Welcome to Literary Rambles! While you’re rambling around and exploring the site enter for a chance to win:

THE YOUNG ELITES through November 29th

Gratitude Giveaway Hop through November 30th

THE DISAPPEARING through December 8th.

ERIN MOULTON GUEST POST ON MARKETING AND TRACING STARS GIVEAWAY

Today I'm excited to share Erin Moulton's new middle grade novel, TRACING STARS. It's a book about friendships and self-identity, such big issues in the middle grade years.

Here's a description from Goodreads:

A charming novel about sisterhood, self-identity, and friendship from the author of Flutter

Indie Lee Chickory knows she's not as cool as her older sister Bebe. Bebe has more friends, for one. And no one tells Bebe she's a fish freak, for two. So when Indie accidentally brings her pet lobster to school, makes a scene, loses him in the ocean and embarrasses Bebe worse than usual, she makes a wish on a star to become a better Chickory. She tries to do this by joining the stage crew of the community's theater production, The Sound of Music. (Bebe has a starring role.) But Bebe is worried that Indie will embarrass her again, so she gives her a makeover and tells her who she should be friends with. That means Owen is out. But he's fun and smart, so Indie keeps her friendship with him a secret. At night, Indie and Owen rebuild a tree house into a ship in the sky to catch Indie's pet lobster. But during the day, Indie has to hide her friendship with Owen.

When things come to a head, Indie realizes that being true to yourself is more important than being cool. But what's even more surprising is that Bebe realizes it, too.


Doesn't that sound good? Erin's going to share a fabulous guest post on marketing with us today. So here's Erin.


So, today I am here to discuss marketing for your middle grade novel. It’s funny, I get asked about this a lot. I have spoken about it on panels, and I have written blog posts about it, and yet, marketing is something I hate. Well, maybe hate is strong word. But it’s certainly something I feel, well, sick about. Honestly. I don’t know what the deal is. I write a book. It’s out in the world, but then figuring out how to talk about the book is hard for me. It literally makes my stomach twist. And here I am…to talk to you about how to do it! I know what you are saying, why the hell are you going to tell us how to do it if you can’t get a grip on it yourself, lady? 

That is a valid question, my friend. As it turns out, I have been talking to more and more writers, and it appears to be a common place of discomfort. It’s certainly not universal, but let’s face the facts, a lot of introverts are not good at putting themselves out there and the word “marketing” certainly indicates that you take charge of promoting yourself. And, again, let’s face the facts, a lot of writers are introverts. Myself included. But, I have come to think of it in a new, healthier way. 

One day, while I was leaving a school visit I was thinking, why do I love this, but hate putting myself out there to adults, to the market etc? And I realized it was because when I am doing a school visit, I feel like I am engaging with, and giving something to, the group. When I hear the word, marketing I think promotion, ads, commercials etc. Look, look, look, me, me, me! Bleh! Ultimately, I had preconceived notions about what marketing meant, and I think those notions were wrong. As I got into my car it dawned on me that if I thought about marketing simply as engaging with my audience, it wouldn’t feel nearly as uncomfortable. But that left the question: How would I engage with my readers? Well, I thought about it and I came up with three simple steps that helped me and I hope they help you, too. 

Step 1: Figure out who your audience is and give them what they need. Understand whether your book is for the school/library market or if it will be commercial. My books are for the school/library market, so I know that the people I want to engage with are teachers, librarians and kids! In order to engage with this group, I
a)      Made sure my website was friendly to teachers and librarians. I made a teacher’s guide, so it could be used in the classroom. I added Readers Theater and interviews. If you can put up some video, do that, too! Post anything you think will be helpful to teachers, kids or librarians in a school setting.
b)      I also made myself available for school visits. You can either post school visit content to your website or have a few idea options available to send teachers and librarians when they contact you. If you get a request from very far away, be sure to make skype available at a lower cost. It works great and it’s still beneficial to the kids.
c)       I also reached out to my MG and school library book bloggers. You can do a blog book tour (just like I am doing now). Make sure you give options for posts: review, interviews, giveaways, guest posts etc. That way you are not just saying “hey look at me, look at me!” Think content. You will be amazed at how open and welcoming the world of bloggers is, just as long as you are clear with your motives and have something significant to offer.

Step 2: Utilize your strengths to help/give to others. I don’t just mean with writing. I mean, utilize your strengths as a human. I get excited for others very easily and I have what the other librarians call the “nice factor.” I honestly can’t help it and rarely know when I am doing it. I nod on cue and give lots of encouraging looks. I have been hugged by a complete stranger on the street more than once. Actually more than twice. (now that I am thinking about this, I am starting to think it is actually a weakness….) In any case, I am not saying you need to be super friendly, but: know thyself, writer, and use your skills to buoy others. Like a lot of writers, I get excited about colleagues in the writing community, so I can’t help but
a)      Show off the work of friends and colleagues. Sometimes through reviews at the library, sometimes retweeting articles, other times just plain bragging about them. Do you have a blog? Can you do book chats or regular reviews? Be a voice in the greater picture.

b)      Give stuff away! I give stuff away on blogs, goodreads, and whenever I do a reading or signing I like to bring a basket or a book to giveaway. It’s a thank you for people giving their time to come and visit me. You’re given the pleasure of their company. Give something back. Make it unique to you and your story. Think about what sets you apart and give with that in mind. Do you love working with kids? Give away a skype visit. Do you work with charities? Do a raffle and give the profit to your favorite foundation. You get the gist; use your skills to buoy your book as well as others.

