Monday, August 29, 2011

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Steve

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 55,000
Attitude: Pumped

Well, Steve’s first draft came in a bit longer than I’d originally anticipated (by about 10,000 words), and yet I finished him much faster than I was expecting to. All told, it took me a little more than a month to crank out this first draft (a week back in February and three or four weeks this summer). A little more than a month! That’s crazy fast, at least for me.

I don’t know why this project came together so quickly. Maybe it was the character. (Of all the main characters I’ve written, Ella Mae is quite possibly my favorite. She’s smart and spunky but still twelve years old. Her black-and-white view of the world--at least at first--is one of the things that makes her so interesting.) Maybe it was the story. (Steve essentially grew out of two questions: “What if you dropped a Japanese man in the middle of small-town America in the early 1950s? And what if that Japanese man weren’t entirely…natural?”) Or maybe it had something to do with the tough rejection I received at the end of July. (Based on a series of e-mails I exchanged with that agent, I really thought that rejection was going to be an offer. So when the rejection came in, I threw myself back into Steve. I believe I wrote 2,000 words that first day.)

But whatever the reason, I’m not going to complain:) As much as I’ve enjoyed watching the pages fly by while working on this first draft, I can’t wait to revise. My editing skills just continue to improve, and I already have a list of changes, big and small, that I need to make. Bring on the revisions!

A few more tidbits about Steve: He’s an MG historical with a dash of science fiction. If I had to compare him to two classic titles, I’d go with FRANKENSTEIN and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, two of my all-time favorites. Those comparisons are a little audacious, I know, and I don’t plan to use them in an actual query letter. Not that I have anything resembling a query letter yet. I like to let the story develop a bit before I try to tackle one of those...

(I have been tinkering with a logline over the past couple of weeks, though. You can find it over there in my sidebar. If you’re a logline king/queen--or still just trying to figure them out, like I am--feel free to give me your thoughts in the comments!)

So what about you? How has your latest work-in-progress been coming along?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Giveaways Galore!

Just wanted to let you know about a handful of awesome giveaways floating around the blogosphere. In honor of her recent book deal with Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, soon-to-be-published Liesl Shurtliff has been giving away Knopf releases all week on her blog, Writer Ropes and Hopes. So far, she's announced giveaways for Jeanne Birdsall's THE PENDERWICKS, Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF (a book I happened to recommend a while back), and John Stevens's THE EMERALD ATLAS. So long as you're a follower, you can enter all the giveaways until this Friday, August 26, so hop on over there and check them out!

Next, another good friend and critique partner, Amy Sonnichsen, is also hosting a contest on her blog. This one caters to readers and writers alike. If you're a writer, Amy's offering a full manuscript critique, any length, any genre. (Guys, this is HUGE. Amy's one of the best writers I know. You definitely want her feedback.) And if you're not a writer, you can still win a free book of your choice (so long as it's less than twenty dollars). To enter, simply follow Amy's blog--trust me, you'll want to do that, anyway--and leave a comment on the contest post telling her which prize you'd like to win. You have until next Wednesday, August 31, but don't put it off. You might forget (and you don't want to forget this giveaway).

Okay, so by "a handful," I guess I meant "a couple." But I'm sure you're all aware of some other exciting contests going on as we blog. Feel free to share those links down there in the comments!

Monday, August 22, 2011

"No Trial that We Experience Is Wasted"


I was in a church meeting Saturday night, and for once, I was alone. Honey Bear was home, taking care of our two rambunctious gremlins so I could enjoy the meeting, and the stillness was…enlightening. A theme emerged for me pretty quickly (a theme usually does when I’m really paying attention), and that theme was learning how to endure trials with grace and perseverance.

I’ve been querying Bob for almost ten months now (although I spent five of those months revising the manuscript in two separate rounds), and the whole process has started to feel more like a trial than anything else. But even as I write this, I realize how trivial that sounds. There are much worse things to deal with, including several I’ve dealt with already, so if this is the hardest life experience I’m facing at the moment, then maybe life isn’t all that bad. Still, I think the lessons I learned that night apply to any challenge, large or small, literary or otherwise.

