CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests


Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Tracy Marchini on 4/17/2017
Loren Oberweger on 5/10/2017
Alyssa Jennette on 5/24/2017
Bibi Lewis on 6/12/2017
Kelly Van Sant on 6/21/2017

AGENT BARBARA POELLE AND DEBUT AUTHOR TRACI CHEE GUEST POST & 3 CHAPTER CRITIQUE AND THE READER GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! I've got a treat for you today. Debut author Traci Chee is here with her agent Barbara Poelle with a guest post and special giveaway to celebrate the release of Traci's debut YA fantasy THE READER. It sounds like a fantastic combination of a fantasy and mystery.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

Now here's Traci and Barbara!


DELICIOUS, DEVOURABLE FIRST PAGES
with Traci Chee and Barbara Poelle

CHEE: Beginnings are one of those things that I constantly struggle with. Where do I start? How much is too much exposition? How do I get the reader invested in a character they just met? Can I sneakily include this prologue or do I have to cut it?

But beginnings are of utmost importance--to readers, to editors, and to agents! So let’s talk writing strategies for those first pages and get some super-secret insider perspective from agent/warrior Barbara Poelle!

With The Reader, I went through about 5-10 different beginnings before I finally landed on the version that Barbara and I signed with (and that ended up in the final book). Some beginnings started too early. One started too late! Others dragged on for chapters before I realized I had to quicken the pace. B, what kept you turning the pages when you were reading my manuscript?

POELLE: Ohhhh man. It was like…like… an endless bag of salt water taffy: each page, sometimes each WORD, was so satisfying and SUCH a delight to unwrap, the prose so lush and yet so accessible, it was a joy and a privilege to read. I am super jealous of folks who get to read it for the first time.

CHEE: Aw shucks. Thank you! Prose is one of those things I work on incessantly--trying to hone in
on the right image, the right phrase, the right word to elicit just the right emotion or action or nuance. Is that always what you notice first, or is there something else that jumps out at you?

POELLE: Voice! I want to feel invested in the voice. This doesn’t just mean a connection to a first person narrator but the overall narrative construct no matter the execution. In THE READER, for example, there are several “voices” within the pages but the overall architecture of the read is so unique while still being accessible within the tapestry of the plot.

CHEE: Ahh, that makes so much sense! For me, prose--diction, syntax, figurative language, where to break a sentence or a paragraph, all these things--are all part of voice. In some respects, I think voice is dictated by character--what a character notices, how they talk about things, places their mind goes as they move through their world. So in The Reader, which is told through limited third-person perspective, there’s one narrator, but the one narrator kind of hovers over the shoulders of eight different point-of-view characters, and each of them has a slightly different way of engaging with the world. Some characters, for example, use more clipped, fragmented sentences. Others have a bit of a drawl even in their descriptions. Still others tend toward fanciful figurative language.

All these pieces are intricately connected, I think--prose and voice and character. Tell us, what makes you want to follow a character into their story?

POELLE: That perfect marriage of the layers of accessibility and uniqueness. I can follow and connect with a stubborn minotaur as a protagonist as equally as I can a young girl in modern day Tehran if I can not only already see myself in them but also expand my journey of self at the same time. And let’s not misunderstand: accessible doesn’t necessarily mean “likable” but always needs to mean “relatable”. A conflicted and dangerous character is just as viable a touchstone in a great story as long as they are authentically crafted in their motivations for action.

CHEE: That’s a great distinction. I try to give each character (and especially point-of-view characters) a sort of charisma, something that’s really compelling about them. With regards to first pages, I think that means we need to hook readers with our characters as soon as possible. For example, in The Reader, we have Sefia’s aunt Nin, who’s got 5-10 pages to be engaging and memorable before she’s kidnapped. To that end, I gave her what my always-brilliant editor calls “salient traits”--character details that are strong enough to be recalled pages, even chapters, later. Nin has the quick hands of a thief and a bear skin cloak that makes her look like a “hill of dirt: dry, brown, ready to crumble in the humidity of the rain forest.” She’s a gruff and begrudging guardian, but a guardian nonetheless--her last words to Sefia are a warning, and the last thing we see her do before she’s abducted is protect Sefia from being discovered.

