Monday, June 29, 2009

It's for you

By Pamela

The other day my five-year-old answered the phone and handed it to me. “It’s an agent,” she said.

A year ago, that might have sent me into cardiac arrest. (For the remotely curious, it was Adrian, my son’s soccer coach—clearly not an agent.)

But today I have a healthy dose of reality blended quite heavily with a smattering of perspective.

Soon after I wrote my first manuscript, I began querying literary agents. Most of you will interpret that the error here lies in the word “soon.” Sending a manuscript out to agents should come much “later.” After you’ve revised and had beta readers weigh in, read it to a critique group, revised some more. And then let it simmer for a few months, only to revise again.

The rejections came in, but I always kept one ear trained on the phone because I knew an agent would love it as much as I did. They didn’t. That manuscript is now tucked away and I have moved on to other projects.

With another round of queries out there on a fine-tuned project, I do still anticipate The Call from an agent. But even when that happens, I know it’s only the first piece in a complex puzzle. Once an agent loves my manuscript (and we agree to work together), then she or he has to sell it to an editor who in turn must sell it to his or her publishing house.

Then, assuming the editor doesn’t quit, get fired or die before the book goes to press, the book has to be sold to book sellers. Factor in marketing and promotions and you get a feel for how The Call fits into the puzzle. It’s an important piece--much like the corner piece that keeps the others in line and you can’t really progress without it. But by itself, it doesn’t really complete the picture.

So, most days when the phone rings, I figure it’s a client calling me back, my writing partner or a neighbor looking for her child. But one day, when it’s an agent-not-Adrian, I’m sure my heartbeat will quicken and I might squelch a squeal. I just don’t expect to have to summon a paramedic.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Contributors' Weigh-In

As a way for our readers to get to know us (somewhat like those annoying 20 questions your friends forward to you), I posed ten questions to the women who are contributing to this blog. Here are their responses. --Pamela

1. Some cities host a community-wide reading event where the author comes and presents to a large group. Suppose the mayor calls and asks you to organize it. What book do you choose? And will the fact that you get to take the author to dinner the night before influence your decision?

KB: I’d probably pick Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. It’s beautifully written, touching, takes place in the same general area of the country, and most people could get into the story. (Even my husband, who is not a romantic, liked the movie). Billie Letts is also an entertaining speaker. Oh, and yes, I would love to go to dinner with her!

PH: I think I’d pick Columbine by Dave Cullen. I just bought it and am eager to read it after reading about it through some other blogs. Even read about the artist who designed the cover. And since he got bumped from Oprah after taping the show, I’d like to see Cullen get some additional press for his ten years of research. And no, the dinner deal didn’t influence me.

SIP: I would choose Sue Monk Kidd, except that her best work, The Secret Life of Bees, is several years old. And, yes, I would love to have dinner with her! Another good one is Kim Edwards, who wrote The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I consider both of these to be “new Southern classics.”

JK: I have to pick one? Dinner probably wouldn't matter. I can be pretty chatty when necessary! (Hide your surprise.) How about my top five, including some timeless books and some from emerging authors: Khaled Hosseini/Either book, Sara Gruen/Water for Elephants, Sue Monk Kidd/The Mermaid Chair, Kristy Kiernan/Matters of Faith, Carleen Brice/Children of the Waters (which I haven't read yet!). If we could bring ghosts, how about Bebe Moore Campbell/Your Blues Ain't Like Mine or Kate Chopin/The Awakening.

EL: I’d try to choose something I’d loved that got too little press, I guess, something that deserved more readers but was still highly accessible and fun. And of course the dinner with the author would make a difference! Hm, what book, what book? Looking over books I’ve read this year, I might choose This Must Be the Place by Anna Winger, about the German “voice of Tom Cruise” and an American woman; or The Flying Troutmans, a quirky funny sad read about quirky funny sad people, by Miriam Toews. Or maybe Isaac’s Storm, by Erik Larson, just so I could pick his brain about history (he wrote The Devil in the White City, too, so it’s a twofer).

JM: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield or Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel, the soon-to-be published Audrey Niffenegger title. Yes, I’d love to have dinner with both of them.

2. What classic are you ashamed to admit you’ve never read and probably never will?

KB: The Great Gatsby – And after slugging my way through A Farewell to Arms, I’ve decided I just can’t get into Hemingway either. Or James Joyce, though he was forced on me in college and grad school. Since I was a British Lit major I could avoid Hemingway.

PH: The Lord of the Rings. Didn’t see the movie either. And come to think of it, neither admission really shames me at all. Also, have tried to read Jane Austen and just can’t. I guess my brain is not literary enough.

SIP: I will never like James Joyce. I have tried and failed.

JK: Most of them. I loved the modern lit classes when I was getting my degree – Southern lit, Southwestern lit and folklore, and so on. I tolerated the others and took as few as I could get away with. But ... Moby Dick?

EL: Let’s see…The Hobbit, I guess. Yeah, I know.

JM: Great Expectations.

3. Best book-to-film adaptation, in your opinion:

KB: Where the Heart Is (by Billie Letts). Yes, they condensed it and had to leave some things out, but they kept the emotion exactly, and the casting was great.

PH: The Green Mile (Stephen King) or The Cider House Rules (John Irving—who also wrote the screenplay, which I’m sure helps).

SIP: I don’t watch a lot of movies but would say that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was fantastic at being true to the original novel. The Secret Life of Bees was a great adaptation as well.

JK: Still waiting! But, The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) and Tell No One (Harlan Coben) were pretty darn good.

EL: The Shawshank Redemption was beautifully done. Stand by Me as well (yes, I’ve read The Body). The whole Harry Potter series, particularly the casting. Oh, and maybe my favorite book of all time, Persuasion—the Amanda Root version was pretty much perfect.

