CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests


Tori Sharp Query Critique through December 8th

Reeni's Turn through December 8th

A Curse of Roses through December 19th

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Maria Vincente Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/7/20

Amy Brewer and Dana Swift Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/18/21

Tricia Skinner Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/20/21

Pam Gruber Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 2/17/2021

Allyson Hellegers and Sam Taylor Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 2/22/2021

Caryn Wiseman and Merriam Sarcia Saunders Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/15/2021

Jennifer Herrington Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/17/2021

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.

Winter Is Coming Giveaway Hop: Win an Amazon Gift Card


Happy Tuesday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to be participating in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop hosted by The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It.  I love being part of blog hops like this.

Even if your holiday will be a quiet one like me, I hope that you are excited for it. I'm focusing on the joy of giving and being grateful for all I have. It's helping me get through this really challenging time in life. I'm hoping to write and read more and work on my blog this holiday season since it won't be safe to see many people except for outside. 

I'm offering another Amazon Gift Card for this giveaway. If you are interested in another chance at winning one or a newly released MG or YA book for yourself or to give as a gift, be sure to stop by for my next giveaway hop in December that's listed in my Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways section below. 

Also there will not be a giveaway hop through this group until March 2021. I hope you will still follow my blog until then and enter my other monthly giveaway hop contest.

I'm giving away a $15 Amazon Gift Card this month.



Giveaway Details

One lucky entrant selected by the entry form will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Open to entrants internationally for 13 years and older. Open for entry from 12/3 – 12/21/2020 at 11:59 pm EST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email to claim this prize or a new winner will be selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Saturday, December 5th I'm participating in the December 2020 of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 14th I have a guest post by debut author M.L. Tarpley about marketing and school visits during COVID-19 and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Malie and the Maize

Wednesday, January 6th I have an interview with debut author Olivia Chadha and a giveaway of her YA dystopian Rise of the Red Hand and my IWSG post

Monday, January 11th I have an interview with debut author Caroline Gertler and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Many Points of Me

Monday, January 18th I have a guest post by debut author Dana Swift and her agent Amy Brewer and a query critique giveaway and book giveaway of Dana's YA fantasy Cast in Firelight 

Hope to see you Monday!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:


Debut Author Interview: Diana Pinguicha and A Curse of Roses Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Diana Pinguicha here to share about her YA fantasy, A Curse of Roses. It’s based on a Portuguese legend and is a historical fantasy, which makes me excited to read it.

 Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.


There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…
  

Before I get to Diana's interview, I have my IWSG Post.
Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine, and me! 

I'm going to skip the optional question. I have a favor to ask. FYI, if you read my post on Monday, you've already read this.

If you like Literary Rambles and find it helpful, I would appreciate it if you would nominate my blog


for Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites. They are doing it differently this year, and you need to fill out a form to nominate a blog or website. In the blog post announcing the call for nominations, they say that you can nominate yourself and ask your followers to also nominate you. FYI I nominated myself in the everything agent category, which seems to fit my blog the best.

This is the Writer's Digest post that contains the nomination form. The deadline for nominations is December 18, 2020. 

I am asking this favor not because I want the recognition, which is gratifying I admit, but because it will give Literary Rambles more exposure to writers who may not know about it and who can benefit from my author interviews and agent spotlight interviews. My mission here is to help other aspiring writers and debut authors on their publishing journey. Being named a 101 best website would really help with this goal.

Thanks so much if you decide to nominate Literary Rambles. I really appreciate your help. And consider nominating The Insecure Writer's Support Group. I just did! It's a fantastic group, and I am grateful for all you do to support writers and authors.

Interview with Diana Pinguicha

Hi Diana! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

 Hi! I’m a girl who was born and raised right here in Portugal—specifically, Estremoz, Alentejo, but I’ve lived in Lisbon since my college days. I’m a graduate from Instituto Superior Técnico for Computer Engineering, and believe it or not, that’s what made me decide to take the plunge into writing.

I always wrote because I genuinely enjoy it. But after being in Engineering classes and spending them writing rather than paying attention, I realized I was stubbornly denying myself what I wanted to do: WRITE. I’d gone in for Engineering thinking it was the easiest way to get myself into video game development and game writing, and I plowed away at programming while it sucked out my soul. I was on my 4th year when I took the Proficiency in English Exam and my teacher, Harry, read some of my short stories and essays and urged me to change courses.

I kept on in Engineering because at that point, might as well finish my degree. But Harry’s words stuck and I kept on writing on the side and trying to get published.

 2. It sounds like you were smart to finish your degree while pursuing your passion for writing. Where did you get the idea for A Curse of Roses?

