Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recipe Recommendation: Sloppy Dawgs by Rachael Ray

Liesl’s Pasta Fagioli and Peasant Bread recipe reminded me that I haven’t posted a recipe recommendation in a while. Honey Bear and I made this one again just last week, and I remembered how full-flavored it is. If you’re looking for a way to reinvent your hot dogs, this is it.

The sloppy dawg takes the idea of a sloppy joe and trades the ground beef in for cut-up hot dogs. Here’s Rachael Ray’s recipe, if you’d rather click through to her site, and here it is again, with a little extra commentary:)

Sloppy Dawgs

1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin, if you’re Rachael Ray, although Curtis Stone says extra virgin is a waste of cold-pressed oil if you’re just going to heat it up)
1 pound hot dogs, chopped or thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (Rachael Ray reminds you that you can eyeball this amount, but heck, it’s cooking--you can eyeball everything:) )
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper
4 hot dog rolls, toasted and buttered (if you want to give yourself more work)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the hot dogs to the pan, and cook until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan. Continue cooking until the veggies are nice and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the pan, and cook until aromatic, about a minute. (Rachael Ray is fond of saying, “Your nose will know when it’s done,” and that’s really the case with this tomato paste. As soon as you can smell it, you’re good to go.)

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire and tomato sauces. Add that mixture to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until thick and saucy, about 5 more minutes.

Pile the meat sauce onto the buns. Top with tomatoes, pickles, and mustard, if you like.

When we made this last week, Honey Bear and I were a little short on hot dog, so we added some fresh eggplant from our garden (Honey Bear’s idea). It turned out great, so feel free to improvise.

What have you been cooking lately?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Recommendation: MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins

Five words, six syllables: This. Book. Blew. Me. A-way. Enough said.

(Feel free to gush about MOCKINGJAY all you want in the comments. I only ask that you not mention any spoilers. That way, we won't ruin anything for the people who haven't read it yet.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Wendy Schmalz

Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Wendy Schmalz of Wendy Schmalz Agency. Prepare to be impressed.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

WS: I read Tennessee Williams’s memoirs in high school. He wrote a lot about his agent. At the time, I didn’t know what an agent was, but it seemed like a pretty terrific way to make a living. In college, I had a part time job with a journalist. His wife was a novelist and she got me an interview with the agency representing her, Curtis Brown, Ltd. I got the job and loved it.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

WS: I feel strongly about representing authors whose work I’m passionate about and who are passionate about their own work. I think it’s a mistake to write for the market.

Every relationship is different, but, like any relationship, there has to be chemistry and trust and respect. A good agent/author relationship lasts a lifetime. It’s about career building, not the latest project.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon?

WS: Here are some recent and upcoming books:

Bestselling novelists Myla Goldberg and April Henry both have new novels. Myla's THE FALSE FRIEND is a psychological drama (Doubleday). April's thriller about a kidnapped blind girl is called GIRL, STOLEN (Christy Ottaviano Books/Holt).

Two new middle grade series have just been published, Amanda Marrone's creepy, funny books called THE MAGIC REPAIR SHOP CHRONICLES (Atheneum), and Sue Stauffacher's witty, charming and informative series ANIMAL RESCUE TEAM (Knopf).

Amanda has a new paranormal romance called SLAYED about vampire hunters to add to her successful backlist at Pulse.

Australian Kathy Charles's crossover novel JOHN BELUSHI IS DEAD about two teens obsessed with celebrity death is just out from MTV Books.

Graphic novelist Jason Little's MOTEL ART IMPROVEMENT SERVICE, the sequel to his successful SHUTTERBUG FOLLIES, will be published by Dark Horse.

Award-winning South African novelist Michael Williams's NOW IS THE TIME FOR RUNNING is coming from Little, Brown.

Seymour Simon's Smithsonian/Collins photo essay TROPICAL RAINFORESTS is the latest of his successful books in that series.

Julie Anne Peters’s love story SHE LOVES YOU, SHE LOVES YOU NOT will be out next year from Little, Brown, as will Denise Vega’s ROCK ON.

KV: What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

WS: The true and easy answer is that each of them is extremely talented and a joy to work with.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

WS: I prefer realistic YA and middle grade novels. I prefer things with a bit of an edge--nothing too sappy.

