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1. French Global goes ... French

       A book I've mentioned a couple of times and have long found fascinating is French Global: A New Approach to Literary History, published by Columbia University Press in 2010 (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). I do, however, have a tough time reviewing anthologies, and so I still haven't gotten around to giving it its proper due -- despite its being one of the more interesting literary overviews I've read in recent years.
       Now, as Jean-Louis Jeannelle reports in Centrifuger les lettres françaises in Le Monde, French Global is going ... French, as it is being published in French; see the Garnier publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       It's actually surprising that it hasn't come out in French before since it should be of particular interest in France. Anyway, I can certainly commend it to you, in either English or French -- it's fascinating stuff.

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2. 10 truly haunting thoughts

 

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

In the spirit of Halloween, I bring you ten truly frightening writing-related thoughts . . . (brace yourself)

  1. What if your last great idea really was your last great idea?
  2. What if you were forced to write a trilogy on a manual typewriter—by the light of a jack o’ lantern?
  3. What if Spellcheck had to be obeyed?
  4. What if the publishing industry adopts a Hunger Games style system for awarding contracts?
  5. What if there is, dare I say it, a comma shortage?
  6. What if the silent g and the silent p refuse to remain so?
  7. What if the act of writing causes cellulite?
  8. What if all books were based on 70s TV shows?
  9. What if editors demand all novels include calculus?
  10. What if your big-mouthed muse starts her own blog?

Bonus scary thought–What if Donald Trump writes a bestselling picture book and his hairstyle starts trending? (How hairifying!)

Happy Halloween from Frog on a Dime!

Once we are aware of our fears, we are almost always capable of being more courageous than we think. Someone once told me that fear and courage are like lightning and thunder; they both start out at the same time, but the fear travels faster and arrives sooner. If we just wait a moment, the requisite courage will be along shortly.  ~ Lawrence Block

 


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3. How I Got My Literary Agent: Susan Blumberg-Kason

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of the memoir GOOD CHINESE WIFE. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Susan is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 3.33.19 PMSusan Blumberg-Kason is a freelance journalist in Chicago. Her work has
appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, TimeOut Chicago, Journal of the
American Dietetic Association, and Chicago Parent magazine. She lives
in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and three children. Her memoir (Sourcebooks,
July 2014) is GOOD CHINESE WIFE: A LOVE AFFAIR WITH CHINA GONE WRONG.
Kirkus says of the book, “An American freelance journalist’s painful account of how
a hasty marriage to a Chinese man turned her life upside down…it is the author’s
courage to face her mistakes that makes the book worthwhile.”
Connect with her on Twitter

 

I STARTED QUERYING 6 YEARS AGO

Six years ago I started querying agents for Good Chinese Wife, a memoir about my tumultuous first marriage to a man from central China. A writer friend advised me to complete fifty polished pages of my memoir and a nonfiction book proposal before querying agents. That was all I would need, he said, because that’s how agents sold nonfiction.

So I started querying with fifty pages and a proposal. For every ten letters I sent, I would receive about two requests for a few chapters, four rejections, and no replies for the others. It might not sound very promising, but it gave me hope. I couldn’t help but marvel that two agents wanted to read my story!

After repeating this process a few times to no avail, I started to worry that my sample chapters weren’t up to snuff. I also realized I really didn’t know how to write a memoir. Each chapter seemed like a stand-alone story, which wasn’t a bad thing. But I knew the chapters didn’t flow together. So I enlisted the help of one of several independent editors over the next two years.

(How should you discuss a book’s series potential in a query letter?)

THE FIRST BITE FROM AN AGENT

One agent found my query in her slush pile and wrote back an encouraging and enthusiastic reply. And she requested my full manuscript! I didn’t have the full, but sent her my proposal, sample chapters, and some other writing clips. She seemed like the dream agent: young, eager to build her list, and she had lived in China during the very time I was in Hong Kong.

She didn’t sign me, but said she would be happy to read more if I completed the manuscript so she could see it in its entirety. I spent the next nine months writing and revising. I continued to work with an independent editor. And I stopped querying other agents. But when I eventually contacted this agent with my full manuscript, I received no reply. It took me a couple of months to figure out that she had moved agencies. Although I felt like a stalker tracking her down, she still seemed enthusiastic about my story.

But after nine more months and as many follow-up e-mails, I decided to move on. I polished my query letter and waited until just after New Year’s Day of 2012 to start querying again.

Right away I started to receive more requests than ever for fulls and partials. One day in mid-January, I read an interview with Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency on The Guide to Literary Agents Blog. I saw that she was looking for memoir and that she enjoyed one of my favorite books (Adeline Yen Mah’s Chinese Cinderella). So I queried her and didn’t think about it again until two nights later when Carrie requested my full manuscript.

(Would your story make a great movie? Here are 7 tips on writing a film script.)

SUCCESS WITH CARRIE

The following afternoon, Carrie e-mailed me to say that she was enjoying my manuscript and wanted me to let her know if another agent offered representation before she finished reading. I replied that I would definitely do that. And I mentioned that half a dozen agents were reading either a partial or the full. This was the furthest I’d gotten with an agent, but I didn’t allow myself to read too much into Carrie’s e-mails in case she decided to take a pass.

