#MSWL Launches The Manuscript Academy

 

7 (1)Welcome to The Manuscript Academy—online writing conferences built with a writer’s needs, comfort, and budget in mind. Brought to you by Manuscript Wish List®, these one-of-a-kind online conferences will give you the tools and information you need to get your book published and become a successful author.

— Our next event launches on November 5, 2016, and focuses on getting your books for children and teen published. Click here to learn more, or read on below.

— Following that, we have a conference that focuses on adult fiction (all genres) and memoir starting on November 26, 2016.

 

Read below for details on dates, schedules, agent & editor faculty, pitching & critique opportunities, and more. Thank you for your interest in The Manuscript Academy.

 

 

 

$179

How to Get Your Children’s Book or Novel Published
Looking for How to Get Your Fiction (or Memoir) Published? Register here.

Classes go live November 5–meetings and forums live NOW

One-on-one pitch appointments with agents and editors looking for new material
Craft and Business of Writing and Publishing classes
Forums and networking
Everything you’d learn at a conference–without leaving home

Sign up for the Nov. 5, 2016 conference now and learn how to get your children’s book/novel published.

 

Lights, Camera, Publishing

Filming Day, September 17, 2016. Agents and editors toast to a day of panels, classes, education, and awesome.

Learn more about our agent and editor faculty, who are doing one-on-one pitches through video with registrants.

ABOUT THE MANUSCRIPT ACADEMY

The Manuscript Academy offers world-class publishing instruction that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home or a nearby coffeeshop. Unlike traditional conferences, you simply need a computer, a tablet, or even your smartphone to log in and enjoy the very best instruction from some of the top minds in the literary community. Every online Manuscript Academy conference will give you the full educational and networking value of a traditional writing conference, but without the hassle of travel, paying for meals out, or arranging childcare.

Event registrants will receive the following:

  • Assess to exclusive recorded classes and panels, designed to educate you about need-to-know topics such as how to submit your work, what agents and editors are looking for, how to craft amazing novels and books, the business of writing and promotion, and much more. You will have access to many high-quality recorded video presentations for 30 full days—so you can pause, rewind, and notes at your own convenience. See the full schedule of classes here.
  • Opportunities to pitch agents and editors one-on-one online. Using just your computer, you can arrange one-on-one pitches with literary agents and publishing house editors who are actively seeking books and clients right now. (Pitches are optional. You can sign up for as many pitches as you like.)
  • Critique opportunities for your work. If you want a professional critique of your work, then Manuscript Academy has opportunities for you. Our awesome faculty of agents, editors, and published authors offer detailed critiques of manuscript pages, query letters, synopses, and nonfiction book proposals. This is an amazing opportunity to get expert feedback on your work. Plus, Manuscript Academy members also gain access to our Academy Forum, which allows writers to connect with each other and form online writing critique groups.

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Writing is a craft. It is a skill that can be honed through education. We’d love to have you join us at The Manuscript Academy, and take that important next step on your journey to publication.

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All these agents & editors (and more!) are
waiting to hear your pitches at the next
Manuscript Academy event
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UPCOMING EVENTS AND DATES

November 5, 2016: How to Get Your Children’s Book or Novel Published.

If you are writing picture books, middle grade, or young adult, this online conference will explain everything you need to know to get an agent and secure a book deal. You will learn about how to write compelling stories for kids, what makes agents & editors stop reading a submission, how to compose an awesome query for your work, young adult writing, and more. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive agent & editor panels where anonymous first pages are read aloud and critiqued in real time. If you want to know what makes publishing professionals keep reading (or reject you), these panels provide behind-the-scenes access to how they judge first pages.

Also, many different agents & editors are open to hearing kidlit pitches through scheduled one-on-one pitch meetings online. Schedule a pitch (or many) and get your book considered.

Classes and panels go live on November 5, 2016. Registrants can get access our Forum immediately. The price is $179 for base registration. Pitches and critiques are add-on and optional. You will have access to all our of the conference’s premium recorded content (classes, panels, etc.) for 30 days once it goes live on November 5.

Click here to learn more.

November 26, 2016: How to Get Your Fiction (or Memoir) Published

This online conference is geared toward writers of adult fiction—all genres and categories. (We’ll also have great instruction for narrative nonfiction writers.) Learn how to best submit your work to agents, how to create a great world for your story, common query mistakes, and much. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive agent & editor panels where anonymous first pages are read aloud and critiqued in real time. If you want to know what makes publishing professionals keep reading a novel/memoir submission (or reject you), these panels provide behind-the-scenes access to how they judge first pages.

Also, many different agents & editors are open to hearing novel and narrative pitches through scheduled one-on-one pitch meetings online. Schedule a pitch (or many) and get your book considered.

Classes and panels go live on November 26, 2016. Registrants can get access to forums immediately. The price is $179 for base registration. Pitches and critiques are add-on and optional. You will have access to all our of the conference’s premium recorded content (classes, panels, etc.) for 30 days once it goes live on November 5.

Click here to learn more.

Sign up for the Nov. 26, 2016 conference now and learn how to get your adult fiction (or memoir) published.

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February 4, 2017: How to Write and Sell Romance, Women’s Fiction, Erotica, Chick Lit, and New Adult.

More information coming soon.

 

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PRICING AND REGISTRATION

(These prices below are consistent for all our current conferences (Nov. 5 and Nov. 26), so the costs are the same for either.)

Basic registration—$179 (early bird price). Basic registration gets you access to all classes and panels of the conference of your choice. You have access to all content for 30 days once it goes live. You can watch it, rewind, and take notes at your pleasure.

Add agent and editor pitches—$39 each (optional). Secure 10-minute one-on-one meeting with our agent & editor faculty. Pitches are online using communication devices such as Skype. Use this special meeting as a chance to pitch your work or get professional feedback on your quick pitch. (Spaces limited.) If they wish, attendees are free to sign up for multiple 10-minute pitch sessions at $39/session—pitching multiple individuals, or securing 20 minutes to pitch one person rather than the usual 10. There is no limit; pitch as many faculty members as you like.

Critique opportunities for your work (query critiques $69, first ten pages $89). If you want a professional written critique of your work, then Manuscript Academy has opportunities for you. Our awesome faculty of agents, editors, and published authors offer detailed critiques of manuscript pages, query letters, synopses, and nonfiction book proposals. This is an amazing opportunity to get expert feedback on your work. Plus, Manuscript Academy members also gain access to our Academy Forum, which allows writers to connect with each other and form online writing critique groups.

(Please note that agent/editor pitching and critiques are an add-on, separate aspect of the conference, for only those who sign up. Spaces are limited for these spots.)

