One Agent. Hold the Angst

I think most writers emerge into the world angsty. We just do. Can’t help it. Maybe there is just so much rejection in this biz that the angst and uncertainty is embedded in our DNA somewhere. I don’t know, but someday the Authors Guild should pay a scientist to figure it out, so that we can get rid of it. 

Here’s the deal. I frequent a couple message boards and talk to a bunch of writers and one thing is pervasive. Writers everywhere are asking what’s ok to put in a query, how long to wait before following up (“four weeks and a day or is just four weeks alright?”), and exactly how many lines in a query should be personalized. We are hardwired to never ever not in a bazillion years call an agent prior to signing. And the idea of asking a clarification question during the querying process is simply blocked from our minds.

For the most part, that’s all good stuff. Writers should certainly want to come across professionally and adhere to the etiquette expected by their chosen industry. 

Great. But, after that is said and done, and the writer is signed, sealed, and delivered to his or her newfound agent, guess what? I still hear the same sorts of questions.

“I want to know who we’ll be subbing to, is it ok to ask?”

“I emailed last week to ask a question, do you think it’s alright to ask another question?”

“Is it ok to nudge?”

“I don’t want to take up the agent’s time, but ….”

You get the picture. And how many writers are guilty of that? *raises hand sheepishly* Yeah, and I know that I’m not the only one. 

The reason I mention this is because last night I was being EXTRA angsty over what I should do about a particular issue my agent and I had been emailing back and forth on. I wasn’t sure what he meant and it was hard to read his tone regarding my concerns. I was chatting with a fellow writer about this and then it dawned on me. I could call him. 

For a second, I was like: Whoah, hold the phone. I can DO that?

Then, I thought: Why, yes, yes I can. In fact, Why not?

So I did. And you wanna know what? I felt about a zillion times better. I came up with the specific questions I wanted answered. We talked for about 10 minutes and, in that short time, I got way more information than I had in the several emails we’d passed between us. 

I’m embarrassed to say, though, that I was almost nervous to call. I had to gulp down the urge to apologize for taking up some of his time. And believe me, he wasn’t making me feel like I was wasting his time or bugging him. It all came from the inside. 

So, this leads me to my next point. There is a tricky time between being agented and the first sale. A time where almost all the scarring of the querying process are still visible. You aren’t entirely sure where you belong. 

But look, as people, it’s not attractive to say “I don’t want to waste your time” or act undeserving. If you are the sort of person that worries about being considerate of other’s time and energy, you are probably not the sort of person putting unnecessary drains on others. 

Many, many writers are naturally introverted and being assertive feels against their nature. But, once your agented, it’s time to start thinking toward the next step. Time to start thinking about a sale and, hopefully, life as an author. That means learning to be an advocate for yourself and starting to really believe that the dream is attainable. 

Probably the best place to start putting this into practice is with your agent. So, here are ways that you can get what you need and deserve without worrying about being obnoxious:

1. If you are actively working on a project with your agent, try to put all of your thoughts and questions into one or two emails a week and send that. Put it in an easy to read format (i.e. not long paragraphs) so your agent can respond accurately, completely, and efficiently. 

2. If you need to have a back and forth with your agent, consider setting up a phone call. Although the default these days seems to be email, often issues can be sorted through much more quickly in a live conversation. 

3. If you do decide on a phone call, email with several times that would work for you and allow your agent to choose. Then, think about what you need to accomplish in that conversation. It can be easy to forget certain issues or questions you wanted raised, so consider jotting down your questions in a notebook. A lot can get done in a 5-10 minute conversation, so don’t be afraid to squeeze a few of your burning questions in as well. Obviously, you don’t want to call too often, so make it count when you do have your agent on the phone. 

4. Be considerate, but don’t forget to consider your sanity. If asking a question will help you stop obsessing, then ask. In other words, if you want to know why you aren’t subbing to such-and-such imprint ask. 

5. Be receptive, not defensive. But don’t be afraid to have your own brain. When you sign on the dotted line, you aren’t signing away any individual thought. It’s so easy to want to be the perfect client. But saying, “Would you mind going to this house with this?” shouldn’t ruin that. Of course, if the agent says “No, that editor isn’t a good fit” then listen to that. Your agent is paid to know the industry. But, if you are following the rules of communication above, I don’t think you need to be concerned.