To use another example, in The Hunger Games, we have Prim, the main character’s younger sister, who we see for about 7-10 pages before, again, she’s whisked out of the narrative for the rest of the book. Unlike Nin, she has a number of endearing qualities--she’s kind to stray animals, she leaves that beautiful wrapped cheese for her sister, she’s like a “little duck” with the back of her shirt continually coming untucked (lovely detail)--and she leaves such a strong impression on the narrative that her presence can be felt many chapters later.

While we’re on the topic of characters, are there any characterization faux pas that will absolutely kill a manuscript for you?

POELLE: If I come across an inauthentic character- ESPECIALLY a character of diversity that is clearly there as a construct just to BE diverse-  I will not pick the manuscript back up. I also get very eye-rolly when an adult writer uses slang and or pop culture references from when THEY were a teen, thinking it still stands up. Like, no one today is going to talk about how “rad” something is (although now I think we should bring “rad” back. Who is with me?)

CHEE: I so feel you on the problems with token diverse characters and inaccurate/harmful representation. I think when it comes to beginnings, we’ve got such limited time, we absolutely cannot rely on tropes, stereotypes, and shortcuts. It’s a huge task to make characters unique and compelling and well-rounded all at once, so we’ve got to be very careful and very precise in what details we choose as well as what the characters do and say and think.

So far we’ve got prose, voice, and character. What else factors into your reading of a manuscript’s first pages?

POELLE: Micro-tensions within the plot. Of course, a surprising and unique plot can make for a real page turner, but the real craftsmanship comes within the micro-tensions created between the larger plot points. I want to feel like I am reading with a brain full of pop rocks- little bursts of surprise and intrigue peppered throughout the journey. (What IS it with me and the candy today?)

CHEE: I think one of your other authors, Renée Ahdieh, does this amazingly well! I actually studied her first book, The Wrath and the Dawn, while I was revising The Reader, because she’ll introduce a conflict, deepen it, then close it up again while simultaneously introducing a new, more complex conflict. Every time one question is answered, we find another question underneath it!

POELLE: Aw! Yay! Renée is so gifted at unspooling conflict and tension, right? And you now bring up the writer’s greatest tool: reading! Read all the time, across many genres, find what works for you and WHY it worked and then weave the technique into your own work.

CHEE: Yes! One of my other go-to resources for micro-tension is Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass, which has some great exercises for developing conflict on the level of story, scene, and sentence. That’s where I turn whenever I’m missing that pop rock feeling. Any last suggestions for all the writers out there?

POELLE: I know the writing can be a solo journey,  but craft can’t exist in a vacuum. Get in a class, even an online one, where you are sharing your work with others. Find a critique partner, get a group of first readers you can count on to be honest with you about what is and isn’t working. Enter first page contests and participate in things like Pitch Wars and Query Shark. Challenge yourself to marry any natural talent with the actual blueprints of great writing by reading things like BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott and ON WRITING by Stephen King. Keep working on the craft, technique and detail of the written word as well as the creative artistry of the story!

CHEE: I love this advice so much, and it’s just how I approach my own writing too. I try to learn something from every book I write and every book I read. In between drafts, I write short stories inspired by my favorite writers. I take classes. I read books on craft. I feel like there’s always a way to improve, and I’m continually seeking out ways to challenge myself.

Poelle: And it SHOWS!  I cannot wait for THE READER to become everybody's go to for a fabulous novel but also an exploration and expansion of craft. But, let me just tell you all, make sure to tie your shoes tightly as this book is gonna knock your socks off!!!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Traci and Barbara! You can find Traci at:

Get the book! Amazon, B&N, Indiebound
Add it on Goodreads!

Find Traci at her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

You can find Barbara at: 


Barbara Poelle and Traci Chee have generously offered a three chapter critique by Barbara and a giveaway of THE READER by Traci. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 24th. If you do not want to be included in the three chapter critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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

Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday I have an agent spotlight interview with Catherine Cho and a query critique. 

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Bardsley and a giveaway of her YA speculative fiction GENESIS GIRL

The Monday after that I have a special treat. Our follower and my friend Kristin Lenz is debuting as a YA author. I'll be interviewing her with a giveaway of her YA contemporary THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!



