Monday, April 30, 2012

What Does Success Look Like?

I tweeted last week about this question and wanted to expand upon it to begin the new week. How do you define success? Is it being published in a magazine? Recognized as an online authority or book reviewer? Is it landing an agent or that first book deal? Or maybe seeing delight in the eyes of a child as you read during a library visit is your brand of success. How about signing books and a reader tells you how you changed their life? Or answering loads of fan letters praising your characters and story?

All writers have different goals and vision when it comes to success. Just like our story ideas and personalities differ, so do our definitions of success. Many writers who write for children (my chosen age group) seek to impact the life of a child and especially reluctant readers, not pursue super-stardom. Of course, the chance of super-stardom is slim anyway so best to pursue more honorable aims (wink).

I've been reviewing my own ideas of success. My greatest desire is to write something that entertains kids. Building a relationship with an agent for the long-term, someone who "gets" my work and is interested in collaboration, that would be success. I'm not about sales numbers and I'm realistic about writing as a career. Success would be seeing the book about our journey through liver disease and transplant on a bookshelf.

How about you? What does success look like for you?

Friday, April 27, 2012

What's on Tap

My brain's still full from last weekend's conference so if you see me musing about that for a few weeks, just know I'm processing in public. (smile)

My newer blog readers may have noticed I recently began posting interviews to the blog. I hope these are helpful for you and would love if you could take the time to interact with my guest. I have plans to continue the format for as long as there is interest, guests are willing to grace my blog with their presence and the community benefits.

My next conference is the Northwest Christian Writers Association’s Writers’ Renewal in May. I have some interviews lined up in advance of the conference and hope you’ll stop by. Agent Rachel Kent was the opener to this parade of guests this week. I’ll be posting interview TWICE per week as we close in on the conference (May 18-19). Here’s a sampling of who you can expect to see in the coming weeks:

Terry Glaspey, Director of Acquisitions, Harvest House
Carolyn McReady, Executive Editor, Zondervan
Marshal Younger, writer/director/producer
Jeffrey Overstreet, writer, Aurelia’s Colors and other books
Chila Woychik, Publisher, Yonder Press Books

and later in May and early June:

Deb Lund, The Amazing Picture Book Author!
Stasia Kehoe, debut author of Audition
Authoress, everyone’s favorite anonymous blogger & friend to writers everywhere
Sandra Bishop, agent with Macgregor Literary

Is there anyone YOU would like to see interviewed? Just let me know. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reflections from the 21st Annual SCBWI Western WA conference

I’m still digesting all the information I accrued over the weekend. So many great speakers, sessions and people. Every year I think it can’t possibly be as good as the previous year, but the conference always proves me wrong, every year. Thanks to Kim, Jaime, the entire Advisory Committee and all the volunteers. You did awesome!

As I reflect about the conference, I wanted to note some of the personal highlights for me. I’m also eager to share how close I came to hitting my pre-conference goals, so bear with me.


-          - Meeting new writer friends. This is always one of the greatest benefits from the conference. I’m continually blown away by this community and all the quality people.

-          - Meeting some Twitter and other friends I’ve only met online. These included the amazing Deb Lund, Lois Brandt and my new best Twitter buddy, Amber Keyser (yes, you ARE a hoot!)

-          - Favorite conferences sessions? Tammi Sauer’s lively picture book session; Andrea Welch’s informative picture book session; and Jenny Bent’s query workshop. Phenomenal insight from all three ladies.  Such insight into the picture book world that I’m inspired to delve further and revisit some of my finished/unfinished manuscripts again.

-       - The diverse and incomparable faculty. The agent/editor panel is always lively and fun. Getting a glimpse of how different each house/representative is really sets a nice tone for the weekend. It keeps things in perspective on how subjective the industry can be.

Some new goals inspired by the conference:
1.      Get back to writing daily, 500 words per day.
2.      Refine picture book voice.
3.      Focus on show vs. tell, particularly in my novels.

