Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WTF Wednesday

While away on vacation I hoarded my stash of US Weekly (or as my friend likes to call it "U.S. Weekly" to make it sound like legitimate news) and when I returned I have dedicated much of my free time to getting caught up on the backlog of shows recorded on Tivo. The result? I am officially up to date on pop culture happenings. And what that means is a whole lot of options to choose from for this installment of WTF Wednesday.

Here are some highlights but feel free to add more:

1) Pouting is the new smiling:

2) Bradley Cooper can shed his hotness and, well, look like all the rest of us. (Not sure if this makes me sad or relieved, but it does make me surprised.)

3) This was Lady Gaga at the MTV Video Music Awards show in drag or as a transgender man, I'm not really sure but it was weird.

4) Okay, I'm sure by now you've heard of the very popular "Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber" Website/phenomena. Well it appears Justin is trying to reciprocate the affection because in not one but two pictures I've seen lately he looks like a 30-something year old woman:

5) And while not technically pop culture news, I had to share this pic of my fav burger place in Upstate NY after Irene got to it. *sobs*

What WTF moments have you had lately?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To query or not to query, that is the question

I've wrapped up the first full draft of my WIP and am knee-deep in editing. Though I swore I wouldn't get anxious about querying, I already am. I want to test the waters as I'm excited about my manuscript but then I'm reminded of my first assignment as a professional writer.

I had been paid to do some freelance work while in college and graduate school but my first "real" assignment was when I was hired full-time, as in a writing associate who now had health insurance and paid vacation and the whole bit. To me, this meant I had arrived.

And then I handed in my first assignment. I had a deadline looming and though I was still frantically making edits, when that deadline pressed, I printed out what I had and brought it to the editor-in-chief. Not long afterwards I learned a very important lesson. Never hand in something until it is really and truly ready for review.

My editor handed it back to me in a blood bath of red ink and said, "It's a good start but it's not ready for my eyes. Don't give me something until it's as good as you can get it. If you you need an extension on the deadline, ask for it, but don't waste my time." *Ouch*

I learned my lesson, of course, and today I'm managing director of that very same firm and write far more detailed and comprehensive pieces than I was trying to tackle that day. What I learned, however, and what I need to remember in querying is not to give into the temptation to simply submit, to try to quickly jump to the next step in the publishing process whether that's off to the art director at my firm or to the literary agent weeding through the mass of query letters.

It can feel frustrating knowing that after you submit a query it can take two months before you hear anything back, couldn't you simply edit some more during those two months? My advice: Don't do it! Let that baby of a WIP grow up and mature and evolve into the truly best thing it can be. Then query. Don't waste literary agents' time with something that's not quite ready.

To get your WIP ready:

1) have some other readers review it;
2) read it aloud;
3) go through and do a "big picture" edit searching for any holes in your narrative arc;
4) then go through page by page, line by line and ask yourself how it can be better;
5) study your favorite texts in that genre and ask yourself what those writers do that you love so much, then turn that critique around and ask if you employ similar narrative style. Learn from the fantastic writing around you because it's there.

Delay your ETA to query or don't even give yourself a forced ETA, just keep plugging along with edits until you've taken the piece as far as it can go or, rather, as far as you can take it. When, and only when, it's truly in shape for professional eyes, should you send it out into the world with fingers crossed, breath held, and hopefully luck in your favor.

Any advice you want to add?

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Inside Peak into Publishing

The WriteOnCon conference had some really great panels, discussions, posts, and forums. For those of you who didn't check it out, I thought I'd highlight a few favs that delved into the publishing world.

Agent angle.

1) Sarah Crowe discusses how she knows when she wants to sign a writer:

2) Jim McCarthy explains how to write the perfect query letter:

Editorial eyes.

Annette Pollert explains what a manuscript has to have for her to come on board as editor:

Writerly advice.

NYT bestselling YA author Beth Revis discusses her journey, and offer motivation too!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You have to watch this!

This is Ira Glass talking about the creative process and revisions. I love the part where he says there's the actual work we're doing and then there's our ambition of where we could be. It takes a lot of practice to get those two things in alignment but it's possible and when it happens, for real, it's oh so sweet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Cover Love

THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES by Brunonia Barry. I featured the original book cover of this novel in a post I did last year! Can't decide which I like better.

