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1. New Voice: Shari Schwarz on Treasure at Lure Lake

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Shari Schwarz is the first-time author of Treasure at Lure Lake(Cedar Fort, 2016). From the promotional copy:

An epic adventure—that’s all Bryce wants this summer. 

So when he stumbles upon a treasure map connected to an old family secret, Bryce is determined to follow the map, even if it means risking his life and lying to his grandpa while they're on their wilderness backpacking trip. 

Bryce must work together with his difficult big brother, Jack, or they...and the treasure...may never see the light of day again.

What was the one craft resource book that helped you most during your apprenticeship? Why? 

How would you book-talk it to another beginning writer in need of help?

One of my very favorite craft resource books is Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole (Writer’s Digest Books, 2012).

I took it everywhere with me for a few months and read through it twice as I was writing Treasure at Lure Lake. One thing I struggled with in my book was giving the brothers, fourteen-year-old Jack and twelve-year-old Bryce, the right level of interiority, as Mary Kole calls it, which is access to the character’s thoughts and feelings about what is going on.

I wrote Lure Lake from the perspective of two boys, and if you’ve ever spent a lot of time around teenage boys, they aren’t always the first to share their emotions and deep thoughts. Of course, there are some that do—I do have four boys myself—but it was definitely a challenge for me to get into each of the boys’ heads and get their internal voices just right in my story.

Mary Kole’s book teaches about the importance of interiority.

She writes, “First we should see characters in action, and then we get some Interiority to really drive home the author’s intentions…With this one-two punch we can move on with a solid understanding of what we’ve just witnessed and learned.” (p. 59)

Another lesson I learned the hard way (through many revisions and trial and error) was how to make the reader care about Jack and Bryce at the beginning of the book. If the reader doesn’t care about their journeys very early in the story, then what would be the point of reading it? On p. 90 Kole writes, “…introduce not only a great character but a character with Objectives and Motivations. Then imbue the character’s life with enough conflict, both internal and external, to really get the story engine humming.” And, of course, there has to be interiority if we are to know the character’s goal, objectives and motivations.

Shari's boys
I also listened carefully to my own boys and their friends. I listened to anything that would point to their hopes, dreams, goals and motivations. It is still a constant learning process to perfect these story elements that make or break a good book.

Another element is creating a complex, layered character. One who seems real. There are books I’ve read where I was certain that the story was biographical, in large part because the main character was so invested in the plot.

Mary Kole not only stresses interiority, objectives/motivations to create a real character, but she also helps writers by taking them through creating a character with a complex core identity full of strengths, weaknesses, virtues, roles, emotions, responses, boundaries etc… She writes on p 109, “If you can create a strong character with a strong sense of core self, then thrust him through a plot that attacks those pillars of identity, and surprise the reader with some of his choices, you will have an amazingly layered protagonist on your hands.” And she doesn’t leave it just at protagonists. She advises the same for the antagonist.

I highly recommend this book for all writers, those new to the craft and also those who are well-experienced. I can’t imagine that anyone has “arrived” when it comes to writing. I know I will be writing and revising and learning over and over again with each new book I write.

It’s a challenging but inspiring process, and I’m thankful for the inspiration found in books like Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole.

As a librarian-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a librarian has been a blessing to your writing?

Cody (Corgi) and Jasper (puppy)
Before I started writing seriously, I received my elementary teaching degree with an emphasis in literacy, and then I worked as an elementary school librarian. I had the privilege to study children’s literature in-depth for my teaching degree which carried over into being a librarian where I was able to share with children my love of reading.

I didn’t begin writing Treasure at Lure Lake until a couple of years later. I think being a librarian allowed me to see and understand in general what kids love to read. There are those books and series that a lot of children gravitate towards, but they’re not for everyone. There are always at least a few outliers who don’t follow the trends and find their own niche in books they love.

There is also a difference between books that adults want children to read and books that children themselves want to read. Yes, there is a bit of a crossover, but there are many books that children love that adults roll their eyes at or worse.

As a librarian, my job was to connect readers with books. And the only way to do that is to find books they love based on their interests, reading level, prior books read and sometimes just a bit of luck. Part of connecting children to books meant that I needed to be up to date on new books coming out. How could I gush over a book to a student if I’d never read it?

American Lakes, Northern Colorado
Reading so many children’s books also helped me in writing Lure Lake. There is such a wide variety of readers which is one of the reasons why there are so many different types of books out there.

