chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

FIRED UP FRIDAY: A Publishing Journey with Joy McCullough January 20, 2017

 

 

In a recent Monday Musings I talked about how too often we see negativity in the writing community. I’m tired of opening social media and seeing authors tear each other down when we should really be building one another up. Supporting each other.

 

With that idea in mind, I reached out to some friends who have had AMAZING publishing journeys and asked that they share (in their own words!) what they went through before they saw their publishing dream realized.

 

My hope is that these posts will light a fire in each and every writer who may be struggling. Encourage those who wonder if they can take another month in the query trenches. Build up those feeling low from being on submission for what feels like forever. Each post will be proof that if you hold onto that dream it CAN and WILL come true.

 

 

 

 

Fired up Friday – A Post by Joy McCullough

 

 

 

 

In the fall of 2016, I sold my debut novel. It was only on submission for a week before the editor wanted a phone call.

 

 

BUT WAIT. Before you rage against another quick-sale-story while you’ve been languishing on sub for months and months and maybe even years, let me back up.

 

 

First of all, I wrote five middle grade novels before I signed with my first agent. I detail that in this blog post (http://joymcculloughcarranza.blogspot.com/2014/02/how-i-got-my-super-amazing-agent.html), but here’s the short version: 290 queries, 47 full requests, one offer from a really well-respected agent.

 

 

I was with that agent for two years. I kept writing. She put three different manuscripts on sub. (New ones, not the trunked ones from before I signed with her.)

 

 

Eventually, I went through the really agonizing decision to part ways with that agent. I blog about that in this post http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2016/01/on-parting-ways-with-literary-agents-by.html but here’s the short version: leaving an agent is scary, but worth it if they weren’t the right match, and it’s really very common. You’re not alone, if that’s your situation.)

 

 

Since it had taken me so long to sign with my first agent, I was pretty convinced it might take me another five novels to do it again. Or maybe I’d never have another agent. But as it turned out, I signed with the amazing Jim McCarthy quickly, did some revisions, and got out on sub, sure that this time would be different!

 

And you know what? That book didn’t sell either.

 

 

But! Jim was supportive and lovely (and still hasn’t given up on that book). Once that book had gone on sub, I had sent him a list of pitches for what I should work on next. There were five or six things on the list. At the very end of the list, I tacked on an idea that seemed so wildly unmarketable that I was almost embarrassed to include it.

 

 

But I did. (Because I’m a glutton for rejection? I don’t know.)

 

 

And Jim wrote back (within five minutes, probably, because that’s how he is) and said, WRITE THAT LAST ONE. (And then he hedged to say how several of the other ideas were good too and I should do what I wanted to do, because he’s always trying to let me be me. But it was clear how he really felt. And I really trust him.)

 

 

That last pitch? Was for BLOOD WATER PAINT.

 

 

It’s a historical verse novel set in the 17th century. Also partially set in Biblical times. Super feminist. I didn’t know what Jim was thinking. But it’s a story I’ve loved for a long time—an adaptation of one of my own plays. And I was excited about the possibilities of making it a YA novel. So I wrote it. And revised it. And it went on sub. And guys, this was my fifth book to go on sub. The tenth I’d written. My hopes? They were LOW.

 

 

Low really doesn’t begin to describe it.
And THEN. A week after it went on sub, my phone rang. I was at my sewing table. It was Jim. Jim hadn’t called me at all during the submission period of the first book we tried to sell. A phone call seemed like it might mean something.

 

 

He was calling to tell me an editor wanted to have a phone call with me. (And not just an editor. THE editor that I had freaked out to see on my submission list.)

 

 

“WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEAAAAAAN???” was my immediate response.

 

 

Jim didn’t know for sure, but it definitely wasn’t bad news. So we set up the call (blessedly for just a couple days later).

