Thursday, April 29, 2010

Update on my Quest for Publication

Query, query, query.

So the update on my journey to date thus far:

39 total agent queries

2 publisher submissions

14 agent rejections

3 partial requests (Yay!!)

A fellow querytracker member shared that after 113 queries she had received: 99 rejections 11 partial requests and then 2 simultaneous offers for representation.

In the end all that mattered were those 2 offers.

This gives me hope.

Querying is a full time job. Researching agents, searching websites, blogs and twitter for their latest tastes and pet peeves, writing (and rewriting) query letters, jumping through the various hoops of each agent's individual submission requirements just for the honor of pitching my book's entire plot, character development and subtle intricacies in a short concise single page letter. Ugh!

It's exhausting.

And heart-wrenching.

And awesome.

Even though there are days when I just want to cry, there are ALSO those days when I am filled with this incredible overwhelming sense of excitement, and hope. Those days make me feel like something wonderful is about to happen...

It is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What I'm Listening To Today

Lost Coastlines By Okkervil River

Packed and all eyes turned in, no one to see on the key.

No one waving for me, just the shoreline receding.

Ticket in my hand and thinking wish I didn't hand it in.

Cause who said sailing is fine?

Leaving behind all the faces that I might replace if I tried on that long ride, looking deep inside, but I don’t want to look so deep inside yet.

Sit down, sit down on the proud to wave bye, there might not be another star, farther on the line.

Look out, look out at each town that glides by, and there's another crowd, to drown in crying eyes.

And see how that light you love now just won’t shine.

There might just be another star, that’s high and far in some other sky.

We sing, is that marionette real enough yet to step off of that set to decide what her dance might mean to it.

Ruining the place where the ensuing may lay escape.

We packed up all of our bags the ship's deck now sags from the weight of our tracks, as we pace beneath flags black and battered.

Rattling our swords in service of some fated, foreign, war.

We sail out on order of him but we find, that the maps he sent to us don't mention lost coastlines.

Where nothing we've actually seen has been mapped or outlined and we don't recognize the names upon these signs.

And every night finds us rocking and rolling on waves wild and wide.

Well we have lost our way, nobodies gonna say it outright.

Just go la la la la la la la la la.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stevie King is Bomb Dot Com!

Okay so I was totally stressing out about my new project. I have this really interesting idea and a pretty cool format but I was freaking out because I wasn't sure exactly what was going to happen to my characters. Basically I have an awesome setting, a situation and my characters. BUT... what happens to them? What is my plot?

So I'm freaking out about this and all the while I have been reading On Writing by Stephen King. I've been reading it in small parcels, piece by piece --relishing the insight, the information... not wanting it to end.

And then Mr. King gives me this:

"You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer--my answer, anyway--is nowhere. I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible. It's best that I be as clear about this as I can-- I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course)."

"I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story... I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair: perhaps even just one) in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn't to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety--those are jobs which require the noisy jackhammer of plot--but to watch what happens and then write it down."

Thank you Stephen King.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What I'm Listening To

New Resolution
By The Heartless Bastards

my new resolution is to be
someone who does not take everything so seriously
I want to laugh and joke and have a smoke
and have a good time
and join an institution that will fuel my mind
whoever said ignorance, oh it was bliss
well, there's something there
that I declare they surely missed
'cause in the days and modern ways
you'll get passed by
try to have some fun
I always want to take it in stride

I was out there
on an open sea
no direction, and no one to lead

and then I looked back in there
how did we get there?
the water was foggy
but I didn't really care
'cause stagnancy makes me drown
and I really want to live

my new resolution is to be
someone who does not care what anyone thinks of me
'cause I don't even like myself half the time
and what's the use in worrying what's on other people's minds?

I was out there
on an open sea
no direction, and no one to lead

and then I looked back in there
how did we get there?
the water was foggy
but I didn't really care
'cause stagnancy makes me drown
and I really want to live

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Writing by Stephen King

Memoir+ Style Manual= Awesome

I can't believe I've never read Stephen King's On Writing before. While perusing the writing and publishing section in my local bookstore I stumbled upon this insightful book.

I have always loved Stephen King, he is a modern master of the craft. He creates intricate webs of plot and character like no one else can. I remember reading The Stand in AP English in high school, how it was the only non-classic on our approved reading list for the year, and how it changed what I read and how I write, forever.

But On Writing gave me even more. He shares glimpses of his childhood and the pain and struggle of his early writing career. We get to journey into his head (and oh, what an awesome place it is) and learn how he thinks and how he approaches the joy and task of writing. It is both instructional and enlightening.

"The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story... to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all."

