Feb 26, 2012

Author Matthew Quick, Movies and Boy 21

I'm so excited to welcome one of my favorite authors, Matthew Quick, to the blog today. You may remember when I gushed   talked about his first YA novel, Sorta Like A Rock Star,  which I read as an ARC back in 2009. That book totally blew me away and, for someone who reads dozens of books per month, that doesn't happen for me often.  So I started following his blog and found out that his debut (The Silver Linings Playbook - an adult contemporary) was not only optioned for a movie -  info here and here-  but it actually stars Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Lawrence. AAAAHHHH! Can you say Oscar potential?? The movie wrapped recently; it'll premier in November. More on that below....

Matthew's third novel is another YA called  BOY21, which explores the friendship and lives of two teen guys in very different places. Watch the trailer here.  If Finley is anything close to Amber Appleton (the MC of SLARS) he's going to be one of my favs. 

1.  Let's talk about BOY21, which debuts March 5. It's about basketball, family, friendship and how tragedy brings two unlikely guys together. You said in another interview that the genesis of this story was playing pick-up ball with guys with whom you've since lost touch. In your observations, how does friendship between guys at this age differ than that between girls?

I'm not sure you can make a blanket statement about this. Gender issues are a lot more complex and individual than we'd like them to be. One thing I noticed when I was teaching high school was this: because we live in a culture that doesn't often encourage boys to speak about their emotions, I think many boys struggle to express their feelings for each other during the teens years. Ironically, it's the intense male friendships boys cultivate during the teen years that shape much of their identity. BOY21 explores this issue.

 2. Your target audience of teen boys can be a slippery one. What's your marketing plan to get these guys to give your book a try?

 BOY21 isn't a 'boy book,' nor is it a sports book. It's much more than that. It's a book for boys, girls, and adults too. That being said, I think there are a lot of teenage boys who are desperate to read about and discuss emotions, mental health, and the need to make their way in the world independent of their family history. BOY21 is about all of these things. I'm hoping that the book will speak for itself and find its audience. My publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers has a wonderful marketing team. They've done a tremendous amount of work getting Advanced Reading Copies to educators and librarians and mavens all over the country. They are a force; I'm very thankful for all their good work. I'll be doing a bunch of events too, which you can check out here.

 3.  How is publishing your third different from your debut? Do you get any more publisher marketing love - book tours? A private plane? Free hotel food? A plushy bathrobe? A case of bookmarks?

Ha! At the risk of killing my author mystique, I'll say it's a lot less glamorous than you'd think. No private planes yet. Although it's always nice to attend a conference or visit a new state, and I'll be doing both more than once. My publisher has done a great job getting my work and me out and about around the country. Sometimes when I am speaking to a room full of people I think, "Wow, you really are an author!" Those are nice moments. But then I go home and sit alone in a room for months growing a beard and trying to come up with the next book. That part doesn't change...ever.

 I was hoping you'd say that after the third book, the Good Idea Fairy sprinkles you with permanent best-seller dust. Or gives you a magic best-seller elixir. Now I am bummed.

 4. Talk about your revision process. What's changed as you've progressed in your writerly talents - does it take fewer passes to polish? Are you more aware of your strengths/weaknesses, etc? Do you need fewer betas?

BOY21 (my third published novel) was by far the hardest to write and required the most editing, so maybe I am regressing! Although, Alicia thinks BOY21 is also my best book. Each book is different. I think the biggest post publication change is that you know what's coming...the reviews, strange comments from friends and family members, how public publishing is. That and you also hear more voices in your head. All the positive and negative comments about your previous works want to yell at you while you write and revise--those voices want to write your books. All the Amazon reviews, everything you read on Goodreads, the bizarre asides at signings. And the praise can be even worse, if you take it too seriously. You have to silence those voices daily before you work, return to the writing place where only your voice exists, or else you're done. The more voices you accrue (and each books brings more responses) the harder this process can become.

I've heard via a NYT best-seller author-friend-of-a-friend that the instantaneous feedback on Amazon, etc. can get addicting. She's finding it hard to unplug and write amidst all the hoopla of her debut. However, still a problem most writers would love to have...

