Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Year New Challenges

Okay. So 2013 was the year of “I just need to finish the book.” I actually wrote a novel (and a few picture book manuscripts too). It was the year of becoming a writing machine. It was the year of balancing being mommy, wife, teacher, and writer (which I think I am doing alright at for now). I learned about tons of great contests, supportive writers and critique partners, and I am finally getting the hang of getting my work out there.

Now 2014 will the year of perfecting the art. Finishing the manuscript is great, but I am never one to revel in my accomplishments too long. On to the next Everest-sized task. Getting representation. This entails, polishing, editing, revising, then repeat about a thousand more times. It means branching out and writing a few something elses too (currently working on a YA novel I am psyched about). What it truly means though, is never losing my love of the art. Writing lights me up. Coming up with new ideas, characters, plot twists, stretching my imagination and what I think I am capable of.

For all of my writer friends, here is to a 2014 where your dreams come true and you do what you love without losing sight of it *drink alcoholic beverage of choice*.

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Pitchmas

These ladies are hard working and love to help other writers. Follow them all year long!

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December 22, 2013 · 2:07 pm

What I Learned From Pitchmas

After participating in my first pitch contest, I learned some valuable lessons that I want to pass on. Maybe it will help those even less experienced than myself.

1) They are fun: I had a BLAST participating in PitchMAS! That is the most important lesson. It was incredibly fun with tons of other supportive writers all participating and sending love to one another. Pitch contests are definitely my speed because they are fast-paced and to the point. That is precisely my style! I like to get to the point and sometimes, using more words that necessary to describe or pitch a novel is a pain. Plus, it was a ton of fun to read everyone else’s pitches too!

2) They are great exposure: I got exactly two bites out of the contest, but that is two more than I had before. The agent who showed interest is one I NEVER would have queried based on the information on her agency’s website and the publisher was one I had never heard of. Not to mention there were possibly thousands of people who saw my pitches on Twitter. Even though there were not a million people chomping at the bit for my pitches, people saw them and there were some nibbles. I consider myself lucky to have those two nibbles because it only takes one to change everything. I am not delusional, but I am also optimistic.

3) They save you time: I was able to pitch to lots of agents and editors simultaneously without having to write each a query letter and get that lovely rejection letter we all know and love. There were many agents that participated in this contest that I was planning on querying who were not interested in my novel. THAT IS FINE! It saved me a ton of time querying them all and writing letters and looking at requirements and waiting patiently just to get a no. Even though I am bummed they were not interested, it was a huge time saver.

4) It refined my pitch: Refining my pitches, having others read them and critique them, and getting feedback is super helpful. I had my husband, who knows even less than I know about publishing, read my pitches. The one we worked on together made the top 75. He gave great feedback and helped me really get to the heart of my novel. That is invaluable. I had to consider what my book was really about and how I could convey that meaningfully. Now, I definitely have a better query letter because I took that same approach when I was rewriting it to send to agents. Super helpful!

5) Connecting with the writing community: There really is a community of writers, agents, and publishers, who want you and your novel to succeed. Everyone is RIDICUOUSLY nice and supportive. I love it. I love helping someone else and seeing them succeed. I also love the advice of others who have been at this much longer than I have. Their encouragement means a lot.

6) NO HARM NO FOUL: The most important lesson I have learned is if you do not try, you are no better off than you were before. I didn’t have a HUGE amount of response to my pitches, but I am better off than I was a week ago. Even I get some feedback about my novel from those I sent it to, this whole experience was a win. I am willing to learn whatever I have to, to make becoming a writer work. Often times, that means putting your work out there to be ridiculed or hopefully, praised. Regardless, because I tried, I am better off than I was before. But it will never happen if you don’t put yourself out there and try.

 

Happy Holidays Everyone. Here is to a New Year filled with promise, trying new things, and conquering goals.

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The Beauty of a Pitch Contest

‘Tis the season for all things pitch contest. Since I am new to this whole publishing thing, I wanted to put this out there for those who are novices too. It is simply what I have learned by looking at submissions and submitting to some myself.

I love that most of these contests have a maximum word requirement, which is typically pretty small. Yes, it is difficult. I write several and then rethink. Sometimes I merge one idea to another and tweak some more. But the challenge is the beauty of it. The ability to be succinct in your pitch and make every word count is a great exercise in editing, revising, and word choice. Three things that every author has to master, like it or not.

After concocting a few of them and hemming and hawing for a while, I give them to someone else to look at. I ask them which one or combo of two would make you read this book. The feedback I get is always constructive and helpful, even if I choose not to go with their suggestions. It is an exercise in good literary judgment. It also ensure you have something that is marketable and would make someone want to read the rest of your book. Your pitch has to be persuasive and if it isn’t forget it. Always make sure that you get some feedback before posting.