I'm happy to note that I met most of my conference goals:

1.  Meet 10 new people. I mean more than saying 'Hi". The idea is to learn about them, share our writing and maybe check in throughout the weekend. This may be easier than normal because I've volunteered as a mentor to 1st time attendees. I'll report back next week. ACCOMPLISHED

2.  Learn at least two things I can put into practice with my writing right away. ACCOMPLISHED

3.  Chat with some published writers and about their experiences. I won't put a number on this but I'd like to speak with several across genres and age-groups. ACCOMPLISHED

4.  Find a potential critique partner. STILL WORKING 

I'd love to hear some of your insight if you attended the conference. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interview with...Agent Rachel Kent of Books and Such

This week I welcome Rachel Kent, an agent with Books and Such Literary to the blog. She'll be part of the faculty at next month's Northwest Christian Writers' Association Writers' Renewal.

Here's a brief bio from the agency website: 
"Growing up as the middle of five children (two older brothers and two younger sisters), Rachel has learned first hand how to be a mediator, peacemaker and confidant. Good relationships have always been important to her. She likes to stick by people. She believes that as long as two people are dedicated toward working together, the relationship can work, and they can accomplish the task at hand. Rachel started at Books & Such as a summer intern while she was attending U.C. Davis and then, after graduating, worked part-time at the agency as an assistant. Her favorite part of the job was reading a manuscript and providing an author with feedback to help him or her to improve the project.She graduated from Davis in three years with a bachelor’s degree in English and minors in both religious studies and psychology. Through Rachel’s work at the agency and with authors, she has gained an understanding of the publishing process, contract negotiation, and what it takes to successfully write and market a book."

Rachel, thanks for taking time to answer my questions.

Rachel: Thanks for interviewing me!

Could you describe a typical day in the life of an agent at Book and Such Literary?

Rachel: Each day in my week looks a little different because I try to do certain tasks on specific days, but generally I check my emails and answer the really important ones first. Then I negotiate contracts, edit proposals, or read manuscripts for my clients; send out submissions to editors; and if I have time in a day I'll read queries and submissions from potential clients.  
How vital do you believe social media is to writers today? Is it necessary to sell a book?

Rachel: Having a presence online is extremely important these days. I'm not sure that you need to be everywhere, but joining Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads is a great start for an author. I also believe that a professional website is a must for all writers even if they don't have a book published yet. I will often go check an author's website if I'm considering representing him or her and I like to find a professional, friendly page with information about that person. If I can't find a website, I am less likely to take on that author as a client. It's necessary to sell a book in my opinion, but there are always exceptions.

How often do you fall in love with a query and possibly a partial, only to be disappointed the longer you read the manuscript?

Rachel: I'm guessing here, but I'd say out of the queries I receive I request only 1 proposal out of every 200 submissions. Out of the requested proposals, I ask for a full manuscript from 1 out of 30. Of the full manuscripts I read I only offer representation to 1 out of 5 authors. These statistics don't hold true for writers I meet at conferences. I request more proposals from conferences because I know that those authors are working hard on the writing craft and have invested time and money into making their manuscripts better.
What types of thirty-something nonfiction are you interested in seeing?

Rachel: I'm looking for issue-oriented fiction and nonfiction projects for thirty-somethings. Books that relate directly to what thirty-somethings are going through during that time of life. For example: reconnecting with a spouse after having children; coming to the end of having babies and dealing with knowing you are done with that part of your journey; and balancing work and a family. These types of ideas can be presented in fiction and nonfiction and I'm interested in both.
What are you currently reading?
Rachel: Robin Jones Gunn's FINALLY & FOREVER, the fourth book in the Katie Weldon series.
Please describe your dream client.

Rachel: I could write an entire blog series on qualities I look for in clients, but to keep it simple I want I client who is: easy to get along with, patient, a great writer, and willing to work hard.

I've also blogged recently on the topic of clients, so feel free to check out those blogs if you'd like to know more:

Rachel, thanks for a great interview.

