Category Archives: query

Querying?

You finished your manuscript, hooray! The hard part is over right? Don’t be so sure. The querying process can be discouraging, but luckily there are a few great sites out there that will help walk you through it. By visiting these sites and learning how to master query writing, I have gained more requests and less denials. Receiving a request for a partial or full manuscript is one of the most exhilarating moments for a writer. I have received requests that were later denied but I know thanks to everything I learned from the sites I am about to list, I got a little closer to my dream becoming a reality.
Good luck querying. You never know when your query will end up at the right place at the right time.

Literary Rambles-Spotlighting Children’s Book Authors, Agents, and Publishing. Casey McCormick does a great job with her blog. I have used her blog most often when querying. I love reading the agent interviews. At the end of each interview she lists what genre the agents are willing to represent, what their yearly sales have been and how other writers feel about them as agents.

Guide to Literary Agents Blog. This writer’s digest blog hosted by Chuck Sambuchino is inspiring and informative. Chuck features new agent alerts, agent interviews and agency news. When I want to be inspired, I read his successful queries posts. The post lists actual queries that earned writers their agents. At the end of the queries, he interviews the agents and asks them what about the particular query grabbed their attention.

Miss Snarks First Victim Another great blog for writers. Miss Snark offers advice to writers, critiques query letters and partial manuscripts. She is visited by anonymous agents who also offer their help. You will also find lots of fun contests on her blog.


Agent Query
– For seven years in a row, this site has been recognized by Writer’s Digest to be one of the best websites for writers. This free site offers a ton of information. You will find informative pieces, searchable databases, agency profiles, publishing news and e-publishing help. If you have not visited this site, race over now.

Query Tracker This fabulous site allows you to organize and track your query submissions. It also offers agent statistics, comments from others who have or are in the process of querying and an online community. They also have a category dedicated to the top ten. You will discover which agents are most likely to request, which ones are known for not responding and who are the hardest ones to land.

Query Shark– A blog offering help for fiction queries. All queries must be submitted to the Query Shark for consideration. If your query is chosen, The Query Shark may offer a critique and instructions on how to make it stronger. Reading the revised queries are great for inspiration. You are also allowed to offer comments.

What sites or materials do you refer to when writing a Query letter?

 

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10 Reasons Writers Can be Labled Crazy


1. They are forever talking to themselves
2. They have imaginary friends
3. They are known to cyber stalk agents, editors and publishers
4. They often go into a zone making them appear catatonic
5. They can be found wearing the same clothes for days, especially when hammering out final drafts and edits
6. At any given time you can find them laughing out loud or crying uncontrollably while no one else is sitting by them (The outside world does not realize they might have just thought of a great ending or an extremely funny scene)
7. They often stare at people which others may find rude, but to us it is observation
8. They possess many obsessive compulsive qualities such as checking their e-mail every two minutes, looking up their blog statistics every five minutes and lurking around twitter to see if an agent they queried mentions something that can possibly relate to what they sent
9. Interrupting them can cause them to shake and scream
10. They live in fantasy worlds

Did I miss anything?

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Why Writers Needs To Be Like The Bear

When I was a little girl, I spent time singing songs with my father. One of my favorites was “The Bear Went Over The Mountain.” I loved the tune of the song but didn’t understand why we had to keep singing the same lyrics and why the bear never saw anything other than another mountain. The other day I found myself singing this song and for the first time, I realized exactly what I was singing about and how it could pertain to me the writer. A writer is constantly climbing mountains only to get to the top and see there is another mountain to climb.

Think about the process of writing. An idea is sparked (Woo-hoo! Something is brewing), you feel inspired. You are thrilled that you have found something to write about. You take that idea and begin creating a story. All the thoughts that percolate in your head are exciting and you think this will be easy. But then, you hit a snag. The idea that seemed so simple is not flowing as effortlessly as you imagined. You come to the realization you have just climbed your first mountain. The only view from the top is another mountain.

You scribble down an outline. Fill in the blanks (High five the imaginary editor in your mind) and bang your story out. Seeing your thoughts manifest is thrilling. You complete the story and let it sit for a few days.

After some time has passed, you pull back out your work in progress and see errors that must be fixed. You edit, reedit (Try to shut up the loud shouts of self doubt echoing through your head and attempt to give yourself your millionth pep talk). When all is said and done you pat your self on the back for reaching the top of that mountain.