Querying Myself

Dear Chandler,

I hope you’ll consider writing SECRETS OF A SUPERNATURAL SLUT, a 75,000-word paranormal romance for teens.

Ok, I’ve written one sentence and already I’ve told myself a lot about what I intend to write. I’ve got the target word count. This book will fall into the YA category and so I can’t exactly rack up all the words I want. It’s completely acceptable to give myself a goal word count so that I can budget my time accordingly. It’s a paranormal romance. I strugged a bit with the genre label here because I tend to write straight urban fantasy. But, in this book, I would like to push myself to spend even more time at character and relationship development and, in doing this, want the romance to be a central element. That’s more just a genre label for myself–it’s shiny, new, never called my work that–it might change when I’m ready to show my proposal to my agent, etc.

Grayson McAllen has a penchant for bad boys—only her type of trouble comes with more than a leather jacket. Give her fangs and fur over porn-obsessed high school dweebs any day…

Jumping into the body of my query to yours truly, I’m trying to see if I can give the idea energy. Does it have an easily identifiable voice? Do I have fun describing it? Because let’s face it; if it’s not fun for me to tell you about, it probably isn’t going to be too fun to hear about. Right?

Here’s the joy in querying yourself, though: It doesn’t have to be perfect!

When Holliday Merriman, the school’s biggest over achiever asks Grayson to introduce her to “one of them” Grayson is surprised, but agrees. Holli’s reaction is sure to provide a laugh…

Can I easily identify the catalyst? This is great to do beforehand because I can make sure that I’ve gotten to this part by page 30–that’s my usual checkpoint. In this case, I’ve already written the first scene and know it comes on Page One. But still, if I can avoid it, I don’t want to start writing a book only to have to chop the first 50 pages. Even worse, I don’t want to have committed myself to a project that has no catalyst. I’d hate to realize after I’ve committed more time and energy that I’ve written a long, windy meandering book that goes nowhere.

At least that’s what she thought until Holli falls in love with a life-sucking wraith and Grayson falls for Holli’s very human brother, Nate…

Complications. Can I identify opportunites for the plot to thicken? Can I easily ID the main complication. Most importantly, did one of the main character’s decisions cause the complication rather than an outside force.

Check. Check. Ok, don’t need to trash the idea yet.

Dating Nate should be stress-free. Unlike her past boyfriends, he eats hamburgers, meets parents, and, as far as she knows, almost never wants to kill her…

This might seem a bit vague, but for me it shows that I have a story in which my main character’s expectations won’t be met. Also, I spit out a few key scenes that I know will go into the book. If scenes don’t pop into my head prior to putting pen to paper for the actual writing, for me, the idea’s a dud. The project has to already be alive enough in my imagination for me to know certain things the characters do that will add flesh to the bare bones of my story.

But her jealous ex wants to drain Nate’s blood, Holli’s life force is fading, and Grayson’s starting to wonder if the sexy warlock, John Mark, might not be her soul mate after all…

Plot. What is going to happen? Will I be able to mess up the main character’s life sufficiently to make a story out of it?

Believe me, I’ve written stories where I realized that there just weren’t enough bad things that could happen to my main character. That’s bad. But what’s really bad is if there aren’t enough chances for my main character to screw up her own life. That’s the stuff I love to write. So I’ve got to make sure ahead of time that the story lends itself to that.

 

For added flavor, I toss in a hand full of concrete details that I think might set my work apart from others on the market right now. After all, it’s all in the execution, right?

Finally, instead of writing my “bio” paragraph that usually goes at the end of a query, I write my “why I need to write this book” paragraph.

SECRETS OF A SUPERNATURAL SLUT fits with my idea of my “author brand.” I hope to continue to write urban fantasy for teens (both graphic and prose novels). I think it’s a worthy next project because it will give me the chance to grow as a writer. With SECRETS I can more slowly develop a romance and focus on the two people within a romance. But, it will also give me the opportunity to continue to write the action scenes and smart heroines I love…

Ok, Agent Chandler (yes, yes I’m talking to myself, sue me!), would you like to request more? Why yes! Yes, I would. But only a partial, please. Send along the first three chapters at your earliest convenience.

 

A partial request! A partial request!!

