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Query 101 Series: Body Copy – Character, Conflict and Cost March 28, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:37 am
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One of the most daunting tasks of writing a query is having to compress the plot, characters, and conflict of your manuscript down to 2-3 paragraphs. I’ve interviewed many authors who have honestly revealed that this process was more aggravating at times than writing their entire book.


So how do you accurately depict your story, while adding character, conflict, cost (not to mention voice) so that an agent will want to request more? I could easily break down the construction of the pieces and parts, but I think a more effective way is to show you a successful example that worked.


With her permission, Mary Elizabeth Summer has agreed to let me share her query for, TRUST ME, I’M LYING (Delacorte Press – October, 2014). In my opinion, it is a perfect example of what the body of a query should look like.




Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name.


Boom! Right away you are intrigued. You know instantly the character is hiding something. Is it sinister? Is it for her own protection? As a reader, you want to know more.




She’s a grifter, a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at St. Agatha High. The downside of St. Agatha’s is that its private-school price tag is a bit higher than Julep’s father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, can afford.


Character is revealed, and we learn who Julep is and what her world looks like.


So Julep makes up the difference by running petty scams for her classmates, while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.


Stakes are revealed. What happens to Julep if her scams are discovered? We are already pulled into the story, and we haven’t even gotten to conflict yet.




But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and a missing dad, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care.


Conflict is revealed. It is clear and concise. We know who and what are at risk. Plus, the writer does a skillful job of weaving in the love interest.






With everything she has left at stake, Julep must tap all her resources and use every grift in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her.


This is a great sinker. It’s clear what Julep’s challenges are, and we, as the reader, understand everything she has to lose. Notice too, that we are left on a cliffhanger. Will Julep succeed in saving her dad? What about her future? All elements that have the reader, and hopefully an agent, asking the most important question: what happens next?



It’s true, writing the body of a query can be a monumental task. But the key in writing an effective one (as shown above) is to grab the reader from the beginning and never let go.


To recap, there are three key elements to remember:


  1. Who is your character? What makes them unique?
  2. What is the conflict? Is it clear? Does it intrigue the reader?
  3. Cost? What does the character stand to lose and how will that play out over the course of the story?



This is just one example of a query that works. The style, or approach, may not fit your manuscript, but it is a good structure to start with. If you’re curious about other queries that have been successful, I suggest you check out the following sites and blogs which provide a great sampling of other categories and genres.



Writer’s Digest: Successful Query Series

Kickass Writers Series on Gina Ciocca‘s Blog

Successful Query Series on EM Castellan‘s Blog







W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with EM Castellan March 26, 2014





I love sharing stories where authors have had a writing dream since they were very young. Maybe they started with poetry or a short story. Perhaps they’d written a novel filled with hopes and ideas from their childhood. Whatever the case, as they grew into adults they held onto that dream until it became a reality. Today’s featured author, EM Castellan, is one of these cases. Writing since 13, she recently signed with an agent for her YA Historical Fantasy, LILY IN THE SHADOWS, a dark tale set in London in the late nineteenth century. EM is proof that if you hold tight to your dreams, they CAN come true!



Many thanks to EM for sharing her story…




Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?


EM: In January 2010. I had been writing for many years (since I was 13) and very few people had read my stories. Then one of my friends asked me why I didn’t try to get published and after a few weeks pondering this, I started writing a YA Sci-Fi novel with the intent to get it published one day. A few months later I had a first draft and I began researching how to get this obvious masterpiece published. That’s when I realized things would likely take some more time!



Amy: You live in an English castle (which is beyond cool!) Are any of your experiences from living in the castle worked into your YA Historical Fantasy, LILY IN THE SHADOWS?


EM: No, actually. I have written stories set in a castle similar to the one I live in, but LILY isn’t one them. Instead LILY is set in Victorian London, which is such a wonderful setting! Having my story set in the capital also gave me a good excuse to go there often, “for research” of course.



Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish LILY IN THE SHADOWS?  If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?


EM: I did! My CPs Jessy Rubinkowski and Allie Schellong helped a great deal, as well as my 7 other beta readers. It took me nearly a year to write LILY, polish it, then rewrite it following several R&Rs. My CPs’ input was crucial during all this time, especially to make sure I kept true to the book I wanted to write.



Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?


