Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Running on Empty (contest)

To say it's been a crazy summer is putting it mildly. The past couple months I've gone through many highs and lows, both personally and professionally. After awhile, it starts to catch up with you.

It's doing that to me NOW. LOL.

So, if you're anything like me and you're trying to play catch-up. If you've had a ton of things going on and you just need to sit back and breathe a bit, this is the post for you.

I'm giving away an e-copy of my book, MEASURING UP to one random person who comments. To enter just leave a comment on what you do to relax and your email. This is a quickie contest and I'll draw a winner Friday evening at 6:00 PM.

Seventeen-year-old Annabel Conway is tired of the Hillcrest High School elite making her life miserable because she’s not a size two. This summer, she's hiring a personal trainer to help her lose weight.

Annabel doesn’t expect her trainer to be a gorgeous guy around her age. Boys like Tegan are jerks. They pretend to like girls like her so they can make an idiot out of them. Been there, done that. Totally not going there again. She kind of hates him on principal. Blond. Muscular. Funny. It doesn’t help that he knows her measurements!

Soon, Tegan's so much more than that. He’s the boy who teaches her to box when she has a bad day. Who jogs with her and lets her set the pace. Who kisses her until she melts. He makes her feel beautiful regardless of what the scale says. Unlike her mom, he doesn’t expect perfection, and he doesn't try to shield her from the world like her dad and best friend. Tegan likes her the way she is.

But what happens when he’s not there? He can’t always be there…

Will Annabel be able to stand on her own and learn that she already measures up? That her worth doesn’t lie in what the world thinks, the scale says, or even what Tegan tells her—but in herself?

Ready. Set. Enter :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pitch Madness is coming!

It's here! Well, not quite yet. The submission windows for the semi-annual Pitch Madness go live on Saturday, September 1 at 12PM EST and 6PM EST.

And we've added another submission time for September 4... 3RD SUBMISSION TIME: 10:00 am EDT (EST-NY time) first 100.

The game theme this time is Paintball. What's Pitch Madness, you ask? Well, its a game where Brenda Drake brings together a bushel of agents to compete for your pitches. We're  joining three other blogs in this funtastic event. So I guess I'll start by introducing them first.

Brenda Drake

Shelley Watters

Erica M. Chapman

Here's the crazy awesome agents participating...

Dawn Frederick - Red Sofa Literary
Brittany Howard - Corvisiero Agency
John Cusick - Scott Treimel NY
Victoria Marini - Gelfman Schneider Lit.
Judith Engracia - Liza Dawson & Assoc.
Louise Fury - L. Perkins Agency
Sarah LaPolla - Curtis Brown Ltd.
Brooks Sherman - FinePrint Literary Management
Molly Ker Hawn - The Bent Agency
We'll have more about the agents up in our Meet the Agents' post coming September 4 and 5.

Now, here's the submission deets ...

Shine up your 35-word (exact-anything over will be disqualified) pitches and the first 150-words (if the cut-off falls in the middle of a sentence, go to the end of that sentence) of your finished Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade fiction. We'll pick 60 entries to move on to the Agent Pitch Match.

We've doubled the number of entries we're taking in this time. There will be a percentage of what genres make it in based on all the agents likes. You guessed it, there will be more YA in the contest than Adult, but the main thing we're looking for is the WOW factor. Only one entry per person.

We have two submission times, and this year we're holding it on a Saturday.

The windows open on September 1 ...

1ST SUBMISSION TIME: 12:00 pm EST for the first 100.
2ND SUBMISSION TIME: 6:00 pm EST for the next 100.

Only the best of the best will make it to the final round.

Here's how to format your entry ...
Name: Brenda Drake
Title: The Britanika Journals: Around the World in 80:45:07
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure
Word Count: 50,000

Max and Annika use a transporting globe to find her missing father. With evil men in an airship on their tails, Max must use his sleuthing skills with Annika’s inventor ones to rescue her father.

