Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Sun vs. Snow Live Chat Details! January 28, 2016


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Here’s how you can get a jump on the fun…



As mentioned in our mentor post we are having a chat time on Twitter tomorrow, January 29th. You can ask about your writing genre. Tips about editing. Word count rules. Ask how mentors got their agents. What to expect from submission. What it feels like to be published. Just about anything writing oriented you want to know about.



Oh, and the hosts will be there too to keep things rolling!



So join us at 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM EST at the hashtag #SvSChat. Each session will last an hour. And bring some questions!



For more on our mentors check out their bios here:



Team Sun Mentors:



Team Snow Mentors:



For contest details and rules go here:



W.O.W.-Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Stephanie Elliot January 27, 2016




In today’s W.O.W. I’m proud to present Stephanie Elliot’s writing journey. Through hard work and perseverance, Stephanie struggled through the query trenches and submission until she finally achieved her goal: a publication deal. Her YA Contemporary, SAD PERFECT will hit shelves in 2017.



Many thanks to Stephanie for sharing her journey today…



Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?



Stephanie: I didn’t set out to write YA but now that I do, I’m inspired by all of the amazing young adult novels and how they strongly impact the lives of teenagers. I’m also inspired by a shorter word count – I can write YA faster than women’s fiction! ☺




Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to SAD PERFECT?



Stephanie: Before I wrote Sad Perfect I had written three and a half full novels and one novella. I self-published two novels and the novella on amazon.




Amy: After reading your website, it sounds like SAD PERFECT is about a subject that hits close to home for you. How did you know you wanted to tackle the topic of ARFID in this book?



Stephanie: The funny thing is that I had no idea I wanted to write about ARFID and in turn, this story. I originally set out to write a vignette about how my daughter met her boyfriend at the time, which is actually the first chapter of Sad Perfect. It was going to be nothing more than that.


But then my daughter went into a 20-week intensive outpatient program for her eating disorder (ARFID). She had three to four days of intense therapy a week and I also had to attend a parent’s group weekly. Sad Perfect stemmed from her being in therapy and me needing an outlet during that difficult time, so writing the story essentially became therapy for me.




Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?



Stephane: Queries are hard! And I definitely play around with them – if I find that the first version isn’t getting any bites, I’ll revise the paragraph that describes the novel until it works. I’ve queried a lot – my first time querying, I sent out more than 100 queries until I got an agent. That’s not the agent I have today though. This was a long time ago!




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



Stephanie: As I mentioned above, with Sad Perfect, it wasn’t my first ‘bath’ in the querying pool. I did send quite a few queries out for Sad Perfect – 45 of them, but Adriann was the seventh of that batch. After Adriann requested the full, I signed with her a few weeks later. My opinion is you have to query wide and far to find the right agent for your book.




Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Adriann Ranta?  How did you know she was a good fit for you?



Stephanie: My call with Adriann was pretty surreal. She emailed me first to set up a call so I was hopeful that she wanted to work with me. I had a notebook and wrote down things that she said about the book so I could remember them later on. (Of course, now I don’t know where that notebook is!) At the end of the call, when she finally asked to take me on as a client, it felt like I was a high school girl getting asked out to prom – I was that giddy over it! (PS—I didn’t go to prom!)


Right away I felt that Adriann would be a great fit because we felt the same about Sad Perfect – she didn’t want to make any major changes, like change the POV (it’s told in second person), and she really liked Ben, the love interest.




Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?



Stephanie: Yes, I considered it – I had two books get close to the publishing stage only to be turned down after the editors took them to the acquisitions meeting. That’s heartbreaking. To be that close and then get a ‘No.’ It makes you almost want to quit. I think other writers motivated me to keep going – their words of encouragement and support that I could get there really helped when things weren’t going the way I hoped they’d go.




Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?



Stephanie: An author once told me that she believed in the theory of TPT … Timing, Persistence, Talent when it came to writing and getting published. I wrote that out and taped it near my desk. And I remembered that. It takes a lot of time; it doesn’t happen for most overnight, not even the famous, famous people like JK Rowling and Stephen King. And you have to be persistent – in your writing, in your querying, in your dedication to the craft. You also have to have some talent! The TPT Theory – that is the one piece of advice that I really kept to heart all those years I was trying to get published.




