Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Best Articles This Week for Writers 10/28/11

After the Sale
Book Reviews
Congrats
Contests
Craft of Writing
Inspiration
Issues, News, and Trends
Just for Smiles
Self-editing
Social Media
To Market
Other Weekly Round-Ups:
Did we miss anything? Anyone? Please leave a comment!

Happy reading and joyous writing,

Martina, Clara & Marissa

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

3 WOW Wednesday: Greg R. Fishbone on Making the Jump from Writer to Author


Click on the Puzzle Piece for a  Chance to Win!
In law school, I was taught that there's a difference between a lawyer and an attorney. A lawyer is qualified to engage in the practice of law, while an attorney is engaged in the practice of law for somebody else. A lawyer becomes an attorney by taking on a client and representing that client's interests.

So what is the difference between a writer and an author? I think it's pretty much the same thing.

A writer is a person who writes, while an author writes with a readership in mind. 


Being technically proficient in the craft doesn't turn a writer into an author. Having books in print doesn't turn a writer into an author. Attending book talks, receiving positive reviews, or winning awards doesn't turn a writer into an author. Putting the reader's experience first is the only thing that will ever turn a writer into an author.

Starting out, I wrote mainly for myself. I wrote stories because they were fun for me to write. I wrote stories because they were challenging and I wanted to hone my skills. I wrote books I would have enjoyed reading as a kid. I shared my writing with others and enjoyed their positive feedback, but I was a writer because I wrote primarily for myself.

Today I have two books in print and I'm still struggling with the transition from writer to author. I'm happy to report that I am making progress. While writing the upcoming sequel to The Challengers over this past summer, I was finally able to keep an imaginary reader in mind as I worked. I'm becoming more aware of certain phrases or characters that existed primarily because they amused me. "Aha!" I'd say. "So these must be the metaphorical darlings that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch was urging us to murder!"

Not to say that authors can't have a little fun as well. I think a reader can tell when a story was written by somebody who was having a good time with the process. When you read The Phantom Tollbooth, you just know that Norton Juster had to have been pretty pleased with all the wordplay and puns. Lemony Snicket's books, with their heavy-handed, intrusive narrator, wouldn't have worked unless the reader was meant to be in on the joke. These and other fun-loving authors keep the reader in mind and still manage to have a blast with the writing process.

I'm still trying to strike the right balance, but it feels good to finish a new chapter and think, "I can't believe I just did that--the readers are going to love it." It really makes me feel like an author.
---

The Challengers - Book #1 in the Galaxy Games Series
Follow the Galaxy Games Blog Tour, all October long!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Today's WOW guest is Greg Fishbone, author of the Galaxy Games, a  middle-grade romp through space, in which eleven-year-old Tyler Sato leads a team of kids representing all of Earth in a sports tournament against alien kids from across the galaxy. You can find Greg at on his web site or on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

0 October 1st Five Pages Workshop Next Round Is Up

You know what to do! Comment kindly and constructively on each other's work. Be honest though.

Since we're getting down to the wire, it's okay to start looking at word choices that throw us out of the story. BUT if there are still bigger issues in plot, character, pacing, etc. that need to be resolved, the rule is always structure first. Words and syntax are polishing tools and won't shore up a story that can't yet support itself.

Also, a note for writers. The Novemeber workshop will start November 5th. We have some secret guest critiquers, so tune in next week to find out who is going to be jumping in to help our next intrepid batch of writers.

Happy revising,

Martina and Lisa

6 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Entry #3, Rev 3

Chapter One


What had started as an ordinary Thursday was quickly turning into something else. And it wasn’t even third period yet.

The muscles in Shea’s legs were jittering now, like little electric shocks were coursing through them. His whole body had flipped into some weird high gear at the same moment the school’s emergency system started its loud electronic beeping. Each beep over the monitors sent another zing racing in his bloodstream.

Could it be just the stupid tornado drill putting him on edge?

Logically, he knew tornados and tornado drills were simple facts of life in central Oklahoma. Plainville High’s cavernous gym had more than enough room to hold the entire student body. It wasn’t claustrophobia or nerves that had him on edge. It was something else. Something more. Almost as if there was an electrical charge in the air and Shea’s body was the lighting rod attracting it.

Finally, the all-clear bell rang and he heaved a sigh of relief as the tingling subsided.

“Okay, people,” said Mr. Kelley, raising his voice to get the attention of the freshmen milling next to the bleachers. “The drill’s over. Line up and head back to class.”

John Hansen pushed into line behind Shea. “At least we missed most of history.” John was taller than most and built like a blond brick wall. “Western Civ has got to be my least favorite class this year.”

“Yeah, Mr. Kelley can be harsh.” Just shy of six feet, Shea was considered big for a freshman, but even he felt dwarfed by his best friend. “I can never get all those dates right.”

“What are you talking about, Maguire?” John laughed. “You practically ace every quiz.”

Shea scowled. “No, no I don’t. I get some wrong.”

John kept laughing and shook his head. “Whatever. So… did you ask yet about Saturday? Mom said you could spend the night Friday so we can get an early start. Hello, Shea?”

He was distracted by one last little zing crackling along his spine. He’d never felt anything like this before, but it almost felt like his body remembered the strange sensations. It took a minute for Shea to register John’s question. “What? Oh, yeah, the Redhawks game. I forgot to ask.”

“Oh come on…”

“It depends on whether we get the rest of the fields planted by tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll have to stay. We don’t have as many farm hands as your family.”