The talk that made the biggest impact on me was about overcoming adversity through the atonement of Jesus Christ and was given by a friend of mine named Laurie. She is, in a word, remarkable, and I thought that even before she lost her husband of thirty years to a rare kidney disease in January. The intervening months have proven just how right I was.

One of the highlights of her talk was a quote she shared from a man named Orson F. Whitney. I’ve heard the quote before, but it took on added meaning in the context of Laurie’s talk. After hearing it for the first time not long after his diagnosis, her husband made it his battle cry over the long months and even years of his illness.

From Orson F. Whitney: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”

That one line in particular--“All that we suffer…makes us more tender and charitable”--stuck out to me, perhaps because I’ve recently seen the truth of it in my life. Back in May, Honey Bear and I found out that we were pregnant, and a month or two ago, we started sharing our good news with our friends and family. When we got back from our month-long trip to Utah, we decided to tell our ward members, or the other people in our congregation, that we were expecting. I happened to be scheduled to teach our first Sunday back, and I planned to make a general announcement at the start of my lesson.

But then Stephanie walked into the room. I knew she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant and had suffered several miscarriages over the last year, and right then, I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t accept everyone’s congratulations--including, I imagined, Stephanie’s--in such a public way, because I knew exactly how it would make her feel.

A few months after Honey Bear and I were married, we experienced a miscarriage. It was and remains the single worst day of my life. It happened on a Wednesday, I remember, and the following Sunday, I had to listen to a man describe the recent birth of his first child in excruciating detail. He wrapped up his remarks by saying something like, “I am so grateful that God has given us this child, that He trusts us enough to send this choice spirit to our home.”

As soon as he said that, a dark voice at the back of my brain couldn’t help but whisper, “Well, if that’s the case, He must not trust you with one.” It took me a long time to realize how wrong that kind of thinking was.

In the end, I learned Orson F. Whitney was absolutely right. Our trials do make us “more tender and charitable,” more apt to put others’ feelings above our own. They teach us how to see things from another person’s perspective. In short, they teach us how to be more like Jesus Christ.

(Which isn’t to say I don’t think good news should be shared, because I absolutely think it should. I’m just saying we should be mindful of other people’s feelings and not say stupid things that have a high likelihood of wounding someone else.)

I don’t know why some people can have children so easily and why some people, like my parents, can’t have them at all. I don’t know why some people only have to send out sixteen queries to get an agent and why some people have to send out what seems like six hundred. I don’t know why some people land a book deal in the first couple of months and why some people have to write three manuscripts and endure the grueling submission process for years and years and years. But maybe those aren’t the important questions, anyway. Maybe the important questions are, "What can I learn from this experience?" and "How will I let this trial change me?"

So how have I let querying change me? I’m afraid I’ve let it turn me into hopeless, dejected Krista more times than I’d like to admit. (I don’t let hopeless, dejected Krista blog, mind you, so you probably haven’t met her. Unless you’re one of my beta readers. She does hijack my e-mail account and whine to them sometimes…) I’d rather let it make me a better writer and a better person on the whole--more thoughtful and patient, more inclined to look on the bright side of things.

I'm not there yet (obviously), but that meeting Saturday night made me want to get there someday. It made me want to try harder, to focus more on the positive. Because life and even querying can be wonderfully, splendidly beautiful--but only if we let them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Interview with an Agent: Lauren Ruth

And to round out what’s become an unusually busy blogging week, I have another great installment of “Interview with an Agent” for you. Today’s interview features Lauren Ruth, the newest agent at BookEnds. Ms. Ruth blogs at Slush Pile Tales, so after you check out the interview, don't forget to check out her blog. Happy reading!

KV: How often does a query intrigue you enough to request the manuscript?

LR: I keep track of all submissions in an excel spreadsheet, so I'm able to produce accurate statistics. I request partials for about 5% of queries.

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

LR: When I request a full manuscript, I'm looking for it to continue along the same line the query and partial were on. If the partial had great character development and the plot was so interesting that I couldn't put it down, but this doesn't continue, I'll obviously reject it, no matter how good the partial was.

Specifically, I want to be moved in some way by a manuscript. This doesn't mean it has to be poignant. For romance, I want to fall in love with the hero; for mysteries, I want to become so involved in the plot and characters that I just have to read through until the end.

