Monday, February 6, 2017

Agents Like Us - Saba Sulaiman

Another Agents Like Us and today it's all about Saba Sulaiman from Talcott Notch Literary Services.

Saba has just reopened to queries and is seeking a whole lotta awesomeness: up-market, literary and commercial fiction, romance, psychological thrillers, memoir, young adult, middle grade, and nonfiction humor. Check out more about her tastes and guidelines here and here, and follow her on Twitter @AgentSaba. Her answers are below in bold.

Saba on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish they would do their research and make sure I’m acquiring the kind of book they’ve written.
  • My favorite part about being an agent is ... I’m going to cheat and include three: 1) reading critically for a living 2) making my clients’ dreams come true, and 3) having independence and flexibility.
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story are compelling, multidimensional, characters with quirks and vulnerabilities, complex relationships, and gray morality.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I feel happy, relieved, and motivated to make more!
  • I really wish I saw more fully-developed non-stereotypical marginalized main characters with agency and personality in the slush. Bonus points if they’re POC.

Saba On Clients
  • My ideal client would be honest, kind, and have a great work ethic (because talent is a given, right?).
  • What I love most about my current clientele is that they’re all honest, kind, and have a great work ethic (aside from being incredibly talented!).
  • What I want most for any client is their happiness and contentment, in whatever forms they may take.

Saba On Life

  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be in academia, harboring not-so-secret hopes of being a professional singer.
  • My favorite (non-client) books are most recently (because there are WAY too many otherwise) I loved INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thannha Lai (MG in verse), THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne (romance), and ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS by Bryn Greenwood (adult literary).
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of my safety and that of other marginalized people.
  • My secret boyfriend is ...only one? c’mon — I rotate between Idris Elba, Rahul Khanna, and Fawad Khan. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I should probably nap but instead I eat an obscene amount of cake in bed and catch up on Bollywood gossip.
  • My favorite drink is a vanilla milkshake.

Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Agents Like Us - Lauren Spieller

It's been a while since we've had an awesome agent interview on the blog. Today, I'm so happy to have Lauren Spieller with TriadaUS Literary Agency here--and she has some agent secrets to share.

Lauren is seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, as well as select Adult fiction and non-fiction. Whatever the age category or genre, Lauren is passionate about finding diverse and underrepresented voices.You can learn more about Lauren's tastes and guidelines here and follow her on Twitter @LaurenSpieller. Her answers are below in bold.

Lauren on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish they would research me first, and make sure I'm a good fit for their work.
  • My favorite part about being an agent is advocating for authors!
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is a great voice.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I celebrate with cocktails!
  • I really wish I saw more diverse Middle Grade in the slush.

Lauren On Clients
  • My ideal client would be hard working, well-read, and dedicated to craft.
  • What I love most about my current clientele is their passion and work ethic. Oh, and their gorgeous books!
  • What I want most for any client is creative fulfillment.

Lauren On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be a writer. Which I already am! ;)
  • My favorite (non-client) book is Dumplin'. For now. Ask me again in ten minutes.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of grammatical errors in a tweet.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I dance in my living room. Sometimes I do it when people are around, too.
  • My favorite drink is Ramos Gin Fizz.
Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Writers Like Us - Becky Albertalli

So because of this news, this blog series totally got away from me--but I'm back and ready to push the series to 50 interviews. Check them all out here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Becky Albertalli stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of the hilariously swoony Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and the forthcoming The Upside of Unrequited. You can find her tweeting at @BeckyAlbertalli. Her answers are below in bold.

Becky on Writing
  • I've written two books, and 1.5 have seen the light of day (second one is floating around in bound manuscript form, but it will be released in April of 2017!).
  • My favorite type of scene/character/setting to write: flirty scenes, first kisses, and drunk Simon Spier.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with overusing words – and the specific words change, depending on the character’s voice! My editor always has a few things she wants me to clean up in find/replace. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is, “I think it would be okay for this to wrap up less neatly.”
  • The book I wished I wrote is HOUSE OF ORANGE by Lianne Oelke (coming in 2017!)

Becky on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like I was seventeen. So much yearning and nervousness and hoping to hear from someone.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was nudging agents with an offer over Thanksgiving week. It couldn’t be avoided, and it worked out perfectly, but I feel guilty that there were agents reading during that time!
  • What I love most about my agent is how easy he is to talk to, and how excited he gets about even the little victories for my books.
  • While my book was out on submission, I did not actually expect it to sell. Brooks (agent) sold it in five days. 
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was that I need to convince Brooks Sherman that I’m about 75% less awkward than I am in real life.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I took a screenshot and sent it to my mom.