Maximilian Drayson knew that a masterful sleuth had to pay attention to one crucial thing—the details. He tightened his grip on the white apron he had snatched from the Britanika's laundry room. It took several hours into his investigation to find it, and most would think it was just a soiled apron, but he believed it to be a clue.

He paced the manicured lawn of the Britanika's residence, scratching the back of his neck and searching the ground. This particular mystery came about after he had overheard one of the Britanika's housemaids, Molly, sobbing to another servant about losing her mother's brooch. At hearing Molly's distress, he went into action.

Before beginning his investigation, Max interrogated Molly, asking her a series of questions: When had she last seen the brooch? Did she wear it while she worked? What were her household duties? He needed every bit of information he could obtain if he wanted to mark this case as solved.

For those that don't make it into Pitch Madness we'll be hosting a twitter pitch party on the hashtag #PitMad on September 13 from 8AM to 8PM EST. So get those twitter pitches ready!
That's it. We're so excited!

Guestopia: Gretchen McNeil

Today we have a guest post from Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess and the forthcoming Ten. Check out the bottom of this post for a unique street team opportunity! Take it away, Gretchen!

What is scary?

Is it a giant spider lurking under you bed, just waiting for you to crawl in before it silently creeps out into the darkness of your room to envelope you in it's deadly web?

Is it a waking up to find yourself buried alive in a close, black coffin, utterly sightless in the dark, the only sound a muted thud of shovelful after shovelful of dirt as it's tossed onto your living tomb?

Is it a darkened stretch of forest you must walk through that seems to breathe with living creatures that dart and flutter just out of sight?

Is it getting a flat tire on a deserted mountain road, where the nearest structure for fifty miles is a dilapidated farmhouse that appears to have no phone, cable or electricity lines, just a trickle of smoke rising from a toppling brick chimney?

So many different levels of scary.  The things we fear most come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the physical – like spiders and sharks – to the esoteric – like claustrophobia and paranoia – to the otherworldly – like demons and vampires and witches (oh my!). 

When I wrote POSSESS, I chose something that I actually found terrifying – demonic possession – and tried to convey that terror to readers who might not have the same sensibilities. In TEN, I wrote about something I don't intrinsically find scary – being trapped on an island with a killer, but also tried to portray the tension and horror.  To me, conveying fear isn't just about describing a situation, object, or person that someone might find scary, but giving a blow-by-blow of the event and actually detailing the fear reaction in the characters. 

We all know exactly what it feels like to be scared.  First you have the anticipation: What's behind that closed door?  What's making that scratching noise in the attic?  What's lurking in the deep, dark waters?  It's the tensing of muscles like you're expecting a blow, that stretching of all your senses, trying to see/feel/hear/smell danger before it pounces on you.  The higher the tension is pitched, the bigger the wallop.

Next, the reveal.  The door opens to expose a dead body that spills out on top of our poor heroine the moment she turns the doorknob.  The scratching noise in the attic inexplicably moves through the ceiling, down the stairs and manifests in a dark, demonic entity.  The dorsal fin of a great white shark breaks the surface of the water in which you're swimming.  The terror has been revealed in one jarring, scream-inducing moment!

But that's not scary enough, not for the expectant reader.  You need the next step in the process – experiencing the fear through the eyes of the main character.  We need to feel their bodies tremble as they break out into a cold sweat.  We need to hear the blood-curdling scream that explodes from their mouths.  We need to internalize the sick, sinking feeling in their stomachs as death closes in around them.

And lastly, the action.  Our heroine's panicked flee from the house, our hero's desperate attempt to out maneuver a man-eating shark.  Will they survive?  Will they escape?  Hearts pound in anticipation with every turn of the page!!!!

What is scary?

The answer, I think, is anything.  If you tell it right.  ;)

Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown.  Her YA horror POSSESS debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011.  Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – will be released September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59, sci fi horror pitched as The Parent Trap meets Event Horizon, is scheduled for Fall 2013. 

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk.  Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels where she can be seen as "Monday."