It was when I was between books with my former agent. I was debating ideas, and thinking, “What’s a


story that’s unique to me and not many people outside of Portugal have heard of?” And my mind immediately went to Isabel of Aragon, who’s a central figure in my hometown. We have a statue of her, and my high school is even named after her!

So I decided to try and do a re-telling of her story, but making it my own.

 3. Your story is based on a Portuguese legend. What research did you do into the legend before you started your story and how did you decide what to keep and add as you drafted your own story?

I didn’t do much research in the legend, per se. I’d heard about it all my life and could quote the whole thing from memory from a very early age.

What I DID have to research was Isabel’s life, as well as her joint ruling with Denis I. I also went into a deep dive on the Moor occupation, and the Reconquest (I hate that name)  and came to learn that what actually happened was very different from what we’re taught in history classes. I owe Archeologist Cláudio Torres a debt of gratitude for that.

I also read a lot of Moura legends­—turns out we have several, and they were a joy to discover. Also pretty frustrating, because 99% of them involve a Moura dying by suicide over a man. Which… ugh.

 4. That's cool that you picked a legend you heard your whole life. Your book sounds like it is really well-plotted and has enormous stakes and choices for Princess Yzabel. What was your plotting process like? Did your story change much from what you’d originally planned?

The plotting process was mostly sound in the beginning and end. I knew I wanted to end with the Miracle of Roses, and that I wanted to begin with Yzabel finding and meeting Fatyan, an Enchanted Moura. It’s… remarkably easy to plot a book when you know your characters and you know what you want to say.

I also knew I wanted Yzabel to be good because… she was good. Incredibly so, and generous and pious to a fault. I wanted to explore those things—how you should be selfless, but not to the point you neglect yourself. I also wanted to explore her faith, and how the Bible relies largely on interpretation, and she was taught to interpret it in the most horrible, self-flagellating ways.

So the story didn’t really change much. The middle is what I struggled with the most, and after 3 failed attempts, I settled for what it is now.

 5. A  Curse of Roses (FYI to readers, it started as A Miracle of Roses) is your debut book, but it is the 7th book you’ve written. What have you learned from writing your other manuscripts that helped you get the story right in your debut book?

I learned a lot of things! My writing, obviously, became better with each book that failed. Failures are hard, but they’re not necessarily bad if you learn from them. With each book, I understood pacing better, as well as how to be economic with language rather than going on 3-paragraph rants to drive home a point.

Readers are smart—and I learned that too. It’s a disservice to your audience when you treat them like they can’t understand or internalize aspects of a book if they’re said just once.

I also learned patience. It’s FINE if you take longer to finish a novel. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And if you think it can be better, take your time to make it so.

 6. Yes, we do learn from our mistakes. Your agent is Travis Pennington. How did Travis become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I got my agent through an irregular path, and this is not your typical journey.

I had another agent prior to that who signed me for another book, who read ACOR and said it was Adult Fantasy, and that she couldn’t see a way to make it Young Adult. She no longer represented Adult Fantasy and felt it was best if we parted ways. That stung. But as I read her e-mail, I realized there was no point in arguing with her, because I could immediately think of ways to make it skew more YA, and that she couldn’t think of them or even ask me told me a lot. She was nice about giving me referrals, but none of them panned out.

So, I queried agents. I got a record of full requests (upwards of 30, plus 20 partials) and they all came back rejections. A lot were forms. Some were borderline ableist (my MC feels too much? Seriously? Nice thing to tell a neurodivergent author who’s heard that all her life about herself). Some were just… *eye roll*

I was ready to give up when my now-editor reached out after PitMad. They didn’t promise an offer, but they said I’d get feedback regardless. I thought, well, what do I have to lose if I submit to Entangled? So, I did. Weeks later, I was notified it would be taken to acquisitions (!!) but that I should rewrite the first chapter to make it stronger. Which I did in two days! That week, it went to acquisitions, and I had an offer!
Problem is… the contract was, well, a contract. And while I’m smart, I don’t have experience in negotiating. Some friends helped, and I was ready to go in agent-less. But I still nudged everyone who still had the book, and sent out some queries with the offer. An author told me I’d never get one with an offer from Entangled because “they’re a bad publisher” and compared them to Month9—this is to highlight that you’ll get advice, and it might be good, or it might be bad. That was bad advice. In NO WAY is Entangled like Month9, and I was sure of that, especially after talking to other Entangled Teen authors.

That’s when Mia Segert (who wrote JERKBAIT and SOMEBODY TOLD ME—which you should read if you can!) referred me to Travis, who was closed to queries at the time. Then Travis offered, and that was that!

 7. I'm a retired attorney and would definitely not want to sign a publishing contract without an agent. What was something you learned from working with your editor?