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

LR: The most common problem with the manuscripts I read is characterization. The characters need to feel like real people. They need to speak like real people. For example, in middle-grade, if the main character is a ten-year-old boy he probably won't use words like "intrinsically" or "exasperate." I'll be really blown over, though, if an author creates a character that is so believably precocious that his large vocabulary actually seems real.

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

LR: If I feel the book won't sell or work at all without the revisions, I won't offer and might instead request that the author revise. But if the book can be expected to work, but could be made even better with some revisions, I'll offer representation.

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?

LR: Every author is different and will have different needs, so this is a hard question to answer with a generalization. However, all authors need to do at least some marketing. Authors should be asking how they can use social networking to get the word out about their work, or how they can amp up their efforts. Readers love to hear information about an author right from that author's own website.

KV: And now for a few quick questions from the normal interview. What client work do you have coming out soon?

LR: I just signed a client about whom I'm so excited. Stacey Kennedy! She is a previously self-published author who has been her own champion for so long. It is obvious, in her body of work, that she is determined to keep striding and keep improving. She has grown so much from her first book to her next and is still writing, still learning and still championing.

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

LR: I think this drive was what drew me to Stacey, initially. She was willing to revise, to get better, to never get lazy and keep moving forward. And of course, what she'd already written was just great. As an incredible bonus, her website was top-notch.

An author's website is very important to her fan-base and readers have a need to connect to their favorite authors. Stacey has a great following, is ever-present on facebook and twitter, and her website hosts contests, frequent blog posts, etcetera. She has even developed a look-and-feel that has made a brand for her. She signs her e-mails with the same graphic of her name that is on her website, which is excellent.

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

LR: I'm up to my eyeballs in memoirs about author's childhoods. Unless that childhood was extraordinary, memoirs like this are not very marketable. I'm not seeing as much romance as I'd like. In my slush pile right now, there's a supernatural pirate romance I can't wait to get to.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

LR: I accept queries by e-mail only, and the word "query" should be present in the subject line so my spam watchdog doesn't eat the e-mail.

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?

LR: Most agents are not impressed when authors include a few pages at the bottom of the query. I don't find this assertive or obnoxious, but I do secretly (not a secret anymore) like when authors do this because if I'm on the fence about their query, their pages will tip me one way or the other.

Thanks again, Ms. Ruth, for all this helpful information. And good luck to everyone who decides to query.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’m out!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm Gonna Be in an Acknowledgments Page!

So thrilled to announce that my friend and critique partner, Liesl Shurtliff, just sold her MG fantasy RUMP, a delightful retelling of Rumpelstiltskin from poor Rumpelstiltskin's perspective, to Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House!

Check out Liesl's announcement, and while you're over there, you'd better follow her blog. Not only is she a wonderful writer, but she has a good head on her shoulders and a lot of thoughtful insights to share. That was how I first discovered her--every comment she left on someone else's blog was interesting and spot-on, and I knew I wanted her to read my manuscripts someday. Turns out, I was right:)

Congratulations again, Liesl! Can't wait to hear more about how the story unfolds from here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Query Update

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted any query updates for the last several months. As I mentioned in March’s update, I started working on a major revision in February, and I finished that at the end of May. Since then, I’ve been waiting, critiquing my guts out, waiting a little more, adding words to Steve, and waiting even longer.

Here in mid-August, I’ve heard back on most of those R&Rs, and since I haven’t announced that I have an agent, I guess you can tell how most of those turned out. The funny thing is, the vast majority of those rejections had more positive than negative things to say. They used words like “excellent” and “great” to describe the changes and praised the concept, the characters, the world building, the plot. Then they fell back on that ubiquitous, "But I just didn't fall in love." In fact, one agent seemed to be on the verge of offering (she was e-mailing every week or so, saying things like, “So sorry it’s taking so long, but I’m reading the manuscript and enjoying it and look forward to talking soon”), but ultimately, she passed, too.