And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives – three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, both of which involve Kamiak High’s most eligible bachelor, T.J. Fletcher. But what starts out as a fun-filled weekend turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly, people are dying and the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Want to help Gretchen get the word out about Ten and win some awesome prizes - including the chance to get your name in her next book? Check out The Army of Ten!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Queries: What agents want

I was helping a writer with her query yesterday (This week I'm co-hosting a query workshop with Brenda Drake, Becca Coffindaffer, and Marieke Nijkamp. Check it out!) and she commented on how it seems agents all want different things out of a query.

Well... yes... and no.

Some things that agents differ on include:
  • Whether to include an intro before your pitch
  • Put things like title, word count, age, genre at the end or beginning
  • How much biographical info to include
  • Whether or not an MFA matters
  • Whether or not to include comp titles and how popular the books you use should be if you do
  • Whether or not to include "I'm querying you because..." info and what kind of info that should be
  • Start with a logline or no?
  • What exactly "personalize your query" means
  • Should you mention your blog/social media presence if it's not rockstar status?
  • Don't be gimmicky - unless it's an original gimmick that works
  • Voice? How much?
  • Should you describe your target audience? Or does that limit it too much, especially if the agent disagrees?
  • Series?
  • I'm sure you can think of many more.

But here are the things all agents agree on:
  • Write a pitch that is intelligible, not mass-emailed, and makes them want to read the book.
  • Don't be crazy.

If you do those two things very very well, guess what? The rest of it doesn't matter. At all.

If your query demonstrates great writing and a great story, you can break every other preference an agent has. (Don't confuse preferences like those list above with guidelines like whether or not to include attachments, pages, synopsis. Always obey those.)

I love writing, reading, and critiquing queries and a lot of people are shocked when I say that, but I think a lot of writers psych themselves out because they're worrying so much about that first list. Focus on the second list, and you're golden.

But if you are worried about that first list still? Here's what I've come up with for playing it safe (not perfect) on each topic so you don't offend anyone outright:

  • Intro before pitch or not: Save it for the end. Why? They don't care about anything else until they care about the book. Unless you're a Kardashian, of course.
  • Put things like title, word count, age, genre at the end or beginning End. Most prefer the end, so it's a numbers game.
  • biographical info Include only hard facts that make it obvious you are serious about your career - MFAs, SCBWI/RWA memberships, good publishing experience. This does not include submission history, how many novels you've written, how long you've written, what your mom/husband/brother/neighbor/CPs think about your work.
  • Whether or not an MFA matters see above
  • Comp titles Unless the agent specifically wants them, leave them out. There is so much that can go wrong with them.
  • "I'm querying you because..." info Do not include info that's like "I'm querying you because you like Urban Fantasies" - they know what they want, you don't have to tell them. Do include things like "I'm querying you with this because you said on twitter you wanted a novel with a three-legged dog that wears purple sun-glasses - and this is it!" This shows you're really paying attention.
  • Start with a logline or no? No, unless specifically requested. And I only say no because so many of them lead to a clunky transition to the pitch.
  • What exactly "personalize your query" means Email only sent to them. Dear [agent name] (don't assume gender if you don't know for sure). If you've met them in person before, mention that (unless you were creepy). If you actually do read their blog, you may mention it if you want - but ONLY if it's true and you can mention something specific you like.
  • Should you mention your blog/social media presence if it's not rockstar status? Not in the body of the query, but include links in your signature. That way, it's there if they want it, but it's not obtrusive.
  • Don't be gimmicky - unless it's an original gimmick that works Don't be gimmicky. Everybody thinks their gimmick is clever, less than 1% of them are. Those aren't good odds.
  • Voice? How much? light. If you write YA, do not use a phrase that a teen wouldn't use. Use adjectives/adverbs and verbs that your MC would use. Avoid cliches. Always write in 3rd person present, no matter what your book is.
  • Should you describe your target audience? Or does that limit it too much, especially if the agent disagrees? Don't. There's so much that can go wrong.
  • Series Don't mention it.

