Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another agent -- and he's building his list!

The Write Stuff is happy to welcome Evan Goldfried, who joined Jill Grinberg Literary Management, a boutique agency based in New York, in May 2009. The agency is best known for its award winning and bestselling children's and young adult list, which includes Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan), Garth Nix (The Seventh Tower), Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Front and Center), and the Bemelmans Estate for the Madeline series. But they also represent a diverse mix of adult fiction and nonfiction authors, such as biographer, New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist T.J. Stiles (The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt). Evan came to JGLM after five years at the William Morris Agency, where he sold both domestic and foreign rights after years of working with many of the agency's clients.

In October he stopped by the Absolute Write Water Cooler to say hello to the online writing community, and wrote:

“I'm here at JGLM building my client list, and I'm looking primarily for fiction. I recently submitted my first project with JGLM, which sold at auction for six figures, so I'm off to a good start! My passion has always been fantasy (urban and epic) and speculative fiction for both adults and YA/middle grade. I particularly love a story that's set in our time, but tweaks reality just slightly, be it time travel (Ken Grimwood, one of my favorites) or vampires. I've also become, thanks to Christina Dodd, Charlaine Harris, and JR Ward, a fan of paranormal romance. I'm also a fan of suspense/mysteries/spy thrillers.”

Evan has also been a lifetime lover of graphic novels.

Since literary agents are uber-busy—and we wouldn’t want to be responsible for keeping Evan from a manuscript, would we?—click here to read The 7 Question Interview with Evan Goldfried at, which covers the basics and more.

His opening is music to an aspiring author’s ears: “Let me start by saying that I am actively building my client list, and welcome queries.” I’m sure you’ll want to read more!

Click here to read about his six-figure deal with Del Ray for author Kevin Hearne's urban fantasy trilogy.

We look forward to hosting Evan at The Write Stuff.

Days until registration opens: 47!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jordan Sonnenblick returns to The Write Stuff a well published author

By Kathryn Craft

It is a special thing to witness the birth of the career of a really good writer. Those of us who attended the first year of GLVWG’s Writer’s Cafe were able to do so. It was there that Jordan Sonnenblick, a middle school English teacher, read from his first book, DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE. Jordan says he was as surprised as anybody when the book took off: it received several starred reviews and was named to the American Library Association’s Teens’ Top Ten List. Since then, the book has sold over 300,000 copies and been translated into eleven foreign languages. The Italian translation won the prestigious Premio Cento prize.

Soon Jordan held the Writer’s CafĂ© spellbound while reading from the opening of his second novel, NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER, which went on to become an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Some of you may recall the premise: a teen begs attention from his dysfunctional parents by taking his mother’s car, crashing it while driving drunk to the house of his father’s girlfriend (his third-grade teacher, no less), then slumping from the car only to puke on a cop’s shoes. For these unfortunate choices Alex, a jazz guitarist who is typically a good kid, must fulfill a most unusual community service: he must play companion to the Egbert P. Johnson Memorial Home for the Aged's most cantankerous resident, Solomon Lewis.

Alex's voice is a hoot, yet the tone never downplays the serious situations—and the bond that grows between these two during the end stages of Sol’s life will touch readers both young and adult. Jordan’s third book, ZEN AND THE ART OF FAKING IT, was a BookSense Pick and a Family Circle Book of the Month. He has since written three middle grade books. His new YA title, AFTER EVER AFTER—the sequel to DRUMS—will be published in February by Scholastic.

It has taken three years of invitations to jive schedules, but Jordan will be joining us as our featured young adult and middle grade presenter for the 2010 conference. Pretty cool, huh?

Conference Chair Kathryn Craft recently spoke with Jordan about his work.

Kathryn: NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER, among other things, is about the consequences of drunk driving. Your first book was about a character whose life is reeling from his little brother's cancer diagnosis. So you haven't shied away from the tougher situations teens might face today. Did you encounter any obstacles with your publishers about this subject matter? What kind of feedback have you gotten from your readers?

Jordan: I have to say, my publishers have been hugely supportive of my work and everything in it. In all honesty, when I started my first book (DRUMS, GIRLS AND DANGEROUS PIE), a lot of my friends thought I was nuts when I told them I was writing a funny book about childhood cancer. Once the book came out and sold really well, though, that all went away. Now my readers expect to laugh and cry when they pick up one of my books, and I would expect to hear criticism if I didn't deliver that high-intensity experience.

K: I love the reluctant relationship between Alec and crotchety Mr. Lewis, the patient he is "sentenced" to be a companion to. Did you have a relationship with an older person that was important to your own growth?

J: Oh, yes. Solomon Lewis's personality is completely modeled on the persona of my maternal grandfather. I adored Grampa Sol, but he had a biting wit and a flashing temper. I tried to capture both my grandfather's great warmth and his difficult side in the book, which was hard. You want to paint this flattering picture of a person you love so much, but part of his lovability was his crotchety nature.

