Finding Something Friday: Essay Contest and Cool Networking

Just very quickly going to remind you that if you have a burning desire to win an essay contest, but you don’t want to pay an entry fee, you still have time to enter the annual Funds For Writers Essay contest (no fee). Of course, you can also enter the annual Funds for Writers Essay contest (fee) as long as you have five bucks and can finish your essay by midnight on October 31st. The theme for this year is “diligence” and so may I suggest that you diligently set your butt in the chair and get writing those 750 words (or less).

And if you’d like to get in on some online hobnobbing with agents, editors and other writers, you might want to zip over to this spot and sign up for the WAE Network (Writers, Agents and Editors). I don’t know much else about this network except that it’s launching soon.

Somehow, I thought it had something to do with Kelly Milner Halls. But when I zipped over to her website, I didn’t see anything about this new network. What I did see, and what THRILLED me to my toes, was her new book, In Search of Sasquatch.

As I happen to have a burning desire to meet Bigfoot (or a Bigfoot), I’ll be rather busy reading all the stuff on her site. But you all should probably start writing that FFW essay.

Finding Something Friday: Humor, Books I’m Reading, Contest, Writing Tips

That’s not a very catchy post title, but it does pretty much sum up the day’s catch.
If you’d like to read October’s column in Modern Senior Living, check out page 13 for “My Not-So-Smart Phone.” (I could probably write a book about phones at the Hall house. One time, I walked into Juniorest Hall’s room and found this mangled mess of wires and such on his bed. Just before I threw it out, he yelled, “Wait! That’s my phone!” Which he was actually still using. It was the phone I’d purchased 24 hours after I’d bought his first phone–but that’s another story.)
As you may remember, October is National Book Month, and I thought I’d update you on what I’m reading now: Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (a middle grade novel with fairy tale overtones) and Bodies of the Dead And Other Great American Ghost Stories (Did you know Edith Wharton wrote a ghost story? Neither did I, but there she is with Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Willa Cather, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. I don’t know Harriet Prescott Spofford from Adam’s house cat, but how many times do you come across a name with that many double consonants? When I finish this scary book, I’m giving it away in the All Hallow’s Read Giveaway. Don’t forget to mention BOOk in a comment if you want your name in the cauldron.)
Janet Reid (yes, the literary agent, again) is having a contest. You have till tomorrow (at noon) to write a 100 word themed Halloween story with the words she’s posted. You can win a critique from Barbara Poelle, and that’s pretty awesome for a micro-fiction story. (You get bonus points if you work in the word “insalubrious”. And yes, I know that you know what insalubrious means, but I thought I’d give a quick definition for all those folks who may have taken a siesta during 10th grade Vocab drills: insalubrious=not conducive to health, unwholesome.)
Finally, just a quick mention of the writing tips you can find over at Finders & Keepers this week. I mentioned that I attended an SCBWI conference and I wrote a “what I learned from whom I saw” post. It’s packed with stuff you can use, whether you’re a children’s writer or not. (Seriously. It’s kind of a long post. But no one will know if you skim it.)
And now, as my insalubrious tale won’t write itself, I have a story to find on this fine Friday. I’m pretty sure it’s rattling around in my head, somewhere.

When Is A Debut Novel NOT a Debut Novel?

Yesterday, I read a blog post from Janet Reid (the literary agent). What I spied with my little eye was the bit about the writer who was very, very good but she’d turned him down because she’d seen that story a dozen times. A debut novel needs to be something fresh and new, she said.

Over the weekend, I attended an SCBWI conference where Alexandra Cooper (an editor) mentioned that writers should do their homework, see what publishers are buying and pay attention to what kinds of books are glutting up the marketplace. But what if a writer’s been working on a book for a couple years and NOW the marketplace is glutted with her kind of story? What to do then? Ms. Cooper suggested that perhaps that “overdone” novel might need to stay under the bed for awhile. A debut novelist needs something…yep, fresh and new.

The last query response I received was very sweet. I can’t remember the agent’s name off the top of my head, but she personally answered the email. Loved the title, she said, loved the humor, and she felt that the writing was good and that the book would find a home. But this sweet agent already had something like my novel. Honestly? It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a response along those lines.

And so I’m considering, or perhaps I should say re-considering, whether this manuscript is the one I should be putting out there as a debut novel. I really love this story. I love these characters. And I want to tell more of their story. A story that may, if I keep pushing, sell sooner or later.

But is it fresh enough and new enough to be a debut novel? In the last three months, I keep hearing this message, and now it’s beginning to take on an ominous tone, like a warning. To wit: just because you can get your first book published…should you?

Which just goes to prove that October may be all about scary monsters and things that go bump in the night, but what really keeps a person wide awake and terrified is freakin’ reality and the choices we make that might affect the rest of our lives. (Boo!)

Tuesday’s Thoughts on Random (But Writerly!) Things

So, I’m getting down to writerly business (Really. I am.), but I’ve got a few thoughts jumbling around in my head, banging to get out. And you know what they say, “There’s more room on the outside…”

*On Why I Don’t Journal

Someone asked me recently about journaling. The someone happened to be a non-writer, but writers often ask me if I journal. And the short answer is no, I don’t seem to be able to stick with journaling. I do write down funny things I’ve heard, or jot a story idea, and make endless Things To Do Lists, but that’s not the same as journaling. I write stories. I suspect that helps me work out the stuff I’d journal about, if I could stick with journaling.

*On Reading a Really Good Book (When You’re a Writer)



I’m reading Incarceron right now. Actually, I’m inhaling Incarceron. Before I started writing Young Adult fiction, I could read books and thoroughly enjoy the experience. But now, when I read a really good YA book, I want to bang my head on the desk, then throw my manuscript into the fireplace, light a match to it, and cry in despair because I will never, ever write something even close to that really good YA book. And then the Beneficent Mr. Hall finds me in a closet and asks, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I try to explain but it’s impossible to explain because of course, the man has such ridiculous faith in me until he really starts to worry and says, “Maybe you should try some other job?” Somehow, I manage to drag myself out of the closet and get back to work. But first, I read a really crappy book. (Coincidentally, I have a lot of stories where characters face their shortcomings.)

*On Looking for Mrs. (or Mr.) Agent

It’s a tough business, looking for an agent. Rejection is part of the game. And just for the record, I do not crawl into closets after every rejection (Mostly because I’d end up living in the closet.). But when I get a personal rejection, even if it’s just a reply with my NAME in it, I don’t feel so bad. And if an agent takes the time to say something nice, even if it’s just a couple words about the title, or liking the humor, I’m thrilled. It’s a crazy world when I’m fist-pumping over rejection.

So, I think I’ve got a little room in my head now to get back to writing. After I put a little ice on the banged-up part.

Finding Something Friday: Packing Your Pitch!

Yikes! I don’t have time to find something this Friday–I’m busy packing and whatnot for an SCBWI conference!

Fortunately, I found something earlier this week that’s been quite helpful in the packing department. I found a blog post from Bubble Cow on “How to Clearly Communicate the Essence of Your Book to Agents and Publishers.”

You may or may not like the idea of piggy-backing your pitch onto a well-known construct, but it can help you squeeeze out the essence of your book, and get you started. Because packing a short, well-thought out pitch is just as important as comfy shoes and your toothbrush.

Which reminds me. I need toothpaste!
P.S. That’s Juniorest Hall, getting ready to throw a pitch. He’s WAY bigger than that now. But he’s still pretty cute!