 

In all seriousness…even if you’re not sold on the idea of outlining, try querying…yourself. If you can’t make your idea sound compelling in a couple paragraphs, you might need to let it simmer until you’ve found the tenterhooks with which to weave your story. Giving yourself a plan, an overarching plot, and a “feel” for your book, might save you a few thousand words at least or save you from writing a dud.

Here’s A Question for Ya

Hey, y’all, it’s Sunday and with all the craziness that is my life right now (law school smackdown, getting my book ready for submission, working with an artist, keeping up with new friends, getting Nate settled in Austin…) I’ve been using Sunday evenings as a chance to slow down, take a breather, and prepare myself for the rest of the week. Nate and I have been doing this by taking time to do church and dinner together starting at 7, but, yanno, anything works really. However, it is important that it’s not something that involves TV or even reading because that gives no opportunity for your own thought.

Here’s the deal, most writers have to work still, right? Ok, so I’m not working and I’m grateful for that, but I am attempting not to fail school, so, for our purposes, I’m gonna put myself in the same category. Anyway, as much as I hate it, throughout the week I do get a bit dragged down in trying to keep up with all my responsibilities. I mean, when I was just writing for myself, I wasn’t too worried, but now I have to think about my agent as well. I have to provide him work that he feels proud presenting.

I think it’s so important to sit back in the midst of the nutiness that is all of our lives and remember, hey, we’re doing what we love. It’s not that I’m ever complaining in my head, but there’s no reason to even get stressed. This is fun!

This Sunday, I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish this week. So here’s what I’m up to, what are y’all up to?

-complete script

-review and turn in artist work

-talk to agent about when we’re aiming to finish

-complete some writing related correspondence

-blog every day

-finish and interview

-review a book

 

Here’s to a happy and productive week. Breathe everyone!

 

Status: Getting my homework done like a good girl, then headed to Church. After, going  grocery shopping and writing at least 9 pages of script.

Topical Tuesday: Email Snafus Can Happen to You

“One of the most embarrassing moments for me is an email flub. I met an agent at a conference and queried her soon after we met. Several months later, I had signed with my agent, then six months later, on New Year’s Day I got an email from the conference agent. She loved the samples I had sent her and was requesting fulls of two of my manuscripts. I then quickly emailed my friend and said can you believe this agent took one year to get back to me! Ah, except I sent the email back to the agent and realized a second after hitting send. I felt so awful, but she was very nice and actually wrote back apologizing for taking so long and wished me best of luck with my agent. So the moral of the story is, always check the address before hitting send.”

 

 

“I once wrote an author I admired, raving about her latest book.  Which wasn’t out yet.  She was lovely about it and told me it wasn’t out yet, not even in ARC form and that I could buy it when it came out.  I realized in a major Dolt Moment that I had written the wrong title when I was emailing her.  I’d read one of her other books (and loved it), but written the title of the one that hadn’t been released yet.
 
Of course, I couldn’t write back and say, *embarrassed giggle* “The book I meant I read was . . . ” without it sounding totally lame.
 
That was only one of my horrible experiences with email.  It is an amazing medium and yet, potentially very dangerous.”
 

 

“I have my basic query letter that I keep in a word document and copy and paste into the body of an email before sending it off to agents. I always personalize from there. But one time, while I remembered to personalize the body, I left the heading for a previous agent in. It said Dear X, then under it Dear Y. Needless to say it was an instant rejection!”

 

We’ve all done it. It’s so easy. That itchy, little pointer finger ready and rearing to hit “Send.” I’ve done it. Don’t lie, you’ve done it, too.

So I’d like to prescribe the “Don’t Screw Up” Method:

Step 1: Compose your email in a word document.

Step 2: Check for red squigglies and green squigglies, too. Sure, spell check and grammar check aren’t right 100% of the time, but do make sure you understand why you are disregarding your trusty computer’s sage advice.

Step 3: Paste the text into the body of an email. Check formatting.

Step 4: Re-read your email. I know, it’s perfect, of course, and you don’t want to re-read it because it takes a whole one minute, and you could have done something important like chugged a glass of milk, but do it anyway. For me.

Step 5: Double check your greeting. Don’t say Mr. if it’s Miss (unless you are writing to me because I’m used to it so I don’t care anymore.) Don’t use the wrong name or spell it incorrectly. Also, make sure your greeting makes sense. “Yo” might not be the wording of choice when writing to Dream Agent #1. Just sayin’.

