chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

First Five Frenzy with Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency April 17, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:04 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. It’s tricky to get just the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments 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, Rebecca Podos’ perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

 

Amy: There is a belief among many writers that having a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

 

Rebecca: Does the very first sentence have to be especially spectacular? No, not for me. A really well written first paragraph (and second, and third) counts a lot more than the first line, as does beginning the story dynamically, plot wise. As long as the first line isn’t a total dud, I’m more interested in seeing you build strong sentence upon strong sentence to set a great scene right out of the gate.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Rebecca: There are a few common beginnings, especially in YA, that have to be really, really exceptionally done if you want me to keep reading. For instance, a teenager pulling up to her brand new house in her brand new town, staring out the car window while she describes her feelings of angst/foreboding. An alarm clock opening: beginning the story with a character waking up. Is that really the most interesting moment in your day? In your week? In your story arc? And I know a cold open on action is meant to be exciting – a character running through the woods from a demon/ demon hunter/ unknown danger as the branches whip at them – but if you place a character in danger before I know anything else about them, how am I supposed to have a stake in their survival? None of these opening are horrible, per say, but agents see them so often that it raises a red flag about the rest of the book.

 

That said, there are always exceptions! One of the first books I sold opened on a dream (or rather, a character trying to stay awake so she wouldn’t dream) and it was such an interesting twist on a familiar concept that I immediately wanted to read on.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Rebecca: Voice is huge. I feel like I can forgive a lot if the lens through which we’re viewing your world is very strong. So voice is one of the first things that inspire me to request a manuscript. A great handle on language, which does NOT mean showing off. I don’t need the most beautiful writing in the book to happen in the first paragraph, but I want to know that language is in your tool box, and you know how to use it. And then just an opening scene that feels fresh. If it must be one of the more common openings, then you have to work harder to justify it, and to make it feel like no scene I’ve read before.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Rebecca: I think it can be hard to strike a good balance between action/ forward momentum, and character building, especially when you’re trying to make everything perfect. It’s difficult to know how much information to put in, and so some writers end up bogging down the first pages with backstory before the plot gets going, or else neglecting to develop a character and rushing headfirst into action (as with the running-through-the-woods scenario.) The first chapter can be the toughest to pace, but if you get it down, that’s a great sign for an agent.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Rebecca: Hah, I think I’ve mentioned all of those, so I’m tempted to say all of the above! But if I had to choose, I might say voice. We can work on pacing in edits, and the truth is, sometimes writers begin their story a little too early or a little too late, and it doesn’t take much in the way of cutting to change that. A unique concept is great, but if you can’t tell the story dynamically, then it’s a wonderful idea and nothing more. Voice, perspective, telling a story sentence-by-sentence in an interesting way, is something that just can’t be absent from the equation.

 

 

 

Rebecca Podos is a graduate of the MFA Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College, whose debut YA novel THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray. Rebecca loves YA and MG projects with compelling characters whose journeys feel human, whether they’re high school students, were-dragons or space travelers. She is thrilled to represent books like Rin Chupeco’s THE GIRL FROM THE WELL (Sourcebooks), Ryan Bradford’s HORROR BUSINESS (Month9Books), Mackenzi Lee’s THIS MONSTROUS THING (Katherine Tegen Books, 2015), Sarah Nicolas’ DRAGONS ARE PEOPLE, TOO (Entangled, 2015), Ashley Herring Blake’s SUFFER LOVE (HMH Children’s, 2016) Kenneth Logan’s THE SLOW THAW (HarperCollins Children’s, 2016), and Emily Ross’s HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH (Merit Press, 2016.)

 

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Rebecca, please check the Rees Literary Agency website for their guidelines.

 

Closing in on 100 W.O.W. Posts! April 15, 2015

WOW

 

 

In June 0f 2012 I had this crazy idea. This blog was still in its infancy, and I was trying to get my footing as to what types of posts I wanted to share. At the time I was spending a lot of hours on AgentQuery Connect trying to improve my craft and make connections in the writing community. One day I came across posts from writers Mindy McGinnis and R.C. Lewis about their struggles prior to getting agents and publishing deals. As I was reading about their paths to publication I was inspired by how hard they’d worked to make their dreams come true. At that moment I knew I wanted to start a series sharing the triumphs and pitfalls of what it takes to make it in publishing. That idea turned into Writer Odyssey Wednesday.

