Thursday, March 21, 2013

Interview with Emily Gref

by Tammy Burke
Emily Gref is an Associate Agent at Lowenstein Associates, as well as their foreign rights manager. Prior to Lowenstein Associates, she interned with the Donald Maass Literar Agency, Serendipity Literary Agency, Arthur A. Levine Books, Tor Books, and Penguin Young Readers.
GLVWG member Tammy Burke contacted Emily to ask her a few questions about being an agent and about the types of books she's interested in acquiring.
Tammy: Do you recall what first prompted you to become more involved in the craft of writing and reading? Was becoming an agent a natural conclusion?
Emily: Like most people in publishing, I grew up a voracious lover of books. I also dabbled a little bit in writing, but honestly didn’t have the discipline or attention span to see a book through to the end. But I’ve always loved stories, and language, and how language shapes stories. I think this is part of what compelled me to major in Linguistics at the University of McGill (and take as many language classes as I could – French, Latin, Polish, and Chinese, but please don’t ask me to say anything in any of them). Linguistics is a very academic field, however, and by the time grad school application time came around I was sick of academia. That’s when I had my lightbulb moment: publishing books is a job people have!
It took about three years of interning at agencies, publishing houses (editorial and a brief stint in online marketing) while working at bookstores before I came to Lowenstein Associates. Agenting really combines the best of both ends of the publishing spectrum, I think: I get to be very editorial with my authors, but I also can “hand-sell” manuscripts to editors whom I think would be the best fit.
Tammy: I understand you have a weak spot for fairytales. One of my all-time favorites, I might add. What aspect do you believe stayed with you into adulthood? Is it a childhood love or the cultural archetypical resonance or something else?
Emily: Definitely both a childhood love and the cultural resonance – I would especially love to see more non-Grimm/Perrault retellings! I was one of those kids that pored over every collection of fairy tales and folklore I could get my hands on. I was enchanted by Grimm, Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, and the illustrators that brought the stories to life – Kay Nielsen, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham. I was particularly fond of the D’Aulaire books of Greek and Norse mythology, too.
But fairy tales and myths are really the best stories distilled to their very basics, and I love novels that borrow heavily from the structure you find in fairy tales: the repetition, the significance of three (or whichever number), etc. DEATHLESS by Cat Valente is a novel based heavily on Russian folklore that does this so beautifully. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2012.
Tammy: Based on your bio, you are entertaining nonfiction in the areas of linguistics, anthropology and history. Being a history and mythology buff myself, (my primary is the love of ancient civilizations),  I was wondering if you had a favorite time period and/or civilization, perhaps something that provided a springboard to expand in that area?
Emily: My love of history is largely informed by the books I read and loved as a child – including the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and basically all of the American Girl stories and the “Dear America” series. So my interests are pretty broad, but I especially love periods of history that are on the brink of something great or disastrous: the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Roaring Twenties… Historical non-fiction that I’m likely to pick up explores little-known aspects of a time period or place, or takes a really narrow scope (like Mark Kurlansky’s books).
Tammy: What would you say is the best part of your day being an agent? And what part would you say is your most challenging?
Emily: The best part is, obviously, discovering new writers with amazing stories! Or reading a client’s amazing new story. Working with authors is the reason most of us get into this job in the first place, and it remains the most gratifying. The most challenging, for me, is the waiting – waiting for revisions, waiting for editors to read, waiting for meetings to be had and offers to hopefully be made. Luckily there’s always a LOT to do, so the time can pass pretty quickly when you’re working on contracts, royalties, subrights, etc.
Tammy: Do you believe that an author should be social media savvy?  How social media savvy should he or she be?
Emily: Absolutely. The more an author is engaged with their readership, the better their chances of success. Social media is such a boon, though I understand how it can be overwhelming. My advice to authors is to TRY out every platform – Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, etc. – and see what “clicks” the best. Some authors can do it all, and some can’t. The important thing to keep in mind is the demographics of every social media platform - where are your readers? – and tailor to that. If you can be really good at one or two things, that’s a lot better than being bad at six.
Tammy: If you could give three pearls of wisdom to a would-be published author what would it be?
Emily: Be patient – with the publishing industry, and with yourself.
Be kind – maybe you feel like writing a nasty response to an agent, or complaining on your Facebook, but remember that publishing is an industry of relationships, and also the internet is forever.
Be resilient – you will be rejected. By critique groups, by agents, by publishers. Learn what you can from the experience, brush off your shoulders, and persevere.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Interview with Emily Keyes

