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Tip Tuesday #137

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 I have a tip from Deborah Blumenthal who you're likely to remember from my March interview featuring her latest YA novel, THE LIFEGUARD. Please check out the interview if you missed it, and visit Deborah at her website to learn more about her and her books. We've had a tip similar to this in the past, so it's clearly a good one!
I recently completed a new young adult novel and I sent it to my Kindle so that I could give it a last read while I was out of the house. I was amazed at the number of errors I picked up on the Kindle that I somehow missed when I was reading it on my lap top.

~Deborah Blumenthal

ANGELA ACKERMAN AND BECCA PUGLISI INTERVIEW AND THE EMOTION THESAURUS GIVEAWAY


Hi everyone. Hope you're enjoying summer. I know for some of you, school will start in a few weeks. Here in Michigan, we don't start school till after Labor Day. Though swim practice starts twice a day every weekday for my daughter soon.

If you missed my interview last Monday with Natalie Dias Lorenzi and the giveaway of her awesome middle grade book, FLYING THE DRAGONS, I recommend you check it out. It's a multi-cultural story about Skye, a middle school girl coming to terms with her Japanese culture while wanting to be focused on her soccer, and her middle school age cousin, Hiroshi, who is dealing with coming to the United States knowing no English. Of course, there's conflict between them. I loved the story. The link to my giveaway contest is at the top of the blog.

So now onto some winners.

The winner of THE ROCK OF IVANORE is TERESA COLTRIN!

The winner of THE SELECTION is KATIE C!

and the winner of UNRAVELING is MOLLY FRENZEL!

Congrats. E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. 

Today I’m excited to interview Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, co-partners of The Bookshelf Muse blog and co-authors of THE EMOTION THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER EXPRESSION, their debut book that was released in May, 2012. It’s a fantastic tool for showing the emotions of your characters through body language, thoughts, and visceral sensations. Besides loving the tips on seventy-five emotions, I really found helpful the introduction where they talk about the power of emotion and common problems like telling, emotional clichés, and being melodramatic, and how to avoid them.

Here's a description from Goodreads:

One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character's emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.

Written in an easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them.

This writing tool encourages authors to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.

Hi Angela and Becca. Thanks so much for joining us.

1.   Tell us about yourselves, how you got into writing, and what you like to write.

ANGELA: I write Middle Grade and Young Adult, mostly with Mystery or Fantasy elements, and am represented by Jill Corcoran at The Herman Agency. I have always had a passion for writing and books, and as a kid, I loved nothing better than to get lost in a story because it helped me cope with some of the darker aspects of my childhood. Now as an adult writer, I want to offer the same sense of entertainment and companionship to others.

BECCA: I didn’t write books as a child, never envisioned myself becoming an author. But I was that kid who always had her nose in a book and enjoyed getting lost in other worlds. When I started writing as a thirty-something, it was with the desire to create those cozy, otherworldly reading experiences for today’s children and teens. YA fantasy and historical fiction are where I feel at home.

2.  Even though I've been following your blog for quite awhile, I didn't know how you both got into writing. It's fun to find out. And I'm like you Becca, I had no idea until I was an adult that I'd like to write.  

    I know you live in different countries yet developed a friendship and actually met each other. Share a bit about that and how you came up with the idea for your blog, The Bookshelf Muse.

BECCA: Well, our partnership was clearly meant to be. Angela and I both started writing about the same time, and we both joined Critique Circle within a month of each other in 2004. Despite the thousands of users who frequented that site at the time, we managed to hook up, join the same critique group, and fall in love with each others’ work.
Four years later, we decided to join forces and start our own blog. In discussing what kind of blog we'd like to have, we decided to offer resources to other writers in a format that would keep people coming back for more. Back in the day, we had cobbled together a list of bodily cues—a thesaurus, of sorts, consisting of physical indicators for different emotions (because our characters were constantly biting their lips, smiling, and shrugging). We figured, if we both were struggling with this area of descriptive writing, other writers probably were too, so we decided to share our list of emotional indicators at The Bookshelf Muse. This became The Emotion Thesaurus, the first of six descriptive writing resources at our blog.

3.   That's so cool that you were friends for so long before deciding to start a blog. What made you decide to go to the next step and publish THE EMOTION THESAURUS? Why did you decide to self-publish it?

BECCA: The response to that first thesaurus was truly overwhelming. We kept hearing from loyal followers about how much it was helping them, and how other writers were struggling with this specific problem. People started telling us what a great resource it would be in book format, so we decided to make it available.

Since we were each pursuing traditional publication for our fiction, we naturally started there. But after numerous FaceTime conversations, we realized that maybe it wasn’t the most logical solution for this book. First off, the blog already had a built-in audience of potential buyers. Building a fan base is one of the hardest parts of selling a book; with that already done, it made sense to try and publish it ourselves. Then there was the traditional publishing timeline. Since we didn’t feel comfortable negotiating a contract on our own, we’d first have to secure an agent, who would then have to sell it to a publisher, and then we’d have to wait for the actual book to be manufactured. We were looking at 2+ years to publication, which was a long time to wait. But the biggest factor in our decision involved the existing content of The Emotion Thesaurus that was up at our blog. We knew that any traditional publisher would require us to take it down once the book was available for purchase. It was very important to us to leave a portion of that Emotion Thesaurus up at the blog, so people who were unable or unwilling to buy the book would still have access to some of the content. That was kind of the deal breaker for us and was the deciding factor in our decision to self-publish. Looking back, it was totally the right choice. We have absolutely no regrets about that.