It’s time to start querying. You replenish your dehydrated mind and begin submitting. You feel pumped. Surely, someone will see the brilliance in your work and offer you representation. Days turn into weeks which turn into months. The smile that was decorating your face has been replaced with a frown. Rejections pour in and self doubt revisits. You are about to give up when an unexpected e-mail arrives and you are invited to send your full manuscript to a very cool agent. Where are we at? The bottom of another mountain getting ready to climb back up hoping when we do we will finally see that magical land we have been searching for.

When the “super cool” agent ends up rejecting your manuscript, you feel like you just fell off a cliff. You pick yourself up and begin scaling again.

A writer is never done. Their journey is long, the hills are endless, and the destinations are not known. Once you reach one goal you immediately must set another one. We must be like the Bear. We must keep climbing.

Share with us a moment when you reached a goal in writing. What happened once that goal was met? Did you climb another mountain?

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My First Literary Interview

Lydias Literary Lowdown with Lydia Aswolf 3/1/2011 – WGGM | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio.

 

I recently was interviewed by Lydia Aswolf over at Lydia’s Literary Lowdown. It was my first literary interview. She was fabulous and asked me some great questions. We talked about the journey a writer takes, where my inspiration comes from, finding time to write and the process of shopping my book around (The Graveyard Five). Today, I am posting the interview on my blog. I hope you like what you hear. Happy Writing!

I am trying to build my platform. What are some things that you have done to try and build a platform?

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Writing About Love Giveaway

Happy Valentines Day! Love, aah yes, it’s what makes the world go around. We all look for it, give it, receive it and would have a hard time living without it. Love is a writer’s friend. If you are a writer then chances are you have written about love.

Today is a good day to write. It is a day of observation. Take the time to focus on what emotions are being displayed. Is there a co-worker that is in a terrible mood because her and her significant other called it quits and today she has no valentine?

Did you witness flowers being delivered to an unsuspecting person? How did they respond?

I’m willing to bet that every novel written has some element of love within its pages. It can be materialistic love, sibling love, romantic love, love of power, platonic love or unconditional. Love is not just mushy. It can be the root to violence, insecurities, and betrayal.

Today’s post is a writing exercise. It has two parts.

First Part- Take one of your favorite novels down from the shelf and begin exploring the pages. Where did the author write about love? What type of scene did they create? How did you feel after reading their words? Did anything about their words inspire you?

Second Part- Create your own love scene. Remember it doesn’t have to be sunshine, rainbows, kisses and hugs. It could be storms, rocky roads and sacrifice.

Writing Prompt: Lexie stepped off of the train (What does Lexie stepping off of a train have to do with love? Was she meeting up with the guy she left everything for? Was she returning home to tend to a sick parent? Was she following her dreams?)

You could go anywhere with one sentence. What the heck let me see where you take this and you might win a surprise. I’m in the mood for a giveaway.

Make me feel love in 100 words or less and you may be a winner.

Because this giveaway was spontaneous I do not yet know what the gift will be but I promise it will be well thought out.

Love and Kisses xoxoxoxo

Maribeth

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She’ll Be Coming

For the last few months I have waited with bated breath to hear back from my dream agent on whether or not she liked my manuscript and if she would be offering representation. It was a three step process. First, she liked my query and asked to see the first three chapters. I hurriedly sent her the requested material and crossed my fingers. I waited a few months. I was thrilled when the e-mail came and she asked me to forward her the full manuscript. I was so close to having an agent of my own. But, instead of getting an offer I got rejected. It was a very helpful rejection but nonetheless a rejection.

So, here I am back to square one. There has been one song that keeps playing over and over in my mind, it is…

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Critiquing Etiquette


Today’s post will be dedicated to critiquing etiquette. In my previous post, I listed a bunch of blogs that I thought about writing but didn’t and promised to write the one that got the most comments. Jan from Crazy Jane the writing life of Jan Morrison left the first comment advising she’d be interested in reading a blog on proper critique etiquette. Jan, this one is for you. Medeia Sharif commented that she liked “Thinking about Writing is Not Writing”, stay tuned for that blog post.

Early in my writing career I learned that to become a great writer you must trust others to help you see the error of your ways. I was lucky enough to find a great critique group lead by an excellent writer. Throughout the years some of the writers left the group for different reasons but every one of them helped me learn the craft.
I believe the most important thing to remember when critiquing the work of another is to do it with class.
* Don’t be sarcastic
* Don’t critique the person, critique their work
* Don’t compare their writing to yours
* Don’t focus on negative things only
* Don’t tell them that their story will never sell
* Don’t make them hate writing
* Don’t be afraid to be honest
Where you are weak someone else is strong and vice versa. I might be weak in punctuation and grammar but strong in plot structure. I could have a great plot but if my commas are in the wrong places and my sentences are run-ons, an agent or publisher might reject me quicker than a child going down a water slide.