I don’t like techno sci-fi. I’m not taking on any new picture book writers.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

WS: I hate cute query letters. Tell me about your book as concisely as possible. Don’t start off quoting statistics (a lot of people do). Avoid clich├ęs (I can’t take another “journey of self-discovery” letter). I like to know why authors want me to represent them. Have they done their homework? Do they know my tastes and my authors? Or are they just sending out queries to every agent in the country?

KV: You only want to see the query letter and synopsis in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

WS: Are you saying my site is not respectable? :) I think you can tell a lot by the letter itself. If you can’t write a letter, you can’t write a book. If a writer has pasted a few pages, that’s fine. I wouldn’t think it too assertive or obnoxious.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

WS: I don’t have a wish list. Like everyone else, I’m looking for fresh, original, well-told stories.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

WS: I prefer e-mail queries, although I only answer an e-mail if I want to read the manuscript. Go to for more information.

Thank you, Ms. Schmalz, for these responses. And good luck to everyone who decides to query her. If you’re fortunate enough to land Ms. Schmalz as an agent, you’ll be joining an impressive list of authors.

Have a great weekend, all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: THE STONE TRAVELER by Kathi Oram Peterson

Today we’re celebrating the release of Kathi Oram Peterson’s third book, THE STONE TRAVELER, which came out at the end of August. Ms. Peterson has been known to haunt these parts, so I'm more than pleased to be a part of her blog tour.

Ms. Peterson’s junior novel follows the first-person narratives of two main characters: Tag Quincy, a modern-day teenager with a fondness for dog collars, and Sabirah, a first-century nineteen-year-old from somewhere in Central or South America. With the help of a mysterious stone, Tag travels back in time to help Sabirah rescue her father, who has been captured by the nefarious King Jacob, or so she suspects. But here’s the catch: Since Ms. Peterson weaves her tale around events described in the Book of Mormon, Tag already knows the story will end with an inferno consuming Jacob's kingdom. What remains to be seen is whether Tag will survive the day.

THE STONE TRAVELER takes a while to get going, but by the end, I wanted to find out what happened to Tag and Sabirah. Tag starts off as a sulky, eyeliner-wearing moron, but over the course of the novel, he breaks out of that stereotype and matures into a fairly well-rounded human being able to think and act for himself. I didn’t always buy Tag’s character development--even when he’s still wearing the dog collar and eyeliner, he’s quoting most of the relevant Book of Mormon stories almost verbatim (despite the fact that most of the clean-cut Mormon kids I know don’t remember those stories as well as he does)--but by the time I reached the climax, I was rooting for him.

Would I have recommended THE STONE TRAVELER if I hadn’t been a part of the blog tour? Probably not. Then again, I recommend very few of the books I read because I only recommend books I absolutely loved. THE STONE TRAVELER doesn’t fall into that category, but it was all right.

Thanks for dropping by, and be sure to check out the other stops along THE STONE TRAVELER blog tour for a chance to win a Kindle. For a complete list of the other blog tour participants, check out the sidebar of Ms. Peterson’s blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of THE STONE TRAVELER in connection with this review, but as you can see, that didn’t stop me from giving you my honest opinion about the book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Revolution

I started MOCKINGJAY yesterday, and I don’t think I’ll be giving too much away when I say Katniss finds out rather quickly that rebel life isn’t everything she--or, more precisely, Gale--thought it would be. The rebel leaders aren’t a bunch of squeaky-clean Luke-Skywalker types, and the fabled District 13 imposes almost as many rules as their old friend, the Capitol. This moral ambiguity is what has driven the plot (so far), and even now, more than a hundred pages in, I, like Katniss, still don’t know whose side I’m really on.

I’ve been thinking about revolutions for a while now, since Bob features one of sorts, and the point my brain always seems to circle back to is how much someone’s culture influences his or her opinion on a concept like rebellion. In American film and literature, the rebels in a given story are almost always the good guys. Their leaders are usually dashing and charismatic, and their cause is always just.

And why is that? Because in the history of the United States, the revolutionaries have generally been just that. In fact, this nation owes its very existence to a rebellion.

