Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kickass Queries Series! #13 - Greg Andree


Happy Autumn, everyone!

With the new season comes a new installment of the Kickass Queries Series, this time featuring Greg Andree and his query for INCONCEIVABLE WISDOM, which nabbed him representation from Caitie Flum at Liza Dawson Associates.


THE QUERY:
Dear Ms. Flum,

I am seeking representation for my contemporary YA novel THE INCONCEIVABLE SCOTT WISDOM. I’m querying you because when tweeting about Supergirl, John Oliver, and other topics I can see your sense of story, politics, and humor are very similar to mine. I think you’ll particularly like Izzy Kim, one of my main characters. She’s smart, funny, and always calls people on their nonsense.  I hope you’ll see yourself as a good fit for this project.

 Scott Fischer is the chosen one. He will take on the mantle of Wisdom and . . . write an advice column.

Words of Wisdom has been a part of Prince Henry High School’s newspaper for over one hundred years, and for unknown reasons Scott has been chosen to carry on the tradition. He isn’t the best writer, student, or anything else, but he's determined to breathe new life into this assignment. Though how can Scott give other people advice when his own life is so broken?

Yura "Izzy" Kim is a force of chaos who inserts herself into Scott’s life. She is a feminist that loves to play with surrealism in her art. She has plans within plans for Wisdom, Scott, and the school that will be an artistic masterpiece.

Oh yeah, and Dennis, the guy from homeroom? He's formed a cult based on Scott's Words of Wisdom, and Principal Lewis is not a fan.

While writing his column and trying to maintain a secret identity Scott stumbles into friendships, trouble, and cosmic contemplations on the meanings of life, love, tattoos, and why some people can’t bring themselves to take down decorations from holidays long past.

Can Scott find a way to fix what’s broken inside of him, or will he lose everything to the grief that fractured his family?

THE INCONCEIVABLE SCOTT WISDOM is 83k words, and feels like a collision of A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and the classic teen rebellion movie Pump Up The Volume. It plays with ideas of how art and words can create meaning out of chaos, be misinterpreted, or remain inconceivable to people who don't share your experiences.

I have a BA in Literature, an MA in writing, and teach 8th graders about all that fun stuff. Working with teenagers is a constant reminder of how awkward, horrible, fun, and overwhelming their lives can be, which keeps my writing reality-based, and mostly nostalgia free.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

THE INTERVIEW
GMC: How many manuscripts did you query before signing with your agent?

GA: I’d written five manuscripts and queried two before writing INCONCEIVABLE WISDOM and signing with Caitie Flum at Liza Dawson Associates. One was weirdly experimental that told the evolution of a world religion that formed on the foundation of an advice column after the column’s writer mysteriously vanished. The body of the book was the advice column itself, and I showed the evolution of the religion’s traditions, sects, and such in footnotes and scholarly essays. I thought it was brilliant. It was not brilliant. Agents didn’t’ know what to make of it, never mind how to place it. It deserved every rejection in the universe and more, but it was my first “book” and without it I never could have written the manuscript that connected me with my agent. Each epic failure in writing was a step closer to me learning how to write a solid book. Not one of those manuscripts was a waste of time. They were lessons in concept, story, and character, but most importantly each was an exercise in how to actually finish a manuscript.

GMC: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

GA: While I was doing my final revision before querying I wrote and rewrote my query letter at least ten times. Added a detail, cut a line, changed the wording of something to make it click. When it was done I tightened it up by cutting a quarter of the word count. Once I had the description of the story I switched focus to the agents I knew I’d be submitting to. Every night for a week I’d write a personalized opening for each query. In each I explained why I chose that agent to query, specifics about my story that connected to their #MSWL, their clients I read, or something they tweeted about a book or movie that made me think they’d like my manuscript. Sometimes I’d spend an hour trying to craft that perfect personalized line. I wanted them to understand I thought deeply about querying them. I wasn’t just throwing this into the crowd and hoping for the best.