"There was a sharp smell of alcohol. A clank as the ear doctor opened his sterilizer. I saw the needle in his hand-- it looked as long as the ruler in my school pencil-box-- and tensed. The ear doctor smiled reassuringly and spoke the lie for which doctors should be immediately jailed (time of incarceration to be doubled when the lie is told to a child): "Relax, Stevie, this won't hurt." I believed him.

He slid the needle into my ear and punctured my eardrum with it. The pain was beyond anything I have ever felt since-- the only thing close was the first month of recovery after being struck by a van in the summer of 1999. That pain was longer in duration but not so intense. The puncturing of my eardrum was pain beyond the world. I screamed. There was a sound inside my head-- a loud kissing sound. Hot fluid ran out of my ear---it was as if I had started to cry out of the wrong hole."

On Writing offers encouragement as well.

King shares his struggle when he first began writing Carrie, how he questioned his ability to write from a teenage girls perspective, from Planet Female as he called it. This just happens to be similar to a struggle I am facing on my new project. How do I do this thing justice? Who do I think I am writing about this? But you put pen to paper and you just do.

It is possible, he tells us all, you can do this thing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato

"I hate how quiet it is. One smelly dog fart and then nothing, you almost think you've gone deaf. A person in my position begins to think about things, death even. About death and time and why it is I'm afraid sometimes at night sitting and watching the two of them reading and almost not breathing but for the books moving up and down like something floating on top of the ocean. "

I am 100 pages into Mathilda Savitch and I am enthralled. This Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award Winner had me hooked from page 1. Mathilda is a dark and quirky character that has me laughing out loud one moment and gasping with despair the next. Mathilda's voice is so clear, so honest, you feel as though you've been slapped in the face.

"If you want to know, I was born in this house with this dog and those two, teachers of all things. A blue house. If you look at it from outside, you'd swear it had a face, the way the windows are. Window eyes, a window nose, and a door for a mouth. Hi house, I say whenever I come home. I've said this for as long as I can remember. I have other things to say, better than this, but I don't tell anyone. I have secrets and I'm going to have more. Once I read a story about a girl who died, and when they opened her up they found a gold locket in her stomach and the feathers of a bird. Nobody could understand it. Well, that's me. That's my story, except what are they going to find in my stomach, who knows? It's definitely something to think about."

Off-beat, quirky, funny, startling, odd, dark, painful, uncomfortable, honest... touching. And that's only the first third of the book.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Finally by Wendy Mass

I just read Finally by Wendy Mass. This delightful companion to 11 Birthdays, is a heartwarming coming of (middle-school) age story.

Rory can't wait to turn twelve, she's been keeping track of whole list of things she hasn't been allowed to do up until then, and when she turns twelve she is going to do them all.

It's a cute story best fitting 4th-6th grade girls. Rory's voice is authentic but sometimes the finger-wagging "I told you something bad would happen if I let you do that" plot-conflicts are a little much.

It sucks when you're 12 and your mother is always right-- most 7th and 8th graders don't want to have to read about it also.

4th-6th grade girls will enjoy reading about all the inconvenient allergic reactions Rory has to contend with, as well as the movie star interactions.

But the highlight of Finally is definitely Kyle R. Rabbit (Killer) with his beady red eyes and his desire to hop onto Rory's bed and suffocate her while she sleeps.

All in all another sweet offering from Wendy Mass. Be sure to recommend 11 Birthdays as well!

Monday, April 5, 2010

I am once again revising my query letter.

Not fun.

I have been stressing pretty hard about my letter. It's my only link to this great unattainable unknown, The Agents. The idea that a single page may be all that stands between me and publication, terrifies me. Just the idea of summing up my entire novel-- all my hard work, all those characters that I love, all those crazy situations that I put them into-- into one mere paragraph, it causes my breath to quicken and my heart to race.

I have been asking a few friends to read my letters and give me their opinions. What I have discovered is that preference may be just a matter of opinion. People are all different-- agents are all different. One may be intrigued by one hook but another completely put off by it.

There is no perfect query letter.

It is impossible to write one letter that will appeal to all agents.

Because believe it or not... agents are people too.

So the answer? It's a crap shoot. All I can do is hope that the right agent for me sees something wonderful in the few words I am allowed to share with them and asks to see more.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Home Again

My research trip to Oahu went very well. It's such a beautiful island-- I spent a lot of time visiting various local neighborhoods and schools trying to find the perfect setting for my next project. Oahu is so diverse and there are such extremes in living conditions, but the spirit of Aloha seems to resonate with all--and maybe even a little more with the less fortunate. It was an eye opening experience-- and I only hope I can do it the justice it deserves. The task is both overwhelming and exciting but I look forward to diving into a new project to distract myself from all the waiting.