Don't obsess over the small things! A great query has to do one thing: make the agent want to read your book. Period. End of paragraph. End of story.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Announcing: Win an Editing Workshop

Announcing a new pitch contest with a new, different sort of prize.

Entranced Publishing, a new electronic publisher of YA and romance, is offering up an eight-week online editing workshop (beginning September 17th) to five lucky winners. These five winners will be chosen via a pitch contest here at YAtopia, held on September 1st.  The workshop will be hosted by Managing Editor Eden Plantz, who will take participants on an in-depth tour of their own manuscripts from an editorial perspective. At the end of the workshop, Eden will discuss the finer points of querying and will help each author craft a strong cover letter.

In addition, Executive Editor Ashley Christman and Eden will review all entries and will be requesting an as-of-yet undetermined number of manuscripts to be given priority in their slushpile.

The contest is open to YA and NA writers. One entry per person. The information you should have ready to post on September 7th (on another post that will be posted that day) includes:

- Name
- Email
- Title
- Age-range & Genre
- Word-count
- Hook (100 words or fewer)

Get your pitches ready for the chance to work closely with a professional editor!

Leave any questions about this contest in the comments below!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Professional editing advice - with a competition link

One of the key pieces of advice I received early on in my writing career was get a professional to give you feedback on your manuscript. I was like “But, I don’t know any writers!”

 Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to have found some great critique partners and I have paid for manuscript to be edited by someone who offered an editing service. One of my critique partners, Aimee Salter, has an editing service, so today she is going to share some wisdom of the importance of having someone with a writing background look over your work before you send it off to agents and publishers. But she's dishes out some free advice here, as well as on Writing Teen Novels. AND, one lucky will be given the chance to win a chapter critique from Aimee on my personal blog Down Under Wonderings. There's also a $15 B&N e-voucher up for grabs.

Sharon: Why do you believe it’s important that writers get a professional to look over their manuscript before submitting it to agents or publishers?

Aimee: Because without it, it’s very difficult to move your writing talent forward. No matter what level your natural talent, all of us can improve. Without someone who’s studied or professionally experienced, we just don’t realize how much we don’t know.

 And, on a practical level, since the recession there are more and more people unemployed or under-employed and doing what they can to follow their dream and get published. There’s a literal ocean of options out there for agents and editors. If you aren’t in the top one percent in terms of your premise, your delivery, and your plot, you won’t get a look in.

I believe it takes more than one person in the mix to bring any book to its absolute potential. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pay someone. But it can be difficult to find people willing and able to critically analyse your entire manuscript without a fee.

Sharon: What are three of the most common mistakes you come across when editing manuscripts and how can writers avoid them?

 Aimee: I should make an important point here: What I do is called “critiquing”. Although it’s a form of editing, it isn’t the same as what you’d experience at a publishing house.

As a critiquer (I guess you can call me a professional, because I get paid to do it) my work falls more on the substantive edits side. That means in terms of a publishing model, I’m the early-eyes. I focus on the story arc, character arc, foundational writing, structure and plot. What I do is intended to get the author thinking and make suggestions for improvement. While I will identify ‘clunky’ phrasing, or basic grammar / punctuation errors, my work focuses more on the creative side of story-telling.

Critiques are designed to show the writer how a technically skilled reader views the story, the writing, the characters, etc. Not to be confused with an editor who, in the traditional publishing model, anyway, will have a much greater investment in, and influence on your story at every level.

But you asked about common mistakes. There are lots, to be honest (and I make them myself. So do many traditionally published authors. None of us writes perfectly, especially in that first draft!). But I think the most common mistakes I see are: 

Wordiness: An inability to identify the most efficient way to phrase something.  

It’s a skill that has to be learned by most writers. As far as avoiding this, I think you need to be edited / critiqued by someone whose writing isn’t wordy – allow them to show you how to make your sentences more streamlined, your scenes more focused. 

Unfortunately, I think a lot of writers confuse instruction with judgement of their creative talent. I say "unfortunately " because I really believe that learning the craft actually unleashes creativity – it equips you to better deliver the vision in your head. 

