Friday, October 30, 2009

Our first agent revealed!

Kim Lionetti joined BookEnds, LLC as a literary agent in 2004 after working eight years as an editor at Berkley Publishing. On both sides of her publishing career, Kim says she’s heard hundreds of pitches—"some fabulous, some horribly bad and most just plain forgettable." In that time, she’s gotten a pretty good idea of what every perfect pitch needs and how to avoid the awkward silences and blank stares. In her session, “Pitching Dos And Don’ts,” to be held before the welcome reception at The Write Stuff from 7-8 pm on Friday, March 26, Kim will outline for conferees the most common pitching pitfalls and how to avoid them, as well as the best approaches for making a great, lasting impression on a publishing professional.

We were able to make this connection through GLVWG member Katherine Ramsland, who worked with Kim on a few of her books. Here’s what Katherine had to say about the experience:
“I've worked with Kim Lionetti on several projects. She was my editor for THE FORENSIC SCIENCE OF CSI and THE SCIENCE OF COLD CASE FILES, both of which she initiated, and which led to her husband Lance suggesting THE SCIENCE OF VAMPIRES. She loves gruesome stories as much as I do and I was so sad when she left editing to become an agent. I still am. She was always thinking of some project to do, and there aren't many editors like that. The one that we're both proud of was INTO THE DEVIL'S DEN, which she agented for my two co-authors, and which won the New Mexico Book of the Year award last year. I was pleased that she invited me into it and I hope that Kim and I will do something like that again in the future. She has great judgment and whoever gets her as an agent is very lucky.”
Kim, like the other agents and editors attending our conference, will be available to meet with conferees who are ready to pitch either completed fiction or memoir manuscripts or completed nonfiction proposals. One appointment per registered conferee is available at no additional cost on a first come, first served basis. Conferees can select a specific agent or editor on their registration form. Registration opens January 15.

Kim represents women’s fiction, young adult, and most genres of romance (with the exception of inspirational), in addition to mysteries and some nonfiction. You can follow Kim on Facebook or Twitter and learn more about BookEnds at or

We’ll be featuring an interview with Kim in a future post!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bill Kent on his passion for mystery

"To me, a mystery is a journey to the truth, a defiant, triumphant insistence that human beings can use their brains to solve the big questions of superstition, crime, punishment and redemption."
~Bill Kent

Today we feature the last part of conference chair Kathryn Craft's interview with Write Stuff 2010 presenter Bill Kent.

Kathryn: What about your interests/attributes led you to the mystery genre?

Bill: I started off enthralled with science fiction and fantasy, and I still am. I consider it imaginative literature, that is, writing in which the quality of the author's imagination, and the author's ability to stimulate the reader's imagination, bring us to a sense of wonder about who we are and the universe we inhabit.

I approached mysteries and thrillers as a way of adapting experiences I had as a journalist. Art Bourgeau, a mystery writer who owns the Whodunnit bookstore in Philadelphia, loaded me up with authors I should read, and to my early love for Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and John D. MacDonald I added stories by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, Donald Westlake, James Ellroy, Robert Parker, Ed McBain, Lawrence Block, Ross Thomas, Robert Campbell and even Mickey Spillane, whose crude storytelling had its powerful moments. From there I went to Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, and many others. To me, a mystery is a journey to the truth, a defiant, triumphant insistence that human beings can use their brains to solve the big questions of superstition, crime, punishment and redemption.

K: I know you have a love for a well-developed character, but you also write in a plot-heavy genre. Do you have a particular plotting device you use, such as index cards, outline, wall diagram, etc.?

B: The best device is no device. You start somewhere, end up somewhere else. Though the journey is never a straight line, it should feel as if it has been worth the trip. The best description I ever heard of plotting came from a man I consider to be master of it: Lawrence Block. "I know my characters, I come up with a setting and then I go away. I get lost and find my way back." He meant this literally and metaphorically. Block lives in New York City but does most of his writing while traveling. Some of his best work has given us a view of a placeless America of sprawling suburbs, modular motels off highway interchanges, fast food meals and killers who look like anyone else you'd see in a shopping mall.

Before I start a novel, I usually have a good idea of the hero and a few good scenes and maybe a glimpse of the ending. Usually, but not always. Sometimes I just let the characters show me what they want to do. My goal in plotting is to have things that happen flow purposefully, and have the action adhere to a logic that is believable within the context of the story. What that means in plain speaking is the best plots are plots that you don't notice: you're swept along and you don't look back.

Next post will include an agent announcement!
Days until Write Stuff registration opens: 84! 

Friday, October 16, 2009

The mysteries of publishing

Here's another excerpt from a recent interview with journalist, author, critic, and Write Stuff 2010 presenter Bill Kent, conducted by conference chair Kathryn Craft.

Kathryn: Many aspiring authors believe that once they've got their foot in the door of the publishing industry that the rest of their career will take care of itself. But is this realistic? Can you comment on some common setbacks?

Bill: We all want just a few things to happen when our books are published: good reviews, strong sales and enough enthusiasm from our publisher to take us to the next book deal. But an inept review, slow sales, and a publisher whose promotion staff fails to read the books the company is printing that season are not career setbacks. These and other publishing pratfalls (such as not finding your book in a store on the publication date, or doing a group signing with a writer whose behavior turns off the book buyers) are certainly frustrating. They are emotionally wounding to those of us who love what we do and think of our books like children, and want others to love them as much as we do. And they can be devastating for those who expect publication to make qualitative changes in their lives--you know, the people who think, "I'll be a real writer when I have a best seller and my book is being made into a movie."

