Monday, January 30, 2012

Then Verdict is In!

Recap: October 1st pitched my MG to a literary agent and was told to mail the first fifty pages. I made a goal to get it ready and sent by mid-November. Mission accomplished with my critique team at my side!
At the beginning of 2012, the verdict was in, she said it was a sweet concept but she didn't connect to the narrative voice which was a personal preference and other agents may want to take on this project.

This didn't hit me too hard seeing that her genres were sci-fi, dystopian, paranormal and fantasy. My MG doesn't fall under these genres. We had a good correspondence and I appreciated her honesty. Agent-writer has to fit like the right puzzle piece and the editor is another piece of the puzzle. I'll continue to search out the right pieces that fit while my Cea of writing expands.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My First Professional Critique (continued)

It was mentioned to submit your best work for the critique but I was too attached to what I thought my best work was and I just wasn't ready to share it from a "psychological point of view" and  "it needs more polishing" point of view. So I submitted my second picture book that I had a lot of fun writing.
My critique came from Ruta Rimas an associate editor from Margret K. McElderry Books, Antheum Books for Young Readers. At my first glance, I was blown away by the presentation- I immediately new she put quality time and thought into it. First page, which was on her company's letterhead, was a note of congratulations for taking the step to be critiqued which she recognized as not an easy step to take. Next was recognition of my nice imagery and fluid writing. Then the last third of the page was bullet points filled with questions and opinions. The second page had three examples of bedtime stories to look at and she didn't just list them, she took the time to copy in color the book covers onto the page. Behind that, my manuscript with hand written notes. I really got the sense that she truly wanted to help me improve my writing from the time and care that she put into my critique. She gave me a lot to think about! Some I threw overboard and others started a flood of ideas for rewrites.
     I know a couple of writers that received critiques like mine and never paid to have another critique done or left that piece behind because he/she was devastated by the critique. Words of advice- detach from your beloved manuscript and read your critique with an open mind. Everyone is unique, therefore, opinions will vary. Look at a critique like a map and like any map, there are several directions to go. There maybe routes that you never thought of before that seem worth exploring and there will be others that say to you "that's not the direction to sail!" So appreciate the map  for what it is and use the routes that you think will improve your story and hopefully an editor will think so too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My First Writer's Conference

In October of last year I went to my first writer's conference through SCBWI. Learning the way editors work was an amazing reality for me. The only experience I've had with an editor was my dear friend Joyce who years ago, was a script editor on "Days of Our Lives." Her job was all about the red pen.

In the literary world, I was pleased to find out that an editor is more like a coach guiding you to a tighter, clearer and more powerful story. I was especially impressed by Greg Ferguson, editor and cover art director at Egmont, USA who spoke at this conference. His enthusiasm shined through when he spoke of one of his projects and what impressed me, was his ability to recognize the core of the story and his willingness to work with the writer to get it published without infringing on his creativity. No red pen slashing going on, I was thrilled to discover! But later, bummed to find out that Greg doesn't accept manuscripts with anthropomorphism.

 Pitch sessions you had to pay extra and sign up for. Thinking it would be done with everyone watching, I decided against it. Some how I ended up on the the printout for a pitch session, unprepared, I went for it anyway. I thought what do I got to lose and perhaps this is all in divine order. The sessions took place in a separate room where you sat at a table across from an editor or an agent and pitched your story for five minutes like "speed dating." I've never tried speed dating because it wasn't around when I was dating but looking back, some of my dates would've been better under the "speed" format!

So there I was in front of an agent with the clock ticking. I got her to laugh with a line in my book- good start. I was attempting to sum it up when I saw another pitcher approaching; it looked like I was out. I stood up and the agent handed me her business card and asked for me to send the first 50 pages of my MG!

Afterwards, I was gifted a Corona ( from a fellow CSUF graduate setting up another event in the same hall )  and was the envy of the editors and some thirsty attendees ;-) An awesome ending to my first conference!

When I got home, I took time to go over my first professional book critique that I paid be continued.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Story Time Discovery & A Great MG!

I volunteer every Wednesday at our local library where I help out with "story time" for the little ones. Sometimes I read, ( nice to be using my theatrical training again : )  improvise with one of the animal puppets and or sing along to the "peanutbutter & jelly" song. After stories and songs, there's a craft project that's themed after one of the stories. Today was coloring and glittering a paper dog. It was a small group, so I joined in coloring but skipped the messy glitter part. No, I'm not a Virgo; I'm just not into glitter and how it sticks to everything it touches unless it's for a costume. It was especially fun today seeing a little boy respond to the repeating phrase in the picture book about a dog, of course. He giggled with joy every time he heard the repeating phrase and would repeat the phrase himself. It was nice discovery for me; definitely something to keep in mind when writing PBs. One of mine has a fun repeating phrase but the other one doesn't, but I don't think I'll change it.

