Sep 8, 2011

Interview with Jolene Perry...and the Twitter pitch giveaway

I ran across Jolene Perry's blog while wandering around For the Love of Contemporary, the just-launched YA blog aimed at (you guessed it, smartie!) contemporary fiction. And squee if she doesn't live in Wasilla, or about 20 minutes from my house. Give or take. Anyway, I jumped at the chance to learn all her secrets interview her which is my sneaky way of picking her brain. Her book The Next Door Boys comes out next month (happy early pub day!!)and she's currently balancing debut authorhood with mom/wife/general manager/writer/blogger. We all can relate, right?

In addition to sharing the secret of Jolene's multi-tasking wizardry, we're hosting a pitch practice in these here comments. The rules of the giveaway are below.
And now, heerre's Jolene!

1. Talk briefly about your decision to switch careers from teaching to writing full-time. Was it all the timing (ie, first book sale?) or did you just jump w/o a financial net?
I stopped teaching to stay home with my daughter who was born with Moebius (google it, not even her doctors know what it is). My husband was in law school at the time, and one of us needed to be with her constantly to make sure she could eat. We plowed through law school (incurring more than your average debt with me being at home and all) and now he works for the state - which is definitely not the best paying, but we can JUST cover everything if we budget carefully. So, really, I write while chasing little people, and, occasionally, myself. Up until about a year ago I thought I'd go back to teaching, but I don't have time for that now!!

The Moebius Syndrome site has a lot of info. Click on 'about us' and then 'meet people with Moebius' for a snapshot of living with this condition.

2. You are obviously a networking queen. Tell us how you met your writing partner, Kelley Vitollo, and the most valuable social networking tool you use.
Wow - Networking Queen - you make me sound so supercool ;O
Kelley and I met through blogging. I've met SO many incredible people through blogging. SO many. Kelley kept putting up these books that she'd read, that she LOVED, and I started reading them. So we got to know one another that way. We now text, and email back and forth a ton. We have a joint YA project that our agents are working on a sub list for right now. So, we're VERY excited about that - it should go on sub later this week or next.

3. Why do you write YA?
I taught high school, and still work with the youth, so that's the easy answer. I do have a few women's fiction projects, but I'm just in the groove with the YA thing right now. I LOVE how much good lit there is for teens now, and I love that the genre has expanded into the adult market as well. It's just fun to write.

Me, too! Am very excited about New Adult, which is rumored to cover the 18-22 age group. Fingers crossed it takes off soon.

4. How many MS did you write before The Next Door Boys (NDB)? How did you know this one would take you places?
The Next Door Boys is my second novel. I thought my first might go somewhere, but it's shelved until I'm ready to just use the outline and rewrite the whole thing (love the story, but the writing is a disaster). The Boys started out as something completely different, and I wasn't sure if it would ever go anywhere. So, I guess I didn't know it would take me places until CFI picked it up. I love, love, love the story (still one of my favorite guys I've ever written), but my writing has much improved in the time since I wrote it. I wrote it in past tense, and I've learned through MANY more projects that my voice comes out better in present.

5 . How long did it take you to write NDB before you landed a deal? (Include any revisions with your agent.)
My agent had nothing to do with NDB. I finished my first draft in the spring of 2010 (my first drafts go pretty quick - I think a month). It was VERY rough, but I had no idea that it was rough. I sent it to ONE publisher who responded in the NO. The project was shelved for several months while I worked on other stuff. I read more, and started to find critique partners. I won a first chapter critique by submitting a line from a WIP (If you care the line was - "Today, love walks out the door with me, keeps my hand in his and I don’t even notice when we pass my safe place - I’m already there.") So, from that one line I got a critique that CHANGED how I wrote. She offered to help me finish the book (LisaAnn Turner) and I went painstakingly through each and every chapter, adding and subtracting, and I swear the only thing that stayed the same was the dialogue, and a very few other lines. I submitted it to CFI and they came back THREE weeks later telling me that they wanted to publish The Next Door Boys. That was Jan of 2011. Hubs and I celebrated by going to dinner.

6. What was your 2-sentence pitch for The Boys? (Or twitter pitch if you had one.)
After spending what should have been her freshman year at home fighting cancer, Leigh is finally out on her own. She's determined to be independent despite her over-protective brother and ever-expanding line of young men ready to be in love with her.

You'll notice that some of this pitch, ended up on the back cover.

Now it's your turn, readers! Boil down, cut, slash and shrink that pitch, then polish and post. Include your two sentences, or Twitter pitch (140 characters) for others to critique/marvel at. Any genre is welcome, although Jo's area of expertise is obviously YA. Please include the info below AND critique at least three other entries (assuming there are that many). Would love it if you followed and/or Tweeted this giveaway but honestly, I'm just happy if this helps you. On Monday, a random winner will confab with Jo on the type of critique desired.