As a new author, it can strike fear in my heart to think that some people will not like my book. Some people may judge it harshly. Of course! No book is the perfect book for every reader out there. This has helped me realize that my book will not be for everyone which is a good reality check. But there are children who identify with parts of my story, whether it is the plot or the characters or the themes…and that is who I wrote my book for.

Being a librarian allowed me to have numerous conversations with students who loved reading. They would tell me about why they loved the books they did, what they wanted to read next and how the book impacted them.

I also was able to listen as students told me about what made a book hard for them to get through or why it was boring. And, best of all, I was able to work with those students who just hadn’t found a love for reading yet. They were the children who came back, week after week, still searching for a book that they might finally like.

There isn’t anything more gratifying as a librarian than to finally find that one book that makes a reader’s eyes light up for the first time. Seeing a reluctant reader finally devour a book, especially if it’s part of a series, is an amazing process to watch and the greatest blessing of all in being a librarian.

One of my own sons struggled with reading throughout elementary school. But when I placed The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, 2005) in his hands when he was in fifth grade, he was hooked for the first time and read straight through that series and into the next.

Helping a child find the joy of reading is why I started writing Treasure at Lure Lake in the first place. I wanted to write a fun, exciting adventure that would be easy to read and would hopefully catch the imagination and hearts of reluctant readers that resonate with its story.

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2. A Great New Book by Agent Mary Kole!

Mary Kole’s new book on craft, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, (Writer’s Digest Books, Dec. 2012), isn’t the kind of book you just read; it’s that kind of book that fires up your brain, makes you stop every few pages to grab a pen and paper, and dash out a line or two. I recognized many of Kole’s points, but the insight was this: Much of what an author does is instinctual; what Kole has done is pull the tools out of the box and assign names to them. How much more useful a tool is when you’re aware it exists!

Culling from specific, contemporary works, Kole explains writing practices and goals. In illuminating “high concept,” she says, “[Readers] want stories that . . . lift them out of the everyday.” Then she asks, “What’s something they can’t experience in reality?” (p. 31) She then cites and deconstructs loglines for Holes, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, and more. It’s this analysis throughout the book that  inspires you to put your own work through the same machinations and see if it’s strong enough to hold up. Tips are specific: “Make your middle grade characters firmly thirteen and under” (p. 8), and her discussion on the six things readers should know within the first chapter (p. 78).

Shaded boxes throughout the text contain exercises addressing character specifics, theme specifics, voice specifics, etc.  Here, Kole takes the abstract and makes it concrete. You’ll want to print these exercises out and put them together for reference, a boiled-down toolbox for all your work.

In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Kole delivers a user-friendly, specific text on the craft of writing. I found it so useful that it sits on my desk—open—as I work on my next manuscript.


I read Writing Irresistible Kidlit as an advance copy, and Kole uses as one of her published samples my first novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. 

2 Comments on A Great New Book by Agent Mary Kole!, last added: 12/23/2012
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3. Interesting blog posts about writing - Jon's pick of 2011



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4. Revolving Door News: Sara Nelson, Parul Sehgal & Mary Kole

A number of publishing professionals have announced big job changes today.

Sara Nelson (pictured, via) is leaving O, The Oprah Magazine to serve as editorial director at Amazon.com Books. Publishers Weekly had the scoop: “A spokesperson for Amazon said Nelson ‘will be leading our editorial vision for books in the print and Kindle bookstores on Amazon.com.’”

Parul Sehgal will be a new preview editor at The New York Times Book Review.

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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5. Free Fall Friday – May + Industry Update

Author of 24 novels and books of non-fiction for adults, young adults, and children Jacquelyn Mitchard will run a new young adult imprint for F+W Media called Merit Press Books. They plan five titles for 2012 and 12 releases for 2013. Publisher Karen Cooper says: “The mission of the line is to provide an abundance of intensely readable, highly suspenseful and unforgettable fiction for readers aged thirteen and up, with a particular emphasis on strong, savvy, female heroes rising to conquer sometimes stunning challenges thrown at them by a very real contemporary world.”

At Highlights for Children/Boyds Mills Press, Rebecca Davis has been named senior editor, Wordsong and Boyds Mills, having previously freelanced for the imprints.

Mary Kole has joined Movable Type Management as senior literary manager in charge of young adult, middle grade, and picture book properties. She was an agent the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

The Children’s Book Council announced the winners of the Children’s Choice Book Awards. Jeff Kinney was author of the year and Brian Selznick was illustrator of the year.