Step 3: (is small but important) be consistent with images so that people recognize you. We’re talking about engaging an audience here, and you cannot engage an audience if the audience cannot find you. Imagine if you were a band who regularly changed their name? Or, well, imagine if you were a writer who wrote every book under a different name? No one would be able to follow you to see what you are up to next. Make sure you have the same images on

a)      twitter and facebook, goodreads, amazon and your websites

b) swag, giveaways and gifties

So my point? Don’t market. Find your audience and engage with them. Think strengths, consistency, content and generosity. That’s my two cents. How do you engage with your readers?


Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars(Philomel/Penguin 2012). Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association and is currently the YA librarian at the Derry Public Library.  Erin lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppy where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams.  You can visit her online at www.erinemoulton.com or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or find her on twitter @erinemoulton.

Erin has generously offered an ARC of TRACING STARS 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 July 14th. I’ll announce the winner on July 16th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here's what's coming up. There's a lot:

I hope you'll come back on Monday when I interview Carolyn Turgeon about her new book THE NEXT FULL MOON, a fantastic middle grade story about a girl who grows wings. Carolyn has written a number of adult/YA crossover books so she has lots of great advice to share with you.
 
The following Monday I'm interviewing Laurisa White Reyes and giving away a copy of her amazing book THE ROCK OF IVANHOE.


Wednesday that week Casey has a guest post scheduled with Shannon Wiersbitzky on staying focused and she's giving away THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS.

The following Monday I'm interviewing Lenny Lee for my ASK THE EXPERT series and sharing and giving away UNRAVELING and THE SELECTION.

Then Wednesday that week I'm interviewing Leigh Bardugo and giving away a copy of her fantasy SHADOW AND BONE. I've heard such amazing things about her book. I've been saving it to read this week and I can't for her interview. 

Have a great weekend and see you on Monday!






HEATHER MCCORKLE INTERVIEW AND TO RIDE A PUCA INTERVIEW

Today I’m excited to interview Heather McCorkle about TO RIDE A PUCA that was released on May 21, 2012. One of the reasons I’m excited about Heather’s book is that it deals with Druids, which I’ve been interested in but don’t know anything about. And I really liked Neala, a fiercely independent girl in a time where women weren’t very independent, learning about her powers and her place in the world.

Here’s a description for Goodreads:

Invaders are coming to take what isn't theirs, again.

Neala wants to stand and fight for her homeland, but as one of the last druids, she may be standing alone.

Persecuted, hunted down, forced to live in obscurity, the druids have all but given up. Can the determination of a girl who has barely come into her power bring them together? Or, just when she finally finds her place among her kind, will they end up losing a homeland their very magic is tied to?

Hi Heather. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I love fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, pretty much anything out of the ordinary. I’ve been writing since I was twelve. I began writing because I didn’t like the way stories ended.  Silly, I know, but hey, I was twelve! LOL!

2.  Sounds like we have similar reading tastes. For those of us who haven’t read anything else in the Channeler series, tell us about it.

The channeler series is about a half-Mayan, half-Irish teen girl who discovers she has the ability to use energy like a physical force to either heal or fight. She also finds out that her grandfather believes she is a warrior of legend destined to fight in the last battle for the Earth.

3.  One of the things I loved about this book is that it’s about Druids. Please share about your research process and share some of your research links or books that some of us might want to check out.

 Me too! Druids have always fascinated me. The Irish Times was a site I frequented to get immersed in the current culture. Roots Web, Ireland’s History In Maps was priceless to me. And of course there was Google searches backed up by library references and many great books.

4.  Thanks for sharing the links. I'll have to check them out. How did you develop Neala as a character and do you see yourself in her at all?

She came to me fully formed, attitude and all. It was almost like meeting an old friend, one that hounded me to tell her story. I’m not one to put myself in my characters consciously but I have no doubt that little bits of me and my experiences find their way into Neala.

5.  Wow! That must have made writing this a bit easier. World building is really important in your story. What was your world building process like? I’d also like to know why you decided to use the dialect you chose, for example: “Yer a big help as always me friend.”

My process begins with research on how things were at the time and in the location the story takes place. Dress, food, culture, traditions, it’s all based off history and becomes a part of the world. The dialect is taken from bits of the modern dialect and bits of what is known throughout history to have been used in the area.

6.  That's awesome that you stayed true to the times. You chose the independently publishing route. What led you to that decision? What should authors thinking of this option consider and do you have any resources you recommend they check out?

Despite my beta readers pushing me to go big with this one, I decided to publish with my own press. The creative control of going indie is worth the work. Plus, I figured, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t support my own press by publishing with them! Authors who are considering going indie need to approach it carefully, like a business that they are willing to put 110% of themselves into. I highly recommend hiring a freelance editor, a cover designer, and even an interior designer if one isn’t technically talented. Then be ready to market your pants off.