by Bernadette Sukley
Emily Keyes is an agent with the L. Perkins Agency. Emily is the Contracts & Foreign Rights Manager. She’s very passionate about YA and teen novels and is looking to acquire in that area. Previously, she was a Contracts Administrator at Simon & Schuster, Inc. and a writer for “The World Almanac for Kids.” She is a graduate of the NYU Publishing program and knowledgeable about many areas of publishing, and an expert on all things “Sweet Valley.”
Q: What's your greatest joy about writers conferences?
A: I love conferences--trying to go to more if any of your readers need agents for other conferences. The best part is finding an author you're excited about, of course. But I also find conferences energizing. Spirits are high, people are positive and hopeful. I always return to work feeling better about my job. I know that sounds hokey, but I think authors are used to working in solitude and when they come together there is a great energy. Conferences keep me from feeling too down about all the rejections I get!
Q: What's your biggest pet peeve?
A: Tough one. I don't like when people are rude or entitled, which doesn't happen often at conferences but when it does it really gets under my skin.
Q: Have you ever felt "meh..." about a manuscript, but pursued it anyway?
A: I think every agent has the experience of being excited about a manuscript and then feeling more "meh" about it after a few rejections or reading it half a dozen times. But I've never pursued a manuscript I wasn't enthusiastic about when I first encountered it. Because your feelings only become more mixed as time goes on. That way lies madness.
Q: You are looking for YA and teen novels. Any particulars you can give? (i.e. Harry Potter, Diary of Wimpy Kid, Hunger Games?)
A: I'd love to have represented all three of those series. Then maybe I wouldn't have to take the bus! Right now I'm looking for contemporary or science fiction YA. I see a lot of paranormal or dystopian in my inbox already, which is not to say I wouldn't be interested in a good one of those--just that the bar is set higher. A lot of agents and editors I know are looking for books with strong voices, I think that is because a lot of stories have already been told, but if you get a unique perspective it still feels fresh.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I'm always reading submissions. For published book I am reading "Going Clear" by Laurence Wright at the moment. I just finished "The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight" by Jennifer E. Smith.
Q: Pitch Session Scenario. Writer comes to meet with you at the 2013 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference: "Hi Emily, I'm working on my YA novel called Huffaby Hall, it's a first person mystery about a lonely girl who befriends a rich boy with cerebral palsy. They begin searching for his missing mother..." What's the next thing you need to hear from this writer?
A: I'd have lots of questions. Is the book completed? How long is the manuscript? Is it more mystery genre or more "issues"? Is it anything like "A Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time"? What made the author decide to write about cerebral palsy? Where is the boy's father? Why is the girl lonely? I'm very curious.

Interview with Bonnie S. Calhoun

by Jerry Waxler

Bonnie Calhoun is the owner of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Her first novel with Abingdon Press is Cooking the Books. She is an Author member of International Thriller Writers, and an industry professional member and the President of Christian Authors Network.
GLVWG member Jerry Waxler contacted Bonnie to find out a little more about her.

Jerry: I’m looking forward to your two workshops at Greater Lehigh Valley Writers, Write Stuff conference this year. One is about improving our writing voice and the other about dialog. I find it intriguing that both relate to the notion of speech. Typically writers work in silence, but both of your sessions connect the speaking voice and the written one. You are a teacher and speaker. How has public or private speaking has helped you improve your writing voice?

Bonnie: LOL…I am a natural born speaker. My mother used to say I came out talking and haven’t shut up since. The key to a good writing voice is to write the same way you speak, using the same cadence, and inflection to your tones. For many people it comes naturally, but others have to learn to hear themselves, just like people have to learn to hear that still small voice of the Lord. When you read back your work out loud many times that will help to perfect the tone of your writing because if it’s stilted and unfamiliar when you speak it out loud…then that is NOT your voice.

Jerry: One of the things that intrigues me about a writer’s voice is that it adapts to different projects. So for example a novelist might use different sentence structure and word choices than she would use in say a book review. Please comment on how writers can or should adapt their writing voices to match the piece or audience.

Bonnie: Sorry...but that is not true. Your voice is your brand. And any author that has developed their brand successfully will have the same voice all the time. It's brand recognition. For example my brand is snark and suspense. That is me everywhere I go, and in everything I do, and people expect that of me. If I suddenly turned into a college professor using words that you had to look up in a dictionary, I would not be true to my brand. I have met a few authors who were nothing like their writing in real life, and they never wound up having very successful careers :-)

Jerry: One of my pet curiosities about how writers work is the question of a writer’s notebook. I know lots of writers jot down notes, for example of overhearing conversations. My problem with that method has always been figuring out what to do with the notes. Do you ever eavesdrop on conversations and write down notes?

Bonnie: I don’t use notes to develop authentic dialog. I’m old enough to have a whole plethora of voices living in my head, and they each have their own style of talking :-)  But I do use notebooks, or OneNote…a great Microsoft product…to catalog ideas for scenes or things that I have seen people do. I travel a lot and I love being delayed at airports….LOL…because you get to observe the strangest people in those situations!

Jerry: You seem to be the ultimate renaissance woman, involved in novel writing, book reviewing, working with teens. You’re an entrepreneur, publisher, and seamstress. The coup de grace is your technical blog in which you clearly explain the technical details of blogging with blogger. Could you offer a few words of wisdom or comfort to writers about the web and how you coach your writing friends to push forward through technical hurdles, multi-tasking, and other challenges of the modern writer?

Bonnie: I personally wouldn’t worry about blogging these days. I’d spend my time developing a social media network using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Those platforms are much easier to handle, and a lot more open to audiences.

Jerry: Your Love for Groups: You seem to put a lot of your personal energy into promoting writing as a collective activity. At Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, of course, we too believe that writers can benefit from turning toward each other for support. Could you share your own reasons or perspectives on what writers get from each other?