Thankfully, the news hasn’t been all bad. I was corresponding with an agent several months ago, an agent who’d read and rejected one of Bob’s earlier drafts, and she mentioned as an aside that she was still thinking about him. She asked what his status was, and when I told her I’d just completed a revision, she let me know that she’d mentioned him to an agent friend and that said agent friend was interested. Said agent friend then e-mailed me--SHE e-mailed ME--and asked to see the manuscript. I’m still waiting to hear back from her.

Also, I picked up a partial request--or maybe a partial re-request--from another agent who'd read an older draft last fall, and just last week, another agent requested ANOTHER revision. In a couple of weeks, I’ll hit Bob’s SECOND birthday, and yet he refuses to take his place on the shelf. He’s tenacious, no doubt about that, and like any normal child, he’s made me laugh--and cry--more than a few times.

To be honest, I’m not sure where to go from here. I’m really enjoying Steve and how he’s progressing, but it’s hard to resist the siren song of an R&R. Maybe when Steve is ready for his first round of beta readers, I’ll have some time to dive back into Bob. The revisions won’t be nearly as extensive this time around, and maybe, just maybe, the third time really will be the charm…

(As for the numbers, I have to admit, I’ve lost track of how many queries I’ve sent, how many of those are still pending, and how many have turned into non-responses. I believe the total query count is somewhere around 80, but it’s hard to say, since I have re-queried a couple of agents.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ten Things I Learned At or On the Way to Disneyland

1. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like road trips, and those who’d rather subject themselves to brain surgery without any anesthesia. (I’ll let you decide which kind I am…)

2. If you need to get from Vegas to L.A. and you can’t get a flight, do not--I repeat, DO NOT--make the trip on Sunday. There’s nothing more discouraging than being stuck in traffic in the middle of nowhere.

3. If you need to stop in Barstow, take the Lenwood Avenue exit. The others are kind of lame.

4. Disneyland isn’t always the happiest place on earth when two- and four-year-olds are involved.

5. Just because you paid for two full days in Disneyland doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the hotel to take a nap.

6. If you want to ride the new Star Tours, you’d better get your FASTPASS by, like, ten in the morning. While waiting in line for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, we noticed that the FASTPASS Return Time was already up to eight o’clock that night.

7. And speaking of Astro Blasters, if you have a four-year-old boy, that will probably be his favorite ride:) (We rode it three times in two days.)

8. Sunburns on your scalp are painful. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your part.

9. Sea World isn’t worth the hour-and-a-half-long drive from Disneyland. It’s not as cool as I remember (especially since they’ve added a ton of cheap carnival rides and games).

10. On the other hand, the beach is as cool as I remember. And it’s free. (You just have to remember to touch up your sunscreen, like, every twenty minutes.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Out-of-town and Offline

I'm in California all this week, but not at SCBWI LA 2011. (Or was SCBWI LA just a weekend thing? Well, either way, I'm clearly not there, since I have no idea:) ) We're having a family reunion in Disneyland!

I hope everyone has a great week while I'm gone. I know we will. (Although I can't guarantee I won't faint from heat exhaustion, or just plain, old exhaustion...)

I'll be back next week with some exciting new posts, including another installment of "Interview with an Agent" with Lauren Ruth, the newest agent at BookEnds. See you then!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Meredith Barnes

Interview today! And it’s interactive! (Seems like it’s been a while since we’ve had a good, old-fashioned installment of “Interview with an Agent.”) Today’s interviewee is Meredith Barnes of Lowenstein Associates. She maintains an awesome blog, the beautifully titled La Vie en Prose, so after you read the interview (and leave your questions in the comments), definitely go and check that out.

KV: 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?

MB: I almost always look at the pages included with a query. Query writing is hard, so I like to take a look at the writing itself. Typically, I’ll read the first few lines of the query, get a sense of the category, length, and plot. Then I skip to the pages and read a few lines. If the pages are good, I just read them all and make a decision to request more from there. If they’re iffy, I’ll skip back up and read the rest of the query to see if there are any saving graces (like a unique plot twist or an author with a really stellar online presence). But in almost all cases, if the pages don’t wow, from word one, it will be a rejection, unfortunately.

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

MB: First, voice. Voice is a very high indicator of a talented writer. So that means that the main character especially (but the other ones, too, of course) feels real. Under that rubric falls good dialog, showing instead of telling, etc. If a writer is able to bring their characters to life with distinctive and realistic voices, the most common faults (stilted dialog, telling) won’t happen. And they’re more likely to be able to revise.

