools you found especially helpful?

Marketing Second Fiddle has been all joy! I’m not a big on line social networker, but here is an example of what has worked for me.

My friend Liz Rusch has a book which is also about music. It’s the picture book biography of Maria Anna Mozart—For the Love of Music. She and I teamed up at our local indy bookstore A Children’s Place. We invited the Metro Youth Symphony to come to the store and play with us. They were amazing! They played a little Mozart. Liz read her book and talked about researching the life of Wolfgang Mozart’s big sister. Then the kids played Pachelbel’s Canon, which is a piece of music my girls are working on in the book. I read a little from Second Fiddle. The musicians and I chatted a bit about the fun of making music with friends. And then we handed out kazoos so everyone could play. Mozart composed several variations on Twinkle Little Star, so I played Twinkle with the kazoo players in the audience and the Metro Youth Symphony did improvisations on the tune. It was really fun!

I have several more events of this kind planned all over Oregon and I am in conversation with several bookstores and librarians about taking it on the road. If that sort of event sounds like something you’d like to have at your bookstore or library, please get in touch through my website.

8. That’s great that you tapped into the unique aspect of your book—music—in marketing your book. That is exactly what the experts recommend doing. What are you working on now?


I am writing another MG adventure story set in the most dangerous dozen nautical miles in the entire Pacific—the Columbia Bar. I’m still in the middle of writing this one, so I can’t say too much more about it. It’s called The Wayfinder.

Good luck Rosanne. You can contact Rosanne at her website.

Rosanne has generously offered a copy of SECOND FIDDLE for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on May 14th. I’ll announce the winner on May 16th. International entries are welcome.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here.

And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:

Shannon Messenger-the founder of this awesome group

Shannon O’Donnell

Joanne Fritz

Sherrie Petersen

Brooke Favero

Myrna Foster

Anita Laydon Miller

Barbara Watson

Just Deb

Kit Lit Frenzy

Michael Gettel-Gilmartin


Sheri Larsen

Next week I’m starting my ASK THE EXPERT series where I ask kids between 5th and 12th grade about how they find out about books. My first interview is with an 8th grade boy who loves to read. All the tweens and teens who participate are taking time from their busy schedules to answer my questions. I’m sure they’d like to know we appreciate it by seeing a lot of comments. Please be sure to come back and comment.

On May 23rd, I’m so excited, like jumping up and down excited, to interview Beth Revis and give away a copy of her book ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.

Hope to see you next week.

Agent Spotlight: Kristin Nelson

This week's Agent Spotlight features Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, LLC.

Status: Accepting submissions.

2008KristinNelsonHeadshot_150x225 About: “Kristin has her B.A. from the University of Missouri at Columbia and is a graduate of the nationally respected University of Denver Publishing Institute. In the early nineties, she studied creative writing with National Book Award Nominee Patricia Henley at Purdue University where she earned her M.A. This makes her particularly interested in representing fiction.

“Before opening her own agency, she learned the ropes working for another literary agent. As for her previous work history, Kristin has been a college English teacher, a freelance writer, and a corporate trainer for business communication topics before embracing her true passion of agenting.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Nelson Literary Agency was founded in 2002 and is based in the chic/hip urban setting of lower Downtown Denver—otherwise known as Lodo. Embodying a modern philosophy that technology is meant to be used, the Nelson Agency is a living example that a powerhouse agency does not have to be located in New York.

“In such a short time, the Nelson Agency has sold more than 100 books, landed several film deals, and has contracted foreign rights on behalf of our clients in all the major territories, including Germany, France, Holland, Japan, and even Russia and Indonesia. Nelson Agency authors have become national bestsellers, RITA-award winners, and have appeared on bestseller lists such as The New York Times, USA Today, Barnes & Noble, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Denver Post.

“We are a hands-on agency that strongly believes in taking on clients for their whole career. We provide editorial and marketing guidance as well as aggressive expertise in contract negotiation.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Nelson Literary website.

Pubrants (blog).

Publisher’s Marketplace page.

AAR.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker, AuthorAdvance.

What She's Looking For:

From the Nelson Lit Website:

“Nelson Literary Agency represents fiction for adult, young adult and middle grade books. We work with literary and commercial fiction. For nonfiction, we are only interested in memoir. We are currently seeking: Literary (with a commercial bent), Commercial mainstream, Women's fiction, Romance (all types for single title except inspirational), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Memoir.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2010):

“If the manuscript is well-written with an original concept, we are interested in all submissions for young adult and middle grade. Don't look at our current list and make assumptions that we wouldn't like dark or wouldn't like a male protagonist or anything like that. We love everything in the YA and MG field.” (Link)

From an Interview (01/2010):