“Your dad never lets you do anything fun.” With the overhead lights still off, the slatted blinds painted bold stripes of light along the desks closest to the windows, leaving the rest of the room in shadows. Darkness made no difference to Shea. His eyes always adjusted to whatever light was available.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think your dad was trying to keep you locked up away from the world.”

“Nah.” Shea shook his head. “Just a lot of work to do.”

“Hey, what if there really was a tornado, and it sucked away that stupid John Deere of yours?” John laughed. “Then your dad’ll have to let you come to the baseball game. He won’t have any excuses left.”

“Yeah, right. I’d never be so lucky.” Shea gestured toward the window, where brilliant blue skies peeked through the blinds. “Not a storm cloud to be seen.”

Just a stupid safety drill, Shea told himself as he dropped into his seat. Another quick shiver bolted down his spine.

The last few students entered the room and flipped on the lights. Jeannie and Maria had leaned up against one of the front row desks to flirt with Bobby Joe Peters. Shea scowled as Jeannie tossed her long red ponytail and smiled at some stupid thing B.J. said.

Jeannie glanced up, catching Shea’s stare. She leaned over to whisper in Maria’s ear. The pair both glanced his way and Shea felt his cheeks burn a little. John elbowed him in the ribs. “Dude, we’re not in middle school anymore. They’re cheerleaders now. Way out of our league.”

“Speak for yourself,” Shea said, and smiled in Jeannie’s direction.

“Oh, yeah.” John snorted. “Like your dad would let you out on a date, when he won’t even let you come to Oklahoma City with me for a baseball game.”

Up in the front, B.J. looked from one girl to the other, and then back toward Shea. His brows shot up as his eyes narrowed. Suddenly, B.J. sat straighter, making a big show of pointing his nose toward the ceiling and sniffing the air. “Do you smell something?” His voice was pitched a little too loud, his face contorting into an overly dramatic grimace while the girls giggled. “Something stinks…”

He flared his nostrils and slowly swiveled his head toward the back of the room. His eyes widened as he spotted Shea and John staring back at him. “Oh right, the farmboys are in this class! You should bathe more, Hansen. You too, Maguire. Eau de manure isn’t the ‘in’ thing this spring.”

Laughter filled the classroom. Shea could feel his face burning. Bobby Joe barreled on with his sneering tirade. “Didn’t your daddy ever teach you about soap, Maguire? Or doesn’t Mr. Farmer know any better? No wonder your mom ran out on you – she probably couldn’t stand the smell.”

Shea’s throat tightened as tears pricked at his eyes. He glanced at Jeannie and saw she was laughing right along with the rest.

“Don’t listen to them,” John said in a low voice, nudging his arm to remind Shea he still had a friend at his side. “They don’t understand. Not really.”

Neither do I, thought Shea, thudding his head down on his desk. The surface felt cool against his burning forehead. My mom didn’t even hang around long enough to get to know me, how could I understand?

Mr. Kelley entered the classroom. “All right, all right, settle down.” The tapping of his foot on the tiled floor got louder and louder as the students scurried to their seats. Shea didn’t need to look up to know the teacher wasn’t happy to have lost most of his precious class time. “Settle down and I’ll hand out last Friday’s quizzes. We can go over them before I take them back to keep in your files for this term.”

When he reached Shea’s desk, he stopped. “Mr. Maguire.” When Shea lifted his head, Mr. Kelley asked, “Can you guess how many questions you answered correctly?”

“Umm, I don’t know?” He heard Jeannie muffle another giggle and felt his cheeks flame again.

“You got one wrong,” Mr. Kelley answered, his eyes glittering. “Can you guess which one?”

The rest of the class had turned in their seats to watch the exchange. Shea felt the burn creep down his neck. “Um, no?”

“The third question,” Mr. Kelley said, carefully placing the test paper in the exact center of Shea’s desk. His index finger skewered the page to the surface as he stood staring into Shea’s face. “It bothered me, because it’s a question I was sure you answered correctly the week before.” The teacher paused, his eyes never leaving Shea. “So I checked.”

Shea dropped his gaze. “So?” he finally mumbled, wishing a hole would open in the floor to swallow him.

“I looked back through all your test papers. It seems you always get one question wrong every week. Regardless of whether it’s something I know that you know. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were getting answers wrong on purpose. Now, why would that be?”

“Um, Mr. Kelley… I…”

A knock on the classroom door interrupted, giving Shea a few extra minutes to scramble for an excuse that wouldn’t sound completely lame. How could he explain that he was just trying not to stand out? Or that…

“Is there a Shea Maguire here?”

Shea’s head jerked up. A state trooper stood in the doorway, mirrored sunglasses hiding his eyes. A cold ball formed in the pit of Shea’s stomach. His arm felt like lead as he raised his hand.

“Come with me, son,” commanded the trooper. Shea stood, automatically grabbing his backpack from the floor next to his chair. Moments ago he’d been wishing for a miracle to take him out of the situation, but suddenly he knew he’d rather stay.

He felt twenty pairs of eyes follow his long walk to the front of the room. Something was wrong. Really wrong.

“We’ll finish this discussion tomorrow,” Mr. Kelley called after him.

Shea kept walking.

6 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Entry #4, Rev 3

Name: Jenny Kaczorowski
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

Dark shadows flickered at the corners of Emma’s vision as she watched mourners gather around the fresh grave at the base of the hill. They clung to one another, finding comfort in knowing they didn’t mourn alone. Comfort she couldn’t share. Even from where she stood at the peak of the hill, their shock and grief and anger pounded against her.