GMC: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

GA: Over a week, as I perfected each personalized query I’d send them out. Two days after I sent the first few I got requests from two agents to read my full, and over the next two weeks I got requests for five more. Ten days after Caitie Flum requested my full manuscript she emailed to set up a phone call. Terrifying, right?

GMC: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?

GA: Caitie was kind and insightful about my manuscript. She also said it wasn’t ready, and told me all the reasons why. That was painful. She asked for a rewrite/resubmit on the first thirty pages with the changes she thought it needed. I knew it was a kind of test to see if I could take a critique, and build on her ideas, but it also made me see that the opening of my ms wasn’t as strong as the middle and end. I took a couple of weeks, re-read, took notes, made the changes she wanted, and she was right. She was totally right. When I talked to her a few days later she offered representation. She saw my story, understood it, and knew how it could be more. That’s when I knew she was the right agent for me.

GMC: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

GA: So many things in publishing are beyond your control, so control the things you can. Write the best book you can, then rewrite, revise, and make it better. Don’t set artificial deadlines. Take the time you need. And when you’re ready take as much care in querying agents as you did writing your book. You’re finding someone you can trust with your writing career, a partner in all things literary, don’t just throw your manuscript into the crowd.

Excellent advice! Thanks so much for sharing this part of your publishing journey with us, Greg, and best of luck finding the right home for INCONCEIVABLE WISDOM. 
If you'd like to learn more about Greg Andree, you can find him on Twitter (@GregAndree71) or on his website (www.AndreeInstitute.com). 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kickass Queries Series! # 12 - Emily R. King

It's baaaaaaaaack!!!

I know it's been a very long time since I've been active on this blog, and for an almost equally long time, I've wanted to change that. As a result, I've decided to bring back the Kickass Queries Series installments, wherein authors share the query that nabbed them their agents. It's fun, it's useful, and y'all seemed to really appreciate the last go-round, so it felt like the perfect way to ease back into the blogosphere.

Here today to kick off the brand new series is Emily R. King, who not only scored representation with Marlene Stringer at Stringer Literary Agency, but also recently sold her book to Skyscape for Publication in 2017:



 CONGRATULATIONS, EMILY!!!
Curious to know how Emily went about pitching her book? Well, you're in luck. Because not only has she shared the query, but she's also answered a few questions to help those who want to follow in her footsteps. Let's start with the query:

Pitch for YA fantasy, THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN:

Rajah Tarek claimed ninety-nine wives and countless courtesans before he came to Kali’s temple looking for his final queen. When she sees his gold carriage, she knows a benefactor has arrived. She knows he will pick the prettiest, strongest girl. And she knows with her plain looks and history of fevers it won’t be her.

She is mistaken.   
                                  
The rajah claims Kali, ripping her away from her simple life high in the mountains to his desert palace. But before she’s to wed him, Kali must defend her position as his final wife in an age-old rank tournament, battling to the death against young courtesans vying for her throne. In this competitive female hierarchy, sabotage rules. Kali’s only peace is found while in the company of her kind imperial guard. A man she’s forbidden to love.

When Kali’s fevers prove to be more than an illness, but a feared power, she agrees to aid a warlord and end the rajah’s tyranny. Her one chance of being alone with Rajah Tarek—and killing him—is on their wedding night. A wedding that will only take place if she sacrifices the love of an honorable man to end the reign of a monster and is crowned the hundredth queen.
Pitch for YA fantasy, THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN:
Rajah Tarek claimed ninety-nine wives and countless courtesans before he came to Kali’s temple
looking for his final queen. When she sees his gold carriage, she knows a benefactor has arrived.
She knows he will pick the prettiest, strongest girl. And she knows with her plain looks and
history of fevers it won’t be her.
She is mistaken.
The rajah claims Kali, ripping her away from her simple life high in the mountains to his desert
palace. But before she’s to wed him, Kali must defend her position as his final wife in an age-old
rank tournament, battling to the death against young courtesans vying for her throne. In this
competitive female hierarchy, sabotage rules. Kali’s only peace is found while in the company of
her kind imperial guard. A man she’s forbidden to love.
When Kali’s fevers prove to be more than an illness, but a feared power, she agrees to aid a
warlord and end the rajah’s tyranny. Her one chance of being alone with Rajah Tarek—and
killing him—is on their wedding night. A wedding that will only take place if she sacrifices the
love of an honorable man to end the reign of a monster and is crowned the hundredth queen

WOW, am I right? And here's what Emily had to say about her querying process:


G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent/publisher?