Step 6: Sit on your hands for 10 Mississippi. I know, I know. You’ve spent like two extra minutes on an important email. I’m so strict. But it’s ok. You’ll make it up on the apology email you’ll inevitably have to write afterward.

Step 7: Make your finger happy; hit send!

 

Now…to get myself to follow my own method….

 

Any personal anecdotes???

Keep on Fumbling!

 

Status: Stressed. The end.

2009 Debutante Interview Series: Mandy Hubbard

Today’s 2009 Debutante is Mandy Hubbard! She’s one of the nicest, most helpful Blue Boarders ever and she’s been incredibly open to answering questions. I can’t wait to get my hands on her forthcoming book from Razorbill, Prada and Prejudice. A gigantic thank you to her for providing such wonderful answers to the interview questions.

 

Callie falls head over heels—literally…

 and wakes up in Austen-Era England !

Fifteen-year-old Callie buys a pair of real Prada pumps to impress the cool crowd on a school trip to London .  Goodbye, Callie the clumsy geek-girl, hello popularity! But before she knows what’s hit her, Callie wobbles, trips, conks her head… and wakes up in the year 1815!

Thanks for joining us, Mandy. Prada and Prejudice is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?
 
The log-line on my blog says “A published writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” and sometimes that’s all that got me through the rejections. The first novel my agent sent out on submissions, In October 2006,  was THE JETSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB and we racked up about 12 rejections. They were so short and vague; it was obvious JETSETTERS wasn’t doing it. But a few editors asked if I had anything else, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE started to go out on subs in January 2007. Over that Summer, I came so heart-breakingly-close to selling that it was devastating when it didn’t happen. That editor even said she loved it and apologized for not being able to buy it.

By the end of the year I had revised it a few times for various editors and racked up 16 rejections.
 
2008 started up right where 2007 left off—three rejections within the first weeks. However, the third came in the form of a revision request. Even though I was already in my seventh draft, I decided to do it, and I opened up a shiny new (blank!) word document and started over. I never even opened up the old version. I spent a month writing 100 pages plus a new synopsis, and my agent sent it back.
 
And I was rejected in about three sentences.  But thanks to the shiny-new version of the book, my agent felt it deserved another round of submissions. (We were up to 22 rejections at that point). So she sent it to six new editors, and two weeks later, we had two offers. In total, I spent 20 months on submissions, racking up 40 rejections from almost every editor in New York for two different projects, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE went through nine drafts.

 
You and your agent deserve a medal or something. That is incredibly inspiring. Thank you. Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? 

I never got a call out of the blue in either case—there were always emails to tip me off. So for me, the typical reaction to ‘the call’ was actually a reaction to an email, and it was definitely the sale that stands out. I was opening the email while a co-worker was talking to me, and he managed to tell a very long and animated story, and I heard exactly none of it. The e-mail was titled good news and the first line said, we are expecting multiple offers. I started shaking, and it got hard to breathe. I actually did a video blog and recreated THE CALL, and you can see it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9bv5ojBoM

 
Love your vlogs. Too fun! Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

Livejournal has been the biggest resource for me-I’ve met so many writers and authors, its been amazing. I met my critique partner, Cyn Balog (Fairy Lust, Delacorte 2009) and we’re like writing BFF’s now, and I can still find the post where we are commenting back and forth like, “do you need a critique partner?” Without her I’d go insane. I think we cried for each other’s book deals as much as our own, we were so excited.
 
I have to say, you and Cyn are the cutest writing duo ever. I love how supportive y’all are and how much you’ve grown. Y’all are a shining example to the rest of the writing community.

We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?

By ignoring them. HA. Sometimes a random rejection would hit me really hard, especially when it was an editor I had revised for, but for the most part, I read it, thought about it for a little bit, whined for a day, and moved on. My agent was really good at focusing my attention elsewhere. Every time she emailed a rejection, she’d end the email by saying something like, “But I just heard about this editor at X house, and I’m going to pitch it to her tomorrow…” so somehow she always refocused my attention to the next opportunity.

 
This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

When I got the rejections, especially on PRADA, they never seemed to have the same reason. But somewhere around #15, I put them together in an excel spreadsheet, and BINGO, I started seeing a few patterns. Each editor expresses things differently, so it’s not like they would say the exact same thing—but if I read them all in a row, I could see tiny similarities that pointed to the same issue.  I wish I would have thought of doing that as they came in—I might have been able to revise and strengthen the manuscript.

