All fired up!

Last week was a little crazy – I left BookExpo and headed straight to NJSCBWI 2017! My suitcase was literally & literarily stuffed full of books. And I didn’t take nearly as many galleys as usual. For the first time ever, I may actually have TOO MUCH to read. I didn’t think that was possible. Good thing I can read while watching baseball…

What a weekend!

The Middle Grade Editor’s Buzz Panel was wonderful, and I was so excited to get galleys for three of the five books being promoted:


Sadly, I don’t have galleys for GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION! by Jake Burt or UNICORN QUEST: THE WHISPER IN THE STONE  by Kamilla Benko. I’ll be borrowing those from co-workers. It was a nice mix of fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction. Can you guess which title of the five was repped by the amazing Rebecca Stead?

Even more exciting was catching up with writing friends and enjoying the wealth of workshops at NJSCBWI-17, including keynotes by Steven Savage and David Lubar (who also gave a great workshop on revision).

My next few posts will go over what I gained from the workshops, so watch this space! Middle grade mysteries, revision, emotional resonance, online presence, and two – count ’em, two! – wonderful sessions on barriers and marginalized voices. I’m taking a few days to review and digest all the information.

And while it was great to catch up with old friends, I always make new ones. 🙂 Both at BookExpo and the conference, I put my tips on networking to good use.

I’m unpacked, my notes and information are organized, and I just need some time at my desk to start putting what I’ve learned to good use. So if you’ll excuse me…

Wait. You wanted to see how much is TOO MUCH to read? Okay:


And this doesn’t include the manuscripts for work and e-books on my Kindle. (Add another 20 or so to-reads.) Might just have to renew those library books!


Three fun things!

Dreaming of getting away this summer and/or fall? Need some quality time with your writing? Voila!

Highlights Foundation Workshops (and Un-Workshops) are amazing. I attended the last one held in Chautauqua, but my critique partners have been to two this year in Honesdale and can’t stop talking about how wonderful the workshops are. I’m eyeing The Hero’s Journey

I love cruises – especially when it’s a family celebration. Who knew there are writers’ cruises? Writers Helping Writers turned me on to Cruising Writers! Sounds amazing. 🙂

For something closer to home (ok, the NYC/NJ area), Kathy Temean’s Avalon Writer’s Retreat is fantastic. I attended last year and gained so much insight and constructive criticism for my last novel. And this year, my lovely boss, Jennie Dunham, is one of the agents dishing out critiques, advice, and good conversation. All by the sea in Avalon, New Jersey…

Did I say three fun things? I meant four! Stacey Wilk, self-pub diva and now hybrid author, took matters into her own hands when she couldn’t find a retreat that worked for us budget-conscious and time-strapped writers. If you act fast, you might still be able to enjoy her Write Now Writers Retreat.

If you’re going to be at Book Expo or NJ-SCBWI next week, look me up and say hi! (Psst, picture on the right. 🙂  )



Knitting a network

It’s that time of year again: conferences, workshops, and events galore.

And you really need to work on your network. For those of you who are naturally charming and extroverted, skip this post and get back to writing. Have a cookie with your writing – you deserve it. 🙂

But what if you’re like me? I am definitely not an extrovert. I’ve learned how to fake it till I make it – a friend once said I “play an extrovert on TV.”

It’s still not easy. So I practice.

My rules for networking are few and simple:

  1. Set a goal. Why are you going to this particular event? To make contacts? To make friends? To renew contacts or thank people who’ve given you a hand? It’s all good.
  2. Make a plan. It’s good to have some idea of who you might meet or see at the event. Even better to make a brief (mental) list of people you really want or need to touch base with. Check your file of business cards. And that brings us to…
  3. Make notes. When someone gives you a business card, take a moment later to make a note about when/where you met them. It helps later on. If they don’t offer a card, ask for one! Most people are flattered. And if they don’t or won’t give you one, make a note of their name & circumstances in your notes for the event.
  4. Be prepared. Many folks advise practicing an introduction in front of a mirror or thinking up topics of conversation. If that helps you, go for it. I’ve gotten pretty good at talking to folks -hey, Stacey, stop laughing! – and I prepare another way. I do work on my “what I’m working on” chat, but I also make sure I feel confident. For me, that means making sure I have the right outfit, plenty of sleep, and a good haircut. And don’t forget YOUR business cards. Make sure they’re current and you have plenty on hand.
  5. Follow up. Send a thank you note to anyone who’s helped you out. Invite that new contact/friend to coffee or lunch. If you’ve promised a query or a critique, send it out.

That’s it. Short and simple. The most important thing? Try to remember that everyone there is doing the same thing you’re doing. Sure, the writer next to you may already be agented. But I bet she’s looking to meet editors who might be a good fit. That well-known agent? He’s looking for clients. And if you run into someone you know you’ve met but can’t remember their name? Just ask, giving yours as well.