 

 

I have phone anxiety. And this felt like maybe the most important phone call ever. But the editor was incredibly lovely, and mainly wanted to talk about how I’d come to write this story and what my hopes were for it. And at the end of the call, he said he “hoped to offer” and would know in about a week if he could.

 

 

Of course, publishing is publishing, so it was more like three weeks before my phone rang again. With Jim’s number. I was at my sewing table again. (I really don’t sew that much! Next time I’m on submission, though, I’ll probably sew non-stop.)

 

 

And he told me Andrew Karre at Dutton Young Readers had made an offer on BLOOD WATER PAINT to be published in 2018.

 

 

More things had to happen before all was final, including another phone call with Andrew, throughout which he was standing in an NYC Whole Foods. Also several phone calls with Jim, during which I was so grateful he already knew I could form actual sentences, because I was probably less coherent than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

 

 

And then, finally, it was real. It was happening. I didn’t believe it, of course. Not when I signed the contract. Not when I finally got to announce it. Not even now that I’ve been working with Andrew (who is straight up brilliant) for a couple months. It probably won’t feel real until I’m holding the book in my hands.

 

 

But it IS happening. There’s even a Goodreads page! (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33301702-blood-water-paint?ac=1&from_search=true) My book is going to have a cover and ARCs and even be on bookstore shelves one day!

 

 

And yours will too, eventually. It might even happen on your very first book. If so, that’s AMAZING! But if your journey is on the longer side, just know you’re on a well-trodden path.

 

 

These are my trail essentials for the long route to a book deal:

 

 

  • The AMAZING kidlit community—find your people and surround yourself with them.

 

  • Your next story: As soon as you begin querying or subbing one manuscript, start the next thing. Getting invested in a new project has always been key for me.

 

  • Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to step away for a bit when rejections get to be too much and/or it’s not fun any more.

 

 

You’ll be back. Because you have stories to tell—and I can’t wait to read them.

 

 

 

 

headshot1Joy McCullough’s debut YA novel BLOOD WATER PAINT is coming from Dutton in 2018. She’s a freelance editor, ghostwriter, and Pitchwars mentor. You can find her on Twitter at @JMCwrites and on her website at www.joymcculloughcarranza.com

 

FREE PASS DETAILS FOR TEAM SUN! January 9, 2017

 

SUBMISSION WINDOW NOW CLOSED FOR TEAM SUN FREE PASS

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Before I provide details on the Free Pass, I thought I’d share a quick, fun story.

 

One of the first writing conferences I ever attended was in San Francisco. The experience was both informative and a little bit intimidating. The conference took place in a beautiful hotel, and the craft sessions were held in small conference rooms that looked like they had not been renovated since the turn of the twentieth century.

 

One of the best sessions I attended was on crafting an elevator pitch. For those who do not know, an elevator pitch is a one to two sentence pitch describing your story. It should be no more than 30-60 seconds and entice the agent to request more.

 

For example: Bitten by a radioactive spider, a young man learns how to manage his new extraordinary powers in order to save a city under attack by a brutal villain. 

 

LOL! Not the best example, but you get where I’m going.

 

Even with clear direction, it was hard to figure out how to take a sixty thousand word story and boil it down to one sentence, but after forty-five minutes, I had something I was proud of.

 

After the session was over, we were reminded to practice the pitch until we felt comfortable with it.  I imagined if I ever got that opportunity to actually use the pitch it wouldn’t be until later in the conference. If you guessed it, I was wrong. Not ten minutes later I was introduced to an agent who asked to hear my pitch. Needless to say, I flubbed it, but the agent was a good sport and went on to ask me several more questions about my manuscript.

 

The point I learned from that experience is that you can never know your story too well. The elevator pitch forces you to glean down your story to its core element. Root out what makes it unique, something an agent would be eager to request.

 

So after that long-winded story, I bet you can guess what you’ll have to do to qualify to enter for my FREE PASS…Yes, provide an elevator pitch for the story you will be subbing for Sun vs. Snow in the comments section below.

