Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cheers to 2014!

You know what? I had an amazing number of wonderful clients this year! I want thank each and every one of you for sharing your work with me. It is so fantastic to see so many people taking on their dreams and working to create children's literature. I feel really honored to be a part of that.

And so many of you who have sent me kind notes about what helped you in a post or my blog in general. Thank you so much! You keep me going!

Here's to all of you! I wish we could get together for a New Years Party. One with a rejection pinata, great food and drinks, and lots of writing chit chat!

For me, 2014 has been a wonderfully buys year. I signed with agent Sean McCarthy. My family's garlic business more than doubled. And Sub It Club grew like wildfire. Yay yay and yay! It is really amazing for me to look back and see that I've actually accomplished some great things this year.

I resigned myself to the fact that success doesn't come quickly for me a long time ago. I've been working hard on my writing for so long that I can't even count how long it's been. My family has been growing garlic for quite a few years to build up our seed stock so we are just now beginning to find out if we can sell all that we grow. (Scary!) And well, Sub It Club, that's something I wanted to do for a long time but finally got the guts to do just about two years ago now and am amazed to see it take off like it has in 2014.

But if you want to hear the truth, I want to do more. I guess that's what keeps me going. I want write great stories and make Sean proud. I want to grow our family garlic business even more so we can hire employees and help give a few of the wonderful people in our community jobs. I want every writer and illustrator out there to find the support they need. So yup, there's more to do! But how am I going to do it? I'm just going to keep on keeping on!

As far as writing goes, I'm going to keep writing the best stories that I can. I'm going to keep learning from agent and editor notes, critique partners and books. I am going to work on learning to listen to myself better when I know something is working...and when it's not.

The garlic? Well, we planted twice as much garlic this year as we did last year so we should be harvesting twice as much come summer. (The weather has been a little wacky so I worry but there's nothing to do but wait!) I'm afraid I may get lost in the garlic abyss around August when there is harvesting, drying, cleaning, shipping, and planting to do, so I'm trying to get lots of writing things done this winter. I guess I'll see what happens!

And then there's Sub It Club. I love Sub It Club. Such a great group with so many amazing people. We just celebrated members' successes of 2014 and I couldn't be happier for each and every person! I hope we can keep bringing helpful information to writers and illustrators who need it, and keep fostering those helpful connections in our support and critique partner groups.

Cheers! To a wonderful 2015!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Janine Le, Sheldon Fogelman Agency

Janine Le has been an Assistant Agent at the well established Sheldon Fogelman Agency in New York since 2010. She started there as an intern in 2009. Janine is an agent building her list which is a good opportunity for those of you looking to connect with an agent.

Janine's bio says, "Janine is building her list of clients and is open to picture books through YA. She is most drawn to stories with a strong emotional core that influence the way readers view the world, themselves, and the people around them. She is also fond of complex characters and relationships, unique cultural perspectives, and stories with a touch of humor, romance, or both."

There isn't much extra online information on Janine, but Sheldon Fogelman Agency is a top notch agency that has some amazing clients. Agents such as Marcia Wernick and Linda Pratt established themselves as agents there as well as my great agent Sean McCarthy.

Some of Janine's information is posted as Janine Hauber or Janine Hauber Le.

You can find Janine on Twitter @LoveableLines.

Read first page critiques that Janine did on Kathy Teaman's blog. There's a picture book critique in there!

YA author Karen Denise posted about signing with Janine and talks a little bit about how the agency works.

You can read about Janine Le's background experience on Linkedin.

Janine is listed on the Sheldon Fogelman Agency website. Please see their submission guidelines. If you are submitting picture books you may include two manuscripts.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Get the Scoop!

When you're working towards your goal of publication it is good to keep up on the industry. That means news. You don't have to go searching all over for it. Lisha Cauthen puts together a great newsletter called the KidLit Scoop. I read it every week. As soon as I see it in my inbox I stop everything and open it. I'm not kidding.

Here's what Lisha says about the Scoop:

It's free, my darlings. a weekly newsletter about the children's publishing industry: personnel moves, mergers, new imprints, market trends, grants, interviews and such. Whatever is happening in the kidlit community this week is delivered in digested form to your inbox. IT IS FREE. Did I mention that? Be a sport, subscribe below.

What she fails to mention is that she strings a fun story throughout every issue. Nothing long. Just a sentence or two of funny asides at the beginning of each section. Okay I am going to admit it right now. Sometimes I read it just for the asides. They crack me up. Then I come back later for the news. True story.



Lisha has been putting out the Kidlit Scoop for a long time now. She's almost reached 100 issues! And the woman puts this thing together all by herself. She is a wonder. Help her celebrate and get the scoop on the news. Go subscribe! Then enter to win her fun giveaway. There are autographed books for goodness sake!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Critique Partner Matchup!

