Friday, April 29, 2011

Dan Wells Is A Genius & The East Coast Conspiracy

First off, let me start off by informing you that I read the 3rd book in Dan Wells' John Cleaver Series-- I Don't Want to Kill You

It. Is. Awesome.

From the first book, I have loved this series... so he had a lot to live up to. I've never been so sure that I knew where a book was going and had it turned on it's head so magnificently. It was perfect.

Then my awesome friend LT Elliot introduced me to this presentation he did on the 7 Point Story Structure, and I understood where a bit of his genius comes from:

The Star Trek RPG Narrator's Guide.

Yes, I'm serious.

Anyway, go check it out. He's seriously amazing and I guarantee you will learn something.

Now let me introduce you to something else that is so cool it chills to the bone.

Philly Cupcake

I just got back from Philadelphia and already I miss it. This is their Banana Split Cupcake. Please try not to drool on your keyboard...I hear that can cause technical problems.

Dude. I can't help but wonder how they keep the city from just overflowing with people wanting one of these. I can't prove it, but I think it might be somehow related to the empty reflecting pools that are currently all over the East Coast. How? I'm not sure. Maybe they fill the pools with marshmallows at night time and all the cupcake travelers sleep there. Maybe they fill them with broth and noodles and use them as giant soup kitchens for the passers-by. I don't know...but I was really looking forward to the reflecting and there was none to be had.

I will find out the truth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Words Giveaway - Winner!

I absolutely love this picture. It makes me smile. :)

So anyway... the randomly selected winner of the Words Giveaway is:

Jamie McHenry!!

Congratulations, Jamie!! Comment below and I'll be in touch to find out which winning option you would like.

Also, I'm flying out to Philly this afternoon and I won't be back for a week. I'm going on a blog-vacay for a week, but when I get back you can expect

A - a blog post including all the crazy words entered in the Giveaway.

B - a musical embarrassment of some kind

C - a vacation report... and other random stuff

Take care! See you in a week!

P.S. I just hit 300 followers on my blog!! :) Yay! I think this calls for another giveaway! So, you can expect another one of those as well. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview With My Awesome Agent: Kathleen Rushall!

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in my Wordy Giveaway last week and I'll announce the winner in my post on Wednesday. Now, on to the good stuff!


My wonderful agent, Kathleen Rushall, graciously agreed to answer a few questions so you can all get to know her better. Yay!


Along with being made of awesome, Kathleen is pioneering the children's and young adult literature list at Waterside Productions, Inc. She looks forward to garnering fresh voices, strong narratives, and whimsical tales in all areas of young adult literature. 


And here are her answers!


Welcome, Kathleen! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed!
Thanks so much for interviewing me, Jenn! I love your blog and am so happy to be featured here.


Why agenting? A lifelong dream, or something that happened serendipitously?
So, for the first question - A little bit of both. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to work in publishing; to work with books. That is something I’ve always known. I didn’t know the exact position I wanted until right after college when I first interned at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency. That introduced me to the details of agency work – and ever since, it was my goal to be an agent.
Gotta say... so excited she decided to go this direction, ;) 'Nuff said. 



What led you to specialize in children’s and young adult literature?
The simplest answer here is the truth – it’s my favorite. I studied literature in college, and honed my interest when I specialized in children’s literature in my master’s program. In the long-term history of books, young adult and even children’s books are a pretty new phenomenon. I think that’s fascinating. I also believe that books a person reads in their early years (more than any that may be read as an adult), can be the most memorable, the most sense-of-self-shaping. I like that.
Totally agree! It's so interesting the way YA/MG is such a recent development. 



What do you see as the ingredients for a “breakout” book in terms of commercial success, literary acclaim, and/or both?
Well, there isn’t a specific recipe for success, but I do think there is a big juxtaposition that can make a great book. The contrast is – it must appeal to a broad range of people while also revealing something very specific, original, or little-known, whether that is a certain voice, perspective (think cultural), time period, world, etc. The best fantasy is deeply rooted in reality, and the best historical fiction is full of everyday details. There has to be an equalizer for modern readers to empathize with characters who may come from a totally different background, time period, culture, or reality. Many of the books that receive literary acclaim hold a mirror to our faces, and at first we don’t know that we’re seeing ourselves.
I've never really thought about it that way, but it's so true. See? She's a genius!  