Bonnie: From other writers, writers get camaraderie, crit partners, and some one who understands the pain and angst that you go through. Other than that writing is pretty much a solitary endeavor.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Interview with Jeanette Windle

by Bernadette Sukley
Daughter of missionary parents, Jeanette grew up in the mountains of Colombia, subsequently has lived in 6 countries and traveled in more than 30 on five continents (she's now based in Lancaster). But her unique experiences gave birth to 16 international intrigue titles, including bestselling Tyndale House Publishers release: Veiled Freedom, a 2010 ECPA Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist and sequel: Freedom's Stand, a 2012 ECPA Christian Book Award and Carol Award finalist and 2011 Golden Scroll Novel of the Year finalist.
Q: You use the phrase "living joyfully on earth's wild side/storms" on your blog. How do you do that?
A: I can live joyfully in the midst of earth's storms so long as I do not lose sight of where and Whose I am. I belong to the Almighty Creator of this universe, King of Kings—and a heavenly Father who loves His children passionately. Whatever tempest is shaking my world does not call for cowering and fear, but joy and expectation. I will admit there are times when I forget that truth. Forget where I am and let my focus be caught by the storm, instead of its Master. But the truth does not change for my losing sight of it. Nor does the loving, powerful hold of my heavenly Father's hand. And that's reason to dance!
Q: Practically speaking, with so much evil in the world, how does a spiritual writer sell books? For example, horror books/movies (i.e., Stephen King) often draw a larger market than inspirational movies.
A: The reality is that CBA (Christian Booksellers Association ) sales are in general proportionate to the target market group, which is considerably smaller than the secular ABA (American Booksellers Association). But inspirational titles are also one of the fastest growing segments of publishing, the reason so many major Christian publishing houses are being snapped up by ABA giants. And while fewer than in the ABA, there have been numerous inspirational titles ranging from the Left Behind series and The Shack to Prayer of Jabez and The Purpose-Driven Life that have sold in the millions. Of course, whether ABA or CBA, the average published book sells under 10,000 copies. Bottom line, regardless of genre or field, in these days it is left to the authors to market their own titles, and just what happens to propel the occasional title to bestseller can be the most unpredictable of mysteries—above all to other authors who sometimes shake their heads in disbelief at what does become the next big thing.
Q: You are also a freelance book editor--can you tell us the biggest mistake writers make when submitting manuscripts to you?
A: Actually, there are three specific mistakes that are so universal to virtually every manuscript I receive that if all three are missing, the book is a strong candidate for publishing. So let me share them in brief.
1. Exposition: This is the setting of story and POV character in time and space. The two rookie extremes are to either a) offer an information dump, driving away potential readers through boredom, or b) not give enough information so readers can quickly place themselves in the time/place/mind of POV character. The latter is by far the most common mistake under guise of rousing suspense by keeping key details from reader. Instead, it simply leads to frustration with reader spending time and energy trying to figure out where and who they are, rather than enjoying the story.
How does a writer find the balance? Very simple, Since the reader becomes the POV protagonist, what isn't a secret to the POV protagonist shouldn't be to reader. On the flip side, what the protagonist doesn't know should be the mystery that reader and protagonist will figure out together. Without an entire information dump, the reader should be filled in as quickly as possible on the who, what, when, why, how that the POV character knows, at least enough to sit back, relax and just enjoy the story to that point instead of trying to figure out who everyone is and what is going on. This process will repeat all through the book.
2. Flashback Details: These are references are made to people, setting, happenings after the fact as though the reader already knows them, rather than introducing those same details to the reader as part of real time forward action of story. Actual example: "As the blue-tailed rooster chased the three hens across the courtyard again, she directed a kick that did not alleviate her frustration." Except that story has never mentioned rooster or courtyard. Real time alternative: "She stepped out into the compound's courtyard. As a blue rooster chased three hens into her skirts so that she almost tripped, she directed a kick . . . "
I mark these by the dozen in virtually every manuscript. As above, this doesn't create suspense/mystery to reader, but annoyance because they then have to stop living the story, figure out reference, and match it to past hints, rather than simply moving forward through the story. General rule: every time a setting or character detail is first mentioned, unless there is compelling reason otherwise, it should be presented in "real time" narrative vs. "flashback".
3. Data Not Entered into Evidence (DNEE): Even more difficult are references to details or people that the POV protagonist knows, but that haven't been introduced to the reader. An editor’s term I use is actually a legal term: "data not entered into evidence". In a trial, you can’t present to the jury any data not entered into evidence. Actual example: "Her uncle held up the letter. 'We're going to have to move back to Berlin. Opa's textile factory is failing due to war shortages and the Jewish crisis. He needs our help.' Horrified, she grabbed her bike and headed for the Lake Michigan beach front. No one was going to force her to move again." Except the story hasn't yet mentioned a prior move, that the family comes from Germany, identified time period as WW2, or even mentioned an uncle. Real time solution: "She knew what her uncle meant. Her earliest memories were playing among the looms of her Opa's factory back in Germany where she was born."
Obviously one can't introduce everything POV protagonist knows to reader without overwhelming information dump. So how does one find a balance? Again, very simple. One doesn't have to give reader all necessary information up front, just enough to understand the story to that point. But at ANY point a new detail is introduced, that is the point at which it needs "entered into evidence", rather than referenced as though reader already knows.
Q: You have written across all genres--romance, political thrillers, YA, christian--how did you do it? (It seems to go against the advice of sticking to one thing and doing it well.)
A: In truth, there is little in my writing and publishing career that fits into the industry box, perhaps a consequence of beginning my publishing career and writing my first half-dozen books overseas (Bolivia), where I knew no other writers nor the rules of the game. I simply wrote the stories burning in me, beginning with a children's international mystery series. When the canvas of juvenile fiction became too small for the stories I wanted to tell, I wrote a teen novel, then found myself expanding my story canvas to adult international suspense novels. But however booksellers choose to categorize my titles, I would say my writing voice is actually quite consistent in that all my novels--children, teen or adult--transport readers into a vast, troubled, dangerous, exciting world filled with fascinating human beings, complex issues, but also great hope, courage, and light well beyond safe boundaries of any North American suburban neighborhood.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interview with Juilene Osborne-McKnight