Rachel: I'm looking forward to the conference next month!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Personal Aside: Transplant Living, 3 Years Later

I try not to blog too much about my persona life on my writing blog because I have another blog specifically for that. Today, however, is not a normal day. Around 6:20pm the night of April 23, we handed our 7-month-old baby girl over to the anesthesiologists in preparation for a liver transplant. At 4am on April 24, 2009, my youngest daughter, Sarah, was being sewn up by surgeons at Seattle Children's Hospital.

This journey began on November 14, 2008 at Sarah's two-month pediatrician appointment. Our doctor ordered extensive lab work due to Sarah's jaundice. The result: diagnosis of the rare liver disease, biliary atresia. Essentially, B.A. as families like to call it, is the absence of bile ducts from the liver to the gall bladder. Or the ducts are so minute as to be useless. You can imagine the result of this. Bile doesn't filter out of the liver, instead polluting the organ and damaging it day-by-day. That's exactly what happened to Sarah.

On November 17, Sarah visited her first operating room and became a recipient of a Kasai surgery. The surgeons attached part of Sarah's small intestine directly to her liver in hopes of relieving the bile back-up and saving the liver from any further damage. The surgery itself went without a hitch. It wasn't until later we realized the liver was too far gone.

While the bile did indeed drain from the liver, the organ had suffered so much damage it resembled that of an alcoholic: hardened and dying. Blood could not flow properly through and veins had to find away around the liver to the heart. The result was life-threatening varices and a major bleed in early March 2009. Just over a month later, Sarah received her gift of life and is flourishing. As transplant recipients know, there's no such thing as "normal" due to a lifetime regimen of immunosuppression drugs (with their own side effects) and the threat of rejection - at any time.

We stand here today grateful to God for Sarah's presence in our lives and forever thankful to the family who lost their old child, enabling ours to live. Happy Transplantaversary, Sarah!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Writing Picture Books That Sell: Tammi Sauer

Tammi's session was a real hoot. From the start she was extremely engaging and funny. It was a fast-paced session and you could tell she loves writing picture books! 

Tammi's first mandatory tip? You must read, read, read a LOT of picture books. Study them and determine  what you like, what you don’t like and what you would do differently. 

Ask yourself if your manuscript:
-          Offers a variety of scenes?
-          Cuts to the chase? 
-          Has a universal theme? 
Some of Tammi's top secrets:

Create the right character (A.R.F.) – Active, Relatable and Flawed character 

Give the MC a problem/conflict.

Amp up the tension.

Amp up the heart and humor

Opening Keynote: Bruce Hale

Following an informative and entertaining agent/editor panel (see Twitter) we welcomed writer & illustrator, Bruce Hale. We were enraptured by his personality right away and he didn't disappoint. It was one of the most entertaining keynotes I've heard. 

Bruce called writing a game of head and heart. It takes guts, determination, savvy and endurance. In fact, art is war.We’re "at war" with ourselves, our editors, agents, other authors.  There's a lot of potential conflict in our field. 

One of the most pointed questions: If you’re unpublished, ask yourself why? Work habits, determination, and accept criticism, it will improve your work. 

Some principles to win the war:

Start a good habit
Write like your hair is on fire.
Beat resistance with persistence.

Bruce ended his time with a song which was amazing and also inspiring. He infused so much humor into his talk the entire room was laughing and smiling the entire session. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fiction Intensive: Dialogue with Matt de la Pena

The dialogue workshop with Matt de la Pena was well worth the time. Matt's a very down-to-earth guy and it was a pleasure to sit in on this session. This was the first pre-conference intensive I've ever attended and I'll likely come back again next year.

Matt focused on some key components of effective dialogue that every writer can apply immediately to their own work:

- Great dialogue enable the reader to interact with characters, not the writer.

- Dialogue is never polished in the first draft. 

- You can summarize dialogue.

- Keep things organic. Readers can tell when dialogue is stilted or forced.

Matt read some excerpts from several books and it cemented how difficult dialogue can be to write. My first step in revising my own novel will be to rework the dialogue. Thanks a ton, Matt!

Live from SCBWI Western Washington!