7.  That's great advice to hire people to help make the book polished in the areas you don't have the expertise to do well. Since you’ve published several books, you must have an idea what works and doesn’t work in spreading the word about your books. Share some of your advice on marketing a book.

Marketing is a fickle thing. What works for one may not work for another. That said, having a good, consistent web presence if vital. Find what your good at and do it, be that Facebook, blogging, Twitter, or a mixture of social networks. Establish real friendships, do for others, and never spam.

8.  I've seen how well you use your blogger friend connections to help shout out about your books. I saw in your bio that you also design book covers for Compass Press, the publisher of your books. Tell us about the process of designing covers. Did you design any of your covers?

Designing covers is my second biggest love, next to writing of course. The creative process and challenge of making something original and fantastic is inspiring. I design all of Compass Press’s covers.

9.  That's so cool that you're talented in designing book covers too. What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the last novel in the channeler series, Rise of a Rector which is due out in September and I’m working on a short story that will be featured in Compass Press’s first anthology alongside some outstanding authors, Winter Wonders, due out this December.

Thanks for all your advice Heather. You can find Heather at her blog, on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

Heather has generously offered a copy of TO RIDE A PUCA 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 July 14th.  I’ll announce the winner on July 16th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here's what's coming up:

On Friday, I have a guest post scheduled with Erin Moulton and a giveaway of TRACING STARS, a summer middle grade tale.

Next Monday, I'm interviewing Carolyn Turgeon and giving away a copy of THE NEXT FULL MOON, a fairy tale retelling of a girl who grows wings.
 
The following Monday I'm interviewing Laurisa White Reyes and giving away a copy of her amazing book THE ROCK OF IVANHOE.


Wednesday that week Casey has a guest post scheduled with Shannon Wiersbitzky on staying focused and she's giving away THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS.

The following Monday I'm interviewing Lenny Lee, an amazing middle grader, for my ASK THE EXPERT series and sharing and giving away UNRAVELING and THE SELECTION.

Then Wednesday that week I'm interviewing Leigh Bardugo and giving away a copy of her fantasy SHADOW AND BONE. I've heard such amazing things about her book. I just got my copy and can't wait to read it.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Agent Spotlights on Thursdays.

Hope to see you on Friday!

Tip Tuesday #133

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. 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 Melanie Woods. You may remember Melanie from tip #127 where she had us consider what might be on our main character's camera.  Here's her newest suggestion!

FEMALE WRITERS WRITING IN A MALE POV
Are you a female writer trying to write a story with a male MC but having a hard time grasping that “male voice?” 
Currently, there are few YA books with male MCs written by male authors. The majority of YA “boy books” are written by women, and sometimes the voice just doesn’t sound male.

There’s one quick way to learn the guy voice--read guy magazines such as these listed below:

ESQUIRE
MEN’S JOURNAL
GQ
MEN’S HEALTH

It’s easy to read an article or two before your BIC time.

~Melanie Woods

KAREN SCHRECK INTERVIEW AND WHILE HE WAS AWAY GIVEAWAY


Hope you are all enjoying summer. We've just had our first week since school got out. But with a swimmer, I we still have to get up at 6:00 am because she has to be at the pool at 7:15 for two hours of practice. And she's just started driver's ed. (Can't believe she's growing up so fast.) Still, it's so nice having more family time and not being so busy.

Before I share Karen's awesome interview, I have a number of winners to announce. 

The winner of SURRENDER is:

MARSHA SIGMAN

The winner of REGRET is: 

RACHNA CHHABRIA

The winner of STRUCK is:

KIMBERLY GABRIEL

The winners of the Indie Author Book Giveaway are:

GINA BLECHMAN who picked BECOME


JENNY C who picked CLOSED HEARTS


LYDIA KANG who picked A SPY LIKE ME

The winner of LIKE CLOCKWORK is:


LONDON JUDGE

Congrats to all the winners. E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview Karen Schreck whose new book WHILE HE WAS AWAY was released on May 1, 2012. I was especially interested in sharing this book with you because it deals with a long distance relationship when Pena’s boyfriend goes to war in Iraq. This is such a timely topic given our world today.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."

He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.


All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.

When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.

She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?

Hi Karen. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I was an only child.  You know that cliché about books being best friends?  Well, that was true in my life.  I wrote my first story in an orange notebook (just like Harriet the Spy’s), when I was nine.  (I still have it.  It features a unicorn.)  I had a wonderful high school English teacher who further inspired my love of reading and writing, and by the end of college, I knew that I wanted to this work seriously.  I wouldn’t give up, I decided.  I got my MA and doctorate in Creative Writing . . . but this by know means makes or breaks a writer.  I just kept on doing it even when I wasn’t getting published, kept on trying to learn more and more from day to day, kept reading like a writer. I did my best to keep my desire alive, in other words, nd to be disciplined to the best of my ability, while also maintaining “paying work, and loving my children and my husband.  Like so many good thing, writing is a choice an individual has to make.  I just kept making that choice.

2.  I didn't have many friends as a kid so I can totally relate to books being your friends. I’ve read you did a lot of research on the military and serving in Iraq for this book. Tell us about the research you did and share tips on connecting with the right research sources when doing a book like this.