Now consider a country like Cambodia. I must admit, up until a few years ago, when my brother-in-law went to live there for a couple of years, I knew next to nothing about this Asian nation, but now I know just enough to shudder at the mere mention of Pol Pot. I don’t know what touched off Pol Pot’s revolution beyond the pervasive friction between the better-educated haves and the less-than-educated have-nots (or if an inciting incident even happened), but I do know that it obliterated hundreds of thousands of French-speaking Cambodians and just about everyone else who had any kind of formal education. I also know that, more than thirty years after the fact, Cambodia is still struggling to recover from the repercussions of Pol Pot’s rebellion.

What does a Cambodian think about revolution, then? I have no idea, but I’m willing to bet that word conjures up a starkly different picture for a Cambodian than it does for me. And so it is with all of us. We are all products of our societies, so our society has a strong impact on how we read, how we write, and how we interpret life in general.

What about you? Where are you from, and when you hear a word like revolution, what words or images come to mind?

I’ll start. I’m from Mesquite, Nevada (originally Kaysville, Utah), and when I hear the word revolution, I see smoking ruins; a war council in a Federal-style room, usually with one of those old-fashioned writing desks; and a square-shouldered man on a white horse (who, admittedly, is probably George Washington).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Kate McKean

Today’s interactive installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. I’ll meet you at the bottom with details on the interactive part. Enjoy!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

KM: I always knew I would work with writing and books. I learned the ropes at the University Press of Florida after college, then earned my Masters in Fiction Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi. After I annoyed all my workshop-mates in grad school asking "Who's going to buy this? Who's going to read this?" I decided to move to New York and work in publishing. I was pretty sure I wanted to be an agent--salesmanship runs in my family and I knew I wanted to be on the idea-generation side of things. Turns out I was right. I love my job.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

KM: My personal agenting philosophy is find good work and share it. I want to fall in love with books so that I can be the best advocate for my authors.

From the agent-author relationship I expect mutual respect, understanding, professionalism, reasonable expectations (on both parts), and shared excitement over books. (And a healthy patience on the author's part for my frequent use of words like LOL, Woot!, and OMG.)

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

KM: Coming soon are Boo Davis' DARE TO BE SQUARE (August 31), an amazing quilting book out by Potter Craft. Her work is new, modern, and gorgeous, but still celebrates traditional quilting. I first saw her work in BUST magazine and I just knew crafters would love it. She was just featured in the New York Times.

In July, Carey Wallace's debut novel THE BLIND CONTESSA'S NEW MACHINE (Viking/Pamela Dorman Books) came out, and it's amazing, if I do say so myself. It's about an Italian Contessa who is slowly losing her sight. She rebuilds her world in her imagination, and there's a touch of magical realism in the end. Plus, her lover (not her husband) makes her one of the world’s first typewriters so they can communicate, and of course that causes problems. A friend referred Carey to me and I just knew she was the real deal. I definitely fell in love with this book.

But there's also THE BOOK OF "UNNECESSARY" QUOTATION MARKS! Hilarious stuff! I'm a grammar geek, so loving this book was a no-brainer for me.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

KM: Fiction: Adult: contemporary women's fiction, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and literary fiction.

YA and MG: pretty much anything. (Though I'm totally tired of angels right now.)

Non-fiction: craft, sports, humor, pop and internet culture, blog-to-book properties, food writing, health, wellness, (humorous, light) reference, technology, and memoir/narrative non-fiction.

I definitely do NOT represent serious books about history, politics, religion, or science--in fiction or non-fiction. I don't represent epic fantasy, police procedurals, thrillers, or children's picture books. Also, if your book centers around FBI/CIA agents, detectives, spies, terrorist cells, corporate espionage, government conspiracy, serial killers, metaphysical/enlightenment journeys, or serves as a way to right all the wrongs that have ever been done to you or anyone you know, I'm probably not the right agent for you.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

KM: I do not accept paper queries, and require the first three chapters of your work with your query. Not following these simple steps is definitely annoying.

Please don't respond to a rejection, even if it's just a quick question, just this once. Unfortunately, I can't afford to give out free editorial/agent finding advice to everyone. I get 300-500 queries a month.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

KM: I'm looking for excellent writing paired with a good understanding that the reader must be entertained every step of the way. The reader, not the author, is paramount in this relationship. Also, I'm really looking for more YA and MG contemporary (i.e., not-fantasy) novels, and smart romantic suspense and urban fantasy/paranormal romance for adults.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

KM: E-mail only: Please include the FIRST three chapters. E-mail attachments are fine.

Thanks again, Ms. McKean, for these detailed responses. I always like finding agents who take such large writing samples in the initial query, and I’m sure everyone else does, too.