5. Let's talk movies.  You said in  a 2008 TV interview that the film rights to The Silver Linings Playbook  (Matthew's debut novel) sold faster than the US rights. Explain how it's possible that a film director can read your book before it's published and option it for a screenplay.

My search for a lit agent was long and arduous. I had one referral that went nowhere. I actually ended up befriending one of the agents who rejected TSLP, and she became a huge cheerleader/coach as I continued to submit and weather more than 70 rejections. Eventually the universe laughed and sympathized and TSLP was pulled out of a Sterling Lord Literistic slush pile. Doug Stewart fell in love with the manuscript and I signed with him. Little did I know that he had a partner in LA. Rich Green of CAA became my LA agent even before I knew I had representation in LA. Rich got TSLP into the hands of Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, both of whom loved the novel and made things happen quickly for us in LA. The book actually sold at auction to an Italian publisher before the movie deal was done. And the US book deal came third, if I remember correctly. It was a wild few months. I was living with my in-laws and had been writing full-time without a paycheck for three years. I had reached the end of our bank account. The news seemed to arrive at just the right moment. Before the deals were made, all of this would have seemed very impossible to me.

I love these kinds of basement-writer-makes-big stories. And they seem to happen with regular frequency. Hmmm. Maybe I need to get a house with a basement.

6. From what I hear, film rights for novels are sold on a regular basis, but very few continue into development. Talk about that process from the author standpoint - do you have any control over it once the rights have sold? And what's it like to be on the sidelines watching your characters go through the Hollywood grist mill?

I've heard other authors say it's like doing a drug deal. You walk up to the Hollywood wall, throw your manuscript over, they throw a bag of money back, and then--keeping your mouth shut--you run away and never look back. Lucky for me, one of my storytelling heroes was tapped to write the screenplay and direct. I have always admired David O. Russell's work. I loved the TSLP screenplay and enjoyed my day on the movie set. I can't wait to see the film. When I met David we talked about how the book was my baby and the movie was his to raise up into final form, and I got that from the beginning. Film and books live in two very different worlds. I'm glad my characters will get to live in both.

David O. Russell's film credits include Three Kings (George Clooney, Mark Wahlburg) The Fighter (Christian Bale, Mark Wahlburg) I Heart Huckabees, and more.

 7. Most writers and readers dislike watching a movie based on a book - the plot wanders, the plot is unrecognizable, there are extra scenes or a character is ruined, etc. Did you have any control over how the screenplay was written, or any authority to nix something that didn't follow your plot?

David O. Russell is a master filmmaker. I love his work. I wouldn't want to exert my control over David. He's an artist. He needs to make the movie his way. And many of my favorite films were originally based on books.

That's because writers rule the world. 

8. Will you attend the November premier with your wife (the most awesome Alicia Bessette, a novelist whom I interviewed here)? Do you get to walk the red carpet and pose with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence? can I come?

I hope to attend one of the premiers. Of course, Alicia will be my guest. I have no idea what that will be like, but I'm looking forward to finding out. I met Bradley Cooper when I visited the movie set. He walked right up to me and said hello. I liked him and his take on Pat Peoples a lot. Unfortunately, you cannot come.

What?? You're not going to let a stalkerish virtual stranger attend this event with you? I'm stunned. *wipes a tear*

9. So, two YA books under your belt and one adult fiction. You've said you're writing an adult genre novel next. How long will it take you to finish?

Each book has a life of its own. Some books get written rapidly. Some feel like melting an iceberg with a hairdryer. I hope I finish the next adult book soon, but I know that it will be finished when it wants to be finished. Was it Thoreau who said you can't rush a sunrise?

Ooh. I had no idea the MS had an opinion about deadlines. *vows to ask next time*

Thanks, Matthew! And another huge congratulations on selling your fourth novel, FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK to Little Brown Children's. It's supposed to launch spring, 2013. Keep an eye out for it, people.

Have any questions for Matthew? Leave them in the comments.