I have an announcement to make that I am really excited about! As the moderator of Sub It Club as well as a blogger with a Monster List of Picture Book Agents, I get a lot of people asking me where they can find critique partners. There was getting to be so many that I decided we'd better spinoff from our Sub It Club Submission Support Group and create a group dedicated to finding critique partners. So, I'm excited to say that we have just created a Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup Group! The group is open to writers of all genres as well as illustrators. Exciting, huh?!

Yes, I know this could perhaps seem counterintuitive as I do provide critique & consultation services right here on my blog. That could probably be said about Sub It Club's Submission Support Group as well, but I don't think so. Being able to pay to get your work critiqued can be great in many circumstances. Sometimes time is limited which can always make money a small issue. Having your work critiqued from someone experienced in the industry can be eye opening. The thing is, not only do you learn a lot from getting critiques, you also learn a lot from giving them. So, if you're writing in any genre, or illustrating, or both and want to connect with others to share your work with head on over and read my post about the new Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup. I hope you'll join us, and tell your friends! The more members the more chances we have of making great critique partner matchups.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Blargh!

I just looked at my blog. (Finally!) And saw that it has been exactly two months to the day since I posted last. Two whole months! Now, I know I'm no regular blogger but SHEESH! At least I have been keeping up my blogging duties at the Sub It Club blog. Over the past two months I've blogged about how important it is to follow submission guidelines as well as Second Guessing Your Email Submission which led me to a follow-up post; the Submission Double Check Checklist. And, of course, I rounded up the latest writing contests in the monthly Contest Roundup.

Imagine hundreds of pounds of this!
Honestly, now that I look at it I feel pretty amazed that I got that much blogging done. The past few months have been full of garlic for me. Garlic harvest. Garlic cleaning. Garlic shipping. Garlic planting. I won't bore you with the seemingly endless details of what must be done. Just suffice it to say that it all happens at around the same time. And incase you didn't know, my husband and I grow a lot of garlic. A LOT. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds. 16 varieties and counting. And we do most all of the work ourselves. It's good though. This year has been great! We planted twice as much garlic this fall in preparation for next year. I'm just trying to not worry about the weeding next spring. (It's all done by hand.) 

I just like this picture. It's Siberian Hardneck garlic, incase you're wondering.

And hey, we got our new office finished just in time for garlic shipping. I'm thinking I'll set up a cozy corner and make a sweet writing spot this winter.

I've always wanted an office. *happy sigh*
Even though there’s been a lot of work to do and kids’ stuff to take care of (Oh sports how I did not miss thee over the summer!) I still, of course, managed to squeak in some writing here and there. Revisions. Check. New manuscripts started. Check. No matter how busy or tired I am, I always make time for at least a bit of writing! Not every day, but most days. And I always make the time for Sub it Club and consulting and with writers and doing critiques because it’s something I love to do! Here’s hoping that I’ll get back to posting at least a few blog posts a month on this blog again soon. I’m itching to add to the Monster List of Picture Book Agents, that’s for sure. And if you have any picture book or submission questions, send them my way and I’ll try to answer them in a post. I’m happy to help when I can.

Here’s to relaxing, writing-filled days! But for now, I've got garlic that I need to go out and fertilize and mulch.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing a Picture Book? Don’t Do These Things

A while back I posted Querying a Picture Book? Don't Do These Things because I get a lot of picture books submissions from people who *gasp* apparently don't do their research. (As most of you reading know, I am not an agent or a publisher.) Many times these people submitting their work to me send their manuscripts as well. I see a lot of common mistakes in those too. 

You have got to have a strong manuscript to compete in today's market! And good format? It's a must in my opinion. Here are some things to think about along with some big no no's when it comes to picture book manuscripts:
  • Don’t write in rhyme--unless you have worked extremely hard at it and are very good at it. No, I don’t mean that you just think you are good at it. You have studied the rules of rhyme. You have gotten critiques. You are all Corey Rosen Schwartz and YOU KNOW RHYME like a boss! (Check out The Meter Maids for some great rhyming advice.)
  • Do not over describe things. You need to leave room for the illustrations. Pictures are at least half of the story in picture books.
  • Don't overuse adverbs and adjectives. 
  • Do not number what you see as the pages of your book within your manuscript.That's great while you're figuring out your page turns. (You can dummy like this. Or like this.) Editors and agents who work in picture books can see where the page turns will be if you have done a good job. Use standard manuscript format.
  • Do not use colored ink! No, not even to show where there are different speakers. Again, if you have done your job well, those you are querying will be able to follow the story perfectly fine in black and white.
  • Don’t be didactic. If you don’t know what that word means, no, you are not ready to query.
  • Do not write “to be continued” and list other manuscripts at the bottom of your manuscript. That’s just silly. You want the reader to focus on the manuscript they have right there, right now in front of them. You sell that one and you’ll have the opportunity to talk about more.
  • Don't write THE END at the end of the story. It is obviously the end as the story has, um, ended.
  • Don’t put a copyright on the manuscript. Once you write something down it is automatically copyrighted. Doing so just makes you look like an amateur.
And for heaven’s sake, proofread your manuscript. Revise. Edit. It makes your writing better. Really. It does.