The wind shaped her dark hair into softly waving tendrils and she brushed it away from her face with the back of her hand. She shifted her feet and the frozen dew clinging to the grass crackled under her.

Emma knew she should join the other mourners. She knew they expected her to share in their public display of sorrow.

But she couldn’t.

The slightest touch, the slightest betrayal of emotion and she would lose everything. Even a hug, a simple gesture meant to console, could send her spiraling out of control.

She remained frozen, a silent witness to their grief. She saw every detail in stunning clarity. The lurid green of the carpet covering the hole in the ground and the cold, dead coffin that held her best friend. The sky, the same colorless grey as her eyes, burned in her mind. Overwhelming sorrow surrounded her, but she refused to absorb any of it.

Her parents were worried. Not that she blamed them. She’d never handled loss well. She’d nearly self-destructed when Gabriel left four years earlier. And he’d only moved away.

Lily was dead.

Unbidden, an image rose before her eyes. She squeezed them shut to block out the vision, but the nightmare remained. Lily under the river, a modern Ophelia caught in the current. Her black and empty eyes stared at nothing. The golden strands of her hair spread around her like the rays of a halo in a Renaissance painting.

Emma tried to steady herself, to fight the panic rising in her chest. It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t hurt her. She repeated the words drilled into her brain. It’s not real. It can’t hurt me.

After so long, she’d almost learned to believe them.

Almost.

But this time it was real. Lily had drowned. And no matter what anyone said, Emma knew it wasn’t an accident.


#


Gabriel eased his body into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. He held his breath until the deadbolt slid into place. His eyes darted around the darkened room, illuminated only by the pale green of the florescent lights under the cabinets.

An empty wine glass stood in the sink, collecting water dripping from the faucet. A droplet hit the glass with a soft splash. He pivoted, ready to react, but the rest of the house remained still and silent.

He exhaled.

Gabriel doubted his clumsy attempt to sneak in had gone unnoticed, yet he didn’t hear the telltale creak of his mother’s bedroom door or the soft padding sound of her footsteps along the hallway. He slipped into the bathroom.

Leaning against the sink, he brushed his hair back to check for visible cuts or bruises – anything that would draw his mother’s attention.

It wasn’t a clean fight, but he could cover the marks it left on his body. He could hide the truth from his mother a little longer.

The blood-encrusted fabric of his shirt pulled against his skin as he peeled it away. Two ragged scars ran along his shoulder blades, bloody and hot to the touch. A bruise spread across his neck, seeping up from his chest and shoulder. He pressed against the dark purple splotch and winced.

“Gabe, honey?”

His mother’s voice made him cringe. “One minute, Mom. I’m about to take a shower.” Throwing a towel over his bare shoulders, he stuck his head into the darkened hallway.

“Are you alright?” Her dark eyes, so like his own, scrutinized his face. “I thought I just heard you come in.”

“Late night. Studying.”

“Again?” Her voice sounded sharper than usual.

He held her gaze, but remained silent.

“You’re barely seventeen,” she said.

“I can handle it.”

“What are they doing to you?” she said. She looked small and helpless. Gabriel could see fear in her eyes and wished he could erase it.

“Please, Mom.” He was afraid she’d come too close to the truth and force him into an outright lie.

“I’m trying not to ask too many questions, but please don’t keep shutting me out.”

“I need to do this, Mom. You know that. I can’t help who I am.”

She twisted the slim, gold ring on her left hand. “I talked to Grandma today,” she said. “She invited you to spend the summer with her.”

Gabriel startled. The invitation could only mean one thing. Emma.

“I want you to go,” his mother continued. “I want you to leave California.”

“Yeah. Sure. I’ll go,” he said.

“Thank you.” The worried crease in her forehead eased.

“Can I get my shower now?” he asked.

“Are you sure you’re okay? You look pale.” She reached out to touch his face and he instinctively pulled back. She dropped her hand and balled it into a fist. “I forget you’re not my little boy anymore.”

“I’m fine.”

“You look more and more like your father every day.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Goodnight, Gabriel.”

“’Night, Mom.” He closed the door and rested his head against it.


#


Emma sat in a secluded corner of the cheerful, chaotic art room. Rather than face the rush of students and teachers jostling to reach the parking lot, she meticulously cleaned her brushes. She glanced toward her final project – an intricate, Japanese-style brush painting – before heading into the fray again.

Students hurried to escape the high school and revel in the first afternoon of summer vacation. Emma slipped into the deserted hallways, able to breathe easier without the noise of hundreds of emotions buzzing around her.

A wayward freshman darted past and brushed against her. She flinched as their skin touched. His anxiety washed through her, triggering a vision of the boy pressing a razor blade against his wrist. His suffocating melancholy strangled her and she froze, fighting for breath. Part of her wanted to run after him, to hold on to him and let his dark emotions bleed into her.

Emma fought against the empathy coursing through her. It wasn’t like she could help everyone. She couldn’t even help Lily. Closing her hands into fists, she dug her nails into the soft flesh of her palms, focusing on the real, tangible pain until his emotions ebbed.

Letting out a shaky breath, she turned to check her empty locker one final time. She avoided looking at the memorial program taped to the inside of the door. She didn’t need to hold on to another reminder of her loss. She pushed the door closed and it gave a decisive, metallic clang.

Lily’s death had shocked the small college town of West River, but soon faded from memory. Once the official investigation ruled the drowning an accident, everyone moved on.