*Do let the writer know any spots that confuse you. Sometimes the writer thinks they are conveying exactly what walks around in their mind when they are not.

* Be honest but tactful. Always add some sugar to your words. Don’t make your fellow writer feel like they have just been punched in the stomach. Do say something like “I like the imagery in this scene but I am not sure it offers any merit to the story.”
Don’t say something like “This scene is completely irrelevant. I think my fifth grader could do better.”

*If you are going to offer a critique, don’t be lazy about it. There is nothing worst than receiving a critique that only has a comment every ten pages. If you think the story and writing is superb and needs no adjustments for several pages list something positive, like “Wow, I just read through two chapters without stopping,” or “I loved this sentence.” The smallest comment can build confidence.

*Critique someone else’s work the way you would like your work critiqued.

*Try and keep your deadlines. I have only participated in online critique groups. I have never attended a face to face critique session. The way our online critique group worked was we had six members, three would submit in the beginning of the month and three at the end. We requested that all critiques be sent in no longer than three weeks. (You can decide your own time frames).

*If you are providing a critique and sending it via e-mail, be sure that your comments are written in a different font color. Imagine how difficult it would be to search for comments if everything was in black.

*If you cannot give a critique for any reason please let the receiver know. It is not nice to make them wait only to tell them later that you didn’t get to it. Sometimes life interferes with commitments. When this happens it is okay to inform your peers that you won’t be able to offer a critique this time around due to whatever circumstance arises.
An instructor once told me to immediately start editing after receiving a critique. She explained it is better because everything will be fresh in your mind. I have found that this cannot always be done. It is okay to skim through a critique and then tuck it away for a week. Many times comments or suggestions that made me want to cry initially became much clearer and made perfect sense a few days later.

What did I forget? Are you in a critique group? What makes a good critique group?

*There are no mistakes in writing only lessons to be learned*

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Interview with Helene Boudreau: Author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings

Hi Hélène, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my first ever blog interview. I’d like to start by introducing you to my readers. Hélène Boudreau is the author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. She writes fiction and non-fiction for kids and lives in landlocked Ontario, Canada but spends summers at her seaside childhood home on the Atlantic Ocean.

Hélène’s book was just launched on December 1st and is now available everywhere books are sold.

Okay Hélène, let the interview begin.

Can you tell us a little about Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings?

Thanks so much for having me! Here’s the description from the back of the book:
First zit. First crush. First…mermaid’s tail?
If Jade hadn’t been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?
Most. Embarassing. Moment. Ever.
Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But this revelation raises a serious question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?
Jade is determined to find out. But how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic, mer-girl go about doing that, exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend Cori, and her crush, Luke?
This summer is about to get a lot more interesting…

What inspired the idea for the book?

Growing up, my dad used to take us for boat rides from the Atlantic Ocean, through a canal, and into the fresh water lakes of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We had to get through a set of boat locks en route and I often wondered if the purple jellyfish in the ocean knew about the white jellyfish in the lake. It amazed me that two totally different underwater worlds could be separated by just a mile-long canal. That was the inspiration for the mer-world in this book.

The main character, Jade, came from conversations I had with my daughters after reading Mélanie Watt’s picture book ‘Scaredy Squirrel’. The book is about a neurotic squirrel who’s afraid of everything. We were getting a bit silly, talking about birds that were afraid of flying or fish that were afraid of swimming; which led to the idea of an aqua-phobic mer-girl. It just seemed like such a ridiculous idea that I just had to see where it led. Little did I know; it would lead to this book!

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote the story over two National Novel Writing Months (NaNoWriMo) as a matter of fact. The first time (in Nov ’07) I wrote about 30, 000 words. The second time (in Nov ’08) I finished it and began revising. I kept on revising until I signed with my agent in June ’09 and until I signed with my publisher in Oct ’09 and then revised some more until it finally went to press in August ’10. So, in total, I think it was close to a three year process.

I’m always curious about other writer’s journeys to publication. Can you tell us how long you spent querying? Did you receive immediate interest or did it take a while for an agent to request your manuscript?

I began querying agents with this project in March of ’09 but that was after spending a full ten months querying another project with no success. By the time I signed with my agent, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency in June ’09, I had sent out about 113 queries (you can see my query dissected on the Guide to Literary Agents blog)over a twelve month period. Once Lauren started submitting my book to publishers it was surprisingly quick (to me!); it took only about six weeks until we had an offer from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.