 

Since that first post I’ve been lucky to share the stories of some amazing writers. Today, I want to share some of their inspiring quotes and highlight their work. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the series as much as I have and been inspired. Now, on to 100!!

 

 

 

 

“Silence is always frustrating. Rejection always stings. After going through the process with one manuscript, though, I knew what to expect. There were times I got down, but I tried to remind myself that if I kept working to improve, I’d get there.” – R.C. Lewis

 

 

 

Spinning Starlight

(Available October 6, 2015)

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

 

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

 

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

 

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

 

 

 

 

 

Do your homework, get good crit partners, learn how to take criticism. Develop very thick skin. It is not an easy undertaking, but sometimes it’s the unexpected things (like a kind rejection) that will make you keep going to that end goal. – Mindy McGinnis

 

 

 

 

A Madness

(Available October 6, 2015)

 

 

Grace Mae knows madness.

 

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

 

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

 

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

 

 

 

 

Writing is such a subjective thing, as well—not everyone’s going to love the same book. Someone once said each rejection is like a scar you earn in battle, and it’s a great way to look at it. – Elsie Chapman

 

 

 

 

Divided(Now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retail outlets)

 

 

 

 

 

The hunter becomes the hunted. . . .

 

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life.

 

The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

 

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing, and more specifically story-telling, is an integral part of who I am. I could no sooner turn away from writing stories then I could make myself stop reading books or watching movies and TV shows. – Mindee Arnett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightmare Charade(Available August 4, 2015)

 

 

 

The final installment in a thrilling fantastical mystery series.

 

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

 

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough, not to mention the crazy events of the past year. Dusty may have saved the day, but there are many days left in the year, and with an old foe back to seek revenge, she’ll need all her strength to defeat him and save her friends.

 

Mindee Arnett thrills again in this stunning final installment in the Arkwell Academy series.

 

 

 

 

 

Our novels are personal to us, the writer, but not to an agent. To an agent, this is a business and they view potential manuscripts and clients with a professional, business eye.  So you can’t take it personally. – Gretchen McNeil

 

 

 

 

 

Get Dirty

(Available June 16, 2015)

 

 

 

The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

 

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best decisions I made in 2004 was to reach out to other romance writers and ask to trade manuscripts. You really can’t predict how your writing is coming off to other people unless you ask. – Jennifer Echols

 

 

 

 

 

Superlatives 3

(Available August 4, 2015)

 

 

 

 

In this sexy conclusion to The Superlatives trilogy from Endless Summer author Jennifer Echols, Sawyer and Kaye might just be perfect for each other—if only they could admit it.

 

As vice president of Student Council, Kaye knows the importance of keeping order. Not only in school, but in her personal life. Which is why she and her boyfriend, Aidan, already have their lives mapped out: attend Columbia University together, pursue banking careers, and eventually get married. Everything Kaye has accomplished in high school—student government, cheerleading, stellar grades—has been in preparation for that future.

 

To his entire class, Sawyer is an irreverent bad boy. His antics on the field as school mascot and his love of partying have earned him total slacker status. But while he and Kaye appear to be opposites on every level, fate—and their friends—keep conspiring to throw them together. Perhaps the seniors see the simmering attraction Kaye and Sawyer are unwilling to acknowledge to themselves…

 

As the year unfolds, Kaye begins to realize her ideal life is not what she thought. And Sawyer decides it’s finally time to let down the facade and show everyone who he really is. Is a relationship between them most likely to succeed—or will it be their favorite mistake?

 

 

 

Many thanks to all the writers who have participated in the series. I appreciate your time and honesty in sharing your journey!

 

For more amazing quotes and stories check out my entire Writer Odyssey Series here: https://chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com/w-o-w-series/

 

Monday Musings: Always Push Forward April 13, 2015

 

When I was a kid I had this habit of always thinking about the next exciting thing to happen in my life. Just days into starting school in September I was already wishing it was Halloween. Once Halloween was over, it was all about Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

 

This pattern didn’t disappear as I got older. When I was 14 I wanted to be 16 so desperately I looked through the classifieds every week, thinking about the car I’d drive one day. At 18, and a freshman in college, all I wished for was my 21st birthday. After 21, it was graduation, first job, etc.