I'm on site in Redmond Town Center for this year's conference. I'll be updating throughout the weekend via Twitter and the blog. Right now I'm immersed in the Fiction Intensive with Matt de la Pena. I'll report on that later tonight. Feel free to check in regularly. Good stuff awaits.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Goals for the SCBWI Conference

I've set a couple of goals for conference this weekend. I believe it's helpful to set some achievable and measurable goals during every event. Perhaps you'll find these helpful the next time you attend a conference.

1. Meet 10 new people. I mean more than saying 'Hi". The idea is to learn about them, share our writing and maybe check in throughout the weekend. This may be easier than normal because I've volunteered as a mentor to 1st time attendees. I'll report back next week.

2. Learn at least two things I can put into practice with my writing right away.

3. Chat with some published writers and about their experiences. I won't put a number on this but I'd like to speak with several across genres and age-groups.

4. Find a potential critique partner.

There are a few more I was considering but I like to be realistic and not overwhelm myself. The weekend will be great without a doubt but if I could hit all four goals, I'd be that much happier.

Coming up Friday, my first report on site in Redmond, WA.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Interview with...Brayden Hirsch

Today, I’m happy to welcome Brayden Hirsch to the blog. Brayden is what I call a teenage "phenom". He's written one collection of stories and is busy on two novels. You can catch the latest from Brayden at

I had the pleasure of meeting Brayden in 2009 at a local writer's conference. I knew from the time we met he was a go-getter and an avid learner of the writing craft. Since then his writing career has taken off. SHADOW CATALYST, his first book, has been described as a “stunning combination of mystery, suspense, and the paranormal, painting the West Coast with a darker reality where things are always as bad as they seem.”

Hi, Brayden. You’re an inspiration for young writers everywhere. When did you first realize your love for writing?

It’s not so much a love for writing as much as a passion for storytelling, of all types, whether that be drama or literature or film, which are all things I’ve delighted in and experimented with for all my life. Right now it happens that I’m in the business of writing; I hope to explore other areas of story as well, eventually.

I met you at a writer’s conference when you were 13. How did conferences play a role in you getting published?

A very big one. Conferences offer writers connections which are invaluable, and allow us to receive face to face, immediate responses on our ideas and so forth. Without attending a few key conferences in the Pacific Northwest, I would most likely still be unpublished today, at least in book format.

Has social media played an important role in your writing career?

I met the editor/publisher of my first novel, SHADOW CATALYST, via Facebook, but other than that, I can’t say it has. Face to face connections at signings are much more valuable when it comes to promotion. Unless you’re willing to spend the big bucks on advertising or have a blog or website that already has a decent number of followers, I wouldn’t recommend a huge focus on social media, as a marketer. The aspiring writer should hope for a publisher which, someday, will promote him or her enough that the Facebook fanpage will gather more “likes” than Harry Potter, but until then writers need to focus on 
1. Telling great stories and 2. Face to face connections; even a single true fan is better than any number of Facebook/Twitter followers.

Can you tell anything about your next project?

FLIGHT SCHOOL is a full-length thriller novel of suspense. I wrote it because I wanted to deliver a thriller with more of a message than your typical Die Hard; it is as much of a character story as a plot one, and I hope that it will both touch readers emotionally as well as entertain. This project is represented by Ken Sherman and Associates and anyone interested in it may contact him.

What two things would you tell writers pursuing publishing, no matter their age?

Narrowing it down to two is a little difficult; in general, know the industry, but don’t obsess over it. You can let down your brand a little if it means breaking into the industry, but never sacrifice who you are and what you believe for the sake of anyone. But don’t write for yourself. Writing is a very emotionally taxing task and requires much perseverance. Once you write a book to contract, you’ll realize that it’s not all fun and mostly just hard work, but it’s worth it to hear from readers and see the looks on their faces when they tell you you’ve entertained them, or touched their lives somehow. So write not for you, but for the audience.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Conference Week Prep

I'm gearing up for the 21st Annual SCBWI Western Washington this coming weekend. For the first time, I signed up for the fiction intensive Friday afternoon. This year Matt de la Pena is the speaker and I'm really looking forward to it. One thing you can count on year after year at the SCBWI is inspiration and encouragement. Even when I haven't received positive feedback on my manuscript consultations, there's always a great takeaway to file for future use.