K: Have the books you've written since then continued to explore difficult issues?

J: Well, all of my teen books have. I have also written the DODGER AND ME trilogy for elementary-school readers. Those books are considerably lighter.

K: I love the voices of your characters. Are they hard to come by?

J: No, I have absolutely no trouble regressing back to my teen self. In fact, when I got my first book advance, my wife congratulated me on finally putting my immaturity to good use. And I know she meant that in the warmest possible way!

K: You used to be around kids all the time as a middle school English teacher, but now you write full-time. Is it any harder to come up with characters and plot ideas now that you are shut away in an office?

J: So far, I've been okay in that regard. I would say the source of my inspiration has shifted, and that now maybe 60% of my stuff comes from my own children. The main trouble with being shut away in an office all day is that one has to be careful not to get hugely fat. Other than that, it's been all good!

K: Alex plays guitar, and your author photo shows you with a guitar. Can you really play it? Does your interest in music feed your creativity as a writer?

J: Yes, I can really play the guitar, bass and drums. I don't know if that feeds my writing, but I think all inspiration comes from the same place—whatever that is!

Monday, November 16, 2009

An interview with Tracy MacNish: Part II

This post conclude's Dianna Sinovic's two-part interview with Tracy MacNish, author of four darkly romantic historical novels with Kensington Publishing. Tracy will speak at the Write Stuff conference on March 26-27, 2010. Her most recent release, STEALING MIDNIGHT, was given a Top Pick by Romantic Times Magazine, and has received excellent reviews. Her previous novel, VEILED PASSIONS, was also awarded a Top Pick and went on to be nominated for Best British Isles Set Novel of 2008.

Dianna: You have had a string of novels published over the last several years. First, congratulations on your success! Did it take you long to find an agent or publisher? How did you find that person?

Tracy: Thanks! It was a long road getting here. It took me four years to complete my first novel and three years of rejection to secure an agent. BUT—it only took my agent two months to sell my first two-book deal.

Moral of the story: Keep going. Keep trying. You will never get accepted if you don’t risk rejection. And come on – the rejection’s not so bad. It makes you tougher and wiser and a well-seasoned writer.
As for finding the right agent, even though I know it’s expensive, I do recommend pitching at writers’ conferences. It’s the very best way to connect with an agent, and most of them will ask you to send your proposal package to them by way of courtesy. Make sure to write “requested material” on the envelope and to thank them for their time in person and also in your cover letter. Be polite, be professional, and submit only your very best work.

D: Brent Monahan was your mentor. Please talk about your experiences with him—how did he encourage and/or shape your fiction writing? Do you recommend mentoring in general?

T: Brent Monahan taught me how to write a book. I came to him knowing how to turn a phrase, how to tell a story, and how to write strong “scenes,” but Brent taught me how to make them hang together within the structure of a novel. 

As for how he encouraged me – he put time into me. Brent is a busy man. He writes plays, novels, musical textbooks, screen plays, and musicals, as well as teaching writing on the university level, teaching music for specially chosen students, acting on stage, and singing professionally. This list doesn’t include his hobbies, his family, and his private time. Suffice it to be said that I didn’t want to make him feel as though the time that he put into me was wasted. I wanted to work to the potential that he saw in me, and the fact that he saw potential at all was encouragement in and of itself.

I do recommend mentoring in general, if you happen upon the right fit, as Brent and I did. I was, and am, extremely respectful of Brent’s incredible wealth of knowledge, as well as his talent, his creative mind, and his intelligence. That said, I still wrote MY book, and he let me do so. A great mentor, such as Brent, knows that the writer is ultimately in charge, and that while he is there to teach and guide, he isn’t there to take the reins or change the writer’s vision of the story.

D: What authors have been influential to your work? What books are on your nightstand right now?

T: I admire Kathleen E. Woodiwiss a great deal. I grew up on her books, and they made me fall in love with romance.

Right now I’m re-reading Siddhartha, a book that I turn to whenever I need reminding that it’s all about the journey. When I’m done I’m not sure where I’m going to start. My work office has a small library that they’re closing down and there are about 500 books that are all mine for the taking.  I’ve been bringing a box filled with books home with me every day… and it’s awesome.  ‘Free books’ – is there a better phrase known to the Nerd populace?

My bookcases at home are already full and I have no idea where I’ll keep this bounty, but I’m taking them home, anyway. My master plan is to have my husband line our bedroom in floor to ceiling built-in bookcases so I can sleep and wake in my own private library, but he’s not digging the idea. I guess (until I get my way) I’ll add them to the stacks in my office and be glad we don’t live on an unstable fault line. 
D: Please talk a bit about your daily writing routine. You mentioned in your blog that you recently got a job – what is it? How have you modified your writing schedule to accommodate?