EM: My query process wasn’t really frustrating. However, it was LONG. I started querying in late June 2013 and I signed with my agent in January 2014. That’s 6 months. I was querying “successfully” (i.e. getting requests, positive feedback and R&Rs), but the whole process took a long time.



Amy: How many agents did you query for LILY IN THE SHADOWS?


EM: LILY was the second manuscript I queried. As a result, I felt I knew what I was doing this time around, and after doing A LOT of research, I only queried agents who were specifically looking for YA Historical Fantasy. I queried 33 agents, I had 19 requests (including 13 full requests), 4 R&Rs and 2 offers of representation.



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?


EM: I’ve read MANY posts by writers who signed with their agents only a couple of months after sending out their first query. Here I want to say it’s not necessarily the norm. After a slow start in the summer, I queried 22 agents at the same time in late August. I heard back from the majority of them within a month, which I thought was reasonably fast. What was interesting was that I either received rejections or full requests. I had very few partial requests. I’m mentioning this to show that a good query letter allows you to skip one querying step: agents either know straight away they want to read the whole story or they know it’s not for them. As a result of all those full requests, however, I then had to wait for the agents to read my manuscript. The quickest one took 1 week and the slowest one 4 months. Their average reading time was 10 weeks.



Amy: You entered a few contests with LILY IN THE SHADOWS. What did you learn from those experiences?


EM: I entered two contests in which LILY was a finalist: Christmas In July (organized by Michelle Krys and Ruth Lauren Steven) and Like A Virgin (organized by Kristina Perez and Rhiann Wynn-Nolet). Contests were a great way to polish my query and first page, as well as to “test the waters” with agents. I also took part in two Twitter Pitch Parties during which I got my request from Erin, who would end up offering representation a few months later.



Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Erin Niumata?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?


EM: Erin emailed to ask if I had time to talk on December 16, but with the holidays we only managed to speak on January 2nd. Which means I had 2 weeks to panic/flail/prepare before the Call actually happened. Erin did most of the talking and answered a lot of my questions before I asked them, which was a good sign. She seemed to have the same vision for my book and career as I had. I also liked the fact that Folio Literary Management has offices in the US and the UK. In short, I had a long list of Things I Expected From My Future Agent and Erin seemed to tick all the boxes.




Amy: What is one piece of writing advice you got early on that you still use today?


EM: I love this quote by Michelle Hodkin (author of the Mara Dyer trilogy): “The only secret to getting published? Keep at it.” I love it because we’re all plagued by self-doubt, but Michelle tells us we can all get traditionally published, as long as WE DON’T GIVE UP on our dream. I like the idea that hard work gets rewarded in the end. So there you have it. Keep at it.





EMCastellanEM Castellan is a writer of YA Fantasy novels. She lives in an English castle, travels extensively, reads voraciously, listens to music from bands few people have heard of and watches too many movies to count. In case you are wondering, she also has a full-time job, so she mostly writes at odd hours and drinks a lot of tea. She is represented by Erin Niumata of Folio Literary Management. She is a member of the British Fantasy Society as well as SCBWI British Isles. For more on EM, check out her her blog, Facebook,Twitter,Tumblr or Pinterest.



QUERY 101 Series: The Structure March 7, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:39 am
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In the first post in the Query 101 series, we talked about query basics. Today, we are going to talk specifics of structure: greeting, hook, book & cook.


Let’s start at the beginning:





1) Always begin with addressing the literary agent by name. Do not address your query as “Dear Agent.” Be courteous. Do your research and find out the correct spelling of the agent’s name.


2)  Address one agent at a time in the heading. There may be many people in that particular literary agency who take your category/genre, but each should get their own individual email or letter. The last things agents want to see is they are part of one long email chain.


note: Check submission guidelines. Some agencies ask that you query agents one at a time. Others have a policy that a “no” from one is a “no” from all. Make sure you respect the agency’s individual submission guidelines.





There is plenty of debate on the internet as to whether or not you need to personalize your query. Some say just get to the “meat” of your story. Others say personalization means you have researched the agent and know your manuscript would be a good fit for their list.


I stand firmly in the “personalization” camp. Now, that does not mean your greeting has to be flowery and over-the-top. Simply stating that you are familiar with their client list, mentioning a comment they made in an interview, or explaining that your manuscript would be a fit for their #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) is enough.