by Mitzi Flyte

I am very pleased to be interviewing Juilene Osborne-McKnight, Director of  the Communication Department at DeSales University where she teaches Journalism, Creative Writing, Celtic and Native American Mythology.  Juilene is the  author of four Irish historical novels:  I am of Irelaunde, Daughter of Ireland, Bright Sword of Ireland and Song of Ireland   (MacMillan/Forge). In addition her poems have been published in many literary journals.   Hundreds of  her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines. Juilene was one of The Write Stuff’s first presenters…back in the day…and we’re pleased to have her back again to present the workshop, Character Intensive.
Welcome Juilene.
Juilene, you seem to write in various forms: nonfiction, poetry and fiction. What is your favorite?
For novels, I require long blocks of time; generally I will write for four to eight hours in a sitting.  For that reason, I tend to work on novels during the summer and during Christmas break.  I work on poetry, essays, articles and photography during the teaching year. Truly, I enjoy them all, but "disappearing" into a novel is completely transportive for me; I go to that time or place among those people. So writing a novel is even more wonderful than reading a novel, if that's possible! 
Song of Ireland will be coming out in a new edition. What made you (or your publisher) decide to do that?
MacMillan decided to release them as e-books for Kindle, Nook and iPad. Following that decision, they decided to release Song of Ireland in trade paperback with a completely new cover. Many of my books are taught in Irish Studies programs, so I think that the decision will be wonderful for Song of Ireland. I would be delighted if the previous three were re-released in print as well! 
This is the most common question asked of authors but I have to ask it anyway—because  I know it’s a great answer. How did you get your idea for your first Irish historical novel?
This is so strange, but so true.  I was living in New York, very close to the Hudson River.  On a rainy November morning, I was driving to Sears to pick up a ceiling lamp.  There were low bushes beside a stone wall next to the Hudson River -  all of it shining gray in the rain.  A small plastic bag had become snared in a bush and it was filling with wind.  The billowing white caught my eye and I turned my head to look at it.  Instantly, I saw a woman standing behind a stone wall, her white dress billowing in the wind. Huddled beside her in the wet grass was a barefoot child. I got the lamp, drove home, and wrote all day long!
I understand you’re venturing into the world of ebooks. Why did you decide to do that?  What do you think is the future of ebooks.
I teach publishing classes at my university and my students and I discuss that endlessly.  Right now, e-books compose only about 10% of all books read. Although that number is predicted to rise, Nook sales, for example, declined during this past year.  Right now e-books are the Wild Wild West of publishing and readership, with hundreds of thousands of self-published books, little to no quality control, and very random pricing schemes. However, there are tremendous advantages for authors, not least of which is that when a print run of a book sells out, you are still in print as long as you are on B&N, amazon and 
i-books.  As long as people can read your stories, you are still "alive" as a writer. So I was thrilled to go into e-book format.

Will you be writing more historical novels?
Yes.  I just finished an Urban fantasy with historical elements and I'm currently writing the second book in a young adult series that has a wonderful historical story woven into the modern world. I'll also be writing a novel based in Roman Gaul. The people that Julius Caesar called the Gauls were actually the Celts of Northern Italy and France. 
You will be a Teaching Professor in Rome this fall. Can I stowaway with you? Seriously, why Rome? Why not return to Eire?
You can't believe how many people have offered to schlep my luggage, translate my Italian etc!  I have been named director of our University's Rome Study Abroad program for Fall of 2013 and I actually will be teaching a class called Rome vs. the Gauls.  I'm expecting a full Celtic novel to grow from the experience. One of the delights of the program is that my students and I will be attached to a pair of archeologist/historians who will teach us the history of Rome from, for example, beneath the Colosseum. Rome on foot! I can't wait! 
With your vast background in writing, why did you decide on a workshop on characterization?

 I'll tell the absolute truth here; character intensive was the workshop that was requested!!  It's all planned and ready to go at this point, and we are really going to have fun!  I can't wait to teach it because I'm expecting to learn a lot from everyone in the workshop as well.
Any words of wisdom for all the writers who are hoping to one day to have their works published.
I think this is really an interesting time for writers.  The decline of big publishing, the rise of small and micro-publishers and the wide river of   e-publishing has given us opportunities to control our own destinies in some very new ways. Plus, indie bookstores are predicted to grow! It will take a few years for the norms of this new world to solidify. While everything is so free-for-all, the writer who tells good stories, analyzes the new world of publishing, and learns to use social media avenues effectively, may very well rise from the slush pile.  Take heart fellow scribblers; a new world is upon us!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Interview with Lee Upton