4.  Your book and your blog are such a great resources. They help so much to avoid those cliches. And you two really thought out your publishing decision, which sounds like a good fit for your book.

I’m always amazed when authors co-write a book and make it sound like it’s been written by one person. Angela, tell us how you collaborated on this and any challenges you faced.

ANGELA: I think it really helps that Becca and I have collaborated on blog entries and studied the same writing books, because it means that we use similar terminology and our views on writing strong emotion are the same. We’ve also been critique partners for about a billion years, so we know one another’s writing quite well. :)

Our only challenge was defining what was an emotion and what was only a synonym. That took some time and discussion. For the book’s ‘how to’ component, we broke it up, each writing half. Then we swapped sections and critiqued the other’s work to strengthen. After rewrites, we them both went through the book content and made sure we didn’t overlap ideas or cover the same ground. It took a few passes to achieve a strong flow so I’m happy to hear you say the writing appears uniform!

5.  You definitely did a great job with that. Just like with this interview. I love hearing from you both. 

How’s your book different from your blog posts? Share how you think it will help writers.

ANGELA: The blog posts are pure emotional brainstorming, a jumble of what occurred to us as we thought about each emotion we profiled--visceral reactions, thoughts & gestures. These are helpful, but not organized or complete. What you see on the blog now is only the smallest sample of what the book contains. 

However, The Emotion Thesaurus book is a complete guide to writing emotion. We discuss what emotion is and how it builds an empathy link between readers and characters. We also look at the biggest problems writers face when writing emotion (clichés, telling, etc.), and offer solutions to avoid them. The Thesaurus component itself consists of seventy five unique emotions (many more than we ever featured on the blog) and we explore them in depth. The lists are organized by Physical Signals (cues, gestures, actions), Mental Responses (thoughts & feelings) and Internal Sensations (visceral body responses). We explore the entire range of each emotion to ensure a writer can find descriptions that match each character’s specific experience. After all, someone who is in a state of worry for days is going to show the strain much more than someone worrying for only a few minutes. As well, we offer body language options for when a character is trying to hide how they feel.  

There are also suggestions on how each emotion might escalate, leading to conflicting or more complicated feelings. This can help writers plan the emotional path in a scene. Then to top it off, we offer a Writing Tip with each entry (75 tips!) focused on description, dialogue and emotion.

The Emotion Thesaurus is a essentially a brainstorming tool for Emotion. If a writer finds themselves describing the same smiles, shrugs, frowns and racing heartbeat to show their character’s feelings, this is their type of resource!

6.  I so agree! I love the Writers Tips at the end of each entry. 

Share how you’re marketing your book. What advice on marketing do you have for aspiring authors?

ANGELA: Our marketing strategy is focused almost entirely on discoverability and word of mouth. We have not placed ads, subscribed to any service for promotion or marketing or anything like that. We are also not hardcore, ‘buy, buy, buy!’ people. As writers, we know describing emotion is hard, and we know this book fills a great need. So, our efforts go into making our resource discoverable: writing posts on emotion that writers can apply to their own writing, guest posting on blogs about topics pertinent to writers, running giveaways, etc. We focus on bringing our audience (writers) what they need and want. This is our job--to help! 

Our experience so far has been that once a writer finds the ET, they get excited and often tweet/blog/share it on their own, because they see how unique this resource is and want others to discover it too. Becca and I are incredibly grateful to everyone who spreads the word, and we are thrilled so many writers are being helped by something we created. 

I recently wrote a post on marketing tips, which people can find HERE!

I loved how you celebrated your book's release with The Random Acts of Kindess blitz. It was so awesome. And guys, Angela's post is great. You should check it out.

Thanks Angela and Becca for sharing all your advice. You can find Angela and Becca at their blog, which I highly recommend you follow. To find out more about the Emotion Thesaurus, go HERE and to see how this book is helping other writers, check out the reviews on Amazon & Goodreads

Angela and Becca are generously donating an e-copy of THE EMOTION THESAURUS for a giveaway. Don't have an e-reader? Not a problem. I have Kindle on my computer and love reading their book and others that way.  To enter the contest, 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 August 18th. I’ll announce the winner on August 20th. 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 Rachel McClellan and giving away a copy of FRACTURED LIGHT, a paranormal story dealing with Auras, Vykens, and Guardians. I'm amazed at how well she spread the word through blogs consistently over time about her book and am looking forward to sharing her advice with you.

On Friday, I'm excited to participate in Alyssa Sheinmel's blog tour for her book THE STONE GIRL, a story about a teenage girl with eating disorders. She'll be sharing a guest post and giving away an ARC. I'm really looking forward to sharing this book with you because it's sadly a timely issue for our teenage girls. One of my cousins who is my daughter's age almost died from this last year and I know another teenage girl who borders on having this problem. You may know someone with this problem too.

Next Monday, I'm interviewing C.J. Redwine and giving away an ARC of her debut book, DEFIANCE, a fantasy/dystopian novel I loved! 

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

Hope to see you on Monday!


Agent Spotlight: Dorian Karchmar

This week's Agent Spotlight features Dorian Karchmar of William Morris Endeavor.

Status: Accepting submissions.