After personalization, some people add title, category/genre and word count of their manuscript. Again, there is debate about where this information should go. Some say at the beginning. Others say leave it at the end. My advice is to put it where it flows best with your query. No matter where you place, it is MANDATORY you include this information as the agent needs to know they rep. your type of manuscript.





This  is the intriguing portion of your story. It’s a one-liner that pulls the agent in and encourages them to read on.


Some great examples of hooks from successful queries:




16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal.


Mindy McGinnis’ NOT A DROP TO DRINK:


Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond.


Mary Elizabeth Summer’s TRUST ME, I’M LYING:


Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name.





This is 4-6 sentences that summarizes your manuscript. It hints at the main plot, introduces your protagonist and antagonist. Your sinker (final line) leaves the agent wanting for more – but DOES NOT reveal the ending.


A few notes about “The Book”


- Try not to introduce more than 2-3 characters. More than that and the information gets confusing.


- Be specific about the stakes. Remember agent is looking for character, conflict, and cost.


- When possible, try to insert a touch of voice – this helps bring the story to life and gives agent an idea of what to expect in sample pages.


- Information should be written in third person, present tense. I would also highly recommend you stay away from gimmicks like beginning with a question or writing your query in the voice of your main character. I’ve talked to many agents who say this approach immediately turns them off.





This is your bio.  If you have publishing credits include them. If you have education or internships that are pertinent to creative writing or publishing, mention them. Writing contest wins? Include those too. If you don’t have any publishing credits, that is OK. Plenty of agents say they have signed debut authors without any publishing history. A simple line about who you are, and what you do, is fine.





Thank agent for their time. I would also use the space underneath signature to include info about your social media presence: website, Twitter handle, Facebook page etc.


This is merely a structured outline of a query. It is up to you as the writer to fill it in as you see fit. Whether you want to include voice, or a certain type of personalization, that is entirely up to you. The main thing is to keep it professional and one page. Follow submission guidelines, and agents will see you are not only serious about your book but about your writing career.



Monday Musings: Authors – I Got Your Back February 24, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing — chasingthecrazies @ 7:55 am
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It takes a lot of effort to be cruel.  To rev-up that anger inside and then spew it out all over the internet. Boy, I’m exhausted reading it all, aren’t you?


If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, I’ll only allude to the fact that in the last several weeks two writers have taken to the internet to say some pretty unkind things to their fellow authors. I’m not giving links or mentioning names. As a former PR manager, I know these people think any publicity is good publicity, and I’m not going to be a cog in that wheel.


Here’s my point:  STOP with the madness. Let’s support our fellow authors. Their success does not in any way take away anyone else’s glory. In my opinion, we should be creating a positive community where we all join together and buoy each other’s successes. Shout each other’s amazing sales and awards from the rooftops. By doing this, we create a community where authors feel welcome and supported.


It’s hard to be a creative type. We spend lots of time alone – outlining, plotting, writing, revising. On top of that, it’s takes a massive amount of courage to then share that art with the world. Why as a fellow author would you add to that anxiety by being unkind? I simply don’t get it.


I’m just one small author, and I’m not sure I can make a difference, but today I’m taking a stand to support my fellow writers. I hope you will join me in a year-long effort to stay positive. All my tweets, blog comments, interviews, and guest posts will have an encouraging bent. I will take every chance I have to lift up those who are down from rejection and promote those who have a cover reveal, book birthday or hopefully, hit the NYT Bestsellers list.


It’s almost cliché now to remind people what a small community publishing is – but it’s true. There are always going to be those who want to belittle someone else’s work, but I hope those people stay in the minority. If we as authors make an effort to drown out the negativity with our praise, I believe the writing community will become an even stronger place.


To start my year-long effort, I want to share the link for the cover reveal for Heidi Schulz’s forthcoming middle grade book, Hook’s Revenge. Just looking at it makes my heart happy!


Query 101 – The Basics: Where Do I Begin? February 21, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:49 am
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The Query 101 series begins today at a very basic level. As it progresses, I will get into more detail in regards to query structure, research, nudging etc. For now, I want to help those who need to start at the very first step on the path to publishing: learning about the query.



Congratulations! You’ve finished that amazing manuscript and you’re ready to send it to an agent.  What do you do next? Print it out, attach a handwritten note, and send via snail mail?