Melissa Sarver from The Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency has agreed to be May guest critiquer for Free Fall Friday. Melissa will be attending the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June. If you would like to get a critique spot with her, she still has a few spaces available.

To read a little more about Melissa, I have provided a few interview links that you can read.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/agent-advice-melissa-sarver-of-elizabeth-kaplan-literary-agency

http://www.srjohannes.com/2009/08/marvelous-marketer-melissa-sarver.html

http://motherwrite.blogspot.com/2010/07/interview-with-agent-melissa-sarver.html

May’s Picture Prompt was illustrated by Kathleen Kemly. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday a few weeks ago. http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/illustrator-saturday-kathleen-kemly/

Please use it to help inspire a first page. I will announce the agent who will be out Guest Critiquer next week. Also since I like to give you three weeks to come up with something, I will post four of the pages along with the agents comments on June 1st.

Please attach your double spaced, 12 point font, 23 line first page to an e-mail and send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail. Put “May 26th First Page Prompt” in the subject line.

ILLUSTRATORS: Here is your chance to show off a little. I am looking any subject matter as long as it has a few flowers in the illustration. I will post some as they come in during the month, but I will definitely post all by May 31st, so I need to receive your illustrations no later than May 25th. Please make sure the illustration is at least 500 pixels wide and includes a blurb about you and a link to see more of your work. Please send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com and put “May Illustration” in the subject box

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6. In Which We Discuss You Tube, BARGAIN DEALS, Seinfeld, Orny Adams, Orange Blossoms

Did I ever tell you you're my hero? haha

Did I ever tell you I have a You Tube channel? Please check it out! Danette Haworth You Tube Channel Great stuff for authors, including an interview with Barnes and Noble CRM, Geoffrey Shoffstall.

Bargain deals: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is available in HARDCOVER FOR LESS THAN $5.00 ON AMAZON! Perfect for your middle-grade reader this Christmas! Also, I've been keeping a craft book open as I work on my new manuscript--lit agent Mary Kole's Writing Irresistable KidLit, available in paperback and ebook. Perfect for the writer on your Christmas list! Look for my review soon!

JERRY SEINFELD and ORNY ADAMS! On separate dates in January, I get to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Bob Carr, Orlando, and Orny Adams at the Improv! I cannot wait! I've never seen Seinfeld live before, but I have seen Orny and he was excellent. Not only that, but he did a meet-and-greet afterwards and was so patient with me and my sister, spending probably fifteen minutes or so with us because my iPhone camera was flaking out (which, honestly, worked out, because we got to spend more time with Orny!). The only thing that could make the new year better? Brian Regan tickets in February? Dare I to spend more money on comedy

And finally, Casey and I were hanging around in the backyard today, and I swear I smelled the sweet, powdery scent of orange blossoms. My neighbor's trees are ornamented with perfectly round, shiny oranges, but no blossoms. A close inspection of the greenbelt behind my yard (read: marsh populated by gators, river otter, rattle snakes, scorpions and more) revealed some kind of weedy tree, resplendent with tiny white buds, emitting the sweet perfume.

That is all for today! Tomorrow, back to work!


2 Comments on In Which We Discuss You Tube, BARGAIN DEALS, Seinfeld, Orny Adams, Orange Blossoms, last added: 12/16/2012
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7. Query Letter’s – Mary Kole & Lauren Macleod

I would like to let everyone know that Agent Mary Kole from Andrea Brown Literary has agreed to join us at the NJSCBWI June conference being held on June 3-5th 2011. 

She will be discussing query letters with the attendees who sign up for her workshop.

We haven’t figured out the logistic yet, but she will be using query letters from the audience to help demonstrate how to write a better query letter and help build your skills in this area.

Yesterday on Publisher’s Weekly, agent Lauren Macleod from The Strothman Agency, LLC helped promote Helene Boudreau’s new YA novel, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings , by sharing Helene’s query letter with us.

I think we can all take something away from reading it. At least this should alert you to having your query letter show up on someone’s blog someday.

Dear Ms. MacLeod,

I am seeking literary representation and hope you will consider my tween novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS.

First zit. First crush. First … mermaid’s tail?

Jade feels like enough of a freak-of-nature when she gets her first period at almost fifteen. She doesn’t need to have it happen at the mall while trying on that XL tankini she never wanted to buy in the first place. And she really doesn’t need to run into Luke Martin in the Feminine Hygiene Products aisle while her dad Googles “menstruation” on his Blackberry. 