Second is a good plot. Something that moves along at a quick pace. Contrary to popular belief, this is not only applicable to commercial fiction like thrillers. Even “literary fiction” has to have, as one of my creative writing professors put it, “People doing stuff.” (Actually, that’s edited. He used a curse word.) Even if the changes, the “moving along at a quick pace,” are happening emotionally on the inside of the character, there still have to be things happening. This requirement is a reaction against overwriting, that terrible sludgy writing filled with adjectives and inverted, extra clauses.

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

MB: The inverses of what I’m looking for in a request: characters that don’t jump off the page because the dialog is stiff or the voice is inauthentic (so common in YA submissions), telling me someone feels uncomfortable instead of showing me how they fidget and cut their eyes, and overwritten “flowery” manuscripts where no one does anything.

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

MB: Very, very rarely is anything ready right out of a full request. There are almost always revisions to be made, typically I want to see that before I’ll make a formal offer.

Usually, I’ll send a formal editorial letter to someone that I’m seriously considering, see how they take it (Argue? Not really know how to take the direction?) and then wait to read the revision. Revising is very different from writing--some writers can get it down on paper fairly well but can’t go back in and do the analysis to revise. I like to know I’m working with someone who can do both before signing them (Not that I won’t sign them if they struggle with revision, but one likes to know what one is getting into:) ).

Sometimes, though, something is JUST TOO GOOD to wait on, and I’ll send an offer with my editorial letter. That way the author can see what I’d change when initially deciding whether or not to go on with me. I’ll move faster if I know an editor that’s dying to see that project or I personally have really wanted that sort of thing. I do a lot of nonfiction, so if a sample chapter is really good and the proposal is polished, I’ll sign that right off, usually. And, of course, sometimes you have to make a snap decision if the author is considering another offer. First I have to consider if I really want it, and once I do it’s all cylinders go, letter, phone call, offer all pretty quickly.

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?

MB: Ooh! This is a good one. Authors should always ask, first and foremost, about revisions that an agent wants made. If you haven’t seen a letter before your phone call (I think it’s easier to send one then schedule the call, so those revision can be discussed more in-depth), ask what revisions they’d request. How do those sit with you? If you have seen an editorial letter and have reservations, talk that through. Just as much as some authors don’t want their work critiqued, some agents get huffy if you question their notes, and you should know that ahead of time. There are times when you have to go with your agent’s gut, but revisions have to be collaborative.

You should also ask about communication style. Does the agent do a regular check in with everyone? Do they pretty much only get in touch if there’s news or something specific to discuss? Which do you want? Differences in this category are probably the most frequent reason agents and authors have trouble, so it’s an important one!!

Lastly, ask your agent what their overall Plan is for your book. Books are not just books anymore. They could become apps or enhanced ebooks or have cool interactive elements like game websites. There are cool marketing techniques that your book might lend itself to (I, for instance, have a book in which music features prominently, so playlists will be a big thing for our marketing). Are they thinking outside the box? Can they talk about this stuff? These days, they should be able to.

KV: And now for a few quick questions from the normal interview. What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

MB: I have some really exciting projects coming up, but none that are web-ready yet!! You know, don’t want to spoil the pre-empt I’m aiming for:)

I can tell you that the next two things I have coming up, one fiction and one non, both had very unique concepts, great voices, digitally savvy authors who are open to my quirky ideas on digital elements and marketing, and both projects lend themselves to all the book+ that’s going on: apps, multimedia enhancements, and unique marketing.

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

MB: I’m a little YA’d out, honestly, although I am still biting for the sci-fi and thrillers…but just no more paranormal, please. A really unique YA contemporary might catch my eye, too. Something with rock and roll in it.

I’d love to see some great literary fiction, something like a Jennifer Egan/A Visit from the Goon Squad.

I also just finished Galveston by the inestimable Nic Pizzolatto…please someone be another him and query me. It’s highly literary but extraordinarily paced (see #2 in this interview). Same for Will Lavender’s work (Obedience, Dominance). These are both of the crime persuasion, but I’d love to see a sci-fi thriller that was written as well as these are.