Mostly, I learned to listen. If your editor brings up an issue, trust them, even if you might not agree with it. If you agree, great! If you don’t (and it’s fine!) take a couple of days to ask yourself why, and if you still feel strongly, talk it out. Don’t be afraid of your editor, since they want the same thing you do: make the book the best it can be!

 8. I saw on your website that you can preorder your book in the U.K, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia as well as the United States. How were you able to get your book distributed in so many countries?

One of the reasons I chose Entangled (I had another offer of publication, actually!) was that they had good distribution through Macmillan. I’d seen Entangled books in brick-and-mortar stores, and they were also available at online retailers everywhere. So I knew my book would get that same treatment—and distribution is a really important thing authors should pay attention to. Especially since most of my friends are abroad, and I wanted them to be able to order it too!

 9. It sounds like you made a smart decision. You live in Lisbon. How are you planning to promote your book given the pandemic and the fact you live oversees? How are you finding out about and taking advantage of online opportunities and what advice do you have for other authors about finding them?

With the pandemic, it’s probably easier for me, actually! Silver linings, I guess? I already have some events scheduled with booksellers in the US, as well as bloggers and podcasts.

If the pandemic hadn’t happened, who knows? But I was actually planning on flying to the US and making my own book tour happen—I am shameless in that way, and very thrifty when it comes to travelling. Perks of having friends whose couches I can use all over. I’m still a bit miffed I won’t be there in person, and I’m especially miffed that I won’t get to do my book launch in Minneapolis, where my best friend in the whole world is. I really wanted her there with me

 As for finding these events… don’t be scared of putting yourself out there and reaching out. And to tell your publicist (if you have one!) about reaching out too! Be friendly to fellow authors and ask them if they want to do something with you as well!

 10. What are you working on now?

I’m now currently working as a ghostwriter to pay the bills as my day job, and slowlyyyy re-plotting and revising my previous YA Fantasy book about chaotic pansexuals and mental illness (I think I just hit a breakthrough on that one!)

I’m also slowly researching the 1383-1385 Crisis in Portugal for another YA Historical about the legend of the Baker of Aljubarrota and the story of Leonor Teles, who was done SO DIRTY in our history lessons.

And then there’s also my super long Adult Fiction WIP that’s a blend of science fiction and fantasy, fueled by my really missing my grandmother that’s passed, and who was magic herself. Like grandmothers often are, you know?

 Thanks for sharing all your advice, Diana. You can find Diana at


Website: https://pinguicha.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pinguicha
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pinguicha/

Giveaway Details


Diana has generously offered a hardback of A Curse of Roses for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 19th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International to anywhere that Blackwells ships to.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Tomorrow, December 3rd I'm participating in the Winter is Coming Giveaway Hop

Saturday, December 5th I'm participating in the December 2020 of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 14th I have a guest post by debut author M.L. Tarpley about marketing and school visits during COVID-19 and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Malie and the Maize

Wednesday, January 6th I have an interview with debut author Olivia Chadha and a giveaway of her YA dystopian Rise of the Red Hand and my IWSG post

Monday, January 11th I have an interview with debut author Caroline Gertler and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Many Points of Me

Monday, January 18th I have a guest post by debut author Dana Swift and her agent Amy Brewer and a query critique giveaway and book giveaway of Dana's YA fantasy Cast in Firelight 

Hope to see you Monday!

Asking a Favor: Please Nominate Literary Rambles for Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites


Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Mine was very quiet with my boyfriend. It's okay. I'm grateful that all my family and friends are safe and healthy. Next year should be so much better.

I'm also grateful to all of you wonderful followers. Thank you so much for visiting Literary Rambles, reading my posts, and leaving comments. 

I have a favor to ask you. If you like Literary Rambles and find it helpful, I would appreciate it if you would nominate my blog for Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites. They are doing it differently this year, and you need to fill out a form to nominate a blog or website. In the blog post announcing the call for nominations, they say that you can nominate yourself and ask your followers to also nominate you. FYI I nominated myself in the everything agent category, which seems to fit my blog the best.

This is the Writer's Digest post that contains the nomination form. The deadline for nominations is December 18, 2020. 

I am asking this favor not because I want the recognition, which is gratifying I admit, but because it will give Literary Rambles more exposure to writers who may not know about it and who can benefit from my author interviews and agent spotlight interviews. My mission here is to help other aspiring writers and debut authors on their publishing journey. Being named a 101 best website would really help with this goal.