Over the years that I wrote WHILE HE WAS AWAY, I interviewed soldiers and vets who were serving or served in Iraq.  I interviewed girlfriends and their wives.  I interviewed Gold Star Wives through email—these women who’d suffered so much loss were incredibly generous with me.  I reflected deeply on the war stories that I’d heard from both my mother and my father—what I knew and what I didn’t know, and what I still wanted to know, based on what they’d shared about their experiences.  (My father served in multiple theaters of WWII; my mother’s first husband was killed in WWII.)  I read books and blogs and watched every movie about Iraq I could find.  I learned more about war than I’d EVER imagined I would learn.  And I have to say, I was changed by the experience.  That’s what writing should do for a writer, I guess.

3.  Wow! You were really dedicated to being sure your story is accurate. Your book involves heart wrenching issues. Pena has to deal with saying goodbye to her boyfriend David for a year while he goes to Iraq. And then they have to try to maintain their relationships long distance. What were some of the challenges in really showing us some of the emotions these characters go through?

I think long distance love can be very challenging—and when people are communicating across “continents and the oceans in between” (as I write in the book) it can be an act of great service just to keep the lines of communications open and intact.  Especially since the lines of communication are so frequently thwarted by powers beyond anyone’s control.  In this day and age, we feel we have such easy access to communication—we’re right at each other’s fingertips.  People who are in situations like Penna’s and David’s can’t take that communication for granted.  

I guess another way to say this is:  communication is hard in any relationship. I wanted to explore this fact, and Penna and David’s situation threw it into dramatic relief. 
Another challenge I faced in dealing with Penna and David’s emotions had to do with time.  I wanted to communicate the sense that time is relative:  weeks can go by in a blur when a person (like Penna or David) is undergoing great stress or is emotionally distraught.  At the same time, a single day can hold the complexity of a year of real time.

4.  I think the fact that David is stationed across the world definitely adds a layer of challenges to those of being in a long distance relationship. Besides the issues of staying in contact, neither of them had the freedom to jump on a plane to see each other. Pena finds ways to cope with her situation, including discovering the mystery surrounding a grandmother she never knew about. Tell us a bit about Pena’s coping mechanisms and why you chose the subplot about her grandmother.

It’s been my experience (firsthand and from observation) that love can sometimes feel all-consuming.  Also I think that’s how many people in our culture (perhaps especially girls) have been trained to think it should be.  Just listen to much of the music on the radio; watch most of the popular movies.  While that romantic idea has much appeal, I also think it’s profoundly important that people in life and characters in book develop other passions and interests.  We’d all be pretty one-dimensional if we didn’t.  So though I believe in the depth and purpose of the love between Penna and David, I also felt like for everyone’s sake, Penna and David BOTH needed to find other means of support.  Penna copes by searching for her grandmother, getting interested in her job, making art, finding some new friends, and deepening her relationship with her mom.  David copes by making art, engaging in his difficult experience, and dedicating himself to the work at the orphanage—seeing the humanity behind the people in Iraq.  These developments in the characters’ lives occur because of their painful separation—but I think they are probably better people for expanding their lives, opening themselves up to other experiences of truth and beauty.

In terms of Penna’s search for Justine:  I wanted to explore the way the connections between generations can be severed and recreated.  It’s all about forgiveness and healing for me; it’s about the possibility of reunion—even if the reunion is less than perfect, less than easy.  Maybe especially then.  I’ve seen estrangement and reconnection in my own extended family—the leave-taking, the coming home again.  Often this has occurred because of some superficial understanding of the differences between generations and eras.  Writing this book, I really came to believe that those differences (as represented by  three different wars) are not as profound as we sometimes assume they are.  We are more alike across the years than we often assume.

5.  This is not your first book. You last book DREAM JOURNAL was published in 2006. Tell us about your publication experiences and how you continued to write during this period when you didn’t have any books being released. Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

The initial draft of WHILE HE WAS AWAY was proceeded by a few fiction manuscripts that simply would not evolve as I hoped they would.  I’ve still got those drafts though.  I try to keep a version of everything into which I’ve invested time and energy; you never know when you might want to resurrect what seemed to be dross and turn it into gold.  I really believe that everything feeds the fire—so those attempts, and all the many drafts of WHILE HE WAS AWAY that I needed to move through before I finally wrote the draft that my editor at Sourcebooks Fire, Leah Hultenschmidt, chose to option, kept not only my writing life alive, but laid the necessary, stabilizing material on which to finally build a book.

I’m typically not a fast writer, so I hold on to the fact that history is filled with stories of writers and other workers who do their time, pay their dues, keep on keeping on.  Sure, there are those who publish quickly—and more power to them.  But there are many who process and produce their work at a very different pace.  I have to make peace with my pace, and the timing of things (over which we can only have so much control), because I have to keep writing.  Writing is part of me, of how I make meaning, whether I’m actively publishing or not.

6.  I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't produce their work quickly. What are you doing to market your book? Since your book deals with military life, are there any special markets that you’re trying to tap into?