 

PITCH AN AGENT OR EDITOR

To pitch one of our amazing faculty members online using one-on-one video technology (such as Skype), it is $39 per 10-minute online pitch appointment. (Optional.) Spaces limited. Below you will find information about our faculty agents and what genres they enjoy. You can read their complete bios on the Faculty page.

6aCsZvhJKat Brzozowski (editor, Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5). Kat is looking to acquire young adult fiction across a wide range of genres, especially contemporary/realistic YA with a strong hook, dark contemporary fiction (not too issues-y), mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and sci-fi that’s mostly rooted in this world. She is especially interested in YA with crossover appeal.
Prospect Agency Profile PicLinda Camacho (Prospect Agency) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). She is seeking graphic narratives, middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction across all genres (particularly romance/women’s fiction and upmarket), along with select picture book writer-illustrators. Diversity of all types welcome (ethnicity, disability, sexuality, etc.).

 

 

 

 

photo (1)Alicia Clancy (editor, St Martin’s/Macmillan)  is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). She is interested in women’s, upmarket, commercial, mysteries, thrillers, humor, pop culture, and YA.

 

 

 

 

 

Jaime Coyne photo1Jaime Coyne (editor, St Martin’s/Macmillan) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). She is interested in Adult, literary, mysteries, thrillers, memoir, narrative, humor, gift books, and YA.

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Edwards PhotoMelissa Edwards (Stonesong) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). Melissa represents authors of children’s fiction and adult commercial fiction. She is looking for warm and timeless middle grade fiction and accessible young adult fiction. For adults, she is looking for fast-paced thrillers and smart women’s fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

efinkelErica Finkel (editor, Abrams Books) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5). She works on a variety of children’s books from picture books to young adult novels.

 

 

 

 

 

ali austin headshot 2016Ali Fisher (editor, Tor/Forge Books) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). Her imprints take genre fiction for middle grade, young adult, and adults—mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

 

 

 

 

 

Flum pic (1)Caitie Flum (Liza Dawson Associates) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). Caitie is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction with great characters and superb writing, especially historical fiction, mysteries/thrillers of all kinds, romance, and book club fiction. She is open to science fiction and fantasy that crosses over to a young adult market. She is also looking for middle grade and young adult projects—particularly romance, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, and contemporary books with diverse characters.

 

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Sarah LaPolla (Bradford Literary) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). Sarah takes MG, YA, and Adult fiction, Sarah is especially drawn to the following genres: literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, literary horror, and upmarket contemporary fiction. No matter the genre, Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters with engaging voices. She seeks stories that evoke strong connections and novels that offer a wide range of emotions. Whether they write dark, gritty YA, light coming-of- age narratives, or edgy urban fantasy, Sarah’s authors tend to reflect larger themes within a character-focused story, such as feminism, tolerance, and challenging the status quo.

 

PennyPenny Moore (Empire Literary) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5). She is seeking all categories of children’s books & novels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amanda Shih (editor, Tarcher/Perigee/Penguin) is taking part in the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26).  She publishes nonfiction ranging from illustrated and gift books, to pop culture, to practical lifestyle and self-help titles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TwitterPictureJessicaJessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). She seeks picture books, young adult, and upmarket genre fiction (especially women’s/romance/erotica, thrillers, mysteries).

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Stein photoStephanie Stein (editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5). She seeks a wide range of YA and middle grade. Stephanie is especially interested in fantasy and science fiction but is also looking for a variety of other genres, including contemporary and historical.

 

 

 

 

 

Roseanne Wells copyRoseanne Wells (The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency) is taking pitches as part of the Children’s Book Conference (Nov. 5) and the Fiction/Memoir Conference (Nov. 26). She seeks strong literary fiction that emphasizes craft and style equally, and doesn’t sacrifice plot and character for beautiful sentences; young adult of all genres; very selective middle grade of any genre that connects me to a strong main character; science fiction and fantasy; con/heist stories (especially featuring art, jewelry, and tech); and smart detective novels (more Sherlock Holmes than cozy mysteries).

 

 

When you invest in The Manuscript Academy, you invest in publishing

  • As soon as it is financially feasible to do so, The Manuscript Academy will begin offering scholarships to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to intern in publishing. Working for free isn’t free–living in New York certainly isn’t–and we want to give the brightest minds a chance to join the industry. Learn more about our scholarship.

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Why iZombie Would Make the Perfect Book

by Kylie Brien, editor at Skyhorse Publishing

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Sure, it started as a graphic novel, and is sort of . . . maybe . . . technically a book already—but the show has taken on a life of its own. The television series, created by Rob Thomas, has a completely different feel than the graphic novel series it was based on. Because of this, I tend to look at it as a separate entity. I think there are elements of the show that would translate to a young adult novel.

Here are a few stand-out elements of the show that I think would translate well into a book:

  • A new twist on a tired subject.
    • Zombies are the new vampires. They’re everywhere. You can find them stumbling around all kinds of literature, television, and film in search of brains to consume. Though in my experience, it’s rare to find a zombie as the protagonist. Olivia Moore, aka Liv Moore, aka a wonderfully punny name (I always appreciate a good pun) is the focus of the show that takes Zombieism to a new level. Liv was scratched by one and woke up lacking all pigment in her skin and hair and with a sudden desire to eat brains. While she shares that common trait with traditional zombies, there are things that set her apart. Though she gave up her career as a doctor and transitioned to the morgue as the medical examiner to improve her access to brains, Liv can live like a normal human being with all of her sensibilities as long as she regularly eats brains. However, without springing for the spray tan or hair dye, Liv is as pale as a ghost and hair so blonde, it’s basically white. There are some gives and takes with this lifestyle. When Liv does eat brains, she takes on the personality traits of the person’s brain she eats and gets visions of their life. This conveniently helps her help Detective Clive Babineaux solve the murders of the owners of the brains she eats.

 

  • Excellent supporting characters:
    • What makes a show featuring a snarky doctor-turned-medical examiner with a newfound desire for brains and a whole lot of sass even more captivating? A well-rounded group of friends, coworkers, and enemies to contribute something new and different. As I mentioned before, Liv works closely with a detective to help him solve murders using her unique zombie abilities. Clive is a reserved Seattle Police Detective who keeps his personal life to himself—though that doesn’t stop Liv from trying to uncover details about his life (like his obsession with Game of Thrones). Clive also has a dark past though his relationship with Liv gives him an opportunity to let loose from time to time. They’re complete opposites but somehow make a comical and oddly compatible pair. Liv’s boss, Ravi is to Liv what Giles was to Buffy. . . sort of. Like I said before, iZombie is a new take on things. Ravi is a version of Giles with a whole lot more sass and a love of all things nerdy. He makes an excellent person for Liv to confide in and remind her that she still has friends. When it comes to villains, I love complicated ones with intricate plans that keep them at least two steps ahead of the protagonist. Blaine is that villain for iZombie. Full of snark and street-smarts, Blaine is a villain determined to profit from this zombie outbreak and Liv has resolved to stop him. The pair get in each other’s way constantly and it’s always hilarious when they do.