“I’d love to see more literary fiction with that strong commercial bent—like Jamie Ford. Great storytelling, lovely writing, and a dynamic plot to really drive the story. I see a lot of literary fiction with superb writing but there’s no solid plot to keep the pace strong. I certainly see the value in beautifully written and introspective literary fiction such as Prague—but it’s not right for me.
I want literary fiction with a genre plot—if that makes any sense.” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

"We do not look at submissions for screenplays, short story collections, poetry, horror, mystery (unless chick lit), thriller, children’s picture books, any nonfiction except as listed above, or material for the Christian/Inspirational market." (Link)

Quotables:

“For me, the project has to be extraordinary to add a new client to my list so in a sense, I’m taking on very few clients right now but I’m still hoping for that project that makes me drop everything to take it on. But don’t despair! My associate agent Sara Megibow is actively growing her client list so we are looking at a lot of stuff from new writers. There’s a ton of room on her list right now so bring on the great projects.” (Link)

“If you can’t navigate the Internet world, you are at a significant disadvantage in comparison to your competition—especially in the realm of children’s books.
Where do you think the young readers are? You as an author had better be there too!” (Link)

“I have a great network of publicists that I can put my authors in touch with. I often hound the publisher about what they'll be doing for the client but other than that, I'm an agent not a publicist. […] I expect my authors to be savvy about all the publicity open and available to them even if they don't want to spend a lot of money. There are a lot of ways to leverage the internet etc.” (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes. “We are a hands-on agency that strongly believes in taking on clients for their whole career. We provide editorial and marketing guidance as well as aggressive expertise in contract negotiation.” (Link)

Clients:

A list of Nelson Literary clients can be found on the website here as well as lists of their middle grade and young adult titles.

Ms. Nelson’s clients include: Sarah Rees Brennan, Gail Carriger, Ally Carter, Megan Crewe, Lucienne Diver, Simone Elkeles, Jamie Ford, Janice Hardy, Carolyn Jewel, Mari Mancusi, Courtney Milan, Paula Reed, Kristina Riggle, Lisa Shearin, Linnea Sinclair, Helen Stringer, Sherry Thomas.

Sales:

As 05/11, Ms. Nelson is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 11 deals in the last 12 months, 18 six-figure+ deals, and 70 overall.  Recent deals include 6 young adult, 2 women’s/romance, 1 sci-fi/fantasy, 1 international rights, and 1 graphic novel.

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

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

One page query by e-mail.  Put QUERY and the title of your project in the subject line.  No attachments. 

"If we are interested, we will send you a reply email with explicit directions on how to upload sample pages to our electronic submission database. We are an environmentally-friendly, paper-free office."

See the Nelson Literary website for complete up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

There are Query Dos and Don’ts listed in this interview at WOW.

There are Query Letter and Book Proposal tips in the FAQ on the site.

Response Times:

Very fast. The agency's stated response time is 5-10 days with occasional longer instances.  Stats on the web show Ms. Nelson generally responds to queries within hours to a couple weeks.  Her response time on requested material appears to be days to a few weeks.

What's the Buzz?

Ms. Nelson is a highly respected literary agent.  She’s shed tremendous light on the publishing industry via her blog, Pub Rants, and continues to educate writers and industry professionals on a weekly basis.  She’s a member of the AAR and listed as “highly recommended” on P&E. If you can gain her representation, you’re sure to be in good hands.  See this post for the agency’s 2010 statistics. 

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Agent Interview: Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency at Cynsations (03/2010).

Agent Advice Interview with Kristin Nelson at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (01/2010).

2k9 Agent and Editor Interview Series - Kristin Nelson at Class of 2K9 (09/2009).

The Inside Scoop from Kristin Nelson by Sue Donckels at WOW (2007?).

An Interview with Denver Literary Agent Kristin Nelson at New West Books & Writers (10/2007).

Interview with an Agent, Kristin Nelson at Dear Author (07/2007).

Blog Posts:

Ms. Nelson has one of the best industry blogs around, and I’d be listing posts for days if I tried to highlight the particularly helpful. Check out the sidebar on her blog, Pub Rants, where she’s linked all her Agent 101 posts, Client Queries that Worked, Submission Pitch Letters to Editors, and an entire Query Pitch Workshop. If you have a question about publishing or her agenting style, it’s likely she’s covered it at some point. Check the labels for archived posts.

Around the Web:

Nelson Literary Agency on P&E ($, Recommended). Kristin Neslon on P&E (AAR, $, Highly Recommended).

Nelson Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

See the Nelson Literary FAQ for more info about the agency and submitting.

Consider subscribing to the (free) Nelson Literary newsletter for more inside scoop.

Kristin Nelson: 2 Quick Tips on Writing Query Letters, video at Janet Goldstein’s site (04/2011).

Successful Queries: Agent Kristin Nelson and Give up the Ghost at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (05/2010).

Successful Queries: Agent Kristin Nelson and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet at the Guide to Literary Agents blog (10/2009).

Contact:

Please see the Nelson Literary website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 5/5/11.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent?  N/A

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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.