Thanks so much if you decide to nominate Literary Rambles. I really appreciate your help. You can nominate as many blogs as you want, and I encourage you to do so. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, December 2nd I have an interview with debut author Diana Pinguicha and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Curse of Roses and my IWSG post

Thursday, December 3rd I'm participating in the Winter Is Coming Giveaway Hop

Saturday, December 5th I'm participating in the December 2020 of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 14th I have a guest post by debut author M.L. Tarpley about marketing and school visits during COVID-19 and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Malie and the Maize

Wednesday, January 6th I have an interview with debut author Olivia Chadha and a giveaway of her YA dystopian Rise of the Red Hand and my IWSG post

Monday, January 11th I have an interview with debut author Caroline Gertler and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Many Points of Me

Monday, January 18th I have a guest post by debut author Dana Swift and her agent Amy Brewer and a query critique giveaway and book giveaway of Dana's YA fantasy Cast in Firelight 

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Debut Author Interview: Carol Coven Grannick and Reeni’s Turn Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Carol Coven Grannick here to share about her MG contemporary Reeni’s Turn. It sounds like a great novel in verse about issues of body size and dieting that many tween girls grapple with.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


Eleven-year-old Reeni’s world is changing. Her star-of-the-senior-class, college-bound sister has no time for her, sixth grade is full of girls into makeup and diets and crushes, and something deep inside tells Reeni it’s time to become more than a shy girl in the shadows. But when she commits to dancing a solo for her retiring ballet teacher’s final recital, her lifelong fear of performing expands along with her newly-changing body. Lunch friends convince Reeni that a diet will give her courage and self-confidence, but the diet wreaks havoc with Reeni’s life. She lies to her parents, breaks up with her best friend, and loses focus on school work and dance. Reeni faces a painful choice: should she break her commitment to solo and quit dance? Or might she have hidden strengths that could help her come out of the shadows and become the girl she wants to be?

Hi Carol! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

            I scribbled poems and short ‘creative non-fiction’ as a child, fell in love with poetry, and got some encouragement from home and school that I was a writer. But in my young childhood, most of my ‘writing’ stayed in my head, with the exception of some passionate, issue/social justice-related rhyming poems, some essays that won little awards, and all my school writing. I was quiet in many ways, kept things to myself. Reading written words comforted me, and writing them seemed to give names to what was inside.

            But I didn’t realize what ‘being a writer’ meant until I was in social work school, and was writing a lot—process recordings that read like stories, and tons of poetry. Through my internship in an amazing YMHA, I met an older poet who became my mentor and told me it was time for me to submit work. “When you finish a poem, it does not belong to you anymore. It belongs to the world.” That gave meaning to my work that I hadn’t felt before, and I began submitting, receiving some acceptances, and even did a poetry reading at the Y.

            A persistent writing life requires emotional resilience, though, and I didn’t make that happen for myself until the early 1990s. Learning resilience (thank you, Martin Seligman!) opened up lots of possibilities, mainly for submitting more often and not being side-swiped by rejections. As a clinical social worker, I published many articles and scholarly papers.

            My passion for writing for children grew as our son grew. We read hundreds of old and new picture books and children’s magazines, and I began to volunteer in his school’s magnificent library. I wrote a story in 1999, saw it published in Cricket in 2001, and embarked on what would become a joyful, challenging, obstacle-filled journey.

2. That's awesome that you've loved poetry since you were a kid. Where did you get the idea for Reeni’s Turn?

            The story behind Reeni’s Turn came with me from childhood, where I learned—quite incorrectly—that my value was tied to the size and shape of my body. My first story for children, “The Inside Ballerina” appeared in Cricket in 2001. I wrote it in order to address an issue I didn’t see much in middle grade literature—a positive portrayal of a non-thin character within a story that undermined traditional stereotypes. The responses I received left me feeling that one day, I would develop the story into a novel. Even later on, “The Inside Ballerina” influenced the award-winning experimental film, La Folia, and the public response to that kept me believing that writing about these issues was important.

3. I read that you started writing this in prose and then switched to a novel in verse. What made you decide to make the switch and how far along in writing your story were you when you did this?

            Yes, I wrote the first draft in prose in 2008, nine years after writing “The Inside Ballerina”. After my then-critique group read and responded, my second draft came out in verse. It didn’t feel like a choice—it felt like the language and rhythm that my brain wanted on paper. I rewrote it in prose at the request of an extraordinary editor I consulted a couple of years later, which helped to put the story in a solid middle grade context. But I wasn’t happy with the prose. I tried hard to make it work, and respected the request, but it felt foreign to what my brain was hearing. Multiple revisions after that, I attended a workshop with another mentor. Before she began my 10-page critique, she asked, “Is there some reason you didn’t write this in verse? It just seems like it should be verse.” (Thank you, Claudia Mills!)