 

 

  • Mystery with unconventional outcomes:
    • Each episode features a new mystery. Liv uses her zombie abilities to get into the heads of the victims. By eating their brains, she’s able to understand who they were and has visions triggered by sound, scent, or even touch that help her solve the case. This combined with Clive’s interrogation skills and logic lead to a solved case at the end of almost every episode. The murder is almost always someone you wouldn’t expect. Yet, when the truth finally comes out, you’re amazed at how all of the evidence points to that person even though you never saw it coming. I love that each case solved takes me by surprise and makes me think. While each episode features a murder that Liv helps solve BUT each season also features an overarching mystery. Even if the episodic case isn’t related to the bigger picture, each episode unravels some detail that helps solve the grand mystery. Despite all of the clues, you never see it coming!

 

  • Honorable mention: the culinary masterpieces Liv makes to make eating brains more appealing.
    • It would be hard to directly translate this to a book since it’s such a visual part of the show, but I appreciate the effort that goes into this small detail of Liv’s lifestyle. It’s gotten more artistic as we’ve gotten into the second season, but whenever Liv has to consume a brain, she doesn’t just pick it up, apple-style and take a bite. She puts some effort into making a gourmet masterpiece out of the brain. Brain tacos, brain parmesan, brain shakes, and spaghetti and brains. It’s such a well-done show quirk and I’d love to see something that unique in a book!

Kylie Brien never leaves the house without at least two books on her and a notebook to jot down any creative ideas she may have. She received a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in 2014 and joined the SkyPony Press team in June 2015. Kylie has great aspirations to travel to Wonderland, Oz, and Hogwarts before settling down in Neverland (most likely she’ll be a pirate).

On How Being Stubborn as all Get-Out Got Me an Agent

authorpic03by K. Kazul Wolf

I’m gonna get real for a second here. I hate insta-success stories. It’s not because of jealousy or hate (though writer jealousy is so much fun), but there’s nothing to learn. They’re the exceptions, the flukes we have little control over. So while there’s some success to my story, it’s already been a hell of a long journey to get to where I am. And maybe there’s something to take away from the climb to get to my tiny peak of success.

Back in 2014 I had been working on this whole writing business for a few years, and I’d written a few manuscripts. Then I got my first little achievement to put on my small shelf: I got into a writing contest. Little did I know at the time that writing contests are awesome not because of the agent or publisher opportunities, but because of the amazing community they help you develop. Those writers took me in and helped me grow up and understand this insanity I’d gotten myself into. The fact that I got an agent from the contest didn’t hurt, either.

Until said agent wrote me a few months in and said they weren’t “enthused” enough about the project to represent it anymore. A form rejection to end an agent-author relationship. (They’re no longer an agent, so querying writers who are reading: you don’t have to worry about querying this one.) As an author, of course I didn’t take that at face value. What did I really do wrong? Still, my group of writer friends scrapped me back up, set me on my feet, and I queried. I got into that contest the next year with a different novel.

Crickets.

Then worse than crickets. I had a few rejections stating my bad writing and cliché ideas were the reasons for passing. People who are normally no-responders seemed to go out of their way to reject me. Honestly, I thought for sure that agents must have some blacklist of writers never to sign, and my ex-agent put me on that list for whatever real reason he dumped me. So when I got in contact with an indie pub that wanted one of my books, and indie publishing was a path that might have been the right fit for the book, I grabbed at it. Until I saw their predatory contract.

At this point my emotions about writing were the equivalent to a black hole of depression. I tried to remember why I wrote, but it didn’t matter when the universe seemed to be pointing and laughing at me and my silly, stupid dreams. My feeds were filled with good news and opportunities and friends trying to cheer me up, but it became static. Sometimes I mustered up enough hope to send something out, enter a contest, even write down a couple of words. It never came to anything. I even sat down and prayed for any sign I should keep writing, something small. Within the hour I had a rejection in my inbox. Not the sign I expected or wanted.

The week following that rejection, I was stalking my Twitter feed and grumbling about how unfair everything was when I saw a MSWL post from an agent at my dream agency. I took advantage of that tiny, teeny little spark that kept me checking the hashtag and sent off a query. Which then turned into a full request. Hope bubbled up, but I punched it back down into the black hole and kept slogging, placing the achievement on temporary display on my tiny shelf of victories. About a month later she wrote back. After a few probably unhealthy heart palpitations, I opened it. And… it wasn’t a rejection. It was a revise and resubmit.

By then my brain was trained to expect the worst and proceeded to bring up every case of every friend I knew who was devastated by rejection after doing an R&R, but what did I have to lose? And I loved the changes she suggested anyway, so I went to town and had fun writing for the first time in at least a year. After running it through readers and praying it was good enough, I sent it back. Insert much pacing and internal screaming. Then after what felt like an eternity (but in reality was extremely quick), she wrote back. It wasn’t a rejection. She wanted to schedule a call.

I tried not to get excited. Maybe it was another R&R. Maybe it was one of those fabled horror stories I’d heard about agents rejecting potential clients on the phone. No matter what, she wanted a call with me (again I glance into the shelf and look at my accomplishment of getting a full request from the dream agency), and I just had to try and hold onto that, because I’m slowly learning that it’s those small victories that have to be your fuel in writing. Because “success” is always going to come hand in hand with failure.

Phone call day came. My stomach was beyond a mess. But she was just as nice and awesome as she seemed in her e-mails, and we seemed to have the same perspective on where we wanted to go. And, as the title gives away, she offered.

It still feels a little surreal to be able to tell people I’m represented by Samantha Wekstein of Writers House. And the worry that one day she’ll decide she’s not enthused about my writing anymore haunts me, but she’s awesome and signing with her totally deserves to be up on that shelf of accomplishments. I have to keep reminding myself every time those thoughts creep in that no matter how much writerly brains like to obsess over it, I can’t change what’s coming.

I was having a rough time with my work-in-progress a few days ago, and whined to a friend asking her why any of us even write. She jokingly said that it was a compulsion, but honestly, I think that’s the truth. I think we need it to be the truth. Let your curiosity and need to know drive you to find resources, join groups, send that one last query to that person you saw on the MSWL hashtag. Because sometimes you’re not going to have the hope or the motivation to do diddly squat about your words. Sometimes your small shelf of success is going to feel nonexistent, but that stupid annoying inner storyteller will probably never stop asking questions.

So. Answer them.

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K. Kazul Wolf (aka Bacon) is a fantasy author, leegndrary typoer, chef of all trades, and a dragon that prefers capturing cats and dogs as opposed to princesses. You can find her at her website, .