If you have a question for Ms. McKean, feel free to leave it in the comments below. She’ll check in periodically throughout the day and leave you an answer. She’s also up for answering a few questions via her Twitter handle, @kate_mckean, so if you’d prefer to ask her your question there, have at it. All of this is a one-day-only event, though, so I'll be cutting off questions at 5:00 p.m. EDT (which is 2:00 p.m. PDT). Don’t delay!

Looking forward to your questions and Ms. McKean's responses!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Criticism That's Never Constructive

Do you remember that a cappella singing competition one of the networks aired last year? It was only supposed to last a week, but I stopped watching around the time the judges voted off the group affiliated with my alma mater.

After the few times this group performed, the judges only had one real piece of criticism: “Well, that was good, but you were really lacking in your lower register. You need more bass.” But here’s the thing: The group, Noteworthy, is an all-girl a cappella group. Of course they didn’t have any bass--they’re women! And the producers knew that when they invited them--yes, invited them--to do the show.

This is the sort of criticism that I would say is never constructive. Short of completely redefining who they were (which was impossible within the context of the competition and impractical in real life), Noteworthy couldn’t do a thing about the feedback they received.

All the criticism I’ve received has been marvelously constructive, so you shouldn’t interpret this as a not-so-subtle barb at one of my own betas. I was just reading some feedback someone else received on another site the other day, and I thought that one of the people offering criticism was being overly unconstructive. Essentially, the critter was attacking the writer’s voice, saying things like “Your writing style is boring” and “No teenager would ever want to read this.”

While it’s all right to say things like “I think you can infuse this passage with more personality” and “This doesn’t sound like something the character would think or say,” it’s not okay to make blanket statements about how the writer writes or the viability of the project. Voice is one of those sacred elements of writing that is totally unique, so to belittle someone’s voice is essentially to belittle who he or she is as a writer.

We may read something, and we may find it a little bland. We may read something, and we may know that the writer is still growing into his or her own voice. But that doesn’t give us the right to declare that writer’s writing as unreadable or unpublishable. Because if there’s one thing I learned as an economist that this industry has only confirmed time and time again, it’s that there really is no accounting for taste.

I can pretty much guarantee that every book I despise, somebody else loves. And every book I love, someone else abhors (or at least doesn’t like). You know that little series about a lightning-marked wizard that everyone, including me, adores? Yeah, well, my mother didn’t make it past the first few chapters of book one. And you know that book that everyone maligns, that everybody calls the most poorly written piece of slop that ever sucked the ink out of a printer (pun intended)? I actually still like it (although I recognize that wordsmithing isn’t the author’s strongest suit).

To make a long post short, criticism should inspire and encourage. It shouldn’t make the writer want to give up and go home.

Rant over.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Barbara Galletly

Happy Friday, all! Today’s INTERACTIVE interview features Barbara Galletly of Georges Borchardt, Inc. Details on the interactive part are on the other side. Enjoy the interview, and then I’ll meet you at the bottom.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

BG: I heard about a job (at Georges Borchardt, Inc., where I still work) from a friend, working with a couple of French publishers (I studied French and translation in college) and a lot of authors I had read in college and was totally in love with, and--I can't remember this, but according to my boss--I gave an impassioned speech during which I declared that advocating for the kind of daring and serious books my agency represents was all I really wanted to do. I have always been a reader, and a hugely judgmental one at that, and I seem to have rather luckily stumbled into a job where my opinion means something.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

BG: I guess it would still be the same as it was in the beginning. I think my job as an agent is to stand up for authors brave enough to write daring stories, to offer explanations that make us think as much as they give us facts. There's a lot of great writing, but I want to represent those books that aim to challenge the status quo and disrupt the way we might be drawn into thinking about it. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, I think this is the kind of book that is most important. Publishers aren't always eager to take on projects that aren't easy, and that's what I'm here to try to change. Of course an agent's job is also to protect her author's rights before and after a contract is signed.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

BG: I co-agented something over the summer that I'm very excited about--it's a novel called LAMB by Bonnie Nadzam, which Kate Johnson and I sold to Judith Gurewitsch at Other Press. This is a really beautifully told story about a man who does something terrible to a young girl, but the author is able to get the reader to empathize with this man.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

BG: Literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, works in translation. No commercial/genre fiction or self-help, diet, business books.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

BG: I don't like getting mass e-mail submissions! Especially when I can see the names of the other agents and their e-mail addresses…

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

BG: I think it's important that a manuscript comes with an author who is dedicated to building a personal platform, who has more than one project in them and is looking for a career as a writer.