Any questions? Or other things you've seen in manuscripts that are no no's? I'm sure there are more things we could add to the list!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Agent John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Talks Picture Books

Not too long ago I featured John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Agency on the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. He's an agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency representing Young Adult, Middle Grade, and of course, picture books. 

Unfortunately, finding picture book specific information when trying to make an informed decision whether or not your work might be right for an agent can be tough. While I was putting together John's post, I had picture book-centric questions that I wondered about. I asked John if he might answer them. Fortunately for us, John was happy to. 

So, my lucky people on the agent hunt, read on to find out what John is looking for when it comes to picture books, learn about his agenting style, and more. If he sounds like he might be a good match for you and your work, give him a try. John is a super nice person, and that's the best kind to work with!

Why do you choose to represent picture book authors?

I love picture books. They’re deceptively simple and deeply sophisticated. Part prose, part poetry, they distill story and character down to their essential elements. And they’re fun! My first week in publishing I saw an editor and an agent leave a party to gush over galleys for a new picture book they’d both worked on. They were so excited, like little kids. And I thought “yep, this is what I want to do.”
What do you look for in a client?
I’m looking for someone who loves to write and create, who is eager to work on many projects, and many different kinds of projects. An author with a single book-of-their-heart who will never write another story probably isn’t the best fit for me. I’m looking for career-clients interested in growing and developing over time.
How would you describe your agenting style?
I’m a very editorial agent. I like working creatively with my clients, from the idea stage to line-level tweaks. I’m also very communicative. I like chatting with my folks by phone, email, text, whatever. I also hope to pair authors with the perfect editor. When an editor and a client totally hit it off, creatively and personally, I know I’ve done my job. Finally, when I say I want career-clients, that’s another way of saying I like to manage and develop the trajectory of an author’s career, to help build their audience and hone their craft from book to book.
If you take on a client because of their mass market appeal picture books, would you also represent other things they wrote if they had merit?
Absolutely. If a client writes or illustrates in multiple mediums or markets, all the better! Some of my clients illustrate as well as maintaining careers in character design and commercial artwork. I have clients that write picture books as well as middle-grade and y.a. Versatility is never a bad thing.
What types of stories do you see a place for in today’s picture book market?
Stories with a universal theme told in a fresh way. A picture book with a clever concept will (usually) only go so far without a deeper conflict, some pain or tension that the reader can relate to and has experienced. At the same time, a familiar story, for example, “a child’s first day of school,” might be relatable, but will likely feel too generic to stand out in our competitive marketplace. It has to be both familiar yet fresh.
In general, how much revision do you do with clients to get their picture books submission ready?
It varies, but often a client and I will go through several revisions before I send a project to editors. Those revisions might include story level changes, the arrangement of spreads (if the client is an illustrator or author/illustrator) and line edits.
What are some of the elements you think a picture book needs to be successful?
I think stringent prose is essential. Picture book texts are so short— typically fewer than 800 words— that every syllable counts. Humor goes a long way as well. Not every picture book must be funny, but I’m personally drawn to clever and quirky styles, and I think many editors are as well. Finally, to me, picture books need tension— a conflict our protagonist solves for himself or herself (without Mom and Dad sweeping in to save the day).
What types of picture books are you not looking to represent?
I’m very picky about rhyming picture books, which I think are difficult to do well. When I see a rhyming text, my first question is, “What is the rhyme adding to the story?” Are the rhymes interesting? Is the meter engaging? If not, I may ask the author whether the story might be stronger if told in straight prose. I don’t represent spiritual or denominational projects. I’m all for a positive message, but story and character come first. I typically don’t represent what I call “lovey-dovey” picture books, where focus is how much or in what way a mother loves a child or vise-versa. There are some beautiful examples of these already on bookshelves, but these aren’t what I’m looking for, personally.
What do you like to see in a query letter? Do you have any submission pet peeves?
When I read a query, I’m looking for a brief description of your project: who is the main character, what is the conflict? I’m also looking for a bit about you, your background, and publishing history (if any).
A query is a brief, professional letter between you and a potential future business partner. So avoid gimmicks or whacky styles in the hopes of standing out. Never write your query in the voice of your protagonist. Let your creativity and originality shine through in your writing; let your query be simple and to-the-point.
Are there common mistakes you see in picture book submissions in particular?
Texts that are too long (over 800 words), poorly done rhyme and meter, overly-familiar stories without fresh twists (monsters under the bed, first day of school), and unprofessional illustrations are the most common reasons I reject picture books.
The Greenhouse Literary website says to allow up to 6 weeks for a response and if you haven’t got back by then, email the agent again. Do you send out many personal rejections? What does a form rejection letter mean to you?
I send out very few personal rejection letters. If I’d like to see a revision, I’ll ask for one specifically. However, I’m usually open to future projects. If you get a no the first time, please do query again. That’s a good way to develop a relationship with an agent. We like to see authors and illustrators developing with each new project. Sometimes the second or third try is the one that wins me over.
What picture book authors do you represent? Have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
I represent several authors, illustrators, and author illustrators, including Julie Bayless, and Lisa Marnell. Vin Vogel’s debut picture book THE THING ABOUT YETIS will be published by Dial early next year; Vin is also illustrating Brooklyn kiddie-rocker David Weinstone’s debut picture book, MUSIC CLASS TODAY, coming from Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