by Bernadette Sukley
Lee Upton Author of short stories, novellas, poetry and four books of literary criticism; as well as over fifty articles and essays about literature. Her awards include the Lyric Poetry Award and The Writer/Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America; the Pushcart Prize; the National Poetry Series Award; the Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series Award; the BOA Short Fiction Award; and the Mary Louise VanArtsdalen Prize for Scholarship, the Marquis Teaching Award, and the Jones Faculty Lecture Award at Lafayette College, where she is the Writer-in-Residence and a professor of English.
Bernadette: As a poet, do you think it's the placement or the economy of words that paints the most successful images?
Lee: Every poem comes into the world as a new species, and every element in any poem contributes to the poem’s power. The most powerful images depend on many factors, including the structure and diction of the poem—-what [Samuel Taylor] Coleridge called “the best words in their best order.”
Bernadette: Your poetry is filled with personal experience. Are you ever concerned that the reader may not be able to relate to you--or is that the challenge for the poet?
Lee: Both my poems and fiction often derive from imagined experience, but the emotional underpinnings of the work come from having lived through experiences that are common to many of us. At the same time, as a reader I don’t need to have experienced what a character has experienced. What we read can extend our imaginative sympathy and allow us to enter worlds that differ greatly from our own. As a reader I’m ready to entertain the possibility that the uncanny and the strange may refresh my sense of possibility. 
Bernadette: Without giving too much away from your conference presentation can you describe what "extreme concentration" means?
Lee: Extreme concentration refers to the ability to focus on writing intensively, shutting out distractions, and having faith that the act of writing itself will lead us into new areas of awareness. Writing poetry in particular calls for extreme concentration, given that if we pre-determine the ending of a poem, most often the poem loses vitality. There’s a high stakes quality to writing poetry, a willingness to allow language to lead us into discoveries that we could never anticipate.
Over time, writing becomes a little like long distance running. You learn to extend your capacity, both for writing for longer periods and for trusting that while you write you will draw up associations and conceptions that you couldn’t have encountered in any other way than by writing.
Bernadette: You will also discuss self-trust for the writer. How does a writer preserve that when the industry, agents, editors tell them to change?
Lee: One way to develop self-trust, I find, is to recognize that creating a perspective that only you and you alone can create is worthy of respect. Who else has your exact voice? Having faith in your own unique voiceprint is essential. That means that you have to listen to your writing, reading it aloud, testing it, deciding when the voice in the writing attains a pitch that strikes you as resonant. Nevertheless, it’s often useful to listen to what other people have to say about your writing. Sometimes you’ll become aware of what would otherwise be invisible. At the same time, some advice, inevitably, will be bad advice. Some advice will also be contradictory.
No one can know with accuracy what writing will attract readers. What we can know is what in the writing excites and surprises us as writers. All we can do is to read widely and write full-heartedly, boldly, and freely. As for editors: I’ve been blessed with exceptional editors, most recently Joseph Bates and Jim Schley, writers themselves, and I’ve been grateful for their attentiveness and inspired suggestions.
Bernadette: What draws you to poetry? 
Lee: I write poetry, fiction, literary criticism, and creative nonfiction. Of all those genres, poetry is especially exciting for its immediacy, the ways in which poetry can startle us, even within a few lines, drawing us up and out of limiting ways of seeing the world and our situation within it. Poetry can break through our hardened resistances at an accelerated pace.
Bernadette: Do you think it's necessary for writers to study poetry to become better writers?
Lee: I tend to agree with Cynthia Ozick, who claims that most artistically ambitious fiction writers have done at least some work with poetry. But then, who hasn’t written a poem, at least during childhood and adolescence? There may be few better ways to develop the ability to rewrite word-by-word than by reading poetry and seeing how one verb, one noun, one comma, can change the shape of anything we write. A substantial amount of poetry calls for “slow reading,” an almost obsessive attention on each word—-and that sort of enhanced attention is useful for any writer during the revision and editing stages. Exercising a willingness to allow the unexpected to enter a piece—the poet’s necessary discipline—-can be very good training for any sort of writing.
Bernadette: Of all the poetry that you've written, which is your favorite poem?
Lee: I like my fifth book of poetry’s title poem, “Undid in the Land of Undone.” In some ways it’s a writer’s anthem:
Undid in the Land of Undone
All the things I wanted to do and didn't
took so long.
It was years of not doing.
You can make an allusion here to Penelope,
if you want.
See her up there in that high room undoing her art?
But enough about what she didn't do — not doing
was what she did. Plucking out
the thread of intimacy in the frame.
So let's make a toast to the long art
of lingering. We say the cake is done,
but what exactly did the cake do?
The things undid
in the land of undone call to us
in the flames. What I didn't do took
an eternity —
and it wasn't for lack of trying.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview with ePub Agent Julia Bannon

by Tori Bond

Julia Bannon has been walking around with her nose stuck in a book since the age of five. It didn’t matter if she was walking to school or lacing up her skating boots, reading has been her lifelong passion. After several years in public relations, Internet sales and marketing, Julia was able to merge her passion for the written word with her career when she went to work for HarperCollins in online marketing. Julia joined the L. Perkins Agency in late 2012, as an ePub agent and is thrilled to bring her experiences in publishing, copy editing and marketing to her new clients as they look to forge the way in the evolving world of e-publishing.

Tori Bond: What is an ePub agent? Does this mean you market your clients’ work exclusively to e-publishers? How are you different than a traditional agent?

Julia Bannon:  As an e-pub agent, I am focused exclusively on e-publishers. This doesn’t mean my authors can never get into print, but I’m looking for authors suited for success in e-publishing. I’m lucky to be part of an established “traditional” agency, so if I have a client whose work should really come out in print I can work with my colleagues to find the right outlets for their work.

T:  What do you see as the greatest benefits of e-publishing for authors?

J: There are so many benefits to e-publishing – speed to market, lower cost for consumers translates to an easier entry to new audiences, more opportunities to get published. I think speed to market means so much – your work doesn’t have to fit into a traditional publishing schedule, and your ravenous readers can access your newest (or backlist) books faster and conveniently.