KV: What's the best way to query you?

BG: I know it's a pain, but if a letter or e-mail is addressed specifically to me, I'm much more impressed.

KV: How do you feel about a writer's including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

BG: I am happy to ask for the amount of material I would like to read (I will usually ask for three chapters if I’m interested). But if the text is already there, it does make life easy. So really, I think it depends on the query and it’s fine either way.

Thanks, Ms. Galletly, for these responses. I was particularly drawn to your statement about wanting to represent books that challenge the status quo. I suspect that will resonate with a lot of us.

All right, now for the fun part:) You know the drill: Leave a question in the comments, and Ms. Galletly will answer it sometime in the next little while. This is a one-day-only event, so I’ll be cutting questions off at midnight PDT. But in the meantime, have at it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Recommendation: HEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter

I’ve read and enjoyed Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, so when I stumbled across a blurb for HEIST SOCIETY, I went straight to my library’s website to request it. And I’m glad I did.

HEIST SOCIETY features fifteen-year-old Kat Bishop, a reformed grease man and the daughter--and granddaughter and great-granddaughter--of a thief. She conned her way into one of the best private schools in North America, then hung up her rappelling gear and turned in her non-squeaky shoes. She was out of the game, out of the life, practically out of the family--until a less-than-scrupulous art collector blamed her father for a multimillion-dollar theft, then threatened to dispatch him unless he returned the paintings. The only problem is, Kat’s father didn’t steal them, and with Interpol dogging his every step, he can’t exactly steal them back from whoever did. But Kat can, and if she wants to save her dad, that’s exactly what she has to do.

I loved the world Ms. Carter built and the characters she created. I also loved the twist ending, which, I must admit, I didn’t see coming. It definitely leaves room for a sequel, so Ms. Carter, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re writing one:)

HEIST SOCIETY is a delightful romp through the air ducts and art galleries of Europe. If you like a classic caper, you’re sure to love this modern mystery/adventure.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Weronika Janczuk

Get ready for a good one:) I have another interactive interview for you, and today’s willing subject is Weronika Janczuk of D4EO Literary Agency. My questions are a little different today, since Ms. Janczuk maintains a fabulous blog on all things writing and agenting, so if you’re looking for more information on her querying preferences, you’ll definitely want to check that out. Details on the interactive part are on the other side of the interview. See you down there!

KV: Although you just became an agent, you've been an intern for a while, so you're well-acquainted with the slush pile. How often does a query intrigue you enough to look at the included pages? And how often do those pages intrigue you enough to request the manuscript?

WJ: I really don’t have an answer to the first question, as I don’t read queries at all--I skim them for the title, the genre, and the word count, and then I jump straight into the pages. Only if I enjoy the pages or they promise good writing will I look at the query to make sure it’s something I want to read, but even if I don’t like the query, chances are I will still ask for either a partial or full manuscript.

With the pages, I have about a 10% request rate at the moment, as I’m optimistic that I’ll find something good and I still have time to read through multiple partials. Even so, though, I am surprised at how much quality stuff has come through my inbox--I’m a new agent and I’m always glad to pass on something with a note that says, ‘You’re a great writer and you should find someone for this.’ I’m sure that the number of requests will dwindle as I take on more clients and have less time to read.

KV: What are you looking for in a requested manuscript?

WJ: I want to see first and foremost good writing, and that means a few things. First, the prose must be solid--this includes anything from a basic grasp of grammar to a really beautiful and talented ability to string together phrases and sentences. Second, there is a voice that draws the reader in. I’m very picky about voice--it has to feel genuine for me, and that is sometimes hard for writers to pull off. Third, all the elements of good story are there--characterization, plotting, pacing, etc.

I’m a new agent, yes, which means I have time to work on revisions, but those revisions will deal really only with structural issues that are easy to fix. I’m not going to take on any mediocre writing.

KV: What are some of the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you request?

WJ: Too much background information is present; too many references to the past, to something that “had happened.”