            That was a major turning point in my writing journey, and in Reeni’s Turn. I began to trust that the story needed to be in verse, but I also realized that the verse had to be more honest and accomplished than it was at the time. The decision to write it in verse felt ‘true’ to how I heard the story unfolding. I saw and felt snapshots of time and experience, of events and emotions. The heart of the story is full of intense emotions—joy, passion, longing, love as well as fear, anxiety, anger, and loss. I believed readers would need the white space, too, for rest, comfort, breaks between the emotion—just as I did.

4. That's great that you realized that you needed to write your story in verse and made the switch. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing Reeni’s story in verse? What advice do you have for other writers who want to write a story in verse vs. prose?

            The most significant craft challenges were creating emotionally authentic experiences in honest verse, and organizing the verse into a coherent, organic story flow. The dialogue, and Reeni’s “loud, huge voice” are not strictly verse.

            The other challenges were opportunities to sign with agents I admired and respected who asked me to write it in prose so it would sell more easily. I passed on them with regret, but with commitment to my manuscript.

            In terms of advice, I think the first piece would be similar to advice for any other form: read, read, read. There are many exquisite and diverse novels in verse. Learn the history of the genre by reading older novels in verse, not just recent. Sylvia Vardell has yearly lists; Sarah Tregay has lists divided by age group. Libraries can find and reserve for you. Learn what you like, what you don’t, what feels like poetry to you, and what may not.

            Practice. Experiment. Write a draft in prose to flesh out the plot. Even within a verse framework, experiment with free vs. formal poetry vs. poetic prose. Every story is not meant to be verse.

            Tell yourself the truth about why your work must be in verse—is it the topic? the lyrical quality of the story? the need for white space, broken lines, form? What would be different if it was in prose? And would that detract from the story, or add to it?

            I’ve been experimenting lately with different poetic forms, and am learning how each one is differently linked to storytelling. I’m currently in love with trimerics. They have a little narrative arc all their own.

            My best advice? Not everything wants to be a poem, and not everything is a poem. But what feels like it must be a poem, can become one. Be true to your story. Be true to yourself. And be true to poetry.

5. You deal with a lot of hard topics in Reeni’s Turn, like body image, dieting, and being shy, that many girls deal with. How did you incorporate these themes in your story without become preachy? How did your work with women and girls dealing with these issues help you craft your story?

            This is actually the simplest answer for the most complex part of the writing. It began with a fair amount of telling. My work as a therapist had clarified a pattern I knew I wanted to show in the book—the impact of the diet culture on young tweens, often children who’d been perfectly comfortable with their bodies, food, and themselves before puberty began. I wanted a story that could address this underrepresented issue in young middle grade work, and also address some of the stereotypes around fat characters. I wanted a shy, introverted, somewhat anxious character who at the same time longed to be in the spotlight. And I wanted to demonstrate the quiet strengths of introverts and the sometimes complicated journey to maintain emotional resilience.

            I worked hard, and then even harder. I needed to get to know my character over and over. I did many revisions, small and massive, changing the story, the characters, the events. I removed the antagonist to make the diet culture the appositional force. I delved deeply into memory and emotion and experience to show and not tell about the experiences Reeni went through. Ultimately, when I gently pushed myself to get to know my character in a much deeper way, she moved the story forward.

6. You were able to get some scholarships, awards, a Ragdale Writer’s Residency, and an Illinois Arts Council Grant over the years that you worked on revising your story. Share a bit about how they helped you in your writing journey.

            I would hate to have anyone think that without these things, we cannot write the book of our dreams. I don’t believe that. There was no question in my mind that my mission to write Reeni’s Turn was independent from these events and awards.

            However…these opportunities did provide unique help, support, and definite turning points. Most added meaning and joy to my writing life. The Highlights Novel in Verse workshop in 2013 with Sonya Sones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Linda Oatman High exposed me to a community of extraordinary teachers and fellow poets, where I learned how much work I had yet to do and the standards I wanted to meet. Being a Finalist in the Katherine Paterson Award steered me to an experience with an agent that turned out to be a painful and disappointing detour, but one that taught me to trust myself as a writer and business woman. The Honorable Mention in the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award provided honest and extremely helpful critique relating to the Jewish content in the book, and the 2018 Illinois Arts Council Grant allowed me to attend Esther Hershenhorn’s Vermont Manuscript Workshop, where we thought through many aspects of the marketing of Reeni’s Turn. And I just received a 2020 IACA grant to allow me to create a short video for my website!  

            What is significant, I believe, is that each of these experiences came because I looked for and attended to potential opportunities, and still do. There’s a part of me that says, This may not work, but then I respond, Now I’m going to do whatever I can to keep that from happening. I win some, I lose some, and I know that when I give it a go, the rest is out of my control. 