T: What do you see as some of the pitfalls of e-publishing for authors?

J:  Honestly, I see the pitfalls of e-publishing to be the same as those for authors who self-publish. Just because a book is written doesn’t mean it’s ready for the wider world. A critical eye must be applied to any work that is to be published, regardless of the platform. Thorough editing and copy editing should be performed before a new title is published (and hopefully before submitting to an agent). You want your work to be clean and accessible, not riddled with errors.

Also, you want to make sure there is a marketing plan in place for your work before it hits online outlets. You can craft this in conjunction with advice from your agent and with your publisher’s marketing team, but you have to know what you’re responsible for when it comes to getting the word out for your book. Then when the book hits you have a wall of sound for promotion in place.

T:  What makes a novel a must read and therefore something that you want to represent?

J:  Ah, if I had the magic formula for that I’d probably be in a different place. But kidding aside, it is so extremely subjective. If there’s anything I think authors should take to heart is that audiences (agent, publisher and consumer) are so diverse in their reading desires. If you pitch your work to an agent and get rejected, don’t let that end your career. You just need to keep pitching until you find the right audience. The work should be honed over time with the feedback that you receive, assuming it feels right to you and your work. But to answer your actual question, for me a novel is a must-read when I connect personally with the characters, the story and the setting so much that I literally can’t put it down. I get distracted from work if there isn’t a good flow to the story, if there are tons of grammatical and spelling errors or if is written for shock value but with no depth or feeling.

T:  What advice do you have for those who will be pitching to you at the conference?

J:  Relax and tell me a story. I want to connect with the authors pitching to me, and it helps to hear a bit about their personal story as well as their story’s story. What is the book about, what was the inspiration, what are your plans for the book?

T:  How do you like to work with a client? Do you offer editorial advice before submitting to publishers? I see you have a background in digital marketing. Do you help your clients market their e-books?

J:  When I work with a client I like to communicate via email and phone (in person if possible), frequently. I work with my clients during regular business hours, but if they’ve got a full-time job aside from their writing I can be flexible. I do offer editorial advice before submitting to publishers, to a certain degree. But I probably wouldn’t represent an author if I felt like their work was in really rough shape, unless it was really a diamond.

I do have a background in digital marketing, which helps me understand the landscape the authors are approaching. While I will offer some marketing advice (Get on Twitter, Facebook, have a blog and/or website! Tell your friends to like you/your books! Get quotes!), my role is to get them ready for publication and beyond. I want to see continued success for my clients, so if I feel like they really need to be doing something to promote their work, I’ll let them know. But the author and/or their publisher will perform the actual marketing.

T:  What are your predictions for the future of e-publishing? Do you think it will eventually replace the printed book?

J:  Predictions … I predict people will keep buying e-books in droves. I really wonder about platforms, and who’s going to come out a winner. Will there be a Nook in two years? We shall see. I think the audience for e-books is only going to grow – the more tablet buyers there are I think will mean more e-book sales. I think there are some great things being done by libraries especially when it comes to teaching people how to buy or borrow and download e-books. I hear from a lot of people that they don’t buy e-books because they don’t understand how easy it is to get them on their tablet.

Will e-books replace the printed book? I really don’t think so, at least not for a long time. I know that the younger generation is so tech-heavy, but even they say they prefer printed books. But e-books are here to stay – with their ease of acquisition, accessible cost, abundant selection, storage advantages, etc. I don’t see why we can’t all just get along and have both. J

T:  Is there a question you wished I’d asked?

J:  No question, but I want to pass along my thanks. Thanks so much for interviewing me, and inviting me to your conference. I’m so excited to meet your authors – it is such an energy boost to be surrounded by such creative, invigorating people. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Interview with Deborah Riley-Magnus

by Daisy Willis

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She is also an Assent Publishing Imprint Editor for Romance (Breathless Books) and Women's Fiction (Panoptic Books).

As an Author Success Coach, Deborah focuses exclusively on publicity, marketing, and promotional solutions for authors. She teaches live and online Author Success Workshops and has spoken at writers groups and conferences across the country.

GLVWG member Daisy Willis contacted Deborah to ask her about author promotions, marketing, and the genres she's interested in acquirng for Assent Publishing.

Daisy: New authors are often daunted by the fact that they now have to master both their craft and the marketing of it. How does Assent Academy help your authors with this challenge?

Deborah: In most cases, writers and authors, new or established, accept the fact that they must market their books. The only thing standing in their way is the fact that marketing represent a whole new skill set, seemingly in a foreign language to boot. They simply don’t understand how to use it, when to use it or why it works, but good marketing is more like writing than anyone realizes. It requires plotting, planning, practice and creativity. Taking all the mystical terror out of the task is the key to real success.

Assent Publishing is the first publisher of any size to establish an exclusive, internal, professionally-run training system for our contracted authors at no charge. The mandatory workshops are designed to give Assent authors a powerful marketing advantage through education, guidance and advice, strategies specifically developed for the author’s book(s) and time management skills.

Daisy: How important is social media in promoting an author's work? Does a strong platform help sway you towards an author or does the manuscript stand alone?

Deborah: Social media is an author’s VOICE. An author’s platform – including author website, book website, consistent and well-targeted blogging, twitter and Facebook presence – pumps blood into author success. Without tooting your horn, no one knows there’s a wonderful book coming on to the market. The time to start is when an author starts writing the book.