T: When I’m writing a book, I write every day, or at least make a valiant attempt. If the words are coming hard, I do edits and research. When I’m not into a book, as I’m not right now, I don’t write much at all but do an enormous amount of reading.

Yeah, I got a job. (sigh) I’m leasing apartments – which is interesting most days.  There are certainly a lot of characters there, to say the least. As far as a regular job goes, it’s a pretty good gig. The money’s good, the people I work with are cool, and I get benefits. The only downside is the constant exhaustion.   
As for writing while working full time… well, it’s not easy, that’s for sure. Right now I am trying to write a bit on the weekends, but that hasn’t been going well because my family and friends actually want to see me at some point. But I have a book I really, really want to write, so my new plan is to begin rolling out of bed at 5 or 5:30 so I can get a few pages in before it’s time to get ready for work.
This plan, by the way, is highly experimental. Touch base with me in March at the conference, and I’ll let you know how it’s working out for me. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tracy MacNish brings spark of desire to The Write Stuff

Tracy MacNish, author of four darkly romantic historical novels with Kensington Publishing, will speak at the Write Stuff conference on March 26-27, 2010. Her most recent release, STEALING MIDNIGHT, was given a Top Pick by Romantic Times Magazine, and has received excellent reviews. Her previous novel, VEILED PASSIONS, was also awarded a Top Pick and went on to be nominated for Best British Isles Set Novel of 2008. What follows is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Dianna Sinovic.

Dianna: What will you speak about at the 2010 Write Stuff conference?

Tracy: Passion and sexual tension. It will be fun, I think – I was considering holding a contest to see who could count how many times I blush in 50 minutes. But in all seriousness, it makes for better character development if you can work those aspects of human behavior into your stories. It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing in—your characters, if they are human, will feel desire. Depicting emotions isn’t always easy, so I think this workshop will be really useful for anyone who wants to include a little passion in his or her stories, but isn’t quite sure how to do so without crossing over into lurid territory.

The second session will cover creating time and place, and this is the most important of all the aspects of good storytelling. After all, your setting is the chassis that your story rides upon, and it affects every single aspect of your characters’ thoughts, dress, speech, actions, reactions, and so forth. One cannot underestimate the presence of setting; it is the main character of your novel, hidden in plain sight on every page. In this session we’ll be doing more than covering books that do it well; we’ll be dissecting actual passages to see exactly what works, what doesn’t, and why. 

D: Why did you choose historical romance as your genre? You also write short fiction, as well?

T: I adore love stories. I also love learning about history, and get so excited when I read something that makes me think, “what if….” 

I think stories about the human condition are the most interesting of all and find myself disconnected from books that don’t have enough “feeling” in them. I like romances because they end well, and it’s my opinion that real life offers enough opportunities for bad, sad, open-ended, wistful, or just downright depressing endings. 

I read everything, but when it comes time to write, I am particularly drawn to the stories of peoples’ lives: how they got to where they are, what they want, who they love, and how they work through their troubles. No other genre gives a writer as much freedom to explore those dimensions better than romance, and I love how the romance genre has so many sub-genres. There really is no limit to what kind of stories one can write—under the umbrella of romance, there is a place for any story of any subject matter.

As for short fiction, I write short stories when I have an idea that’s not big enough for a book but too urgent to dismiss. I’m delighted to have a short story coming out in the Mad Poets Review in November 2009. It’s a dark, strange, metaphoric tale titled Never Mind What Sheep Say. I’m thrilled to see it alongside poetry, even though that’s not where I would have imagined it would end up.

D: Tell me how you approach historical research for your novels. Do you travel? Do Web-based research? Use reference books? How long does it take you?

T: Traveling to do research isn’t a luxury I can afford now, and certainly wasn’t possible when I was first starting out. Books are the best resource, in my opinion—the Internet is a great tool, but I make sure to find the same information in at least three places before accepting it as truth.

I pretty much read until I’m ready to start writing, which for me is decided when the characters in my head become defined and begin speaking to each other. That’s when the words go to paper, and from there I research as I go, basically looking up what I don’t know as I’m immersed in the story. I like to know enough to get the setting right before I start, the milieu, to understand the vernacular, the currency, the modes of dress and how they lived, and to offer verisimilitude.

The important thing for a beginning writer to keep in mind, however, is not to let what you don’t know prevent you from beginning, because it’s easy to get mired in research and to let it delay you from the work of actually writing your story. I know a would-be writer who has three filing cabinets full of well-documented research, but whose book has yet to be started.

Nora Roberts said it best:  “I can fix a broken page, but I can’t fix a blank one.”

More from Tracy in next week's post!
Do Tracy's sessions intrigue you? Days until The Write Stuff registration opens: 70!