I didn’t hear from her the next day, but by the middle of the following day, she e-mailed to offer representation! It was almost four years to the date when I first started querying agents!

Although I still had to hear from other agents, my gut instinct told me to go with Carrie and not look back. Publishing is a lot like dating. If someone calls on Tuesday for a Saturday night date, that’s much more promising than the person who calls Saturday morning for a date that very evening. I wanted an agent who loved my story just as much as I did. And Carrie showed that way more than anyone else.

Carrie turned out to be every bit the dream agent I first envisioned when I started querying agents all those years ago. As it turned out, she had also spent time in China and had studied Mandarin. Carrie helped me with revisions, cheered me on during our submission rounds (which took another year), and found me a fabulous editor in Stephanie Bowen at Sourcebooks. When I write in my acknowledgements in Good Chinese Wife that my life wouldn’t be the same without Carrie, I mean every word and then some. I hope my story will show other writers that patience, hard word, and perseverance really do pay off in the end.

GIVEAWAY: Susan is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Don’t let your submission be rejected for
improper formatting. The third edition of
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
has more than 100 examples of queries,
synopses, proposals, book text, and more.
Buy it online here at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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4. Illustrator Lize Meddings

Back in 2009 when I first decided that illustration was definitely the route for me, I was finally beginning to stumble on a lot of other illustrators that really governed my taste and aesthetic going forward. Interestingly, a lot of them happened to reside across the pond in Great Britain. Julia Pott, Lizzy Stewart and Gemma Correll are a few that come directly to mind when thinking of the geography, and are some of my favorite working artists to this date. Lize Meddings also happens to hail from the UK. I stumbled upon her work via Tumblr of all places, and am quite happy I did!

Lize Meddings is a Bristol-based fine artist and illustrator with a penchant for the color pink, animals, nature and all kinds of positive self-expression. She works in both analog and digital formats, showcasing wonderful brushwork and gestural figures. Since finishing up the Illustration program at Plymouth College of Art & Design, she’s become a self-publishing fiend–constantly working on the next comic, zine, print, bag or fine art commission. The idea of a creative block seems far and away from this one’s mind.

Lize is quite interested in the act of characterization, if that wasn’t obvious before. Her medium of comfort is a brush and some ink, but she also demonstrates a natural comfort around the use of color. I particularly love the way she draws eyes–very fairylike for some reason.

Something I’ve noticed about several British illustrators is the tendency towards a more “naive” aesthetic. While that might sound negative, it’s completely the opposite. There’s a unique youthfulness in Lize’s work that allows it to appeal to a wider, younger audience, all while the messages remain witty and cheeky. It takes a special person to turn reality into something appealing, and she does just that by focusing on the relatable, more beautiful aspects of life.

Follow along with Lize’s illustrative adventures:

Tumblr

Etsy

Sad Ghost Club

Facebook

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5. Follow Friday Four Fill-In Fun - 10/31/14

Feeling Beachie

Love this meme....I hope you can join in the fun.  

Each week, Feeling Beachie lists four statements with a blank for you to fill in on your own blogs.  

Trick or Treat Bag



The statements:
  1. During a______, I_______
  2. Enjoying_____ is________
  3. Listening to______ is something_______
  4. Answering______ can be ________

My Answers:

1.  During a snowstorm, I get a lot of books read.  :)

2.  Enjoying reading is something we must instill in our children.

3.  Listening to my sisters chatter away is something to be cherished.

4.  Answering a call from a solicitor can be very annoying.







0 Comments on Follow Friday Four Fill-In Fun - 10/31/14 as of 10/31/2014 1:49:00 AM
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6. Call for Submissions: Tammy

Tammy is reading for its fifth print issue for only four more weeks. Aimed at the esteemed fringes and unguarded egresses of American letters, Tammy seeks writing in all genres and forms of visual art that lend themselves to the printed page.

Submit September 1 - December 1 for the spring 2015 issue and March 1 - May 1 for the fall issue

Online submissions manager 

Submissions in multiple genres and simultaneous submissions are encouraged. If your submission(s) is accepted elsewhere, please let us know via Submittable. 

For queries outside of these guidelines, please email:

thetjournalATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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7. Nordic Council Literature Prize

       They've announced that Hägring 38, by Swedish-writing Finnish author Kjell Westö has won this year's Nordic Council Literature Prize -- the biggest (and pan-)Scandinavian literature prize, which also comes with a pay-out of DKK 350,000 (just shy of US$60,000).
       See also the Schildts & Söderströms publicity page, or Tom Ellett's review in the Swedish Book Review.

       Is it really possible that Westö's Lang is still the only thing of his to have been translated into English (about a decade ago) ? (See, for example, Michael Dibdin's review in The Guardian.) Good timing, anyway, from Harvill, who are re-issuing it early next year; pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk.

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8. How to write when the story doesn't result in victory ..

Hello, I'm looking to write a short story, non-fictional. It's about a race season, David vs. Goliath, etc. The main character wins races and championships

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9. Ten Children's Books for Halloween - by Emma Barnes

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night...

It's Halloween, and the perfect time to choose some spooky stories.  Witches, wizards and ghosties...read on for some mainly funny, occasionally frightening, books featuring witches, wizards and other Halloween happenings.  I've organized them roughly by age of reader and slipped in a book of my own.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schlieffer

Julia Donaldson is the queen of the rhyming picture book, and this one is features a wonderfully traditional (if benevolent) warty-nosed witch, complete with cat and a very over-crowded broomstick...