ERK: I queried four manuscripts before signing with my first agent; I signed with my second agent after querying one manuscript; and I was on submission with two manuscripts before signing with my publisher.

G: How long did it take to write your query/pitch, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent/editor/contest-ready?

ERK: I suggest that writers compose their pitch before they draft. A pitch is a snapshot of the premise. The more specific yet concise a pitch is the stronger the manuscript will be. This is why I write the pitch before or while drafting. Catching a weak spot in my pitch has prevented larger revisions in my manuscript later. Also, writing a pitch while drafting helps fine-tune your story before your brain is bogged down by unnecessary details. After your manuscript is written, it can be a monumental task to condense thousands of words into an enticing 250-word pitch. In the drafting stage, the story isn’t as ingrained in your mind. You can more easily filter through what’s necessary and what’s clutter. 

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

ERK: First: Research, research, research! Utilize websites, social media, and your writer/author friends. Follow agents and editors on social media and introduce yourself to them at writer conferences. Visit literary agency/agent websites. Know who is currently open to submissions, what their guidelines are, and their feedback style. Write down everything you learn and form lists of ten or so agents. When your manuscript is ready, send the first ten queries. After a few requests/passes, send another ten queries. Query in small batches so that if you receive feedback for revisions you haven’t botched your opportunity with every agent in the land. Most agents are amenable to revisions, but only if they request them.

A query is your one shot to make a good first impression. So have a finished manuscript, study the agents you query, and be ready with another story to work on. Don’t wait for good fortune to come your way. Write. This will be hard, especially when you’re tempted to check your email constantly, but writing is the only true cure for querying anxiety. 

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent/editor was the right person to represent/publish your project?

ERK: Querying is like dating. Don’t look for a girlfriend/boyfriend, look for a spouse. For many reasons these agent/client partnerships, although well-intended, don’t always work out. Suffice to say, a year after signing with my first agent, we amicably parted ways. I reentered the query trenches with a manuscript no editor or agent had seen. Within a week, I got an offer from an agent who shared the same vision for my career. I had found my match.

This story has a happy ending, but some writers are still looking for theirs. I’ve been approached by writers who are unhappy with their agent, but terrified to “start over.” No writer should stay in a stagnant business partnership, risking their career because they’re afraid of querying again. To those of you in this situation—have every confidence in your writing. An agent offered you representation before and it can happen again!

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

ERK: No matter where you are in your career, you are not alone. Every writer experiences rejection, disappointment, frustration, and makes missteps. If you love to write— and I mean LOVE—you will find a way to achieve your publishing goals.

Thank you, Emily, for your fantastic advice. I know I can't wait to see THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN on shelves (and anyone who feels the same can click the book's title and add it to their Goodreads shelf). Best of luck and thanks again for sharing your query! 
Rajah Tarek claimed ninety-nine wives and countless courtesans before he came to Kali’s temple
looking for his final queen. When she sees his gold carriage, she knows a benefactor has arrived.
She knows he will pick the prettiest, strongest girl. And she knows with her plain looks and
history of fevers it won’t be her.
She is mistaken.
The rajah claims Kali, ripping her away from her simple life high in the mountains to his desert
palace. But before she’s to wed him, Kali must defend her position as his final wife in an age-old
rank tournament, battling to the death against young courtesans vying for her throne. In this
competitive female hierarchy, sabotage rules. Kali’s only peace is found while in the company of
her kind imperial guard. A man she’s forbidden to love.
When Kali’s fevers prove to be more than an illness, but a feared power, she agrees to aid a
warlord and end the rajah’s tyranny. Her one chance of being alone with Rajah Tarek—and
killing him—is on their wedding night. A wedding that will only take place if she sacrifices the
love of an honorable man to end the reign of a monster and is crowned the hundredth queen.
Rajah Tarek claimed ninety-nine wives and countless courtesans before he came to Kali’s temple
looking for his final queen. When she sees his gold carriage, she knows a benefactor has arrived.
She knows he will pick the prettiest, strongest girl. And she knows with her plain looks and
history of fevers it won’t be her.
She is mistaken.
The rajah claims Kali, ripping her away from her simple life high in the mountains to his desert
palace. But before she’s to wed him, Kali must defend her position as his final wife in an age-old
rank tournament, battling to the death against young courtesans vying for her throne. In this
competitive female hierarchy, sabotage rules. Kali’s only peace is found while in the company of
her kind imperial guard. A man she’s forbidden to love.
When Kali’s fevers prove to be more than an illness, but a feared power, she agrees to aid a
warlord and end the rajah’s tyranny. Her one chance of being alone with Rajah Tarek—and
killing him—is on their wedding night. A wedding that will only take place if she sacrifices the
love of an honorable man to end the reign of a monster and is crowned the hundredth queen.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Deja vu Blogfest - Why I Write Teens Who Act Like Teens