What’s the one thing an author can do to catch your eye? How can authors get agents to look beyond the query letter?
Do your homework. Research well and know a bit about whom you’re querying. Being able to open your query letter with why you are approaching this specific person and being aware of what the agent’s deals or book interests are can go a long way.
I'm a firm believer in the personalized query. From everything I've seen, the ratio of requests seems to be much higher when it's clear off the bat that the writer has done their research. Just sayin' 



How much contact do you have with your clients? Emails, phone calls, etc.? What kind of relationship are you looking to build and why?
I’m looking to build give-and-take relationships – honesty and communication are key, so there is definitely a good amount of contact. I’m attached to my email all day, so that is the fastest way to get ahold of me. But, I always like to call with good news, or to brainstorm or explain something more in-depth. I’m looking to build a partnership with my authors. After writing, I look at agenting as the ground zero, the very beginning, of the publishing journey, (exciting!). The author agent relationship is important to me, and I think it should be an enjoyable one.
As someone with first-hand experience, I can say that Kathleen is SO great at keeping her clients updated. It's so nice to feel like I'm up to date and in the know... now if only I could feel like this in other areas of my life... 



Do you expect your writers to develop a market brand and stick to it? Or are you open to them pursuing a diversity of stories within their body of work? In either case, what is your reasoning?
Market brands are excellent, but I’m a firm believer that you should write what you love – and you are allowed to love more than one genre! There are ways to make this work and to write completely different style books while keeping your brand intact – pen names are a great example.
I love this! As a writer, I like feeling free to explore the ideas that I feel most passionate about. Hooray for open-minded agents!



What are the greatest challenges of being an agent?
There’s a large reading workload- luckily, it’s the thing I love as well. It got much better for me when I invested in a pair of glasses this year!
I can't even imagine how much reading agents have to keep up on, but if glasses helped... I think that's an investment I might need to consider.



What do you love about it?
The stories and the people. It’s amazing to find a career where you have so much in common with the people you work with – we are all here because we’re passionate. 
Agreed! The publishing industry seems to be full of the most amazing people! In spite of the struggles, I wouldn't choose any other career.



Is there anything you would like to add?
Just that I’m so happy to be doing this, and am really looking forward to what the future brings. And that I can be queried at kathleen@waterside.com  
Also, what’s an interview without some random facts? I love Tegan & Sara and still think The Ring is the scariest movie I’ve seen. And sometimes when I'm in a particularly sunny mood, I slip into a terrible British accent. Don't tell me it's too weird to love.
I love these odd little facts. I mean, The Ring is the reason I stopped watching scary movies... and a random British accent is absolutely not too weird to love. :)  Thanks again, Kathleen. You're fantastic for taking the time to do this. You can find her on twitter under KatRushall.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Interview!

I know...shocking, right? Someone wanted to interview me.  I was surprised too.. don't worry, it fades. The awesome Chantele Sedgwick interviewed me for her blog yesterday. It was so much fun, so go check it out and say hi!

*there may or may not have been naked chanting involved... I say no more*

Also, you have a couple more days to enter my Words Giveaway, so go check it out.

Last but not least... have a GREAT weekend everyone! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Are We Confident or Delusional?

Today I'm revisiting a post I did in 2009, because it's awesome. If you haven't entered my giveaway this week. Take note: I'm concerned by your lack of dedication to my blog... get therapy. ;-) 

Like all writers, I sometimes question my sanity at following this troublesome, grueling, frustrating, disheartenting... and yet somehow still amazingly fantastic career. As though in response to this question, I found the most amazing blog post this week. It was by the awesome JA Konrath on his Newbie Guide to Publishing blog. It was about the difference between confident writers and delusional writers. He was kind enough to give me permission to post it. (Thanks Joe!) So, without further ado...

Confident or Delusional

Kissinger was wrong. Power isn't the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Confidence is.

Confident people attract others. They get things done, spending more time doing and less time worrying. Confidence fosters charisma, inspires allegiance, and demands attention.

All writers need to be confident. We must believe our work is worthy, that our efforts aren't in vain.

But what are the differences between confidence, and its ugly step-sister, delusion?

Confident writers know they'll be published, if they keep at it.
Delusion writers think they'll be rich and famous.

Confident writers work to get the words right.
Delusional writers think they got the words right the first time.

Confident writers expect to be periodically rejected.
Delusional writers are shocked every time someone fails to recognize their brilliance.

Confident writers take suggestion.
Delusional writers believe their words are written in stone.

Confident writers work even when it's hard.
Delusional writers believe they need to be inspired first.

Confident writers know this is a job.
Delusional writers think this is a vacation.

Confident writers know there's a never-ending learning curve.
Delusional writers believe they've learned all they need to know.

Confident writers know when to move on, and learn from their failures and successes.
Delusional writers keep doing the same things, over and over, hoping for different outcomes.

Confident writers know luck plays a big part.
Delusional writers think there's a conspiracy against them.

Confident writers get published.
Delusion writers don't get published very often, and if they do it's not for very long.

Confident writers work within the system, even though the system is flawed.
Delusional writers work outside of the system, even though they long to work within the system.