Winnie the Witch by Valerie Bierman and Korky Paul

It's Wilbur the cat and the wonderful illustrations - veering from all dark, to a world of colour - that absolutely make this book for me.

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The classic adventures of the accident-prone Mildred Hubble at Miss Cackle's Academy are ever-fresh and delightful.

The Best Halloween Ever - by Barbara Robinson

I have to admit I haven't actually read this yet - in fact I only just discovered it existed.  But it's by one of the funniest childrens' writers ever, Barbara Robinson, about one of the funniest families ever, the Herdmans.  They produced a hilarious Christmas Pageant so I'm looking forward to what they'll do with Halloween...

Bella Donna by Ruth Symes

An ordinary girl, who just happens to be a witch...or rather a witchling.  A contemporary take on witches.

Witch Baby by Debi Gliori

I think this would be a book my own Wild Thing character would enjoy - because, like her story, it concerns a little sister whose behaviour is driving her older sister crazy.  Only this little sister is a witch.  Sibling rivalry with a big dose of magic thrown in.

Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher by Emma Barnes

Yes, this one's by me!  Jessica Haggerthwaite wants to be a famous scientist and is determined to foil her mother, Mrs Haggerthwaite's, witchcraft business.  Her plans come to a head at a disastrous Halloween Party for her mother's magical pals and their familiars.


Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

DWJ is my favourite fantasy author and I could have chosen several of her books: Witch Week or The Time of the Ghost or Howl's Moving Castle.  Charmed Life is one of the Chrestmanci series, and is perfect for Halloween as it is during a grand dinner party at Chrestomanci Castle ("because they always do lots of entertaining around Halloween") that the magic really goes awry, with the help of a pinch of dragon's blood.  A truly wonderful book.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling


The most famous boy wizard of all, and Azkaban is my favourite of his adventures, because that time changing plot is just so fiendishly clever.

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield

Older and darker in tone, this classic novel is one of my all-time favourites.  The witches, including the terrifying Mrs Pouncer and her friends, are genuinely scary, as is Abner Brown.  There is a wildness to time and setting.  And Nibbins the cat is probably my favourite Witch's cat of all.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman

A bit of a change of subject matter here, as most of my list is funny rather than terrifying, but if you want something truly spinechilling then Coraline fits the bill.  Just why is that mother with the button eyes so disturbing?  But don't blame me if you (or they) get nightmares.


What have I forgotten?  Please nominate your favourite Halloween reads.



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Emma's new series for 8+ Wild Thing about the naughtiest little sister ever (and her bottom-biting ways) is out now from Scholastic. 
"Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman

 Wolfie is published by Strident.   Sometimes a Girl’s Best Friend is…a Wolf. 
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps


Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite

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10. Call for Poetry Submissions: Really System

Really System, the journal of poetry and extensible poetics, will publish its fifth issue in February 2015. We are looking for vibrant poems inflected by our shared technocultural moment and the ways it envelops us, fascinates us, dances with us, ignores us, and fails us. Submissions for issue five are open until January 1, 2015.  

More information on our website.

Submission Guidelines.

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11. Monster Madness Blog Hop


Happy Halloween, guys and ghouls! Welcome to the Monster Madness Blog Hop hosted by Vicki Leigh and me. Since Vicki and I both released monster books this year (The Monster Within and Catch Me When I Fall), we thought it would be fun to have a blog hop dedicated to the monsters we love so much. So have some candy corn and enjoy this post as Vicki and I interview each other.

Okay, Vicki, time to fess up. What monster scares you the most?

I’m pretty hard to scare, to be honest. But there is one monster who gives me the creeps: Freddy Krueger. In a way, he was kind of the inspiration behind the Nightmares in my series, because the thought of someone being able to kill you in your dreams terrifies me. I’ve never actually seen the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but, man, that dude creeps me out.

I love Freddy! My sister loved the Nightmare on Elm Street movies so I saw them much younger than I should have. ;)

How about you, Kelly? You have to be afraid of someone or something, too!

Growing up, I was terrified of the monster under the bed. I even wrote a short story about it called “The Monster of All Monsters.” Anyway, if I had to get up in the middle of the night for water or to use the bathroom, I’d stand on my bed and try to jump to the doorway. Thankfully, I’ve gotten over that fear. Now the thing that freaks me out is ghosts. I tried to write a book about a haunting once, and the research totally scared me away from the idea.

Oh, man. I love ghosts. Like, I legitimately want to spend the night in a true haunted house. I think it’d be awesome. (Yet, a fictional guy creeps me out. I’m weird; I know. J)

All right, Vicki, you have to create a NEW monster. What does it look like, and what kind of terrifying things can it do?

Hmm…I think a monster who takes the shape of whatever form you find most attractive would be pretty terrifying—especially when he/she sucks out your soul during a smexy scene and leaves you a comatose patient for the rest of your life. That may have been done before. I don’t know. But I’ve heard freaky stories about what it feels like to be in a coma. I never want that experience. Or being found comatose on my bed in my birthday suit.