Lily’s death had shocked the close knit community of West River, but soon faded from memory. After all, in a place defined by the college dominating the north side of the city, people were used to stupid kids doing stupid thing. Once the official investigation ruled the drowning an accident, everyone moved on.

Everyone but Emma.

She felt cursed to carry the burden of memory alone. More than her best friend, was her kindred spirit, her Blood Sister.

5 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Entry #5, Rev 3

Linda Jackson
Middle Grade

My best friend Danielle frowns and yanks her lip gloss from my hand.
“Where were you when God was giving out lips?” she asks.

But before I can answer, she takes a tissue from her purse and starts scrubbing my lips like a crazy woman. “You got lip gloss everywhere, girl. I swear you got the thinnest lips I ever saw.”

I lean forward and mumble, “I don’t get to practice all the time like you do.”

My mama never lets me wear makeup. She says twelve is too young to be thinking about stuff like that. It’ll only draw attention from the wrong people. She really means boys. So I know she’ll say the same thing in a few weeks when I turn thirteen.

She’s nothing like Danielle’s mama, who’s been letting her wear makeup since sixth grade. On the very day she turned twelve. She’s cool like that. My mama, I’m sorry to say, has been around my great-aunt Millie too long. And those old-fashioned, backwoods Mississippi ways have rubbed off on her.

So that’s why every morning I meet up in the restroom with Danielle and her second best friend B. J. and put on some of Danielle’s makeup.

And since Danielle is helping me with my lip gloss, B. J.—because she hates being ignored—has to throw in her two cents. So she smiles a mean smile and says, “She was probably off somewhere looking for a doughnut. And by the time she looked up, God had run out of lip-making material.”

She always says the dumbest things. So I say something smart back to her. “I see you were doing the same thing when he was giving out cute faces.”

But before I can pat myself on the back for roasting her, B. J. plants her hands on her hips and looks me up and down. I know she’s found something to crack on me when that ugly smile pops up again. She smacks her gum real loud then nods and says, “I see you came around twice though when he was giving out chins.”

Then she just cracks up, like her jokes are so funny.

“Whatever,” I say.

But B. J. is still cracking up. I think about checking her again about her ugly face. But she already knows I hate being plump way more than she hates being ugly—even if she does look like her grandma. Like an old woman with Beyonce’s body.

“There,” Danielle says, turning me to face the mirror. “Perfect.”

I nod and smile. Danielle has the magic touch.

B. J. frowns at me in the mirror but doesn’t say anything.

“You look good, Ken Kim,” Danielle assures me.

B. J. smirks.

“Whatever,” I mumble.

B. J. leans back and gives me that look again. She crosses her arms over her perfect chest and sneers. “Maybe you can get some of that fat sucked off them cheeks and injected into them paper-thin lips.”

She cracks up again. And it doesn’t even bother her that she’s the only one laughing.

“Stop hatin’, B. J.,” Danielle says.

B. J. slings her purse over her shoulder and heads toward the door.
Victory is written all over that ugly face.

She yanks the door open then turns and locks her eyes on me. “Ain’t nothing to hate,” she says.

I take a deep breath to fight back the tears, but Danielle already knows what’s up.

She snaps open her purse. “Girl, you better not start crying,” she says. “You know that mascara ain’t waterproof.”

She hands me a tissue then smiles at me like I’m her best friend ever.
But it doesn’t cheer me up.

“Why does she hate me?” I murmur.

Danielle puts her makeup back into her purse. “She’s just jealous,” she says.

“Jealous? Seriously, Danielle.” I step back and let her take a good look at my blouse hugging the roll of fat around my waist.

Danielle flashes a devilish grin. “Yeah, but look at that face.”

We both laugh, and I dab away the tears before they ruin my makeup.

“Seriously though,” Danielle says, “you know B. J. doesn’t want me having any friends except her.”

I grunt and pretend I’m not one bit jealous that she was B.J.’s friend long before she was mine.

“She’s really not that bad,” Danielle shrugs and says. “She only acts that way when you’re around.”

“Thanks a lot,” I roll my eyes and say.

B. J. has been snubbing me since the first day we met last year in sixth grade. It all started when she saw my name “Ken K. Easton” on the class roster and thought I was a boy.

“Ken. Hmmm. He sounds cute,” she’d said, running her finger over my name in a way that gave me goose bumps.

I was standing right behind her, so I said, “I’m not a he. I’m a she.”

B. J. whisked around and observed me from head to toe. Then she turned up her nose and said, “That’s a stupid name for a girl.”

But Danielle turned to me and said, “Hi. I’m Danielle.” She stuck out her hand for me to shake and said, “Nice to meet you, Ken.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” I shook her hand and said. “It’s actually Ken Kim. They always forget to spell out ‘Kim’. So everybody thinks I’m a boy.”

“Ken Kim,” Danielle said sweetly. “That’s a nice name. It sounds Chinese or something.”

I smiled and shook my head. “It’s not. I’m named after my daddy.”

B. J. smirked. “Your dad’s name is Kim? What kind of name is that for a man?” She emphasized “man” like she was trying to imply something.

I shook my head. “No, my daddy’s name is Ken. Kenneth, really. But my name is Ken Kim. First name Ken. Middle name Kim. My mama named me Ken, after my daddy. But the Kim part was my aunt’s idea.”

B. J. stood there and looked at me like I had barfed up my breakfast.
After a few seconds, she wrinkled up her old-lady face and said, “Who cares.”

But Danielle smiled and said, “I like your name. It’s cool.”