Everyone likes to enjoy a good conversation. The writing and publishing world tends to be introverted as a rule – we spend a LOT of time by ourselves at our desks. Events are a chance to talk shop with interesting people who love what we love.

Really shy? Terribly anxious? Take a buddy or meet up at the event. Just promise each other you won’t spend the entire time together.

So get out there and have fun!

Oh, you want to know where to find these events? Well, a good place to start is with your local chapter of SCBWI



Down but not out

Now this is the way to handle rejections:

BINGO!  Rejection bingo with Kirsten Larson of the Sub It Club is a great way to have some fun with the inevitable pile of rejection letters. (Why didn’t I think of this when I was dating? “It’s not you, it’s me…” 😉  )

You have to love that the bonus square is “No Response.” I’m proud that the agency I work for responds to everyone, even if just a form letter. (P.S. If you didn’t hear back from us, it’s one of three things: a) no SASE, b) your email address bounces back to us, or c) we’re still considering it!)

Rejection is just a bump in the road. What goes down must come up. Laugh it off, and keep submitting.

Another way to handle the negative energy of rejections is to do some good in the world. This week only, Penguin Random House is having a READ-A-THON! Check out #Project Readathon, and use your reading time for a good cause. For each excerpt you read online from PGR, they will donate books to Save the Children , up to 300,000 books.

Ready? You with me? Let’s READ!




More query quirks plus…

Spring is in the air, and so are the queries.

A few tips for getting your query out of the slush pile and into your preferred agent’s hands:

  1. Research, research, research. Make sure the agent is a good fit. Use multiple sources – market books, agency websites, query websites, social media. As much as you can find.
  2. Just saying “I found you in Writer’s Digest” doesn’t cut it. Unless you have strong reasons* for mentioning why you’re querying this agent, skip the “we should be a good fit” part & just cut to the query.
  3. Brevity is your friend. Your query should showcase your writing. As I’ve said before, if you have to explain too much, you’re not ready.
  4. Mind your manners. Please use a greeting, the agent’s name (correctly spelled!), a closing, and your name in your query letter.
  5. Follow directions. If we ask for 5 pages, and you’ve 0 pages, does that mean your query won’t make it out of the slush pile? No. But it would have to be one heck of a query. And I can assure you, most don’t meet that standard. Give us what we ask for – no more, no less. And no attachments unless we say so!

*Strong reasons = prior contact with an agent at a conference, workshop, mixer, etc. OR responding to a specific tweet or post OR a request from, say, #PitMad or the like. Not a strong reason? “You’re looking for [picture books].”

(That should be the least common denominator. Now, say, “You’re looking for wordless picture books that bring the relationship between children and their toys to life” – that’s a strong reason.)

Good luck and keep the queries coming! It keeps me employed. 🙂

And in case you find yourself on the Upper West Side and want a literary pick-me-up, Columbia University’s Kemper Gallery at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library is hosting an exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of HarperCollins. I’m adding it to my list of must-sees this spring!



Books For Readers – & more

SCBWI proudly announced its initiative, Books for Readers, earlier this week. BFR aims to collect books from SCBWI members to distribute around the world to worthy causes. Obviously, if you’re a published member, participation is easy: donate a signed copy or copies of your book to the SCBWI HQ starting July 12, 2017.

Other ways you can participate include nominating a cause , collecting ARCS, overstocks, and soon-to-be out of print titles from your publishers, or celebrating. Yes, SCBWI is planning a couple of gala celebrations!

I’d add publicizing. While the books to be collected must come from SCBWI members, if you know of an author who’d like to donate, encourage them to join SCBWI! Give your PAL friends a nudge to send in their books. 🙂

This venture seems like a win-win for all concerned. SCBWI members get their books in front of readers. SCBWI promotes its work and mission, and MOST importantly, young readers without books get books.

The worthy causes are intended to be local, so fill out that nomination form!

Want to help in other ways? Book Riot and HuffingtonPost and Bustle all have had articles listing bookish charities for children.



One Book!

One Book is a popular library program that I’ve enjoyed as a librarian and a reader in multiple places. But I never thought it would happen here in NYC!

One Book seeks to get all members of a community reading the same book to foster conversation on themes and issues important to that community. I’ve participated in One Book programs using books from A Tale of Two Cities to Witness to Mountains Beyond Mountains. Here in NYC, we have a chance to influence that choice:

  • Americanah
  • Between the World and Me
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Sellout
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Hard choices, y’all.

Vote for one of these fine books by February 28th!

Because of the sheer size of New York, NYPL won’t be giving copies of the chosen book away like I’ve seen elsewhere. But publishers of the finalists will be giving 4,000 copies of their books to over 200 branches. Which means you should be able to get a copy pretty soon. Or you could do your part by buying a copy and sharing it with folks. Win-win! 😉

Now for the hard part – which book to vote for? They’re all so good!