 

While annoying at times, especially when friends and family yelled at me to “live in the moment, I’m happy to say this habit followed me into adulthood and here’s the reason why: when you write, you have to look forward. Not get stalled in the process, but think about what you’re going to work on next.

 

When I first ventured into the query trenches, I was plotting something new. When the rejections came and it was time to think about next steps, I already had a new book I was working on. Even in the darkest days of that “rejection period,” I had hope because my mind-set was “Okay, they don’t want that one, I’ll write something even better.”

 

Some may think this idea of forward motion stopped when I signed with my agent. That I would work on the manuscript she signed me for, polish, and revise and then wait to see what happened. While I did work on it, and revise, and rework until it was just right, I was still thinking about what was next. And here’s the honest truth: it’s what has kept me sane through the ups and downs of publishing.

 

For me the idea of forward momentum is akin to running a marathon. You plan, you train, and then comes the race. Sure, people pass you, but then you pass others, always with the same goal in mind: finishing the race. It’s no different in the publishing world. You have to focus, write, and when things don’t work out, write some more. The end goal always being the same-that beautiful finish line-a published book!

 

What about you? Do you keep a forward momentum when you write? I’d love to hear about it  in the comments.

 

QUITE THE QUERY with Annie Cardi and THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN April 10, 2015

 

 QuiteTheQuery

 

 

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 Annie Cardi. This great query connected her with her agent, Taylor Martindale.

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Alex Winchester’s mother starts calling herself Amelia Earhart—decades after the famous female pilot disappeared. This isn’t the first time Alex’s mother has struggled with mental health issues, so Alex and her father hope the delusion will work itself out. But a confrontation with one of Alex’s teachers makes Alex realize that this is going to be a long struggle for the whole family. Now Alex faces the responsibility of helping care for her young siblings and a mother who doesn’t recognize her.

 

Alex doesn’t feel like she can share her family situation with anyone, not even her friends. They assume Alex is ditching them to be with Jim Wiley, a cute junior famous for crashing a car into his house and who has suddenly taken an interest in Alex. Balancing her social life and the secret at home becomes harder than Alex ever imagined—and to top it all off, she’s the only person at her school failing drivers ed. Suddenly, the one person Alex can talk to is her mother, who spends her time mapping out historical flights. But when Alex realizes that Amelia Earhart’s final flight is approaching, she wonders if she can stop her mother from disappearing forever.

 

An accident involving Alex, her mom, and a late night car ride puts Alex’s mom in a residential care facility for extensive therapy. There, Alex tells her mother that she doesn’t want her to disappear like Amelia Earhart. She has to come home. Not long after being at the hospital, Alex begins to receive letters from her mother–not signed as Amelia Earhart. Although Alex knows that her mother working through deep emotional issues will be a long process, she’s hopeful that her mom will one day return.

 

 

Query Tidbit:

 

I submitted to about 15-20 agents before signing with Taylor over the course of about six months. I had a big spreadsheet of agents I’d sent to, what their submissions policies were, the date I sent something out, and any info I heard back from them. I really appreciated when agents (particular those who requested fulls) would offer their feedback. I know agents are so busy working with their current clients and reading new submissions that even sending a few sentences of thoughtful comments can be a big boost in continuing to send work out.

 

When Taylor read my full manuscript, she said there was a lot about it that she did like but had some suggestions for revision and wanted to know if I would work with her on an exclusive revision. (The original ending was SO different, and Taylor is a big part of how that changed.) Getting to see Taylor’s suggestions and working with her a little before signing with her actually worked out really well for me. I got a sense of how she worked and what things she picked up in a manuscript, and showed me that we’d be a really good match.

 

I’ve loved working with Taylor, and I know at some points in the querying process I doubted myself and my story. But querying isn’t about finding someone who likes your manuscript–it’s about finding someone who really loved it and gets it and gets you as a writer. That can take a while, but don’t give up!

 

 

 

 

chance you wont return
(Now available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and other retail outlets)

 

 

 

 

 

Annie MAnnie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at: Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.
 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Chandler Baker April 1, 2015

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Somedays writing is all about instinct and listening to your gut.  In today’s W.O.W., Chandler Baker shares how she knew she’d found her voice when she started reading and writing YA. As she puts in her own words, “Any time I reached for a book that I’d heard of and was particularly excited to read, I realized it was YA. So it’s no surprise that YA is where I found my voice.”