 

The Free Pass window will be open now until January 19. I will announce the winner here on the blog (at the bottom of this post) on January 21. The winner will get automatic entry into the contest and will work directly with one of the TEAM SUN mentors to polish up their entry before it goes live during our agent round.

 

Good luck and I look forward to reading your pitches!

 

 

Congrats Paul Sylvia (@rykter07)! You are the winner of the TEAM SUN FREE PASS!

 

 

Introducing the 2017 TEAM SUN Mentors!!! January 6, 2017

Filed under: Blog,contest,Publishing,Query,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 7:07 am
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This is one of my most favorite times of the year! Sun vs Snow is really a labor of love and Michelle and I could NOT pull it off without the help of our incredible mentors.

 

This year we have some familiar faces returning as well as new writers jumping in to help the selected entries. Please give them a warm welcome in the comments and let them know how happy you are to have them participating this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brooks Benjamin lives in Tennessee with his wife and their incredibly spoiled dog. MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS (Delacorte/Random House) is his first novel.

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brooksbenjamin

Website: http://www.brooksbenjamin.com/

 

 

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Dance studios are for sell-outs. Or at least that’s what Dillon’s dance crew keeps saying. But when a chance to compete at the biggest dance academy in the state falls in his lap, he has to decide what’s more important: sticking to his crew’s rules or freestyling his way into solo greatness.

 

Buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Grade-Life-Tights-Brooks-Benjamin/dp/0553512501

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-seventh-grade-life-in-tights-brooks-benjamin/1122342052

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780553512502

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A third generation native Arizonan, Kelly deVos can tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cactus, cattle and climate. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Her debut novel, FAT GIRL ON A PLANE, will be published in August 2017 by Harlequin Teen and her work has been featured in Normal Noise and 202 Magazine.

 

Links:

Blog: http://insanity.today

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KdeVosAuthor

Tumblr: http://kellydevosauthor.tumblr.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellydevos/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31123268-fat-girl-on-a-plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jody Holford lives in British Columbia with her family. She’s unintentionally funny and rarely on time for anything. She writes multiple genres but her favorite is romance. Her most recent release, More than Friends from Entangled Publishing, is the first in a three book series. To read the first chapter you can check out http://entangledpublishing.com/more-than-friends/ Book 2 will be out in March 2017.

 

 

 

 

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Website: www.jodyholford.weebly.com

https://www.facebook.com/Authorjodyholford/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7370077.Jody_Holford

https://www.pinterest.com/jholford/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jody-holford

https://twitter.com/1prncs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kip Wilson is a YA writer represented by Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her work has been published in the TIMELESS and SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthologies as well as several magazines for children. She is the Poetry Editor and acting Editor in Chief at YARN: The YA Review Network, publishing new teen writers alongside superstars like Jacqueline Woodson.

 

 

 

Website: http://www.kipwilsonwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kiperoo

YARN: http://yareview.net/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Spence is a YA author represented by Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency. She lives in Utah with her husband and four kids, but still calls California home and wears flip flops year-round, no matter the weather. A classically trained actress with degrees in English Literature and Theatre, she fell in love with storytelling on stage, but discovered that the costumes for writers were much more comfortable, and happily tells stories in her pajamas now. While she uses the perspective of a dramatic performer to create her imagined characters and worlds, she’s not dramatic at all in real life. You can find her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/summywins or on her website at www.summerspence.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. KISSING MAX HOLDEN is her debut novel.

 

 

 

SOCIAL – Website  ::  Facebook  ::  Twitter  ::  Instagram  ::  Goodreads  ::  Tumblr

 

 

 

 

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After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea. With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

 

BOOK LINKS – Mark Kissing Max Holden T0-Read on Goodreads

Preorder Kissing Max Holden from Amazon

Preorder Kissing Max Holden from Indie Bound

Preorder Kissing Max Holden from Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

Want to check out who TEAM SNOW has recruited to mentor this year? Stop by Michelle’s blog to see her list of amazing writers!