Karchmar_HeadshotAbout: “Dorian Karchmar is an agent with William Morris Agency where she represents both fiction and nonfiction writers. Her list includes Jennifer Haigh, winner of the L.L. Winship/PEN award for Baker Towers and the PEN/Heminway Award, for Mrs. Kimble, her debut novel; Eric Puchner, whose story collection Music Through the Floor, was a finalist for New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award; photographer Pattie Boyd, whose memoir Wonderful Tonight was number one on The New York Times bestseller list; novelist Scott Heim, author of We Disappear and Mysterious Skin, which was adapted into one of the most acclaimed independent feature films of 2005; and Kate Jacobs, author of the international bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club. Dorian has been an agent since 1999, prior to which she received her MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC operates as a talent and literary agency in the United States and the United Kingdom. It provides music, comedy, lectures, and theatrical and non-traditional tours for college bookings, fairs and special events, international bookings, and corporate and private events. The company offers celebrity voices, radio imaging, TV affiliates, NFL voices, commercial voices, Spanish voices, and animation; and voiceover for promos, trailers, and narration. It allows buyers to schedule talent for music and theatre events, comedy performances, and speaking engagements. William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC was formerly known as William Morris Agency, Inc. and changed its name to William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC in April 2009. The company was founded in 1898 and is based in New York, New York. It has locations in Beverly Hills, California; Miami Beach, Florida; New York, New York; and London, United Kingdom.” (Link)

Web Presence:

WME.

AAR.

Twitter.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What She Is Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Fiction: Literary, Commercial, Women’s, Historical, Young Adult, Offbeat/Quirky.

Non-Fiction: History, Biography, Food & Lifestyle, Science, Memoirs, Women’s Issues, Narrative, Psychology. (Link, Link)

From LinkedIn (as of 7/2012):

“I have been a literary agent for over a decade, representing bestselling and award winning literary and quality mainstream fiction and narrative nonfiction (memoir, biography, history), cookbooks and general upmarket nonfiction.” (Link)

From an Interview (10/2009):

“I love to be transported when I read, and what I’m seeking are stories and voices that I don’t feel I’ve read before. I’m not looking for the deliberately experimental, nor am I looking for much in the way of overtly comic novels (though I do love to laugh, I like the laughter to be only one part of what a book makes me feel—I’m not a big fan of satire, per se).”

“I seek out assured and elegant voices—I’m a stickler for clean writing, which doesn’t mean it has to be spare, but I want writers who have made the tough decisions about what to include and what to exclude on a word level, line level, and plot level.

“I’m always interested in books that bring together unlikely people or pairings: something told from a unique point of view that we don’t often get to inhabit (an animal; someone with an strange and interesting job)—that’s back to the ‘offbeat’ thing for me.  I’d like to read about a Chinese washerwoman on a British naval vessel during WWI; an old gardener in the 18th century who takes it upon himself to redesign all the Queen’s gardens at some far-flung castle in France that the Queen never visits, etc.”  (Link)

What She Isn’t Looking For:

Picture books, dramatic works.

Editorial Agent?

Unknown, though I’ve seen mention of small client revisions.

Clients:

Pattie Boyd, Cathy Marie Buchanan, Helene Cooper, Lydia Denworth, Guy Fieri, Jennifer Haigh, Scott Heim, Kate Jacobs, Daphne Kalotay, Valerie Laken, Eric Puchner, Emily Rapp, Joni Rodgers, Ione Skye, Lauren Slater, Amor Towles, Jennifer Vanderbes, Ned Vizzini, among many others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Ms. Karchmar is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 12 deals in the last 12 months, 18 six-figure+ deals, and 83 overall. Recent deals include 3 debut, 1 general/other, 2 memoir, 1 science, 1 young adult, 1 middle grade, 3 international rights.

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

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (preferred).

Snail-Mail: Yes.  

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

E-mail: Query only.

Snail-mail: Query with SASE. (Link)

Query Tips:

“E-mail queries are fine.  A simple, straight forward query letter laying out meaningful writing/biographical background and what the book is.” (Link)

“Doing a query correctly is important. When writers query me, and it’s clear they’ve done their homework—they know who I am, have listened to my interviews, and know my list—then, of course, I will take them very seriously.” (Link)

Response Times:

Ms. Karchmar usually only responds if interested. Stats available on the web range from days to several months.

What's the Buzz?

Dorian Karchmar’s agency, sales, and clients speak to her talent and success, and her clients seem very loyal and happy. A large percentage of her deals are for debut fiction authors.

AgentQuery & Querytracker both have YA listed in her genres of interest, but I have not seen a direct statement that she’s seeking MG/YA submissions. 

She has made several YA deals and, recently, a middle grade. If your project is extremely strong and within her interests, it’s worth a try. 

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Literary Agent Dorian Karchmar's Advice to MFA Students at Poets & Writers (12/2010).

Agent Advice: Dorian Karchmar of WME (William Morris Endeavor) Entertainment at GLA (10/2009).

Podcast Interview with Dorian Karchmar. (04/2009).

Around the Web:

William Morris Endeavor thread at AbsoluteWrite.

Dorian Karchmar at P&E ($, AAR).

William Morris Endeavor at P&E ($, AAA).

QUERY. QUERY. WHO'S GOT THE QUERY? client Patricia Wood’s query that gained her representation with Ms. Karchmar (01/2007).

Contact:

Please see AgentQuery or QueryTracker for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 7/26/12.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent? N/A.

***

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.

Interview with Laura Lascarso and Giveaway of COUNTING BACKWARDS

First off, the winner of Shannon Wiersbitzky's The Summer of Hammers and Angels is...Linda A! Linda, I can't find your e-mail address, so please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com. If I don't hear from you within a week, I'll need to draw another winner.

Now, I'm very excited to kick off Laura Lascarso's blog tour for her debut YA Counting Backwards due out August 14th. Laura first contacted me back in 2010 when Tip Tuesday was still in double digits and CB's release date felt forever far away. Two years later, I'm happy to report her book is even more fantastic than her tips and the time is here (finally!) to talk about her debut!