“It’s stupid,” B. J. said. Then she rolled her eyes and walked away.
She hasn’t stopped torturing me since.

Danielle throws her purse over her shoulder. “Let’s get out of here, girl,” she says. “You know Mr. Davis wasn’t kidding yesterday when he
said: ‘If you’re late, count on staying with Mrs. Conley in the detention room for the day. No field trip.’”

“And you know I don’t wanna miss this field trip,” I say, grabbing my backpack from the counter. “My first field trip without my mama breathing down my neck. Thank goodness for Mr. Davis’
no-mama-chaperoned-field-trip rule.”

Danielle gives me a high-five. “We can finally sit together on the bus!”

I groan. “Yeah, if B. J. doesn’t try to knock me off the seat.”

Danielle stops at the door and sighs. “It’s gonna be a great day, Ken Kim. Don’t let B. J. spoil it.”

I half-smile and mumble, “I won’t.”

Danielle shakes her head. “It’s not that serious, girl. Don’t let her bully you. Take a deep breath and perk up.”

“You’re right,” I say, relaxing my shoulders a bit. “Today is gonna be great. And I’d be a fool to let B. J. ruin it for me.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

8 Best Articles This Week for Writers 10/21/11

After the Sale
Book Reviews
Congrats!
Contests
Craft of Writing
Critiquing
Inspiration
Issues, News, and Trends
Just for Smiles
Self-editing
Social Media
To Market

Other Weekly Round-Ups:
Did we miss anything? Anyone? Please leave a comment!

Happy reading and joyous writing,

Martina, Clara, and Marissa

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

14 The Terror Within: A Hypothetical Look at Changing Agents PART II

Today, we're turning WOW Wednesday back over to Georgia McBride. You all know Georgia, or you should. She's the genius and inspiration behind #YALITCHAT, and if you don't know what that is, go there now. Also be sure to follow her on Twitter. You'll very quickly understand why that's a good idea. Also since this is Part II, you might want to read Part 1 first.

The Terror Within: A Hypothetical Look at Changing Agents
PART II
by Georgia McBride

WOW. After Part I of my post I received thirteen emails, five direct messages on twitter, seven private messages on Facebook, four texts to my phone and two phone calls. Everyone wanted to know if the post was about me and whether I had crafted a fictional tale of my own personal experience. A few of those inquiries came from literary agents, all very well-meaning of course. Let me just say this. First, thank you all for your concern. It is very sweet. But, the post was actually something I’d been meaning to write about for some time. I only hadn’t had the time and wanted to make it special and interesting, not depressing and boring.

So, when I was asked to do this guest blog post, I decided now is the time. Why? Since January 2011, I have personally spoken to eight writers published and non, who have left their agents for various reasons THIS YEAR and three well-published writers who have offered their support and sharing how they have left agents in their careers. Some of you already know that I too have had an agent change this year. BUT, before I tell you my personal story, let’s get back to our heroine and find out what’s happened since we last saw her.

Betty (bet you had NO idea that was her name) has spent two weeks crying into the phone, drunk tweeting and eating chocolate faster than Willy Wonka can produce it. Even Renesme (I know this isn’t the correct spelling, but she is so worried about plagiarism that she insists on spelling it this way) the cat is sick of looking at her and runs away at the sound of her voice. Betty’s kids have moved in with neighbors since she resembles Zombie Mom more than the mom they remember. And hubby? Oh crap. She kind of remembers something about leaving him at Costco a week ago but can’t be sure, so she dials his number at work only to be stumped on the fifth digit. So she calls the only friend whose number she can recall to ask if she can help her find her husband and she reminds Betty that they are in fact divorced and have been for two years. Ugh.

Scrolling her email Betty clicks on the latest deal news from Publishers Marketplace and reads lazily until she notices a deal made by her former agent in the genre in which she writes – or rather used to write, since she hasn’t written a single word other than drunk tweets in the past two weeks. Some BITCH got HER DEAL. Oh man. Betty takes a deep breath and tries to be the bigger person when all of a sudden she realizes she IS the bigger person. In fact, she must have gained like seven pounds since the whole leaving her agent thing started. Then it hits her, something has to give. She can’t live like this. She need to reclaim her life starting with figuring out how she will move on, maybe find a new agent and get the darn cat to love her again.

Betty takes a seat and begins to think about what went wrong with her last agent. Is there anything she could have done that would have resulted in a different outcome? Anything? She wonders if former Awesome Agent is thinking of her, if perhaps she might be having similar thoughts, maybe even regrets. Well. Not the ones about eating all the Bon Bons, but the ones about what she could have done differently.

Meanwhile in an office in Manhattan, our former agent is in a regularly scheduled monthly meeting and today she will talk about her clients and their various goings on. Client 1 has a few recent foreign sales, client 2 is in round 3 of revisions for her MG, client 3 has sold world rights to her Cooking With Steroids book and Client 4 is going on submission with a historical romance in two weeks! Client 5 is no longer a client. When asked what went wrong, she has this to say, “Client had unreasonable expectations for the relationship, and by the time I was ready to start looking at her submissions timeline, trends were beginning to shift and the editors who may have been interested in the project months ago have moved in a different direction. I’m not certain I could have convinced them otherwise or that she’s a strong enough writer that I would have been able to work through revisions where it would have mattered.”

OUCH! It’s a good thing Betty isn’t listening.