 

Again, many thanks to all these writers for agreeing to mentor this year. Want to ask them questions or have a general contest or writing question? Drop into our annual Sun vs. Snow Twitter chat on Thursday, January 19. We will have two sessions. The first will begin at 4pm EST and the second will start at 8pm EST. We hope you’ll stop by and chat with us using the #SvSChat hashtag.

 

Keep a lookout next week for details about the TEAM SUN FREE PASS as well as our agent reveal. You won’t believe the list of agents participating this year!!

 

 

Here’s to 2017! December 31, 2016

 

 

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Wanted to share a quick note to say THANK YOU for an AMAZING year.

 

This blog continues to bring me so much joy because it connects me to each and every one of you. Your comments and words of encouragement buoy me in both happy and sad times.

 

In 2017 I promise to keep bringing you original content. The W.O.W., FIRST FIVE FRENZY, and QUITE THE QUERY posts will continue, as will my new series, FIRED UP FRIDAY!

 

I’ll also be sharing all the craziness that comes with diving back into the query trenches and looking for new ways to get my words out into the wonderful world of readers.

 

Please know that I appreciate you following this blog, and that in 2017 I hope you will share both your triumphs and tribulations in the publishing world. The only real way to succeed in this business is to keep trying and to rely on your friends who understand your struggles.

 

Here’s wishing you health, happiness, love, and laughter in the NEW YEAR!

 

 

Hugs,

Amy

 

 

 

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MONDAY MUSINGS: Daring to Dream BIG!! December 5, 2016

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:50 am
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It’s funny how people in our lives teach us big and small lessons every single day. I’ve been doing this writing thing seriously for five years now and I’ve never really allowed myself to think beyond getting the next book finished.

 

 

When it’s come to querying, or even being on submission, I’ve never thought about what would really happen if my big dream came true. Maybe it was to keep my sanity, never allowing myself to believe that something I’d been hoping for since I was a child would actually become a reality.

 

 

Even though I’ve had some ups and downs this year, I’ve never thought beyond the next step. My focus has always been on the next word, sentence, chapter. And perhaps because of this, it’s put a damper on allowing myself to contemplate that really BIG success.

 

 

It wasn’t until recently that I came to this epiphany, and the lesson I learned came from someone in my own family. For years, this person has focused on a single dream. They’ve been knocked down more times than I can count, but somehow they’ve found the resolve to get back into the fray and keep fighting. Their singular wish has never changed, and they’ve kept their head down and focused on that dream. A little over a month ago, this person finally achieved that reality. Now at the end of this week, this cherished love in my life will step into a national arena and finally realize that goal.  You think being a writer I could put into words how proud I am, but at this moment words truly fail me.

 

 

For everyone in my family this moment seems surreal. The family member has talked about this dream since they were very small, and to know their wish will come true is almost incomprehensible.

 

 

I’m in awe over what this person has taught me at such a young age, but I’m also very inspired. Inspired to keep working. Keep writing. Where once I felt very defeated by the process, I’m now encouraged to find a new path. To take control of my own writing future, and to finally allow myself to DREAM BIG!

 

 

So today, I’d ask you to think about all the people in your life who inspire you. Who have set a goal and then worked to achieve it. I encourage you to let their success motivate you. To think about new paths to reach your own dreams. Hopefully, this will make 2017 an incredible year for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving Thanks for “small wins” in a Difficult Season November 23, 2016

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:34 am
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I’ll be honest, I’ve kind of sworn off the internet. Every time I log onto Twitter or Facebook, I can actually feel my blood pressure rising. Unless I’ve been promoting my posts, or answering DMs, I’ve managed to stay off social media. I have to admit it’s been nice to be out of the fray for a while. It’s allowed me to write 20,000 words and plan an entire new series. The time away has allowed me to find the joy in writing again.