From Goodreads:
When troubled Taylor Truwell is caught with a stolen car and lands in court for resisting arrest, her father convinces the judge of an alternative to punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. Sunny Meadows is anything but the easy way out, and Taylor has to fight hard just to hold on to her sanity as she battles her parents, her therapist, and vicious fellow patients. But even as Taylor struggles to hold on to her stubborn former self, she finds herself relenting as she lets in two unlikely friends-Margo, a former child star and arsonist, and AJ, a mysterious boy who doesn’t speak. In this striking debut, Laura Lascarso weaves together a powerful story of anger and self-destruction, hope and love.
Hi Laura. I'm so thrilled to finally feature you here on Literary Rambles. Why don't you start off by telling us a bit about you and your debut YA novel, Counting Backwards?

Thank you, Casey. It seems like a long time ago when we first met here on Tuesday Tips. I’m so excited to be here at last!

Briefly, Counting Backwards is a story about a girl who wants to escape—her situation, her family and even at times, herself.

Counting Backwards is set in a therapeutic boarding school called Sunny Meadows. Everything about the setting and treatments administered read realistic to me. How much and what kind of research did you have to do to set the story?

I interviewed several professionals who have worked or still work in juvenile facilities, both state-run and private. Among them were Tracey, a psychologist, and Geoff, a woodshop instructor. They later became my beta readers. Tracey gave me some great tips in the therapy department and Geoff pointed out things like, “they probably wouldn’t have pencils,” and “no light switches in the hallway.” In fact, he gave me the name “sharps” and laid out that scene in the classroom nearly play-by-play. Thank you Geoff and Tracey!

To get the Sunny Meadows terminology, I read a lot of therapeutic boarding school literature. “Safeties” is one of my favorite terms. I think it has a nice irony to it.

Just goes to show how important research can be in a novel. I love the terminology! 

In your review from Kirkus, the reviewer mentioned that "Taylor's character arc will surprise nobody" but was "satisfyingly believable." While one can guess how things will turn out, the path there isn't obvious. In fact, I was seriously impressed by the smoothness and realism of Taylor's transition. Do you have any tips for creating such a realistic character and arc?

Ha, you read that review! That’s awesome. Yeah, for me CB is more about the journey than the destination. In writing Taylor, I really wanted to get in her head, which actually, isn’t so different from my head. She had many of the feelings that I think most people would have going into an institution against their will—anger, defiance, distrust—coupled with the survival mode she’d been living in with her mother, who is an alcoholic. She wasn’t in a safe place coming in and the incidents that follow only heighten her flight response.

Tips for creating a realistic character and arc? Spend a lot of time with your character. Be true to them, what they want, what they need, what they’re afraid of, how past experiences and losses have shaped them and what they want most of all but are afraid to admit, even to themselves. Don’t be afraid to show their weaknesses or have them do something stupid. Mistakes are how we learn.

Real tips for real characters. Fantastic. 

One of the things I love about your novel is how multi-layered it is. Even after I finished reading I found new things to connect up. Like how Taylor's experience at Sunny Meadows is subtly reflected in the going and coming of two other characters. And how (true to the first person narrative and her denial) Taylor's issues read almost as a subplot until she's ready to face them. Were these story elements intentional or did they come out naturally in the telling?

I will tell you, Casey, it wasn’t easy. I think, in all, I did seven rewrites on CB. Like, back-to-the-drawing-board rewrites. But going over it so many times really allowed me to internalize the story. My editor, Namrata Tripathi asked great questions—“Why would she do that?” “What is she feeling?” I kept thinking, “isn’t it obvious?” But it’s not always obvious to the reader. That was probably my biggest struggle—giving the reader enough of Taylor to feel it with her while still allowing them room to experience their own thoughts and feelings. So, it’s very satisfying to me that you noticed that.

For the first part of the story, Taylor is so focused on escaping that she can’t see much else. It is her survival mode. Then, when she is forced to look inward, her struggle changes from an external to a more internal one, which I think is even harder.

Seven rewrites! Well, I'd say it was worth it. Just a superb story all around. 

After finishing the book, I reexamined the cover and really appreciated just how fantastic it is. Not only could the model possibly pass for Taylor but the image on the back is a direct depiction from the novel. I'm guessing these aren't stock photos! What was involved in the creation of your cover? And how did you feel when you first saw the complete jacket?

The Atheneum team was so awesome in asking me for my input before the photo shoot. They were choosing between two models and I ultimately got to pick who we went with for the cover. This model has such an expressive face that is both vulnerable and tough at the same time, and once I saw her contact sheet, I immediately recognized her as Taylor.

I actually stumbled across the photographer, Laura Hanifin, online. She did an amazing job of capturing just the right expression and the young lady who modeled for Taylor delivered just what I was hoping for.

The double image was a complete surprise, but a welcome one. I think it really speaks to Taylor’s denial and tendency to hide things in order to survive. Plus, let’s be honest, the cover is a little creepy. And so is Sunny Meadows!

Absolutely. I love the creativity of the double image, and that Antheneum let you have so much input. Go team!

I also love that Taylor is half Seminole Indian and how threads of her culture are lightly woven into the narrative. Why did you choose this heritage for her? And is there somewhere we might read the tales mentioned, like that of cunning Rabbit?

