Closing to New Submissions

Temporarily Closing to New Submissions

I will be closing to new submissions as of October 10th. I need to work my way through an enormous backlog of submitted work right now. Plus a tall pile of client manuscripts threatens to kill me daily. (Or maybe that’s my clients waiting for comments/edits.) Please note that my coworkers at The Knight Agency will still be accepting new material. As always, you can find our agency submission guidelines and other information at The Knight Agency’s site.

If I request or have requested material from you already, either by email or at a conference, please do send it. Previous queries do not count as new submissions, nor do conference pitches. If you are waiting to hear back on a query/partial/manuscript, thank you for your patience. I’ll be getting back to you as soon as possible.

I will reopen to new submissions once I have the current landslide under control. Keep an eye on this blog and/or social media for additional announcements. Thanks!

2017 Writing Goals: 3rd Quarter Check-In

Play Your Writing Goals

Time to review your writing goals for 2017! We’ve entered the final quarter of the year, so grab that list of goals and see where you stand. Or maybe you’re just getting around to making some writing goals. Whatever stage you’re at with your writing, consider where you’d like to go next, and how to get there.

Writing Goals Review

If you set goals for your writing at any point this year, look back and see what you’ve achieved versus where you need to recommit. Maybe you managed to complete some smaller goals, but you’re behind with a big one. Perhaps you focused on a major goal, while some small ones fell by the wayside. Or perhaps circumstances have changed and you need to rework one or more goals to match.

Be honest when you assess your progress, but don’t beat yourself up. Use your goals as a tool, a rudder by which to steer your career as best you can. Sometimes we lose track of what we’re trying to achieve, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Only you know where you should be working harder, and where you have to cut yourself some slack.

Reassess Your Writing Goals

Once you know where you stand, you can determine where you want to go. Maybe you’re on track, and all you need to do is keep working as you have been. Congratulations! But maybe you want to cross a goal off your list as no longer valid, or you need to change the timeline on something you’ve been writing. Don’t hesitate to tweak your goals as necessary. These goals are for you; you get to say what they should be, what’s working and what isn’t.

Writing Goals Going Forward

If you didn’t set goals earlier in the year, do so now. Even with three months left to 2017, you can accomplish plenty to help you move forward with your writing. Commit to writing daily, or consider submitting short work to a contest or for publication. Start researching literary agents, or get your author’s website up and running.

Even if you did set goals for the year, you can certainly add new ones at this stage. Maybe you’ve come up with a new idea for a project that requires some research, or you’re ahead with something and ready for the next step. Goal lists should remain flexible, and not adhere strictly to the calendar year.

Checking in with your writing goals enables you to keep on top of your career and your accomplishments. People typically forget about their new year’s resolutions by March. If you check in on your writing ambitions frequently over the course of the year, you’ll keep them fresh in your mind. So make your list of goals, set some calendar reminders, and go write.

Friday Links Return: Writing Inspiration for Year’s End

Friday Links return! Writing inspiration appears in many forms, and today I offer up some ideas to keep you productive through the end of 2017. During my blog hiatus, I held onto some links that I wanted to share when I started blogging again. That means these links span more than just the past week. But whether you typically get your writing inspiration from reading a great book or an article on craft, these links have something for you.

This Week’s Links:

Micheal Ondaatje opens archive to reveal his writing methods. –  Author Michael Ondaatje has donated his papers to the Harry Ransom Center in Texas.

The 21st-Century Fantasy Trilogy that Changed the Game.The New York Times looks at the writing of N.K. Jemisin, and how it created a new way of looking at epic fantasy.

Go Local: Marketing Books to Targeted Communities. – Jane Friedman advises writers to start where they are when they market their books.

28 Exciting New Books You Need to Read This Fall. – Check out this great list to find new titles to pad your TBR pile.

Shelf Life: Novelist Hanya Yanagihara on living with 12,000 books. – Dream of your own home library? Hanya Yanagihara shows us how it’s done.

You Did What? The Dos and Don’ts of Workshop Etiquette. – Take a look at these tips on how to attend a writing workshop with grace.

13 Upcoming YA Books by Latinx Authors to Start Getting Excited About Right Now – Great new books either out now or soon to be released that will add diversity to your TBR pile.