Confident writers understand their limitations.
Delusional writers don't believe in limitations.

Confident writers understand sacrifice.
Delusional writers demand everything on their terms.

Confident writers believe in persistence.
Delusional writers believe in talent.

Confident writers believe they owe the world.
Delusional writers believe the world owes them.

Are you confident or delusional?

Chances are high the delusional people will believe they're confident, since self-awareness is in short supply in the writing community.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Have you been published by an impartial third party?

Confident writers eventually get traditionally published. Period.

Do you seek out and apply editing advice?

Confident writers know their words can always be made stronger.

At what point do you abandon a project and begin a new one?

Confident writers move on, but first they try to figure out what didn't work, and why.

Would you rather be paid or be praised?

Confident writers know the best form of praise is a royalty check.

Do you help other writers?

Confident writers know it's about what you put in, not what you get out.

Do you understand your failures?

Confident writers don't have failures. They have learning experiences that make them stronger.

Will you be successful?

Confident writers know success is beyond their control. But they keep writing anyway, and will continue to even if success never happens.

It's not about the destination. It's about the journey.

You must believe in yourself.

But first you have to prove yourself worthy of that belief.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Words Giveaway!
















I love words, and I love giveaways, so I thought... what better way to start a new week and welcome some of you new fabulous followers (Hi! *waves*) than to do a giveaway involving words.

*pauses for silence in honor of pure genius-ness... geniosity... er, being smart*

So, my fave new word I've discovered is:

earworm: a tune that is heard repeatedly in one's imagination

K, this happens to me all the time. It's about time someone made up a name for it.

So, here are the details in the giveaway. 1 point for commenting, 1 point for following, and 1 point for telling us about a new cool word. You can also earn extra points if you want for retweeting, blogging, fb'ing, shouting from rooftops while wearing a shiny hat, whatever... 1 pt each. :)

The reward? The winner can choose between 3 awesome word-related choices:

1- a copy of the word-a-rific Matched by Ally Condie
2- a signed copy of the scarily (& wordily) awesome I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
3 - or a query make-over... which also may involve some words.

I'll be taking entries until Sunday night, April 17th at midnight, Easter time. And I'll announce the randomly picked winner in next Monday's blog post.

Can't wait to see your words!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reasons I'm Not a Hairdresser

Sometimes, I just feel like a change. I don't necessarily know why, but I usually cut my hair or something relatively tame. This time, I decided it would be fun to go a tiny bit darker.

Yeah... that's what I said... TINY.

My copper-red hair would be fun as a light auburn, right? Yeah, that would be cool. I should try that.

But what do I add to red hair to make it a light auburn? Some kind of brown, right? Sure... that sounds good. So, I went to the store and found a medium brown with red highlights.

Perfect!

So I bought it and put it on my head... but when I rinsed it out, it was not light auburn. It wasn't even dark auburn.

Blackish-Purple. My hair is now Blackish-Purple.

I screamed and then asked my son if he thought it looked okay. He said, "No, Mommy. It does not look good. Are you a vampire now?" No, I'm not kidding. For reals.

So... after much thought... I've decided to make the best of it.

I can wear the color orange now, and even pink. Also... I'm going to invest in some black studded gloves, boots and a collar. What? These are perfectly logical decisions!

It's going to be hawt.

So, now I think I'm going to be happy about it. Why not?

After all, how many people get to have hair that is maroon in the sunlight (these are the sunny pictures) and violet in the shade...

Not. Many.

Not many at all.

So, what genius hair/style decisions have you made lately? Do tell. It will make me feel better to know I'm not alone in my idiocy. :) Also, everyone have a GREAT weekend and come back for my superly mega awesome giveaway on Monday!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Journey To "The Call"

I've never wanted to be a writer. I'm not one of those people who worked for all the school newspapers or scribbled poetry in a journal they kept under their bed. I'd never imagined that I could do something like that. My degree is in Public Relations/Marketing with a minor in Psychology. The best thing I'd ever written up until 2007 was a script for a commercial that was an assignment for a P.R. class. It was really fun, and the commercial turned out more than a little disturbing (I know, I know--shocker, right?) Writing just never seemed like something I could do.

From 2005-2007, I had a couple of extremely rough years. Among other things, I'd gotten divorced and was now a single mom of two little boys. I'd been married since I'd turned 20 and I didn't know what to do with myself. The only thing that kept me sane some nights was my imagination. I would just sit and let it run wild. Thinking of anything and everything but my life.