DSC00461Stephanie Elliot is the author of the young adult novel Sad Perfect (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, Winter, 2017), which was inspired by her own daughter’s journey with ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. She has written for a variety of websites and magazines and has been a passionate advocate of other authors by promoting their books on the Internet for years. She has been, or still is, all of the following: a book reviewer, an anonymous parenting columnist, a mommy blogger, an editor, a professional napper, a reformed Diet Coke drinker, a gecko breeder and the author of three self-published novels. For more on Stephanie, check out her website or follow her on Twitter (@stephanieelliot)


Monday Musings: Making A First Impression January 25, 2016


This weekend as I was scrolling through Twitter I saw a post that stopped me cold. The tweet was from the SDSU Writers Conference where the panel discussion was on the topic of querying. Here’s what made me shudder: out of the 5,000-10,000 queries agents receive per year, their chances of taking you on as a client are 0.1%. Wow…just Wow!


When I first started querying many years ago, thankfully I did not know these odds. All I knew was I had a finished book and wanted an agent. As a newbie, I scoured the internet for comprehensive information on how to write the perfect query. Except for a few posts on Writer’s Digest, there was a sparsity of info on how to properly format your query, or how to find agents that rep. your type of work.


Because I was completely frustrated by the process, I started culling info on the basics of querying and started my Query 101 series. This had a tremendous response, but readers still wanted more. I racked my brain trying to figure out how else I could help. After talking to a few friends, I realized writers were yearning for something more tangible, so I started my Quite The Query series, sharing successful queries that connected writers to their agents.


To this day, I’m still thinking of more ways to help writers in the trenches. It’s a difficult process (that I know VERY WELL), but by continuing to share new info I hope it will lessen the pain a little. You only get one chance to send that query and with the right information you have a better chance of rising above that 0.1 %.


I’ve shared the links below for both of the series. As always, if you have questions, or would like for me to explore a new writing topic, please let me know. Good luck out there and stay strong. If you keep working, and submitting, chances are it WILL happen for you!




Query 101B

Query 101 series – information on query structure, body copy, research, personalization, formatting & handling “The Call”.






Quite The Query – Authors share their successful queries. Posts include Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and Adult queries.





QUITE THE QUERY with Kelly Siskind & CHASING CRAZY January 22, 2016







If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Kelly Siskind. This great query connected her with her agent, Stacey Donaghy.




Pininfarina Gabri’s rise to shame began the moment her father branded her with those five syllables. Fast forward to the Public Speaking Incident that defined her high school career, and she’s ready for a change. On a plane to New Zealand, she reinvents herself as Nina, non-disaster magnet. That lasts maybe five hours, until she trips over a large boot in the aisle—the one belonging to the hot guy she can’t stop picturing in a one-man Magic Mike show. But to flirt with him would mean conquering her androphobia—fear of men—acquired on the night she may or may not have lost her virginity. The jury’s still out after that disaster.



If one more person looks at Sam with those damn sympathy eyes, he’s gonna go postal. Hoping to rediscover the carefree guy he was before the crash that burned his legs and killed his mother, Sam escapes to New Zealand. A change of scenery and random hookups are the plan. But there’s this clumsy girl who looks at him with hungry eyes, making him feel like a legend. Not like a disfigured guy whose girlfriend dumped him.



When Nina and Sam find themselves traveling together, Sam makes it his mission to conquer her fears. All but her androphobia. With the way his father sank into depression following his mom’s death, no way is he getting in deep with a girl. Crazy chemistry or not. Plus, if she sees his scarred legs and rejects him, it could make the downward spiral he hit after the accident look like a kiddie ride.



Complete at 80,000 words, CHASING CRAZY is a dual POV contemporary NA romance that combines the heart of Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss with the sexy angst of Ruthie Knox’s Ride with Me, all mixed together with a dash of quirk.






When writing this novel, I created a cringe-worthy heroine that, I hope, goes beyond the usual clumsy trope. Her name is such a defining aspect of who she is, and I wanted to capture that in the query. Even from birth, she was destined to attract disaster, hence my opening line, “To be happy, Pininfarina needs to own her crazy, not run from it.”




Chasing Crazy



Chasing Crazy is now available for purchase via these retail outlets:



Barnes & Noble






KellySA small-town girl at heart, Kelly moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in Northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—gummy bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning. For more on Kelly, check out her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.