Feb 23, 2012

Friday funnies and a teaser

So what do Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have in common?? (Besides the fact they're both gorgeous and make a ton of money saying words other people write?) 
On Monday, I'm interviewing the author of the book their next movie is based on. o.O 
In other words, he gave these two a job. Kinda. Once the screen play was written, I mean.
Because writers rule the world, people. If we stopped hearing voices, the world would be a very dull place.  

Jennifer Lawrence
Bradley Cooper
Now, on to the funnies....

Thanks to Tara Dairman for this latest HP entry, which will make you giggle...

And the latest take on the meme that's floating around:

Continuing the spoofage, how can I leave out this take on the Hunger Games? (The end is my fav.) Have a great weekend!

Feb 21, 2012

Reality Check

The title of this post should more acurately be called: when you can't figure out why you're not getting any (or more) requests.  But that's a bit bulky for a title.

Although I've been blogging only since last summer, I've noticed there isn't a bloghop that goes by without evidence of the awesome writerly community online. Comments are filled with encouragement and statements of how talented we all are. Taken from a nurturing standpoint, this is wonderful.
Taken from a business/reality standpoint, it's awful. And here's why.

Say you're an emerging writer who has a great idea for a first book. You've stayed up late writing so fast, your fingers smoke. You follow blogs that cover technique, you track your favorite authors. You've started a blog and are dipping into the Twitter waters. You critique, comment, contest and campaign your little heart out. You've even sent your MS off to a few betas who all respond with hearty applause, so you gird your loins and start writing a query. A few months - and hopefully revisions - later and off it flies to agent inboxes.

And...nada. You might get a request or two out of every fifty queries sent but after that? Crickets. Or rejections. And those few requests end up months later in form rejections.

Because, despite what all your readers have said (and they're great people, they want you to succeed) you're not ready. Your idea has too much competition, your MS rambles like an out-of-control freight train and you are the rule, not the exception. It's the equivalent of going in public with your fly down and nobody telling you.  Or having something green in your teeth and everybody smiling vaguely while avoiding looking directly at you. Or....well, you get the picture. Your blogging buddies, your betas, your family, aren't telling you the truth - either because they can't see it or they don't know.

You realize this in stages as the months go by. First denial, then anger, then tears - all the stages of grief encompass you and you wonder in despair if you just DON'T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES. *sob*

Here's the thing: you don't. Not yet. Not with this MS. Not with this economy/trends in the market/writing abilities you have right now.  I underlined that for emphasis because it's everything. 

This is the point when many emerging writers go for self-publishing. And I'm not knocking this. There are success stories every few months of self-pubbers who go on to land a publishing contract (and thousands more who sell ten copies.) If that's your choice, go for it. You'll learn a lot.

For those of you whose dream it is to go the traditional route, know this: Just because your current MS has more rejections than Jack Black at a super model convention doesn't mean your next story is doomed.

All these rejections are telling you now is to try harder. READ. Write something else, maybe a short story or a nonfiction article. Hone your craft by going shorter, learning how to trim, focus, target, plot. READ. Find a beta who isn't scared of hurting your feelings and will tell you what's wrong. READ. Grow a thick skin so you don't get offended, so you can actually learn from those comments.  Be suspicious of kind comments because, let's face it, you're not Shakespeare.  (oh..and READ. Set a goal for at least a book a week. I won't tell you how many I read bc it is kind of embarrassing in a holy-cow-she-has-no-life way.)

You will get better with relentless practice. In the meantime, the market might shift so your next MS is now the trend.

Realize this. Own it. Move on. There's a reason most professional writers look more like the Velveteen Rabbit than Barbie. It's just part of being real.

Feb 19, 2012

Contest and critique winners!

Tricia has read all the entries and narrowed down her choices. Remember - as she says below - requesting more pages reflects her own personal taste and not always your writing skills. Think of yourself browsing in a library to put yourself in her (or any agent's) shoes.

 AND keep reading below. I'm offering up two free MS critiques PLUS another free premium subscription to QueryTracker, chosen by Random.org...so if you didn't get a request, there may still be something free for you.

Take it away, Tricia!