Happy Deja vu Blogfest Weekend!

The post I've chosen to rehash for #dejavu2015 was originally posted in February, and is called An Open Letter to My Readers: Why I Write Teens Who Act Like Teens.

It's an honest, heartfelt post that rings true about my published novel (LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE) as well as my unpublished and soon-to-be-published books (BUSTED, coming from Sourcebooks, and a second YA contemporary from Simon Pulse). How do *you* feel about the depiction of teens in YA novels?

***
This post has been brewing for some time, but now that there are ARCs of LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE out in the world, a story that I'm very attached to and very proud of, I feel the need to finally say this out loud.

Look! A stack of LYM ARCs as seen in Chicago
at the ALA 2015  Mid-Winter Conference!

Let me start by saying this: I don't just write about teenagers. I also write for them.

Yes, I'm an adult who devours YA novels. Yes, I know a large percentage of the people who read YA novels are actually adults. But when I sit down to pour a story from my brain to the page, I'm not thinking about the other adults who will read it.

I bring this up because, as someone who does read a lot of YA, I also read a lot of reviews, blog posts, and tweets about YA novels.

And it's become increasingly bothersome to me that there are so many people who choose to read books about teenagers... and then complain when the characters act like teenagers.


Photo credit: movie-addicted
When I decided to write a novel set in high school, I wanted to draw on my own experience. In doing so:

I'm thinking about a girl who experienced total culture shock going from 8 years of city Catholic school to a public high school in a swanky small town where she didn't fit in. I'm recalling the cliques, the jocks, the "popular" kids and the "losers," - things that many are so quick to deem stereotypes, even though they existed and still do. I'm recalling the pain of being teased and called names. I'm thinking about how one look from a particular person could make my day. Or the way it would crush me when the one person I wished and hoped would notice me never even knew I was alive.

I'm remembering falling in love for the first time.

I'm thinking about new friendships being formed, old friendships falling apart.

About words I wish I'd said, words I wish I could take back.

I'm remembering having my heart broken.

In short, I'm thinking about the me that I used to be. And I'm thinking about the girls who are in high school now, living through all of it for the first time.

***

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite shows was My So-Called Life. There's a Twitter account, @MSCLQuotes, that tweets some of the shows best quotes. Like this one:

"Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes. Even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

Photo credit: towonderland
To me, this quote is the embodiment of a high school crush. Angsty, dramatic, all-consuming. She takes something commonplace, and puts it on the same level as something huge.

I would've fainted on the spot if Jared Leto looked at me like that when I was a teenager, and I'm only exaggerating a little.

Because when you're a teenager, you tend to feel everything, as Kelsey says in LYM, magnified in clear, sharp focus. (I touched on this subject once before, in a post titled The Big Impact of Smaller Things)



And it's natural that when you're driven by hormones and emotion, you're not always thinking straight. You tend to do and say stupid things. Make decisions you wouldn't necessarily make again. Let your passion get the better of you. Break the rules, or at least wonder what it's like to. Feel like you know everything and absolutely nothing, all at the same time. Test your limits. Cry. Say things you don't mean. Say things you *do* mean, but still regret. Try things you end up loving. Try things you end up hating. Pretend to love things you don't. Experiment with your appearance, among other things. Make snap judgments. Fall hard and fast. Get hurt.