Telling: Most novice writers "tell " because they don't actually realize they're doing it.  

Avoiding this is much harder until you can develop the analytical skill to identify it. But one example I see a lot, that you can specifically look for in your own writing, is a first person point of view character (or third person, limited) telling the reader what's going on in another character's head, or telling the reader how to interpret their body language.  

Words that often crop up in these moments  are "as if ", "seem" in all its variations (seemed to, seemingly, seems), or the name of an emotion (I.e. “Something told me Carl was angry.”).  

Writers need to learn to trust the reader to gather what's implied in dialogue and body-language. And one personal note: if you remove this kind of telling from your manuscript and the reader can't follow what people are feeling / thinking, the problem is in your showing. So fix that, rather than adding narrative. 

Implausibility: Of all the things I see in manuscripts, this is the one that bothers me the most (especially when I’m guilty of it, I might add). It ranges from unlikely dialogue right through to plot points that defy sense. The reality is you can do anything in a book. But there has to be a plausible foundation in the world-building, character motivations, and plot.

The most common implausibilities I encounter are:

1.      Vital information or item falls into protagonist’s lap via means they didn’t anticipate or fight for.

Literally: Previously unknown character shows up and says “You know how you need three acres of land before Saturday so you can throw those para-Olympics before little Johnny dies? Well, I have four acres, and you can use it.”  

You have to get clever with these situations. More importantly, your protagonist has to get clever. They have to earn the answers, or discover the vital item(s) through intentional pursuit.  

2.      Character One explains things to Character Two that Character Two already knows – but the reader doesn’t.  

These conversations often start with something like “I know you know this…” or “I’ve already told you…”. The worst offenders have both characters explaining things they both know to each other, or finishing each other’s thoughts.  

The only fix is to sprinkle pieces of information into the internal narration (or dialogue) as the book goes along. Don’t try to give the reader everything at once. And definitely don’t try to fill in backstory within the first 25-30 pages. Let the reader get hooked by the current action first. 

3.      Character makes a decision not to ask a question, or not to follow a lead, or not to explore something which very obviously could provide answers to the story question.  

I.e. Maddie has just learned she can heal wounds supernaturally. Johnnie mentions that his Grandmother told him stories about people who could do that when she was a child. Instead of asking to talk to the Grandmother, Maddie googles “healers”… Yet at the end of the book, it’s the Grandmother who has all the answers. 

The trick is to put sensible obstacles in front of the protagonist that either force them to cut a conversation off before too much is revealed (if it’s vital to have some info given at that stage of the book), or stops them following up a lead they’ve been given. (In the above scenario, for example, they could visit the Grandmother who appears to be mental and a dead-end in terms of information. But they keep going back. And the author can foreshadow that Granny is tricking them, trying to keep herself safe from the people who’ll kill them all if they find out Maddie can heal and Grandma knows why…) 

Alternatively, you can present competing priorities. If you can create two or more seemingly equally important tasks, then the protag is initially forced to follow one and not the other. The protag can choose to follow the lead that will only provide half the answers.

In all these cases, if you aren’t sure whether your book / writing / plot falls into implausibility, consider this: If someone reads it and you have to explain the motivation, it probably isn’t sensible. If there is an easier, or more likely solution available that is being ignored, it probably isn’t plausible. If you (the author) have to decide “The Character is just that way” to make a decision make sense… it doesn’t make sense.

Sharon: What trends are you seeing in YA novels that you wish aspiring writers would avoid?

Aimee: This is a much more subjective question. So I’ll give you my opinion, but there might be many who disagree.

My biggest pet-peeve at the moment is “Insta-Love”. You know, seemingly Normal-Girl meets Hawt-Guy and they are inexplicably drawn to each other with such force, neither of them can deny it (though they’ll try really hard – or at least, one of them will). 

In my opinion it’s been done to death. I’d like to see hot-and-heavy romances that have an actual foundation.  

SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi is a perfect example of what I like. Though the attraction between the two characters is introduced almost immediately, it’s because they have mutual history. It’s a history you don’t learn right away, but it provides a very plausible and much more satisfying beginning to their relationship (in my opinion).