As a pre-published writer, the conference atmosphere can provide great opportunity to learn from experienced writers, agents and editors. The faculty is top notch and this year is no exception. The editors and agents on hand for workshops and manuscript consultations include:

- Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency
- Susan Chang, Senior Editor, Tor Books
- Nancy Conescu, Executive Editor, Dial Books for Young Readers
- Andrew Karre, Editorial Director, Lerner Publishing Group
- Tricia Lawrence, Associate Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
- Rubin Pfeffer, Agent, East West Literary Agency
- Eddie Gamarra, Agent, The Gotham Group
- Chris Richman, Agent, Upstart Crow Literary
- Andrea Welch, Senior Editor, Beach Lane Books

And the talented writers on-hand include the aforementioned Matt de la Pena and:

- Bonnie Becker
- Jolie Stekly
- Rachel Vail
- Martha Brockenbrough
- Helen Landalf
- Bruce Hale
- Deb Lund
- Tammi Sauer
- J. Elizabeth Mills

Some highlights include a query workshop with Jenny Bent and first pages sessions for picture books, young adult and scifi/fantasy. First pages are always a treat. It's intriguing to hear experts in the industry offering solid feedback that can help your story reach the next stage.

I have every intention of live blogging from the conference this weekend and hope you'll stop by the blog to check in on the latest!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Conference Preparation

The SCBWI Western Washington regional conference is next week. It seems like I should spend some more time preparing and I have some things circulating in my head. Consider the following thoughts. They might prove helpful to your own conference preparation:

-          One-on-one consultations or pitch session – If you’ve scheduled one of these, you’ve either submitted up to 1,500 words of your manuscript prior to the conference, or you’ve been practicing your pitch like crazy. It’s good to re-read your opening with an editor’s brain, looking for any potential pitfalls and revising it. The agent or editor may not accept a corrected copy but if they bring up a red flag or concern, it allows you to address it at the time. This could make a positive impression and prove you’re not just sitting around waiting for their feedback for two months prior to the event. For a pitch, it’s vital you practice and nail it so there’s no lost time at your session. You want to allow as much time for feedback and questions as possible. The bottom line: know your story.

-          Be willing to share your work – Many writers hold their work close to the vest, afraid of sharing an idea or their story. Maybe you’re afraid someone will steal your idea and write a book – a better one – first. Or you might believe your work is not ready to share. Remember the writing community is just that, a community. One of the great things about it is how willing people are to share advice, encouragement and resources. The vast majority of writers want to help each other.

-          Listen – This comes into play when meeting other writers. Listen to their struggles, their triumphs, their experiences.You might have the encouragement someone else needs to hear.

-          Reach out to other writers, published and unpublished – This goes hand in hand with listening and sharing your work. If you go to a conference to sit in a corner alone, you’re missing the vast majority of fun and learning. Take a step of faith and make a goal to meet X number of people. You might find a critique partner, a mentor or a friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview with C. Hope Clark

Welcome C. Hope Clark to The Writing Kraft! Hope is the author of Lowcountry Bribe (Bell Bridge Books), founder of Funds for Writers and a great encourager to freelance writers everywhere.  Her Funds for Writers website is continually among Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers.

You can find Hope all over the web:

Lowcountry Bribe is available through Amazon

Hope has provided an amazing amount of advice in short order, so without further ado, here’s my interview with Hope Clark.


1. You worked with the USDA for 25 years. When did you realize writing was the career you wanted to pursue?
Actually, I wrote often in USDA. Writing probably brought my managerial talents to the attention of upper management. Once I became an administrative director with the agency, I wound up writing an amazing assortment of documents like strategic plans, budget justifications, award recommendations, congressionals, investigative reports, press releases, and so on. But it wasn't until a peer asked me over lunch why I didn't write for myself, did I take the time to ponder the answer.