Most important? YOU LEARN FROM ALL OF IT. Because you're figuring out who you are.

Later on, it might all seem silly. But in that moment, it's everything.

These are the things I strive to capture when I write a young adult book. So it boggles my mind when I see people citing immaturity or melodrama or "dumb teenage stuff" as the reason they didn't like a YA novel.

These are, by definition, books about teenagers. YOUNG adults, not actual adults. People who don't yet know that hindsight is twenty-twenty, because they're just learning how to adjust rear view mirrors - not analyzing their lives through them.

So, to me, reading a YA novel and then trashing it when the characters act their age is like ordering a banana milkshake and complaining that it tastes like banana.

If there are people out there who managed to get through high school avoiding all the drama, who were treated fairly by all and were a ray of sunshine to everyone in return, who never made a bad choice or let emotions or inexperience get the better of them, then I applaud you. Everyone has their own reality.

But that's not the high school I remember.

And so, dear readers and critics who've either read or are thinking about reading my novels, I sum up my post with this:

If you are looking for books about people who always make the best decisions, featuring sage adult brains in teenage bodies and teenage bodies in adult predicaments, then my novels are probably not for you. My characters are flawed, they make mistakes, they feel things with their whole, bleeding hearts. And I like them that way. I celebrate the "young" in "young adult." Many of my favorite authors do the same. And I think that if my novels make you feel something - even if it's annoyance at people who don't have it all figured out - then it means I've done something right.

If you agree, then I encourage you to read LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE. Review it. Share your thoughts with me. I'd love to hear from you. To those who already have - thank you, from the bottom of my still-seventeen heart.

Happy reading, everyone.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In Which I Have NEWS! ...And Celebrate With a Giveaway!


Hey, bloggy peeps!

It's been over a month since I've posted anything, and a good part of the reason for that is because I've been hard at work on my second book for Simon Pulse.

But while I was sitting in my office watching my word count on that manuscript slowly (PAINFULLY slowly) climb, something pretty awesome happened...


.... I SOLD ANOTHER BOOK!


Yay! My YA Contemporary, BUSTED, has been acquired by Annette Pollert at Sourcebooks, and I am thrilled.



I started drafting this novel while LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE was on sub, and it was ridiculous amounts of fun to write. I had a big smile on my face when I finished, and I hope you'll feel the same way if you read it.

At any rate, I am super grateful to be giving LYM a sibling. So grateful, in fact, that I've decided to run a Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway to celebrate. As you know, reviews are important to authors in so many ways, but I think these graphics break it down best:




So - here are the rules:

- Between now and 12/9/15 (which is LYM's half-birthday) read LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE (if you haven't already). Then post a review on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble. 

- Leave the link to your review in the comments section of this post. Be sure to also leave your email address or Twitter handle, so I can notify you if you win.

The review does not have to be long - a few succinct, insightful sentences is fine. And it can definitely be a copied and pasted review that was previously only posted to Goodreads or your blog or website (as long as it's yours. No plagiarizing, obvs.)

YES - this contest is international! 

**An extra entry will be given to anyone who posts a review AND tweets about the contest. I'll even provide some pre-made tweets to make it easy**


Enter 's Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway to win awesome titles from  and !  

I entered 's Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway to celebrate her new deal with ! Details here: 

One winner will be announced on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 9th, and will receive:
- Any one Simon Teen title of your choice
- Any one Sourcebooks Fire title of your choice
- Signed LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE swag
- Saltwater taffy (in honor of one of my favorite scenes in LYM)

Thanks in advance for helping me celebrate, and I can't wait to share BUSTED with you!

*** CONGRATS TO NATALIE BLITT, WINNER OF THE CONTEST! The Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway is now closed, but new reviews are ALWAYS appreciated! ***