The story starts in a wrong or awkward spot, such as the character waking up, eating, attending school, thinking, etc.; all of these things are boring--give the reader/agent something that creates tension, whether it’s an explicit event or something internal.

The writing doesn’t hold up (it becomes clear that the first few pages were edited but the rest start becoming long-winded, etc.).

The plot is predictable and I know what will happen in the book from page one.

Characters are too one-dimensional.

KV: When you come across a manuscript you really like/love, how do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?

WJ: It depends on the nature of the revisions--if the revisions require more than a restructuring of the manuscript, something that I can very easily help the writer do, I will seriously consider requesting revisions without an offer to see if the writer is able to handle those deeper directions well.

The only thing that would push me to offer representation in that moment is if there were many agents considering the manuscript. If I love something enough, I can deal with multiple rounds of revisions; I (selfishly, of course) want to be the one to help guide and shape the manuscript, but if there isn’t a 'risk,' I don’t feel obligated to offer.

KV: When you do make that Call, you’re probably going to ask the writer if she has any questions. What sorts of questions should she ask?

WJ: I’m not sure if it’s that important to ask specific questions if the author feels s/he knows what s/he wants to know. There are a few things, though, that I suggest the writer knows about and understands before making a decision, and s/he should ask questions related to these areas as s/he sees fit:

1. The agent’s editorial suggestions--what the agent wants the writer to fix, how extensive the revisions or rewrites are going to be, how soon the agent wants them done, etc.

2. The agent’s submission strategy--how does the agent go about submitting, to what houses does s/he think s/he will submit your manuscript, how often the agent plans to check in with the editors at the houses, etc.

3. Agency dynamic--what will happen if the agent leaves the agency, who deals with foreign and subsidiary rights, does the agent have a set limit on clients s/he can take on, the size of the agency and how clients are treated, what the agency can bring to you as a writer specifically, etc.

4. The agent--what experience does s/he have, what is his/her track record, what will happen if the agent doesn’t love future projects, can the agent handle all other genres that you may want to write, etc.

5. The agency agreement--will you be required to sign a contract, what will this contract mean, what percent of the advance the agent plans to take, etc.

These are the fundamental basics. Ask questions about anything you’re not sure about, check the agent’s track record and look at their blog and Twitter to determine attitude, and consider your interests as a writer. Check in with the agent’s clients and ask for a very honest reflection on what has and has not worked in their relationship.

KV: And now for a few more questions from the normal interview. In your interview with Katrina L. Lantz, you mentioned you're also a writer. What do you write?

WJ: Right now, I focus on YA, literary, and historical fiction. I’m in the process of rewriting my YA literary historical WHERE THE DOVES FLY, the story of a multi-talented artist fighting for solidarity under the 1980s Communist regime in Poland.

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were?

WJ: I am very actively looking for a good single-title romance, thriller, and something commercial. I will fight for any of those if they have solid writing, a high concept, and/or crossover potential.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

WJ: Send the query and first ten pages in the body of an email, QUERY in the subject line, to Please make sure to check my submission guidelines for information on genres I represent.

Thank you, Ms. Janczuk, for these awesome answers. Lots of great information here.

Do you have a question for Ms. Janczuk? Ask away! She’ll drop in periodically to give you her thoughts. She’s even offered to take questions THROUGH THE WEEKEND, so as long as you leave your comment sometime between now and Sunday, you should get an answer.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kathi and Amy, This Post's for You!

Blogging friend Kathi Oram Peterson has some wonderful news to share: Her third book, THE STONE TRAVELER, came out last month! To celebrate, she’s going on a blog tour and holding an awesome contest.

The blog tour, which will run through the month of September, will feature reviews of THE STONE TRAVELER (I’ll post my review on Wednesday, September 22), and the contest is all about the comments made on those reviews. To enter, you must comment on every stop on the blog tour (you can find the official list in Kathi's sidebar), and then you’ll be eligible to win several weekly prizes as well as the grand prize, a brand new Kindle.

Also, A.L. Sonnichsen, another good blogging friend and one of my critique partners, is hosting a giveaway on her blog. She picked up some autographed books at SCBWI LA this year, and she’s giving two of them away. If you’d like a chance to win IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins or FAIREST by Gail Carson Levine, just follow her blog and leave a comment. But if you put FAIREST down as your first choice, I might have to hex you:)
Any other contests going on around the blogosphere? Feel free to leave a notice in the comments.