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. 🙂  )




I’m on a deadline today preparing a writing sample and submissions package.

Plus, Sean McCarthy has said far better than I can what makes an agent (or their assistant) stop reading your query. Pay attention to his oh-so-good advice!

Especially the parts where he tells you not to use your children or students as a test audience and to address the query correctly. 🙂

Got a few more minutes? Head over to Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating to see the second half of her interview with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary!

It’s HOT here in NYC. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and keep writing!

Help at hand

Yesterday, wonderful picture book author Dianne Ochiltree discussed the need for how-to books for writers and some of her favorite resources on the blog, Writing and Illustrating.

A reader asked if there was any need for such books, given the wealth of information on the web. Dianne responded with a resounding YES! and listed a few of her must-haves to keep on your desk, including a hard copy dictionary, thesaurus, and even Bullfinch’s Mythology.

I’d like to add my must-haves to her list:

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (has to be the Kalman illustrated edition!)
    • Even grammar girls like me need to look up the finer points of ‘who’ and ‘whom’ once in a while…
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi
    • All of the resources at Writers Helping Writers are great. Until your router is down or your network is having the hiccups.
  • Today I will: a year of quotes, notes, & promises to myself by Spinelli & Spinelli
    • Sometimes you just need a little inspiration to get going.  I loved yesterday’s: “There once was a man who danced in the street.”
  • A good baby name book
    • See above. And you avoid falling down the Internet rabbit hole.
  • Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Bird, Danielson, & Sieruta
    • Again, inspiring rather than useful.

I have plenty of useful craft books – does anyone NOT have Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? – but I’ve discussed those before. While you could educate yourself about writing children’s books on the web, I find that taking the time to read books about writing in hard copy forces me to slow down and actually absorb the information. I might even make notes.

What I don’t keep at hand? Directories and industry guides. The sad fact is that any hard copy directory is potentially out of date before you buy it, much less use it. E-book versions are only marginally better. Pay for access to online databases such as Publisher’s Marketplace or the online Writer’s Market. (Most offer a trial period or at least a short subscription length. Or see if your local library allows you access via your library card.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to squeeze my stress cupcake and try to crank out some good words before my critique group meeting tonight…

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!




Another piece of advice

More query questions? You’re in luck. Heather Ayris Burnell of the Sub It Club has an excellent breakdown in today’s post. “Hook, book, and cook.” Catchy and concise! And if you’re not a member of the Club, well, what are you waiting for? 😉

Whether you’re drafting your first ever query letter or have written a whole bunch of them, the truth remains the same: query letters can be tough. Each manuscript is different. Heck, each query letter is a little different! Even when you’re querying the same manuscript to multiple people you still need to take the time […]

via How to Write a Query Letter – A Basic Breakdown — Sub It Club

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!