I Never Liked to Read Until Freak Came Along

kw_headshotby Kira Watson, Emma Sweeney Agency

I hated reading, because, as my youngest brother so eloquently asked our mother, “Why do we have to read. It’s just words on paper?”

Back then thirty minutes with a book was a punishment–cruel and unusual. To make the time pass–and not spend any of it reading–I would count the words on the page, stare at the ceiling, try to communicate with my dog telepathically (which by the way never worked!), and make faces at my two younger brothers who, like me, were forced to read.

At school, reading was just as torturous. I disliked all of the books my teacher picked to be part of our curriculum. They were old, dusty, and dull. Why would I care about some kid trying to survive in the wilderness with only a hatchet to help him?

Besides, it was a boy book.

When my teacher handed all of us a copy of The Adventures of Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick all I could think was, Great. Another stupid thing for me to read. But when my teacher read the first sentence—I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that’s the truth, the whole truth,—I couldn’t help but listen and be interested. It was as if the narrator was speaking to me, not at me. That day we read only the first chapter, but I remember racing home after class and devouring the book in one sitting. As you can imagine, it was all downhill from there: I had my grandmother drive me to the library so I could get a library card, and from then on I was at the library almost every other day looking for a new book to read.

By the time I was in High School reading had become my even more important to me. As with many of us, it was my way to escape from school, grades, friend drama, and the pressure of college. For a few hours, I didn’t have to deal with any of it. But my reading choices garnered comments from adults around me: “Why are you reading that? Isn’t it a book for children?” “You really should be reading something more mature so you can be intellectually challenged.” “Don’t fill your mind with all of the fantasy. Read something more realistic.”

I tried to read the “more mature” books I kept hearing about. I was able to appreciate the writing, but adult fiction did not have the same impact on me as YA and Children’s Lit. I was back to reading words on paper, instead of being taken on a journey and caring for the characters that lived between those pages.

I didn’t want to lose my love for reading, and so I went back to reading YA. The comments from adults, who I’m sure meant well, kept on coming but each time I heard them, the comments meant less and less. I was going to read YA if I wanted to and it didn’t matter if I was eighteen or eighty-one.  And so, my reading habit eventually led to a blog, which I started in college so I would have an excuse to read while I earned an undergrad degree and worked my way up to Law School. That, however, did not go as planned.

A week into my Sophomore year I decided I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than sit through another Political Science Class. I hated everything about being a PoliSci major, but most of all I hated that it got in the way of reading (even if I did read non-class related books on my Kindle during lectures). That same week, after announcing to my parents that I was going to be an English major (you can imagine how well that was received), I filed the required paperwork for a change of major and started to search for an internship in publishing.  After a few weeks of interviews, I had landed an internship at ESA. I was supposed to stay for ten weeks, but here I am almost three years later building my list.

Over the short time that I’ve been with ESA, I learned more than I could have imagined back when I was trying to set foot into the publishing world. Some of the things are quite obvious: contracts, foreign rights, writing editorial letters, editing manuscripts, etc. I also learned the importance of trusting my instinct when it comes to manuscripts because if I don’t have the confidence in myself and my abilities, then why should my clients. If something in the manuscript doesn’t sit right, trust your instincts and use your abilities to guide your author. As cliché as this may be, you have to have confidence in yourself first before you can expect others to believe in you.

Freak the Mighty was the first story I cared about, and in retrospect, is the first book that set me on the path to becoming a Children’s Lit agent.

 

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Kira Watson graduated from Hunter College where she earned a BA in English (with a focus on Creative Writing) and a BA in Russian Language & Culture. Kira is particularly interested in young adult and middle grade books with a strong narrative voice, well-crafted storylines, and memorable characters. Within YA and MG, Kira is actively seeking realistic fiction, speculative fiction, magic realism, thriller/mystery, horror, fantasy, and historical fiction. Stories with folklore elements, complex villains, morally enigmatic (and very flawed) protagonists, medieval literature influences, and taboo subjects are bound to catch Kira’s attention.

How to Handle Rejection

caitlinrcby Caitlin O’Connell

We face a lot of rejection in life. As people pursuing creative fields, we face even more. We writers can expect dozens, if not hundreds, of rejections over the course of our careers, from agent rejections to editor rejections to bad reviews. But just because we know to expect them doesn’t mean they don’t hurt, and learning to deal with all those “no”s in a healthy way is very important in order to move forward with a writing career.

For me, at least, the first step in dealing with rejections is to allow myself to be sad about it. Rejection sucks. It’s not “weird” or “unprofessional” to let yourself be as bummed out as you need to be. Sometimes, kind, personal rejections can lead eventually to great ideas for revisions or new stories, but at the time, the sense of “almost” in them can be pretty devastating, much more so than form rejections. Do what you need to do to process that and move on. Spend a little time crying. Hug your pet. Watch your favorite cheer-up movie or TV show, listen to your favorite song on repeat, make yourself your favorite comfort beverage. (Although I would suggest not getting drunk every time you get rejected, since, as I mentioned, it’ll happen a lot.) It’s also really helpful if you have friends who are also writers or creative-types, friends who will understand when you say “hey, I got rejected today, I’m pretty crushed,” who won’t brush off how much this can sting and will instead send you gifs of adorable baby animals.

What is unprofessional and weird, though, is writing back to the person who rejected you to argue with them, or to say “whatever, I didn’t want you anyway.” I can understand the impulse, but this will hurt you so much more than those ten minutes of feeling superior will help you. Agents remember these things, and they share them with their publishing friends. You don’t have to respond at all, and in most cases I would suggest that you don’t, especially because publishing really is as subjective as they say it is. I’ve been inside the slushpile inboxes, and I’ve seen it for myself: rejections are very frequently a case of literary “it’s not you, it’s me.” If someone turns you down, it’s because they think you’ll have better success with someone else. If they don’t 110% connect with and love your story, it’s better for the both of you if they turn you down. People often cite famous writers who have been rejected, and I think it’s important to remind yourself that you’re in great company. However, if you can, stop short of saying “wow, how dumb must they feel to be the publisher who turned down J.K. Rowling?” Maybe they do regret it, but if someone who hadn’t believed fully in Harry Potter had published it… would she be J.K. Rowling as we know her today? Probably not.

So, once you have stopped yourself from impulsive replies and let yourself be sad however you want to be sad… what then?

Well… then it’s time to get back to work. Whether that means new revisions, or doing more research on a new batch of agents to query, or setting one book aside entirely in favor of focusing on the next project, you’ve got to “just keep swimming.” Use the rejections, especially the personal and specific ones, to fuel super cool revisions you might not have thought of otherwise, or to decide to try something new you’ve never tried before. All writing is practice, and so time spent writing is never really wasted, even if those words never see the light of day. Keep writing just for the love of writing, even on the hard days, and prepare the chocolate stash for the next rejection on the horizon.