Do you find several agents via the internet, type a quick note, and then attach the manuscript file before sending?




There are several steps you need to go through before you send your manuscript to an agent. Let’s start at the very beginning with the query.



1) What is a query?


A query is a basic business letter you send to a literary agent or publisher. It describes your project, why you think it would be a good fit for them, and your writing qualifications if you have any.


Sounds simple, right? Well for some writers it can be. But for most, it takes hours/days/weeks to craft the perfect letter that describes your project with enough detail and voice that an agent will request more.



2) What does a query look like?


There are a couple of examples of great queries on the internet. My recommendation would be to check out the Successful Queries series from Writer’s Digest. The series shares a successful query and follows-up with commentary from the writer’s literary agent as to why it caught their eye. Another great link from Writer’s Digest is this article on “How to Write The Perfect Query Letter,” with commentary from former literary agent, Mary Kole.



3) Write the query


Now that you’ve seen good examples of queries, it’s time to write your own. Think about examples you read. What made them stand out? Did you immediately get a sense of the MC’s voice? Did you know the stakes right away? These are things to keep in mind when crafting your query.


One word of note: Queries should be written in third person, present tense. ALWAYS. Many people have tried to be crafty and write it from the POV of their character. Or they begin with a rhetorical question. Many, many agents I’ve talked to, and interviewed, request that writers stay away from this approach.



4) Get feedback on the query


This may be the most important step in your query process. While you think that first draft completely rocks, you need another set of eyes on that bad boy to be sure.


If you don’t have regular critique partners, I highly suggest going to one of these writing community websites and sharing your query. Feedback will help you discover if you are conveying your story clearly, and if it is enough to hook an agent.


QueryTracker – Query Forum


AgentQuery Connect


Absolute Write – Query Hell



Penning the tightest and most compelling query is hard work. You need to go through the process methodically, and obtain feedback whenever you can. Remember, the query is your first introduction to a literary agent. You’ve got one shot to impress them. Once that agent sends you a rejection, you have to cross them off your list and move on. It’s a daunting and terrifying thought, but if you put in the hard work, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!


Next time on Query 101: The Query Structure (Greeting, Category/Genre, Word Count, Body Copy & Bio)


New Adult State of Mind – A Guest Post By Chanel Cleeton February 17, 2014

Filed under: Blog,New Adult,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:04 am
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New Adult is a writing category that is slowing building momentum in the publishing marketplace. With the success of Cora Carmack’s, LOSING IT series, and other writers like Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, starting to pen books with New Adult themes, agents and publishers are starting to take notice of what these stories can offer to a reading audience that is constantly hungering for new ideas.


Today, I’ve asked author, Chanel Cleeton, to share her thoughts on this evolving category, and what it means to actually write New Adult.




Getting to a New Adult State of Mind

By Chanel Cleeton

I see london



Writing New Adult is all about capturing the spirit of being eighteen to twenty-six years old. This time in your life is a huge transitional period—you’re facing new adventures like finding your way in the world, starting a career, falling in love, and leaving home. New Adult is also about juggling the responsibilities of adulthood without having the experience or complete confidence you may need to face the challenges thrown your way. As a writer you want to convey this spirit to your readers—creating relatable characters and situations. I find that personal experience is one of the best tools you can utilize when writing New Adult.


For me, at twenty-eight, my New Adult years are a very recent memory. I draw a lot on personal experiences and my friends’ experiences. I find that this brings authenticity to my characters. For example, in one of the scenes in I SEE LONDON, my heroine talks about changing the assigned ringtone for a certain guy in her cell phone so she’ll know when he calls. It’s a little thing but something I totally did when I was single. I’ve had readers comment on it because they’ve done the same. Putting realistic details and emotions in your book goes a long way to connecting with your readers and making your characters authentic.


If you’re interested in writing New Adult, real life is a great source of inspiration. Even if your New Adult years were a while ago, still think back and remember how you felt during those years. Think about the challenges you faced, adventures you had, and changes you went through. Think of pieces of your past and experiences that you can put into your characters. If you’re around teens or twentysomethings, they are also a wonderful resource.