I feel blessed to have a wonderful publicist at Sourcebooks Fire, Derry Wilkins, who has done a marvelous job of connecting me with reviewers and bloggers.  I’ve LOVE these online blog interviews, and the opportunity to be so graciously hosted by others in the vreading and writing community has been one of the best parts of this publishing experience.  So . . . I’ve tried to blog as much as possible, and to share that information through other social media avenues.  I’ve also been to a few conferences, done a few signings—I was thrilled to sign at two of Oklahoma’s best independent bookstore:  Best of Books and Full Circle Books.  I had my first (live!) TV interview in Oklahoma . . . I learned a lot from that experience about how to be in front of a camera, how to breathe and relax, and how to let my belief in story-telling carry me (versus any concern about how I might be perceived).  

7.  That's awesome that you've really connected with the blogging community and your own community. What are you working on now?

I have three projects that I’m happily moving between:  I’m going to present another YA manuscript to Sourcebooks Fire, with hopes that they’ll like (they’ve expressed interest in the idea, which involves a teen with PTSD).  I’m also collaborating on a time travel series for elementary school kids with my good friend, the writer Carmela Martino (collaboration is a blast for me as a writer—writing can be a lonely venture, and it’s so nice to share the experience with someone I respect and enjoy).  And I’m working on a historical novel for adults.  All very meaningful and rewarding and just plain fun.

Oh . . . and lots of people have been asking for a sequel to WHILE HE WAS AWAY, so that’s brewing too!

Sounds like you've got a lot going on. Thanks Karen for sharing your advice. You can find Karen at her website and her blog

Karen generously offered a signed ARC of WHILE HE WAS AWAY 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 July 14th.  I’ll announce the winner on July 16th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here's what's coming up. On Wednesday I'm interviewing Heather McCorkle and giving away a copy of her new book TO RIDE A PUCA. I was especially interested in this because it deals with Druids, something I'm really interested in, but don't read much about.

On Friday, I have a guest post scheduled with Erin Moulton and a giveaway of TRACING STARS, a summer middle grade tale.

Next Monday, I'm interviewing Carolyn Turgeon and giving away a copy of THE NEXT FULL MOON, a fairy tale retelling of a girl who grows wings. Carolyn is an established adult/YA crossover author and she has lots of great advice to share.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Agent Spotlights on Thursdays.

Hope to see you on Wednesday.

Luke Reynolds Interviews Ammi-Joan Paquette

Luke Reynolds, author of Keep Calm and Query On, did an inspiring guest post for me last month and now he’s back with an interview with his fabulous agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Muprhy Literary Agency. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have these two on the blog today. Enjoy!

AJPaquetteAmmi-Joan Paquette is an agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, as well as a prolific author of picture books (including THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS and the forthcoming HULLABALOO), middle grade novels (including NOWHERE GIRL and the forthcoming DAHLIA’S RULES FOR GHOSTING) and young adult novels (including the forthcoming PARADOX). She shares her warmth, wit, and wisdom below regarding her own journey and offers up a full course of courage and confidence for writers at all stages of their careers.

Your journey as both an author and agent is quite unique. Can you share a bit about the organic process that drew you to each vocation?

I began seriously writing for children when my own daughters were young, and it's a process that has grown along with them, so to speak. I think what drew me to agenting was the idea of combining my love of books with the thrill of literary matchmaking--finding just the right home for undiscovered gems about which I was passionate. Both of these occupations fit so well within my personality and interests, and every day I'm thrilled all over again that this is what I get to do for a living!

What books are on your bedside table right now? (Or living room table, or any various table that holds your currently-reading / to-read-soon books)?

I just finished (much-belatedly) the wonderful DAIRY QUEEN, by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch, and am now partway through--and loving--both THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater and THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND, by Catherynne M. Valente.

valente girl who circumnavigated fairylandWhat's a recent line from any book that squeezed your heart?

Just read this wonderful snippet last night, from THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND: "There must be blood, the girl thought. ... It will all be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it's the wonders I'm after, even if I have to bleed for them."

If I say the word "courage" you think of...

I think writing at its core is a supremely courageous activity. You're putting your heart on the page, every day, without promise of reward or acceptance. You know it's a long road, that there are no guarantees, and that all that's certain ahead is the promise of a more uncertain future. And yet you carry on, putting one word in front of another, in front of another - believing there is value in your passion, believing that this world you envision will one day be real. If there's a better description of courage, I can't think of it right now.

Why do you think writing and reading are such important endeavors?

Writing and reading feed imagination, which feeds hope, which is the stuff the world is made of. It's not living in a dream world; it's taking our dreams and giving them roots and bringing them to life. What could be more important than that?

NowhereGirl_thumbIn your poignant and powerful novel NOWHERE GIRL, told from the point of view of 13-year-old Luchi Ann, you write, "Emptiness, that's all I can see right now. Roads that lead to the mountains, mountains that scrape the sky. It's all strange and huge and wild. Of course, I have seen it all before, but that wasn't me; that was a girl with my same name, some creature of mud and bone who had never felt the lick of true freedom on her skin." As you wrote Luchi Ann's journey, what inspired you to stay with her from creation to publication--from an idea to a book that could feel the 'lick of true freedom' on its covers?

NOWHERE GIRL started as a question. After reading an article about a young boy who had grown up in a prison in Thailand, I wondered how this would shape a child, how would you go on from this, what type of person would you--could you--be in the face of such enormous life-shaping circumstances. As the story grew, so did Luchi's character, and the more I got to know her, the more hooked I was. Telling her story became an end in itself--diving in deeply enough to pull together the threads of her life and figure out what make her tick, where she came from and where she would go from there. I can only hope I've done her story justice.