Writing is empowering to me - in any form, whether fiction or nonfiction, technical or creative. So I started writing nights, after the day job, for me, to empower me as an individual instead of part of an establishment. That habit grew until I realized I preferred writing freelance to the daily bureaucracy and politics of government. Once I established a part-time income with my writing and set up a strict budget, I negotiated an early retirement from USDA and wrote full-time. But I've enjoyed writing in one form or another as long as I can remember. It took time to set my life up as a writer, and it didn't happen overnight. I wrote every spare moment when I wasn't on the job . . . sometimes slipping in writing moments during the job. Like those boring staff meetings! LOL

2.    At what point did you make the decision to move into writing full-time? Did you receive encouragement from family and friends?

The day job was wearing me out. It was intense, adversarial, and political. I was tough, but such an environment made for a grumpy Hope, and my family knew it. Once I saw the opportunity to take the leap, I sat down with the family and asked them what they thought. With one child in college and the other a senior in high school, I warned them that finances might get tight, and they might have to work a job to help pay for school. They had no problem with it. My husband agreed, but said I had to agree to accompany him to the next promotion he could find since I could write anywhere.  We wound up moving from Columbia, SC to Phoenix, AZ for three years. It was great, and I made lots of writing connections in that metropolis. But yes, I had support, but I think a lot of that support was the result of them seeing how much writing meant to me. When they saw how serious I was, and how devoted I was to the hours and deadlines, they respected me in the new role. They were great. Sometimes family and friends have to see our commitment before they respect what we do. By the way, my writing put both sons through college.

3.   What led you to start Funds for Writers?

I couldn't sell the novel! LOL FundsforWriters was happenstance, frankly. At a ladies' writing group in Atlanta, in 1998, I was asked to speak about online writing, and how it differed from print. I was still working for the federal government, an agency that handled grants and loans. I was writing for several websites. One of the editors I wrote for asked me to speak in her place at this meeting, since she was afraid of crowds. Sometime during the presentation, the topic strayed when the attendees showed concern about being unable to afford computers, printers, toner, etc. I started advising them financially, mentioning contests and grants and such, and the emails started flooding in once I returned home. I asked a journalist I knew about how to start a newsletter, which was new territory back then, so I could consolidate my responses to questions, leaving me more time to write for myself. Unbeknownst to me, that was the snowball catalyst needed to start an avalanche, and FundsforWriters took on a life of its own, overtaking my fiction writing with this sudden interest by writers everywhere. After a few months, I had almost a thousand writers on board. I accepted fate's nudge that this was a venture I needed to pursue, so I embraced it and went full speed forward.

4.  What's been the most enjoyable part about your writing career? The most difficult?

The most enjoyable is doing what I love from home. That's just freedom. The most difficult is staying on top of the profession. Writing changes fast, sometimes before we know it. We've gone from print to online writing to vanity presses to self-publishing to electronic publishing in a very short time. I still speak to writers who are balking at having a website, when they really need a blog now. People who are still trying to understand Twitter, don't realize there's Google+ and Pinterest. Self-publishing is now indie publishing with a spin. Keeping up is hard for me, so I can’t imagine how it is for someone only able to write and keep up in only an hour a day.  

5.  You had a lot of contest success with the first chapter of Lowcountry Bribe. What's one suggestion you have for writers on the fence about entering contests?

Get over it. No, seriously, most contests are legit. Like everything, there are some scammers. But it's not hard to recognize them. They don't identify themselves, by name, they have no history, and there is no rhyme or reason why they even exist. I can do an entire session on contests and how to judge them and note the red flags. But don't be afraid of an entry fee. Entry fees are needed to cover the prize money and the expenses of holding the contest, so be willing to pay them. Unless a contest has a deep-pocket sponsor, they have to charge a fee. But winning contests can make an agent, publisher, editor, or reader take you more seriously. You have to invest in your career. If you can't come off the dollars to tap into contests, classes and conferences, you'll faint when it comes time to promote your work. It's a business, and like any businesses, there are costs, expenses, and start-up needs. I know that my agent was impressed with my efforts with contests.