10 Gritty Crime Novels that Will Take You to the 1970s NYC of The Deuce. – Film and television producers seem fascinated by the 1970s, as evidenced by the new HBO series, The Deuce. These books give a different take on the gritty era.

Other Writing Inspiration:

With the season’s changing, it’s the perfect time to observe what that means where you live. Whether it’s fall or spring in your part of the world, grab a notebook and pen and go people watching one afternoon. What happens to the weather, wardrobes, behavior, the pace of life? This transitional time of year makes for interesting stories. Go take notes.

Friday Links: Random Inspiration for Weekend Writing

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to August! Can’t quite believe it’s already so far into 2017. I hope you’re all having a good month so far and have some excellent plans lined up for your weekend. I’ve got a lot of reading on my plate, between some client projects and submissions backlog, so you know what I’m goiong to be doing. However, I’ve got a fun assortment of links to share with you today, and I hope they encourage you to find a little time for your own reading and writing along with whatever else you’ve got on the calendar. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Illustrating the Arc of a Series – A lovely look at cover design, specifically for Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe books, over the course of a series.

On the Radar: YA Books You Need This Month – Some terrific young adult reads to check out in August.

Jason Reynolds Is the Hardest-Working Man in Washington – A profile of the talented, prolific author, who has three books landing this fall.

The Book Lover’s Guide to Publishing Part 2: Publishing Process – A continuation of the series on publishing at the Penguin Random House blog.

The Rise of Dystopian Fiction: From Soviet Dissidents to 70’s Paranoia to Murakami – Take a look at the different stages of the genre and pick up a few book recommendations in the process.

Sam Shepard on Writing, Reading, and the Promise of Eternal Love – Selections from letters the late actor/playwright sent to Johnny Dark.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing into Summer

Happy Friday! I’m in a summer mood today, even though it’s technically a few weeks off yet. Of course, given my natural tendencies, that just means I want to eat more fruit and ice cream and go read in a nice deck chair this weekend. We’ll see if I can manage some of that. Chances are good the ice cream at least will make the to-do list. And possibly a second viewing of Wonder Woman, which I saw last night and was excellent.

This past week has been typically tense, but I really don’t feel like hashing through it, so I’m just going to move right on to the links portion of our program. There’s a bit of an adventure theme going on, though possibly more arm-chair adventure than the actual sort, but it feels appropriate as we kick off this season of travel and summer reads, at least in this hemisphere. Wherever you live, I hope you find some enjoyment and inspiration from today’s collection of links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

John Grisham Is Launching a Podcast – The author plans to record interviews with various authors when he’s on tour for his latest book this summer.

Nomadic Bookseller Travels All Over France with His Tiny Library on Wheels – This is my kind of tiny house! Technically it’s a bookstore, not a library (librairie is bookstore in French).

10 Things I Did Right as a Debut Novelist – Excellent things to keep in mind, even before you have a book deal.

Denis Johnson Reads the Notes from the Margins – A nice remembrance of the author who passed away last week.

Hydrate Yourself with Sweet Bookish Tumblers and Water Bottles – A fun collection of book-themed travel mugs and bottles to get you ready for the beach, that road trip, or just lying out in your backyard with a great read.

How to Copyright a Book: A Comprehensive Guide – A handy, informative review of when, why, and how you need to tackle this issue, with thanks to Yvonne Shiau for sending me the link.

A Modern Gay Take on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Is Heading Your Way – A reimagining set in Virginia between two men, now streaming through various online vendors.

At a Sword Fight with a Modern-Day Swashbuckler (in a Harlem Basement) – Fun look at a longsword enthusiast in present-day New York City.

Friday Links from North of the Border

Greetings from beautiful Surrey, British Columbia, Canada! I’m in conference mode, hence the somewhat late post today. I intended to schedule something last night but it just never happened, so I’m sneaking in between pitches and dinner to leave you a few goodies for your weekend entertainment. I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. Happy writing!

12 Awesome Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the British Library – For curiosity’s sake or for adventure/travel plans.

Excellent Nonfiction about Girls for Tween and Teen Readers – Great list, whether you’re shopping for the teen reader in your life or for a bit of industry research.