What about the writing / representing / publishing process would make you want to put pretzel sticks in your ears?

That would be all those outside-of-your-control factors--the manuscript you love but can't quite place; the reviewer who just doesn't get it; the sales numbers that don't quite skew in the right direction. For every downside, though, this business definitely has a dozen or more upsides!

mermaidcoverLaugh an honest-to-goodness belly laugh?

I guess this would be sometimes the way you just NEVER KNOW. That can be taken all kinds of ways, and they all apply.

Sing at the top of your lungs on a busy thorough-fare?

My favorite part of the job is getting to make "the call" - matching the perfect author with the perfect publisher; and seeing that giddy enthusiasm I feel for a story reflected in the eyes of an editor, and then others in the publishing industry, and then with readers--and the whole world!

Take a vacation?

That would probably be whenever I look at my to-do list, or my Inbox, or my submissions-to-read pile...

If there were one little nugget of advice you'd give to a writer-in-the-wings, it would be:

Persevere! The road worth walking is often long and winding, but when you look back it's just not the destination you're going to remember, it's all the experiences you had on the way there.

Luke Reynolds Headshot_thumb[1]Luke Reynolds is the author of A Call to Creativity (Teachers College Press, 2012) and is co-editor of both Burned In (Teacher College Press, 2011, with Audrey Friedman) and Dedicated to the People of Darfur (Rutgers University Press, 2009, with his wife Jennnifer Reynolds). Luke is represeneted by the remarkably wise and kind Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. His writing has also appeared in The Believer, The Writer, The Sonora Review, The Hartford Courant, Arizona Daily Sun, Mutuality, Hunger Mountain, and Tucson Weekly. He has taught English in public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and has also taught Composition at Northern Arizona University. He and his wife, Jennifer, have one son, Tyler. They love family dancing to the oldies in their current home in York, England.

Agent Spotlight: Sean McCarthy

This week's Agent Spotlight features Sean McCarthy of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

Status: Open to submissions.

mccarthypicAbout: “Sean McCarthy began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press and then moved over to the Sheldon Fogelman Agency.  He worked as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent.  Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota.
He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, or query letters that pose too many questions.

“You can follow Sean on Twitter for his thoughts on publishing news, the inevitable hipsterfication of Astoria, and the Mets' starting lineup.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Sean McCarthy Literary Agency is a full service literary agency specializing in children's books of all ages.  It was established in 2013 by Sean McCarthy, and emphasizes a comprehensive approach in assisting clients with their literary careers.  We guide authors and illustrators through all phases of the publishing process, from developing manuscripts to negotiating contracts to managing foreign and subsidiary rights and everything in between.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Sean McCarthy Lit website.

Twitter @McCarthyLit.

Pinterest.

AgentQuery.

QueryTracker.

What He's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Children’s picture books through young adult, illustrators.

From His Bio (as above):

“He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings.” (Link)

Via Twitter (09/2013):

“I'd love to see more funny MG or YA, though not necessarily zany or wacky. Humor via character development has a more lasting impact.#MSWL” (Link)

“For YA sci-fi, I love ms that use genre to explore contemporary themes via new perspective. More than just "cool world-building, bro" #MSWL” (Link)

“I'd also love to see a subversive literary detective ms for MG or YA along the lines of Paul Auster meets THE HARDY BOYS. #MSWL” (Link)

Via Twitter (06/2013):

“I'm still looking for a concussion-sports themed YA, or anything that's as passionate about sports as THE ART OF FIELDING #MSWL” (Link)

Middle Grade: I love adventure/mysteries with exceedingly clever word games (think THE WESTING GAME) that lets the reader play along. #MSWL” (Link)

From an Interview (08/2010):

“I work on all genres within children's books, from picture books to middle grade to young adult (and anything in between). I also work with illustrators, although it's gotten much harder to find work if you're not an author-slash-illustrator, unfair as that may be.

“Generally speaking, I'm drawn to off-beat humor, quirky personalities, and sparse text in picture books; boy-friendly adventure/mysteries in middle-grade (especially if the reader can solve the puzzles along with the characters); and edgy, flawed protagonists w/ dry humor for young adult. I'm also on the lookout for dystopian stories, and I'd love to find a fractured young adult novel that features an athlete w/ a concussion.” (Link)

What He Isn't Looking For:

“He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, [Southern Gothic], or query letters that pose too many questions.” (Link, Link)

Editorial Agent?

“These days, publishers expect a project to be near-perfect before it reaches them, so I like to take an active role in revising the work before it's sent out to editors. It's a significant (though exhilarating) commitment to start working with an author in terms of time and energy, so I expect my clients to be completely dedicated to their craft and professional in their approach.” (Link)

Clients:

There is a page of recent titles on the agency website.

Mr. McCarthy’s clients include: Mark Fearing, Hillary Homzie, Zachariah O’Hora, Jamie Swenson, Hyewon Yum, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

“Please include a brief description of your book, your biography, and any literary or relevant professional credits in your query letter.

“If you are a novelist: Please submit the first three chapters of your manuscript (or roughly 25 pages) and a one page synopsis in the body of the email or as a Word or PDF attachment.