For nonfiction: always blog-to-book. Of course, platform is a huge consideration in nonfiction. Be honest with yourself about your platform: think in the thousands, not hundreds when you're talking about blog followers, etc. If you're not there, WAIT. It's better to take some time to build your platform before you query.

I’m also looking for amazing stories and a sassy relationship or fashion expert who would reach this demographic:

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

MB: You can find Lowenstein Associates’ submission guidelines here:, or on my blog:!! The worst way to query me is to do anything other than that--don’t get cute.

And there you have it. Thanks again, Ms. Barnes, for all of this FANTASTIC information. We almost don’t need to do the interactive part…

But we will! Because I’m sure you savvy readers have a lot of savvy questions. Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Ms. Barnes will pop in throughout the day and leave her answers in the comments, too. We’ll wrap things up at 3:00 p.m. EDT (which is 12:00 noon PDT), just so Ms. Barnes can enjoy her Friday night. Until then, ask away!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Steve

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 34,000
Status: Flying through the first draft
Attitude: Still in love!

After dragging my feet for a few months, I finally found the motivation to start working on Steve again, and I think he’s just as awesome now as he was five months ago. I’ve added nearly 20,000 words in the last two weeks, and it’s exhilarating. I can honestly say I’ve never written any other manuscript this quickly.

So why the sudden burst of speed? I really have no idea. I took up outlining a few years ago, and while I think the process suits my anal-retentive personality, I didn’t feel like outlining this manuscript before I started. So I didn’t. And now I’m 34,000 words in after a combined three weeks of writing.

Which isn’t to say I’ve completely abandoned the idea of outlining. I’m sure I’ll outline future manuscripts before I start the actual writing, and I’m sure I’ll end up writing (at least) one outline for Steve before I’m done. But I’m totally digging this freewheeling, anything-goes, fun-and-fancy-free style of writing. I think it’s helped me unlock my inner speed demon:)

I have had one outlining epiphany over the course of the last few weeks: Keeping track of major plot elements and overall narrative arcs is really easy, but keeping track of each character’s development and overall metamorphosis is really hard. In fact, I daresay a character outline, which would track characters’ responses to predetermined plot points as well as chart the characters’ states of mind on a chapter-by-chapter basis, would be far more useful than a traditional story outline, at least for me.

All right, back to work. But while I'm beefing Steve up, I'm curious: What epiphanies have you had lately, writing or otherwise?

Monday, August 1, 2011


Ms. LaPolla had a lot of wonderful things to say about the entries--and especially the winners:) She said she rearranged the order about a million times, but here's what she finally settled on:



Second place: #22 MANAS

MANAS wins a first-3-chapters request!


SWIMMING WITH TCHAIKOVSKY wins an in-depth query critique!

Winners, e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for instructions on how to submit your manuscripts and/or queries to Ms. LaPolla.

And of course, THANK YOU, everyone, for participating in this month's contest, either as an entrant or a critiquer. We had a ton of great feedback flying around here last week, and it was GREAT.

I'm taking a break in August (I never could have foreseen how much time these contests would take), but I'll be back in September with another round of "An Agent's Inbox."

The Agent = Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

This month's agent was Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd. You can find her all over the Web, so if you're looking for more information on our insightful agent, you might start by checking out these sites:

My interview with Ms. LaPolla
Ms. LaPolla's blog
Ms. LaPolla's Twitter page

And now for a few quick blurbs about Ms. LaPolla.

From Curtis Brown's website: "Sarah LaPolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes e-mail submissions at sl(at)cbltd(dot)com."

From Ms. LaPolla's Twitter page (December 3, 2010): "Writers: I do not want vampires, angels, werewolves, shape-shifters, or zombies in my queries. Yours will not be the exception. Thank you.

"Witches, ghosts, fairies, and centaurs are still welcome. Especially scary ghost novels!"

I threw that last one in there for all you paranormal writers. When Amy asked about that a couple of weeks ago, I was like, "Ooh, ooh, I know the answer!" But I figured if I was too specific, I might give her away:)

And since Ms. LaPolla is so on top of everything, I'll announce the winners in a couple of hours...