Interview with a Gatekeeper: Algonquin’s Elisabeth Scharlatt – One editor/publisher opens up about the industry.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon – Read all day on October 22nd! Sorry for the late announcement but there’s still time to join in if you want.

17 Short Story Competitions to Enter Before the End of the Year – Pretty much what it says.

What the Deuce: The Curse Words of Charles Dickens – A look at how the author got around the censorship of his time.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing to Pack Your Weekend

Happy Friday, all! I’m currently winging my way to Seattle for the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this weekend, but I’ve got some links for you to keep you busy in my absence. And if you’re going to be at the conference, please say hello! I always love putting faces to names. Have a wonderful weekend whatever you have planned, and don’t forget to schedule some writing time. The end of the year is coming up fast, so tackle those goals while you can. Enjoy!

Literistic – A monthly mailing list of contests, deadlines, and places to submit your work. There’s an extensive version for a small fee, and shorter version for free.

20 Reasons Why You Should Read Literary Magazines – Pretty much what it sounds like, but the list name checks some terrific publications, so if you’re looking to expand your horizons it could be a good source.

Bookselling in the 21st Century: On the Difficulty of Recommending Books – More tales from the booksellers’ trenches.

We Need to Talk About Money: Practicality’s Place in a Writing Education – An interesting look at just where writers should acquire their business acumen.

Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary – For anyone who might be wondering or just plain curious.

131 YA books for Your October to December Radar – A wrap up of the YA titles being released through year’s end.

Who Nominates Writers for the Nobel Prize? – For anyone wondering how Bob Dylan ended up this year’s prize winner in literature.

2016 AWP Conference & Book Fair: A Quick Roundup

As previously mentioned, I recently spent three days wandering around the Los Angeles Convention Center with some 13,000+ writers, editors, agents, booksellers, librarians, and other assorted writing-related people for the 2016 AWP Conference and Book Fair. This isn’t the normal sort of conference I attend. Mostly I go places where they stick me on a panel or have me stand behind a podium and answer questions, and then at some point I will sit across a table from a parade of writers and listen to pitches or possibly critique first pages of their work. What made AWP16 so different and so much fun (not that I don’t enjoy my normal conference experience, because I do) was that this time around I was flying somewhat under the radar. I was an attendee rather than a participant, which meant I had the opportunity to go to panels and sit in the audience and listen to what other people had to say.

Over the course of three days I sat in on some 10-12 panels on a variety of subjects, including a session on visual narrative that looked at illuminated books, graphic novels, and participatory storytelling such as gaming apps; a panel of agents discussing equality and gender on the business side of publishing; the use of film techniques to engage readers in young adult literature; ideas for harnessing the social media skills of a group of writers to provide support and cross marketing; subjects that are (or are not) taboo in young adult fiction; and a discussion of the realms of real and unreal in writing. There were conversations with writers I knew and others I had just met, and hours spent wandering the floor of the main hall where hundreds of small presses, publishers, literary mags, MFA programs, poetry chapbook authors, PR people and others had set up their tables.

Publishing has always been a moving target, an ever-evolving industry that changes shape at the rate of storm clouds. But some trends trumpet more loudly than others. I heard a lot of discussion and debate about diversity in all of its permutations, from the need for more diverse people working in publishing to the importance of championing varied characters in books as well as a spectrum of writers to tell their stories. There were in-depth looks at ways to promote work in this age of social media and a steady increase in competing forms of entertainment, and thoughts on how to harness some of the new forms of technology to tell stories in fresh, exciting ways. But there were also still people lugging tote bags filled with newly acquired books — paperback and hardcover alike. There were halls filled with enchanted listeners as writers read from their latest releases. I saw many aspiring writers bent over notebooks, frantically scribbling notes on advice from the pros. Some things remain forever the same.

There’s no graceful way for me to share every nugget of information I absorbed in those three days. Instead, I offer up a few links to sites and books that I heard about that might provide some inspiration or at least food for thought.

In terms of visual narrative:

Bats of the Republic by Zach Dodson – an illuminated novel that includes hand-drawn maps, letters, and other items that join with the text to tell the story.

A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley by Warren Lehrer – an illuminated novel that features 101 books ostensibly authored by the title character.