Stop by tomorrow for Part II with Jolene.


Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Melodie,

I finally made it to your blog from the Campaign... So nice to meet you. What a great interview....

Off to read your entry, but I had to say hi first...

Sarah B said...

Title: The Nightmare
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pitch: Morgan Chase is in the nurse’s office (normal), her brother is in detention (normal), her mother is on her way to work (normal); but then a stranger comes to the island (not normal), invites her to an island theme park (not normal), and when Morgan says no her mother is kidnapped (definitely not normal). Now Morgan must decide if she can overcome her fears, beat the game, and save her family; unfortunately she finds out that’s a little too much to ask.

Email: sarahbelliston(at)gmail(dot)com

Jessie Humphries said...

Title: That's So Killer
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Ruby Rose has killer looks, killer brains, and even killer taste in shoes, but only her victims know just how killer she really is.

Email: jachumphries(at)gmail(dot)com

erica and christy said...

Title: A New Day
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Kenz Grayson never thought she'd move back to her hometown, let alone have to nurse her mom back to health or learn to love, lose, and love (again) exactly the right guy for her. Well known for choosing flight over fight, this summer will test a strength she's not so sure she has.

email: ericao75(at)hotmail(dot)com

(we'll tweet, too. and if christy stops by - we really are two different people!)

CherylAnne Ham said...

Hi Melody and Jolene. *waves* I linked here from Rach's notice board. Great interview. I love reading about the journey of other writers.

Writing a 140 twitter pitch is tough stuff, but I'll give it a go. :D

Title: Shadows and Light
Genre: YA Fantasy

Pitch: Jazzlyn must end Creperi’s perpetual darkness, but when rebels kidnap her betrothed, she risks more than eternal night to save him.


I'm posting my 3 crits in a new comment below and I'm happy to tweet about the giveaway.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Here are my thoughts, for whatever they're worth, on 3 other pitches. Take what you like and leave the rest. :D

1st off, everyone's pitches have me intrigued. They all sound like great stories.

@Sarah B - Starting out with what's normal (in the pitch) doesn't hook me right away. I feel like it starts getting interesting when the stranger shows up. I suggest cutting everything before that. Also, it's unclear what game she needs to beat. Maybe use the extra words to elaborate.

@Jessie - That is a snappy pitch! This feels like it's missing a word --> "...and even killer taste in shoes," Maybe replace "even killer" with "a killer"

@Erica - "and love (again) exactly the right guy for her" isn't clear to me.

Is she learning to love again in general, or has she fallen out of love with this guy and needs to learn to love him again? If it's the latter, then why would she fall out of love with him if he's exactly the right guy for her?

Hope I helped some. It's all just my $0.02 and I'm certainly no expert, so if you hate my comments, please forget I made them. :D

Lyla said...

Hello, all. :)

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Pitch: 17-year-old Gabriel Durante has to team up with a fashionista and the Angel of Death in order to kill the demon he's served for seven years.


Lyla said...

Here are my thoughts on the pitches, for whatever they're worth. I hope they help!

@Sarah B: Honestly, as humorous as the (normal) and (not normal) interjections are, I'm not sure if this would be the best way to write the pitch. I think it could be much stronger without it. To me, it seems the interjections are getting in the way of the interesting things that are happening in your novel. (ie: I thought the 2nd sentence was much clearer and interesting than the first.)

@Jessie: I love the twist (about her victims) at the end. You've perked my interest on what the book is about.

@Erica: I liked the first sentence but the second sentence seemed a little messy to me. Maybe consider rewording it? Otherwise, I think this pitch was well done.

@CherylAnne: This might be just me, but I'd like it if you clearly said that Creperi is her betrothed. And as intriguing as your pitch already is, I think it would be much better if you explained WHY risking more than eternal night is such a big deal. Are they vampires so is she losing her immortality? That was the best assumption I could come up with from your pitch. Getting rid of the vagueness will help emphasize the stakes and thus make your pitch more compelling.

Sarah B said...

@Jessie - I get a comical twist to the serial killer mode, which is a nice twist, but I'd worry that you have it just for the pitch and not for the whole book, and it would be hard to have a funny MC who kills people that I could relate/sympathize with. If you can make it work it sounds like an awesome book. (Side note: I hope the word killer doesn't appear in your book as often as it does in the pitch. ;)
@Lyla - Not wanting to knock you down, but your pitch sounds like a lot of other books that have come out recently. Find the unique twist your book has and sell that point of it.
@CherylAnne - Use of the word betrothed makes me think Steampunk, if it is, tells us that by the genre. Eternal darkness makes me think vampires, which makes me think you've got to REALLY have something special to get it sold. I know you stuck to the 140-character pitch and I couldn't, but the rebels comment throws me off, as does the uncommon names. Doesn't mean you have to get rid of any of it, but you just need to slant the information in the best light possible.