Becky on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a psychologist (I actually am a nonpracticing licensed clinical psychologist).
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of bees.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is Jim from the Office (but only in an alternate universe where I’m Pam, because I cannot break up my OTP).
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I wear pajamas all day. Sometimes when everyone is around, I wear pajamas all day, too.

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writers Like Us - Cynthia Hand

So because of this news, this blog series totally got away from me--but I'm back and ready to push the series to 50 interviews. Check them all out here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Cynthia Hand stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of the Unearthly Series (aka the best angel fantasy ever), the tear-jerking The Last Time We Say Goodbye, and the co-author of hilarious My Lady Jane. You can find her tweeting at @CynthiaHand. Her answers are below in bold.

Cynthia on Writing
  • I've written six and a half books, and six have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type of character to write is a conflicted villain.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with pacing. Almost all of my books require an overhaul from first draft to last, just to get the pacing right.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is "where's the rest?"
  • The book I wished I wrote is The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness, or The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Cynthia on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt, well, I never technically queried. I got my agent when a few agents contacted me about a literary short story I published while I was in grad school.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was um, see above, but I have never been any good at writing the darned query letter. I'd rather write a novel than a query letter for a novel.
  • What I love most about my agent is all the different hats she wears with me. Sometimes she's my friend. Sometimes my fierce defender. My financial advisor. My cheerleader. My editor.
  • While my book was out on submission, I ate a lot of chocolate.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was that I must be dreaming--the whole thing was very surreal.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I cheered. The day I sold my first novel I went to a Barnes and Noble, ordered a caramel frappachino, looked at the YA bookshelves, and cried with utter happiness.

Cynthia on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a very bored office assistant or a literature professor.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of elevators getting stuck.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is Jamie from the Outlander series.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I make myself a batch of homemade fudge, which is a real treat since no one in my family likes it but me.

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, the contemporary novel THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, and the new historical comedy, MY LADY JANE. Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, where she teaches creative writing at Boise State University.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writers Like Us - Courtney C Stevens

Writers Like Us is alllllmost at 50 author interviews, and I've been lining up a stellar line up of inspiring and fun writers to count us down. You can check out all the interviews here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Courtney C Stevens stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of Faking Normal, The Blue-Haired Boy, and The Lies About Truth. You can find her tweeting at @Quartland. Her answers are below in bold.

Courtney on Writing
  • I've written eight point seven books, and four point five have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type character to write is someone who feels real and unreal at the same time.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with sleeping. No, seriously, I still have trouble with everything. The more I write and know, the harder it gets, because I want to level up.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is here’s a link to the difference between farther and further.
  • The book I wished I wrote is the one I’m working on now.
Courtney on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like maybe I should just take pictures of baby hedgehogs.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was trying to squash hope to protect myself. Many artists are scared to hope. I’m scared not to.
  • What I love most about my agent is she’s aware of how my personal life affects my artistry.
  • While my book was out on submission, I worked my day job and wrote the next book. I had a really keen sense that if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, I'd write my way to where I wanted to be with the next thing.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was I still have to do my day job tonight. How am I going to do my job tonight? I need to call my mom.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I went to my local librarian and thanked her.
Courtney on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an FBI agent. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of losing my hearing.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is if I told you, well, you see the problem here. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I drive fast on country roads and listen to music and look for places that no one else sees. (I also consider trespassing when there is an old silo with vines crawling up the sides, because … how awesome are those things?)

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer. She is also the author of Faking Normal, which Kirkus Reviews called “a story that resonates” and Publishers Weekly called a “rich debut,” as well as the e-novella The Blue-Haired Boy, and the recently released The Lies About Truth.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Writers Like Us - Darcy Woods

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for another round of Writers Like Us. This series started in January of 2013 and has included over 41 authors so far. I'm so excited Darcy Woods is number 42 and will kick off this new round of interviews. You can check them all out here.

Darcy Woods' Summer of Supernovas is out on shelves now and I just adored it to pieces. If you're looking for a fun, swoony romance to kick off your beach reading, pick this one up. In the meantime, let's learn a little about Darcy...