I'd like to see full manuscripts from:

Melanie Stanford, DAZE AND KNIGHTS
Christopher S. Ledbetter, THE SKY THRONE

I'd like to see the first 50 pages from:

Jenny Kaczorowski, THE ALTERAE
Enchanting Editor, BALLAD KEEPER

Please send the requested material as a Word attachment (.doc only) to tricia@emliterary.com with the subject "Requested Material."

And a little note from me for everyone:

I so enjoyed every single query and first 250 words that I read. There is so much talent included here. I found it difficult to choose (which is why I chose more than one of each), so please don't take not being picked personally. Me not picking your query only means that I didn't connect with it as much as I'd like. I wish you all much luck and can't wait to see great things from all of you in the future!

Thanks for taking part in the contest. What a treat!

Congratulations to the winners and the runner-ups, and to everyone for taking part!

Full MS critiques from Melodie offered to:



Ladies, if you'd like to take me up on this offer, email me at rewrighter (at) gmail (dot) com. It can be the MS mentioned or another WIP.

Finally, the QueryTracker premium membership goes to:

Ladonna Watkins!

Congratulations all and thanks so much for participating.

Feb 18, 2012

The Great Campaigner- getting to know ME :)

The lovely-and-fellow-campaigner Gina Denny  passed on these 11 questions. (Go here to learn more about Rachael Harrie's Platform Campaign.) Some of them remind me of ones asked during psychological testing - you know: if there were four old men and a baby and you in a raft, who would you eat first? - the answers of which suggest dire/forboding/scary things about your psyche but then I read Gina is pursuing a masters in childhood development and education and went Ah! No wonder she's going all super-psychological on me. Having almost finished my own similar degree, I recall spending months wading through all kinds of obscure data info on psyches in an effort to understand those mysterious, unknowable beings we call children (she said sarcastically).

1. What was the greatest live music experience you've ever had?

A Third Day concert with Michael W. Smith in Tacoma, Washington several years ago. The stadium had about 15,000 people in it and Michael led us in a worship song. I swear the air went thick and golden. It was like being in heaven for a few minutes. Nobody wanted to leave.

2. What was your worst date ever?

H mm. It wasn't a bad date, just an unsuccessful one. This guy took me out for pizza once and we started talking about politics - I was in college - and I realized we did not see eye-to-eye at all. He was cute, I liked him a lot but part of me realized this relationship wasn't going anywhere. 

3. If money is no object, what would your dream vacation be?

Tahiti or Bali. In Tahiti, there's a resort with these huts right over a lagoon. There are glass windows in the floor so you can watch the fish swim by in the turquoise water. It costs about $5,000 a night. Sigh.

4. Would you rather live in a crowded city or small town?

 I'm from the Midwest and now live in Alaska. Guess.

5. Would you be willing to murder one innocent person if you knew it would guarantee an end to all world hunger? 

If that innocent person is my child, then no. If it's your child...wait a second...No. My answer is no. These questions always have a nasty sting on the end, such as: killing someone would end world hunger because everyone else would kill somebody until there was nobody left to starve.

6. When did you last cry in front of somebody (who is not your partner)?

Uh, it's been a while. I think it was when we left Minnesota ten years ago. I told my MOPS group about it and burst into tears.

7. Would you be willing to endure night terrors- every night- for the rest of your life if you were given vast personal wealth to use however you wish in exchange?

Ugh - no.

8. If you could choose the manner of your death- but not the timing- what would you choose?

Holy cow. I feel like I'm in the movie "The Box." *checks for one-way mirror*  Um - I'd choose to die in my sleep.

9. Would you rather switch back to black and white TV with only five channels, or no internet?

Give me the b/w TV. We don't have cable at my house so I watch most of my shows online anyway.

10. If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt somebody, would you do it?

Only if I was really, really mad. Or in middle school.

11. What if the voodoo doll was only able to annoy them tremendously (for example: causes pervasive itching of genitals while in public, causes slight ringing in ears at nighttime, etc), would you do it?

Of course. Anyone who tells you different is lying.

Now I get to pass on my own tormenting delightful questions to other campaigners.  *evil cackle while rubbing hands together* By now, I'm guessing everyone has been tagged so if you're reading this, pick ONE for fun and answer it in the comments.