 7. What was your road to publication like?

            Challenging, joyful, filled with ups and downs, and meaningful. I wrote my first story in 1999 and the story was accepted. “Wow. This is going to be easier than I thought,” I told myself. Nope. Not at all. I worked hard, wrote, revised, found critique partners, learned, failed, had some successes. My writing life, as with most writers and illustrators, has been a journey fueled by the passion to write and the joy and meaning of doing the work, and filled with obstacles, occasional successes, and a wonderful community of supportive, encouraging colleagues and friends.

            Reeni’s Turn went through a huge number of drafts, had a number of “close calls” and “Beautiful, but”s (“I love your writing, but…”). I received a lot of encouragement, my share of discouragement, lots of requests for adding or removing things that were or were not important to me (but I tried everything).

            The topic disturbed some people, and thrilled others. The Jewish content put some people off, and delighted others. I parted ways from the agent I worked with after the Katherine Paterson Finalist award, and returned to the simpler story I preferred. I created the book I wanted. I submitted to one last round of agents and at the same time, researched and identified a handful of small, traditional publishers that might be good matches for Reeni’s Turn. I had the book I wanted, felt I’d spent enough ‘waiting time’ over the years, and in early 2018 accepted an offer from a small, traditional literary press. I worked with my editor, who is also the publisher, did several more revisions, and added some crucial verses. It was time for Reeni to be out in the world.

           8. How have you been promoting your book given the pandemic? What advice do you have for other authors who will have a book release during these challenging times?

            I’m an introvert. But even introverts are all different. I didn’t look forward to the promotion aspect of the writing life, but I jumped in with high energy because I love my book. Some things I’m doing are easier, some are very hard.

            I had a broad and detailed plan that included many familiar, some new, and some uncomfortable activities. I listened to every promotion workshop and webinar I could in order to add to my list and confirm that most marketing workshops say the same things. I organized my plan, and began with the things I was most comfortable with—articles, my regular columns, and a dozen guest blog posts. All before or around the launch. And now I’m pitching more.

            I’d set up the launch with a favorite indie bookstore shortly after I received a contract in March, 2019. I had plenty of time to write the posts, articles, and columns, and I spent lots of time doing them. Before I knew it, the launch was near…so, lots of time spent on that. I was fine with the virtual launch. I’m an introvert who’s comfortable with presenting, as long as I’m secure in the material. In fact, more people attended than could ever have come to The Bookstall, who hosted it!

            I took a brief break after the launch to think about my next project, and now I’m on to the outreach to schools, libraries, book groups, podcasts, bookstores, conferences, and more. The pandemic has actually made these things a bit easier for me, because everything is via email. One thing I learned in one book launch workshop was that I didn’t have to do everything before the book launch.

            Social Media? No advice from me. I’m not great with it, although I post once a day, most of the time, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I do my best. I’m better in person and through my writing.

            What I’ve learned that seems like good advice to me? Since my advice in my chronicles leans toward the psychological/emotional, here’s what I’d say:

 1.      Identify why you want to promote your book. What are your dreams and hopes? What are your objectives? Who is your imaginary reader and where will she find your book?

2.      Learn all you can about the “things to do”. There are tons of online resources, not only through SCBWI and other writing sites, but through business-related sites, as well. You’ll end up with a list of familiar items that overlap, and perhaps a new idea or two. Take into account your realistic budget. I wanted to do everything I could that didn’t cost anything,

but I had some funds set aside for posters, stickers, giveaway books, etc.

3.      Organize the promotion activities that have a straight line to your target audience and that are connected to your objectives. Identify the ones that are most likely to be the best for you/your book—those are your priorities.

a.       What things would be easiest for you to do or plan? Start with those.

b.      What things are a little more difficult, but your strengths make you capable of doing them? Do one at a time, so you can recover and/or enjoy the success.

c.       What things seem beyond your capacity but may be very important for your book?

                   Rev yourself up, practice if you need to, then go!          

9. Thanks for the tips. It's a great one to start with what you're most comfortable with. You also do school visits and workshops at schools. How are you connecting with schools and setting up these visits now?

            I am reaching out to schools on an individual basis. Whether or not I’ll succeed in setting up visits, I do not know—but it’s an effort worth the time (and small expense). I’ve done many workshops in schools as a pre-published author but this feels quite different. I am lucky to have two middle grade teachers as critique partners!

            I’m in the process of having curriculum guides developed for Reeni’s Turn, and I believe these will be useful in bringing Reeni into classrooms, if not me.

            I also offer no-cost virtual visits to underserved schools, and to schools connected to individuals (school social workers, librarians, teachers) who promote the book in certain ways. 