 
 
Great tip for the rest of us. Thanks! You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

 To the NYT list, of course. Hitting the New York Times Bestseller list would be so amazing, I’d probably have to quit right then just so I’d go out on top. Kidding. More realistically, though, I am hoping to get a rhythm going, to have at least one book coming out every year with another on the horizon, to develop a fan base, to be a professional. I don’t want to just “be” published, I want it to be my career.

 
And now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

 Confetti didn’t rain down when I accepted my deal, so that was surprising. I think my favorite part of this process has been people telling me that I inspire them. When you first sign an agent, you think of all these overnight deals and pre-empts and auctions, because I swear that’s what it seems like happens for everyone else, so that’s what you expect. But I soon discovered that all too often, that’s not how it works. I think a lot of writers are afraid to be honest and blog openly about their trials, for fear of looking whiny, or something. But I decided to be honest from the get go, and yeah, sometimes I whined and reflected. But now I have all those journal entries, and I can read one and know exactly how it felt to get that 20th rejection. And somehow people have been finding my journal and reading those entries, and it’s been really great to know that other people are in that spot, and they’ve seen that sometimes, you just have to claw your way to the top.
 
I recently went through and tagged all the “publishing journey” entries, so that people can start at the beginning and see the key steps for me—and see the actual rejections. You can see them here: http://mandywriter.livejournal.com/tag/the+road+to+publication
There are about forty related entries, so if you want to read them, I recommend rewinding and starting at the beginning and reading forward, rather than backwards. It starts with me getting my agent, and goes through to the sale.

 
Wait, confetti didn’t rain down? Shoot.

Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

It was 11 pages. I nearly fainted. But my editor is quite possibly the most amazing person on the planet, and she explained right off on page 1 that I shouldn’t freak out, that she just liked to really explain things and offer solutions instead of just pointing out problems—and true to her word, as I read through everything, I saw that she not only pinpointed the problems, but she offered ideas and things that pushed me in the right direction. She’s really amazing. Did I mention she rejected Prada TWICE before buying it? Even then, in her rejection letters, her thoughts were well articulated and made me really think about what worked and what didn’t work. I’m so glad that the third try (with a completely rewritten manuscript)  resulted in her offering on it, because there’s no where else I’d rather be.
 
Everyone has a different relationship with his or her agent. How would you characterize yours and has it changed since your book deal?

This is an interesting question, because I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think even though it was never obvious, there was a little tension before the sale—not in a bad way, just in a we both want the sale so badly we can taste it way. We were both unbelievably frustrated that it hadn’t happened yet. Not with each other, just with the circumstances. So since the sale, I think that’s disappeared.

 
Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
 
 For recent books, I’d have a hard time choosing between THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher, about a girl who sends audio tapes to the thirteen people responsible for her suicide,  and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (Coming in 2009) by Carrie Ryan, about a zombie apocolypse. For all time favorites, it would be between Z FOR ZACHARIAH, about a girl who thinks she might be the only person left on earth after a nuclear fall-out, and THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE, a historical about a prim and proper girl who unwittingly ends up in the midst of a mutiny onboard a ship.
 
Strangely enough, though, I don’t think I could write any of those books even if I had the idea before they did—their execution of the ideas is what’s amazing. Instead I will happily read them over and over.

 

Thank you again for joining us and we look forward to reading Prada and Prejudice the minute it comes out!

Topical Tuesday: “When I was a young writer, I walked ten miles in the snow. Uphill. Both ways.”

In general I’ve found writers to be the most supportive bunch. Just today, Nate was searching through the comments on my blog and was shocked at how kind everyone was. He was like, “Doesn’t anyone want you to fail!?” And I said,  “Nope, don’t think so.”

I love that. But there does seem to be a different feeling toward authors whom other writers feel have not “paid their dues.” This is a particularly popular criticism of Stephenie Meyer.

I think the issue probably stems more from the fact that she doesn’t belong to the Blueboards or AW, etc., though I’m not positive about that. However, I don’t think those communities would tolerate that brand of criticism of one of their own. That line of reasoning might not work, either, though, because most folks that belong to one of those communities found them while they were paying their dues, so…yanno…I digress.