1. What kind of stuff do you write?
2. What kind of pizza is your favorite?
3. The age when you got your first kiss? And who did the kissing - you or the other person?
4. The title of your first novel - the one that will never see the light of day?
5. Age when you first realized you were going to write or die trying?
6. Leftie or rightie?
7. Mac or PC?
8. You're stranded on a deserted island with a rubber ball and a stuffed animal. How will you survive?
9.  The thing you see when you look out your front window?
10. Most embarrassing moment since 2002?
11. The kind of car you drive?

Have a great weekend!

Feb 16, 2012

Friday funnies

First, a SNL short called "British Movie:"

Author Maggie Stiefvater goes bovine on the joys of living near a whole bunch of cows.

And how I would look if I was a cat after Valentine's Day:

Finally, the lovely Taryn Albright, a wunderkund who just nabbed Vickie Motter for her agent, lists Sh*t Querying Writers Say.  She also runs an awesome critique service with her friend, Kate Coursey, called Teen Eyes. Do check it out. (I assume when they both age out of teen-hood, it'll be called YA Eyes.)

Feb 12, 2012

Pitch contest with Tricia Lawrence of EMLA

CONTEST CLOSED! Please comment on at least five entries IF you entered prior to 5 p.m. EST I've been in a classroom until now so will be checking date stamps of entries. If you entered after the time cut-off, at this point you will not be considered by Tricia.

Okay, writers, today is the DAY! You've helped me get the word out, you've researched Tricia Lawrence and read the interview (in case you haven't, check it out here) and you're ready to go.

 Tricia is excited to read the entries of who post their query and first 250 words in the comments below. I've changed my comments to allow replies (assuming Blogger will work!) so please check out at least five other entries and give feedback.  We're all about encouraging each other so constructive criticism only, please! Yeah, I don't have to warn you guys. You're all awesome that way. :)

Tricia will announce a winner next Monday, Feb. 20.   

Giveaway winners!

Thanks to everyone who participated in my Get The Word Out drawing for The Snow Child and the Query Tracker subscription.

And the winner of the Query Tracker premium membership is: Stacy Jensen!

The Snow Child goes to: Jenni Brown! 

  See you all  tomorrow, when you'll share your query/first 250 words for YA/MG agent Tricia Lawrence of EMLA in the comments of my Monday post . We're only taking the first fifty comments so be sure to stop by early for a spot.

Feb 9, 2012

Friday funnies

If you're here for the blogfest, scroll down.

As Downton Abbey nears the end of it's second season (did Bates kill his wife? Did he? *tears at hair*) I must share the second installment of the most excellent BBC spoof, Uptown Downstairs Abbey.

In honor of Valentine's day...

Emotional moment

The final challenge is here! Emotion is the engine of a story. Pick an emotion and in a flash fiction piece of 250 words MAKE us feel it! We want to connect with your character. 

         People say I have a huge ego, but I need one. Seriously, being an actress is the worst way to build self-esteem. Every audition is a slime-fest of negativity: you're too fat. Too old. Too freckly. Too short. Your voice is squeaky. Your hair color is all wrong. You move like a robot. Your enunciation is straight from the trailer park.
      Next! Next! Next!
     One gum chewing agent gave me the worst rejection ever. "Honey," she said. "You're just not what we're looking for."
        She was trying to be nice but duh. Of course I wasn't what they were looking for. Hence the big fat no. But I keep trying. Actors and actresses - hell, anyone looking for a job - are all just random puzzle pieces trying to find a fit. We search for the spot where our colors blend, our talents merge to create a gorgeous story or picture or song or business.
    And it hurts to be flicked to the side like we're a piece of the blue puzzle sky, where nothing we try stands out.

Feb 8, 2012

Dialogue introduction

Abe: Introducing Rachel Marr.

Rachel: Smooth. I can tell you've done this before

A. Hey, you're the one with all the press experience. Show me how it's done.

Rachel *clears throat* You've heard about him in the pages of Archaeological Digest. You've read his extraordinary treatise on the demise of the Mayans...

A: The Mayans? I've never...

Rachel: *quietly* Just go with it. And you've seen him covered in dust on the local news. His face is everywhere - and what a handsome face it is - please welcome Abraham Osiensky.