JM: Sense and Sensibility.

4. You would consider it a huge compliment if someone were to compare your writing to ___________ (a contemporary author).

KB: Someone once DID compare me to Jane Urquhart. Not being a Canadian, I didn’t get what a compliment that was, particularly since he knows her, until after I read The Underpainter. She’d still be about my top choice. Sue Miller, Susan Vreeland or Anita Shreve wouldn’t be bad either. ;-)

PH: Elizabeth Berg. Her writing comes across both effortless and memorable.

SIP: Sue Monk Kidd and Kim Edwards (both prior mentions). This would be a huge stretch, but I love Pat Conroy’s writing and would love to be compared to him!

JK: Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, all rolled into one.

EL: Anne Tyler!! Real, heartbreaking, funny, gorgeous. Hard to get much better than that.

JM: Diane Setterfield or Amy Tan.

5. Favorite author to have lunch with:

KB: Probably Susan Vreeland because we could talk both writing AND art. But Jane Urquhart would be fun, too, especially since it would give me a chance to go to Stratford, Ontario. Hey, it could be a research trip!

PH: Stephen King. Although I haven’t read everything he’s written, I value him as a timeless genius as well as someone who cares about the creative process. Plus I think he’d be a great conversationalist. Harlan Coben and John Irving are a close second and third.

SIP: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I think she’s great.

JK: Diane Chamberlain or Barbara Samuel.

EL: I’ll bet Maeve Binchy would be a hoot. Plus, I’d have to go to Ireland to meet her, and that would hardly suck.

JM: Adriana Trigiani. She’s a hoot!

6. Your publisher wants to send you on book tour. Budget is tight so she asks if you will sleep on friends’ sofas to save money. How many states can you visit if you employ this tactic?

KB: Fifteen: (Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Maine). I could also go all over Ontario, which would be important for my book. At the moment I could also go to Italy, Thailand, and Dubai.

PH: Thirteen if people are generous. Plus I could stop in Holland and stay with cousins. I guess that works if my book is translated into Dutch. But all my family over there reads English, too.

SIP: Fourteen, off the top of my head. Probably three to four additional countries (England, Mexico, Spain, and Greece) as well, if I were to push my welcome!

JK: Maybe twelve?

EL: Wow, a lot. Is there a way to go on tour and NOT sleep on couches? Offhand I can do NY, IN, PA, CO, NC, SC, FL, CA, AZ, OH, RI, NH, VA, ID, MA, CT, AL, LA, MI, UT, OK, MO, MD—that’s all I’ve got now, but I’m sure I missed some.

JM: I love this question! Let’s see: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, DC, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, North Carolina, California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia. 15, wow!

7. What’s your crutch word, one you constantly overuse when writing?

KB: At one point I had too many eyebrows raised…but I seem to have lowered them now. My critique partners may know the answer to this one better than I do. Once I am aware of a pet word I try to shoot it down quickly.

PH: Back, as in, “she turned back around” or “he placed it back on the shelf.” I’ve also been known to use “hand” too often, especially during an intimate moment. Gotta know where those hands are!

SIP: I really don’t know. Probably something like ‘shrugged,’ she shrugged.

JK: In dialogue, really. In narrative, some. I think.

EL: Actually, it’s probably actually. Or maybe probably. Maybe maybe. Probably one of those, actually.

JM: Breathe.

8. Name a genre in which you could never see yourself being published:

KB: Horror.

PH: Not fantasy. Also, if I wrote a thriller it probably wouldn’t be so thrilling. More like a snoozer. Is that a genre?

SIP: Sci/Fi or horror.

JK: Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Never. Ever.

EL: Science fiction. Just don’t see it. Or fantasy. Or thriller, either.

JM: Sci-Fi.

9. While you write…music or silence? …early bird or night owl?

KB: Silence if possible, but I have been desperate enough to whip out a pivotal scene while my husband is playing Rock Band in the next room. Night owl, definitely. My brain does not turn on before about nine, even if my body has to before then.

PH: Music if it’s not loud and not something I can sing along to. Love I like to write at night when the house is quiet.

SIP: Silence, and I prefer the night life, staying up late: usually midnight to 2 or 3 a.m. Yet I have found that if I am writing articles for someone else (not the novel), I prefer getting up at 4 a.m., churning it out, and heading out to work from there. Regardless, very little writing gets done during the day, mainly because of too many other obligations.

JK: Generally silence. In public, music. Night owl all the way.

EL: Silence please. And time isn’t really the issue, but I am more likely to write in the mornings, but that’s mainly due to my family schedule.

JM: Silence. Early bird.

10. What is your biggest distraction when it comes to meeting a writing goal or deadline?

KB: My children, but I can’t do without them.

PH: My freelance work, e-mail and the Internet. One minute I’m researching and the next thing I know I’m reading about Heidi and Spencer or Lindsay Lohan. And I don’t even care.

SIP: Other obligations: home, children, spouse, and “job-job.”

JK: Feeling like I need to spend more time with my kids, but I am pretty focused with my writing. I may not come in early, but I'm always right on time. (Like this Q&A, right, Pamela?)

EL: The Internet. Such a help and such a bother.

JM: E-mail, blog reading, cooking dinner.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What Women Write

Welcome to our blog. We are six writers who live in the North Texas area. Beginning July 1, we'll blog three days a week (maybe more, if the mood strikes us) about our adventures in the wonderful world of writing.

As you can read in our bios, our backgrounds are diverse, our interests vary widely, but one thing is constant: we all love to write and want to share our experiences as we publish articles, submit short stories and query agents with our completed manuscripts.

Thanks for stopping by. (And if you click on our photos, you'll get linked in to our other blogs and Web sites.)
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