Anyway, back to the obsession with paying dues or rites of passage, if you will…

I’m trying to think of any rite of passage I went through that really made me better.

Form rejections? I mean, while those were a sweet treat in the inbox, I’m not too sure they did a whole lot for my mental health OR improved my writing.

Lots of form rejections? Just multiply the previous response by 12.

Waiting and waiting and waiting? I barely survived that.

Query Hell over at AW? I mean, if I’d gotten it on the first try, I wouldn’t be complaining.

Hitting the bestseller list on book #1? Oh, yeah, well this is still probably going to happen. (Just kidding, just kidding)

That’s not to say that some rights of passage weren’t important. For instance, learning when to move on from a project and, by virtue of that experience, learning how to recognize when something was not working. Probably pretty useful as I move on in my writing career.

And making friends? Well, that’s just invaluable.

Knowing that I wanted to keep writing whether i got positive feedback or not? The best thing I learned by far.

 

So, what do you think? Should writers have to pay their dues? Does it make you a better writer to go through these rites of passage? Which ones are important?

 

 

Status: Overall, a productive day. Huge thanks to Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Jen Barnes), one of the most helpful Blueboarders ever, for remembering the title for me of a book I needed. I was WAY off on what I thought the book was called that I was looking for. My agent had wanted me to find it as a possible book to compare to. And Jen somehow got from what I said (even my description was off) to the book I wanted. So, thanks!

I ordered the book on Amazon and it should be getting here in a couple days. It sounds like a great comparison (______ meets ______) book for SCOUT.

I finished my synopsis and winged it over to my dad for editing. I got back his comments and will be implementing them tomorrow.

Also, I have my idea for SCOUT’S SEQUEL!! I wrote it in the bathtub. Yup. Sure did. I’m glad to be getting all this stuff out because–this is sort of embarrassing–but I keep having ideas when I’m asleep and they wake me up and I can’t go back to sleep until they’re written down. That’d be cool if it were just plot ideas or premises and whatnot, but it’s wording. The wording of my damn synopses wake me up. And I have to go in and fix them. Yuck.

Everything I Know In Life, I Learned From Blogging

…Not from Judy Blume.

 

Ok, seriously, wouldn’t that be a sad story? Don’t worry. Before you start thinking I am in serious need of a Mary Poppins outing, there are a few things I learned outside of blogging. Like the fact Pennsylvania is not in New England. Oh, and that Ashlee Simpson is very, very preggers. Not to mention The Office is the best show ever. (Oooh, maybe everything I Know in Life, I Learned from Dwight Schrute.)

Anyway, now that we understand that I…*gasp*…exaggerated…We can move on.

Everything I Know In Life, I Learned From Blogging.

 

1. Write every day. Sure Stephen King told me, but, hey, I like to learn by doing. And blogging every day, forces me to write every day. Has it improved my writing? By light years.

2. Make friends. Moms always say to play with the other kids in the sandbox. Having your blog is like putting a couch in your living room to entertain friends. It’s never fun to hang out at a house that has no seating. Until I started my blog, I knew no one online. So start a blog. Meet people. Maybe even serve some chardonnay.

3. Sell your product, Sell yourself. Lots of good things have come into my life via blogging. I’ve been contacted by book packagers. I’ve had agents check it out and say the blog was a positive factor in deciding to offer representation. I’ve had other agents email just to say good luck. I’ve gotten free copies of books that haven’t come out yet to review. I’ve had an editor read my Scout page and contact my agent to say he’d like to see the project. Good things. From blog.

4. Reflect on your craft. Whenever I have an argument with Nate (*hope he’s not reading today!*), I tell him to write it down. Because writing is thinking. Writing down your reasoning helps you understand whether what you are doing is working. Is it rational? Is it effective? I don’t know. Write it down.

5. Stay up-to-date. Y’all hold me accountable. I keep up with what’s happening in the publishing industry because if I don’t, I can’t churn out the most relevant information for you on my blog. But it’s beneficial for me, too. Understanding the direction in which the market is moving, helps me to hone the direction of my writing. End of story.

 

So there ya go. All I know in life in five bullet points. Who’d have thought?

 

Status: Still banging out that synopsis, then going back to make it pretty. Those Scout sequel ideas are sifting around in my brain, but I’m waiting for that idea that I know is right.