But “freak-of-nature” takes on a whole new meaning when raging hormones and bath salts bring on another metamorphosis—complete with scales and a tail. And when Jade learns she’s inherited her mermaid tendencies from her late mother’s side of the family, it raises the question: if Mom was once a mermaid, did she really drown that day last summer?

Jade is determined to find out. Though, how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic mer-girl go about doing that, exactly … especially when Luke from aisle six seems to be the only person who might be able to help?

REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS is a light-hearted fantasy novel for tweens (10-14). It is complete at 44,500 words and available at your request. The first ten pages and a synopsis are included below my signature. I also have a completed chapter book for boys (MASON AND THE MEGANAUTS), should that be of interest to you. This manuscript has received a revision request from editor, Kathy Tucker, from Albert Whitman & Company.

My middle grade novel, ACADIAN STAR, was released last fall by Nimbus Publishing and has been nominated for the 2009/2010 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. I have three nonfiction children’s books with Crabtree Publishing to my credit (one forthcoming) as well as an upcoming early chapter book series. My writing received an Honourable Mention in the 2008 Surrey International Writers’ Conference literary competition (Writing for Young People) and I was recently awarded a juried literary grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this project.

Kind regards,

Hélène Boudreau

www.heleneboudreau.c

1 Comments on Query Letter’s – Mary Kole & Lauren Macleod, last added: 12/2/2010
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8. SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Advice on Critiques From Editors & Agents


Yesterday Alice Pope offered another in our series of SCBWI TEAM BLOG pre-conference interivews with Annual Winter Conference faculty. Alice talked to a handful of editors and agents on receiving and giving manuscript feedback.

Below is a bit from her post. Click here to read the full interview.  

SCBWI's Annual Winter Conference in New York is just eleven days away! If you're attending, you may be planning your outfits and your evening activities in the city (which you certainly should), but you should also be thinking about how to make the most of the event. So I checked in with a few of the editors and agents participating in the conference to ask for some advice to pass on to you.

Today's topic: CRITIQUES

Editors Krista Marino (Delacorte), Franceso Sedita (Penguin) and Jennifer Rees (Scholastic) and agents Kerry Sparks (Levine/Greenberg) and Kary Kole (Andrea Brown) are participating in the Writers' Intensive that kicks off the weekend of conferencing. At this day-long event, writers have the opportunity to get feedback on a manuscript from a several editors and agents, and writers offer feedback to one another.

Intensives have limited space for writers and this year's Writers' Intensive (as usual) sold out super fast. But even if you aren't attending it, you probably have been or will be in a critique situation, whether at a conference with an editor or agent, one-on-one with a critique partner, or in a critique group setting. Here are some things to keep in mind offered by our group of industry insiders.

Although the Writers' Intensive is sold you, you can still register for the Annual Winter Conference and rub elbows with industry insiders like the ones above. Click here for information.


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9. The Writers Intensive - An Inside Look, part three - The Afternoon Critique

My afternoon critique table was led by Mary Kole, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Mary has an amazing blog on writing, kidlit.com, and approached the critique more as a "workshop."

writer #1 shared a contemporary YA, and Mary started us off with leading our discussion of her pages in two parts, first what was working, and then focusing on where there was opportunity for growth. (Isn't that a great way to put "constructive criticism?") Throughout, Mary shared great tips, like aiming to be more specific with our character details!

writer #2 shared a young MG, and the discussion bloomed as we realized that both writers had started with the main character in school... but then quickly flashed back to somewhere else. It led to a great conversation about where to start a story.

writer #3 shared his MG pages, and the table unanimously praised the character's great voice. Mary helped us all see that what that story needed was to be grounded in the present action of the plot starting - and the writer had that realization of what he had to do next.

writer #4 shared a MG historical, based on a true story, and explained that she was feeling limited by what actually happened versus what would make a better fiction book. Mary's advice was to "have it be your story - the spirit but not the letter" Or, my take on it, inspired by.

writer #5 shared the first 500 words of her YA, and we all realized she had also started her main character in a school setting, when maybe there was a better place and way to start her story.

writer #6 shared her YA novel pages, and told us that she'd shared the prologue to her book this morning, and had decided to not share it with Mary and us - and just jump to chapter one and share that. So she read us 500 words from chapter one, and then in the discussion we discussed prologues (Mary's not a big fan of them.)

I was writer #7, and again I shared the first 500 words of my MG. I was honored with kind words about my writing and the manuscript's voice, and in the ensuing discussion I was able to ask Mary and the table's opinions about their take on the opening paragraphs, as compared to this morning's critique group. That was cool - having 15 fresh pairs of eyes on my first pages!