“If you are a picture book author: Please submit the complete text of your manuscript.  We are not currently accepting picture book manuscripts over 1,000 words.

“If you are an illustrator: Please attach up to 3 JPEGs or PDFs of your work, along with a link to your website.”

See the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency website for complete, up-to-date submissions guidelines.

Query Tips:

“I know it's hard to keep up and track queries, but a little personalization in the cover letter will go a long way with me. I'd much rather be addressed as ‘Dear Sean’ than ‘Dear Agent,’ and I'd also like to know why you think I'd be a good match for your work. Form query letters tend to get form rejections. (Link)

“In terms of pet peeves, I'm not a big fan of query letters that pose too many questions about the work (please just tell me what happens).” (Link)

“For picture books, I'd like to see 3 manuscripts at once, assuming that they're all under 850 words. And then, if there was a connection to the work, I'd ask to see more.” (Link)

#QueryTip If you send illustrations with your pb text, I assume that's the only way you see it. The art has to be professional if included.” (Link)

Response Times:

The agency’s stated response time is four weeks.

Stats on the web are limited but show Mr. McCarthy responding to most queries within 1-6 weeks and requested material within 1-3 months.

What's the Buzz?

Sean McCarthy founded the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency in November of 2013 after seven years with the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. The agency specializes in all genres and age ranges of children’s literature.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Interview with an Agent: Sean McCarthy at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (08/2010).

Around the Web:

Agency not yet listed at P&E or AbsoluteWrite.

Sean McCarthy, Assistant Agent at Kathleen Temean’s site (04/2009).

Agent Chat with Sean McCarthy (notes) at Writing for Kids While Raising Them (12/2008).

Contact:

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

Profile Details:

Last updated: 11/8/13.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 11/11/13.

***

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 and/or teen 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.

MY FIRST GUEST POST

I'm doing my first guest post at Stina Lindenblatt's Seeing Creative blog today. She's a regular follower of our blog and has a fantastic blog. On Fridays, I always love seeing her links to interesting blog posts and she often shares her recommendations on books on the craft of writing.

I'll be sharing tips on how to conduct a good interview. I hope you'll stop by and say hi.

Tip Tuesday #132

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. 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 Martha Ramirez. She participated in Random Acts of Kindness week hosted by The Bookshelf Muse a few weeks ago and discovered something cool. She shared it on her blog back in May but thought it might make a great Tuesday Tip. I think it does! When you're done reading, please visit Martha at her blog, Writer Unleashed.


I discovered how to record a voice message on my phone to share with friends. However, I quickly found the file used is not compatible with PCs so I did some digging and I found something really cool.

How many of you have CPs from different states or even countries? Chances are you do. What if I were to tell you, you can easily send each of them a nice personable message letting them know just how much you appreciate them? I'm betting most of you who have had contact with your CPs for years have never ever even heard their voice. Aren't you curious what they sound like? Not only that, wouldn't you want to tell them how much you absolutely love them and appreciate them via voice message?

Well, here's your chance.

 I also think this is an excellent communication tool. You know those times when it's much easier to voice something than to type it out? Maybe a short five minute brainstorming session.

 Or just letting your CP know how your day went is an awesome way to communicate. I think it's just fun to actually hear the voice of the person you've communicated to all these months—years—decades.

Some of you may already know how to do this but for those who don't, here are four easy steps on How to Record and Send a Voice Message by Email.

So go on. Let's spread some kindness out there. Send your CP or special someone a message of gratitude. I guarantee you it will put a smile on their face.

~Martha Ramirez
(As someone who received one of Martha's surprise recordings, I can vouch for that smile!)

LYNDA MULLALY HUNT INTERVIEW AND ONE FOR THE MURPHYS GIVEAWAY

First I want to thank everyone who read my Never Surrender Blogfest post on Friday. It was something very personal I went through and I appreciate all the kind comments.

Today Casey's doing a guest post at Darcy Pattison's Fiction Notes today on Top Ten Tips on Getting An Agent. Go check it out here. It sounds fantastic and Darcy's blog is a great one to follow. This is Casey's first guest post and my first one is coming up on Wednesday. (Details at the end of the post.) How weird is that?

Before I get to my awesome interview, I'll announce the winner of A SPY LIKE ME. The winner is:

JULIE MUSIL!

Congrats! I've already contacted Julie.

Today I’m excited to interview Lynda Mullaly Hunt about her debut book ONE FOR THE MURPHYS that was released May 10, 2012. I really enjoyed that this was a story about a kid in foster care. And I read it super fast—in one day.

Here’s a description from Goodreads

A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.

Hi Lynda. Thanks so much for joining us.

1.      Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became an author.

Well, I became an author through my love of writing. As a kid, I wrote song lyrics more than I wrote stories, though. As a student at UConn, I took two classes that spurred me on; one was Children’s Literature Appreciation where I wrote my first story for children. The second was a high level writing class which was not required, but I took it anyway; I’d heard it was like a writing boot camp—and it was, but I learned a lot!
As a teacher, I began writing for my students with the idea that if they could grade/correct me that they would dig deep in analyzing a writing piece--and they did! These exercises were when I really began to see how much I loved to write—even if I was intentionally writing flawed pieces.