PRY novella by Tender Claws – a novella and an app that allows reader interactions designed to put you in the narrator’s experience/thoughts.

In terms of the changing face of publishing:

Literary Publishing in the 21st Century – essays by a variety of writers, editors, etc. on the future of the industry, including the effects of technology, the fight for diversity, and more.

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts – home of the famed VIDA count, which holds magazines accountable for their diversity (now newly expanded to include race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, and ability).

In terms of marketing:

Tall Poppy Writers – a marketing collective started by a group of women’s fiction authors and now somewhat more broad in its scope, the purpose of which was to share social media knowledge and talents and to support each other’s book launches and careers.

Anyone interested in AWP’s annual conference and/or membership in the organization should check out their site: Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

 

Writing in Public: Crafting a Professional Image

(c) Can Stock Photo/ Kesu
(c) Can Stock Photo/ Kesu

There’s a saying: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Well, writers often work in comfy sweats or their pajamas, but the underlying concept still holds true. Writing is a business like any other, and even if you can do the job in solitude, you will eventually need to create a network of colleagues and readers in order to advance your career. You want to consider your public image long before people know who you are, because the things you say and do now — whether in the real world or online — set the scene for your future.

Presenting a professional image starts before you sign onto social media. It starts with determining the image you wish to portray in all facets of your writing career, and that’s something you should think about before you have a book deal. Your professional image affects how you interact with your critique partners — even if they’re your friends, the way you portray yourself in a query letter or at a writer’s conference, and how you handle both your successes and your failures.

Some aspects of being professional might seem obvious. We’ve all seen the writer on Twitter who phrases something poorly or offers up an unpopular opinion and finds themselves in a fast-escalating situation because they refuse to apologize or back out gracefully. There might be name-calling and other rude behavior that’s easily pegged as unprofessional. But what about the less obvious aspects of the job? Here are a few things to consider when you’re fashioning your own professional demeanor.

Treat writing as a job, not a hobby. If you reach the stage where you’re sending out queries, you need to present yourself in a professional, business-like manner.

  • Have your own email address using your own name. There’s no reason to use your joint family email account with your spouse’s name in the From: field. Save that for personal communications, and get yourself a gmail or yahoo address that’s just for you.
  • Do your research. Send submissions per an agency’s guidelines. Be sure they’re looking for the sort of material you’re querying. If you’re cutting and pasting your query letter, double check that you’ve updated both the email address and the name of the agent before you hit send. Don’t forget to proofread.
  • Be sure to follow up with an agent if you receive an offer of representation from someone else, and either thank them for their consideration or ask if they can decide on your material within a reasonable window (depending how soon you need to respond to your existing offer). Don’t leave an agent to read your work a few weeks down the line only to discover it’s no longer available for representation.
  • Keep in mind that a writing career can span decades and you are building a community. You may work with a person down the line who initially rejects you, so maintain good relationships even if you’re not teaming up right now.

Use common sense at public events. If you’re attending readings, conferences, lectures, or any other event where you’ll be representing yourself as a writer, keep your business hat on, even if you’re there with friends and being social.

  • If there’s alcohol, don’t over do it. You don’t want to lose control of your actions or what you’re saying.
  • Be prepared to network. Have business cards with you that include your website and email address, and keep a small notebook and a pen or pencil handy.
  • Be aware of any behavioral guidelines set down by the organizing body, and be sure you adhere to them.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if harassed or put in a vulnerable position. Part of being professional is holding other professionals to the same standard.
(c) Can Stock Photo/ marish
(c) Can Stock Photo/ marish

Approach social media as if dealing with a group of gossipy teenagers. Understand that as nice and intelligent as everyone might seem, there will always be a few people out there looking to get the dirt, to start an argument simply to gain a higher profile, or just to be mean.

  • Keep the business details of your business to yourself. I don’t mean you shouldn’t announce when you’ve signed a book deal, but be careful not to discuss it before you know it’s finalized. If you’re unsure what’s safe to disclose, you’re better off not sharing it. But you can always talk to your agent or editor to find out when certain information — that you’ve sold the book, what your cover art looks like, your release date, etc. — can go public.
  • Never talk about the who/what/where while things are still in play. When your agent has your manuscript out on submission or is negotiating a deal, you should never discuss the process online: not which agents or which imprints or how you think it’s going. It’s tempting to get excited and want to provide updates, but editors can go online, too, and you don’t want to inadvertently weaken your agent’s ability to negotiate by giving away vital information. So keep it off your blog and Facebook and Twitter.