Mary liked how one of the authors had brought in more of the senses, laughing that sight was the most common sense described, with sound and touch afterwards, and taste and smell sharing last place. She urged us to avail ourselves of more of those senses.

We had some extra time due to an empty writer slot (I feel bad for the author who due to the snowy weather wasn't able to make it!) and Mary opened the table up to a 12 minute Q&A, where we talked about publishing across age categories, how children's literature is unique in that it's about characters immediately going through things as they happen (rather than being older and flashing back on their teen years), and Mary's best recommendation for a book on revision: Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.


When Aaron called our time being up, the room applauded their agents and editors, but no table as enthusiastically as ours.


The Debrief:

One writer shared that starting with positive feedback first really worked for her. And that having everyone's ideas bounce off other people was so useful.

Another felt that Mary was so great and professional, that the format was informal and yet gave her so much. "She's so polite, but she tells you as it is."

We heard "She killed my prologue and it's not coming back to life... but maybe it will be my epilogue!" (When I checked with Mary later about epilogues versus prologues and whether she was a fan of the former, she said, "they serve di

3 Comments on The Writers Intensive - An Inside Look, part three - The Afternoon Critique, last added: 1/29/2011
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10. Interesting posts about writing – w/e March 4th 2011


Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:
 
Are e-book buyers becoming educated over price? (Philip Jones)
 
Fleshing Out Flat Characters (Janice Hardy)
by way of Beth Cato (aka [info]celestialgldfsh )
 
Why Writers Suck at Marketing (Monica Valentinelli)
 
What Are You Afraid Of? (Donald Maass)
 
7 Things I’ve Learned So Far (Imogen Robertson)
 
Self-Defeating Attitudes (Lucienne Diver aka [info]varkat )
 
Play by Play Narration (Mary Kole)
 
How to Spotlight Important Prose (Kathyrn Craft) 
 
Writing: When It Just Isn’t Working (Joshua Palmatier aka [info]

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11. Interesting posts about writing – w/e July 15th 2011



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12. Interesting posts about writing – w/e September 9th 2011

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

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13. Interesting posts about writing – w/e October 7th 2011



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14. Interesting posts about writing – w/e November 18th 2011



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15. Yes, Some Dreams Come True: THE CALL

Yeah. I’m happy.

It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd.

But it’s absolutely true–I signed with literary agent Mary Kole of Andrea Brown.

I feel like I’ve fallen into a dream. And that dream just came true.

And since I’ve just eaten about six chocolate chip cookies and have slurped three Diet Dr. Peppers in one sitting, I’ve decided to allow SCARLET WHISPER to interview me about my whirlwind experience. Here goes…

SCARLET WHISPER: So, Jenny, What up?

INCONSEQUENTIAL ME: Thanks, Scarlet. I have big news. I have an agent now.

SW: How did that happen?! (stares incredulously)

IM: Well, I’ve been writing for almost a year and I think I’m finally onto something. I queried some agents and…

SW: How many?

IM: (coughs) I’m not at liberty to discuss that.

SW: Well, I just checked your e-mail “sent” box and I counted 27…

IM: How did you get into my e-mail account???

SW: Um, I’m not a Librarian/Rock Star/International Jewel Thief for nothing, sister. I have mad skills. It’s not like your password was that hard to figure out. I know how much you like Eric Bana and if you take his name plus…

IM: Erm… So twenty seven e-mails later, I got some rejections and requests.

SW: You got nine.Nine requests.

IM: Well, when you say it like that, it sounds kinda pretentious and braggy.

SW: Get used to it, you’re agented now.

IM: Um, don’t say that! That’s not really me! I’m UNCERTAIN GIRL, remember? Sure, I worked hard, but I had a lot of help, and mentors, and good advice from writers and agents and…

SW: You got plenty of rejections, too.

IM: (frowns) Yeah, you mind not mentioning a firm number on those?

SW: Sure. I’m feeling magnanimous. Anyway, how’d you snag an agent?

IM: Well, first I wrote a book, and then I revised it a bunch of times, and then…

SW: Cut to the chase, I don’t have all day. I have jewel vaults to case and a Gibson to restring.

IM: I met Mary Kole at a conference. She was awesome. I’d followed her blog forever and we clicked. She requested the full of ROCKAPOCALYPSE and I sent it. A week or so later, she e-mailed to set up a time to chat.

SW: Chat? What the heck does “chat” mean?

IM: It’s a secret code word for THE CALL.