I was so used to waiting that it seemed like a blink of an eye!

What genre is your book?

I’d describe it as a light-hearted contemporary fantasy. With a dash of Epsom salt.

Do you have any other books in the works?

The second volume of my chapter book series Red Dune Adventures / Nimbus Publishing will be published in spring/ 2011. It’s called Water Hazard and it’s an eco-adventure mystery for 6-9 year olds. I also have a picture book coming out with Candlewick in 2013 but that’s still in the early stages.

What is your favorite time to write?

I have two little chicklets, 7 and 9 years-old, and you would think my best writing time would be when they’re at school but it’s actually when we’re all at home or at the library together; usually while they’re doing their homework or reading. It’s so nice to work alongside one another, taking breaks to ask questions or to crack jokes. I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from conversations with my girls.

Do you have a favorite writing space?

I work from a laptop in various places around the house. I work on my treadmill desk for part of the day, the kitchen counter for a little while or parked on the couch if I feel like putting my feet up. I like the flexibility of being able to move around.

If you could offer a fellow writer advice what would it be?

Foremost; read, read, read/ write, write, write/ revise, revise, revise.

Then eat chocolate and repeat/ repeat/ repeat.

It’s really a combination of staying on task, working really hard, not being afraid to write junk during your first draft, revising until the cows come home, asking for help when you need it, and believing in yourself.

I have always loved mermaids. I especially loved the movies Splash and Aquamarine. Do you hope to see your book on the big screen?

I think most writers see their characters in their heads and can fully imagine them on the silver screen. That would be a lovely dream come true! Equally thrilling is to get to ‘hear’ your characters, which I have the pleasure of doing since Dreamscape Media has produced the audiobook of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. In fact, they’re doing a giveaway of three autographed copies until December 20th if you LIKE their fan page on Facebook. Jen Taylor does an AMAZING job as Jade. See for yourself; you can listen to the first chapter right here!

I love the cover of your book. Were you involved in the selection of the book cover?

Thankfully, no. The fabulously talented design team at Sourcebooks deserves all the credit there. I would have come up with something far dorkier and much less awesome. I love it, too!

I always love to see who authors thank in the acknowledgement section of the book. Is there anyone special that you thanked?

There are so many people who helped me shape this book into its final form so acknowledgements are always so hard for me. It’s impossible to name everyone and I end up having to be vague and utterly uncharming.

I dedicated the book to my agent, though. Because she laughed in all the right places.

Will you be doing any book signings?

Mostly in Canada but I can send signed bookplates to bookstores or book clubs. We have the technology! 

Hélène, thank you so much for stopping by. I’m sure your book will be a huge success. I have already added it to my Christmas wish list. Speaking of wish lists, what books are you looking forward to reading?

Thanks so much for adding Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings to your Christmas list! I’m really looking forward to reading my fellow Sourcebooks author, Kari Townsend’s The Samantha Granger Experiment and my friend Marina Cohen’s Mind Gap, Natalie Hyde’s Saving Armpit and Mahtab Narsimhan’s The Deadly Conch

One more question before you go. I see you are a fellow lover of chocolate. If you can have anything dipped in chocolate what would it be?

Any kind of fruit: strawberries, cherries, pineapple…SO yummy. And it can be any kind of chocolate, too. Toblerone, Cadbury, melted chocolate bunny—I’m not picky.

Okay, I lied, one more. I assume every writer has a favorite word. My favorite word is BELIEVE. What is your favorite word?

Dinglehopper. It can stand in for so many things!

I think my first blog interview was a success. Helene’s answers were AWESOME! Make sure you add her book to your wish list. I can’t wait to read all about Jade. Leave a comment and let me know how you think the interview went.

You can find Hélène on Twitter, Facebook and on her Website.

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Surrounding Yourself With Inspiration

Yesterday I spent time on my back porch looking out at my yard. The sight of my withering Weeping Willow saddened me. Winter is approaching and the green weepy leaves that I love so much are slowly but surely disappearing for the season. As I dwelled on the soon to be bare tree a realization occurred to me. I surround myself with the very things that inspire me to write. I won’t say I did this consciously because I really do not think I did. I have loved trees for as long as I could remember (Weeping Willows are my favorite). I can go on and on about trees and how you will probably find one in each of my stories (even if it is just a small mention) but I will get back to the point I’m trying to make. I believe that most if not all writers surround themselves with inspiration (whether conscious or not). After coming to my realization, I looked around my house (especially my writing room) and found many items that I have placed throughout my home that inspire me. Here is my list.

