Monday, February 21, 2011

Agent Limbo is Over!

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Hurray! I am officially with the Bradford Literary Agency.

I realize from some tweets I've seen that my official move date's meaning was confusing, but just to clarify:

I am STILL NOT OPEN to unsolicited submissions. Do NOT submit to me.

Trust me, there will be a (party) announcement when that happens.

All this means is that I am no longer in that weird legal limbo land and 100% at Bradford. I'm still closed to submissions because although my transition is over, Laura and I are still getting to know each other (I know, kind of cheesy, but hey, no reason to put the cart before the horse; I am loving the opportunity to focus on my existing clients and LEARN from an AMAZING agent!).

Cheers! Happy New Agency Day! :D

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why I Hate Prologues

Yup. That's right. I'm a prologue hater.


A multitude of reasons. But mainly: because they are HARD to do well.

I'd say 99% of the submissions I receive with a prologue don't need it. Most of the time they read (to me) like: look at me! I can write an AMAZING scene - oh, but...sorry, you have to read 100 more pages to get to it.


What a prologue should NOT be:
-background information
-from a POV other than the main character
-a false start
-an attention grabber

What a prologue SHOULD be:
-an introduction - which means the story will CONTINUE FROM THAT POINT, not 30 years later
-A preliminary act that sets the ACTION of the novel into play - NOT the action itself displaced into the first three pages
-A method to call attention to an important THEME

In ancient times, a prologue was used to describe events that took place prior to the opening scene. They could be supplementary to the text. And if you're writing the next Canterbury Tales, by all means; ancient prologue away.

But if your style is grounded by more modern methods - nix the prologue, please.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

SCBWI San Diego Conference overview!

I spent this past weekend at a wonderful SCBWI conference in San Diego. The best part: instead of being sequestered away for a day of pitches and workshops, I got to sit in on the main action to hear all the panels and talks.

Admittedly, I was a bit of a disaster at this event: I was late, I broke my chair, spilled my FULL coffee – twice – and started talking about flower porn (I’ve been assured that I was “adorable." Doh).
But when I wasn’t being destructo-agent, I was furiously note-taking, which means: time for a conference blog post!

In attendance with me:

The lovely Sarah Dotts Barley, editor at Harper Collins. Along with some inspiring E.B. White quotes (did you know Charlotte’s Web went through 8 drafts in 3 years?), I loved her advice on revising: don’t fall in love with your characters so much that you can’t hurt them. Because as much as we want to find someone who can write…we get SO EXCITED by someone who can REVISE (all agree!).

Jill Corcoran, agent at the Herman Agency, expanded that revision is, literally, a REIMAGINING of your book. It’s not a checklist to go through – and, I’ll also add, NOT a test on speed. Take the time to sit down and THINK about your characters, motivations, and re-(in)vision your execution.

After all, we agents are looking for the four Ps in a client, added Chris Richman of Upstart Crow: Patience, Professionalism, Perseverance, and Perspective (love that, by the way).

The fabulous Kira Lynn of Kane/Miller added insight into the thought process behind submission requirements: we need to know you know how to listen to what we say, and if you can’t listen to how to submit, that doesn’t bode well. In regards to pre-queries and cliff hangers in log lines (hooks) and synopses: you can’t tease us – we’ll just not want to play (wise, wise words my friends!).

Kim Griswell, editor at Boyds Mills Press, added THE highlight for me with her talk on voice. She NAILED it – and let me tell you, voice is the hardest. Thing. Ever. To talk about. In sum: voice is the quality that allows the reader to forget about the author. It has place – a taste of where you came from, what’s shaped YOU, the author, in life, and sensory details. The best voices reveal a piece of the writer – what YOU notice because of who you are -- which, I’ll add, makes sense; as humans we’re going to connect the most to real human voices, because it allows a character to seem real, which allows us to forget that they were written.

*Awesome revision tip for voice: go through your manuscript with five different colored highlighters, one for each sense. It’ll show you what you’re really doing as you write – and what you may need to expand on *

David Diaz, award-winning illustrator, offered the final insight into the world of picture book illustrations. Bottom line: they don’t tell you how to write – so don’t tell them how to illustrate. As an author, you don’t think as visually as they do; give them the space to bring the text to that level. They’ll bring out qualities in your work you could never have imagined when you do. So if you MUST have illustration notes, say them “as a direction” rather than a must. (Mary Kole has a great post on why publishers prefer to use their own illustrators, just fyi: mainly, because they want to match up a debut author with an established illustrator to sell the book!)

I realize that was quite a mash-up of information – the beauty of a conference! Take it in, think about it, and digest it; then apply it.
Thank you ladies of the San Diego SCBWI for putting on such an AMAZING conference!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Author Scarf...or My Agent Shoes?

I had a client recently who saw several of my tweets and got concerned because, from all appearances, I was picking up my writing hat again (I keep using the hat analogy in all my blog posts; I don't even LIKE hats all that much. I'm going to start using shoes. Or scarves...)

Before my discussion with her, I hadn’t realized that agenting and authoring were such exclusive businesses. Mainly, because when I started in this industry as an intern, as I was introduced to the agent staff I was told, “We’re all writers -- or have been.”

There are many agents who are also authors: Mandy Hubbard, (previously) Nathan Bransford, Laura Rennert, to name a few.

I’ll admit that logistically, I’ve always sort of wondered how that works: do they represent themselves? I'm also in COMPLETE awe of their ability to do it all. But I never worried about what AUTHORS thought of such a practice – and I should have, because apparently, they have quite STRONG opinions about it!

Some don’t care; some reason that as long as the agent is doing a good job, it’s a bonus, really, as the agent can then sympathize with deadlines and the woes of the process.

Others feel it’s a conflict of interest; budgeting time between when to write and agent, when to promote self vs. clients, and even when to close to certain types of submissions so as NOT to conflict with what he or she is writing.

My own standpoint on this has always been a little washy. As someone who started off purely on the author side of things (just an interview link that explains what that means), I’ve always dreamed that one day, I COULD find the time to write my own novels and maintain a select, but fantabulous client list. The more I delve into agenting, however, I’m thinking that may just be impossible; it takes an INCREDIBLE amount of time to be an author: aside from just finding time to WRITE, there’s finding time to edit, finding time to promote oneself, finding time to revise, finding time to meet deadlines.

After my conversation with my client, I’m sort of glad I’ve never committed either way. It makes me sad, to think I’ll never write professionally, which is why I can’t quite give up that dream (and part of me is resentful if I HAVE to), but I also completely understand how my clients could be concerned, and I think hey, I’m a professional; as an agent, my duty is to my clients. Period. They didn't sign on for that...why start now?

A fellow agent of mine has had to deal with this question directly because there is an author that shares her name; she’s had people PASS on her as an agent because they think she’s the author, and she’s also had clients tell her upfront that they’re out if she ever writes. That boggled my mind!

So, fellow publishing enthusiasts; what do you think? Is there a consensus to be reached on this…or is it just another gray area that will forever remain an area of debate?