Can I Get An Amen?

There’s only one truly awful reason not to write: You’re scared.

But I get it. I do. I was scared to death to write. I thought, Who am I to write a book? More than that, Who am I to even think that I could write a book?

And publishing? Forget it!

But I want to share something that not only told me that I could and should go for it, but keeps me motivated every day to get something down on paper.

 

(*Note: I don’t think you need any religion whatsoever for this to apply. Not tryin’ to stand on the pulpit here!*)

The Parable of the Five Talents

To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.  Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.  So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.  But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time, the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received the five talents brought the other five.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents.  See, I have gained five more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The man with the two talents also came.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Then the man who had received the one talent came.  “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.”

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

- Matthew 25:14-30 (NIV)

 

So, it’s not like I ever fancied myself a young, white girl version of Toni Morrison or anything. I just knew that I had a huge passion for books and that writing is something I always wanted to pursue.

Since I was ten I wanted to be a writer, but always thought it impractical. (Yes, I was a very rational little girl. I think even then I wanted to be a lawyer–or maybe race dogsleds.) 

Anyway, I was a counselor at my childhood camp a couple years ago and re-heard the parable of the five talents. I swear, someone might as well have spanked my behind with a rolled up newspaper because I felt downright forlorn that I had been the servant who had buried my talent.

There was good news, though! I could dig my talent up, dust it off, and start putting it to use.

Now, every day I think, It’s not about whether or not I get published because I’m peddling that talent. I’m using it to get new talents. Like writing graphic novels. And reviewing books. And now snagging my agent, getting ready to submit to publishing houses.

So many good things have come from dusting off that rusty old talent. The one I wasn’t even sure was in the same spot.

I kept writing through rejections letters, through close calls, and through moments where that damn plot was stuck in a quagmire so mucky Bilbo Baggins himself couldn’t wade through. I did it because I’d know there was something inherently wrong about sticking my talent back in the dirt.

Point being: If you want to write. Write. Don’t be scared. I think this comes at a particularly good time because so many people are considering doing Nanowrimo. Now, I’m not saying the book you wrote for Nano will be on the fast track to the NYT bestseller list, but it’s a great place to brush the dirt off your talent and let it stretch its legs. So have fun and start planning for November or whatever writing related goals you may have! Look forward to hearing about your successes!

 

Status: Still expanding my synopsis. I must say, I think it’s coming out well. I mean, it should be when eeking out each page takes me a day! That’s ok, though, because I want it to be perfect.

It’s got some dialogue and I’ve incorporated several captions. I think it’s really capturing the “feel” of the graphic novel. I also had a cool breakthrough with the help of the artist regarding some of the “science” behind shapeshifting. Tons of fun and I got the chance to add it to the synop.

And, if you don’t know what in the heckfire I’m talking about and, instead, would like to be clued in, stop by my Scout page!

Thursday Pics: Turn that Frown Upside Down

 It’s crazy that just two weeks ago I looked like this…

 

 

….I thought it may never happen….

 

    

 

But I was wrong…And for this entire week since I accepted my agent’s offer of representation I’ve been doing my happy dance shamelessly….See??

 

 

 

Aren’t I good?????

 

(Oh, and you’re welcome for this highly informative post.)

Status: As mentioned above, I’m still feeling extra sunshiney! However, I’m also getting down to business. Still working on expanding my synopsis. It’s tough working that dialogue in. And I’m also working on finding a person to swap synopses with for critique. Fun fun fun!

2009 Debutante Interview Series: Danielle Joseph

 

Next up in our 2009 Debutante interview series is Danielle Joseph. Her debut novel Shrinking Violet will be coming out from MTV/Pocket Books in May 2009!

Danielle was a college DJ for five years on the Gyroscope, a world music show, and interned at several top Boston radio stations. She has taught Creative Writing and English to Middle school students. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Danielle now lives in Miami with her husband and two young sons. These days you can find her cruising around with the tunes blaring and her internal DJ hard at work.