A huge THANK YOU to John for the wonderful interview! To learn more about John, be sure to check out his listing on the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. You'll find lots of great links for further research. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Lowdown on Cover and Query Letters

Alayne Kay Christian asked me to write a post about query and cover letters as part of the Sub Six All About Submissions series, and I was happy to oblige! I did my best to cover it all in my post: the difference between a cover and a query letter, the main parts, the format, etc. If you're new to writing queries and are figuring out how to write that important letter that introduces your work or just want a refresher, go check out my post- Create a Great Introduction: Cover and Query Letters. Alayne has added some great links for further study as well.

In my post I linked to the Query Letters that Worked at Sub it Club for reference because I know that when I was figuring out how to write queries it really helped me to look at successful queries. The first one listed when you click on the link is by picture book author Rebecca Colby. She went above and beyond and showed how she progressed with query letters, what she did wrong, then breaks down the query she used to obtain her agent and showed us what she did right. It is so helpful! I just love the generosity of writers in the kidlit world. Definitely check it out to figure out what you are saying with your query!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Formatting Picture Books

When you're ready to send your picture book out on submission, using the correct format is important. There are standards you need to follow, although things can vary a bit. Here's how I format mine:
  • Standard 8 1/2 x 11" paper size
  • Set margins to 1 to 1 1/2 inches
  • Times New Roman 12 point font
  • Black ink only
Single Space for:
  • Header - 1st page, left:
Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone number
Email address
  •  Header - 1st page, right
Word count: (enter number)
  • Drop down 14 spaces (you  generally want do be about halfway down the page)
  • Enter Title
  • Drop down two spaces and put by (so there is one space between Title and by)
  • Drop down another two spaces and put your name
  • Drop down four spaces
Switch to double spacing
  • Begin manuscript
You want your manuscript in paragraph form. Don't break it up into published book pages as you see them. Agents and Editors who know picture books have a keen eye for page turns and illustratable images.

Header for the rest of the manuscript pages (use the option for different first page when formatting your header)
  • Left - In Italics Last Name/Manuscript Title 
  • Right - Page Number (also in italics, use the option for page numbering and it will automatically put the correct number on your page)
That's it! Pretty simple once you get the hang of it. You could even get all fancy and make yourself a template if you wanted to.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - John Cusick of The Greenhouse Literary Agency


Update 7/1/2015 - John has moved to Folio Literary Management and is only seeking picture book author-illustrators. So, picture book writers who don't illustrate, I'm sorry to say that you'll need to cross John off your list for now.

John Cusick is an agent at The Greenhouse Literary Agency where he joined in 2013. Before that he was an agent at Scott Treimel NY. He's also the author of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY.

John's current agency is a great one. Headed up by veteran agent Sarah Davies, the transatlantic agency has a fantastic approach to agenting. They also host the yearly Greenhouse Funny Prize.You can read what Greenhouse Literary strives to offer their clients: here.

John has kindly put a list of his interviews on his blog.

Update: 7/24/2014 - John was kind enough to do a picture book centered interview with me! He gives loads of great details on what he's looking for and how he works. And I have to tell you that he is a super nice guy! Go read out interview. You'll learn lots.

Some of the best picture book centric info I could find was in this interview at SCBWI Squam Lake Writing Retreat where John said, "I’ve also just opened to picture book submissions, so the right pithy, character-driven story is high on my wish-list." 

He said he sees too many queries about "the power of imagination" in this super informative Query. Sign. Submit. interview at I Write for Apples.