Because someday, if you keep at it and the timing is right, someone is going to say “I love this. Yes.” And all the rejections in the world won’t matter at all.

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Caitlin O’Connell is a part-time proofreader for Marvel Comics, as well a writer and freelance editor. She has a BA in creative writing from Ithaca College and specializes in YA and children’s literature, but has a great love of all stories that are well told and inviting. When not writing or reading, Caitlin can usually be found drinking tea under a pile of cats. You can follow her on Twitter @Caitlin_Renata or, to learn more about her writing and editing, visit caitlinroconnell.com.

A #MSWL Agent-Author Connection: How We Found Each Other and How You Can Do the Same

johnson-blalock-headshot rockaway-headshotby Kristin Rockaway and Jennifer Johnson-Blalock

Kristin Rockaway’s debut novel, THE WILD WOMAN’S GUIDE TO TRAVELING THE WORLD, is a smart, sexy, fun work of commercial women’s fiction that will be published by Center Street in June 2017. Kristin first queried Jennifer in June of 2015—here’s how our connection was made.

KRISTIN: Before I queried Jennifer, I’d been in the trenches for about four months. I’d had a few full requests, as well as an R&R, but I was struggling a bit with how to define the genre for my book. I felt as though the story straddled the line between women’s fiction and contemporary romance; when people asked me for comps, I often referred to the works of Emily Giffin. So when I was doing my twice-weekly perusal of the #MSWL hashtag, I was thrilled to see Jennifer’s tweet:

“Also looking for more commercial women’s fiction with standout plots. Playing with the genre is excellent. Love Emily Giffin. #MSWL

At the time, Jennifer’s website expressed a preference for nonfiction, YA, and upmarket women’s fiction, so I hadn’t added her to my list of agents to query. This one little tweet changed everything. I looked up her submission guidelines, tweaked my existing query letter, and sent it off the same day.

JENNIFER: I was thrilled to get Kristin’s query so quickly in response to my MSWL tweet—she sent just a few hours later! Travel is a passion of mine, so my interest was automatically piqued by a query for a book about a twenty-something who falls in love with an American artist in Hong Kong, disrupting her five-year plan.

But at the end of her query, Kristin included the line, “Given your recent manuscript wishlist request for commercial women’s fiction written in the style of Emily Giffin, I think you may be an excellent representative for my manuscript.” That definitely sealed the deal for my request—it confirmed that it was likely in the vein of something I was eager to see, and it showed that she’d done research.

As a newer agent, I was able to read fairly quickly, and I was thrilled that the manuscript completely held up to the promise of the query letter. Though the themes weren’t quite as subversive as Giffin’s can be, it had the fun, commercial feel that I was looking for and a strong hook. I had immediate ideas for revisions, and I couldn’t wait to talk to Kristin.

KRISTIN: When Jennifer called to offer me representation, I was so anxious that I found it hard to speak. But my nerves began to fade when she listed all the things she loved about my story – the travel, the feminist undertones – and I could tell she really understood me as an author. Her ideas for revisions resonated with me; not only would they place the book firmly in the Women’s Fiction genre, but they would make the story stronger. And when I told her about the thoughts I had for future projects, she sounded enthusiastic.

It was a struggle not to accept her offer on the spot, but I knew I had to contact a few other agents who had my full – one of whom subsequently offered me rep. I took a couple of days to mull over my decision and talk it through with my friends and loved ones. My husband’s advice was to trust my gut. And everything in my gut was saying, “Go with Jennifer.”

To be perfectly honest, my one hesitation with accepting Jennifer’s offer was her status as a newer agent. When I signed with her, she had yet to sell a book. But she just got me, and I felt like we clicked. I knew from her MSWL tweet that she was looking for something really specific – something I loved to write! – and that kind of match doesn’t happen very often. She’s also extremely intelligent and committed (I mean, she went to Harvard Law), and from her use of MSWL, she clearly has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in publishing. I could see our agent-author relationship lasting over the long-term. So I said yes!

JENNIFER: I definitely clicked with Kristin right away. I think one of the benefits of MSWL (and Twitter in general) is that you can really get a feel for an agent’s personality and see not just if they’ll like this particular book but if they might like your future books and just be someone with whom you can get along. Every agent-author relationship is different, but Kristin is someone I’ve come to enjoy as a person as well as a writer, and that started with our initial call.

MSWL is a particularly powerful tool for newer agents. When I first started, I was still figuring out exactly what I wanted to represent. (Even now, it’s ever evolving as I read more.) MSWL let me get the word out more quickly and directly than a website update and allowed me to reach potential clients like Kristin who may not have heard of me yet or may have been unsure whether they wanted to query me. As Kristin hinted at, I do think it gives an agent a certain legitimacy.

And even now, many of my best queries are MSWL queries. The last client I signed reached out because of my “love for foods and the stories behind them.” I always get excited when I see a MSWL query in my inbox, and though I read every query carefully, I do give them extra special attention.

KRISTIN: If it weren’t for MSWL, I probably never would have queried Jennifer when I did. It allowed me to get a real-time glimpse into what she was looking to acquire – something that wasn’t even listed in her bio. So understandably, I’m a huge fan of the hashtag. Here are some tips I learned while navigating the MSWL query process:

  • Search MSWL often. Agents post to this hashtag on a daily basis, so strike while the iron is hot. If you’re replying to a tweet that was posted a year ago, it may no longer be relevant – or the wish may have already been fulfilled.
  • Follow submission guidelines. Replying to an MSWL tweet doesn’t exempt you from following the proper process. Check the agent’s submission guidelines (usually found on their agency’s website) and query them in their preferred format.
  • Make sure it’s a true match. This should go without saying, but don’t reference an MSWL tweet in your query letter unless you’re actually sending a manuscript that lives up to the request.

 

JENNIFER: I completely agree with Kristin’s love for the hashtag and the website. MSWL allows you to be much more targeted in your submissions, and more specificity can only benefit you. From an agent’s perspective, I’d add just a bit of nuance to her tips:

  • While a same-day MSWL request/submission like Kristin’s fills my agent heart with joy, most agents seem to agree that their wishlist is somewhat evergreen. Even if a request is a year old, it’s worth sending a query to find out if the agent is still looking for that sort of book.
  • And absolutely be honest—your query and manuscript should be a genuine response to a MSWL request. However, I think MSWL gives you an opportunity to take calculated chances. For instance, I recently received a query for a book that was slightly outside of what I usually represent in response to a MSWL tweet about happy relationships. They were upfront about their genre and explained why they thought it would be a good fit, and I appreciated the opportunity to take a look. I, for one, am never upset about receiving a query that’s sent with purpose.
  • I would add, too, that it’s great to put MSWL in the subject line and explain what you’re responding to and why at the top of your query. Kristin incorporated it at the end, and while I obviously still saw it and responded, I think it’s savvy to tell me why I should be excited about what I’m about to read.