Unfortunately, our heroine will never hear that very important feedback from our agent and simply believes the agent didn’t care enough. In my humble opinion, perhaps the agent could have, when they first spoke, expressed her concerns about the novel and its thin possibility for acceptance by a very small potential pool of editors despite how much the agent herself liked the work. This would have set the expectation from the beginning and given the author something to consider. Having said that, would the author choose NOT to sign with an agent who presented the opportunity in this way? Is it better for the agent to sugarcoat?

Of course, no agent can predict whether a title will sell to editors or if any interest at all will be shown. (S)he must use her/his instincts, trends in the market, and past sales to determine what might be of interest based on limited information. (S)he can only give the author an idea of an editor’s tastes, what types of books are selling, and what that editor has recently acquired. Nothing is ever guaranteed.
What Betty could have done upfront was ask the agent some serious questions before signing: What will happen if my book doesn’t sell? How many rounds will you do before determining the book to be unsalable? What happens then? The writer can also ask: Will the agency contract only cover the one particular book or a specific period of time?

What Betty should NEVER EVER have done was threaten the agent that she was going to leave if what she wanted was to get the agent’s attention or to get her to see the error of her ways and ask her to stay! No matter what the reason, unless a writer firmly intends to leave and is positive (s)he cannot be talked out of leaving and ending the agency relationship, (s)he shouldn’t even bring up leaving. There is a HUGE difference between working through issues with an agent and wanting to end the relationship. Every relationship has problems from time to time. The agent-writer relationship is no different.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to Betty’s, never THREATEN to leave. If you are going to leave, and have made up your mind, leave. Leave quietly, be professional and move on. And whatever you do, DO NOT GO BLIBBER-BLABBERING ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. This is simply wrong. No agent wants to hear about how your last agent was horrible and you had to leave because the level of horribleness was counter to your awesomeness. It will be very difficult for you to find another agent if you put this negative talk out into the world.

TALK TO YOUR AGENT. Don’t be a drama queen/king. Tell your agent what is troubling you, and don’t be defensive or confrontational. Accusations and assumptions never help. Ask questions, provide solutions.

If your issue is lack of communication, say so. I think we can all do better with communication. Ask your agent about expectations. If you send her/him an email on Monday, and you would like to hear back by Wednesday at the latest, find out if that’s unreasonable given her schedule. If so, what timeframe works best for her/him? REMEMBER, the relationship with your agent is a two-way relationship. Your agent should NEVER make you feel as if (s)he is holding all the power, and you should never be inflexible and completely insane, er, I mean unreasonable. If either of these situations exists, you are not in a positive agent-writer relationship, and should seek remedy.

If your issue is lack of information or you feel as if you don’t know what’s going on, let me first say this: THERE IS NOTHING GOING ON. Agents don’t normally withhold information of great importance from their clients. It is not unheard of that an agent may want to save all your news for a phone call later in the week rather than having to email or call you ten times with small bits of information. But other than that, if your agent hasn’t called back or emailed, it is likely that’s because (s)he has nothing to report. There is something called common courtesy however, and if you have a question and have called a few times or emailed, I expect most agents will reply in some way to ease your concern.

It’s a little different when you are on submission, if there is a contract on the table or in dispute, or there are issues with the publisher, you are on tour, etc. In those cases, you may need communication more frequently. HOWEVER, even when there is little going on, there is nothing wrong with you checking in every 1-2 weeks simply to let your agent know you are alive. Try to keep the communication short and to the point. I like to send these kinds of notes.

Hi agent full of awesomeness,

Hope all is well. Just writing to say hello and to let you know I am working on blah blah blah and have an appearance coming up at blah blah. Keep being a rock start and talk soon!

XO-G

This kind of communication lets the agent know you are thinking about her/him, writing and not being a slacker, but does NOT add work to their day by requiring them to write you back.

It’s what our Betty could have done, or should have done. But she didn’t. She simply assumed her fantastic agent would call her, was thinking of her 24/7 and would let her know when stuff was poppin’.

I have no intention of laying sole responsibility at Betty’s feet. But I do feel that, as a writer, you must take your career into your own hands. Don’t sit back and rely on others. They call it “hiring” an agent for a reason.

So, now here Betty is again. She has made a list (didn’t I tell you she sat at the kitchen table and made a list of all the things she wants and all she does not want in an agent? PAY ATTENTION, PPL), and she heads to her computer determined to select new agents who she feels may be able to 1. Breathe new life into current project, 2. Help her see the way clear to the next project, and 3. Partner with her a tad longer than last agent.

She smiles to herself for the first time since being without her former agent as she realizes that one of the best things to come from no longer being agented is that she can clearly see what she needs in an agent. She will be much better prepared when she gets “the call” and she now knows what questions she needs to ask to find the right agent for her specific and very unique needs.

TO BE CONTINUED: Look for Part III on Georgia’ blog next week, including information Georgia’s own agent journey.

Meanwhile, join us tonight for #yalitchat on twitter at 9PM EST where Georgia is hosting AGENTPALOOZA. Find agent tips, when to submit, where to submit, how to submit, best agent resources, horror stories, slush pile madness, agent shout outs and more! That’s tonight, Wednesday, October 19, 2011.

COMMENT TO WIN -- THE BEGINNING OF AFTER (ARC) or BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. (U.S. and Canadian entries only.)



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

40 Tahereh Mafi on the Road to SHATTER ME

Today we have an interview with the amazing Tahereh Mafi, who was one of the first people Marissa and I met while blogging. She had this incredible blog, and this wonderfully generous nature, and a brilliant sense of humor. So it is no surprise to anyone when she got a HUGE book deal, for a book that we all can't wait to see out in the world. She deserves so many good things! Read on for her interview, and a chance to win a copy of the hardcover.