Our submission guidelines require a querying author give us an idea of how much they understand about marketing and their target book buyer. Yes, their platform comes in to play when we consider signing an author. I STRONGLY suggest that every writer Google themselves to see what we see. If their online presence is lacking, it’s not the end of the world, but it does tell our Managing Imprint Editors if that author is geared for marketing success. We’re looking for authors who want sales success and we give them the tools to do it.

Daisy: You're looking for romance, fantasy and women's fiction. How does a story really stand out in these genres?

Deborah: I’m pretty easy and a lot like every other book lover in the world. Catch my attention quickly, tell me a great story, give me compelling, polished writing and entertain me. I’m usually sold in the first five to fifty pages. If a writer can’t show me what I need to know in those first pages – that they have honed their craft, written a great story, and presented a well-edited piece – then I will pass.

Romance must be powerful, fantasy has to send my imagination soaring and women’s fiction needs to make me hold my breath for the main character. Like I said, I’m just like every other book lover in the world.

Daisy: As Managing Editor for Assent's romance imprint, Breathless Books, you must be excited about the "Great Romance" contest wrapping up at the end of April. What inspired this contest and what are you looking for in a winner?

Deborah: The Great Romance contest was created to bring new and remarkable romance to the forefront. We’re seeking great romance that isn’t bound to the standard formulaic plot structures and character traits we’ve all seen a thousand times. All romance subgenres are welcome, so the variety of the submissions has been exciting. The contest is an age-old challenge to tell us a love story in a different way. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back isn’t going to cut it. Our Breathless Books Imprint wants romance writers to show us their creative muscle!

Daisy: Given your expertise in marketing, you probably have some good advice on pitching a story. What works and what doesn't?

Deborah: All I ask is that a pitching author truly KNOWS their story. If you can’t pitch me in 25-30 words – and within those few words convey the genre, who will read that book and what it’s about – you might lose me. If you hook me in with those 25-30 words, I will ask for more and more. Getting an idea across with a well-crafted economy of words tells me that your writing is strong. Don’t babble and by all means, please don’t be nervous. I’ve been on your side of the table. I don’t bite and I want you to be successful!

Get your 25-30 word pitch as polished as possible. Practice it, rehearse it and know it well because that perfect pitch will carry you through everything from getting a publishing contract to requesting reviews, enticing the press, and gaining live speaking or book signing engagements. Done well, it can be your most powerful marketing tool. And never forget, you are marketing to the editor or agent you pitch.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Interview with Jita Fumich

by Charles Kiernan

Jita Fumich first began working with Folio in 2006. She has also worked with the editorial department at Berkley Books at Penguin and with Macmillan Publishers at their self-help podcasting website, and is currently the secretary for the AAR’s Digital Rights Committee. She holds a B.A. from New York University and has taken classes at NYU’s Center for Publishing.

Jita can’t think of any better industry to be in than publishing.  Her favorite trips as a child were to the bookstore or the library, and she always tried to take home more books than she could carry.  She is excited about being part of the magical process of making an author’s idea end up on bookshelves.

Charles Kiernan: When you are slogging through romance and fantasy submissions, and your eyes glaze over, what pops out at you, calling you to pay attention to this one? Does romance and fantasy differ in what attracts your attention?

Jita Fumich:  I think it's important to have a strong log line or a succinct synopsis that really pinpoints why your story is so much more interesting or unique than anything else in my inbox.  I am not a fan of queries that try to be different in terms of format (queries that are written by the protagonist of the story, for example), but simply a clean, well-written, properly-formatted query can actually stand out from the crowd.

For that reason, what simply attracts my attention does not change whether it is fantasy, romance, or another genre entirely.

C: I am sure you keep an eye open for storylines that are fresh or have a new treatment of an old theme. At present (I know this changes quickly) what are the storylines that make you say, “Oh, not another one!”

J: Any fantasy story that involves a (generally mis-matched) group going on a quest.  The writing might be great, but this is just not a plot that makes me eager to read on.  I also see too many demons and vampires without sufficient world-building to make me believe in the author's unique vision.

C: What are the storylines that never fail, the ones that will always have an audience?

J: I would say that romance is where common storylines tend to feel tried and true rather than tired.  There are, after all, only so many ways that a couple can get together, so it is more in the drama of the story, the conflict surrounding or between them, and the setting.  However, there is no specific storyline that I can say I don't mind reading over and over--anything gets tiring after a while!

C: When you represent a work, what is the nature of the partnership you enter into with the author beyond signing a contract?

J:  Not only do I carefully work with each author on a project editorially before it is sent out, but I also believe that selling a book is no more the end of my job than writing a great one is the end of my client's.  This starts (but certainly doesn't end) with educating authors on and advocating for them during the publication process, working with them on promoting their books, and making sure to discuss and work toward achieving long-term writing/career goals.

C: Taking new authors as a group, what are their usual weak points in understanding their role in finding a publisher?

J: I wouldn't say that there is much of a role in the author *finding* a publisher--after all, that's my job!  What I would say, though, is that they need to think about building their own platform even before we send out a project.  Get involved in the reading and writing community surrounding their genre, try to make friends with other authors--make yourself and your writing as marketable as possible.

C: Again, as a group, what surprises them the most about their role after their book is published?

J: The exact same thing--that the job isn't done!  Authors need to always be thinking of ways to build their fanbase and connect with their readers.  That can mean anything from making sure to stay up to date on new social media platforms, to maintaining an active website, and other ways to reach their community.  And yes, all of this has to happen while the author is hard at work writing their next book.