A: You think I'm handsome?

R: Sure. Now you go.

A:  Uh...Introducing Rachel Marr, the girl who has it all: beauty, brains and a phenomenal acting ability that's propelled her to fame most people only dream about. She can speak four languages...

R: It's more like, three, but we'll go with that.

A: And she's richer than God. But underneath all that glam is a really nice person. I should know - she just saved my neck in a major way.

R: Aw. You're so sweet, Abe. *pinches his cheek*

A: *jerks away* That's why it's easy to overlook her shortcomings.

R: Shortcomings? Like what?

A: You're scared of bats.  And you drive like you've escaped from a mental institution.

R: Just because I don't like sitting in bat poo doesn't mean I'm scared of them. You're the real the chicken here, buddy. *flaps arms like chicken wings* Brock!

A: Oh shut up.

Feb 5, 2012

Interview with Tricia Lawrence of EMLA

Thanks to all of you who've helped get the word out about next week's pitch contest with Tricia of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. For those of you just joining us and have no idea what's happening, click here and be sure to sign up for a great giveaway via Rafflecopter. (If you're here for the character blogfest, scroll down.)


1.      How do you go about finding clients since your agency is closed to queries?

TL: We may be closed to queries, but we get referrals constantly from current clients, editors, other agencies, publishing folks; last week we got a referral from Danielle Steele! If we have time, we take part in contests with other agents (I read entries on Miss Snark and elsewhere, invited agent or not!) or we have fabulous clients who offer to run contests with queries/first 250 words such as this one (thanks, Melodie!). We may not have slush to read, but my Kindle is always full. I don’t ever have a day without submissions to read.

2.      Do you look for other characteristics in your clients besides the writing - online presence, member of writing organizations, etc.? You're a strong advocate for social media. What steps do you recommend aspiring authors take in this area before querying?

TL: I’m merging two questions into one here. Sure, it’s always nice to be able to do some research on a possible client, especially if the writing is promising. I often do my due diligence when I’m considering offering representation or if I’m even going to ask for an R&R (revise and resubmit) and I like seeing a blog/website that I can poke around at. Plus, social media, SCBWI, Verla Kay, QueryTracker are awesome ways to get to know other writers, editors, agents, industry people. You’ve got to be savvy these days and why not use all the free tools that are out there to be in the know, rather than stubbornly insist that your writing should speak for itself. Good writing does speak for itself, but we’re in a publishing age in which we’re all connected. No longer can you sit and scribble in the dark, hidden away from everyone and expect to make a living or sell a lot of books. So, don’t focus on it, but consider it. So it goes (1) good writing and then (2) social media/online presence, SCBWI.

3.      What type of relationship do you have with your clients? Do you talk often?

TL: We do talk via email as often as necessary. I’ve got clients on submission that check in, clients revising that check in, clients that I am still working with on figuring out revisions that check in. Email is wonderful.My clients are so kind about allowing me to take a break on the weekend or figuring out that by later in the evenings, I’m probably sacked out on the couch watching Big Bang Theory. They are patient to know that I’ll reply as soon as I can. 
Also, there is a very strong trust relationship between author and agent. I mean they have essentially hired me to represent them to the industry. They trust my judgment and I trust them to ask thoughtful questions about my process or something I’ve said or done. The best part is that my clients take a step back and let me do the agent stuff. They are then able to relax and do the writing stuff.

MW: I'll jump in here. Tricia is great at communicating via email or phone, however her clients feel comfortable. One thing I wanted in an agent is someone who responded promptly, and she definitely does that.
4.      What annoys you most in a potential client?

TL: Someone who doesn’t listen. I don’t have time to spend repeating myself, especially if they are not my client (my priority is my current clients, always) and if I write an email explaining how I think an author should approach said manuscript, I don’t like when they reply back and ask a question that shows they weren’t really paying attention to what I just wrote.

My words aren’t chiseled into stone, but I don’t have time to argue the point. Sometimes giving a critique is the most helpful thing I can do. People who don’t understand that do annoy me.