67 comments:

  1. Congrats to Traci. The Reader sounds amazing.

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  2. Interesting premise! It's hard to imagine someone not recognizing a book. You're right about the continuing aspect of writing. It's an ever evolving process.

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  3. The Reader sounds exciting and enchanting. I can't wait to read it! Congratulations on creating a story that is sure to impact the lives of many.

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  4. This book sounds amazing! I read the preview and I was immediately pulled in I can't wait to read this book!

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  6. Excellent interview. I would be floored to win a 3 chapter critique. I remember Poelle well as she was tops on my agent list my first time on the query-go-round. Congrats to Traci on her debut.

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  7. This interview was so insightful! I can't wait to get The Reader in my hands!

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  8. My first pages always go through a lot of revisions, so I found this both comforting and super useful! I would love to enter both giveaways, and will keep my fingers crossed. I tweeted the contest. :D
    My email (just in case) is spartan_writer (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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  9. Great interview! I loved THE READER! I got an eARC from First To Read and can't wait for everyone else to read it too so I have people to squee with! <3 <3 <3

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  11. I am so excited for Traci's book because of the heroine of color! Thank you so much for all the advice, ladies! Traci, you inspired me to create my own "Pure Unmodified Doubts" bottles. :)

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  12. I love talking about the "tapestry of the plot." That is a perfect way to describe a well-written story. Love the interview, and congratulations to Traci.

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  13. The cover is so gorgeous and it sounds like the story lives up to that expectation! It's been great to see all the rave reviews. Congrats!

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  14. Great tips and sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for the article and the critique opportunity.

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    1. Oh, and I tweeted this, too! https://twitter.com/neicolec/status/775448817906745344

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  15. Great interview and I'm glad to read about THE READER. I'll add it to my TBR :)

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  16. Can't wait to read The Reader - sounds like a fascinating read. Great post as well - and wonderful giveaway.

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  17. Congratulations on your first book, Traci!
    Tapestry of plot. I wish I wrote that well.

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  18. That was a fascinating interview. Thank you both so much! I would love to be entered in the giveaway; I tweeted about it, too! (Link: https://twitter.com/reynoldstribe/status/775420195376537600)
    E-mail address is kara.reynolds87 at gmail.

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  19. What a fascinating premise for a book, and what an insightful interview. I'd love to win a query critique. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  20. Wow - very cool premise! Can't wait to read it! :)

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  21. There is so much to garner from the craft of writing. I love an engaging story and characters that pull you in. To me that's most important because I won't read a book that doesn't interest me, no matter how nice the writing is.

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  22. Love Barbara's and Traci's comments about voice. Can't wait to read THE READER!

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  23. Loved this interview! Thanks, Casey, Traci, and Barbara! So excited for this book!

    I'd love to be included in the giveaway for the book, but not for the critique. Thank you so much!

    Link to tweet: https://twitter.com/gloriacchao/status/775452148947558400

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  24. Sounds like a really interesting premise and lovely interview. No need to enter me in the giveaway. Have a lovely week Natalie.

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  25. I would LOVE this book as well as the incredible opportunity for the critique! Thank you! The Reader sounds amazing!

    I also tweeted about this giveaway!
    https://twitter.com/myunserenelife/status/775457948591992832

    serenebooks[at]gmail[dot]com

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  26. What a great interview and insight to opening chapters. Congrats on your debut!
    lmschune@gmail.com

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  27. It's so nice to meet Traci and Barbara! I love the advice to help with writing's "solo journey". Wishing these lovely ladies all the best!

    Thanks, Natalie, for hosting and sharing this great info. I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Have a great week!

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  28. Congratulations to Traci! The Reader sounds like a great book! I'd love a 3-chapter critique. I tweeted. http://www.literaryrambles.com/2016/09/agent-barbara-poelle-and-debut-author.html?m=1

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  29. Thank you for the giveaway! I loved the tips from the interview.

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  30. Great interview, very helpful, and the book sounds amazing!

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  31. Excellent tips! Now...off to write multiple beginnings for my manuscript that's got opening page issues... Thanks! Christy

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  32. Wow! The Reader sounds like it is just up my alley! I need to get that one. Thanks for sharing!!!

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  33. Great interview! Loved the insights on how to build a good first page and the components of voice and craft. Thanks for the giveaway, Natalie! Count me in! I tweeted.