And he has some great advice in his interview at Kathy Teaman's blog.

John is pretty active on Twitter @johnmcusick

You can read some of John's response times on Querytracker.

John Cusick represents:
Chana Stiefel, her picture book DADDY DEPOT will be published by Feiwel & Friends in 2016.
Vin Vogel whose debut picture book THE THING ABOUT YETIS is scheduled to be published by Dial BFYR in 2015.

Please see the submission guidelines at Greenhouse Literary if you are interested in submitting. At the time of this posting John's submission guidelines at Publisher's Marketplace look like they need to be updated (I always go with the agency page's guidelines!) but his #1 submission requirement is always true: "Make sure your work is absolutely as good as you can make it. Revise, critique (repeat, repeat) before sending. Don’t waste your opportunity!"


This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Querying a Picture Book? Don’t Do These Things

It may come as a shock to you, but I get a lot of queries for picture books. It certainly comes as a shock to me! I’m not an agent or an editor and I think that is pretty clear on my blogs and all of the social media I do. I like to think that people work on their writing ad nauseam to make it the very best they can before submitting. I also like to think that people do their research and make the very best decisions they can when deciding who to send to, then work hard to put together a great query letter. I have learned firsthand that this is unfortunately not the case.

When you get a lot of query letters you start to see some common mistakes. Oh I have seen some doosies! For some of you these types of things in a query may be hard to believe, but they definitely happen. A lot. For those of you learning how to make you query the best it can be, here are some things you want to avoid:
  • Do not send queries out to random addresses. Study the people you want to query. Make sure they are an agent or editor who works with books in the genre you have written. Also make sure they are accepting queries. Check their submission guidelines and follow them! They are there to help you.
  • Do not address your query Dear Agent. It is pretty easy to learn about agents online (my Monster List of Picture Book Agents is a good place for picture book writers to start). Use the standard Dear Mr./Ms. greeting along with the person's last name. This goes for when querying editors at publishing houses as well although I will say that every once in a while it can be difficult to find out who any of the editors are at a publishing house. But, this is few and far between. In the rare case that you have exhausted all of the research outlets and have found nothing, it is okay to use Dear Editor. Or when a publishing house specifies to use that, which I have seen as well.
  • Do not talk about what your illustrations or character will look like. Once you sell a manuscript, if you are not the illustrator, you generally have no say in this matter. The publishing company will pair the manuscript with an illustrator they believe will best bring the story to light. The illustrator is a partner in your book. They get to have their own creative input into the story. In your query, showing what your story is about with a good hook and description of your book is the way to make readers see the story in their mind.
  • Do not talk about how many books in the series you have written, or plan to write, and make yourself sound like a starry-eyed dreamer who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The first book needs to be published…first. Focusing on the one story is very often the best way to go. Of course, mentioning that there is series potential is okay, if you feel strongly about it. Some non-fiction books are published in series so there are definitely exceptions to this rule. Do your homework, learn about the different types of children’s books that are published, by who, and how. It will go a long way when figuring out how to query something when you think it has series potential. But keep in mind, many picture books that have gone on to become series came from that one great first book.
  • Do not talk about having stuffed animals and accessories to go along with the book, or films or television series that will stem from it. When you sell a manuscript to a publishing house they want the book, first and foremost. Agents know that too. Other things will come later, in the rare case that they come at all.
  • Do not tell the person you are querying that this is the first book you have written. You don’t want them to roll their eyes and think “obviously!”
  • Don’t talk about other things you have written that have not gotten published. The mere fact that you have written them doesn’t make them good. If you have had something published give the title, publisher, and date of publication. Hiding your credentials in a wishy-washy statement like I have had a piece published in a magazine isn’t working in your favor.
  • Do not tell the person you are querying that you want the book to be well done or professional. They are professionals. If you are querying them they can only assume that you have researched the sort of product they put out and like what they do. Trust in that, otherwise you are just being insulting.

Of course, there is a time you can ask questions and go over things like whether or not your book will be published as a hardcover or softcover(for editors), or what the submission strategy will be for the book(for agents) and you can decide whether or not to sign the contract based on the responses. But don’t ask these things before you have an offer. You aren’t going to get an answer.

Most picture book submissions come along with the manuscript as well. I will post about some of the common mistakes I see in picture book manuscript submissions soon!



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Update to the Monster List!

A big THANK YOU to agent Erica Rand Silverman of Sterling Lord Literistic who was kind enough to email me a list of the picture book authors and illustrators she represents. I have added them to her Monster List of Picture Book Agents listing. If you're on the search for an agent be sure to go check out Erica's updated listing. Knowing who an agent represents can help you get a feel for the type of work they like which helps you sub well.