5. Is there a difference between being an agent in Washington State vs. New York?

TL: I believe that I have an alternate life and in it I live in NYC and I LOVE IT. What is that Katy Perry song called “In Another Life”? That’s me. While I miss all the publishing/literary events located only in New York, I really don’t feel I am out of the necessary loop. Email, again, is a wonderful thing and when I need to go back into New York and see faces to talk business, I always can. Being away from a big city, however, FOR ME, helps me to be very thoughtful about my work. Sometimes things move so fast, it’s nice to be able to walk away from the email/phone and go think a bit. I like being out away from all of the extroverted clamor that is a big city (introvert alert!) and I like my own home office that looks out over my back yard. Plus, I’m a Pacific Northwest girl. I was born and raised here. My husband and I have created a life here. NYC is always waiting for me when I’m ready to talk shop. Best of both worlds, I say!

5.      This past weekend at SCBWI in NY, a YA editor said "MG is the new YA." What are you hearing from editors about what they are looking for in MG? Favorite MG reads?

TL: There is a huge demand for quality middle grade, yes. But I think that editors are being much more careful about their approach with MG versus the onslaught of YA that has happened in the past few years. They are staying picky, which is good. They want amazing stories, first. MG is tricky because it smells like YA, looks like YA, but it sure is not YA. The middle grade reader is facing different challenges, friendships, awkward growing pains; it’s like your most vivid memories, both good and bad on high voltage. So editors are looking for MG, true, but a great, great, great MG, not something that was transplanted from YA or the adult world. The MG world is startlingly unique.

And I think the middle grade quest is all about placing that character in a unique world and how he/she reacts to that world in all its weirdness. A middle grade reader may think they know what they’re doing (or then again, maybe not) and then it turns upside down again the very next day. Editors are looking for the experience that can seem real and authentic to as many readers as possible, but is something new transmitted differently that has never been experienced before. That sounds impossible, but I just described my favorite MG reads!

These include:
SPARROW ROAD, Sheila O’Connor
PENDERWICKS, Jeanne Birdsall
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
THE FALSE PRINCE, Jennifer Nielsen

I am also reading the ARCs for spring 2012 and I think we’ve only seen the beginning of the fantastic MG boom! I can’t wait!

6.      Do you like historical fiction? Would it turn you off or interest you if the historical fiction aspect were blended with something else? My historical fiction YA is mixed with social satire and spoof, not straight historical, and I know some other people have mixed historical fiction with sci-fi or fantasy.

TL: I love historical fiction. There’s a term being thrown around New York in kids books publishing (at least a few months ago, it was) called historical plus. Historical plus sci-fi or historical plus fantasy, just like you said. It would definitely interest me and would also raise the bar, because mixing genres is NOT for the faint of heart. I would encourage writers to write a first draft and let everything into it, including the kitchen sink, and then as they revise for several drafts, begin to winnow out what doesn’t fit. And then, when they pitch an agent, give it to us high concept, ie, “a 1980s ghost town that isinvaded by humans” or “1870s Wild West town that wakes up to find out it is set in the middle of the world’s largest mall—as an amusement park” (those are just off the top of my head, so take ‘em if you want). Oftentimes, the high concept can start your story creation process, but remember you have to do it well and it will take several drafts and multiple rounds of revision to get the character emotional development arc and the dramatic action plot and the thematic arc all working together and not against each other. Whew. Now I’m tired.

7.      How do you know when a genre is 'in' or going 'out?' How do you know when the market is gearing up for the next big thing? Do you have any inclination as to what the next big thing will be?

TL: I think I’ve heard more and more lately that editors are weary and very timid about dystopian manuscripts. They’ve scheduled a lot of it in the next two years, so I think we’re definitely moving on. I think I’ve heard that sci-fi and space fantasy for YA is becoming a trend. Thrillers as well both for YA and MG. And nonfiction is definitely an interest.

8.      What do you want to see more of as an agent?

TL: I’ll repeat myself a bit. I love thrillers, sci-fi, space fantasy, and historical plus, but I also love a good contemporary. I’m always interested in fantasy and retellings, including mythology. I’m also looking for a fantastic chapter book (a la CLEMENTINE!) to become a series. That one is hard and not necessarily MG or YA, but you never know who’s working on a good one!