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  34. I'd love to win a copy, this sounds so amazing. But no need for the 3 page critique. Thanks!

    Broke(dot)book(dot)bank(at)gmail(dot)com

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  35. I've had this on my to-read list since I heard the buzz months ago. I'd love to be included for a chance to win a critique by the agent who made this book happen. tmilstein at gmail dot com.

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  36. Love the advice about tiny tensions and surprises throughout a book! Thank you for entering me in the drawing for the book and the three-chapter critique.

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  37. Micro-tensions really can make a book.

    Love the cover!

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  38. It really is all about that first page. Still, I'm not sure I want pop rocks in my brain. That just sounds...uncomfortable. ;)

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  39. Just added this to my TBR pile. Thanks for the interview and the critique opportunity!

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  40. I can't wait to use this as a mentor text!

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  41. Beautiful post. I also hate when things don't sound authentic. I think one of the worst things an author can do is pull me out of the story by making me try to find out if I'm mentally missing a piece of the setting or time period.

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  42. THE READER sounds amazing, and that cover is gorgeous. Thanks for another wonderful interview!

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  43. I've read the first few pages of this book online as a teaser and I'm hooked. I think this is going to be my favorite book to read this year. I don't want to be considered for the critique, thank you for the opportunity anyway! I would love to win a copy of this gorgeous and exciting book. I shared on my tumblr blog: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/150364090492/agent-barbara-poelle-and-debut-author-traci-chee

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  44. Thanks for the great interview! Would love an opportunity for the critique as well as the book.

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  45. Very interesting post. Thanks. The book sure is getting a lot of buzz. I will pass not he giveaway.

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  46. Fantastic interview--love the interaction between these two and the inside look at what catches an agent's attention! Looks like a great read! Thanks so much for the amazing giveaway. I shared on twitter (@ValBodden). valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

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  47. Great interview! It was nice to learn that other writers revise and revise to get the pacing right. A well-paced novel is a beautiful thing. I will share the contest on Twitter (@bstefanski2)

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  48. Another awesome interview, thanks so much! Those first pages-so hard. And dealing with this sudden craving for pop rocks, almost equally hard.
    Please rule me out of the book giveaway, I'm international, so shall purchase my own, but would LOVE to be considered for the critique opportunity.

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  49. Cover reminds me of Avatar, excited to read this one.

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  50. Great interview. A pity she's only looking for authors in the UK and US, but hmmmm...
    Great cover. I like the colours.

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  51. Wonderful interview! I've heard of this book before and I can't wait to read it. It sounds nice! Thank you for the giveaway. Please exclude me from the critique. I don't have any material to critique yet. :) xinyi1467 at gmail

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  52. Sounds great! Look forward to reading.

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  53. The Reader sounds amazing! Congrats Traci! Please exclude me from the critique but I would love to get a copy of the book. I would be very happy to receive my own copy of The Reader!

    I shared this post on Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebelcon/status/776641880364765184

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  54. Congrats Traci, like you I too wrote 5-6 different beginnings before I finally landed on the version that I was happy with. I like the idea of incorporating micro tensions within the plot.

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  55. Beginnings can be frustrating. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has redone one several times. I Tweeted about the cool story and giveaway.

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  56. Reading The Reader right now and the insight behind Traci's beautiful word choice and intense plot is so very helpful for my own writing. Thank you both!

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  57. I loved the guest post and Traci Chee's approach to character. Yes, beginnings are crucial and difficult. And Barbara's problem with older writers who use out-of-date slang bugs me too!

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  58. You two have a great rapport! :) I love it. I'd be happy to win either giveaway.

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  59. I'd love a critique (and a new book)--thanks for offering!

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  60. Great Interview- I've often struggled with finding an approachable beginning- :)

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  61. I'd love to win a critique and your new book! Thanks for the generous offer!

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  62. This sounds awesome! Thanks for the giveaway! Shared it on twitter here: https://twitter.com/RaynaReveur/status/778692316923961344

    raynareveur (at) gmail (dot) com

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  63. Very generous offer guys.

    Sign me up for a 3-chapter critique of my novel and/or a copy of The Reader please, I'd be thrilled to win either. :)

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