Monday Musings: Are You Asking The Right Questions? January 18, 2016


In light of the fact that Sun versus Snow will soon be upon us (February 1), I wanted to talk a little bit about the topic of literary agents. This year we have 17 amazing agents who will be stopping by to check out the selected entries. And while it’s awesome to be picked for a contest, and even cooler to get a request, there is one thing every writer needs to think about: is the requesting agent a good match for them and their work?



Now I know this is VERY HARD to contemplate considering the thrill you feel when you get a request, but I caution you to think about who would be a great partner, advisor, and champion as you try to navigate the publishing world. Having been in the query trenches for a loooooong time before connecting with my own agent, I understand the despair you feel when you get rejection after rejection. When someone does show an interest in your work, it feels like the heavens open and the angels sing (I get that too). But in these situations, cooler heads need to prevail.



So how do you go about making the most informed choice? Well I’ll be honest, there are no guarantees in this business. Agents will go to other agencies and perhaps not take you along. Others may leave agenting altogether. But I think if you ask the right questions (no matter how uncomfortable), you can get close to aligning yourself with an agent who will be with you for the long haul. And let me tell you after interviewing 60+ agents, there are some incredible people out there to work with!



I recently went through my own list of questions for “The Call” and thought it’d be helpful to share them today. Again, asking these things may not guarantee that you connect with the right person, but it will help to cut through some of the worries that come along with the process.



1. What made you connect with my story? What types of changes need to be made prior to submission? You can even go further here and ask for a timeline of how this process will work.



2. Who do you have in mind to submit to? How will you share that list with me? How frequently will I get updates? Can I make my own suggestions for editors I’d like to include? Will you provide copies of rejection emails for me to review?



3. What is your working style? Do you prefer email or phone calls? What is your communication turnaround time (24 hours? 48 hours?). You need to be clear about your expectations.



4. Talk about what you’re also working on. Does it fit within the parameters of what they rep? This is critical because if you write YA, but you’ve got a Picture Book you want to submit, and the agent doesn’t rep. PBs, then you’re going to have to find a second agent.



5. If your next manuscript fits within what they rep., but agent doesn’t like it, what happens next?



6. Talk about your long term career aspirations. Does the agent only want to work with you on this one book, or do they want be a partner for your entire career?



7. Ask about their sales. Are they predominantly in your category/genre or others? This goes to the agent’s connections in the industry and how well they know editors who are looking for your type of book.



8. Does the agent only help with the submission/offer process or do they also provide marketing guidance?



9. Can you talk to current clients?



10. What happens if you decide to part ways? Do you get a copy of your submission list? As a writer protecting your work, you must consider all scenarios.



The actual process of “The Call” can be nerve-racking, but you need to approach it like any other business transaction. Think about your work as a valuable commodity and treat it, and all who you allow to touch it, as such.


Do you have your own list of questions for “The Call”? Anything you think needs to be added here? Please feel free to share in the comments.






2016 Sun vs. Snow Contest-Introducing the Agents January 15, 2016

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Agents lead very busy lives, so when Michelle and I reach out to see if they’ll participate in Sun versus Snow, we are never sure how many we will get to participate. But every year, without fail, agents step up to the plate and agree to join us for this very fun contest.


HUGE thanks to the 17 agents who found time in their busy schedules to make this contest happen. You are all AWESOME! On this blog I have 7 out of the 17. To discover who else will be perusing the entries this year, head over to Michelle’s blog.


Please tweet your thanks to this great group by using the hashtag #sunvssnow and let them know how much you appreciate them!






Noah Ballard



Noah Ballard is an agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. He received his BA in English from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and began his career in publishing at Emma Sweeney Agency where he sold foreign rights for the agency in addition to building his own client list. Noah specializes in literary debuts, upmarket thrillers and narrative nonfiction, and he is always on the look-out for honest and provocative new writers. Noah has appeared across the country at graduate programs and writing conferences speaking about query letters, building nonfiction platforms and submission etiquette. He lives in Brooklyn.






