Friday, April 17, 2009

Going Dark (With a Capital D)

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that I won't be posting for a couple days...going to Disneyland! It's my first time since October!  They may not sound like very long, but for someone who used to get park withdrawals after two or three weeks of not going when I lived in Socal, it's a looong time.  So Medieval Times tonight, and Disneyland tomorrow!  AND, the person I'm going with has never been to either before, so I really can't wait to show her around!  Have a good weekend everybody!  And enjoy making fun of my cheesy picture!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Things I Learned From Playing Agent Today

Today I finally got around to shuffling through the queries over on Nathan Bransford's blog for his "Be an Agent for a Day" event.  Let me tell you, it was a lot of fun!  I highly recommend you give it a try if you can squeeze out some free time out of your day.  It is a great learning experience to give you some insight into the other side of the business, and to help you with your own query.  Casey gave a great sum of what she learned here, but I'll add a few of my own tidbits.

Some highlights of what I learned:
  • Sloppy writing will get you thrown out immediately.  I found myself not even finishing a query if it opened up with an awkward sentence, or some other mistake that fragrantly caught my eye.
  • Voice is more important than a catchy premise.  While a good tag line up front helps, the style of the writing and whether or not it pulled me in was infinitely more important than the one-liner hook, or overarcing premise.  If it was a great hook with lackluster writing, I found myself thinking the hook felt gimmicky.
  • Get to the story right away.  Whenever there was a paragraph of praise toward the agent/writer's accolades at the beginning, I skipped it.  If you're going to include this, put it at the end once you've already got the agent loving your voice and story idea.
  • Accolades help, but not as much as I thought.  If I liked a query, the mention of some publishing credits confirmed my decision to request, but their presence did not sway me into requesting if I didn't much like it to begin with.  Also, a lack of publishing credentials didn't prevent me from requesting if I liked the idea and query.
  • When an agent says it's not right for them, they're telling the truth.  Now more than ever, I realize that that intangible "it's gotta click with me" is one of the most important decisions that an agent makes in deciding to represent someone.  This is the biggest reason to query widely; you never know who it might click with.
Interestly, I only ended up requesting three manuscripts out of the fifty--instead of the alloted five--and none of them were in the genre I typically read.  I found that the most difficult part was deciding in one paragraph whether or not the story idea and writing merited another look.  And most of the time, they just didn't wow me enough to request, especially if I had tons of other agenting things to work on.  Of course, I'd imagine that's how it is in real life, too, which means your query really has to have pizazz to make it out of that slush pile.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Books I Officially and Publicly Recommend: The Last Lecture

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture for the third time, and thought I should Officially and Publicly recommend it to everyone.

For those of you who have never heard of the book, and the story behind it, I'll give you some background. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 46, and given just months to live.  In September of 2007 he gave a lecture called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," so that his kids (ages one, five, and six) could have something to be proud of their dad and reference when they grew up with no memories of him. It immediately became a Youtube sensation--with good reason--and a reporter who had attended the lecture contacted him about doing a book.

The book is packed full of really great life advice, and is also an inspirational story of one man's battle with one of the deadliest cancers there is.  I just loaned my copy to a friend, and she sped through it in two days and asked if she could keep it to listen through again.  If you have any childhood dreams (considering most people reading this write for children, you probably do), then this book will remind you of what it takes to make those dreams a reality.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blogcation; Yeah, let's go with that (Or, I'm delurking once again)

Hello all! Casey recently announced that she just returned from a blogcation.  Well, hers wasn't as long as mine, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that's what I was on, too.  A nice, relaxing three-week blogcation where I merely lurked around all your blogs.

So I'm returning by offering up some quotes by one of our great presidents of the past: Teddy Roosevelt.  I happened to stumble across these and thought some of them were just too good not to share.  Enjoy!

"Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe."  (so stay true to your writing, no matter how crazy it is!)

"Character, in the long run,  is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit softly."

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure....than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

"Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been effort stored up in the past."

"I am a part of everything that I have read."

"I am only an average man but, by George, I work harder at it than the average man."

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.  In this life we get nothing save by effort."

"Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering."

"The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people."

"The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency."

"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything."

"With self-discipline most anything is possible."