Yes! The tales of Rabbit, Panther, Thunder and Lightning and many more can all be found in Betty Mae Jumper’s Legends of the Seminole. I also recommend her autobiography A Seminole Legend: The Life of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper. She was such an amazing woman and a pioneer for both Native American and women’s rights.

I chose this heritage because I am fascinated by the Seminole Indian culture and have been ever since I was very young.

*Scribbling down book recs*

Writing and publishing journeys differ hugely. What was yours like, and how did you end up with your agent, Caryn Wiseman of ABLA?

I queried Caryn back in 2008. I remember looking at the Andrea Brown staff page and seeing Caryn’s picture and thinking, she’s the one. She has such a warm and welcoming smile, just like her personality. She liked the first 50 pages and wanted to see the rest. I sent it. She took me on. We revised. She submitted. We waited. Atheneum wanted it. (Yay!) We sold it the summer of 2009. Namrata and I revised. And here we are.

Caryn’s advice is invaluable. And she’s always available to chew on an idea of mine or offer her thoughts on a project. I can be a little “out there” at times. Caryn is a good grounding influence.

I also have to say here that I have an amazing critique group consisting of me and two other ladies who are both brilliant writers, amazing editors and dear friends. This sounds a little trite, but it’s true—I couldn’t have done it without them. Go Trinity! (Sorry, had to get that out.)

Caryn and your critique group sound just fabulous. It really is invaluable to have that kind of support team. 

Now that we know about your lovely agent and CPs, what was your experience working with your editor, Namrata Tripathi at Atheneum / Simon & Schuster? 

Namrata is great. She’s a very thoughtful editor who can see both big picture stuff as well as the finer details. She asks tough questions and because of it, CB is a much better book.

I also have to give a shout-out to Emma Ledbetter, editorial assistant extraordinaire, who has graciously answered every little question I’ve had throughout this process. I’d like to keep her on speed dial.

Namrata and Emma sound wonderful as well! I hope you're able to work with them more in the future. Speaking of, what's next for author Laura Lascarso? Can you divulge what you're working on now?

Well why not? Caryn is shopping around my second project with the working title I Am to You. It’s a story about love and obsession. I am taking a lot of risks in trying to get it published, but it is, I think, an important story. So, cross your fingers for me that an editor will bite.

Love and obsession? Two words and you've already got me interested! Sending positive vibes your way for a sale. 

Finally, where can readers stay up-to-date on you and your books?

I’m not very good about keeping up with Facebook, but please, check out my blog. I’ll be having a super showcase giveaway at the end of the blog tour where those who’ve commented on all my stops will be entered in to win some CB swag. Also, I love poetry, so feel free to drop me a poem or particularly beautiful line every now and again (it doesn’t have to rhyme!)

And, thanks so much, Casey, for hosting me on your blog. And thank you for everything you do for the writing community. Lit Rambles is like my favorite coffee shop—the people are cool and the coffee is kickin!

Thank YOU, Laura, for creating such a great read then letting me pick your brain about it. It's been a long time coming and I'm so happy CB will finally be available in three weeks.

Readers, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of COUNTING BACKWARDS just be a follower and leave a comment by August 7th. As usual, if your e-mail address is hard to find please leave it with your comment. This is open internationally, with thanks to Laura's fab publisher. 


Before you go, here is the shiny new book trailer:


And if you're interested in following Laura's blog tour for a chance to win the big giveaway mentioned above, here are all the stops!


Tip Tuesday #136

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 Yolanda Ridge, author of two middle grade books, Trouble in the Trees and its sequel Road Block, from Orca Book Publishers. This is Yolanda's first tip. Please give her a warm welcome and visit her site when you're done reading her fantastic tip below.
When flipping through magazine, papers, advertisements, and even the internet, I watch for people with interesting expressions, poses, outfits, or physical features. I like to cut out the pictures (or print them off the computer) and keep them in a folder. As a visual person, it really helps to have a file I can look through when I'm trying to describe a character. Instead of defaulting to the usual shoulder shrug or dimple, I can provide a lot more detail and originality when I have a picture to reference. The added bonus is that when friends or family ask if one of my characters is based on them, I can honestly say no and use the picture as proof (even though there are probably bits of their personality in their somewhere - otherwise, why would they ask?)
~Yolanda Ridge

NATALIE DIAS LORENZI INTERVIEW AND FLYING THE DRAGON GIVEAWAY

Hi everyone! Before I share my fantastic interview with you today, I want to mention a few things.

First, I may not be around blogs too much today. My daughter has her summer swim championship meet and I have to be a timer. So we have to stay to the end. So I'll be gone from early morning today until mid afternoon. It's not going to feel like much of a day off work. But I'm hoping she and the team does well and it'll be fun to be on deck. And that's what mom's do--help out--right?

Don't forget to enter my contest for Leigh Bardugo's SHADOW AND BONE if you missed the interview on Wednesday. It's a fantastic book I know you'll love. I'm giving away my copy. The link is at the top of the blog.

Next, if you haven't read author blogger Roni Loren's post where she shares about getting sued for using a picture on her blog, you want to read the post and beware. You can find the post here.

Finally all the books for last week's winners and this week's winner will be mailed out later this week or early next week. Sorry, but I'm trying to mail as much as possible each time I go to the post office so I go less often.

And the winner of THE NEXT FULL MOON is LIESEL HILL

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.

Today I’m excited to interview Natalie Dias Lorenzi about her debut book FLYING THE DRAGON that was released July 1, 2012. I loved this book. Natalie did such an excellent job portraying the POV’s of Skye, the Japanese American girl who wants to play in the soccer championship rather than learn Japanese and her cousin Hiroshi who comes here from Japan and struggles with American culture and must learn English. I loved all the characters, especially their grandfather. I got a real feel for Japanese culture and how it’s different here from Japan. Plus the conflicts and struggles were so what middle graders experiences. I can’t say enough good about this book.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye's grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best.