 

We’re so thankful to MSWL for helping to bring us together—we might not have found each other without it! We hope that our story is both helpful and inspirational to both writers and agents. On both sides of the query fence, we’re all looking for a great agent-author match.

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Jennifer Johnson-Blalock joined Liza Dawson Associates as an associate agent in 2015, having previously interned at LDA in 2013 before working as an agent’s assistant at Trident Media Group. Jennifer graduated with honors from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in English and earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Before interning at LDA, she practiced entertainment law and taught high school English and debate. Follow her on Twitter @JJohnsonBlalock, and visit her website: www.jjohnsonblalock.com.
Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker with an insatiable case of wanderlust. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she now spends her days happily writing stories instead of software. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and planning her next big vacation. You can find her at http://kristinrockaway.com/ and on Twitter @KristinRockaway.

The Ideal Client: A Literary Agent’s Wish List

marycmooreheadshotby Mary C. Moore

Hopefully you are using this amazingly helpful site to find agents whose tastes align with your writing. And although your writing is by far the most important aspect of your submission, secondary, and almost as important, is how you present yourself as a potential client.

Given this site is dedicated to agent and editor manuscript wish lists, a post on a wish list of traits in potential clients seems appropriate. Before I go on however, let us emphasis that none of my clients checked off all the items on this list when I signed them. This post is not meant to discourage, only to educate.

Traits that are must haves in potential clients:

  • Professionalism
  • Patience

Other traits on my wish list:

  • Online savvy
  • Solid platform
  • Lengthy writing resume
  • A love of Doctor Who

Professionalism is by far the most important aspect of the agent/author relationship. Writing itself is an intensely personal experience, and emotions tend to carry over to the publishing of said writing. But a writer who wishes to be traditionally published must be able to separate personal from business. Rejection is a given. It will occur on every level, whether it is from agents or editors or reviewers or readers.  A client who reacts rashly to rejection or makes emotional demands will not be easy to work with. Mutual respect for each other’s business role is expected once a contract is signed. If I offer representation to an author, it means I respect them as a writer and believe they have what it takes to make a career from it. I expect them to respect me as a literary agent in return. Manuscript rewrites should not be a battle to convince the author of every edit. Suggestions on how to build their platform should be taken seriously. The desire to micromanage an agent’s time should be resisted. Trust that the agent is working for them at all times is paramount. (If the author suspects the agent is not working for them, this is another matter and should be addressed immediately with direct communication.)

Patience is another key trait I seek in potential clients. Traditional publishing is slow, sometimes glacially so. It can take years before a manuscript is sold (sometimes it is the second or even third ms). A writer should understand that just because they signed with an agent does not mean they are going to be seeing six-figure advances and a movie contract the next month, so should manage their expectations appropriately. Even if I do sell a manuscript quickly after signing it, the average time for the actual book to be released is 18 months later.

Online savvy is an aspect that I know intimidates a lot of authors. But a client who understands the deeper aspects of an author’s online presence will be at an advantage. An author who knows how to build websites, understands SEO, can direct all of their social media accounts, makes use of hashtags etc., will have an edge in the marketing and promotion of their career. This is appealing for obvious reasons. Just having a simple author website will go a long way in my assessment of a potential client.

A solid platform is something that I know makes new authors groan, but this is my wish list, so on the list it goes. Ideally a potential client would have established their platform already with a solid following. This means once their book is published they have a built in fan base. Realistically they should understand what a platform is and have plans to grow it.

Lengthy writing resume is another aspect that is hard to pin down when an author is starting out. The catch-22 of “you need to have published to be published,” is a real irony. Ideally a potential client would have published short stories in well-known literary journals and magazines as well as a host of manuscripts in their drawer. Realistically, they would have more than one project planned, as even with a literary agent, your first manuscript may not sell.

A love of Doctor Who is half a joke and half truth. If our tastes align, more than likely our vision for your projects will too, and that I know editors that will be interested in your style. Allons-y.

When I make that phone call, these are the traits I hope to find on the other end. Of course, it’s the writing that matters, and that will weigh the most heavily in my decision to make an offer. But I also want to see that the author is professional and patient and willing to grow. And if you happen to have a life-sized replica of a Dalek in your living room (Stacey Berg), well that’s just icing on the cake.

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Mary C. Moore has been with Kimberley Cameron & Associates since 2012. She represents both adult and young adult fiction. She is currently seeking fantasy, science fiction, upmarket “book club,” genre romance, thrillers with female protagonists, and stories from marginalized voices. She prefers clients who are online savvy and who have more than one full-length book project in their drawer. She does not represent self-published books, memoir, middle-grade, picture books, or non-fiction. Find out more about her at marycmoore.com and visit the agency website at kimberleycameron.com.

Are You Really Ready to Query?

by Elizabeth May, Kensington BooksElizabethMayRC

How do you know if you’re ready to begin the querying process? It’s an exciting time for a writer and one that many rush into. So I put together a list of things to consider before you begin the journey that is sending out your novel for consideration.

So here it is, a five step checklist to see if you’re really ready to query. (Bonus points for saying that five times fast!)

 

1) Have you finished your novel?

Yep. This is real. I’m going to assume this doesn’t apply to most of the writers reading the blog. But it surprises me how often I do meet writers who think they can query an idea, and that, if they get an interested response, they will somehow churn out the project before the queried editor has totally forgotten it. Don’t do this. It won’t work out the way you want it to. And it’s not courteous of the professionals you’ll be querying to send them an idea that hasn’t become a reality yet.

Imagine the man of your dreams asked you out on a date, and as soon as you pull yourself together and respond with an enthusiastic “YES!” he tells you it was just a hypothetical question. Okay, the situations aren’t identical, but you get my point.

 

2) Has your novel has been beta read, critiqued, and a final draft?

It’s a bad idea to have the agent or editor you’re querying be the first person to read your novel. You need a beta reader. Someone who is a dedicated fan of the type of book you’re writing, and can give you feedback.

So who is a good beta reader? Well, it’s not your Mom, or your best friend, or your roommate. People who know you on a personal level can’t be relied on to give you the most industry relevant review of your work.

It is someone who reads and perhaps writes the same kind of books as you, and who is invested in giving you honest feedback based on typical reader expectations for your genre. Does your roommate only read science fiction and thrillers? Then why would you share your regency romance with her? That’s like asking a vegetarian who makes the better burger, McDonalds or Burger King.