Q) How did Shatter Me happen, from idea to deal?

SHATTER ME started as little more than a voice in my head. I just heard this girl -- I could see her in my mind -- trapped, locked up somewhere. I knew she was scared and afraid to speak and that she'd been locked up for something she never meant to do. That's really all it took for me to start writing it all out. I followed her voice, allowed her character to develop and open up to me -- to tell me what her story was and where it would go.

It always sounds crazy, talking about the voices in our heads, but really, that's how it happens. I just listen to the imaginary people living in my brain and wait for them to tell me what to do.

Once I had a finished, polished book in my hands, I set out to find the right agent for it, and Jodi took over from there. It's been a lot of fun. :D

Q) If you could offer one piece of craft advice to other writers, what would it be? What most made the difference for you in writing a "big book?"

This was the first manuscript wherein I'd ever truly allowed myself to let go. To allow my mind to dictate the story; to be unencumbered by what I was conditioned to believe was the "correct" way to write a book. I didn't think about whether or not it would be a "big book" -- I had no idea whether or not it would sell at all -- and I certainly didn't plan for it to amount to much more than a transcription of the story trapped in my head. And I think it's in those moments -- when we grant ourselves the freedom to let go, to surrender completely to the characters, to the passion for painting pictures with words -- it's in those moments that we write from the truest parts of ourselves. That's the only advice I could ever give a fellow writer: don't think about creating the Next Big Thing.

This industry is so subjective; a book you hate is a book someone else loves and a book that made you want to sing from the rooftops is a book that made another want to fling it at the wall. You'll never be able to please everyone. So don't try to.

Q) What was the biggest "aha" moment of your road to publication?

The minute I learned to be okay with things outside of my control, everything became easier.

Publishing is a business, and we tend to forget that sometimes, because writing is such an intensely personal experience.

But learning to accept very little from everyone but myself really gave me peace. I focus on my own work, and everything else is extra. The good things are unexpected delights; the hard things will hopefully serve to make me stronger. But at the end of the day, my job is to write the best book I can.

That's it.

Q) What craft books or workshops would you recommend to other writers?

I've never actually read a book on craft, or attended a workshop on writing, so I don't know what that's like. I can only recommend that writers read books. All books. All kinds of books. Good books. Bad books.

Read within your genre, read outside of your genre, read magazines, DVD packaging, the backs of cereal boxes; read street signs and song lyrics.

Read poetry and memoirs and history books and picture books and romance novels and instruction manuals. Read everything. Inspiration is everywhere, and your writing style will develop as a result of what you read and learn to love and hate. You'll learn to write by reading a lot and writing a lot and doing that over and over and over again. That's it.

Workshops are great, and craft books are great, but the only way to learn is to try, to be ready to fail, and then to fail, and then to try again and again until it works. Don't be afraid to fall flat on your face; don't be afraid to write a bad book; don't be afraid to be a failure and don't be afraid to be a success. Because each attempt is a learning experience in and of itself; your efforts are never ever wasted.

So just let go. Write what feels right even if it's all wrong and keep doing that forever.

<3


SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

From Goodreads:
Click to Pre-order
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Sounds great, right? Want to read it? Enter below by November 15th (release day) and you could win a copy. U.S. and Canadian entries only.

Monday, October 17, 2011

0 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Revision 2 Round Is Open

The next round of revisions is up for the October 1st Five Pages Workshop. We invite everyone to comment, kindly and constructively on the entries below. What do you like? What throws you off? Are you hooked? Comment as either a reader or a writer.

And if you are a writer, don't forget. Our next workshop starts the first Saturday of November so get your manuscripts ready!
Have a great week, everyone!

Martina and Lisa

6 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Entry #2, Rev 2

Katie O'Sullivan
Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy


What had started as an ordinary Thursday was quickly turning into something else. And it wasn’t even third period yet.


The strange tingling sensations running up and down his legs had Shea more than a little concerned. It was like his whole body had flipped into some weird high gear as soon as the school’s emergency system started its loud electronic beeping. His chest felt constricted, his lungs laboring like he’d been working out all morning instead of sitting in class.


Could it be just the stupid tornado drill putting him on edge?


Tornados and tornado drills were facts of life in central Oklahoma, and the high school’s cavernous gym had more than enough room to hold the entire student body. So why was Shea having trouble breathing? Finally, the all-clear bell rang and he heaved a sigh of relief.


“Okay, people,” said Mr. Kelley, raising his voice to get the attention of the freshmen milling next to the bleachers. “The drill’s over. Line up and head back to class.”


John Hansen pushed into line behind Shea. “At least we missed most of history.” John was taller than most and built like a blond brick wall. “Western Civ has got to be my least favorite class this year.”


“Yeah, Mr. Kelley can be harsh,” Shea agreed. Just shy of six feet, Shea was considered big for a freshman, but even he felt dwarfed by his best friend. “I can never get all those dates right.”


“What are you talking about, Maguire?” John laughed. “You practically ace every quiz.”


Shea scowled. “No, no I don’t. I get some wrong.”


John kept laughing and shook his head. “Whatever. So… did you ask yet about Saturday? Mom said you could spend the night Friday so we can get an early start.”


Shea was still distracted by the last of the little zings shooting through his muscles, like electrical sparks crackling along his spine. “What? Oh, yeah, the Redhawks game. I forgot to ask.”