 
Hi Natalie. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Growing up, my dad was in the Air Force so we moved around often. I went to five different elementary schools, which meant starting over as the new kid time each time. The characters in the books I read felt like friends, especially in the interim between leaving old friends behind and making new ones. I decided when I was nine that I wanted to become a teacher, which I did. I’d always dreamed about what it would be like to be an author, but I never really saw it as a viable career when I was a kid.

It wasn’t until after my second child was born that I decided to take a break from teaching and stay home. During those four years, I researched the children’s publishing business and started writing! I took an online class for children’s writers, connected with other writers on Verla Kay’s message boards and joined SCBWI. After that, I was hooked! I’ve been writing ever since.


2.  That's great that you were able to stay home for a few years and focus more on writing. And I agree that Verla Kay and SCBWI are great resources for writers. Are Hiroshi and Skye patterned after anyone you know? How did your experiences teaching in Japan and in a multicultural school in the United States influence your development of them as characters?

Hiroshi and Skye are based on my students, my family, and my own experiences living abroad. Like Hiroshi, many of my ESL students come to the US with very little English and are bewildered by American culture and slang. They tend to have that deer-in-the-headlights look for at least the first month or so of school, and my heart always goes out to them. Once they adjust to life in America and learn English, they often struggle with speaking their home languages, which makes it difficult to communicate with relatives who still live in their home countries.

In my own family, my husband is Italian and we lived in Italy from 2003-2008. Our oldest daughter went to Italian schools through 3rd grade, so her language skills in Italian are still fairly solid. Our second child, however, only went to Italian school through Kindergarten. At the time, she refused to speak English even though she understood that English that I spoke with her. Within a few months of moving back to the US, however, she had regained her spoken English, but her spoken Italian really suffered. We go back to Italy each summer, but even so, we saw that she would struggle to keep up on the phone with her Italian relatives, so we enrolled her in Saturday Italian school this year. Like Skye in Flying the Dragon who has to attend Japanese Saturday school, the other students in my daughter’s class were much more proficient with the language, and my daughter often felt embarrassed to speak Italian in class. Her spoken Italian has greatly improved thanks to those classes, though, so even she can see that her hard work has paid off.

Finally, parts of me, both as a kid and an adult, have woven their way into Hiroshi and Skye. Living in Japan, I was at a total loss when it came to looking up words that I would see on signs out on the town, since everything was written as a Japanese character (in Kanji, Hiragana, or Katakana). Several times I would misread things about the culture that caused confusion. For example, I had no idea that it’s considered rude to shake your head when saying no—they tap their hands in an “x” to communicate “no.” So when I would ask for something in a store using my careful Japanese, I interpreted their smiles as, “Yes! Of course we have that!” when actually they didn’t.

3.  You really did have a lot of personal experiences--teaching, your own travels, and your daughter's experiences to draw on. Maybe that's why you really got Skye and Hiroshi's POV so accurately. Even though you’ve lived in Japan, I’m guessing you had to do some research to portray the cultural aspects of your story accurately. Tell us about your research process.

Yes, research was a huge part of bringing this story to life. I wanted it to feel authentic to readers who were familiar with the Japanese culture and/or kite fighting, and for those who aren’t, I wanted to portray an accurate picture of the Japanese language and culture as well as the sport of kite fighting. Even though I lived in Japan for two years, I had no idea what Japanese home life was like on a day-to-day basis. In the school system where I teach, there are two elementary schools with Japanese language immersion programs. I contacted the principals there and asked if any Japanese teachers at their schools would be willing to look over my manuscript to check for linguistic and cultural accuracy. Two teachers offered to help, both of whom were born and raised in Japan. I’m so thankful for their careful and thorough work on the manuscript.

I also knew I needed an expert to look over the kite-making and kite-fighting scenes in the book. When I’d read Linda Sue’s historical middle grade novel The Kite Fighters, I saw that she’d thanked a man named David Gomberg who had helped with the kite-fighting scenes in her book, so I sent him an email. He was extremely gracious and helpful, and the kite scenes in my book would not have been the same without his guidance.

4.  I've been to China and India, so I know what you mean about feeling it's hard to really portray such different cultures accurately. That's a great idea to reach out to someone like David Gomberg if you find him/her in someone's acknowledgements. I wouldn't have thought of that.

Getting the voice right in a middle grade book is so important. I know from your bio that you teach, so I’m guessing it’s easier for you to nail middle school kids’ voices. Share your tips on this and any challenges you faced in developing Hiroshi’s voice since he came here from Japan and his voice must be very different that Skye’s.

In the early drafts of this book, Hiroshi was the only main character; Skye was just a girl in his class named Susan. My experience with teaching ESL children did help in honing Hiroshi’s more formal voice. The challenge with Hiroshi was making his voice relatable to American readers while staying true to his culture. For example, in the scene where Hiroshi is upset with Grandfather, he doesn’t yell or lash out like an American child might. Hopefully I showed Hiroshi’s anger in a way that American readers will understand, yet readers familiar with the Japanese culture will also recognize.

5.  I think you did a really, really good job with that. And I'm so glad that Skye didn't stay as Susan. Tell us how Erin Murphy became your agent and your road to publication.