6.  What advice would you give writers trying to break into freelance work?

Do it every day. I shall repeat that. Write daily; submit as often as you can. Just keep doing it, keep putting it out there for editors and readers to find. Write for local magazines. Pitch stories to the paper. Offer your services to every business you know. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Pitch ideas to nonprofits. Query magazines. Particularly query trade magazines. Query blogs, especially blogs of larger companies or magazines. Query pieces for online publications. Write for anthologies. When you start off as a writer, you try to write for anyone who'll have you. I did. In doing that, I earned a few clips and gained a little notoriety. I learned to specialize once I'd dabbled in many directions, but still . . . when I see something that catches my eye, I pitch it, even if it's not my normal niche. Be flexible, and diligent. Just keep at it for the long haul, and things happen. And if you have a book in you, work on it once the money-making work is done.

7.  How important is blogging to writers breaking into the business today?

If you don't have a website that's regularly updated, then a blog is a must. Without a doubt. These days, agents, editors, publishers, and readers want more than your promise you'll write well. They want to read about you and see your personality in your blog posts. On top of that, your blog must be focused, so establish some sort of niche. It can be something as quirky as humor or a unique voice rather than a topic. 

Don't write a blog like you would a diary or journal. Carve out a unique angle that starts to brand you. And post to it regularly. Once or twice a month will not cut it. If you want to be known, you have to work at this business, and that includes your social networking and your blogging. A serious writer posts a minimum of weekly, and usually more. The posts must be of substance - on point or well-referenced. Make it worth your readers taking time away from their day. Your day is no busier than theirs, so convince them you are worth their investment. Only then, once you gain their trust, will you be able to convince them you are serious as a writer.

8. How did you land your agent? Did your reputation for Funds for Writers and your blog open doors that would have been more difficult had those platforms not been in place?

Actually, I think FundsforWriters meant nothing to most of these agents. Agents don't travel in the circles that FundsforWriters does. I pitched a dozen agents at a time, every two weeks, until I reached 36. Then I waited for three months or so. Some answered quickly, some slowly, and a handful not at all, but once I knew I'd been rejected by three dozen agents (after a couple of very close calls), I decided the book needed a rewrite. I spent a year rewriting the mystery (while running FundsforWriters and freelancing), with the help of a serious critique group I adore online. Then I went back and submitted the same way again, to different agents. Twelve at a time, every two weeks, then I waited. So after 72 agents, and almost two years' worth of research, querying and rewriting, I landed an agent. So I seriously think FFW had little to do with finding an agent. I think, however, that contests made a bigger difference, but the bottom line was the story itself and the quality of the queries. I wrote each one separately, targeting something unique with each agent, as if writing a personal letter. Bottom line, I proved I was serious and in this for the duration.

9. What new stories are in your writing future?

Books two and three of the Carolina Slade Mystery Series are already written. I'm researching book four. I'll freelance here and there with magazines and online publications and continue with FundsforWriters, but my fiction will follow Carolina Slade as long as the publisher loves her. Traditional publishing takes a little longer than self-publishing, but I like it that way. It makes me groom my writing to a highly polished sheen.

10. Feel free to add anything else you like!

Read as well as write daily. Read those who excel in your genre, or genres. You're better off studying the masters of your craft than attending a conference or reading a how-to book. And it's so much more fun!

Try to study the business a bit. Don't assume self-publishing is for you. Don't assume you'll sell a book without a platform. Don't think you only need a Big Six publishing house. There is no cookie-cutter right answer. You need to learn your options, over time, and make intelligent decisions about how to write, how to publish, and how to sell your work. Writing the book is such a small piece of the picture. And getting published doesn't mean you've arrived. When someone tells me they've published a book, my next question is how well is it selling, because in the end, that determines your reputation, and whether or not you can make a living at what we so love to do.

And if you want to freelance for a living, pour yourself into it. Know every magazine in existence or develop a pristine name for yourself as a quality copywriter. However you write, do it better than those around you. It's just that simple.