Kirsten Carleton

Kirsten Carleton


Before joining Prospect Agency in 2015, Kirsten learned the agenting ropes at Sobel Weber Associates and the Waxman Leavell Agency. She fell in love with working on writers while getting her B.A. in English with a Creative Writing concentration from Amherst College, and cemented her fascination with publishing with a Graduate Certificate in Publishing from the Columbia Publishing Course and internships at Charlesbridge and Liza Dawson Associates. As an agent, she gets to be a champion for the author throughout the challenging publishing process. She loves sharing an author’s vision for the book, working to help him or her uncover it, and finding a home for it with editors and readers who also feel that connection. Beyond the individual book, she wants to develop satisfying and successful careers that celebrate great talent.


Kirsten is currently seeking upmarket YA and adult fiction with strong characters and storytelling, across speculative, thriller, and literary genres. She’s drawn to books that capture her attention early on with a dynamic plot, and innovative storytelling that blends or crosses genres. In particular, she’s interested in novels that bend and blur genres; literary takes on high concept worldbuilding; diverse characters in stories that are not just about diversity; antiheroes she find herself rooting for; characters with drive and passion; girls and women in STEM fields; settings outside the US/Europe; well-researched historical settings; YA noir/thriller/mystery; stories that introduces her to a new subculture and makes her feel like a native. Follow her on Twitter: @kirstencarleton






Caitlin McDonald



Caitlin McDonald joined the Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2015, and was previously at Sterling Lord Literistic. She represents adult and young adult speculative fiction, primarily science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and related subgenres, as well as contemporary fiction about geeky characters. She is always looking for fun, clever projects featuring badass women, diverse worldbuilding, tropes and genre-bending, heists, and LGBTQ protagonists. She also handles a small amount of nonfiction in geeky areas, with a focus on feminist theory/women’s issues and pop culture. Caitlin grew up overseas and has a BA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. You can read more about her on her blog or follow her on Twitter @literallycait.








Jaida Temperly



Jaida is actively building both her Children’s and Adult list!


She has a particular love for all things Middle Grade, especially those that are a bit quirky, strange, and fantastical (a la THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY, ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY, SNICKER OF MAGIC, CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, etc.) She’s also open to YA submissions (all genres), and picture books by author-illustrators with completed dummies.


For all other fiction (both Adult and Children’s) she has an affinity for magical realism, historical fiction, and literary fiction, as well as stories with a strong mystery and/or religious undertones (THE WESTING GAME, A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, THE DAVINCI CODE, JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL, OUTLANDER, THE RULE OF FOUR, etc.)


On the non-fiction side, she’s actively seeking topics that are offbeat and a bit strange (STIFF: THE CURIOUS LIVES OF HUMAN CADAVERS, SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES, etc.), as well as photography projects that offer unique insight into the human experience (HUMANS OF NEW YORK, THE SCAR PROJECT, ETC.)


Prior to joining New Leaf Literary, Jaida grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, studied classical ballet, and briefly attended medical school. She loves art history, traveling, logic puzzles, horticulture, and numerous other topics that come in handy for Trivia Night and crossword puzzles.








Carlie Webber



Carlie Webber is looking for a wide variety of fiction genres in adult, YA, and middle grade, including contemporary, lighter fantasy and science fiction, adventure, horror, women’s fiction, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller, and westerns. She especially loves fiction that pushes the envelope and encourages conversation (or controversy), but she’s also open to light reads and humor. In all genres and age ranges, she wants to see interesting plots, strong voices, and memorable characters. (She’d love to find the Cookie Lyon of women’s fiction!) Her current wishlist includes high-concept YA and stories with creepy gothic settings. For more info, check out the CK Webber website.







Julia Weber



Julia is specializing in representing international authors of unique and captivating commercial children’s and adult fiction, namely Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, Women’s Fiction, thrillers, and romance. Julia’s not too keen on sci-fi and futuristic stories, and Fantasy should be set in the real world. Other than that, she’s open to all sub-genres. A hooking plot, engaging characters, and a fresh voice are a must.

Twitter: @jawlitagent; Agency website:


Julia also offers freelance editing over at






Roseanne Wells

Roseanne Wells



Roseanne Wells joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency as an associate agent in 2012. Previously with the Marianne Strong Literary Agency, she has also worked as a proofreader and a special sales and editorial assistant. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with degrees in Literature and Dance. An avid reader, Roseanne discovered her passion for book publishing during her internship at W. W. Norton, and she approaches agenting as a writer’s advocate, editor, and partner. She is a member of SCBWI and a volunteer for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, NYC. You can find her on Twitter @RivetingRosie.