When I first discovered Erin, she was closed to queries except through client referral or attendance at a conference at which she was presenting. As I didn’t know any of her clients and I was living in Italy at the time, I thought that my chances for getting to query her were nil. Then SCBWI announced an online chat with Erin, and I jumped at the chance to sign up. The live chat was from 1:00-2:00 in the morning Italian time, but it was worth it! I sent her my query, which led to a request for the first few chapters, then a request for the full manuscript, and then an offer of representation!

6.  You're the second person who I've interviewed who went through hurdles to connect with Erin. Lynda Mullaly Hunt, who wrote ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, drove 5 1/2 hours to meet her. I know you have a lot on your plate. You teach, are working on becoming a librarian, write and now must market your book. And you mentioned to me that you’ll be in Italy this summer. How do you juggle it all and how are you planning to market your book?

My biggest strategy for marketing is to do things in small chunks. Months ago, I spent some time researching blogs that had reviewed other middle grade books, including multicultural ones. I reached out to them (including Literary Rambles :-) ) and people like you have been kind enough to feature my book on their blogs.

I also presented at the Gaithersburg Book Festival last month  and will be doing the same at other local festivals in the fall. And although I teach full-time, I’ll be using my three days of personal leave to do three school visits in the coming school year.

Some of my agent-mates are throwing a virtual book launch on the Emus Debuts blog  from June 25-29, where they’ll post interviews of my agent, editor, cover jacket illustrator Kelly Murphy, another author/ESL teacher Melanie Crowder, and David Gomberg, the kite expert I interviewed while I was writing the manuscript.

My in-person book launch party will be at a Barnes and Noble near the school where I teach, so I’m looking forward to celebrating with family, friends, students and colleagues. If any of your blog readers are in the northern Virginia area on Sunday, July 1, I hope they can drop in! 

7.  That's great advice to do the marketing in small pieces. Makes it feel less overwhelming. What are you working on now?

I’m always tinkering with something, but I’m hoping to spend much of my summer writing time revising a YA novel and tweaking some picture book manuscripts.

Thank you so much for hosting me on Literary Rambles! :-)

Thanks for sharing your book and advice with us, Natalie. You can find Natalie at her website and blog

Natalie's publisher generously provided a copy of FLYING THE DRAGON 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 August 4th. I’ll announce the winner on August 6th. 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:


Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday, Casey has a post with Laura Lascarso with a giveaway of her book COUNTING BACKWARDS. It's about a teenage girl who gets in trouble and is forced to go to a psychiatric correctional facility. Doesn't it sound good?

Next Monday I'll be interviewing Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and giving away a copy of THE EMOTION THESAURAS. It's a great resource for writers. I love it just for the introduction.

On Wednesday that week I'll be interviewing Rachel McClellan and giving away a copy of FRACTURED LIGHT, a paranormal story dealing with Auras, Vykens, and Guardians. 

 On Friday that week, I'm excited to participate in Alyssa Sheinmel's blog tour for her book THE STONE GIRL, a story about a teenage girl with eating disorders. She'll be sharing a guest post and giving away an ARC. I'm really looking forward to sharing this book with you because it's sadly a timely issue for our teenage girls. One of my cousins who is my daughter's age almost died from this last year and I know another teenage girl who borders on having this problem. You may know someone with this problem too.

The following Monday, I'm interviewing C.J. Redwine and giving away an ARC of her debut book, DEFIANCE, a fantasy/dystopian novel I loved!

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

Hope to see you on Monday!


Thurber House Children's Writer-In-Residence Program

Applications are now being accepted for the 2013 Thurber House Writer-In-Residence program. Here are some details I received to pass along. Good luck to any authors who apply!

My name is Meg Brown and I’m the Manager of Children’s Programming at Thurber house in Columbus, Ohio. Thurber House has a Children’s Writer in Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and we just released the guidelines and application form for the 2013 residency.

This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber.  The residency is available in the summer (any four weeks between June and August) so that the resident can also participate in the community by teaching at our Summer Writing Camp. Some of the recent winners are Lisa Yee (2007), Alan Silberberg (08), Hope Anita Smith (09), Keith McGowan (10), Alan Gratz (11), Donna Gephart (12).

The guidelines and application are available on our website. The deadline for submissions for the 2013 residency is Friday, November 2, 2012.

Agent Spotlight: John Cusick

This week's Agent Spotlight features John Cusick of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Status: Open to submissions.

bio-john-cusickAbout: “John Cusick joined Greenhouse in January 2013 after several years with a small New York agency, where he began as an assistant and rose to be an agent with a fast-developing client list. As well as being a YA author in his own right, John is a sought-after speaker on writing, both at writers’ conferences and via webinars. You can read his blog here: http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Greenhouse exclusively represents and manages the careers of authors writing fiction for children, from picturebooks through middle grade novels to sophisticated teen fiction.

“The name says it all. Greenhouse aims to nurture and grow the talent of exceptional writers.  With an emphasis on working creatively with clients, Greenhouse can help writers develop their voice and craft – and then be their advocate and long-term partner through the publishing process and beyond.

“We believe young people deserve great fiction. Greenhouse seeks outstandingly talented authors who are ready to put down roots. If you have a passion for excellence and a great story to tell, please get in touch.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Greenhouse Literary website.

John Cusick’s blog.  

Twitter - @johnmcusick.

Tumblr.

Facebook.

QueryTracker.

AAR profile.

What He’s Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Middle grade and young adult fiction.