10. What are you working on now?

            I’m planning to write a first draft of a chapter book during November—which means I should almost be done by now!

            I have a poetry chapbook for adults I’m revising for submission.

            I have a couple of new drafts of picture books to send to my agent, whom I found during the pandemic through her interview at Literary Rambles!

            I continue to write and submit poetry for very young children.

            All this is always one thing at a time. When one piece is ready for a rest, I do something else. I love being busy with my writing life.

 Thank you for all the great questions, and the opportunity to be here!

 Thanks for sharing all your advice, Carol. You can find Carol at https://carolcovengrannick.com

Giveaway Details


Carol has generously offered a paperback of Reeni's Turn for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 5th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.


Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, December 2nd  I have an interview with debut author Diana Pinguicha and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Miracle of Roses and my IWSG post

Thursday, December 3rd I'm participating in the Winter Is Coming Giveaway Hop

Saturday, December 5th I'm participating in the December 2020 of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Maria Vincente and a query critique giveway

Monday, December 14th I have a guest post by debut author M.L. Tarpley about marketing and school visits during COVID-19 and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Malie and the Maize

Hope to see you on Tuesday, December 1st!

 

Agent Spotlight: Tori Sharp Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Tori Sharp here. She is an associate literary agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Hi­ Tori! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Tori:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.


I’ve been an Associate Literary Agent with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency since August 2020. Before that, I was an assistant to Jennifer De Chiara and an intern for two years. So far, I’ve been reading through queries, signing clients, helping my clients through revisions, and preparing to go on submission with multiple projects.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency is a full-service NYC agency; we do it all. Each agent has unique preferences about the projects we represent (for instance, I currently represent children’s literature exclusively and am not seeking adult projects) but we do as an agency represent every age category and genre. If querying authors look through the JDLA agents’ profiles, then it’s likely they’ll find someone who represents their type of book. JDLA’s 20th anniversary is coming up in a couple of months, and as a whole the agency represents hundreds of clients and regularly lives up to our motto of “making dreams come true” for authors. We also work with dedicated co-agents for foreign, film and television, and audiobook rights.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

So far, I represent MG and YA, and I’ll happily consider any children’s literature, including picture books and chapter books. I’m looking for all genres, though I’m probably not the best agent for horror. I love seeing submissions with a witty voice and playful tone. I also like seeing that the writer knows how to tell a story; that each scene and paragraph and line has a function or, ideally, multiple functions. It’s the same for comic pages; if the sequential narrative moves at an effective pace while also developing characters, foreshadowing, hitting emotional beats, etc., that shows a level of craft that excites me.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

I’m always excited to see graphic novel proposals, since I’m a graphic novelist myself and majored in Sequential Art at SCAD. Recently, across genres, I’ve been craving something with loving and zany family dynamics. (Hilary McKay does this brilliantly in SAFFY’S ANGEL and, more recently, her BINNY books, where the characters are sometimes at odds but ultimately love and accept each other.) I also hope to see more #ownvoices neurodiverse books from autistic and ADHD writers and artists. I always enjoy fantasy stories with casual magic or “modern” witchcraft that’s considered commonplace wherever the story is set, and I’ve been craving a middle-grade story that’s really action-packed and thrilling.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

At the moment, I don’t represent anything for the adult market, and I am not interested in horror. And while I love looking at submissions that wrestle with serious topics, I tend not to like “issue books” or grimdark stories.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

Authors and agents are people. So are editors and readers. It’s important to me that everyone I work with treats each other as a human being, with kindness. This has absolutely been my experience with my own agent and the whole team at my publisher, and it’s the experience I want all my clients to have throughout their careers. As an agent, I intentionally foster open communication and transparency, and I make sure my clients always know they can approach me with any question—I work for them, after all.

Publishing is an industry that can feel opaque and mysterious, so I seek to demystify the process for my clients and let them know what’s happening step-by-step so they can feel confident we’re taking every measure to ensure their success.

The books I represent usually call out to me because I’m intrigued by a specific theme—something that ties in perfectly with the plot and makes me excited about the book’s potential to bring a new perspective or confidence or joy to readers. That’s what makes me want to drop everything and fight for a project. On top of the story being engaging and smart, it has to express a shared human experience in a way I haven’t seen before.

Unfortunately, that’s a nebulous thing to try to communicate to anyone who’s querying me, since neither of us will know exactly what will pique my interest until you happen to hit on it. So far I’ve been drawn to projects about living authentically as yourself and pursuing the things that make you happy, but what might inspire me changes day-by-day, and every time I look through queries I’m so excited because I don’t know what I’ll fall in love with next.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

Yes, I am an editorial agent! Once you submit to an editor and get a pass, that’s a closed door, so I like to make sure all of our submissions sparkle before we send them out. I’ll typically go through more than one round of revision with an author before bringing their project to editors.