Speaking of submitting your work well, I also did a post today about Finding Critique Partners over at the Sub It Club blog. I've got some advice along with loads of great links where you can find them no matter what genre you write in. There's no excuse for not getting your work critiqued and revising before you send it out on submission!

Alright, now I'd better get back to revising. One of these days I am going to send my critique partner something new!

*both of these amazing logos were created by writer/illustrator Dana Carey

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Buck Stops Here

That’s right. You heard me. It’s cliché but true. The buck is going to have to stop here. I’m gonna make the call. You see, Lisha Cauthen, my writer friend with so many tricks up her sleeve you are just gonna have to go check them out yourselves, (the woman must have humongous sleeves, let me tell ya) tagged me in this #myworkprocess blog hop thingy. You can read her Writing Process in the Shell of a Nut.

Now the game is that I tell you my process then tag some more writers. The thing is, everyone I know seems to have done it or, well, isn’t interested. So I’m not tagging anyone, sorry. But I will answer a few prying questions about my writing process, if you’re interested.

What am I working on?

I’m always working on at least a few projects at once--picture books in different stages. Always picture books. I’m trying to write a YA that I have my heart set on but I keep changing the beginning and am trying to settle on what that should be while resisting outlining which is what should probably be done. So who knows what the heck is gonna happen with that. I just keep telling myself that I will finish it. I also have an adult nonfiction that I’m writing in pieces. The question is never am I working, it’s will I finish. I tend to figure out whether or not a piece is worth it to me as I work through it. There is one thing that is for certain, when my agent asks for revisions on something it is definitely my main focus.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to try come up with wacky concepts that haven’t been done before. And I like to be silly. Sometimes too silly probably.


Why do I write what I do?

I have ideas. I write them down. Otherwise my head gets too full and I can’t sleep.


How does your writing process work?

I’m not sure that it does work. For the most part I write stuff when I feel like it. I revise when I feel like it. It can be in the morning when I wake up and scribble a few words down, out in the field in my notebook while I’m working, in the afternoon when the kids are running around the house roughhousing like lunatics while I ignore them, or at night when the house is dark and quiet. I just try to write whenever I have a moment to fit it in. Life is busy but you have to make the time to do what you love!

So, that's it! If you want to share your process just let me know and I'll tag you. Otherwise this leg of the blog hop is out. Peace!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Dummy's Dummy

I'm revising a picture book that I've probably revised 692 times already. It has lots of moving parts, so to speak. Characters doing things. Things doing things. I can't really elaborate (although I would love to blab on and on about it!)

Anyway, I have the scenes and most of the dialogue. It's the order that I keep messing around with. I need to get the build up right. I want the tension in the story to keep going up like a mountainside until the climax and boom! wrap it up with that satisfying ending. I have never written a story before where the scenes feel so interchangeable as they do in this one, and I was getting a little sick of writing the same things down and cutting and pasting and all of that moving around until I came up with a good way to play with my pages.

It's stupidly simple but I'm procrastinating on revisions so humor me.

I took some sheets of paper, folded them, and tore them into fourths. (You could get all fancy and measure and cut them if you like. You could even use those snazzy scissors with the shaped edges. Oooh la la.--I can enable procrastination like a boss!)

Picture books are generally 32 pages so I am using 15 pieces of paper, looking at each as a two page spread, leaving a couple of pages for title, pub info, and such.

I hand wrote each page's words on a separate piece of paper. (Picture books are short, so you can make all your words fit. You could also actually just use bigger pieces of paper but I like ripping paper and I'm lazy so that's the way I'm doing it.) This can take some time but it also helps you go through your words again and see if they are working. Plus it helps with procrastination you find your way to your vision if you write things really fancy and draw little pictures to go with it.

Done? *makes cookies
How about now? *watches an episode of Regular Show
Now? *checks watch
Ahem. *eats cookies...lots of cookies.

Okay... finally. You did it! Now you can move your pages around easily. 
Woohoo!
You can also crumple them up and rewrite something but it's not a big deal because it's just on a little piece of paper! Amazing, I tell ya! And environmentally friendly--sort of. I'm calling it the dummy's dummy.

Okay kids, have fun with my *cough cough* brilliant idea. I've gotta go back to figuring this story out. I think I may try the throw it up in the air and see how it pans out when it lands method.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Enjoying the Earth

My cabin in the woods in Shasta.
So, I took a break. A vacation even! I drove from Washington State to California and back armed with only my iphone. No laptop, just a tiny little screen to check in on things with. Dana and Lisha took care of all the Sub It Club business while I was gone. (Love those girls!) I preset all the social media posts for the business pages I manage. With the exception of a few things I pretty much got a break from the online world. And I didn't suffer from withdrawal!