From the Greenhouse website (as of 2/2013):

“What John is seeking: Fiction by North American authors, from MG through YA. Particularly keen to see MG (and maybe YA) for boys. Fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories. Contemporary realism, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy, villains with vulnerabillity, bad decisions with best intentions, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, characters with histories, stories about siblings and about middle America.” (Link)

From an Interview (01/2013):

“I’d love to see a middle-grade series for boys set in a truly original fantasy or sci-fi world. I love page-turners, whether they’re adventure or contemporary romance; anything fast-paced is up my street. I like high sci-fi, but I’m especially interested in stories set in our contemporary world with a sci-fi or fantastical twist. Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love horror and suspense. I’d be interested to read a sprawling, romantic historical. Tolstoy for teens.” (Link)

From a Blog Profile (06/2012):

“I’m looking for strong contemporary young adult stories with a romantic twist, middle grade adventure for boys, historicals incorporating sci-fi elements, narrators who aren’t snarky, heroes who aren’t reluctant, parents who aren’t dead or alcoholics, bad decisions with good intentions, villains with vulnerability, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, finely composed and choreographed scenes, characters with history, best friends who aren’t destined to fall in love, stories about siblings, stories about middle America, and did I mention middle grade adventure for boys?” (Link)

What He Isn’t Looking For:

From the Agency Website:

“We are NOT looking for short stories, educational or religious/inspirational work, poetry, pre-school/novelty material, screenplays or writing aimed at adults.” (Link)

From a Blog Profile (06/2012):

“No angels, devils, Greek or Norse gods, no ‘Chosen Ones’ or ‘Dark Lords,’ no vampires, premonitions, or ponies.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2010):

“I'll take this opportunity to say we’ve seen far too many protagonists with super powers, secret family curses, and latent magical abilities. In other words, stories where a typical kid finds out, ‘Surprise! You’re special.’ Unless it’s a truly original take on this concept, we have to say ‘no’ because these stories are too common.” (Link)

From an Interview (02/2010):

“I read far too many ‘City girl moves to small town and discovers a ghost’ queries. I much prefer to work with an author on a unique tale. Personally, I'm less interested in high fantasy, unless it offers a fresh take. We also have an agency policy against unicorns (not really a policy, more of an aversion).” (Link)

Editorial Agent?

“We take it as a given that writers will revise. More than ever, agents must develop manuscripts because editors can’t afford the risk of purchasing underdeveloped material.” (Link)

Clients:

Gina Ciocca, Ryan Gebhart, Michael Kinch, Hannah Moskowitz, Bettina Restrepo, Judy Ann Sadler, Sharon Biggs Waller, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.  

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

“Prepare a query email WITH THE AGENT’S NAME IN THE SUBJECT LINE. The opening letter should be no longer than one page in length (if it were on paper) and should contain: word count of the manuscript; age group, brief synopsis of story (no more than 3 paragraphs); brief bio with details of any writing background you have. If you’re writing a novel: Paste the first 5 pages of your story into the body of the email. Please note: we do not accept or open attachments unless we specifically request them.” (Link)

See the Greenhouse Lit website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

“I like queries that simply describe the manuscript using clear, precise language. Gimmicks, jokes, and ‘clever’ queries won’t get you noticed— at least, not in the good way. I’m not a fan of rhetorical questions, such as, ‘What if you knew your boyfriend was Satan?’ Queries written in the protagonist’s voice are another pet peeve.” (Link)

Response Times:

The agency has a stated response time of 6 weeks for queries and 6-8 weeks for requested material (Link). If you do not hear back within this time, you may query again.

Stats on the web show Mr. Cusick usually responds within these timeframes.

What's the Buzz?

John Cusick joined Greenhouse Literary in January of 2013 after being with Scott Treimel NY since Oct 2007. Greenhouse specializes in children’s literature, is highly respected, and adheres to the AAR Canon of Ethics. Mr. Cusick’s clients appear happy with his representation.

I recommend following John on Twitter @johnmcusick and subscribing to his blog.

Worth Your Time:

(Agent*) Interviews:

Interview with John M. Cusick at Throwing Up Words (01/2013).

7 Questions For: Literary Agent John Cusick at Middle Grade Ninja (01/2013).

Mystery Agent Revealed + Interview at Operation Awesome (08/2012).

Q & A With Agent John Cusick at Scribe (03/2011).

Agent Interview with John Cusick at Down Under Wonderings (02/2011).

Interview with Author and Agent John Cusick at The Write Stuff (02/2011).

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Agent Interview: John Cusick of Scott Treimel NY at Cynsations (03/2010).

Interview with Literary Agent John Cusick at Editors, Agents and Blogs, Oh My! (02/2010).

*For a complete list of Mr. Cusick’s agent & author interviews, see this page on his blog.

Selected Blog Posts & Guest Posts:

Where’s John? – Conference and Event Dates (01/2013).

I’m Joining Greenhouse Literary! (01/2013).

Ten Surefire Ways to Turn Off a Prospective Agent (10/2011).

How Do I Pub My Non-Fiction Book? Q&A (08/2011).

YA Cliches, A List (02/2011).

Only the Young Die Good: Guest Post at The New Inquiry

Guest Post: John M. Cusick at Word for Teens (08/2010).

Around the Web: 

See the “What We Are Doing” page on the website for conferences and events.

The Greenhouse Literary Agency at P&E ($).

John Cusick at P&E ($, AAR).

The Greenhouse Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

The agency’s “top 10 tips for children’s fiction writers” are available here.

Client Success Story / Interview at Brenda Drake Writes (06/2012).

Free Fall Friday – John Cusick at Kathy Temean’s site (04/2012).

Contact:

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

Profile Details:

Last updated: 2/1/13.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 7/19/12.

***

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.