Sharon: What book do you wish you had edited and why? 

Aimee: Definitely the BARELY BREATHING series, by Rebecca Donovan. The books were self-published before they were ready. But the story was compelling in a way that changed my reading habits.  

Of course, she’s since been picked up by an agent and a publisher’s going to come in and edit the books and make them even more amazing.

I wish I’d been with her in the early days to solve those “little” problems you mentioned at the opening of this interview. The books might have picked up an agent even more quickly.  

In my opinion, good ‘editorial’ advice doesn’t usually involve drastic changes (though it can). It’s usually about simply clearing the way for the reader – removing anything that will either break the read, or slow it down too much. It’s about helping an author let readers fall into their worlds and stories without realizing they’re not real.

Thanks Aimee!

So YAtopians, what's your editing tips?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A competition is coming...

Look for the #pitchmadness on Twitter and follow the blog to keep an eye out for more announcements.

Pitch Madness is coming up in September (genres tbd). We already have 8 agents signed up! Submission windows will be on September 1 and all the fun starts September 7-12 with a Twitter Pitch on the 13th open to everyone. Rules of the game, agents' bio, and instructions will be up the week of August 26.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Competition details for new YA forum!

I'm sneaking in an extra post to share the news about a new YA forum "The YA Book Club" where you can discuss books, connect with authors (including YAtopia's own Kelley York!) and even get feedback on your own writing.

Here's the post from my pal Jeyn Roberts:

In celebration of our new forum, YABookClub, we're going to be giving away some really cool goodies.


Susan Dennard has agreed to give away some signed copies of her new novel, "Something Strange and Deadly." She's also got some "Aim for the Knees" shirts!!!!

Jill Hathaway is going to be giving away some signed copies of her fantastic novel "Slide".

I've got some autographed copies of both Dark Inside and Rage Within to give away.

We still have to hear back from a few more authors so there may end up being a lot more goodies to give away too!

So here are the rules.

1. Join our community and start posting. Every time you post, you get an entry. But posting has to be reasonable. We will not accept one word posts or spamming the board about nothing.

2. Post as often as you like. The more you post, the more entries you get.

3. Be respectful. This isn't a competition...well...ok, it is. But that doesn't mean you can't have a great time doing it!

Contest ends Sept 15th. 
So if you like: Talking about books, winning stuff, connecting with authors then join up!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Book Birthday to KARMA BITES!

Karma Bites, a YA paranormal romance by our very own Nyrae Dawn (YA pen name for Kelley Vitollo), is releasing today from Crescent Moon Press!  Find out more about it over at Wendy's blog. You don't want to miss this one, guys...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Useful things are useful!

Remember that time when it seemed like all our computers had Microsoft Word? (If you're using a PC, that is.) And how, now, most of the time Microsoft Office and all its fun programs give you a crap 'starter' version while constantly mentioning you should really pay for the upgrade?

Yeah. Annoying.

Thankfully, these days for us writers, there are other alternatives. Free ones, at that. I've seen a lot of people asking in forums what program people use to write in. So I've compiled a few links I thought might help.

1. OpenOffice
OpenOffice is probably the most popular free choice. They offer not just a word processing program, but an equivelent to other programs, such as their version of Excel. OO can generally handle and import the Microsoft Word file types, too, which comes in handy when .doc is one of the most common file types in our querying world. OO also has the capability of using track changes, another feature many of us use religiously in Word.

2. Atlantis Word Processor
Atlantis feels a little 'lighter,' more streamlined than OO. I used it for a long while because it crashed and froze a lot less often than OO. The drawback being it didn't have track changes and lacked some of the editing strengths of OO.

3. Google Docs
Being able to store your writing online is pretty handy, and it helps prevent some of those nasty issues of, say, losing hours worth of writing when the power goes out. Its capabilities may not be as powerful as a desktop processor, but online sites like Google Docs definitely have their upsides.