Sarah B said...

Since the entries in this one are slow, thought I would resubmit considering the comments others have given and I got it down to 140-characters, though now I worry it's gotten too generic.

Pitch: Morgan must overcome her fears, save her mother’s life, and keep her brother out of trouble; unfortunately that’s a little too much to ask.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Thanks for the comments on my pitch. I knew the 140 character limit would kill me. Mega-fail. LOL.

Here's the longer version which takes a different approach. It's okay if it doesn't count toward the giveaway since it's over the wc limit, but I'm hoping it makes the story it bit a more clear. :D

In a world besieged by darkness there are no shades of gray between right and wrong, and secrets hide in places torchlight cannot reach. Chosen by the Creperian council, seventeen-year-old Jazzlyn travels to Lumen, seeking aid in restoring light to her impoverished homeland. Instead of help, she discovers the secret behind the centuries-long darkness. A secret someone will do anything to keep hidden.

Kristin Baker Przybyla said...

Oh, this is a great prize indeed! Jo catches SO MUCH and gives amazing advice on how to improve your writing.

I'm not entering the contest, but I'd love a critique on my two-sentence pitch. I have the worst time boiling a book description down to two sentences, or writing queries and synopses! It's torture! (I'm adding my critiques in my following comment.)

When 16-year-old Nissa Moss finds the entrance to the magical realm of Aronaur, she becomes embroiled in a conflict between the Fey people and demonic beings who feed off their magic. The only person who can help her master her new powers and protect the Fey would rather plan her assassination.

Kristin Baker Przybyla said...

Here are my comments on the entries so far, for what my comments are worth. I don't have a lot of experience in critiquing! (I didn't critique the ones I where couldn't see anything that needed to be changed.)

Sarah B: The premise is intriguing and not something you see every day. However, I'd take out all the statements in parentheses, because they bog down the flow of the sentence. You can tighten up the first sentence a bit and try to get rid of the semi-colons, because to me it's almost like cheating and putting in an extra sentence. (Besides, Jolene says semi's are out with YA fiction, so try not to make those a habit.) Take out the bit after the semi, it's unnecessary. Add: I just saw your second pitch. I think you should keep in the details about the theme park invitation and the mother's kidnapping. (This is why I prefer 2-sentence pitches instead of Twitter pitches!)

CherylAnne: I like this sentence, and I'd really like to be teased with just one more! Also, it's just a bit unclear. I don't know who or what Creperi is (a place?) I'd like to know a little bit more of the what the conflict is or what the character(s) risk. Add: Just saw your second pitch. Much better, but you can delete the first and last sentences. Put the detail of her betrothed's kidnapping back in.

Lyla: I love the idea of someone teaming up with the Angel of Death! I really would like one more teaser sentence, though, something that adds either conflict or risk.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Hi Kristin. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my pitch. I think yours is excellent.

If you want to tighten the first sentence even further you could change: "When...finds the entrance to the magical realm of Aronaur," to When...enters the magical realm of Aronaur,

Melodie said...

Hello all and thanks for posting on a busy Friday! My thoughts are below:

@SarahB: agree with the others re: the (). Your pitch makes me think of that movie The Black Box, where the MCs are playing a deadly game. If that's correct, and it's played out at the theme park, maybe focus only on that in your pitch. IMO, your last sentence makes me think your MC fails and I don't want to know that yet. I agree w/ your revised pitch - too bland, generic.

@Jesse - your pitch has rhythm and clarity but I want more! Is she an assassin? If so, work that in somehow. Otherwise I'm thinking psycho which is a turn-off for me. (Others like, tho!)

@Lyla: Sarah mentioned the saturation of your paranormal concept in the market now. I'm not PN so don't know...but as someone who's shelved a MS bc of market saturation, her advice is worth considering. Otherwise, I think your pitch is clean/clear.

@CherylAnn: I liked your TP but will focus on your longer pitch. IMO, drop the 1st sentence - too vague. Play up the secret stakes, get specific. Someone will kill her to keep everyone in the dark and now it's her job to (do sthing awesome). The eternal darkness concept reminds me of the City of Ember, an MG book.

@Kristin: Question - why does this person want to kill your MC? If it's bc she's fey/demon royalty, etc. maybe make that clearer. Your first sentence does a good job introing your world, IMO.

Jolene Perry said...

They ALL look interesting, honestly. I prefer two sentence pitches to twitter pitches, BUT if you CAN'T boil your book down to one sentence, you may want to revise . . .

Also - I just finished a crit on Kristin's book - it ROCKS. You'll be seeing that one in bookstores, once she finds a good home for it.