This afternoon I finished reading "The Tilting House" by Tom Llewellyn. An Awesome MG. I loved that it was written in first person! As a kid, I always loved stories written in first person; it made me feel like the character in the book was my friend and he or she was telling me about his/her world and what was going on which made me feel apart of it. It's funny how I've heard you are not suppose to write in first person until your second or third book which I think is ridiculous! Don't you?? Anyway, the story was fun - filled with all kinds of twists and turns and wonderful characters! I liked how the parents were apart of the adventure too; after hearing that in most MGs, the kids are orphaned or something of the like. Parents played a major role in "A Wrinkle in Time". So I say the heck with the supposed "dos" and "don'ts" and just write a good story and with a lot polishing and tightening, it can be a great story.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Enjoying the Ride

Right now I'm enjoying riding this wave. I love going over my manuscript and finding stronger words to express what is going on and discovering my re"pet"itive words. "Pets" are nice to have just not in my writing. Then there is always a few "be" verbs that need action! Clarifying my characters through their voice and attitude is another. The critiques of my team always fuel my wheels of creativity too. Then there are paragraphs that I love just the way they are. I become the reader only when I print out my manuscript, how about you? As the reader, I discover a whole new territory of rewrites.
My MG is about 23,000 words and counting and the photos posted are part of my inspiration. I took all the photos except for two. That's my profile with the butterfly who had made its cocoon in my house.What an event! The hand is mine with the butterfly and the dragonfly. The butterfly I rescued from the middle of the street not far from my home. The dragonfly I found traumatized on our washroom floor when I rescued him/her. I wonder what will be next.

Getting my 1200 word picture book down to 700 words was the major editing exercise! So different from my MG!! Hey, the challenges of my wave is what makes it exciting.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Cea of Rewrites"

Venturing out on my "cea" of rewrites, I dove into the double spacing and endless editing. While I was swimming in rewrites of my MG (middle grade), two picture books (PBs) floated to the surface. Then titles and outlines for other books knocked on my imagination door, so I had to take time to entertain them too, one being a YA novel that was inspired by something I inherited from my father ( more on that later). Endlessly drifting in my "cea" of rewrites, it was time for someone to throw me a line.
        A girlfriend, who had been writing picture books, threw me one and got my critique wave rolling. Next, was my client, who is the librarian in the children's section at my local branch. Fridays at lunch, she would go over my work. Her insights were invaluable and my wave was building. After joining a small critique group through SCBWI,  my wave had taken shape. It's a big wave but the shore is insight.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Book-My Process Continued

The rough, rough draft was finished 4/24/11 but it was just the beginning! Thankfully, I had time to dive in and do my research. The Internet, what a gift! I began to read sights on children's writing. I organized favorite files titled children's writing, author's websites & blogs, publishers, editors and agents. I joined Clubhouse Insider which is a wealth of information that has a monthly newsletter on the biz, along with how-to ebooks to download and real time Q & A. I became a member of SCBWI and I got a library card! I hadn't had one since my college days and I hadn't stepped a foot in our local library until May of 2011. The library was such a fun place for me as a kid; my mother took me there every two weeks or so. I have rediscovered that fun! It's an adventure sailing through the shelves to see what middle grade books I fish out to read! My book is middle grade so this is the area I chartered first. I was also fortunate to be in a small town where two independent bookstores existed that I could walk to. The book stores offered what was new. There, I would sit down and thumb through the books and write down publishing houses that looked like a good fit for my book(s).

Armed with information, I enter the "CEA of Re-Writes."  Journey to be continued.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Picking up where I left off

I'm sure my one sentence kept you hanging in suspense! It took so much time for me to set up my blog that I was too tired to blog! Now, blog what? I wanted to chronicle my writing process but I haven't discovered yet where to do that. Soon, I'll visit the Oracle of Blog to guide me out of this fog! For now, a quick sum up - sort of.
      I woke up one morning with my children's book idea almost six years ago.  A year later, I wrote down the idea & title after watching Horton Hears a Who at our local little movie theatre. Yes, I started with a Seussical rhyming prologue which eventually ended up in the editing shredder! Any of you love your shredder as much as me?? During my five years of writing I never picked up a children's book or did any research on "how to" I just wanted to get everything out of me and into my laptop. I of course, had childhood memories of Charlie and the Choclate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and a Wrinkle in Time. Interesting how different it is reading those classics as an adult, wouldn't you agree? Anyway, I wrote every chapter without editing along the way; if I did that, I wouldn't be here blogging on and on.
     April of 2011, Easter Sunday late morning I'm late for the family gathering but I finished my book!  (to be continued)