All right. So, my monster sucked. You create one, Kelly. I’m positive you can do better!

I’m feeling the pressure now. I’m sort of stealing from Harry Potter here, but I think a monster that can transform into whatever it is a person fears the most would be just awful because no one would be safe from it. No wait! Better yet, the monster becomes ALL of your fears rolled into one! So if you are afraid of snakes, ghosts, and realistic looking dolls with eyelids that open and close (not that I’m being that specific because those are my top three fears or anything), the monster would turn into a doll possessed by a ghost who can charm poisonous snakes to attack on command. *shivers*

Back to you, Vicki. We’ve all been inside haunted houses or mazes at Halloween time, right? What monster got the best of you inside one of those?

I actually have a good story for this, because I really am super hard to scare. I’ve been in haunted houses and mazes, and usually when things jump out at me, I giggle. So, last year, I went to a haunted cornfield with a few friends. We walked through a LOT of really tall corn, and a trailer that was pitch black. None of the actors really got me, even when I had to feel the walls because it was so dark I couldn’t see. And then we exited the cornfield, and I was like, “well, that was fun,” thinking it was over.

Then, out of nowhere, came a dude with a chainsaw. Good lord; I jumped out of my skin! I screamed and then tipped my head back and guffawed. That dude got me. It was the chainsaw noise that did it, and his perfect position: I thought the maze was over.

How about you, Kelly? Do you have a good haunted house story?

Ooh, sneaky little chainsaw-wielding devil! ;) 

Okay, well I have to say I startle easily, not scare easily. I went through a haunted dormin college. I give the people who ran it credit because it was pretty good. There was a funeral in one room, and we all thought the dead body was going to get up. It was really a distraction for something that snuck up on us. Still, I wasn’t scared. Nor was I scared when they turned out all the lights and we had to find out way out in complete darkness. Then at the end, there was a guy in a gorilla suit. That made me laugh, but it also distracted me from the hands reaching out from under the stairs I was climbing. I admit I jumped when I looked down and saw what I’m assuming was a zombie gripping my leg.

Time to change gears. What monster is your all-time favorite, Vicki?

Am I okay to say Cookie Monster? J For real, though, my favorite is probably Dracula.

How about you? You have to have a favorite!

I think I’m going to have to go with a zombie. Something about a reanimated corpse is both disgusting and terrifying, considering it wants to eat your brains. Got to love that! ;)

Now it's your turn! Choose 3 questions below to answer either in the comments or on your own blog.


1. What monster terrifies you the most?
2. Do you have a good haunted house story?
3. What's your favorite monster?
4. Is there a monster book that terrified you as a child?
5. Have any book recommendations for stories that include monsters?
6. Finally, create your own monster! What does it look like, and what scary things can it do?
Then tag FIVE of your friends to share in the Monster Madness!
And be sure to enter our giveaway to win books and SWAG from Vicki and me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. Top Posts From AJBlogs 10.30.14

Early Word On “Mr. Turner” – Movie, Good; Art, Bad
AJBlog: Real Clear Arts Published 2014-10-30

David Byrne: Big Money is Killing Art
AJBlog: CultureCrash Published 2014-10-30

Angry bird
AJBlog: Performance Monkey Published 2014-10-30

Remembering Tony Staniland
AJBlog: Plain English Published 2014-10-30

Chica Chica Boom Steps?
AJBlog: RiffTides Published 2014-10-29

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13. Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award

       They've announced that the 2014 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award (and its $20,000 prize) goes to The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and A Forgotten Genocide, by Gary Bass, selected " from over 100 nominations" (which are unfortunately not identified). See also the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       The prize: "recognizes nonfiction books for their outstanding contributions to the understanding of contemporary Asia or U.S.-Asia relations".
       Interestingly, while translations are eligible, they apparently have to have been published, for the first time, in their original language and in English in the year for which they are being considered (i.e. for the 2015 prize between 1 January and 31 December 2014). Very, very few books get translated into English and published in the same year they appear in their original language. Very few.

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14. Assistant Professor: Performance Arts

Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University seek applications for an assistant professor, tenure-track position in Performance Arts beginning September 2015. We seek candidates doing interdisciplinary work or who can demonstrate the ability to teach performance within an interdisciplinary framework.

We invite candidates who practice and teach in the performative arts, linking them to a commitment to social justice through creative activism. The successful candidate will have extensive knowledge of history of the arts and theory as it relates to the applicant’s particular field. Applicant’s experience should include using art within community situations combined with an astute sensitivity to the numerous issues surrounding working with diverse communities.

Successful applicants will possess a keen understanding of how the arts are relevant to society beyond being a means of self-expression, and will have a record of collaborative community engagement, with an interest in involving students through youth outreach or creative activism. A demonstrated history of exhibition or performance is required. We encourage applications from candidates with experience in areas such as: educational theatre, teatro, dance, street theatre or video performance.

Teaching responsibilities will include intro- and upper-level undergraduate courses in the foundations and applications of performance. The faculty member in Performance Arts will teach in Fairhaven College’s core curriculum, integrating aspects of performance into thematic core courses. Other courses in art activism, scriptwriting and the technical aspects of performance will complete the teaching load. The candidate will mentor varied independent student projects.