You don't need to be a published author to arrive at the truth about who you are and what really matters to you. The great thing about writing, and the practice of any other art, is that it shows you things about yourself that you wouldn't see any other way. Every poem, every article, every book you write teaches you something, regardless of how eager you might be to learn. This process, by which you deepen your understanding of yourself, your relationship with others, and your values, is part of the larger mystery of why it is you feel compelled to string words together. This mystery cannot be explained or lightly dismissed as a yearning for acceptance or need for money.

Publication may bring some readers to your work, but it has very little to with the qualitative experience a reader has when he or she discovers your work. As much as we would like our writing judged on its merits, a published book is bought and sold in a fashion that is alarmingly similar to canned peas on a supermarket shelf.

Instead of sharing a story about how frustrating publication can be, I'd rather tell you about a moment I had in a library, when I saw a person pick my book off the shelf and check it out. I didn't say or do anything to draw attention to myself as the book's author. Rather, I remembered how I felt, when I was younger, when I went into libraries and bookstores to find writing that really, really pleased me, by people I had never met, but wanted to become.

It was a moment when I reminded myself that some wishes really do come true.

K: If you could give one piece of advice to those who write and want to be published but don't have a clue about how to do so, would it be?

B: It would be to develop a strategy for not going crazy while dealing with agents, editors and publishers. You can find out how to get published: the procedures and formalities are in every "how to get published" book. What isn't mentioned is how easy it is to give up, or assume that you're worthless if [an agent] rejects your work. I've discovered relatively late in life that when I begin to worry about how the publishing industry might respond to my work, I suffer. I become so anxious about rejection and acceptance that the thing that makes writing happen, dies. Or, I start revising before I'm finished, and make so many changes that it takes even longer to finish the book.

What really matters is the act of writing. That is, finding a time (and place of free of distractions) to practice your art regularly. It's so easy to believe that a powerful agent, a perceptive editor, an expensive promotional campaign, a book selected by Oprah’s Book Club, or lucrative movie deal are the measures of success. They're not. Success for a writer is having the opportunity to write, because the act of writing changes everything, or, at least, has the potential to do so. Success for a professional writer is having the guts to stick with it and finishing what you start, even if you can't bear to put "The End" on the last page of the manuscript. The rest, as they say, is history, which, contrary to the cliché, isn't written by the winners, or the losers. History is written by the survivors who, even if they don't live out their natural lives, had the strength and determination to share them with us.

Next post: Bill talks about his passion for mysteries.
Days until Write Stuff 2010 registration opens: 92!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sustaining your career

It's time to introduce another Write Stuff 2010 presenter! Meet Bill Kent from Philadelphia. Bill is a journalist (including Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer), writing teacher (University of Pennsylvania, Temple University), critic (New York Times Book Review), and author of seven crime and mystery novels as well as two non-fiction books. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Bill conducted by conference chair Kathryn Craft.

Kathryn: You have a long and varied resume. What do you consider, so far, to be the highest peaks of your writing career?

Bill: The best moments occur when you're not thinking about your career, when you feel privileged, if not blessed, for having had an amazing experience and then being able to share it with people. You get a double whammy: the genuine, unique experience and the peak that happens when you've turned that experience into a work of art. All experiences, good, bad, boring, indifferent, painful, shocking, ecstatic, neurotic--have that potential. When I say work of art, I include all writing. We forget what an astonishing gift we've been given, until we give it away.

But you asked for a peak: I met a Philadelphia political insider who read one of my novels in which I discussed how corrupt things are, and said, "How did you know?" I didn't tell him that I made the stuff up. I just mentioned that I did research.

K: Do you find that your fiction and nonfiction/journalism feed one another?

B: They don't feed on each other as much as they are different voices in a larger, narrative tune. I'm aware that many writers specialize. Some of our greatest literary masters can't pound out a basic newspaper inverted pyramid lede, and many journalists are so dazzled by what they've personally experienced that they can't find their way to the greater truth that fiction provides. I can do both and, in doing so, I tend to avoid authors who include too much research in their novels. If I want journalism, or fun facts, I know where to get them. What I love to do in my fiction is fake facts, come up with things that should be true, might be true, could be true.

K: I once heard you say that the time to do research is when you are looking to start a new project. Why do you say this? And has this technique worked for you?

B: What I said was, the time to do research is when you are bored with what you're doing, or when the fire that burns to tell a story has been reduced to a few flickering cinders. The goal of research, then, is not to find out the facts about an aspect of reality so you can better trick the reader into believing the lies you're telling are true, but, rather, to invest in your own curiosity, your own spirit of adventure so that you may rediscover the sense of wonder, or experience an imaginative lift, or get a glimpse of the "wild side" and wallow in that soaring emotional epiphany that makes it easier to go back to your writing.

No techniques work all the time. Too much research can overwhelm the story. Say you want to tell people about all the cool things that happened when you went to Toronto. People who want to know about cool things in Toronto can get them elsewhere. What people want from a novel is a sense of being in a city that could be Toronto, even if the street names are different, the skyline is unrecognizable and the people don't say "ay" and "aboot."

For more from this interview with Bill Kent, check out the October print issue of GLVWG Offline or stay tuned for next week's post!