“Oh come on, Shea…”


“It’ll depend on whether we get the rest of the fields planted by tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll have to stay. We don’t have as many farm hands as your family.”


“Your dad never lets you do anything fun,” John groaned as they reached their shadowy classroom. With the overhead lights still off, the students groped their way to their desks. The darkness made no difference to Shea since his eyes always adjusted instantly to whatever light was available.


“If I didn’t know better, I’d think your dad was trying to keep you locked up away from the world,” John said, bumping against another desk.


“Nah.” Shea shook his head quickly. “Just a lot of work to do.”


“Hey, what if there really was a tornado, and it sucked away that stupid John Deere of yours?” John laughed. “Then your dad’ll have to let you come to the baseball game. He won’t have any excuses left.”


“Yeah, right. I’d never be so lucky.” Shea gestured toward the window, where brilliant blue skies peeked through the slatted blinds. “Not a storm cloud to be seen.”


Just a stupid safety drill, Shea told himself, looking out at the cloudless sea of blue. Another quick shiver bolted down his spine.


The last few students entered the room and flipped on the lights. Jeannie and Maria had leaned up against one of the front row desks to flirt with Bobby Joe Peters. Shea scowled as Jeannie tossed her long red ponytail and smiled at some stupid thing B.J. said.


Jeannie glanced up, catching Shea’s stare. She leaned over to whisper in Maria’s ear. The pair both glanced his way and Shea felt his cheeks burn a little. Maybe John and I should ask them out to the movies this weekend, Shea thought, emboldened by their smiles. His eyes slid over toward John as he remembered the baseball game. Maybe they could come with us to see the Redhawks. Hope dad finishes the plowing today without me.


John elbowed him in the ribs. “Dude, we’re not in middle school anymore. They’re cheerleaders now. Way out of our league.”


“Speak for yourself,” Shea said, and smiled in Jeannie’s direction. “Never hurts to ask, right?”


Up in the front, B.J. looked from one girl to the other, and then back toward Shea. His brows shot up as his eyes narrowed. Suddenly, B.J. sat straighter, making a big show of pointing his nose toward the ceiling and sniffing the air. “Do you smell something?” His voice was pitched a little too loud, his face contorting into an overly dramatic grimace while the girls giggled. “Something stinks…”


He flared his nostrils and slowly swiveled his head toward the back of the room. His eyes widened as he spotted Shea and John staring back at him. “Oh right, the farmboys are in this class! You should bathe more, Hansen. You too, Maguire. Eau de manure isn’t the ‘in’ thing this spring.”


Laughter filled the classroom. Shea could feel his face burn with embarrassment. Bobby Joe barreled on with his sneering tirade. “Didn’t your daddy ever teach you about soap, Maguire? Or doesn’t Mr. Farmer know any better either? No wonder your mom ran out on you – she probably couldn’t stand the smell.”


Shea’s throat constricted, any thought of continuing the argument gone. He glanced at Jeannie and saw she was laughing right along with the rest.


“Don’t listen to them,” John said in a low voice, nudging his arm to remind Shea he still had a friend at his side. “They don’t understand. Not really.”


Neither do I, thought Shea, giving John a half-hearted nod before putting his head down on his desk. The surface felt cool against his burning forehead. My mom didn’t even hang around long enough to get to know me, how could I understand?


Mr. Kelley entered the classroom. “All right, all right, settle down.” He put his hands on his hips as he waited for everyone to find their seats. “There’s just enough time to hand out last Friday’s quizzes and go over them. I’ll want them back before you leave the room, to keep in your files for the term.”


When he reached Shea’s desk, the teacher stopped. “Mr. Maguire.” When Shea lifted his head, Mr. Kelley asked, “Can you guess how many questions you answered correctly?”


“Umm, I don’t know?” He heard Jeannie muffle another giggle and felt his cheeks flame again.


“You got one wrong,” Mr. Kelley answered, his eyes glittering. “Can you guess which one?”


The rest of the class had turned in their seats to watch the exchange. Shea felt the burn creep down his neck. “Um, no?”


“The third question,” Mr. Kelley said, carefully placing the test paper in the exact center of Shea’s desk. His index finger skewered the page to the surface as he stood staring into Shea’s face. “It bothered me, because it’s a question I was sure you answered correctly the week before.” The teacher paused, his eyes never leaving Shea. “So I checked.”


Shea dropped his gaze. “So?” he finally mumbled, wishing a hole would open in the floor to swallow him.


“I looked back through your test papers. It seems you always get the third question wrong. Number three. Every week.”


“Um, Mr. Kelley… I…” A knock on the classroom door interrupted, giving Shea a few extra minutes to scramble for an excuse that wouldn’t sound completely lame. How could he explain that he was putting down wrong answers on purpose, so that he wouldn’t stand out? That his father told him perfect grades would draw undue attention?


It was Shea’s own fault for being lazy about the way he accomplished it.


“Is there a Shea Maguire here?”


Shea’s head jerked up. A state trooper stood in the doorway, mirrored sunglasses hiding his eyes. A cold ball formed in the pit of Shea’s stomach. His arm felt like lead as he raised his hand.


“Come with me, son,” commanded the trooper. Shea stood, automatically grabbing his backpack from the floor next to his chair. Moments ago he’d been wishing for a miracle to take him out of the situation, but suddenly he knew he’d rather stay.


He felt twenty pairs of eyes follow his long walk to the front of the room. Something was wrong. Really wrong.


“We’ll finish this discussion tomorrow,” Mr. Kelley called after him.


Shea kept walking.