 

Many thanks to Chandler for sharing her writing odyssey today…

 

 

 

Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

 

Chandler: In my heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even in elementary school, writing was a form of play. It took until my senior year of college, though, to connect the dots that being an author was a job that real people could do—including me. After that light bulb moment, I began pursuing a writing career seriously.

 

 

 

 

Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?

 

Chandler: This is easy. I love reading YA. Especially at the time that I started writing toward publication, YA lit was going through what felt like to me a renaissance. Any time I reached for a book that I’d heard of and was particularly excited to read, I realized it was YA. So it’s no surprise that YA is where I found my voice. I also love writing about the teen years because I can look back and judge my own experience. In retrospect, I find that from eighth grade through college, I was at varying times closer and further away from my true self. I love writing about that process of finding identity.

 

 

 

 

Amy: I love that you’re an attorney, but write both YA and Middle Grade fiction. Do you use any of your legal education when you write your books?

 

Chandler: Not directly so far, but I do think there is certain training in becoming a lawyer, that has been helpful, namely focusing for long periods of time, working on deadline, working under pressure and excessive attention over the exact meaning of particular words. I do think that my career as a lawyer has made the business side of reading feel more accessible and comprehensible, though I still trust my agent to negotiate all of my contracts.

 

 

 

 

Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to ALIVE?

 

I completed two manuscripts of my own prior, but I’d also ghostwritten 4-5 books in between the two trunked novels and ALIVE.

 

 

 

Amy:  If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?

 

Chandler: I don’t take (writing) rejection personally, so I’m lucky in that way. However, when ALIVE went out to editors, selling a book was something I wanted so badly that I’d built the stakes up to an immeasurable height in my heart and mind. It could be really crippling at times. I was fortunate that the time from submission to sale was relatively quick, but I still fretted. I ended up starting a “just for fun” book that ended up being a lovely place to place my energy.

 

 

 

Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for ALIVE? Did it go through many drafts?

 

Chandler: I had signed with my wonderful agent, Dan Lazar, for another manuscript, so didn’t have to query ALIVE.

 

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for ALIVE?

 

Chandler: I didn’t have to query ALIVE since I already had a fabulous agent that had stuck with me through my first manuscript which didn’t sell. For the manuscript that didn’t sell, though, I queried about 12 agents before getting an offer. But for the manuscript before that? Probably 100.

 

 

 

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

 

Chandler: Sometimes publishing feels like the land where time stands still, but when I queried Dan I heard back in minutes. For ALIVE, editor responses ranged from a couple days to a couple weeks.

 

 

 

Amy: Can you tell us what your “call” was like with your agent, Dan Lazar?  How did you know he was a good fit for you?

 

It caught me off guard, that’s for sure! I’m very Type A, so as soon as I suspected that we might be moving toward an offer, I prepared questions. He was, of course, lovely and I made every effort not to sound like an idiot. I knew he was a good fit because he was unfailingly honest with me, forthright as well as responsive. I wanted someone who would advise and guide me toward a long-term career and who’d be transparent about the process. Mainly, I wanted a business partner and for six years now he’s been the best one I could ask for.

 

 

 

Amy:  As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into.  What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?

 

Chandler: I think I wrote a snappy query that hit the right agent at the right time.

 

 

 

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

 

Chandler: “You are the best steward of your own career.” I forget where I heard this from but it’s really resonated with me. I think it’s great to listen to the sage of advice of people you trust, but then always go back to a gut check and making sure you are doing the things that are helping you grow in your craft and grow in the business.

 

 

 

 

Alive cover

 (Available June 9, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 Stella Cross’s heart is poisoned.

 

After years on the transplant waiting list, she’s running out of hope that she’ll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

 

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone’s radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable.

 

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soulmate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

 

After all, the heart never lies…does it?


 

 

 

 

Chandler BakerChandler Baker is a lawyer, author of young adult and middle grade fiction, and a dedicated nerdfighter (not necessarily in that order). Her debut YA novel, ALIVE is forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in May 2015 followed by TEEN FRANKENSTEIN in the Fall of 2015, which is Book 1 in her new HIGH SCHOOL HORROR STORY series to be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. For more on Chandler, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter.