Other duties include advising students who are encouraged to take an unusual degree of responsibility for the structure and content of their own education. Administrative service to Fairhaven College and the University is also an important component of the position. The professor of Performance Arts must continue creative activity or scholarship to achieve tenure at Western Washington University.

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15. Free Fall Friday – October Results

 illustrationppinsk

This illustration was sent in by Patricia Pinsk. She works primarily with water colour, ink, digital photography, coloured pencil and collage. Patricia holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design), as well as a Certificate in New Media from Vancouver Film School. Web: www.patriciapinsk.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/patriciapinskillustration?ref=hl Twitter: @patriciapinsk

Here are the first page critiques brought to you this month by Liza Fleissig from the Liza Royce Agency.

The Tattletail’s Claw: A CreatureNet Chronicle by Jody Staton – Middle Grade Novel

“Be Careful What You Wish For”

“. . .and that, Clawdia,” says Hershey’s voice in my head, “is why you must never let two-leggers know what we are.”

I lick a paw, and swipe it across my whiskers. Curled up on his wide brown rump, warmed by his body heat, I’m lulled half to sleep.

Zzzzt! A huge horsefly dive-bombs us. Wide awake now, I swat with a paw, and miss. Hershey flicks his long black tail. Whipping horsehairs send the fly tumbling. It buzzes around his legs, he stomps a hoof. His rump becomes an earthquake. I leap to my feet, teetering because I dare not dig into his hide the few claws I have left. We are next to a water trough, and I jump over it to a split-rail fence.

“Sorry about that,” he says. He ducks his head—in apology, I think. No, he’s just rubbing his head against the edge of the trough, scratching the lump that mars his forehead. Then, stern, like the police horse he used to be, Hershey demands that I repeat what he just told me.

I blink. “About the interstellar ark?”

“Wrong. About how two-leggers wouldn’t understand. How can you teach these stories to other Listeners if you don’t know them well yourself?”

I twitch my question-mark tail. “Why? Yesterday you said how few of us—”

“Lunchtime, Clawdia.” A human voice cuts me off. From the back porch of the Schwartz Veterinary Clinic, across a gravel drive from Hershey’s farm, it’s a young voice. And familiar!

“Dookie! I knew she’d come again this summer.” Forget Hershey’s lectures—my favorite person is here! I leap from the fence, streak across the drive. Dookie jumps from the porch, falls over a small bush, picks herself up, and races toward me. We meet in a mess of legs and arms, fur and tight curls, purrings and kisses.

Here is what Liza had to say: 

Staton, The Tattletail’s Claw

The writing itself is nice, with many nice details (like “I lick a paw and swipe it over my whiskers” and “his rump becomes an earthquake”). But my first impression is one of confusion—there are a lot of elements that are unexplained, and it’s rather difficult to paint a picture or figure out what’s going on.

The very first sentence is a difficult and awkward way to begin a story—with dialogue in the midst of being spoken. Perhaps the writer is trying to created intrigue, but younger readers will be confused. For one, we do not yet know they are animals and two, “two-leggers” will be an unfamiliar term.

It takes quite a while to figure out what kind of animals these are, which also causes confusion—you don’t want readers to be wondering about this so much that it detracts from what’s happening in the story.

Other questions: The cat says, “I dare not dig into his hide the few claws I have left”—why is this? Is this a detail we need to know right now, on the first page? Then, the horse says, “How can you teach these stories to other Listeners if you don’t know them well yourself?” First of all, what stories? Secondly, who are the Listeners? Third, why does the cat not seem to care about the stories (and why does the horse)? Again, you want to create intrigue, but you don’t want to leave the reader with so little to work with, and here there are just too many unanswered questions.

If this is a story about talking animals, then it’s a story for young readers. The sentence structure is a bit too complex, and combined with the above questions, I think younger readers are going to feel lost (what is an “interstellar” ark, for example?) We need to have a simpler, cleaner and more appealing introduction to the story. The set-up needs to be such that young readers want to keep on reading. The detail with Dookie is very sweet—perhaps concentrate on this as an introduction—and maybe the fact that these animals can talk is enough of a mystery that the reader will be excited to find out more.

___________________________________________________________

Daddy, What’s a Redneck? by Erika Wassall Picture Book

Little Lainey squatted, tugged on the pant legs sticking out between the two tires and asked, “Daddy, what’s a Redneck?” (illus: Daddy is underneath a vehicle working on it.)

Daddy laughed. He opened his mouth to answer, but stopped short.

“Hand me that yellow screwdriver and I’ll tell you,” he said. “Your great-granddaddy was a Redneck. He worked out in the cotton fields all day, with the sun beating on the back of his NECK.” Daddy slid out from underneath the engine and smiled. “What happens to your nose and shoulders when you’re out in the sun all day?”

Little Lainey’s eyes lit up, “They get all RED!” she cried.

Daddy nodded. “Exactly! Back then, working in the fields meant you couldn’t go to school. Calling someone a Redneck could have been hurtful, meaning they weren’t very smart. People started to think that folks who worked with their hands all day were fools.”

Little Lainey stared at Daddy’s grease covered hands and sternly shook her head. “But Daddy! Your hands can fix everything! They’re the smartest hands I know.”