Currently Roseanne is looking for: strong literary fiction that emphasizes craft and style equally, and doesn’t sacrifice plot and character for beautiful sentences; young adult of all genres; very selective middle grade of any genre that connects me to a strong main character; science-fiction and fantasy; con/heist stories, especially featuring art, jewelry, and tech; and smart detective novels (more Sherlock Holmes than cozy mysteries).


I’d also love projects that blend genres that I’m interested in; have unique narrative structures that add meaning and enhance the storytelling; unreliable narrators that are unreliable for a reason; and books that include the LGBTQ experience without the central conflict focused solely on being queer.



If you want to participate in the contest, the submission window opens February 1 at 4pm EST. Find out more here:


And don’t forget to head to Michelle’s blog for the rest of the amazing list!!


Artistry Lives On January 14, 2016

Filed under: Blog — chasingthecrazies @ 9:01 am
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To most people the passing of  David Bowie, and now Alan Rickman, won’t mean a thing. They’ll simply be faces that show up on a screen during an “In Memoriam” montage that appears during an awards show. Mere flickers of lives that passed too quickly.



For me, their deaths means so much more. No, I didn’t know them personally, but their talent touched me deeply. And while it would be easy to sob as I listen to David Bowie’s music (which I did in the car yesterday), or cringe as I see the Twitter posts, one after the other, herald Severus Snape himself, for me their deaths mark the loss of true artistic genius.



I first heard David Bowie’s entrancing voice when I was very young. My older siblings were driving me to the beach near our home in California and the “alien-like” opening to “Ashes to Ashes” echoed through the car. It’s a memory vividly stamped in my brain. The bright summer sunshine beating on my face as the strains of Bowie’s voice filled my ears in an odd, yet melodic, way.



Years later, I’d been struck by David Bowie’s genius again when he practically became the poster child for the earliest incarnation of MTV (when they actually played music). I’ll never forget watching the video for “China Girl” for the first time and being glued to the couch as Bowie raced across the screen in that dark suit, grabbed the girl, and kissed her right in the street while noodles flew through the air. Strange, but compelling as well. “Modern Love” and “Let’s Dance” along with “China Girl” were on constant repeat for me that summer. Now I can’t listen to any of those songs and not be transported back to my childhood.



As for Alan Rickman, the news is still too fresh for me to really comprehend. I suppose his death won’t hit me until I watch the first Harry Potter again and realize he’s truly gone. My history with Mr. Rickman is just as long as it is with Bowie’s. The first time I encountered his genius was in the movie, “Die Hard”. When he appeared on screen I instantly knew his villain was going to be delicious. His combination of snark and sharp wit struck me, and by the end of the movie I wanted to see him on screen more than the star, Bruce Willis. That snark and wit continued on in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, where again I wanted more screen time for him than Kevin Costner. No matter the film, Rickman took charge and it was easy to forget every other actor except him.



When Rickman was cast as Severus Snape I literally shouted for joy. I’ve never been shy about telling people he’s my favorite Harry Potter character. I vividly remember the moment he appeared in “The Sorcerer’s Stone” sitting at the teacher’s table in the banquet hall, his beady eyes focused on Dan Radcliffe. To be honest, I think I might have actually squealed with excitement. He was without a doubt the perfect embodiment of a character I’d grown to love.



Just recently, I watched Mr. Rickman in a small indie film about a famous bar in New York known as CBGB, which is heralded as being the birthplace of Punk music. The movie wasn’t so great, but Rickman’s performance elevated the film. When he appeared on screen I was reminded again of how he can crawl into the soul of a character and make him feel real.



I’ll be sad for the next couple of days as I play my Bowie music, and most likely watch my favorite Alan Rickman films, but I’m comforted by the fact that both men will still live on. Kids now are finding Bowie’s earliest recordings and loving the magic of it all. And me, along with countless others, will continue to watch and get lost in Alan Rickman’s many great performances. Yes, it’s sad to think that we will see nothing new from these two men, but I’m comforted by the fact that their talents will continue to touch future generations.



Godspeed, gentlemen and thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. Heaven is a very full and blessed place today.


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