Thanks so much for your time and advice, Hope!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Conference Time...and Interviews on the Horizon

Spring is in the air and that means conference season is underway. No matter where you are in the United States, chances are there is some kind of writing conference nearby. Conferences come in all shapes and sizes: very small (100 writers) to very large (several thousand). There seems to be one for almost every taste and genre.

Locally here in Washington state, the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference started things off in March. I was unable to attend this year but hope to again in the near future. I had the pleasure to hear Andrea Brown in person last year and that was worth the price of admission alone.

My first conference of 2012 is the western Washington SCBWI April 20-22. There are is a pretty amazing lineup include Susan Chang from TOR Books, agent Jennie Bent and others. I’m excited to be attending for my third year in a row and hoping this might be time for a breakthrough.

Exciting things are also upcoming for the blog. This week, I begin a series of interviews with authors, editors and agents. First up to bat is C. Hope Clark of Funds for Writers and author of Lowcountry Bribe. Please join me here tomorrow as Hope shares from her experience and offers advice for writers across the spectrum. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Obscure Word of the Week, #6

Another word from Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary -

acatalepsy – impossibility of complete discovery or comprehension.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What’s Cookin’ in My Brain This Week? A.K.A. WIP Wednesday

Ah, Spring Break. It’s refreshing to spend some extra time with the family this week. I took time off from work for just that, and to do some writing as well. So far, I’m not exactly meeting my goal for the latter but definitely enjoying the former. We’ve even been blessed with a few days of sunshine. Spring has bloomed in a lot of places, but the Pacific Northwest is not one of them.

I did finish a short essay for a family magazine column about special-needs parents and submitted it! Yes, I actually pressed SEND. It’s been awhile since that has happened. Next up: complete my novel revision and begin querying. I had hoped to have my revisions ready by the SCBWI conference this month but that won’t happen. Still, I’m excited about the story and sharing it in my one-on-one at the conference. I have several people reading the story now and am confident the feedback will propel me forward in a good way.

My first “duck club” story is nearly finished and ready to edit. I’m not sure where I want to send that yet but there seem to be a lot of options, especially since there are now a ton of print and online “old time memories” type of magazines.

On the burner for the next month is the first three chapters and book proposal for my nonfiction book. I hope to have that ready before the Writers’ Renewal conference in May.

How about you? What’s on your plate this week?

Monday, April 2, 2012

What Does the Future Hold?

I've been reading some comments from agents and editor at this year's Bologna Children's Book Fair. Picture books may be back on the rise, although it was clear, SEEING them was believing. It's still very difficult to submit PB's as a new author unless your a writer/illustrator. Another interesting comment I read noted how paranormal and dystopian might have reached their apex. It will be interesting to see if that rings true or if each genre simply morphs into something new.

Publishing is an industry constantly in flux (and I'm not even talking about e-books!). What was hot today is ice cold by the time you get around to submitting your project to an agent. Of course, if you're that person who actually STARTS the next hot trend, then you can rest easy knowing you'll land a few deals, maybe huge ones, before the sun sets on that moment.

Personally, it's not the next hot trend I follow, though I am interested in knowing what is selling; for me, it's more about writing a story I must tell. I write stories I'd like reading and in genres I've always loved. I'm tweaking with an idea that blends dystopian with epic fantasy. Not because dystopian is chic but because the story idea seems like a good one.

Middle grade continues to get press as the next "hot" age group, supplanting YA, but I'll believe it when I see it. I won't dispute the fact MG for boys needs to be strengthened to keep them reading. I want my son to continue his love for books beyond chapter books and I'm sure he will. Still, I want stories out there that really grab him.

So what do you think the future holds in publishing?  What does it hold for your own career? Are you a trend-rider or trend-setter? Or do you ignore them altogether and just write the story that is screaming to be told?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Obscure Word of the Week, #5

No April Fool's joke, just another obscure word to entertain you!

Haruspice – in Roman history, a person who pretended to foretell future events by inspecting the entrails of beasts sacrificed.