C: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed.

J: Thank you so much for interviewing me.  I very much enjoyed answering such insightful questions!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Interview with Carol Wedeven

by Phyllis Palamaro

Children's author Carol Wedeven has been writing since she was a child herself. A former classroom teacher, Carol now teaches at writer's conferences and writers' groups. GLVWG member Phyllis Palamaro got in touch with Carol to ask her some questions about herself, her wriitng, and the sessions she'll be teaching at the Write Stuff.

Phyllis: Who encouraged you as you were growing up to be a writer?

Carol: Aunt Wilma had always wanted to be a writer. The bar in her small kitchen kept piles of library books, strews of paper, loose pencils and erasers, and a rickety, clickity black typewriter. I watched her type with intensity, eyes focused, thinking, creating, as black words appeared on the paper she had recently rolled into place. Line by line, a pageant script grew. When the writing was finished, I acted the part of a nurse in one of the panoramic historical scenes on the stage of our city’s new Civic Center. It was then that I realized what a difference words on a page could make. They could move and change the hearts of people. Aunt Wilma had no idea she was encouraging me. In merely doing her thing, she showed me the writing process and showed me that if she could do it, I could too.

My mother, Aunt Wilma’s sister, encouraged me to look for new ways to create something different, to recreate trash into something useful, interesting or even beautiful. My mother made flour ‘n’ water paste for binding my first self-published (smile) book: eight 3” x 5” pieces of scrap paper with crayon illustrations and a story about Roy Rogers. Jean Hill, storyland lady at WHTC Radio, fed my imagination. The state of Michigan sponsored Americanism essay contests. The award I received, signed by Governor George Romney, encouraged me to aim at excellence. Teachers encouraged me to edit the school newspaper and to write monthly science stories for a children’s educational paper. Someone asked me to write an article for a teen magazine. I did that too. Seeing my byline and stories in print, and knowing children would read them, hooked me on writing even before I got the pleasant surprise of a check in the mail.

Phyllis: When did you begin to think of yourself as a writer?

Carol: Even during my early years, I put words on paper, any paper--on pieces of mail, filling in blank insurance forms tossed into the trash, Sears & Roebuck order blanks, grocery lists my mom might (not) pass on to the grocer. I taught children to write and read stories they wrote. When a writer friend told someone I was a writer, I corrected her. “I’m a teacher,” I said. My friend persisted. “Okay,” I finally said, “I’m a writer.” I eventually realized that being a writer isn’t necessarily precluded by my not being published big time. I was a writer before I ever penciled a squiggle or wrote a word. It had taken me years to realize that my writing journey began the day I was born.

Phyllis: I attended your session this summer at the Philadelphia conference, “Seeing Through the Eyes of a Child.” Where did that idea come from? What do you expect your attendees to take away from the session?

Carol: I have always cared about children and was often able to read their heart. One of the rules for writers is to know your reader. Inside and out. Anyone with 20-20 vision with or without glasses can see a child and write a description. But what kind of glasses does it take to see the inside of the child? Observation, experiences, childhood memories, understanding, seeing through a child’s point of view, knowing a child’s fears, dreams, hopes, foibles, vocabulary, way of thinking, developmental details, abilities, and more. The list is long, but the short of it all is this: When a reading child senses our heart in words on the page, we gain trust, and that’s when our words have an opportunity to make a difference in the heart of the reader. In class, we will become the child and gain first-hand insight into the heart of the child.

Phyllis: What is your advice for new writers?

Carol: Think, imagine, dream. Court Aha! moments. Learn something fresh and new everyday.

Write or create artistically in other ways each day—even if it’s for five minutes.

There is no perfect manuscript. Welcome and enjoy the work of making improvements.

Write, rewrite, repeat, until a manuscript boasts your personal best. Aim for excellence.

Be strong and courageous. Discipline and practice make great writers greater.

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Today’s good, bad or ugly is bound to improve.

Phyllis: How do your books “Convict the reader with God’s truth?”

Carol: I write to show God’s truth. I hope the redeeming God factors in my books show that the spirit life of every flawed character can be changed from darkness to light, that is, from the spirits of greed, selfishness, and other dark characteristics, to the spirits of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control. This is God’s truth, which children and adults seek. Hopefully, seeing transformation happen in the life of a character will ignite an “Aha!” awareness of light for the reader.

Phyllis: What new books are you working on?

Carol: My current writing project, A Rose from the Ditch, is a work of narrative nonfiction for women based on the true story of Sooni, an Amerasian girl in 1950s Korea. After years of struggling in the ditch of hunger, poverty, prejudice, and persecution, and after Sooni is orphaned, she is redeemed by author Pearl S. Buck, who invites Sooni to come to America to live with her as her daughter. This story is one of rags to riches, Buddhism to Christ, and rice to ice cream. I also have several children’s books stewing on the back burner, improving with age as they wait.

Phyllis: What different genres would you like to try?

Carol: I will always write for children, but I also hope to write books for tweens and novels for women.

Phyllis: Why is writing important to you?

Carol: I can’t not write. I write 24-7. Even when my pen is put to rest, my heart and mind are filled with words, concepts, ideas, directions, concerns, wonderments needing to be shared. Writing is important to me because, as I scribble words on a page, they show me who I am, making heart words visible, available for me and readers to see, to wonder about, to receive and to maybe be open to change. Readers give my writing purpose, but writing gives me purpose.