Tag Archives: agents

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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WHAT COULD YOU WIN?

As I was writing my previous post, I had a moment of spontaneity. Blame it on Valentines Day. Cupid must have whispered into my ear, “Hey Mar, why not make this a giveaway?”

Because I was inspired unsuspectingly, I didn’t give much thought to the contest or the gift but after two days I came up with something I think any writer would like. I know I would (that is why I also ordered one for myself). I decided to have a customized bracelet made up (The kind Lance Armstrong made famous-You know “Livestrong”).

So far, I only have one entrant but hopefully that will change (If not then I’m sure Amy will be happy).

Click on the Link below to get a peek of what the bracelet looks like. It is a silicone wrist band with I WRITE MY OWN ENDINGS on one side and I WRITE BECAUSE I CAN on the other.

Click on the link below to see a sample. In case you missed the post here was the 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?)

The contest will end Monday at 11:30 a.m. I am not making you do anything special. If you would like to mention it on Twitter please feel free to do so. You could mention it in a blog if you’d like, I think that would be A*W*E*S*O*M*E.

BRACELET

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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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Not Everything Can Be Made Up When Writing Fiction

Writing fiction can be extraordinary fun. You get to create worlds, explore myths and dabble with creation. You can write about a Stratabear (completely made up) living on a cloud drinking raindrops while sprinkling rays of sunshine on unsuspecting guests. You can make this rare bear have a super long tail, cat like whiskers and tye-dyed eyes.

Yes, fiction can be fun but it is important to remember not everything should be made up if you want to be taken seriously as a writer. If you are writing about how the Stratabear only comes off of the cloud to feed his honeysuckle sucking habit, you cannot say that his favorite month to suck the sweet flower is December. Why not? Because, Honeysuckle does not grow in December. (If you want it to be December, you must come up with an explanation of why it is growing in December so if the reader questions this you have an answer ready)

You can have the most imaginative piece of work but if the facts are wrong, your highly fantastical tale may get dismissed.

When I began writing fiction, I thought every thing could be made up and nothing had to be checked. Thanks to several writing courses I learned that lack of research is a quick way to get your work dismissed.

Below is a list of things to think about when creating fiction.

• If you are writing a period piece, familiarize yourself with the era. Eg. What names were popular? What style of clothing was worn? What was going on in the world?
• If you mention a plant or flower make sure you are in the right month. (See above, Honeysuckle does not grow in December)
• If you mention a real town, make sure you know facts about that town such as the weather patterns, schools, landmarks etc.
• If you mention a famous piece of literature make sure you have read it and know who wrote it. (Imagine saying something like Stephanie loved Romeo and Juliet, it was one of her favorite stories by Hemingway) Something like this might get your manuscript tossed into a paper shredder
• If you are writing about a character with a specific occupation, be sure you know what that occupation entails.
• If you are writing about natural disasters, make sure you are in the right State. E.g. Pennsylvania is not known for large Earthquakes. It doesn’t mean that PA can never have an earthquake, but it does mean that the characters won’t be complaining that they are sick of living in PA because of the Earthquakes (Unless of course you make up a futuristic story that explains why all of the sudden PA suffers from frequent quakes).

I can go on and on but I think the point has been made. Writing fiction does not mean that you never have to research. Get your facts straight. Don’t jeopardize your career because you didn’t feel like doing the legwork.

Are you a fiction writer? What do you love about writing fiction?