2.      I wish I would have taken some writing classes in college. One of the things I loved about ONE FOR THE MURPHYS is that Carley is in foster care. I don’t see many stories about nontraditional families and I’m drawn to those stories since my daughter is adopted. What made you decide to write a book about a girl in foster care?

Funny the way my writing brain works! I never decided consciously to write about foster care. One day while rinsing a dish, this voice just rang in my head. I knew that she was in the hospital, confused, fatigued and upset. I also know that she was a foster child. Then, I went about researching the topic a bit and thinking a lot about the experience of being dropped into someone else’s family. 

I actually know what this is like, as I lived with another family for three months when I was young. It was a side of life I didn’t know existed and I left their home with a new vision for what my future could hold. That I would create that kind of family-oriented life for myself one day.

However, in reference to crafting the book, one thing I did make a conscious decision about was that I would write a book about a positive foster experience. Although it was suggested by editors at conferences that an abusive family may be more interesting, I knew that One for the Murphys would never be a story like that. 


3.      I'm glad you kept it positive. Because it's like the importance of showing diverse races in MG and YA books. There are a lot of kids in different family situations and it's important that books kids read reflect these different family situations in positive ways. What research did you do to get Carley’s feelings about her home life and being in a foster home right?

I don’t think you can really research feelings—at least I can’t. I drew upon experiences in my life when I may have felt similar to Carley in One for the Murphys and applied it to her circumstances.

4.      Well I'm guessing it helped that you could rely on your own experiences. Those of us who don't have any experiences like that might need to read some books about that family situation to understand some of the feelings involved. One of the relationships I enjoyed watching grow was Carley’s relationship with Daniel. Tell us about how you developed the changes in their relationship and share any tips on how to do so realistically.

Thanks, Natalie! Well, the one thing I knew about Daniel right away was that he did not want Carley in his house. It made him feel as if someone was on his turf. He worried about his mother loving someone else as much as him.

I knew that Carey loved basketball, so I made the decision to have Daniel play, too, with plans that they would eventually connect on this. However, it took longer for Daniel to warm up than I thought it might. J

5.      That was a great move to pick basketball as a way they could connect. Mrs. Murphy is a complex character too. Did you draw on your own life in developing her?

At first, the character of Mrs. Murphy was based on a mentor friend of mine that took me under her wing when I was a young teacher. I learned much about her—about children and marriage and being a mother. In fact, I dedicated the book to her (and my hubby as well!).

6.      Let’s more onto the business aspect of writing. Tell us about your road to publication and how Erin Murphy became your agent. Do you have any advice on the querying process?

Well, when I was ready for an agent, I researched like a fiend. I made charts showing what they’d been selling, took tons of notes on piles of interviews, and also researched their clients. Then went about ranking the agents I wanted to query. Erin Murphy had my top spot.

Thing was, Erin did not/does not accept queries unless you have a recommendation from one of her clients or have met her in person. I didn’t know her clients, but I did see that she would be at a group book signing in Vermont, so I drove five and a half hours to meet her. She agreed to let me send a query, then she asked for 50 pages and then she asked for the full. After reading the full, she asked to see excerpts of other things I’d written. After all of this, we had a phone conference. Finally she asked for some revisions on OFTM, which I happily (and nervously) did. Soon after, we signed together! One of the best things I’ve done as a writer—on many levels.

7.      Wow! That's total dedication to finding an agent to drive so far to meet her. I met Erin at a SCBWI conference once. I was really impressed by her. 

      I’ve heard a lot of authors say marketing a middle grade book is harder than a YA book. Tell us about your marketing plan. Also I’ve seen that you’re being interviewed on a few of the mostly YA book reviews blogs like I Am A Reader Not A Writer. Share how you were able to reach out to those type of book review blogs and get them to agree to interview you. 

Well, I just sent an honest note to each of them asking if they would. If I asked, there was something about their site that I was really drawn to or something about their site (or them as a person) that told me that they might enjoy a book like MURPHYS. I read the work of a ton more bloggers than I wrote to. Like anything in this business, it is important to do your homework. J

8.      That's great advice to do research on the bloggers you're reaching out too. No one's suggested that before. What are you working on now?

Happily, I have a second novel entitled ALPHABET SOUP under contract with Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin). I couldn’t be happier to be working with my publisher and editor on another book!

Thanks Lynda for sharing your advice. You can find Lynda at her Website, Blog, and Twitter@Lynmullalyhunt.

Lynda generously offered an ARC 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 June 30th. I’ll announce the winner on July 2nd. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by ShannonWhitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check out the other Middle Grade group:

Brennan and Meyrick Murphy
Andrea Mack
Laurisa Reyes
Kim Aippersbach
Akossiwa Ketoglo
Julie from That's Swell
Jemi Fraser

Here's what's coming up. On Wednesday, I'm doing a guest post at Seeing Creative with advice on how to conduct a good interview. I'll post a reminder on Wednesday about this. 

On Friday, we have a guest post by Luke Reynolds. He's interviewing agent Ammi-Joan Paquette. Can't wait to read the interview.

On Monday I'm interviewing Karen Halvorsen Schreck about her newly released YA book WHILE HE WAS AWAY.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's agent spotlights on Thursday.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!