The first thing I do with a new client manuscript is to ask questions about the story’s theme, character dynamics, and resolution to make sure I fully understand the author’s intentions with their story, and then I write an edit letter and mark up the manuscript with comments. The complexity of this will vary based on how polished the manuscript already is when it hits my inbox. My role is to help the author identify and internalize their own purpose with their book and then ask questions that will help them draw their own conclusions about how to achieve it, rather than superimposing my own vision on top of their work. This process of helping authors think about aspects of their story from a slightly new angle and then watching them come up with brilliant solutions is one of my favorite things in the world.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

As of now, I accept queries only via email. My submission guidelines are detailed on my agency’s website, which is included below with all my links. I really love when query letters include specifics about the story in the pitch, rather than a bunch of generalities. Being too vague is one of the most common problems with queries; I need to get a sense of what your unique story is about. I personally think it’s great to start with a quick logline before you launch into the bulk of the pitch. You should also include your manuscript’s word count or the projected page count for a graphic novel.

Lastly – it’s delightful when queries include links to Spotify playlists or Pinterest boards related to the project, and I appreciate seeing links to authors’ Twitter accounts or writing blogs if they feel inclined to include them. None of that is necessary, and the story itself is the most important factor in a query, but those extra additions can be fun to see.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Just be sure to follow submission guidelines! Don’t send your entire manuscript or any attachments with a query unless an agent explicitly requests that in their guidelines. Many authors try to show confidence by saying things like “this is the best book you’ll ever read and will be a bestseller,” but, ultimately, the writing should speak for itself, and this industry is so subjective that personal taste is a huge factor, so it’s better to keep it simple in a query and follow the standard format with concision. If you have multiple projects, please query me with one at a time.

As for the first pages, it’s common advice to start your story with action or during an exciting moment, but that can be dull or even disorienting to the reader if you don’t first show them who your character is. Your first pages should make me care about your lead character so that I can be invested in whether they’ll accomplish their goal.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I try my best to respond within a week, but it really depends. When I’m in the middle of reading manuscripts, preparing a submission, or conducting other business on behalf of my clients, querying authors might have to wait up to six weeks for a reply because I’ll always prioritize the needs of my existing clients. Generally, though, the longer it takes me to respond, the more likely it is I’ve got your query in a “maybe” folder and really, really want to request it. Since I get so many queries, I have to be very selective and honest with myself about which ones I’d do the best job of representing.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

I am open to representing anyone who sends me a project I fall in love with, whether or not it’s your first book. If you’re querying a book that has been previously self-published or published by smaller presses, I would be less likely to represent that specific project, though it depends on what rights you’ve retained with that work. My advice for all querying authors, generally, is to keep writing the next thing.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

I don’t think the role of agents will greatly change any time soon, since being an agent has always meant being able to adapt. For instance, agents being “editorial” is a relatively new normal, in the grand scheme of publishing. Agents adapt in tandem with the publishing industry overall and take notice of what the market is hungry for. More agents are representing graphic novelists and illustrators in general compared to just a few years ago, just as an example, after the success of certain comics. Agents will continue to serve an important role in advocating for their clients, but there will also always be options for authors who decide not to seek representation or who have the desire and business savvy to succeed on their own with self-publishing.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

As a new agent, I’m being very selective with my client list. I represent Dane Erbach, who writes incredibly funny and smart YA contemporary novels. I also represent the graphic novelists Eric Lide and Vanessa Stefaniuk, both of whom are exceptional graphic novelists and webcomic artists.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

You can find a PDF of my zine SLUSH: A GUIDE TO QUERYING LITERARY AGENTS on Gumroad, and this is definitely my best resource about querying. It’s up for $5 but I periodically waive the cost, so keep an eye on my Twitter for the occasional free resource. It’s gotten a very positive response from querying authors. You can find that here: https://gum.co/TKJjQ

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Find my submission guidelines here: https://www.jdlit.com/tori-sharp

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NovelTori

My website: https://noveltori.com/

 Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

Join a critique group! Or start one. You can use services like Zoom or Discord to run writing groups virtually. Reading other peoples’ work critically is the best way to improve your own craft, which will ultimately help you get agents’ attention. Other than that, keep being curious about everything writing- and publishing-related. Learn all you can about what a career as an author actually entails. Listen to tons of podcast interviews with writers and just soak up first-hand accounts about how those authors got their start and the sort of things that helped them on their way to publication. Keep yourself inspired so you can keep trying!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Tori.

­Tori is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through December 5th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.