Monterey Bay, at the end of the street where I used to live.
Of course there was stuff I *should* have been doing. Blogging this. Checking in on that. Facebooking. Tweeting. And revising. Yes, I really should have been revising.

But I didn't do anything besides a few quick checkins and picture postings. And It was good. Sometimes you just need a break. I hung out. Saw stuff. Did stuff. But most of all I didn't worry about what I might be missing online.

As writers, especially writers trying to break in, it can be easy to can get caught up in the mission of needing to stay on top of things. Knowing what the market wants. What agent is looking for what. What new contests are open. The list can go on and on. Honestly, it is great to be informed but you can't know everything. Sometimes a break can help you see things with a fresh perspective. And a break from the screen can be a rare commodity these days, but you can do it! Get out of your usual life, enjoy the beauty(and even the ugliness) that surrounds you, and be reminded of the other things there are out there in the world. Whether you do this by just taking a walk in a new part of your neighborhood or by going on a little vacation, it's good to get out of your usual zone. It can also make you really long to get back to those revisions!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Tracey Adams of Adams Literary

Update 7/1/2015: Adams Literary is only interested in author-illustrators at this time. But do check their submission guidelines to see if this policy has changed, and if it does let me know! :)

Tracey Adams has a wealth of experience in the field of children's publishing. You can see the agencies and publishers Tracey worked for before co-founding the well respected Adams Literary in 2004 on her about page. Adams Literary exclusively represents children's through young adult literature, including illustrators. Adams Literary has an extensive list of clients.They also talk about managing careers and what types of clients they have on the client page. Be sure to check it out.

At Michelle4Laughs there is a great 2013 Query Questions with Tracey. You will want to read how many queries Adams Lit gets in a week and how many manuscripts they usually read. Make it good people!

There's a quick 2013 post at PubSmart where Tracey tells what kinds of books she's looking for.

There is a really informative interview with Tracey at Humor Me.

Tracey did an interview at Multiculturalism Rocks! where she talks about editorial and how involved after a book is published.

At this interview at Dreams Can Be Reached she tells the piece of advice she gives most to writers.

Suite 101 has an interview where Tracey talks about the types of children's books she does not represent. And rhyming.

Here's a quick read at the SCBWI blog with Tracey's thoughts on smaller publishers.

Cynthia Leitich Smith interviewed Tracey for SCBWI Bologna 2008, I know that's a while about but the information is still relevant. Tracey tells how she got her start as an agent, cover letters, and the realities of children's book publishing.

At Literary Rambles you can read some information straight from Tracey regarding sales numbers and query tips.

Learn more about Tracey's work life at A Day in the Life of Adams Literary on Carol Baldwin's blog.

You can find Adams Literary on Publishers Marketplace, Twitter, and Facebook.

Submissions to Adams Literary are accepted only through their online submission form. Be sure to download and read the submission guidelines on the right hand side of the form.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cutting

Cutting words is important. You know it's true.

I understand that it can sometimes be hard to do, but cutting can be a big part of revision. Yes, I know it might hurt. They're your words and ideas. You don't want to do cut them and no one can make you!

Well that's true too. You don't HAVE to take your words out. But sometimes, maybe many times, cutting words can make your story better. This may especially be true in the case of picture books where trends are skewing to shorter texts that let illustrations take a huge role in telling the story. I made a list of unnecessary words, but cutting can involve so much more.

I recently revised (okay, re-re-re-revised) a picture book. I loved the characters. The dialogue. The jokes! But I realized I needed to focus on the main character and his story. The other characters were taking away from that focus. So, as much as it hurt I had to chop the princess, nix the cat, and banish the bird. Oh, and take out the gumballs. (My son wasn't too happy about that!)

Is the story more focused? I think so. Is it shorter? Definitely. But in taking away I added new elements, stronger conflict, and a stronger arc. Sure, I miss the old characters a little but I like the new direction the story is heading.

Don't be afraid to cut your words or even entire characters. Cutting can take your manuscript to new places you hadn't thought of before. And don't worry, you can always put the words back if you need them. That's what cut and paste is for!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Writers Need Love Too!

I know that writing can be a tough and solitary calling. It takes guts and dedication. So I wanted to take a moment and remind you all that making the time to write, taking the time to learn your craft, and sending out submissions makes you amazing. No matter what stage of the writer's game you're in, you are full of bravery just for giving it a go! I wrote more about it today on the Sub It Club blog in my post, Show Yourself Some Love. But wanted to send some love out to my writer friends here as well.
Happy Valentine's Day! Here's to you!
*raises a chocolate covered bon bon*

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Erica Rand Silverman of Sterling Lord Literistic

7/26/2016 Update: Erica Rand Silverman has moved to Stimola Literary Studio.