“Darn right!” said Daddy. “Folks often try to find ways to put others down. That doesn’t make them right. People all across the country are proud to be Rednecks.” (illus: Daddy’s leaning over so we can see his red neck)

“Why?” asked Little Lainey, as she watched the rainbows dance on the top of the oil pan.

Here is what Liza had to say:

Wassall, Daddy, What’s a Redneck?

Opening paragraph is sweet. I just don’t know how much this topic is going to interest readers. Does this make a story? What is the story here? Dad is answering a question, but what is the story? Why does the little girl ask this question in the first place?

My concern is that the title feels like a joke and it’s hard to take the story seriously upon first hearing what the title is. In fact, there may be a lot of people who take offense before they even have a chance to read the story.

Dad’s answers to the little girl’s question are nice, but there’s a lot that feels a bit too adult here and which young readers might have a hard time understanding: “Folks often try to find ways to put others down” etc.

General kid appeal: a little low. It’s hard to imagine a kid wanting to read this based on the first page (and keep going back to it). Feels a bit too earnest and “issue” driven. Combined with the title, I don’t think this would be something an editor would request over other things currently being shopped.

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JEREMY’S SLED By Sue Heavenrich – Picture Book

Jeremy pulled his new sled out of the car. He squeaked his boots on the fresh snow. “Sugarhouse Hill, here I come!”

“We still need noisemakers for our New Year’s party,” said Dad. “Stick to the small hill until I get back from the store.”

“Okay,” said Jeremy. He waved to Dad and then plodded up the hard-packed path. But instead of stopping where he should have, his feet took him up, up, up to the top of the highest hill in the whole park.

“Just one run,” Jeremy whispered. He climbed into his sled. It teetered, it tottered, it wibbled and wobbled, then –

WHOOSH! Off he flew down, down, down to the line of straw bales that stopped runaway sleds. Jeremy slipped through a gap…

…. and tangled the leash between a woman and her dog.

“Sorry!” Jeremy yelled as the dog flew into the air and landed in the sled. The sled sped across the slick road, down a slope and onto the pond.

“Sliding through!” Jeremy shouted. The sled knocked a puck into the net and flipped a hockey player into the sled.

“Hang on!” The sled slid through a flock of ducks, hit a bump and flew

through the air…

… scared a squirrel out of a tree, knocked a hat off a snowman,

and barely cleared the back fence of the zoo.

Here is what Liza had to say:

Heavenrich, Jeremy’s Sled

I like the fun of the sled ride gone out of control—readers will think this is super fun and entertaining. The beginning is slow, though. Why do we need the earnest, adult details of dad telling Jeremy that he’s going to the store and stick to the small hill? Why not just have Jeremy at the big hill pondering it “mom and dad always tell me to stick to the small hills, but just once I’d like to try the big one” or something like this.

The wild sled ride itself seems to need to be slowed down a bit, too much happens too quickly. The writer could have a lot of fun here by making each thing that winds up in the sled a more fun acquisition.

The title needs to be more interesting and compelling, something that reflects the fun that both Jeremy and the reader are in for. The language as well, while nice, is not really reflective in rhythm and language of a wild sled ride. Writer should look at some comparable picture books for examples.

___________________________________________________________

Rule Breaker by Angela Larson & Zander Mowat, Middle Grade Novel

Detective Derk’s Spy Manual for the Disgruntled made surveillance sound a lot easier than it was. Knelling on a bent knee, peering around a corner with a mirror, Aaron Adams switched the mirror from one hand to the other. This was just long enough for him to shake out his arm, which had started to go numb. He resumed his position, but his back and knee still ached. For the whole lunch period he’d been looking down the long hall that leads to the school’s cafeteria. He’d been on surveillance since Monday and now that it was Friday, he was losing hope that this would work. An internal debate started to brew in his mind, was it worth skipping lunch again, after the lack of success all week. Then, his target, his jerk older brother Roger Adams, turned the corner.

Roger strolled down the hall in his ‘I’m too important to walk any faster’ mode and pulled what appeared to be a coin from his pocket. Roger never has change, this doesn’t make sense, thought Aaron. Roger walked toward a row of old-fashioned vending machines. These ancient relics had been in the school forever, since a time when their Principle attended here as a kid. They were always full of candy bars, but no one carries change anymore except old people, like Aaron’s rusty teachers.

Aaron’s arm was starting to shake by the time Roger stopped in front of the vending machines. He took slow steady breaths; this was described in Detective Derk’s manual as something you should do if you ever need to steady yourself. He kept the mirror focused on his target.

Roger slid a quarter into a slot, pressed a button and the sound of the candy hitting the tray echoed down the hall. I KNOW he doesn’t carry money.

Aaron leaned so far forward the mirror started to fog from his breath. Before the image…

Here is what Liza had to say:

Larson & Mowat, Rule Breaker

Writing is a bit awkward and clunky—the very first paragraph is actually quite a mouthful to read aloud, and I worry that readers’ introduction to this story will not be as compelling as it needs to be in order to hook readers and get them interesting in reading further. Words like “disgruntled” and “knelling” (is this an error?? didn’t make sense) further confusing the narration.

Kids will find spying fun, but why is one brother spying on another? I think we need a better sense of this. And why is one brother spying on another brother at school (when he can spy on him at home)? In other words, I worry that this may come across as a plot that’s not so exciting (as opposed to having Aaron spy on someone more interesting, like a school enemy, for example).