Darcy on Writing
  • I've written 2.5 books (I rewrote my first ms from page one, hence the .5 for recycled premise), and so far one has seen the light of day. But technically not till May 10th!
  • My favorite type of scene to write is forbidden first kiss scenes with toe-curling tension.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with commas. I've been known to drop them randomly like f-bombs. My brain is not equipped for grammar-ing. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is "*snorts*" "But why?????" ":)"
  • The book I wished I wrote is Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere for ALL THE OBVIOUS REASONS. #genius
Darcy on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like Houdini challenging people to punch me in the stomach. There were times it was absolutely grueling and hurt like hell. But you have to believe in yourself MORE than the pain of rejection. I've been cumulatively rejected almost 200 times. This does not make me a special flower. But it makes me tenacious, a necessary attribute from every author. 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was not being myself. When I queried my first ms, I was soooooo nervous! And I'm quite sure I used pompous phrases like "esteemed cadre of authors." Which I would NEVER EVER EVER use in real life. Not even if you held my feet to smoldering flames. I was just so afraid to be me. The irony, of course, is that YOU is precisely what they want to see. 
  • What I love most about my agent is her tireless belief in me. During my rocky submission process, Catherine Drayton's certainty was unfailing. Unrelenting. You cannot put a price tag on that kind of loyalty. It is everything when the chips are down.
  • While my book was out on sub I got carpal tunnel refreshing my email. Grew ulcers. Drank wine and ate lots of French fries--often all of these were simultaneously.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was this is a joke. We'd already had a couple offers fall through, so I couldn't quite wrap my gray matter around it actually happening. Then when I finally realized my agent wasn't kidding, I did this weird, hysterical laugh-cry thing. And she said, "Darcy, you're going to be a published author!" I wept like a babe.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I exploded like a supernova. I think every one of my atoms lit up like sparklers. It was an unforgettable moment.
Darcy on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a Professional Closet and Refrigerator Feng Shui-er. So let's hope authoring pans out. ;)
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of seaweed. Oh, I'll happily eat it, but do NOT ask me to swim where I can touch it.
  • My secret boyfriend is Captain Jack Sparrow. Maybe it's odd to adore a man who wears more eyeliner than me, but I don't care. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing Broadway show tunes to my cats. I also tell my plants they're doing a great job making oxygen.

Young adult author Darcy Woods had three big loves in grade school: Reading, writing, and pizza day. Some things never change. She lives in Michigan with her madly supportive husband, two tuxedo cats (who overdress for everything) and a closet full of neatly organized shoes. Once upon a time, she served in a US Army aviation unit and threw live grenades. Now she throws words.

Darcy’s Golden Heart®-winning debut YA romance, SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS, comes out from Random House/Crown May 10, 2016.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Writerly Rants - Shelving Projects

Tonight, I took the manuscript I've been working on for the last year and shelved it.
>50K words; two drafts.
An idea I was so excited about nine months ago deflated.
Promises of a finish line and a delivery date to my agent cancelled.
I threw my hands up in defeat.

I had no choice, you see. I've been sitting here in front of my computer for weeks staring and agonizing because I didn't recognize this lumpy story I had in front of me. It was just a pile of words and scenes and characters. And there was this thread of story--there was a lot of WHATs going on, but no WHYs.

Why was this happening?
Why would this character react this way?
Why would it go down THIS way rather than THAT way?
And most importantly, what am I trying to say with this story?

I have this problem. I want people to read my work and weigh in, because who doesn't love to hear feedback? But this story didn't incubate long enough. I didn't let it rest and stand back and let myself re-examine it. I didn't give myself the time to throw my all into it. To work until the late hours of night, writing feverishly. Or replay scenes over and over in my head, perfecting each and every line of dialogue. Instead, I wrote it like a shot in the dark. Throwing spaghetti at the wall. Hoping something stuck. Then too many fingerprints got all over it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm totally grateful for the time and effort people take in reading and critiquing my work. But if it happens too soon in the process, it derails me. Instead of finding the road that leads to the story, I'm taking some back way that someone else took this one time. The journey to finding a story is different for every person and every story, and we have to go our own ways at our own speeds.

So I'm sitting here with something shelved. As in, not trashed, but waiting for the dust to clear. Because, at some point, I'll grasp for the right sound and shape and it will be there for me. The story that wants to be told. That feels right and not forced. That is true to my vision. And it won't involve Band-Aid plotting or Frankensteined scenes.

I'll work on something new, and let this project rest. Give it space and time. Until that moment when I have a thought, "I wonder if I did this..." And then the process starts anew and a new story is born.
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