SW: THE CALL?

IM: Yeah, that’s when an interested agent phones to make sure you’re not a crazy person and to make sure the author is a good fit. Then comes the offer to represent.

SW: “Crazy?” As in crazy enough to invent an imaginary superhero alter ego. What about narcissistic neuroses? Are agents okay with that?

IM: Ahem. So anyway, Mary made an offer. I then contacted each agent who had a full or partial of ROCKAPOCALYPSE. Mary kindly allowed me to take a week to consider the offer and let everyone know.

SW: So you didn’t accept right away?

IM: Oh, believe me. I thought about it. My mind was reeling. I was a babbling dork. But I wanted to be professional, and those other agents were fantastic. Everyone involved was kind, supportive, and enthusiastic.

SW: Did you get other offers?

IM: Yes. I adore some of the other agents. (I mean, why would I have queried in the first place, if they weren’t TOTALLY AWESOME?!)

SW: Why did you choose Mary?

IM: I felt a strong connection, a shared vision. I’d met her in person, and we’d shared a lot of laughs (and BBQ ribs). We have a lot of the same philosophies about children’s literature and passion for books.And my friend and crit partner

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16. Deciding When to Show and When to Tell

"Show, don't tell" is probably the most common advice given to writers. But that's not the whole story.

I've been thinking a lot about this issue in the past weeks. It came up in both large and small ways in a number of the critiques I've done for other writers recently, and it was flagged in my manuscript by a couple of the writers in my wonderful new critique group. I started thinking about researching my thoughts and doing a blog post, but serendipidously, several of the blog's I regularly read posted articles on the subject last week. Michael Bourret described how he has been seeing a lot of manuscripts that aren't engaging or engrossing because of too much telling. Mary Kole had a post on "Good Telling" based on an essay she received from Melissa Koosmann, one of her blog readers. The Plot Whisperer (Martha Alderson) also had a great post on how people may hide strong emotions.

So I'm going to tell you what I think. And I want to know what you think. Tell me if you agree or disagree, and let me know how much you think style, skill, POV, and genre fall into the equation.

First, there's a difference between narrative and scene, and each has its role in a novel.
  • A scene takes place in real time, in an idenfied location, and it involves action and/or dialogue between characters. By definition, a scene is "show." It engages the reader, engrosses them, and makes them feel connected to what the characters are feeling.  
  • Narrative summary describes--"tells" about--action or an event, but doesn't show it. Just as you would have a hard time selling a manuscript that's all narrative, you would have a hard time getting a reader to enjoy a book that is all nonstop action. As readers, we need time to breathe and absorb. Narrative serves that purpose.
For me, deciding whether something should go into scene is part of planning the novel, and it comes down to issues of tension and pacing. If you think you need a scene, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
  • Is the event or information significant enough to the story to warrant a full scene?
  • Does it move the story forward?
  • Does it lead the character toward a turning point or plot point, preferably both, that you want the reader to remember andn experience along with the character?
  • Are the events action or reaction? In other words, is something happening, or are the characters making decisions based on something that has already happened?
  • If it is action, does it directly impact the POV character and are you giving her an opportunity to react to it?
  • Is there identifiable conflict between two characters, between what your main character wants and what she needs, or preferably both?
  • Are you providing important information that a reader is likely to skim over, misunderstand, or not care about in narrative form? Remember, the reader doesn't know what you know -- that it's important.
If the answer to any of those questions is affirmative, then you probably don't want to put information into narrative. This goes double for plot devices such as memories, monologues, and so forth. Flashbacks and visions, well-crafted and used sparingly, may work as scenes, but bear in mind that you have to give characters time to react to them. They work best at turning points in your story, the same way that backstory is ideal at turning points, where information is placed in context of past and present combining to help the character make a decision that will lead to resolution an

14 Comments on Deciding When to Show and When to Tell, last added: 6/29/2010
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17. The $50,000 Question: Picture Book or Children's Magazine?


Associate agent Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency recently posted an interesting article on whether a picture book manuscript makes the cut for publication as a stand-alone book, or is better suited as a short story in a magazine. While those of us writing picture books dream of seeing our story on bookshelves, complete with colorful, inviting covers, the picture book market is difficult these days. And if our goal as writers is to write for enjoyment, share it with others, and gain publishing credits, then what's holding us back from seeking publication through a children's magazine?