Words are misspelled throughout (knelling rather than kneeling, Principle rather than Principal) and grammar is shaky. As an agent, this isn’t something I request to see further.

____________________________________________________________

Thank you Liza for sharing your time and expertise with all of us. It is much appreciated.

Hope everyone has a Happy Halloween.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, Agent, inspiration, Process, revisions, Tips, writing Tagged: First Page Critiques, Free Fall Friday, Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency

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16. Atlanta Aquarium

The Atlanta Aquarium is AWESOME with several huge Aquariums   This one had a tunnel with a people mover on the other side! Another section had LARGE Japanese Spider Crabs. I was amazed by their sheer size.  I LOVED the penguins! This one followed my fingers.   Wow to the Razor Fish! (the leaf like objects swimming face down around the sea horse)

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17. Call for Submissions: Duende

Duende welcomes submissions of prose, poetry, hybrid writing, and visual art. We are especially interested in collaborations between two or more writers, or between writers and visual artists. We accept submissions from writers working in English, or translating into English, from anywhere in the world.

Duende tastes good on the tongue and caresses the ear. Duende seeks authenticity & soulfulness, earthiness & expressiveness, a chill up the spine. It encompasses darkness and intensity; elicits sorrow and joy; wrests a response from the body.

If your poetry is rough-cut diamonds, slightly off-kilter; if your fiction will make us feel more human and less alone; if you enjoy exploration of new forms at the edges of the literary universe; if you can bring us elegant translations of literature from far corners of the globe; if your nonfiction is wild and honest; if your visual art is raw and earnest…show us. We want to see it.

Duende aspires to represent the true beauty and diversity of the U.S. literary ecosystem. A majority of the work we publish will be from writers and artists who are queer, of color, differently abled, immigrant, working class, youth, elder, and / or otherwise from communities underrepresented in U.S. literary magazines and journals. Please send us your work!

Submissions are open through November 15th.  


Visit our website for detailed guidelines.

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18. {Indie Spotlight & Giveaway} THE GIRL IN BETWEEN by Laekan Zea Kemp

*The Girl In Between, will be free on October 31st so Laekan is giving away two copies of the second novel, The Boy In Her Dreams below! Bryn Reyes is a real life sleeping beauty. Afflicted with Klein-Levin Syndrome, she suffers episodes of prolonged sleep that steal weeks, and sometimes even months, from her life. But unlike most KLS patients, she doesn’t spend each episode in a catatonic

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19. STONE COLD TOUCH by Jennifer Armentrout {Review & Giveaway}

Review by Becca STONE COLD TOUCH The Dark Elements #3 by Jennifer L ArmentroutPaperback: 464 pagesPublisher: Harlequin Teen (October 21, 2014) Amazon Barnes and Noble Kobo iTunes Every touch has its price Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend

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20. HAT WEEK: Sarah McIntyre, Celebrity Hat Stand

When I first started planning hat week, I knew I wanted to invite the wonderful Sarah McIntyre, illustrator and writer of picture books and comics extraordinaire to take part. The creator of Vern and Lettuce, Princess Spaghetti and half of the all singing all dancing Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space team Sarah has serious form when it comes to hats. Her hats are book events are legendary. She has even been called a “celebrity hat stand”…

Thus it is with huge delight and a great sense of honour that I’ve a guest post today from Sarah McIntyre, all about her love of hats. It is time to doff mine and let Sarah take the floor…

“I daydream a lot. I love my job, but sometimes I wonder, what would I do if I wasn’t illustrating children’s books?

mcintyre_birdwig

I’ve contemplated taking various jobs, including:

  • a window dresser (I watched Mannequin too many times when I was a kid)
  • a medical illustrator (my biology teacher said I made good dissection drawings)
  • an archaeologist (I thought Indiana Jones was awesome)
  • a journalist (I tried it but found it too high-pressure)
  • a ship’s rigger (I interviewed for this job once but didn’t get it)
  • a shoemaker (I know exactly what kind of shoes I want and I can never find them)
  • a milliner
  • Okay, this last one. I’m not actually a hat maker, but funnily enough, my job has let me make little forays into this world of wearable sculpture. I don’t get very excited about the world of fashion; it’s mostly intended for skinny people and I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t understand all that stuff about stilettos and expensive handbags.

    I used to think I needed to wear slimming black and try to all but make myself disappear because I wasn’t a standard size, but south-east London has changed me. A large Afro-Caribbean population live in my neighbourhood and, let me tell you, a lot of those women don’t let a bit of WEIGHT stop them from looking absolutely fabulous. I adore their block-printed fabric designs. Here are some of my African-print dresses, from Sika Designs in Greenwich, and Esther Marfo in New Cross.

    mcintyre_african_dresses

    And the outfits on these Nigerian and Ghanaian ladies don’t stop with curve-enhancing dresses in bold patterns, their bright colours rise two or three feet up into the air with incredible head wraps. On a Sunday morning when people are going to church, the bus stop can look like a sea of giant fancy sweet wrappers. It’s glorious!