Another step to adopting a New Adult mindset is to read widely within the category. Books like Easy by Tammara Webber, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Losing It by Cora Carmack, and Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, are all staples. Reading these books will give you a sense of the category’s origins. That said—New Adult isn’t just about contemporary romance. The category is developing and evolving over time and the New Adult spirit is prevalent whether you’re writing dystopian or contemporary.


Popular culture can also be an excellent inspiration for writing New Adult. Shows like Girls, Felicity, Vanderpump Rules, Ugly Betty, later seasons of Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill, are all representative of the New Adult spirit. Movies like 21, Pitch Perfect, Legally Blonde, and The Social Network also depict the challenges and adventures of life as a twentysomething. Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour are also great resources—especially the sections that include reader input.


Honestly, writing New Adult can be challenging and a little scary. As a writer, it can push you outside of your comfort zone. The current market is pretty sexy. That doesn’t mean you have to write steamy New Adult stories—I firmly believe that there is room for all heat levels. If you want to—great. If you’re uncomfortable—find what works for you. I wrote Young Adult before switching to New Adult and it was a challenge for me to feel comfortable writing sexy scenes that weren’t the fade-to-black that we so often see in younger stories. But in my case, an increased heat level fit my characters, and I went for it because it was the best thing for the story. That said, it’s still not as hot as some New Adult books and that’s okay.


There are many ways to capture the New Adult voice and it all goes back to the need for diversity within the category. There’s room to write different types of characters with different backgrounds and experiences. There’s room for hot stories and sweet stories, room for contemporary and other genres. New Adult is rich in possibilities and you have to find the story you want to tell. Don’t be afraid to write New Adult because you don’t think you fit the current market. Make your own path.


Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to finding your New Adult voice. While the New Adult spirit is about change and transition, there is a lot of room for diversity within the category. We need diversity to grow and appeal to readers across a broader spectrum. If you’re interested in writing New Adult, I highly recommend reading some of the books that define the category and immersing yourself in the lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you can’t write something totally different, but it’s important to understand the foundation. At the end of the day, the key to writing New Adult is creating a story and characters that will resonate with readers. I hope you fall in love with New Adult as much as I have!



ChanelChanel Cleeton’s New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, Chanel is happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel loves to travel and is currently living an adventure in South Korea. For more on Chanel, check out her website, follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.


FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Lara Perkins of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency February 14, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:38 am
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FFF SideWords



If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Lara Perkins’ perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.



Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Lara: For me, the first line is very important. Like any reader, I want to be drawn in to a new story and a great first line does exactly that. A strong first line suggests a writer is in control of language and in control of his or her story. If the first line is great, then I’m also probably seeing the manuscript after it’s been revised and polished, which tells me the writer is serious about craft and has a professional approach. That doesn’t mean the first line can’t be improved further or even rethought (or sometimes even lifted from later in the ms), but I think it’s a missed opportunity if your first line doesn’t have some punch, some tension, and some suspense.



Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Lara: I think it’s less about avoiding common openings and more about finding a beginning that’s truly unique to your story. The problem with these common openings is that they’re usually placeholders. The writer isn’t sure where to begin, so he or she begins somewhere familiar…but it’s not really the beginning of the specific story he or she is telling. My advice to writers would be that if your story can only logically and thematically begin with a dream, and the dream scene you’ve written is riveting and fresh (to other readers, not just to you!), then for my money, go ahead and begin that way. It likely won’t read like a “common opening” because it will actually be unique and integral/specific to your story. But if you don’t know where to start and you figure, well, The Hunger Games begins with Katniss waking up, so I’ll begin with my main character waking up, too, then I’d encourage you to go deeper and think more about the true, organic beginning of your story.



Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Lara: It’s a combination of a character I want to know more about, writing that speaks to me, and a premise that seems big enough, interesting enough, and different enough to sustain an entire book.



Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Lara: I think one common mistake is beginning with action but no context or character development, so the plot is moving forward, but the reader doesn’t have a reason to be invested in the outcome. Another common mistake is beginning in a moment of great loss for your main character, but without enough context for the reader to feel the power of that loss and share the main character’s grief. As a result, we’re at a distance from the main character immediately.  Another common mistake is a first chapter that stays entirely in the narrator’s head–with no dialogue, no action, etc. Except in rare cases, that gets claustrophobic very quickly.



Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Lara: Voice, primarily, with pacing a close second. If there are already pacing problems in the first five pages, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the story. But if I’m not connecting with the voice, then it’s probably not the right project for me.



Lara Perkins is an Associate Agent and Digital Manager at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She has been with the agency for three years, working closely with Senior Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list. Lara has a B.A. in English and Art History from Amherst College and an M.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, where she studied Victorian Brit Lit. In her pre-publishing life, she trained to be an architect, before deciding that books, not bricks, are her true passion.


If you’re interested in submitting to Lara, please make sure to check the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website for their guidelines.


TWO YEAR BLOGAVERSARY!!! January 28, 2014





Yep, I’m shaking my booty just like Dean Winchester! Why? Two years of blogging! That’s why!


Wow! How did it go by so fast? It all seems a blur of amazing interviews, guest posts and great advice from agents!


Quite honestly, I don’t know how I made it this far, but I am incredibly grateful to all the people who signed up to read what I post three times a week. You are amazing and I would not have made it this far if you all hadn’t left me kind comments and shared how my posts have helped you with your own writing.


Now, there can never be a celebration without gifts right?


Leave me a comment about your favorite blog post and I will enter you into a drawing for books, gift cards and maybe even a surprise or two!


Again, many thanks for your support! I’ll keep trying to provide honest, thoughtful posts as well as bring you enlightening author interviews and important advice from agents!


And one more Supernatural gif because I’m pretty happy, and well…it’s Supernatural…






First Five Frenzy with Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency January 10, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 2:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

 FFF SideWords




If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Taylor Haggerty’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.



Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Taylor: The first line is important in that it makes me want to read the second, and the second is important in that it makes me want to read the third. It’s not a deal breaker for me, and it doesn’t have to be flashy—just a fitting introduction to the tone and story that makes me want to see more. More often than not, it’s the first paragraph or page, rather than a single line, that draws me in.



Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Taylor: The first day of school and soul-searching gazes in the mirror (that also happen to reveal the main character’s hair and eye color) come to mind. That’s not to say these openings can’t work, just that they aren’t necessarily the best way into a story. I’m more likely to be pulled in if I have a little more insight into what’s unique about the characters or setting of a particular manuscript than these examples typically provide.



Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Taylor: It’s usually a combination of things—a great concept, a distinct voice, intriguing characters, and the sense that the author is fully in command of the story they’re telling. That I-must-read-the-rest-of-this-manuscript-now feeling is one of the best parts of the job.



Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Taylor: I struggle with openings that rely on extensive background information to set the scene, instead of introducing the current stakes, and, on the flip side, with openings that don’t give readers enough context to really become invested in the story.



Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept? 


Taylor: Voice! It’s hard to tell much about the plot or pacing from the opening pages, but an engaging voice will jump out right away. That’s what brings the characters and the story to life, and what establishes an emotional connection with the reader.



Taylor Haggerty is an agent at the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has a master’s degree from Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining WLLA, she worked at the Gersh Agency.


If you’re interested in submitting to Taylor, please make sure to check the Waxman Leavell website for their guidelines.


Sun Versus Snow: The Mentors December 28, 2013

Filed under: Blog,contest,Literary Agent,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 3:11 pm
Tags: , , , ,




Michelle and I are very excited that so many mentors have agreed to help us out with Sun versus Snow! These twenty-three talented authors will be split between the two teams. Once Michelle and I have selected our fifteen picks, the mentors will be looking at the queries and first 250 words and providing feedback. Our hope is that the mentor’s comments will allow our contest participants to polish up their submissions before we share them with the 15 participating agents (that announcement will post JANUARY 1 on Michelle’s blog!)


To refresh your memory about contest details you can go here:


And don’t forget to read all the way to the bottom for my FREE PASS announcement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


So without further ado, here are our amazing mentors…

Ami A-V bio picAmi Allen-Vath


Ami Allen-Vath is a YA Contemporary Author represented by Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency. She currently resides in New Jersey, but would be happy living somewhere where it’s Spring all year long. Aside from reading and writing, Ami likes acting, painting, vacations, and ice cream.