There must be about ten thousand writing groups and resources on the internet. Don’t do yourself the disservice of sending out the manuscript before it’s ready.

 

3) Have you researched the Agent or Editor you’re querying?

You’re probably already on top of this one since you’re using this website! But it doesn’t hurt to know your target, and personalize your pitch to them. I can attest that reading a personalized pitch makes me take the project more seriously than a generic one. I get that personalizing every single pitch is time consuming. But I’ll be frank, from this point on there’s a lot about the publishing industry that’s difficult. And besides, you’re not doing this because you thought it would be easy. You’re doing this because it’s your passion!

 

4) Do you know the audience for your book?

This is a big one, because many publishing decisions are based on the idea of comparative titles. Meaning is there another book or author out there that is similar to you? How many people bought that book, and is there a good reason to think they will be a similar title again? I love to read a query where the author clearly lays out comparative titles or authors that they feel are similar to hers It gives me a much better sense of the project itself, as well as the author’s sense of the market.

 

5) Have you already sent the same exact query to fifty other people without getting a response?

This one is a tricky, because we have all heard those stories about the 200th query being the one that got the million dollar deal. And publishing is a numbers game. But if you’ve sent your query to ten or more people without getting any interest, then it may be something in your letter that is turning people off. It could be a typo in the second sentence. It could be the synopsis of the project is falling flat. It could be your comparing your project to a title that is a known flop. But the chances are it’s something. At this point, it’s worth going back to and reviewing or reworking your letter before pressing send again.

So there was the preliminary checklist. Querying is an art, and not something easily mastered. I hope this list is helpful, and helps ease the pain for aspiring writers out there.

If writing is your passion, then keep doing it, and Happy Querying!

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Elizabeth May is an Editorial Assistant at Kensington Publishing Corporation where she works primarily with Editorial Director, Gary Goldstein on genre fiction, including mysteries, thrillers, romances, westerns, and select nonfiction. She recently acquired Cynthia Tennent’s Truhart contemporary romance series for Lyrical Press. She is seeking fiction in the genres mentioned above, and particularly enjoys books that walk the line between upmarket and commercial, as well as historical women’s fiction, and mysteries where the characters are as important as the crime, as in literary suspense. You can find her on twitter @LizMay05. Or send a query to emay@kensingtonbooks.com.

Tips to Promote Yourself as an Author, Before and After Publication

by Carrie Pestritto, Literary Agent at Prospect AgencyCarrieRC

If you want to succeed as an author, you are probably going to have to promote yourself. This can be hard for introverted writers, but I’ve seen it again and again: my authors who perform the best are the ones who do a lot of work to promote themselves and their books.

Of course different genres call for different amounts and types of self-promotion. If you write non-fiction, you better have a strong platform online. If you write middle grade, you might have better luck with in-person events at schools and libraries. That said, below are six tips for self-promotion in any genre.

 

  1. It’s never too early to start self-promoting. For most genres, having an existing online or offline platform before landing an agent isn’t required, but it will certainly help. Non-fiction authors, who are expected to be leaders before they write a book, are the exception here. While you are working on your book or searching for an agent, start researching and networking with the communities that will help boost you and your book. This could be book bloggers, librarians, or other writers. For non-fiction, you might want to other thought leaders in the subject matter you are writing about.
  2. Promote others. Before you have anything to self-promote, help promote others. Hopefully they’ll return the favor one day, when it is your turn. Plus, no one wants to hear you talk about yourself all the time. Once you have a book deal, joining a debut year group can be a great way to formalize cross-promotion.
  3. Publishers want to see more of a platform than agents. While having a strong platform isn’t essential to land an agent (except for non-fiction writers!), publishers often take your author website and social media links into their acquisition meetings. You want to do everything possible to show that publisher’s team that you have what it takes to get the word out about your book.
  4. Self-promotion only gets more important after publication. Once your book is published, you will have some promotional support from your publisher. Of course, certain publishers will devote more time and money to marketing certain books. If you’re with a large publisher, your book might not be their top priority. If you’re with a smaller publisher, they might not have the staff or money to do all of the marketing you’d like. Thus, getting the publicity you want is on your shoulders. You are responsible, ultimately, for your brand as an author. Work closely with your agent and publisher to maximize opportunities for spreading the word about your book, and don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands.
  5. You get what you give. The more you put into marketing your book, the more you will get back. Treat your career as an author like a business. Think about the return on investment you will get for various marketing efforts, and create a realistic budget based on that return. You don’t have to aim for just book sales, because growing your brand as an author is important for your long-term career. Think about how you can measure the growth of your brand. What is the value of someone subscribing to your email newsletter? Visiting your website? You don’t need to have a spreadsheet spelling this all out, but you should consider those questions. Beyond just budgeting your money, budget your time. Do a lot to promote yourself, but don’t keep doing things that take a lot of time and/or money and aren’t driving results.
  6. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Sure, many authors are naturally introverted or shy. And even for the most extroverted person, it can be scary to reach out to a book blogger, a local store, or that amazing author you’ve always dreamed would write a blurb for your book. But this is your career! You can’t let the fear of hearing “no” keep you from advocating for yourself. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
  7. Provide value. Like I said earlier, no one wants to hear you talk about yourself, or pitch the Amazon link to your books, all the time. How can you provide value for your audience? What can you give away for free that is entertaining or informative, depending on your genre? Providing content that readers want will help you grow your audience.
  8. Educate yourself. Authors today are not just writers, they are marketers. Do the work to educate yourself. Some of my favorite resources are Boost Blog Traffic, Christina Katz’s site, Fiction University, Romance University, and Sterling Editing.

This is just a quick overview of some of the basics of self-promotion as an author. Have any ideas to add or questions? Comment here or ask me on twitter @literarycarrie!

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Carrie Pestritto joined Prospect Agency in 2011 and is thrilled to represent New York Times bestsellers and award-winning authors.  Before joining the Prospect team, she worked as an assistant at Writers House and earned her BA in English, cum laude, from Amherst College, also spending a year studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford.   As an agent, she loves the thrill of finding new authors with strong, unique voices and working closely with her clients to develop their ideas and manuscripts.  Carrie always strives to help create books that will introduce readers to new worlds, whether that is through non-fiction, fantasy, historical, or contemporary novels.  If it can make her forget who or where she is, she wants to read it!

Carrie is currently seeking:

  • Narrative non-fiction
  • Biography and memoir
  • Commercial fiction with a literary twist
  • Fresh chick lit
  • Contemporary romance
  • Upmarket women’s fiction
  • Near-historical fiction (from about the Gilded Age on)
  • Mystery/thrillers for a female audience
  • High-concept YA fantasy
  • Diverse YA and upper MG
  • MG with a quirky voice
  • Biographical, educational, or cultural picture books

Learn more about Carrie at http://www.prospectagency.com/.