The glory of the pitch contest is that feedback and results are fairly instantaneous (for all the anxious ones like me). There is no waiting around for rejection letters. There is no driving yourself to insanity with anxiety. As a writer, you receive prompt feedback and adjust accordingly. Obviously, one person’s opinion is not the final say. But if your pitch has missed in two or three pitch contests, there is something wrong. It takes a lot less time to figure that out with pitch contests because you get feedback so fast.

Finally, I love that they reach a wide variety of authors and editors. There are always some fantastic people who sign up to look at the pitches. In all honesty, it is a great opportunity for them to not dig through their inbox for something great. They can quickly scan a list of pitches and choose the ones who scream to them. As a writer, you essentially submit all at once to multiple agents and it can definitely ease the burden of querying.

The pitch contest is a great beginning and supplement to the traditional route of querying. They provide new challenges, great feedback and a wider more diverse audience of agents and editors. Thank the book gods!

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Optimism

Round Two DING DING. After a first attempt at getting published with my picture books and not being very successful, I am trying again. I do not consider the first attempt a failure, even though I was unsuccessful at getting an agent, because I learned a lot. I also believe that somewhere in the cosmic sphere that I will leave it alone for a while and at some time it will work out.

While I was waiting, I wrote a novel. You know, because I have nothing else to do (did you catch the sarcasm). Now, I am going to try and get my middle grade novel published. I have queried a select few agents that I would LOVE to work with. They are like my “reach schools” when you apply to college. Actually, I have the exact same anxiety waiting for responses and praying that one of them says they are interested. Just getting a partial request would be a thrill. But again, I believe that what is meant to be will be, as cheesy as it sounds.

Obviously, I believe deeply in this novel or I would not be trying for round two. I wrote this book for every middle school boy who feels like they are a round peg being forced into a square hole. I teach special education and I see it every day. I wanted to give these boys a voice and tell them they can do great things. Being dorky is wonderful (from personal experience). I try to show them that every day. I think this novel is another way to show them that being different can be amazing.

I also, am glaringly aware, that actions speak louder than words. I am constantly trying to show my students that anything is possible. Now that I have a daughter, I also constantly think about how my actions will affect what I want to teach her. So here we go again.

Optimism can be difficult to come by, especially when something so personal is being put on display for rejection. When you have so many hopes and wishes for what this novel would mean. But, in the long run the optimism is the only thing that keeps us going. Here is to hoping that someone connects with what I have written, so it can also connect with lots of other kids. And now, I wait in optimism.

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Why I Now Love Twitter

I hated Twitter. From the very beginning, my thought was, “who the hell cares what you do every second of your life?” Don’t get me wrong, in many cases, that is still my thought. However, my eyes have been opened to the beauty and wonder that is Twitter. Why, you might ask? Because, since joining, I have learned many things about writing in general. Here are the revelations:

1. Wealth of resources: I follow both agents, writers and publishers alike. There are posts with websites on how to do everything from write a great query letter to how to engage a reader in any genre and age. Agents are incredibly helpful with answering the infamous #askagent questions and they are words straight from the gurus themselves. Does it get any better than that? Publishers love to show off their new acquisitions, which give you an idea of what the market needs, is accepting, and is oversaturated with. Famous and infamous bloggers post on all the tricks of the trade from editing, to querying, to critique partners, to pitch contests. Twitter has opened my world up to a wealth of knowledge I definitely did not have before.

2. Connections Connections Connections: The people you connect with through are from all areas of writing and publishing. They are global. I currently follow people from four continents. That is incredible. Just knowing people, being able to pull from their knowledge base and networking with people from around the world is amazing.

3. You are not alone: There is a huge amount of value in knowing that you are not alone. There are a ton of people working on getting published and getting rejections just like you. It is a community of supportive writers and bookish nerds just like you. On a day when ten rejections rolled in, it’s nice to know it’s not just you (or is it?).

4. Meet the Agents: Agents tweet constantly! It is amazing! Getting to know specific agents through their tweets (it is not the be-all end-all) is a window into their personality. This is not just good for use in your query letters, but it reveals who you would mesh well with and who you might not. It definitely helps narrow the field. You need to query those that you would click with. Twitter helps you distinguish the agents from the dream agents. This is also true for publishers as well.

Do not mistake what I am saying. I do not care if you pooped today or if you stepped in gum. No one wants to know that stuff, especially me. But it is a place to connect and learn a little bit about the business and the people in it. Books is definitely a community. I feel honored to be slowly working my way into it. Very Slowly. Twitter, you have converted me.

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