9.      What would you like to see in the way of YA non-fiction?

TL: I just met E. Kristin Anderson, the author of DEAR TEEN ME ( Zest Books), and also her editor at ALA Midwinter, who is keen to find more nonfiction aimed directly for teens, so the sky’s the limit, I think. There are just so many opportunities to write a book about any subject as nonfiction, but aim it directly for a YA audience. Subjects such as taking tests, driving safely, shopping smart, cooking, time management, art, creativity, relationships, being a good employee, resumes, etc. I would love to see some really strong proposals for YA nonfiction in the days to come!

 So there you have it. If you think your MS fits Tricia's tastes or want list, polish your query/first 250 and plan to stop back Feb. 13-17 to share both.
In the meantime, get the word out and sign up for some great prizes here.

Characters on the couch

The past month's excitement completely erased my short-term memory and I FORGOT I signed up for this bloghop. *red face* However, I'm going to woman-up and post as often as necessary this week, since I also promised an interview with my uber-agent, the wondrous Tricia Lawrence, prior to the pitch contest next week. (Click here for deets on participating in that AND how to sign up for two gorgeous prizes.)
Anyway, Cassie and Angie are sponsoring this very cool writerly experience and if you want to learn more, go here.

Today, we're psychoanalyzing a character in our WIP by forcing having them participate in a Q&A. My character is Rachel Marr, the MC in Things We Save, a WIP I just finished. Click on 'WIPS in my life' page to learn more about her story.

What is your biggest vulnerability? Do others know this or is it a secret?

Uh, that is a rude question to ask a stranger. Srsly.  And anyway, the tabloids are blowing it all out of proportion. "Substance abuse problem" my ass. I was upset my dad had died, okay? And I wasn't due on set for two days. I have a full-time job, own my house, pay taxes and my employees - in every way but one, I'm an adult. The law that says I have three more years until I'm legal is totally lame.

What do people believe about you that is false?

That I'm immature and have issues with drugs and alcohol,completely ignoring the fact that a. my dad just died and b. I work in a very competitive industry. Also people think I'm stupid just because I'm an actress.

What would your best friend say is your fatal flaw? Why?

Lindsay thinks I'm this close to being frigid. (She'd use the word prude if she knew what it meant.) But I'm not about to jump into bed with any hottie that looks my way. One of the last things Mom told me before she died was that waiting for true love was worth it. So I guess waiting is a way I feel closer to her.

What would the same friend say is your one redeeming quality? Why?

Hmmm. Probably my money. Ha! No, Lindsay would say that I can keep secrets. We both keep each other's secrets, although she has more to keep than I do.

What do you want most? What will you do to get it?

Honestly, I'd turn back time. I want to tell my dad I love him and hug my mom again. But I can't so I guess I'll do my best to find out more about the life he had after Mom and I left. Even though I haven't been near an archaeological dig for four years, it's time to go back. I'm going to take care of his employees and his stuff. And find out why he left me that really weird Islamic coin. His diary makes me think he was onto something big. I'm going to do everything I can to find out what that was...

Feb 3, 2012

Friday funnies

Whew! Between avalanches and canceled/postponed trips and a snow/rain mix that made our roads up here (the ones that weren't blocked by avalanches) drive like underwater skating rinks, it has been quite a week. I could use a good laugh.

If you stopped by to check out the contest with my super agent, Tricia Lawrence, click here.

Otherwise, enjoy!

Ten things I learned from opening a bookstore - a funny/wry post on the vagaries of operating a literary business in a non-literary world.

Chuck Wendig fills you in on what you should know about literary agents.

And if your Sunday plans include a certain football game, the Washington Post has compiled a hit list of the best commercials you'll see. But you, lucky duck, get to see them now! Woo-hoo!

Finally, I had to copy "Sh*t Agents & Editors Say" because I loved it. I also love YA Highway's Fridays posts, which is worth a click here.  (Scroll down that page to see more funnies.)

On Monday, I'll post Tricia's interview for more info on what she's looking for. Until then, have a great weekend.