1. Trees- I know I already mentioned them, but I have to add them to my list.

2. Quotes- I love any type of plaque or picture that have a quote across it. A quote can inspire me in so many ways. It also can give me that push that I need when I’m having an off day. Some of the quotes that surround me are:

*Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail-Ralph Waldo Emerson (Love, Love, Love this quote).

*Home is where your story begins

*The best way to predict the future is to create it

*Even if the voices aren’t real, They have some pretty good ideas (This one makes me smile. I think it’s a great quote for writers).

*Laughter is the music of the heart

*Family, where life begins and love never ends

I stumbled upon the one pictured above(Creativity is a drug I cannot live without by Cecil B. DeMille) today and instantly fell in love with it

3. My writing diplomas. I have two diplomas from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Every time I look at the framed diplomas that hang upon my wall, I am reminded that I have taken steps to better myself and hopefully further my writing career.

4. Photographs: Pictures of family and friends can be very inspiring. If I’m writing a scene that involves friendship, all I have to do is look at a picture of a friend and instantly memories, emotions, and conversations pop up. I especially love the pictures of my father (he passed away two years ago) because I know he was my biggest fan. I can still hear him say “Finish that book Maribeth,” or “Don’t give up honey, you are a good writer.”

5. Books: I was thrilled this year when my husband came home with a beautiful bookshelf. I am inspired for many different reasons by the books that line my shelves. A glance at them can push me to keep writing because I want to see my name on the cover of a book. I also can be inspired by lines in the books that other authors wrote. Most of all they inspire me to keep writing because I know that every one of the authors were once unknown.

I’d love to hear what types of items surround you. Maybe something that inspires you will inspire me as well.

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THE ART OF OBSERVING

Have you ever been in a situation where you catch another person looking you up (or down) from head to toe? Your first thought is probably something like “What is she (or he) looking at?” This is the exact thing a writer must do in order to create characters, develop scenes and incorporate details. Imagine if every book you read had only a plot? What if there was no character description, no setting imagery or no sounds mentioned? I think you would agree that most readers would find the book BORING. It is the incorporation of a writer’s observation that brings a book to life. A dark haired man is bland. A dark haired man with a receding hairline, beer gut and a tattered white t-shirt adorned with sweat soaked arm pits becomes interesting (or disgusting). A scene where a girl sits by herself on a bench in a park isn’t much of anything. Adding detail to the scene gives the reader a visual and helps bring them into the life the writer created. E.g. A teenage girl sits on a spray painted park bench under an oak tree and notices a large groups of kids huddled around the basketball court watching grown men play a game of hoops. The reader can now envision the setting because of the addition of minor details, such as the spray painted bench, the oak tree and the basketball game.
If you are a writer think of yourself as a sponge. Everything around you should be soaked up.
If you want to master the art of observing you must do the following.

*Wherever you are take in the sounds. Practice closing your eyes and assimilate all that is audible. How many sounds throughout the day do you ignore because they have become too common? E.g. Birds chirping, horns beeping, sirens, dogs barking etc.

*Watch the Activity. Try sitting in a highly active place (restaurant, park, casino, sports arena, concert, etc.) and write down what is happening around you. What is the waitress doing? Is there a child sliding down a slide for the first time? Are there groups of people listening to music in the parking lot prior to the concert they are anxiously waiting for?
*Pay attention to emotions. Does the gambler look excited or frustrated? Weddings, funerals and sporting events are great for observing emotions.

*Watch for mannerisms. Mannerisms as I have discussed in previous posts make characters relatable. Does the young waitress have a habit of licking her lips? Does the lead singer jump up and down before the start of a new song? Is the football player known for blessing himself before he leaves the huddle?

*Don’t forget about nature. Nature is free art. Getting in touch with nature may sound corny to some but it is a must for a writer.

*Watch the animals. Don’t ignore the birds that chirp on the telephone wire, dismiss the squirrels that scurry up the tree or fail to pay attention to the neighborhood cat. They all can add to a scene.

*Make note of a person’s sense of style. Do they have a flair that begs to be imitated? Do they appear sloppy looking? Is their pants one size too small or two sizes too big? All of this can be used for character building.

*Check out the atmosphere. Make it a point to scan your surroundings. If you are in a friend’s home look at their décor for inspiration. What unique things do they have that can add depth to a scene. Does your favorite restaurant have booths or tables covered in linen?

Promise yourself that this week you will take time to really observe. Soak in your surroundings. But, remember that too much detail can be overkill and turn a reader off. Find a way to add your observations in a non obvious way.

What observations have I missed that you think are important?
Where do you like to go to observe?

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