Remember that the internet rarely differentiates between your private and professional selves. Once you put yourself out there wearing your writer’s hat and people get to know you, it will become impossible to have personal moments online except in spaces you lock down. Take precautions to stay safe.

  • Consider maintaining a friends-and-family-only Facebook page separate from your author page, with security settings that keep anyone else from seeing your photos and vacation chatter. Only “friend” a small, select group of people. This will give you a place to engage with those you love without worrying about policing yourself.
  • Be careful about announcing easily identifiable information about yourself on the internet, such as landmarks near your house, your day job, or where your kids attend school. Most people are lovely and will respect your privacy, but stalkers do exist and you don’t need to be a best-selling author or hugely famous to have someone decide they want to follow you in real life.
  • If you will be traveling for personal reasons — as in, not a conference or book signing, etc. — wait until after the trip to share with your readers/fans. Don’t talk the trip up ahead of time, or announce where you’ll be.

And yes, the internet is forever. Or at least close enough. Things you say and regret, even if you delete them, have a habit of turning up when you least expect it.

  • Apologize if you say something that hurts other people. Whether you phrased something badly and it was misunderstood or you genuinely did not understand what you said was offensive, apologize, and state that you’ll do your best not to make the same mistake. Everyone’s human, and most people will understand if you’re genuinely contrite.
  • Realize that there will always be things that will cause an argument online, and pick your battles. Some issues will be more important to you and you will take a stand. Others will probably still be important but maybe less of a priority. Decide what is worth fighting for and what you’re willing to walk away from, in the interest of having time to write and live your life outside of social media.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions. If something gets you hot under to collar, take a breath or two before you respond. You may change your mind, or you may not, but decide how you’re going to respond (or if you’re going to respond) with a clear head.

 

Friday Links: On Taking Over the (Writing) World

Happy Friday, everyone! As January winds down, it’s a good time to take a quick look at some of those goals you set at the start of the year, just to make sure you’re still on track. I know it can be difficult once the holidays are over to keep your plans in mind, especially when your boss and your family have goals of their own that often involve you. Make it a habit to check in with yourself pretty regularly so you don’t forget that your goals are a priority, too.

And with those words of wisdom, I want to give everyone a heads up that this blog will soon be migrating to a designated URL — one of my goals for the new year (and long overdue). Everything will stay live here until I’m satisfied that the new site is up and running properly, with the links functioning and so on, and then there will be a forwarding message to take you to the new location. So don’t be surprised if things look a little different on a near-future visit.

But enough of all that. It’s time for Friday Links! If there’s a theme this week, it’s world domination — at least the world of books. I hope these encourage you to get out there and read and write great things, ignore the naysayers, and take risks with your career. The only one who can do it is you.

14 Secret Habits Every Book-Lover Is Guilty of Having – I know I am. Particularly the one about buying pretty new editions of books I already own.

Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing – A look at how very white the publishing industry still is behind the scenes, and how that affects the diversity of books.

World’s First Free Online Course Dedicated to the Exploration of Literature and Mental Health – Sounds very interesting. Starts Monday, Feb. 1, so get a move on if you want to join.

CTRL-F, DELETE: Word-Trends, Sneaky Clichés, and Other Turns of Phrase You Should Immediately Delete from Your Manuscript – A look at recent trends in incorrect or overly frequent word usage.

What Was Lost? Why Writers Should Value Their Working Drafts – How digitalization has changed the writing — and rewriting — process and what that means for posterity.

Talking Black History and Love Stories with Romance Writing Pioneer Beverly Jenkins – A great interview looking at historical research, diversity in the romance genre, and how Beverly Jenkins got her start.

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators – An intriguing theory, with a bit of a push for all of you putting off getting your words down.

Opportunities for Writers: February and March 2016 – A list of contests and calls for work with deadlines coming up in the next two months.