Last month, Highlights Editor Debra Hess and Highlights High Five Art Director Kelley Cunningham spoke at an SCBWI conference in Maryland. Their presentation made publicaton with their magazine seem both appealing and accessible. They encouraged writers and illustrators to look into their submission guidelines and submit articles and art samples as a way of gaining exposure. They specifically indicated that they are looking for new talent, but reminded conference-goers to do their homework.

Debra and Kelley's Submission Tips 
  • Know the market. Look through current issues of Highlights and other children's magazines and see what's being published.
  • Separate yourself from your work and prepare yourself for feedback.
  • Create a brand for yourself. Have a website and create a mailing/emailing list to spread the word about your work.
  • More isn't always better. For illustrations specifically, quality art is more appreciated than numerous samples of lower quality.
  • Your manuscript must have merit. If you are submitting non-fiction, they strongly advised including a bibliography. Debra Hess said she won't even look at your article without one.
Debra and Kelley's Peeves
  • Wikipedia is NOT a resource to cite.
  • Manuscripts that begin with, "Imagine you are a..."
  • Manuscripts that read like a term paper, i.e., they're not child-friendly.
  • Writing that isn't clear or concise (they want no more than 750 words per submission).
  • Submissions that don't have a clear, consistent point-of-view.
  • Not including a reading level or word count.
  • Cover letters that lack personality or don't demonstrate that you can write for kids.
  • Queries. That's right, they don't want queries. Articles and short stories are brief enough that they want a cover letter and your complete submission.
Kelley's Tips for Illustrators
  • Stay open-minded to changes they propose in the editing process.
  • Kelley Cunningham emphasized the need for true artistic talent, and commented that nothing replaces good, old-fashioned drawing skills.
  • They don't want links to complicated, slow-l

    13 Comments on The $50,000 Question: Picture Book or Children's Magazine?, last added: 8/4/2010
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18. Mary Kole - Agent interview and Pitch Contest

Mary Kole's Agent Pitch Contest starts this Fri am at 9EST and ends Sun am at 9 EST. Winner gets a query critique from Mary. Come back Friday at 9 am EST for more deets on how to enter!

Hint - get your 140 character pitch ready!

Now, here is Mary Kole:

Hi Mary, tell us about yourself. How did you get into agenting?

I had been writing YA for about two years, got an agent, and went out on submission. When my manuscript didn't sell, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the business and see things from the "other side of the desk." I'm never really satisfied with what I know and always want to keep learning. I started reading for an adult agency, then started reading and giving editorial manuscript feedback for my now-colleagues at Andrea Brown. It was the first time I really felt completely at home doing in a job, and I've been an official agent with ABLit since August 2009.

As an agent, what would you say is the state of YA today? What are you seeing too much of? What aren't you seeing enough of?

YA is changing, I think. Paranormal is still strong with readers, but editors, who are MY primary customers, are clamoring for really unique paranormal, fantasy, and dystopian, as well as contemporary and realistic stories. I see way too many derivative manuscripts -- girl, sixteen, discovers she has powers (through a diary, book, dream, vision, amulet, ghost, etc.), right as the hottest guy she's ever seen inexplicably transfers into her class...and provides a key to her powers and her destiny. Yawn. I've read it hundreds of times. There are more interesting stories out there and I challenge YA writers to find them.

You are building a great resource/site – Kidlit? How did this come about and what is your goal?

Since you can only query one agent at Andrea Brown at a time, I wanted to differentiate myself and attract submissions. I have eight amazing colleagues and I'm the newest agent, so I wanted to stand out and get my name out there, right from the beginning. But aside from that, I also come from a writing background and really enjoy teaching. This way, I reach out to potential clients, provide valuable content for writers (see more on this, below), and talk about the publishing business and the writing craft -- all of my favorite things to do, wrapped up in one blog!

What is a queryfail for you? What is a query success for you?

The least successful queries fail to make me care about the character and story. Other, smaller failures, involve queries that are too long, opening with a rhetorical question or making hyperbolic claims ("This is the next TWILIGHT!"). Here's a formula for a successful query, from my

14 Comments on Mary Kole - Agent interview and Pitch Contest, last added: 8/20/2010
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19. Mary Kole Pitch Contest Winners!!

There were so many awesome queries it was hard for Mary Kole to narrow it down to one. WE have 2 winners and a few Honorable mentions. Mary Kole gave some feedback on each one in blue. (wasn't that sweet!)

There were many entries that went over 140 characters some even up to 200 characters!

To both winners - email me so I can put you in touch with Mary on your query critique!