It started with imagining what the next episode in a tv show or the next book in a series might be about, and it turned into creating my own ideas and characters. At some point, I created an entire world and started writing it down. It saved me. It was never something I wanted to publish, it was an escape. It wasn't until I'd finished the first book and started telling my oldest son about the story that I realized what it could be. He was enthralled. The writing sucked rocks, I couldn't figure out where the commas went to save my life, and head-hopping was my favorite past-time--but he loved the idea and the characters more than I'd ever thought possible.

Most importantly... I learned to love writing. I loved the feel of creating those worlds and filling them with characters I loved. I was hooked.

So, I revised the book once or twice and started querying. As I've said before, the art of query writing came so much easier to me than the art of book-writing. I queried. Then revised some more. Then queried, then rewrote completely, and revised a ton. And queried. In the end, KINETIC's stats were: 134 agents queried, received 43 requests and had 0 offers. I made the most common mistake for new writers--I queried too early.

While I was querying, I wrote another book, INSOMNIA. It was so much darker, had a male protagonist, and was in 1st person POV. It was quite an adjustment. There were some scenes that were so difficult and dark that I had to walk away from the book for a few days afterward. But I finished it, polished it, and got it ready.

Toward the end of drafting INSOMNIA, I had a friend recommend my first book to a small publishing house. I submitted it to the house and they offered me a contract. It was wonderful, exciting and terrifying. I'd always wanted to get an agent first and they could help me with all the decisions that come with a publishing contract. I thought about it and talked to some more experienced authors... I ended up deciding that it wasn't the best fit for me. Now, after watching issues with that publishing house over the past year, I know it was the right decision. But at the time, it felt like the hardest thing I'd ever considered. You dream constantly about getting that contract... that contract that says you are going to be able to hold your book in your hands. And to not sign it seems inconceivable--devastating.

But I moved on and finished INSOMNIA... sent it to betas, revised, sent to writing groups, revised and finally started querying in the middle of January. I found Kathleen Rushall on Twitter on March 20th and she seemed like a perfect fit for my MS. She was new, she wanted edgy/darker YA, and she seemed to know her stuff. I queried her the same day with the first 56 pages. On the 25th around noon, she e-mailed and requested the full, but I was at my son's school so I didn't send it until about 4:30pm. She e-mailed back immediately and asked for a synopsis, and while I was digging through my laptop folders to find the right one, she called me.

I. Was. Stunned.

I had agents out there who'd had fulls since late January. She hadn't even read the full yet--and she wanted to represent it. Kathleen was so excited, she loved my book, my characters--everything. She said she had to have it. I think my response was something extremely eloquent like:

"Uh...wow."

We agreed to talk after the weekend and I hung up. I walked down the hallway to where my husband, kids, and parents were waiting for me to go out to dinner. I literally couldn't breathe or even tell them about the phone call. I finally said, "I think I'm going to get an agent," then started laughing/crying. My family has been with me every step of this process. They understood. My kids started jumping around me in a circle and my husband and parents hugged me and asked me a million questions. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect response to my news.

Kathleen read my full over the weekend and when we talked on March 28th, she said she was even more in love with it than before. I gave other agents a week to respond, but once she told me the reasons she wanted to represent my book, I was sold. She loved all the things that were most important to me. She had great ideas for how to make it better and I knew she was a perfect fit. We clicked right off the bat. I sent 63 queries, had 21 requests and she was the one.

After all the queries, revisions, rejections and the steepest learning curve of any industry I've ever seen. Now, I have an agent. We get to move on--move forward. Now things will be... pretty much the same. ;-D There will be more revisions, submissions, and I'm sure more rejections--and I hope to keep learning every step of the way.

I'm sure you all want to know more about my awesome agent, and so she has graciously agreed to do an interview right here, on my blog in the next week or two. Yay!

Also, some of you might remember a certain *ahem* deal I made with the Universe. It would appear that the Universe paid out... and I now owe a debt. Rest assured that I'm working up the nerve and I'll be posting something ridiculous and hopefully more than a little entertaining in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...

P.S. Since this post wasn't Freaking Long Enough... go check out Shannon's blog post to win an ARC of Elana Johnson's Possession!

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Have An Agent!

Some of you may know that I've been querying INSOMNIA. Well, I'm happy to announce that this morning I accepted representation from the fabulous Kathleen Rushall of Waterside Productions. She is awesome and I couldn't be more thrilled!


I always love reading people's stories of their journey to getting THE CALL. So, I'll be posting mine on Wednesday. Hopefully by then I will have stopped jumping up and down and be able to breathe normally again...

But I make no promises.


Dude, what an awesome way to start a week! Yay!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools Day/Why Gmail Motion is Genius


Dude.

I so want to see every office in the world using this new product: Gmail Motion. It would make the workplace vastly more entertaining.

If you haven't checked it out yet... Go see.

And have a fantastic weekend!