Sterling Lord Literistic is a successful, established literary agency that has been in business for over 60 years. Erica Rand Silverman is one of the many agents there. She joined Sterling Lord in 2008 and represents, "authors and illustrators of children's literature, picture books through YA, and nonfiction about children, parenting and education." Read Erica's bio on the Sterling Lord Literistic website. (scroll down)

I found a 2012 interview with Erica at the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Couldn't find a date on this, but there is a report by Emily Goodman at SCBWI Metron NY of "A Night with Three Agents" that Erica participated in where she gives some excellent advice about making your agent decision.

There is a 2/9/2012 report at Publisher's Weekly of a panel Erica participated in, How to Navigate a Changing Business? Children's Agents Shed Some Light.

Erica wrote an article published 8/15/13 for Well Rounded NY titled Baby Books by Stages where she recommends a number of books for little ones.

She also is part of the educational consulting company, Room 228 and has an informative bio there.

Erica's professional profile can be found on her page at Linkedin.

You can follow Erica on Twitter @ericarsilverman

Updated 5/6/2014 via Erica Rand Silverman herself, here are some of the picture book authors and illustrators she represents:

They Lydia Freeman Foundation (CORDUROY)
David Goldin
Todd Goldman, aka Todd H. Doodler
Tim Miller (illustrating books to be published through Viking and Enchanted Lion in 2015 and 2016)
Joyce Hesselberth (SHAPE SHIFT Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books 2015)
David Weinstone of Music for Aardvarks (MUSIC CLASS TODAY/Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2015)

At Sterling Lord Literistic they only take snail mail submissions. Please read the submission guidelines on the website.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, January 24, 2014

A One Year Celebration!

A year ago I, along with my friends Dana Carey and Lisha Cauthen, launched an idea that had been rolling around in my brain for some time. I may be a classifiable introvert but I wanted to be able to talk queries and submissions with writers. Lots of writers. Because when you're sending out submissions there is lots to talk about! It's been an amazing year and I have to say that not only has it been great to have writers to talk to about submissions, but starting a club has really helped me to break out of my little writing shell that I live in here behind my computer. I mean, I haven't turned beet red from posting something in quite a long time. And yes, that used to happen a lot!

Anyhow, Sub It Club is one year old now and I wanted to let readers of my blog who aren't a part of the Club that we're having a celebration with some great prizes from agents and authors! Come on over  to www.subitclub.wordpress.com and check out the prizes. I added as many options as I could think of so hopefully everyone can find a way to enter. And if you're up to it, join us at the Club (we are all over the web but the private facebook group is our main place for member discussion.) But I warn you, I can get a bit chatty.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Once Upon a Time a Writer Found the Perfect Agent

Once upon a time there was a girl who liked to write. The more she wrote, the more she liked it. The more she liked it the more she wanted to see something she wrote turned into a book. And when that actually happened she then wanted to see something else she wrote turned into a book because, as she had learned, writers are never finished, they just move onto the next project.

Many times she felt all alone and like she needed advice. Along her travels she made many writing friends. She liked them so much she started a club where they shared writing secrets with those who knew the secret handshake. But she longed to find that one brave knight who would help her find her way through the publishing forest.

One day, when she was wallowing in the depths of the murky river of writing woe, the knight magically appeared telling her how wonderful her writing was and that he was there to help her make her way through the forest and…

WAIT A MINUTE!

Whose story is this? Well, it’s mine. Sort of. But it didn’t happen quite that way.


I did (and do) write. A lot. I’ve had a bit of success along the way.






And now I do have the perfect agent for me. I found him the best way I knew how—by querying!

Was there magic involved? Perhaps a little. I wrote a story I really liked. I got it critiqued. Revised it. A lot. I studied agents, made a list of what I thought were the best matches, and queried them. Guess who was my top choice? Sean McCarthy. And amazingly enough he was busy starting his own agency when I was ready to query.

When I read the news about Sean McCarthy Literary Agency I got my submission ready immediately. But I didn’t send it. What if he didn’t like it? Was I ready to be disappointed? Apparently I talked about it quite a bit because my daughter finally said, “Mom, just send it to him already! He's going to love it!” (When your daughter rolls her eyes at you because you’re being childish it can really help you do the things you need to do.) So I did. Click. Done. Wait.

I didn’t have to wait too long.

You want the fairytale ending? Sean did like my manuscript. And he read a bunch more of my work and liked that too! Plus he’s thoughtful, understanding, concerned, informed, open, honest, helpful… all those things you hope to find in an agent. Heck, look at his fabulous list of recent books! So yes, now I can say,

I am represented by Sean McCarthy of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency! 


As for the rest of the tale? It has yet to be written. 

But I think I'll end this story with... 
                                                       ...and they lived happily ever after.