 

#MSWL and Taking Risks    

by Colleen HalversonColleenRC2

“Have fun,” my husband called after me. “And don’t drink too much!”

I snorted and grabbed my keys on the counter before stumbling out the door. A wave of heat blasted in my face, the temperature unseasonably warm for late September in Wisconsin. A line of perspiration beaded on my forehead, and as I walked to my car, I cursed the black cardigan I had donned in an effort to look somewhat professional. But not too professional. Not like I was trying too hard or anything. Because this meeting was kind of a big deal. Because this was the day I met my editor.

My editor.

It’s interesting to find yourself at a place in adulthood where you start referring to people in the possessive. My stylist. My accountant. We just bought a high-efficiency woodstove and we even have a wood guy who delivers to our door. My wood guy. But never in a million years would I have ever imagined I would find myself referring to someone as “my editor.”

Before I became a writer, before I became many things, I wanted to be an actress. I once took a workshop taught by a woman in a long, tie-dyed gown and big rings on her fingers that would glitter and shine as she would chant to us, “Take a risk! Take a risk!” Creative risks were always easy for me. I never minded looking foolish in my acting classes, rolling around on the floor imagining I was a tiger on the savannah or a child making snow angels. And I felt this way when I finally decided to cross off that one nagging item on my bucket list—to sit down and write a fantasy novel. Go on an adventure. Tell a story. Once I got the hang of it, it was just like building a fort or running around in dress up clothes. Whether I’m in a quiet black box actor’s studio or sitting at my dining room table with my headphones on, these are magical places for me. Places where anything is possible.

But there are other risks, risks creative people tend not to talk about. Risks of rejection. Risks of failure. Risks in an industry where the rules are fluid, where the finish lines are always moving, and everything you know to be true one day can turn on a dime the next. One of the biggest professional risks I’ve ever taken was answering a #MSWL tweet from a young editor named Awnna Marie Evans at Entangled. I had queried my first book heavily, and I had garnered some interest, a few full requests. I was almost there, but, as they say, “almost” only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Not in publishing. The market was bursting with vampires, ghosts, and werewolves. My Fae urban fantasy didn’t stand a chance. Plus, and let’s face it, it was my first book, and it was riddled with all the first book problems you could imagine. It’s easy to see that now, but in February of 2015, all I could see was a book I loved, a book I desperately wanted out in the world.

Do you remember that early scene in the movie Labyrinth where Sarah meets that little worm, and he teaches her how to see the different twists and turns in the walls? I’m not comparing my editor Awnna Marie Evans to a worm (although she would look adorable in that red scarf), but to me a great editor or agent is someone like that. Someone who can help you to actually see something you’ve been looking at for a long time. This person can show you how to re-enter the labyrinth of your novel, uncover different paths, alternate endings and beginnings.

But to enter that maze is a risk for both parties because neither one knows how your novel will end up on the other side, or if the book will make it to the other side at all. There are creative risks, professional risks, but the personal risks involved between a writer and editor who choose to work on a project together are perhaps some of the most daunting. They are, in essence, the sticky sweat beneath that black cardigan, the thoughts and feelings we try so hard to cover up. The things that make us vulnerable. Human. What might begin as a simple business decision turns into a far more intricate journey with stakes that can feel impossibly high at times.

When I saw Awnna’s tweet on #MSWL I hemmed and hawed with my friend in private DMs. Do I dare sub to an editor directly? Do I dare disturb the universe? But in the end, it was the right choice. I ended up having to do an R&R for Entangled (a revise and resubmit), and Awnna felt so strongly about the project, she sent me a ton of notes, gratis. A lot of people were telling me, “take the notes and run, find an agent,” but I knew I had found the perfect partner for my novel, the guide who could help me see through the walls. Even still, any time I receive an editor’s letter or have a meeting with her, I have the uncanny sense she has traveled to the world in my head, sat down and had coffee with my characters, and returned from her own journey with news.

I met Awnna at a local winery as she was coming back from a con in Minneapolis. It was the only place open on a Sunday. She joked that she had ran out of clothes and asked me to excuse her for wearing what were essentially her pajamas—a T-shirt and yoga pants. I smiled and peeled off my black cardigan, grateful for the breeze on my bare arms. We sipped all the wines, ticking them off from whites to reds. I didn’t drink too much. We sat outside amidst the rows and rows of grapevines, already turning yellow, and talked. In fact, we shut the place down, and as the sun set over the parking lot, we lingered by her car, still sharing ideas, still discussing books, writing. Creative things.

In their simplest forms, artistic journeys are circular, always arriving back at the place we started. Whether it’s pretending to build a snowman with your fellow actors or chasing a new idea for a novel, we are forever returning to that core risk, the single spark that makes us choose something different, to create something out of nothing. When I drove away from the winery, the song “Dreams” by The Cranberries came on the radio, and I laughed. It seemed so fitting. Cliché almost, like a trailer for a bad rom-com.  But I sang along anyway, at the top of my lungs with my best Dolores O’Riordan impression. Because I, too, am in the manufacturing dreams business, and they are changing.

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As a child, Colleen Halverson used to play in the woods imagining worlds and telling stories to herself. Growing up on military bases, she found solace in her local library and later decided to make a living sharing the wonders of literature to poor, unsuspecting college freshmen. After backpacking through Ireland and singing in a traditional Irish music band, she earned a PhD in English with a specialization in Irish literature. When she’s not making up stories or teaching, she can be found hiking the rolling hills of the Driftless area of Wisconsin with her husband and two children. THROUGH THE VEIL is her first novel.

Book Blurb:

THROUGH_THE_VEIL_500x700 (2)Elizabeth Tanner is no Tinkerbell, and her life is no fairy tale. Broke and drowning in student loans, the one thing she wants more than anything is a scholarship from the Trinity Foundation. But after the ancient Irish text she’s studying turns out to be more than just a book, she becomes their prisoner instead. And when Trinity reveals Elizabeth is half-Fae, she finds herself at the center of a plot to save the magical races of Ireland from a brutal civil war.

As Commander of Trinity’s elite warriors, Finn O’Connell isn’t used to having his authority challenged. He doesn’t know whether to punish or protect the infuriating young woman in his custody. When he discovers the Dark Fae want to use Elizabeth’s abilities to control the source of all power in the universe, he’ll risk everything to help her.

At the mercy of Trinity and enslaved to the Dark Fae, Elizabeth finds herself alone on the wrong side of an Irish myth thousands of years in the making. Refusing to be a pawn in their game, Elizabeth has to fight her way back to the man she loves, but to do so, she must wage her own war against the magic that binds her.

Available now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada.

Contact Info:

www.colleenhalverson.com
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