You can find her online via blog: Ami with an “I”: or on Twitter:



rachelbatemanRachel Bateman

Rachel Bateman is an author and editor who spends way too much time thinking she can out-bake the Cake Boss. (Spoiler: she can’t.) She is from Great Falls, Montana, but dreams of living on the Carolina Coast. When she isn’t writing, reading, or editing books, she can be found playing with her crazy toddler, geeky husband, and small zoo of pets. 99 Days of Laney MacGuire, her first novel, is available now, and Incubus, a YA paranormal serial, is releasing throughout 2014.






website –


twitter –


facebook –




NatalieBlittNatalie Blitt

Natalie is the author of one young adult book — The Truth About Leaving — and other works in progress. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband Josh and their three boys. Three boys who have no interest in books that feature lots of kissing. She is represented by Carly Watters at P.S. Literary.






You can find her on twitter at: @Natalie_Blitt


Or very rarely on the web at:



JennieBJennie Bozic

Jennie Bates Bozic creates visual effects for film and television by day, and by night she dons her author cape and pens stories for the YA crowd. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats. She is represented by Steven Axelrod and her debut novel DAMSELFLY is available through all major online retailers.








KateB headshotKate Brauning

Kate is a YA suspense writer represented by Carlie Webber at CK Webber Associates. Kate is a developmental editor with Month9Books, and a compulsive traveler, cake-baker, and music lover. She loves high stakes, character-driven books regardless of genre, and thinks there’s just about nothing better than helping a writer get his or her story on the page.






Kate’s website:


Kate’s Twitter:


MarcyKateConnolly_headshotMarcy Kate Connolly

MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs about all those things and more at, and can often be found on Twitter (@marcykate). Her work is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, and her debut upper middle grade fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in Winter 2015.





Website –


Twitter –


Tumblr –


Facebook –


Goodreads –



KatEllisKate Ellis

Kat Ellis is a young adult writer from North Wales. Her debut novel, BLACKFIN SKY, will be unleashed May 2014 in the UK/Fall 2014 in the US. When she’s not writing, you’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter or taking photos in cemeteries and other creepy places.

















MeganEMegan Erickson

Megan Erickson covered real-life dramas as a journalist until she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction. She writes adult/new adult romance novels with humor and heart and is represented by Marisa Corvisiero. Her favorite books teach her something, make her swoon, and give her a happily ever after.








Twitter: @MeganErickson_


Liz is an author living in the American Southwest by way of Chicago. Her YA debut HOOKED released in January 2013 from HarlequinTEEN. Its companion, PLAYED, releases in May, 2014.









Twitter @LizFichera.



JfleckJessica Fleck

Always a lover of art and books, it wasn’t until she put the two together that Jessika discovered the magic of storytelling. Growing up with an overactive imagination lent to many a day exploring new worlds and characters – she still has the overactive imagination, but now puts her stories to paper. Jessika lives in the foothills of Colorado with her sweet family, growing collection of vintage typewriters, and bevy of characters who often keep her up at night. She is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowely of Inkings Literary Agency.










Katie2Katie French

Katie French is a former English teacher and current High School Counselor. Her young adult dystopian series, The Breeders, is available now on Amazon. She is represented by Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary.





Learn more about Katie at


Twitter: @katielfrench



Melissa-GreyMelissa Grey

Melissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. She is represented by Catherine Drayton of InkWell Manangement, and her debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, will be published by Delacorte Press/Random House in spring 2015.




Official site:



OliviaHOlivia Hinebaugh

Olivia is a mother to a 3 year old and 6 month old, which means she does a lot of writing to the soundtrack of baby snores. She writes parenting articles for, though writing YA books is by far her favorite hobby. She likes stories that are quirky, funny, and romantic. Add in a dash of the absurd and some dark humor, and she’s in heaven.











website coming soon:



SJohnstonSharon Johnston

Sharon is a public relations senior specialist and author from sunny Queensland, Australia. Her debut novel SLEEPER is out now with Entranced Publishing. When she is not spending time with her family or cramming in some writing, she’s being stalked by women for her impeccable taste in shoes.






SLEEPER (Amazon):


SLEEPER (Goodreads):









LanetteKLanette Kauten

Lanette is an upmarket/women’s fiction writer. Her debut novel, HOUSE OF THISTLES, was published by WeBook in November. When she’s not writing, she’s either home schooling her two kids or at the archery range with her bff.