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Thinking about Writing is Not Writing, but…

Too often, I find myself thinking about writing while driving, thinking about writing while working, thinking about writing while sitting on the couch which leads to me telling myself Hey Mar, thinking about writing is not writing.
Thinking about writing is not writing but it may be just as important. I have found that a lot of my best ideas came at my laziest of moments. There have been times where I sat down to write only to come up with nothing. I’d feel sorry for myself and decide that instead of wrestling with the emptiness of my mind, I’d go take a nap. Sure, the first few seconds I’d curse myself and call myself some unflattering names but then something almost magical would happen. As I lay there in a stupor a blink of an idea would flicker. A character I’d never met would introduce itself. A scenario I hadn’t imagined would dance across my thoughts and before I knew it, I was jumping off of the couch.
Why didn’t the ideas come to me while sitting in my writing chair? Why didn’t these characters say hello when my fingers were tapping the keyboard? Why didn’t the scenario shout to me when I was sitting there staring at a blank page?
I have come to the realization that our brains need rest and much like a baby sometimes they don’t act on command. It is easy to think about what you will write when you are not writing because nothing is expected of you in that moment. Your mind is free to roam. It’s not in the spotlight so to speak therefore it is filtering out junk without you even realizing.
I think I figured it out. We have to trick our minds into thinking we are not going to write. We have to play reverse psychology with our own psyches.
If you make mental notes when you are thinking about writing, you might find a plethora of material waiting for you when you sit down to actually write.

Do you think about writing more than you write?
Where are some places you find yourself thinking about writing?
Do you agree that once you walk away from writing that your mind fills with great writing material?

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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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TEN BLOG SUBJECTS I THOUGHT ABOUT WRITING TODAY BUT DIDN’T BECAUSE IT IS ONE OF THOSE DAYS.


1. Writing A Novel is Like Putting Together A Puzzle

2. Great Holiday Gifts For Writers

3. How Many Words Could Be Written In One Day If You Vowed To Stay Off of the Internet

4. How Journaling Has Helped Me Remember What I Want To Write

5. How Distractions Can Kill The Writing Mood

6. Critiquing Etiquette

7. How Writing Has Changed My Life

8. Thinking About Writing is Not Writing

9. Declaring Yourself A Writer

10. Writing Mojo – Some Days You Have It Some Days You Don’t

I wanted to write a blog today, I really did, but when I sat down to write a few things happened. My two-year old opened a bottle of nail polish and spilled it on my brand new leather couch (thankfully I wiped it up in time and no permanent damage was done). I got a phone call from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while. My dogs informed me they were hungry and pleaded that I get up and feed them. It is one of those days where you plan on doing a lot more than you actually do. If I were to write one of the above blogs, which one would you be most interested in reading? Whichever topic gets the most comments will be the next blog I write.

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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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I’m I a writer and I’m Thankful for…


Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of today, I am going to list everything I am thankful for as far as writing goes. I’d love to hear what my fellow writers are thankful for, so please feel free to leave a comment so we can compare.

1. I am thankful for being able to recognize that my passion in life is writing.

2. I am thankful for my fellow writers. I have connected with so many wonderful authors that have given me critiques, offered me support and provided me with inspiration. I truly believe that a writer cannot become a great writer without the help of other writers.

3. I am thankful for agents. I do not have an agent as of yet (hopefully that will be changing soon) but I appreciate all of the work they do for authors. A good agent will help a writer gain recognition, cut a book deal and set the path for a great journey.

4. I am thankful for the internet. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress have introduced me to talented individuals who I might have never had a chance to meet.

5. I am thankful for The Institute of Children’s Literature. The courses I took with the ICL educated me on the craft of writing and encouraged me to believe in myself and the stories I tell. I am also thankful for the two wonderful instructors Melissa Stewart and Kevin McColley who taught me how to show not tell, write with emotion, set up a manuscript and edit my work (plus so much more).

6. I am thankful for publishers. The publishers are the kings of the writing jungle. The publishers make the writers dreams become reality. I’m thankful that they believe in the written word and work hard every day to keep writers writing and readers reading.

7. I’m thankful for the people who love to read. Without the readers there would be no use for the writers.

8. I am thankful for the gifts of creativity and imagination.

9. I am thankful for informative sites such as Query Tracker, Writer’s Digest, Guide to Literary Agents and any other site or blog that offers assistance to writers.

10. I am thankful for libraries and book stores.

I’m sure there are a dozen more things that I can add but for now that concludes my list. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Eat, write, and be merry, for tomorrow your dreams may come true.

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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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