    Making books has given me lots of reasons to dress up, and if I’m doing a stage event, I can go as over-the-top as I want; my only limits are whether I can fit the outfit onto the train or into the airplane. Here’s a six-foot-tall wig made out of purple clingfilm:

    clingfilm

    In fact, I almost didn’t fit into my Oliver and the Seawigs book launch. I hadn’t counted having to pass through a glass door before ascending to the deck of the Golden Hinde ship. Here’s a photo of my editor helping me through. (Thank goodness for my dignity, I didn’t have to crawl.)

    doorway

    The other thing that has changed for me is that I used to think comfort was the most important thing in dressing. But there’s a certain amount of discomfort that’s worth it, because it’s so fun seeing people’s jaws drop in surprise. This alien cake hat, for the Cakes in Space launch, for instance. It was quite heavy and clopped me hard on the forehead whenever I jumped in the air (because one does jump in the air, in stage events). But when I’d squeeze the hidden valve and its mouth would open, I’d have a wonderful time watching people gape. Some kids would obsess over it, trying to figure out how it worked, or if it really was alive.

    mcintyre_cakehat

    My sculptor friend Eddie Smith helped me with both the giant Seawig and the Cake. He’s a Royal Academy sculptor and has done lots of Proper Art Stuff, but he’s loved doing something a bit different.

    For Jampires, I tried to find a Bakewell Tart fascinator on the Internet, and there were lots, but they were all too SMALL. So I made this one out of a sprinkler attachment from the pound shop, a children’s ball (also from the pound shop), a foam pizza base, the plastic lid from a Christmas pudding, some felt, lace, fabric and glitter.

    mcintyre_jampirehat

    My Summer Reading Challenge Medusa hat was also a pound shop marvel: a green pencil case, craft pipe cleaners, a yoghurt pot and a bit of painted foam. (I’m sure the Duchess of Cornwall wears very similar things herself.)

    mcintyre_camilla_reeve

    If you go on to my Hats Pinterest page, you can see lots more things I’ve worn! Some of them I’ve made, and some of them I’ve customised, from vintage hats I’ve found in second-hand shops. It doesn’t take much to make a quiet hat into a startling headpiece; just stick on some large feathers or a big bow, or a ship, or a giant octopus. Some day I may make a book exclusively about hats, but for now, go check out David Roberts‘ fab new picture book with Andrea Beaty, Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, inspired by his favourite hat makers.
    madame_chapeau

    I do daydream about taking a year off to go study under someone such as Philip Treacy and make all sorts of wild headgear. But for now, I’ll be content with doing it as a job sideline… so much fun to be had!”

    *************

    So now you can see why I wanted Sarah to be part of my Hat Week extravaganza, can’t you! Do you have a favourite among Sarah’s hats?

    cakesinspace_philsarah

    Sarah McIntyre’s most recent books include Cakes in Space with Philip Reeve and Jampires with David O’Connell. Visit the book websites for fun activities!

    jampires_sarahdave

    Website & blog: jabberworks.co.uk
    Twitter: @jabberworks
    Hats Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/mcintyre1000/my-hats/

    0 Comments on HAT WEEK: Sarah McIntyre, Celebrity Hat Stand as of 10/30/2014 10:21:00 PM
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    21. No more Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards

           Very disappointing news: they've announced that the wonderful SF&F Translation Awards Closing Down; see also Cheryl Morgan -- one of the directors of the association running the awards -- on Translation Awards - The End at her Cheryl's Mewsings weblog.
           The Best Translated Book Award (for which I am one of the judges) does, of course, consider science fiction and fantasy titles, but it's a crowded field and there is definitely room for a specialized award that focuses solely on this area.

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    22. Prepare Yourself for these Film Adaptations

    The summer is almost upon us, which means the season for blockbuster movies is here. With the successful adaptation of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn I thought I would talk about some other movies that come from books. Like me, I am sure a lot of people out there would prefer to read the book […]

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    23. Halloween Edition of The Book Blogger Hop - 10/31 - 11/6


    Question of the Week:

    You can go trick or treating with any fictional character (book or film). Who would you go with?

    My Answer:

    I would go trick or treating with Freya from Posie Graeme Evans' book, The Island House, or any character in Lucinda Riley's books.
    I loved the setting of The Island House, and I love any book written by Lucinda Riley.
    Whew...I am glad this is the last of the Halloween questions, Billy.  It was a rough month of questions.
    Who would you choose?

    Trick or Treat Bag








    0 Comments on Halloween Edition of The Book Blogger Hop - 10/31 - 11/6 as of 10/31/2014 1:49:00 AM
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    24. Call for Submissions to Anthology: My Brush with Death

    Deadline--January 31, 2015
     
    Rain Drop Press, is reading for its first anthology, Life is a Journey. . . not a destination: Topic: My Brush with Death. Rain Drop Press  strives to share stories of those who survived a harrowing experience and are willing to leave their story as a legacy of their emotional journey.
     
    My Brush with Death stories are inspirational, true stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary experiences; stories that will open the heart and rekindle the spirit. They are personal and filled with emotion and drama. For some who have had a personal brush with death, reading this anthology will be a moment of reflection and realization of their own mortality. For others, it will be a realization of how fragile life can be.
     
    Read the complete guidelines here.
    No Entry Fee

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    25. As Enny Fool Kin Plainly See


    0 Comments on As Enny Fool Kin Plainly See as of 10/31/2014 12:19:00 AM
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