The three above are the tools I've personally used, so I can't vouch for a lot of others. However:

- Here is another list of free Word alternatives, along with-

- This, which is a list of online writing tools, such as Google Docs.

I've been putting thought into switching over to Google Docs or a similar online program, simply because I switch back and forth between computers a lot. Having my most recent copy of my MS saved online without having to email it back and forth would come in handy.

Do you have any programs that make your writing journey easier?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sylvie Frank MG Pitch Contest - WINNERS!

Thanks so much to all of our wonderful pitch contestants! We had a lot of great pitches - I did not envy Sylvie having to choose a winner. Apparently, she agreed because she chose two winners!

Name: Jenn Brisendine
Word Count: 43,000
Genre: Upper MG adventure with fantasy elements

Through abandoned coal mine tunnels in the smoldering ruins of the hometown he destroyed, twelve-year-old Zeb Reardon enters the eerie setting of his father's novel to save his cousin and mend his own guilty heart.

Marcia Wells
WC 35,000
MG Boy Mystery Detective Adventure

Eleven-year-old Edmund becomes Eddie Red, spy kid. Job: NYPD sketch artist. Mission: Crack the art heist of the century, fight off alley cats with taser, go undercover as Girl Scout. Survive the sixth grade.

Congratulations Marcia and Jenn! You'll receive an email from me soon on how to submit your manuscript!

Thanks so much to Sylvie Frank for judging this contest! I'm glad you took the plunge and let us host your first online pitch session. You're welcome back to YAtopia any time.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Agentopia: Bridget Smith


Bridget Smith is an associate agent and all-around assistant at Dunham Literary, Inc.

Previously, she was an intern at Don Congdon Associates, worked at a secondhand book store in Connecticut, and evaluated short story submissions for Tor.com under Liz Gorinsky and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

She graduated from Brown University in 2010. While there, she studied anthropology and archaeology, worked as a radio DJ, fenced on the varsity team, and helped design an experiment that she later performed in microgravity at NASA (as seen on Twitter), so it’s fair to say she has pretty wide-ranging interests. Currently she reads, runs, and watches more television than is probably good for her.

Twitter: @bredalot
Agency website: www.dunhamlit.com


I’m looking for middle grade, young adult, and adult, in both fiction and academic nonfiction (no memoirs, please, but science, culture, and history are welcome).

Fantasy and historical are my soft spots (and I have a particular weakness for the two combined: if you’ve written a Regency fantasy, send it my way!), but I also like science fiction, contemporary, and genre-bending YA.

I love a good, distinctive voice and lovable characters with an off-kilter charm. Girl friendships. Boy friendships. Romance that flows under the surface, especially if no one talks about it – until they do. Snarky, funny dialogue in a heartfelt narrative. Gorgeous and true lines I want to cut out and paste on my wall. Contemporary characters doing something big or unusual outside the realm of high school, like elite athletes or radio DJs. Worlds I can get lost in, and characters I want to get lost with. 

How to Query

Send a query letter with my name in the subject line to query@dunhamlit.com. We also accept queries by post at 110 William Street, Suite 2202, New York, NY 10038. Our full guidelines are here: http://dunhamlit.com/?how-to-submit,4

UPDATE: Juliana Haygert from NA Alley asked if Bridget was open to New Adult. She said "Sure! It's very hard to sell right now, but I'm open to being sold on it."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Magical Books That Make Me Happy

photo by...well, me.
Have you ever read a book and loved it so much you had to stop and think, "Wow. That was an amazing book" and then the more you think about the more you're inspired by that book? Well, I'm sure you have, so it's kind of a stupid question. I am first and foremost a reader and because of that, books influence me in various ways. So, today I'd like to share what some of my favorite books are and how they influence me.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer:

It's no secret that Twilight is the book that made me want to start writing. Although it may not be the most well-written book, there's no doubt that Ms. Meyer has a talent for storytelling. The overall story is enthralling and I've taken a few pointers from it on how to keep readers interested--interested about the plot, the conflict, the characters, the romance. Everything.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor:

This book is purely amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Breath-stealing. Thanks to this book and Ms. Taylor, I've begun to think of new and more abstract ways of describing things and different ways to unfold a story.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:

Much like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this book reminds me to look at my descriptions and turn them on their heads. The language in this book is so lush and exquisite that it literally enchants you.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting:

Kimberly Derting has taught me how to create suspense, how to creep readers out, and how to write from the POV of the villain. This definitely helped me write the opening of Hunted.