Psychotherapist Zee Finch is dealt a blow when one of her patients, a troubled bipolar housewife named Lilly, leaps off a bridge to her death. The tragedy brings up memories of Zee’s own mother’s suicide, prompting her to go see her father, Finch, in Salem. She is startled to find Finch’s Parkinson’s disease is much more advanced than she’d been led to believe, and that he has kicked his partner, Melville, out of the house. Zee decides to take a leave of absence from her practice to care for Finch, a move that puts a strain on her engagement to Michael, one of her mentor’s closest friends. As her relationship with Michael comes to an end, Zee tries to puzzle out what caused Finch to abruptly break up with his beloved Melville. She also tries to make sense of Lilly’s death, unaware that the dangerous man Lilly was involved with now wants to exact revenge on her.

INCOGNITO by Gregory Murphy. An elegant literary mystery set during the Gilded Age.

New York City, 1911. Representing the widow of a Wall Street financier, lawyer William Dysart travels to a small Long Island town with a generous offer for Miss Sybil Curtis's cottage and five acres of land. But when Sybil refuses to sell, the widow threatens to use her influence with the state to seize the property.

Intrigued by Sybil's defiance and afflicted by a growing affection for her, William develops a desire to help her that becomes an obsession he cannot define, one that tears away the facade of his life, and presents him with truths he's unprepared to face.

What good books have you seen lately?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Swagger Song 2 for 1 Special

I've fallen in love with both of these songs and subsequently edited sections of my WIP while listening to them. I couldn't decide on just one so for this issue of Swagger Song I'm including both. Enjoy!

Gavin DeGraw, "Not Over You"

Lady Antebellum, "Just a Kiss"

Monday, August 15, 2011


Alright guys it's time for the second annual WriteOnCon (aka awesome, free, online conference for writers, particularly in MG and YA). To sign up, see here.

The conference runs August 16-18 officially but starting today they'll be hosting a secret ninja agent contest. Participating literary agents include:

Michelle Wolfson, with Wolfson Literary
Natalie Fischer, with Bradford Literary
Michelle Andelman, with Regal Literary
Kathleen Ortiz, with Nancy Coffey Literary
Ammi-Joan Paquette, with Erin Murphy Literary
Jessica Sinsheimer, with Sarah Jane Freymann
Roseanne Wells, with Marianne Strong Literary
Joanna Volpe, with Nancy Coffey Literary
Mary Kole, with Andrea Brown Literary
Suzie Townsend, with FinePrint Literary
Carlie Webber, with the Jane Rotrosen Agency
Alyssa Eisner Henkin, with Trident Media
Marietta Zacker, with Nancy Gallt Literary

Yeah, it's pretty unbelievable! To learn more about the secret ninja agent contest see here. And don't forget to follow @WriteOnCon on Twitter for any announcements.

See you there!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tay Swift Awesomeness

I adore Taylor Swift. I think she's talented and seems super swift and I'm still sad she couldn't make it with Taylor from Twilight. *sigh* And yes, I've even seen her live in concert, albeit as the oldest person there without a child to supervise. Here's a pic I took as proof of the show:

One thing she did not do last tour but is doing now is covering a song in each town by a local artist. (Apparently it's received great applause and you can read more about it here.) In New Jersey it was Springstein and Bon Jovi, and in Toronto it was Alanis Morrisette and Justin Bieber, but in Detroit...

How much do I love this? Let me count the ways.

What awesome cover or remake have you seen lately?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cover Love

I admit it. I went to Borders and scored lots of books. I love my local Borders and have always supported them whether things were good or bad. And while I was there...OMG did I swoon over some new covers I discovered while roaming through the aisles. I had to share:

THE LOVE OF MY YOUTH by Mary Gordon. Thoughtful and moving, Gordon's latest captures the ardor and vulnerability of young love and the cautious circumspection of middle age. Miranda and Adam began a love affair in high school that endured through college only to end in a painful betrayal. When a mutual friend brings them together in present-day Rome, they haven't seen each other in more than three decades. Adam's ambitions to be a concert pianist never came to pass, and Miranda, once convinced that political activism could change the world, is now an epidemiologist. Both have married and raised children, but Rome still holds passionate memories for them. Though wary, they meet for daily walks, and Gordon's vividly detailed descriptions make Rome a palpable presence. Miranda and Adam tentatively reveal to each other the events of their lives, touching on aspirations, disillusionments, ideals, and desires, and these conversations set the pace of Gordon's novel. Only when Miranda is about to leave Rome are they able to fully express their emotions and achieve catharsis.