Twitter: @LanetteKauten



Sarah Glenn Marsh Bio PicSG Marsh

Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult novels and picture books, usually with a fantastical element. Her work is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary. She lives in sunny Virginia with her husband and rescue dogs.










Twitter: @SG_Marsh



Amy PineA.J. Pine

Amy (AJ) Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend those hearts with a happily ever after…maybe. The first book she wrote was YA, but now she’s two-timing her first love with NA. Her debut new adult contemporary romance, IF ONLY, releases with Entangled Embrace in 2014. She’s repped by Courtney Miller-Callihan with SJGA.







Twitter: @AJ_Pine







RachelPRachel Pudelek

Rachel is a dog-hugger and tree-lover. She writes children’s literature about powerful girls, from picture books to young adult novels. She is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis Literary Agency.












AmyRAmy Reichert

Amy Reichert is a life-long Wisconsin resident, mother of two (three if you count the dog – and you should), beloved wife, writer, spectacular procrastinator, die-hard Harry Potter fan, and amateur baker. She writes charming and fun contemporary romance and women’s fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s driving the kidlings somewhere, stacking clean laundry into impossibly high towers, or obsessing over the many shows on the DVR. She loves to read, collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use, and waste time on the Internet. Amy is represented by Rachel Ekstrom at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.







Twitter: @aereichert



MattSMatt Sinclair

Matt Sinclair is the President and Chief Elephant Officer of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, LLC. Established in 2011, EBP is about to publish the final anthology in its Seasons Series (which will include a story by Michelle Hauck), and published its first novel, Whispering Minds by YA author A.T. O’Connor in November – with three additional novels scheduled for 2014. EBP  has announced its next short story collection at, which calls for Middle Grade stories in an anti-bullying anthology. A writer of both short- and long-form fiction, Matt supports his writing addiction as a journalist covering the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.









Twitter: @elephantguy68 @EBPressLLC



LisaSillsLisa Sills

Lisa wrote her first novel when she was eleven, and sent her first query letter not long after that. In the years since, she’s sent many queries and somehow managed to snag an agent. When she’s not writing, Lisa is a trainee film-maker, copy-writer, and occasional editor.





LINKS:  Blog and Twitter.





Leslie Stella

Leslie Stella is the author of the contemporary YA novel, Permanent Record (Skyscape, 2013) as well as three novels of contemporary adult fiction, Unimaginable Zero Summer (Crown, 2005); The Easy Hour (Crrown, 2003); and Fat Bald Jeff (Grove/Atlantic, 2001). She was a founding editor of the Chicago-based politics and satire magazine Lumpen, and her work has been published in The Mississippi Review, The Adirondack Review, Bust, and anthologized in The Book of Zines: Readings from the Fringe (Henry Holt, 1997; compiled by Playboy editor Chip Rowe). Leslie was nominated for a 2004 Pushcart Prize in short fiction.





You can find Leslie at:




Twitter: @leslie_stella




Tom Torre

Tom is an IT whiz by day (just think of one of those guys from Office Space), and a comic book artist, video game buff, and middle-grade writer by night. After a few stints as colorist in the comic book industry, he completed his first major middle grade novel, COPERNICUS NERDICUS, which combines his love for video games and robotic warfare.

When he isn’t locked away in his man-cave watching The GOONIES for the 347th time, or catching up on some geek-news on Kotaku, he’s probably busy cooking up some chaotic food dishes for his wife and his 100 lb doberman named Braveheart’s Dantes Inferno. Yes…that’s his dog’s real name. Tom is represented by Dawn Frederick of RED SOFA LITERARY.




Tom’s blog


Twitter: @CopernicusNerd




Vickie Weavil

Vicki Lemp Weavil is an author of YA and adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is represented by Jennifer Mishler of The Literary Counsel. Her debut novel, CROWN OF ICE — a YA Fantasy retelling of H.C. Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” — will be published by Month9Books in Fall 2014.


















Now that you’ve seen our fabulous list of authors, I’m sure you want to enter :-) Well, how about a chance at a FREE PASS to become a member of #TEAMSUN?





Starting today and running through January 5, Tweet, blog and or post on Tumblr something about the contest. It can be about your submission, or just the link to the contest post on my blog ( To get credit for your promotion, you either need to use the hashtag #sunvssnow or send me a link to the post at Every mention will be included in a drawing for the pass. Good luck!



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