 

QUITE THE QUERY with Melissa Albert and JUST BREATHE March 27, 2015

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

 

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 Melissa Albert. This great query connected her with her agent, Uwe Stender.

 

 

 

On October 24th, seventeen-year-old Kate Mitchells left her job at 11:00 pm. At 11:01, she was held down and raped in the parking lot by her ex-boyfriend, her close friend, and a third guy who she couldn’t see. She hadn’t wanted to involve the police, but a boy from her school, Hunter Shaw, witnessed the ending moments of the attack and reported it. Twenty-one days “Post Incident,” Kate still refuses to talk about what happened.

 

 

Suffering from PTSD, Kate avoids all human touch. She tries to live in the present, but that’s difficult when simple life events lead to flashbacks of “The Incident.” The community has labeled her one of two things: “the girl who was raped” or “the girl who is lying.” Her father stays at the office and her mother prays for her daughter’s lost purity. The only person who treats her like an actual human being is Hunter. But that doesn’t stop Kate from hating him for making her go through with the trial. If it were up to her, she would go back to being normal.

 

 

As it turns out, the cards are not in Kate’s favor. Her assailants claim to have an airtight alibi while the alleged third attacker is nowhere to be found. The whole town would rather believe that the act was consensual than accept the hard truth about the son of a prominent business leader, and Kate can’t find the strength to tell her side of the story. As the trial draws nearer, she must wrestle each day with the fact that the events of that night were not her fault. Because if she can’t convince herself that she isn’t to blame, then she has no shot at convincing a jury.

 

 

JUST BREATHE, a YA contemporary novel, is complete at 60,000 words. It finds its roots in psychological theory as well as actual court cases. It would appeal to readers of DREAMLAND by Sarah Dessen and SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, although it focuses on an older narrator and the implications of her choosing to speak out. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

 

Query Tidbit:

 

A funny thing about my querying process: I personalized all of my query letters except for one. The one that I didn’t was the one that ended up landing me my first offer of representation. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to personalize that one, I just couldn’t find anything to say. I guess the moral of the story here is that personalization is great to have, but don’t freak out if you can’t find anything. In the end, it’s your story that’s going to hook the agent, not the (somewhat creepy) fact that you know they eat blueberry pancakes for lunch every Sunday…

 

 

 

 

Melissa AlbertMelissa Albert is a YA writer who is repped by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. She majors in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at The College of New Jersey where she is going into her sophomore year. Lover of all YA fiction, she has three completed manuscripts and four WIPs. When she’s not writing, she’s singing, acting, dancing, and day dreaming about her days of playing travel soccer and doing competitive gymnastics. You can bribe her with anything chocolate or cat related, and she orders all her food on separate plates because she hates when it touches. For more on Melissa, check out her blog, The Truth About Teens or follow her on Twitter.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Sarah Henning March 17, 2015

WOW

 

 

“No query or pitch is ever perfect on the first draft.” I love this line from today’s W.O.W. with Sarah Henning. Sometimes we think we can get it all done in one attempt, but as Sarah points out “there’s always tweaking to be done.” The key thing to remember is revision is important. It can take quite a bit of massaging before your manuscript is ready to be sent out into the world, but once it’s done you’ll be grateful for the experience.

 

 

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing journey today…

 

 

 

Amy: You’ve had a prolific journalistic career writing and editing for The Palm Beach Post and The Lawrence Journal-World. What made you decide to make the jump to writing fiction?

 

 

Sarah: I’d actually always wanted to write fiction—I’d written several “books” as a child and teen— but I’m very practical and attracted to stability and, so, I’d talked myself into journalism as a much smarter career choice. But the thing is, you can’t escape your passion. It’s not as simple as trying to reassign it. I couldn’t escape the fact that I wanted to write fiction. And so, the second I graduated from college and got my first full-time journalism job, I started in on a book, wishing I hadn’t waited so long.

 

 

 

 

Amy: Was DEAD MEAT your first completed manuscript?

 

 

Sarah: Nope, not at all. It was the third one I’d completed as a post-college adult. I wrote two and then took a few years off to have my oldest child. When he was about one, I started revising the second of those manuscripts and querying it and then started in on DEAD MEAT.

 

 

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish DEAD MEAT? If so, what did they add to the process?