SHINE by Lauren Myracle. When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper. Melody has a photographic memory. She remembers everything that has ever happened to her in precise, exact detail—from the words to a song she once heard when she was little to what she ate for a typical mundane breakfast. She also knows thousands and thousands of facts. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always—and there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but, NO ONE knows because she has virtually no way of communicating. Melody has cerebral palsy. All most people see is a special needs kid--never suspecting that trapped inside this eleven-year old girl is more information and insight than they ever imagined.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is until she discovers a computerized talking device that will allow her communicate for the first time ever. A dream come true! At last, she's able to talk, to be in a regular classroom, and have regular conversations! Melody even joins the Whiz Kids Quiz Team—and becomes one of their most valuable members. She’s showing everyone what she is really capable of and surprising even herself with the power of her computerized voice. But, what if people—teachers, classmates, friends—don’t want Melody to succeed? And what if Melody’s new voice isn’t loud enough to be heard over all her difficulties?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Thanks to Jared at the Infinite Bookshelf for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award! The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers. (Around 200ish followers or less.)

The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2. Reveal your top picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. And most of all have fun!

My nominees are (in no particular order):

1. Some Things I Think, by K.M.Walton

2. Get Back Loretta, by Loretta Nyhan

3. Word Slinger, by Ray Veen

4. Writing is My Drink, by Theo Nester

What blogs do you love?

Monday, August 8, 2011


I'm totally bummed I missed the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2011 Conference in Los Angeles. You can still follow the action at the conference blog or #LA11SCBWI official Twitter hash tag.

The Conference covers dos and don't of querying, revising, publishing, editing, author-agent relationships, and more. So while I don't have the low down on what happened at the conference, I will offer up some helpful links I've tracked down.

On writing a good query letter by YA author Elana Johnson.

On writing the evil synopsis, by literary agent Suzie Townsend discusses.

And lastly, on what not to do when you see an editor at a conference, compliments of Arthur Levine (of Arthur Levine books, an imprint of Scholastic):

Friday, August 5, 2011

We have a winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest for a chance to win Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP. There can, unfortunately, only be one winner so will Lisa Potts please stand up!

Congrats Lisa *claps hands.* You're going to LOVE this book. Let me know where I should mail it.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. I hope if you didn't win you still get the chance to check this book out because it is phenomenal and definitely carries my stamp of approval.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Made Me Laugh

Have you guys seen this? HILARIOUS.

Girlfriend is really "dropping it." I'm not totally sold on the hot part but A+ for effort. I'm not sure there's anything I get THAT excited about. Then again, maybe I should just drink more Sundrop...

And even though the woman is hard to take serious, it's well done: I remember the product, it's funny and unexpected...and now I'm talking about it. That's what we want as writers no matter what kind of writing we're pursuing. We want to have something unexpected in a good way, that's worth remembering, that's worth recommending (and even thinking about long after it's over).

What funny or unexpected thing have you seen this week?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


My post this morning is on perspective. I was with one of my best friends and she heard me recounting a story of us from our youth in great detail and to which she remembered very little. Likewise there were some stories in her arsenal that sounded faintly familiar but only after quite some prodding and filling in blanks. Even some of the identifiers we used for supporting characters ("you know, the girl with big hair in math class") were altogether different.

How is it that two people can experience the same thing and what catches their eye and, thus, what they remember most, are completely different? The answer, of course, is perspective. It also made me wonder, for people who don't know me very well, what are my identifiers? "You know that girl who ______, _______, and ______." (Fill in three awesome adjectives.)

I was pondering all this when the debate on the debt ceiling popped back up on the radar and made me want to run down the House aisle bitch slapping everyone as I go. But then this happened:

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made her first return since being shot and received a full bipartisan standing ovation. She put an emphasis on the vote that others could not, she's become not only a congresswoman but a character of sorts: a victim and a courageous hero--a fighter.

Seeing her immediately brought me back to that moment when she was shot. I was decorating my Christmas tree and had CNN playing in the background (yes, very holiday spirit mood-setting of me) and the breaking news came in. I sat down on the couch, watched my husband begin dialing some friends to make sure they weren't there at the shooting, and then we waited. I cried.

There are some moments where the event itself is so overpowering that there's no forgetting. The details are burned in our mind, our perspectives seem as one because we're all focusing on the exact same thing. For my parents generation everyone knows exactly where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was assassinated, we all remember the same with 9/11, the first hurricane Katrina images we saw, and for me, Gabbie Giffords too. I suppose when something is shocking enough it grabs your attention, chokes the breath out of you, and demands to be remembered, even the bad things. I suppose that's why after 9/11 there were so many news outlets searching desperately for those stories of near misses, of the man whose car broke down and didn't get to the Towers in time for work, etc. but those aren't the stories we recall en mass.

Seeing Giffords on the House floor is an amazing chapter in that story, a footnote to the memory of that tragic day. A sign that not all shocking stories need to be bad for us to remember, the good ones stay around too.