 

 

This quiet reflection has also brought to light one other thing in my life-the resurgence of the love of family and the small blessings that come with being present in the moment. Too often over the last year I’ve been so focused on the “end game” in publishing that I’ve forgotten about the small joys. A quiet dinner with my family. A bike ride on a sunny, seventy-degree day. The smell of baking pumpkin bread. The comforting hug of a child.  All things that only months ago I took for granted in my quest to reach my dream.

 

 

My break has also afforded me the chance to reflect on all the “wins” I’ve had this year:

 

Writing a book in a new category, genre, and POV!

 

Helping create a local YA/MG writing group that’s built many new friendships and is growing by the month

 

Being a PitchWars mentor and watching a writer flourish

 

Having this blog go over 5,000 followers (THANK YOU!) and introducing a new query series that seems to be helping writers

 

 

In a long year these may not seem like major accomplishments, but for me it’s meant learning and growing. Taking stock of what I put into this world and its effect on others. It may only be a small contribution, but to me it feels HUGE.

 

 

So this holiday season, I ask that you think not about what you haven’t accomplished this year, rather focus on your small victories. The moments that have brought you joy and laughter. The times that have made you think. Reflect. Smile.

 

 

It’s true, it has been a rough year, but perhaps we can all make it a little less dark by remembering who we are and what we love. What fills us up and makes us work for that dream.

 

 

If you’re so inclined, I’d love you to share in the comments one small victory from this year. Whether it be in writing, or your publishing journey, I hope you’ll share a little light today and allow others to rejoice in your small “wins.”

 

 

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Hugs,

 

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Latoya Smith – L. Perkins Literary Agency November 18, 2016

 

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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 the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

 

Today, I’m proud to share Latoya Smith’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?

 

Latoya: I will be honest, I have a short attention span. So the first line or first few paragraphs is very important for me when deciding which projects I’d like to request the full manuscripts on. This is especially true because of our submission guidelines–we request a synopsis and only the first page or two, so the opening to the story is very important.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

Latoya: Honestly, I am all about the writing. There are a lot of things that may not work for some writers, but if you’ve crafted a very strong opening, it doesn’t matter how it starts. For me, as long as it’s compelling and draws me in, that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

Latoya: Definitely the writing, storyline, characters, and voice. I love strong characters, fully-fleshed out plotlines (opening is clear, character goals are nicely established), and, of course, a compelling voice. I also look for marketplace potential. It’s very tough to try and sell in a project that isn’t working well in the marketplace or that the publisher has struggled to sell in the past.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Latoya: They try to create mystery and intrigue, but end of leaving out too many details which makes the opening vague and confusing. Or they start with dialogue that isn’t very compelling because they’ve been told to open their story with dialogue.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Latoya: All of the above! Like I mentioned earlier, I want to know who I should be paying attention to, what their issues are, and of course, I need to connect to the character’s/author’s voice.

 

 

 

 

Latoya C. Smith started her editorial career as an administrative assistant to New York Times bestselling author, Teri Woods at Teri Woods Publishing, while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Temple University. She graduated Cum Laude from Temple in August of 2005. She then attained a full-time position at Kensington Publishing in March of 2006. In October 2006, Latoya joined Grand Central Publishing, an imprint at Hachette Book Group. For the span of her eight years there, Latoya acquired a variety of titles from Hardcover fiction and non-fiction, to digital romance and erotica. She was featured in Publishers Weekly and USA Today, as well as on various author, book conference, and book blogger websites. She is the winner of the 2012 RWA Golden Apple for Editor of the Year.  In early 2014, she appeared on CSpan2 where she contributed to a panel discussing the state of book publishing. From August 2014 to February 2016, Latoya was Executive Editor at Samhain Publishing where she acquired short and long form romance and erotic fiction. Now, Latoya provides editorial and consultation services through her company, LCS Literary Services. She is also an agent with the L. Perkins agency.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Latoya, please follow the submission guidelines for the L. Perkins Agency.

 

 
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