If there is nugget you take away from this - whether chosen or not - it is this: I cannot stress how important it is to FOLLOW THE RULES when querying agents. Sometimes it can be the difference between a rejection or a request! They go through hundreds of queries a week and have to look for ways to say no. DON'T GIVE THEM A REASON to reject you just because you are going to fast or don't pay attention to the details/instructions!

WINNER 1: Blogger Wendy
Title: Burying Elsie
Genre: Contemporary YA
As Elsie dives into drugs, sex & even hardcore shows, goody-goody Shawna must decide if helping her BFF is worth risking all she believes.

Mary said: "I love the character conflict implied by this query and the high stakes. The title tells me that it might not work out for the best, but I’m really curious to see how the downward spiral plays out."


================================


WINNER 2: Blogger Rachael Harrie

Title: From The Other Side

Genre: YA Paranormal

Misfit Verity is murdered by the boy she loves and awakens with strange powers, uncontrollable rages, and an unquenchable desire for revenge


Mary said: "This query kicks ass. It has punch and voice, which is really hard to do in 140 characters. This sounds like something I might really like."


==============================


Honorable Mentions!


Blogger Amanda J.

Title: The Sandman's Apprentice

Genre: MG paranormal

To save her kidnapped bro

20 Comments on Mary Kole Pitch Contest Winners!!, last added: 8/28/2010
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20. A Hands-On Webinar with Mary Kole, My Fab Agent

Looking for critique and craft advice from a pub industry pro?

Are you yearning to improve your writing and get it in the hand’s of a great kidlit/MG/YA agent?

If so, you’ve got to check out this great webinar offered by none other than Mary Kole, my wonderful, wise, crazy cool agent.

You think her blog, Kidlit.com is full of helpful hints? Wait til you enroll in this Writer’s Digest class. You’ll get the inside track on all kinds of topics including:

  • The essential elements of books written for younger children, tweens, and teens
  • How your kid reader thinks about fiction and what they want
  • What agents and editors look for in terms of pitch, writing, and book premise
  • How to make your hook absolutely irresistible
  • What separates an aspiring writer from a contracted author in this field

And here’s the best part. Every single participant gets to submit pages for critique. If you register, Mary will personally dig into your work and give you detailed feedback! (And let me tell you, her crits are solid gold. Take it from me, they are the absolute best.)

What are you waiting for?! Get over there and take your game to the next level!

Hungry for More?

Try this yummo recipe for tiramisu, a Mary Kole approved dessert.


Filed under: Uncategorized, Writing Tagged: agents, Kidlit.com, literary agent, Mary Kole, MG, publishing, Writer's Digest, Writing, writing critique, writing webinar, YA 2 Comments on A Hands-On Webinar with Mary Kole, My Fab Agent, last added: 9/2/2010
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21. Writing: Variations on a Theme

My agent once pointed out that both my current project and my new WIP explore similar themes. She meant this in the best possible way, and her observation holds true. I really do like to play with good vs. evil, alive vs. afterlife, heaven vs. hell.

I also read a lot of books and watch a lot of TV (SUPERNATURAL, anyone?) and movies with those same motifs.  Blame it on Star Wars or Indiana Jones or those hot Winchester Brothers… but I adore stories dripping with epic stakes, spiritual overtones, and classic symbolism.

What can I say? I just love a good variation on a theme.

And I’m not alone.

Donald Maass, in Writing the Breakout Novel, asserts theme transforms a manuscript into “more than just a story.” He believes theme is integral, emerging “from the very substance of the story.” While the patterns and messages of theme are finessed in final drafts, they can’t be tacked on or artificially manufactured. Themes begin in the subconscious and develop organically.

Mary Kole, my Abfab Agent, has also addressed this topic on her blog. She believes that in any work, “there should be distinct themes and ideas that you [can] point to as the center of your book.” To her, theme is “like magic… connections you never knew you’d made, common images and ideas that resonate with the larger meaning of your work, all sorts of interesting stuff.”

In her post, she explains how to develop these connections.

Looking for other resources on THEME? Try reading these:

STORY by Robert McKee

THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell

THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell

List of Common Themes in Literature by Janice E. Patten

That’s a lot of THEMES…tell me, which ones do you write and dream about?

Hungry for more? Try this recipe for Angelic Peach Trifle. You’ll enjoy the layers and the subtle almond flavor.


Filed under: Uncategorized, Writing Tagged: Donald Maass, Mary Kole, Peach Trifle, Star Wars, Supernatural, Theme, Themes in Literature
2 Comments on Writing: Variations on a Theme, last added: 10/6/2010
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