@sarahb - I LOVE pitches where you hear the writer's voice and I definitely do. I'm not in love with your last line. It's longish for a pitch, but I know how horribly hard it is.

@jessie - you've piqued my interest, and that's all a pitch needs to do. It needs to make me want to read, and yours does :D

Erika and Christy - I'm a sucker for YA contemp, so this looks great to me. BUT that being said, you need to find something in your story that makes it stand out from other YA contemp. I don't think people realize how hard it is to pitch a contemporary. I love the idea, but it might not catch to someone else, even though I"m sure you have great stuff in there. Try to think of something that makes your book different, and might set it apart.

CherylAnne - your story sounds really cool. I like the idea of perpetual night. In your twitter pitch (which again, I'm not a fan of) I don't know if the names are people or places, and I'm intrigued, but a little lost.

Your longer pitch is cool, the sentences are obviously thoughtfully put together, but again, you have to be specific. I think this is the great beginnings of a back of the book blurb, where you don't want to give too much away. When you're pitching to agents, and then agents use your pitch to editors (yes, they do this) they need specifics. This applies especially when you're world-building.

Your two-sentence pitch is crucial. Your agent will use it to sell you to an editor, your editor will use it to pitch to the publisher, your publisher will use it to pitch it to the bookstores. ALSO - now that my book is coming out, I use it ALL THE TIME.

This is my WHOLE QUERY for the book that landed me an agent - Joy Neilsons grew up in a house where she was rarely let outside, where her mother hit and burned her, and her mother’s boyfriends did worse. Now that she’s in a loving home, and in a good school, Joy should be thriving. But their normal is Joy’s fairytale and she has no idea how to survive in it.

I compared it to two YA books in the market, and finished with it being a story of hope, self-worth, mixed in with a bit of romance.

That's it. So, even your query can be a slightly lengthened version of your pitch. Lauren used this very simple query and we got five requests for more out of eight. That's really good odds. SO yeah, your pitch is the beginning of ALL the places and ways your book will be "sold"

Avery Olive said...

@Jessie Humphries
Wow, I'm in love. I would picked this up in a second. I'm not sure there's anything you can do to make it better, it's already so attention grabbing!

@Sarah B
I'm not sold on the (normal) (not normal) It adds character voice, but doesn't do enough to make it imporant to the pitch.
This is good, but I think you need to add more attention brabbing hooks to make this pitch stand out. Maybe show us more of what's at stake for the character.
Your second one, is better. I just saw it lol

Nocturne is a great name, but right off the bat I'm concerned it's already been used several times over.
I like your pitch, I think it gives us a sense that there is going to be some light and dark humour in there as well as action.

@Erica and Christy
Wow I really felt like this would be a great read. Something to curl up on the couch with kleenex and cookies near by.
I'm just not in love with the sentence "love, lose, and love (again) exactly the right guy for her" I'd tighten it up.
Also you have two sentences, but honestly the first one is a stretch. It's two long and needs to be broken up :)

Sarah B said...

Thanks for all the critiques! You all are awesome. :)

Sarah B said...

@Melodie - I tried looking up that movie and couldn't find it. Do you know an actor in it or the year it came out?

Carrie-Anne said...

I've gone through a lot of hard work to finally get to a query and pitch that emphasize the fact that my book is a very long historical saga that happens to include a love story. My earlier efforts made it sound like I just wrote some superlong historical romance and put the emphasis on all the wrong things.

Title: You Cannot Kill a Swan

Genre: Historical fiction

Pitch: When her mother and aunt go to America to escape the Bolshevik takeover of their homeland in 1917, 17-year-old Lyuba Zhukova goes into hiding with her young cousin and her friends. As she runs for her life during the terror and uncertainty of the Civil War and later navigates the harsh reality of immigrant life in Manhattan in the early Twenties, the one bright spot in her life is her best friend and soulmate Ivan Konev. But before she can live happily ever after with the man she loves, she’s going to have to outwit personal demons worse than the Red Terror or a tenement in a poor neighborhood.


erica and christy said...

Carrie Anne: Just a thought, but there are a lot of characters introduced here. Could you boil it down to the main character, the setting (since it's historical, setting also means year, I think), and what's at stake and eliminate most of the extras? It sounds like a great book, though, good job!

Sarah B. - I'm with Kristen, the 2nd pitch was too generic. (and 140-characters is sooo tough!!)

Jolene - yes, YA Contemporary is really hard to pitch - so much boils down to voice (and inserting voice into a really short pitch is not easy! I'm still learning how to work it in.)

Everyone - sorry, I didn't get back here last night to see that we should only post 140=character pitches. Good luck to everyone who followed the rules. :)

Melodie said...

Erica - you're fine! Your pitch qualifies and you'll be in the drawing.

As will everyone else who shared their time here this weekend!! Thanks all - you guys are great.