So, what are your favorite books and how have they shaped your writing?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sylvie Frank MG Pitch Contest

It is time for our Middle Grade pitch contest with Holiday House editor Sylvie Frank! Click here to read the announcement post and find out more about what Sylvie is looking for.

Remember, only the first 30 pitches will be accepted for the contest. I will try very hard to close comments as soon as that happens, but I can't guarantee that will happen because I have no idea how fast this will go.

Only one entry per person is permitted. If you mess up your entry, delete your comment and post it again. This contest is for Middle Grade ages only! Your manuscript must be complete, polished, and ready for an editor to read!

To enter:

Post the following info in the comments of this post:

Your name
Your email
Word count
35-word pitch. (don't go over or you risk the chance of being disqualified!)

Sylvie will choose one winner to submit his/her full manuscript for consideration. The winner will be announced at YAtopia within a week.

If you have any questions, please email Sarah or send her a tweet. DO NOT post questions in the comments of this post.

Note: If you have an agent, you can still participate, but please communicate with him/her before pitching.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Myths About the Publishing World

I'm feeling reflective this morning...or maybe it's just my extremely boggled head from the 11-hour drive with my children through thunder storms yesterday. Whatever the reason, I'm realizing there were a lot of things that I, and others assumed, about the publishing world, and through this past year many of those ideas have crashed and burned, for better or worse.

Here are the myths I've come to realize, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but these are myths I've experienced or seen from my own personal experiences and the experiences of my friends:

~ Authors are rich. People assume when you publish a book with one of the big six the dough starts rolling in. This couldn't be further from the truth (except, perhaps, in the case of the select few who get mega-marketing and immediate bestseller status, but I don't know any of them personally to be able to ask). It's for this reason that I have to say "no" to the many requests I receive for signed books. :( 

~ Once you're picked-up by a big publishing house you get a welcome packet, you're embraced into the "family fold" and things start happening right away.  *hears crickets*

~ Authors have a hand in the cover-making process and big decisions such as publication date. Uh-uh. For this you've got to just sit back, relax, and trust.  

~ Publishers send all their authors on tours and travels to do signings. Nope. Unless you're one of those bestsellers spoken of above, it's out of your own pocket.

~ Publishers provide their authors with swag. *shakes head*

~ When you change your profiles to reflect your author status, all of the famous authors you adore will suddenly give you the time of day.

~ Authors get lots of free books and perks. *sniff, sniff* This was a hard truth for me to swallow, because I was really looking forward to free books, lol. And as a published author, I feel like it's kind of wrong to enter blogging giveaways and stuff, so freebies are out of the question. I do know of some authors who are sent free books by their editors unsolicited, for them to review, etc, but this hasn't been the case for me. (although I begged my awesome marketing girl for an Insurgent ARC and she kindly lent me hers, woot!)

~ Self-publishing is only for mediocre books that can't get published in the traditional way. Wrong. More and more people are choosing this route for their well-written, gorgeous stories because it's faster, they have control over the process, and they don't have to give 90+ percent to the publisher. In many cases it's just a smart move, especially if you have people who will do a thorough edit for you.

Please don't mistake this post for griping.  I was ignorant about a lot of things, and I'm just sharing the knowledge. When it comes down to it, publishing is a money-making business.  Publishers can't be expected to dote on hundreds of authors.  If you want those warm, fuzzy feelings, look to your fans. They're the awesome ones handing out cyber hugs and encouragement. And embrace your critique partners who are in the same boat as you.  Keep each other positive, and above all KEEP WRITING. Because that's what it's all about.

Hugs, Wendy