 

 

Sarah: Oh, man, I have so many people to thank for looking at that manuscript. But the big kahuna is Rebecca Coffindaffer. She was my mentor in the very first Pitch Wars contest put on by Brenda Drake. Becca helped me refine DEAD MEAT just enough that I was able to get four offers and then sign with Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Sarah: I actually have a really easy time with queries. I’ve been a professional copy editor since 2003, and, when I worked in newspapers, a big part of that job was to write headlines, subheads and cutlines. To write those, a copy editor has to be able to summarize the story in just a few words, phrases or sentences. In reality, that is what a query letter is, only in long form. So, I think my career in newspapers made it very easy for me to write both queries and pitches. And I often help friends with their queries and pitches, because there are some very good writers who have a hard time distilling their work into such a short summation. That said, no query or pitch is ever perfect on the first draft. There’s always tweaking to be done.

 

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for DEAD MEAT? Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?

 

 

Sarah: I queried 38 agents, including the people who requested DEAD MEAT through Pitch Wars. I had requests for 16 fulls and 7 partials and then I ended up with four offers. The thing about DEAD MEAT is that it has a very distinctive opening line (Funny fact: Human flesh sears just as easily as lamb. Crisp skin on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.). Most agents knew right away if it was for them or not!

 

 

 

 

Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with your agent, Rachel Ekstrom? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

 

 

Sarah: Rachel is an amazingly enthusiastic person and not in a fake way. She is bubbly and smart and soooooo knowledgeable about the industry. I’d talked to three other agents before I talked to Rachel and then I talked with three more after Rachel, and while they were all amazing and I would’ve been lucky to sign with any of them, Rachel’s spunk, humor, intelligence and mystery smarts bowled me over.

 

My “call” with her was actually in the afternoon and that morning I’d gotten my first offer from another agent. In between, I sent out my “I have an offer” emails to every agent who needed to know other than Rachel. I didn’t know if she was going to offer to me, but it didn’t feel right to email her two hours before we were scheduled to talk and tell her I had an offer.

 

Anyway, I went into the phone call not really knowing if it was “the call” or if it was one where we just talked about my work (which had happened to me two times previously). From the very first moment I heard her voice, I knew Rachel loved my book. Not only did she read it ASAP (I sent her the full on a Thursday night, she emailed about a phone call on a Sunday and we talked on a Monday afternoon), but she loved it, already had a list of editors she wanted to send it to and couldn’t wait to talk to me about what else I was working on and my literary vision. She offered to me and I felt like a jerk telling her that I’d already had an offer that morning, but I knew right away that she was probably going to be it for me. And she was. I love her and I’d recommend anyone who writes in her wheel house.

 

 

 

Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?

 

 

Sarah: Honestly, my first offer didn’t come off of Pitch Wars, it came from an agent who I’d happened to send DEAD MEAT to outside of the contest. And who happened to offer the Monday after the contest ended. That said, I think being part of that contest was a game-changer for me. It introduced me to someone who helped me perfect the book (Becca) and it gave me a chance to stand out away from the query inbox to Rachel and other agents. Plus, because of the way the format works, agents can see if other agents are interested because all the comments/requests are public, so it adds a layer of urgency.

 

That said, I think it’s important to understand that contests aren’t your only way to go and that some manuscripts may not work in a contest format. Mine did specifically because of the way the opening page read and that was integral to the way the contest was laid out. My pitch was also really succinct and easy to understand. Again, some books are difficult to pitch in a way that does them justice in just 50 words.

 

 

 

Amy: What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?

 

 

Sarah: Keep going. Keep working. And remember why you write. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking, “Is there a market for this?” “Is this too much like X?” “Is this something that will be ‘over’ by the time I finish it?” etc. Yes, those things do matter in a business sense. But if you focus on them too much you’re just going to make yourself crazy trying to figure out a secret formula to getting an agent/deal/bigger sales. Don’t do it. Just write to write and everything else will fall into place.

 

 

 

 

SarahHenningSarah Henning is a crime writer, recovering newshound, and word nerd of the highest order (aka a freelance copy editor). She has degrees in journalism and Spanish from the University of Kansas, and has worked for several news organizations, including The Associated Press, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, and The Palm Beach Post. When she’s not hunched over her computer or curled up with a good book, Sarah is probably running ultramarathons, playing with her cherub-cheeked kids, or nagging her husband to eat more kale. She is repped by Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. For more on Sarah, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 
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