 To whet your appetite, here’s a blurb: 

 High school senior, Tere Adams, has one dream—to be a dj. By day she is paralyzed when she has to talk to people, but at night, she rocks, doing mock broadcasts in her bedroom. Her confidence is further eroded by her mom, who still sees Tere as the chubby, pale kid, the other children called Snowball. Mom thinks that Tere’s dreams are just silly fantasies, but her new husband, Rob, offers Tere an internship at his top-forty radio station. Her best friend, Audrey, the only person truly aware of Tere’s vast music knowledge, encourages her to take the job. From there Tere must learn to come out from behind her mask. In doing so she confronts the bullies in her life, stands up for herself and falls in love.

 

Isn’t that ridiculously original??? Goodness! Anyway, if you’d like to hear Danielle’s playlist for Shrinking Violet, you can visit her website at daniellejoseph.com. (By the way, she has a really neat site.)

 Onward…

 Danielle, Shrinking Violet is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?
 

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer and even majored in Creative Writing in college, but I did not get serious about writing until six years ago after my first son was born and I joined a local SCBWI critique group. Before Shrinking Violet, I had completed four other books. And I could definitely paste at least one wall in my office with rejection letters.
 

Sounds like you made the right career decision! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?
 

Well, in both cases I received, the “Email.” My agent first emailed me to say that she liked my novel and had some suggestions for change. I then called her and knew right away that I wanted to work with her. Then when I got the “Offer” for Shrinking Violet, I was in Cape Town, South Africa visiting family. US cell phones don’t work there, so my agent emailed me the news. I was so excited but had been waiting for the “Call” for so long, that I decided to call her myself! So I guess, in both instances, I made the “Call”! And I would say calling from Africa to hear about my book offer, while I was surrounded by family, was the most thrilling!
 

Such a cool story and incredible to have everyone you loved around you! Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

A good support group of writer and non-writer friends is the most important to me. My in-person critique groups have been invaluable and just hearing encouragement along the way from family and friends has been great. I also feel revived every time after I go to a conference and love checking in with my online friends on a daily basis. And of course, every time I read a book, I feel like I’m learning something new, whether it’s being introduced to a new genre, style, culture etc

 It’s easy to forget how valuable reading someone else’s work can be. Thanks for the reminder! We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?

 … Rejection is not easy but really I just don’t take it personally. I shrug it off and move on. There’s not enough time in the day to sulk and there’s nothing a little chocolate can’t fix:)!

I’m with you on the chocolate. This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
 

One of the most embarrassing moments for me is an email flub. I met an agent at a conference and queried her soon after we met. Several months later, I had signed with my agent, then six months later, on New Year’s Day I got an email from the conference agent. She loved the samples I had sent her and was requesting fulls of two of my manuscripts. I then quickly emailed my friend and said can you believe this agent took one year to get back to me! Ah, except I sent the email back to the agent and realized a second after hitting send. I felt so awful, but she was very nice and actually wrote back apologizing for taking so long and wished me best of luck with my agent. So the moral of the story is, always check the address before hitting send.
 

Ok, that’s the best “Oops!” story I’ve heard so far. But you’ve moved on and are now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

 

I can hardly believe it and am very excited! I want to be a lifelong writer and be able to grow from every book that I write. I hope my books reach out to teens and provide them with some refuge and enjoyment.
 
Great! And now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

 

My favorite part is just being in the company of such a warm group of people, writers, editors and agents, alike. I’m especially happy to be working with my editor because I feel that she really gets my book and is able to relate to the main character so well. I’m surprised by the warmth of so many writers and how helpful, giving and loving most everyone has been. And I’m loving every moment of it!
 
 
That’s wonderful. I’m amazed every day at how supportive writer-folks are. Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

 

I just received my editoral letter on Tuesday, so it’s definitely fresh in my mind. I’m very pleased with it and think that my editor has made some wonderful suggestions. Of course, it’s a bit overwhelming at first because you don’t know where to start. I’m armed with highlighters and excited to dive back into the novel.
 

Tuesday! Wow. So you’re starting a whole new round of “fun.” Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

 

Definitely the toughest question because there are so many awesome books that fill my bookshelf, which is overflowing, by the way. The one book that helped fuel me to write Shrinking Violet is White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Before I start a new manuscript, I try to read a motivating book. The writing, characterization and plotting was so rich in White Oleander, I would love to write a book with such depth and so much originality!

Chandler, thanks so much for this interview. It’s been great talking with you! Love your blog!

 

Thanks for joining us and we’ll be snatching up Shrinking Violet the second we see it!