Querily, Querily, Querily, Querily + Critique Giveaway, by Lindsay Bandy

Send, send, send your query

Into the slush stream

Querily, querily, querily, querily…

Is publication just a dream?

All month as I’ve thought about our theme of “Submission Sense,” this little song has been stuck in my head. (I have a preschooler – don’t judge.)

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As writers and illustrators, we know that agent and editor slush piles are overwhelmingly large. We’re each a little boat rowing in the stream of queries, hoping to stand out. The truth is, most queries and their respective manuscripts set sail a little sooner than they should. But how do you know if you’re ready? It’s a hard question, but if we can learn to ask it of our work, we can help to cut down on our own rejection, the slush pile itself, and everyone’s wait time.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you write your query letter:

-Can I identify my character’s major conflict and major arc of change? Of course I can…..wait….I thought I could, but now I can’t form a complete sentence. Gah! How many times have I sat down to write a summary and gotten up feeling like a wrung-out washcloth? Why’s it so darn hard? There are many reasons, but one is that our characters, especially in novels, face many conflicts. They change slowly, maybe even in ways that we as their authors haven’t even recognized yet. Or maybe….eeeek!….they don’t quite have a complete arc of growth. Maybe they have too many problems, and not one that dominates their goals and actions. Maybe they don’t really…actually…change. Realizing this is okay. It’s step one toward strengthening the most important part of the submission process: your work!! If it’s giving you fits trying to mash it into a query letter, go back and see if there’s some honing left to do. Don’t panic. Don’t cry. However, a glass of wine doesn’t hurt….

-Did I hit the major plot points? Knowing your plot points can be a major help in writing the query (and the whole book, for that matter). You have an inciting incident. The first major turn of events. The midpoint. The last major turn of events that races you into the final quarter of your book. If you’re not sure you have a good handle on this, then you might want to do a little structural review. While some writers just instinctively do this without thinking about it, others (like me) need someone to point it out to them. Remember, there’s no shame in learning!

-Can I talk about my book without fainting? You know you’ve been there, too. You sheepishly manage to utter the words, “Um, so, I’m like… writing a book.” Hooray for you, Brave Soul! But then the question comes: So what’s it about? And then, your mouth dries up. Your brain melts, right along with your confidence. Hopefully you remembered your antiperspirant. The solution? Keep working on your little one-liner until you have it down. Practice it in the shower, or while driving, or while trying to fall asleep. Say it to your goldfish. Have your line prepared, so you can say, “My book is about X who faces problem Y on her quest to Z.” If you can talk to fish, dogs, and regular people about your book without expiring, you’re well on your way to talking about it to industry professionals.

Have I solved all major plot and character problems? Of course, your gut reaction is YES! But don’t jump the gun. Ask several other trusted readers to read your finished product. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that there are a few flying loose ends you just. Didn’t. See. Try not to get angry at your readers, yourself, or the universe if you realize you’ve got a problem. Take your time. Think it through. Ask for help. Then run the solution by your readers to make sure it really, actually works. Cutting corners in an effort to get your work out there faster won’t speed the process. The good news is, the more problems you solve, the more confident you will become in your problem-solving ability, and the easier you will be able to breathe.

Most importantly, don’t despair if your query-writing leads you to more revisions. Instead, rejoice (or at least try to smile), because your manuscript is getting stronger. You’re learning your craft, and learning to master your own masterpiece. You’re getting closer to that ultimate YES!!!

Leave a comment below about your querying triumphs, woes, or questions, and you’ll be entered into a…..

 **QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY**

One lucky commenter will win a query critique by yours truly – EPA SCBWI blogmaster and agented writer Lindsay Bandy! Comment by August 31, 2016, and your name will go into my virtual hat. Winner will be announced September 1.

Oh, and for more query tips, please join me at the Lancaster Library on September 10 for BREAK INTO PUBLISHING! My very own agent, Heather Flaherty of the Bent Agency, will be giving you the ins and outs of agenting, plus providing instant feedback on some first pages AND queries! You’ll also get to meet and learn from Eastern PA authors Jennie K. Brown, Sandy Asher, and Mark Magro. You still have time – so go ahead and register!

 

 

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Time for Fall Philly Registration!!

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FALL PHILLY IS BACK!

And it’s better than ever.leaves_header

Join us for an all-star line-up of PA authors and acquiring agents at this year’s Fall Philly.

October 23, 2016

9am – 4pm

Warwick Hotel at Rittenhouse Square

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Adam Lehrhaupt (I Will Not Eat You), Elizabeth Kann (Pinkalicious), Becky Birtha (Lucky Beans), Diana Rodriguez Wallach (Anastasia Phoenix), Jennifer Hansen Rolli (Just One More), as well as your hosts, Kim Briggs and Alison Green Myers, will entertain you with five craft focused sessions throughout the day.

And… Sign up for one-to-one pitch sessions with acquiring agents. Adriana Dominguez (Full Circle Literary), Linda Camacho (Prospect Agency), Beth Phelan (The Bent Agency), Kelly Peterson (Corvisiero Literary), Jordy Albert (The Booker Albert Agency), Danielle Burby (HSG Agency), Melissa Edwards (Stonesong Agency), Charlie Olsen (Inkwell Management), and Sean McCarthy (The Sean McCarthy Literary Agency), Christa Heschke (McIntosh and Otis Agency) will be in attendance with limited meetings open to you.

Registration: $99 for SCBWI members, $139 for non-members

Ten minute pitch sessions: $25

Pitches open to registered conferees only.

You are limited to five pitches at the event.

Registration opens at 9am on Monday, August 22. Just FYI, that’s TODAY!!! So hurry!! EASTERN PA SCBWI FALL PHILLY REGISTRATION

Can’t wait to see you there!

The EPA SCBWI Team of Kim Briggs, Alison Green Myers, and Adrienne Wright (with new additions coming shortly…)

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Agent Research 101: Ten Must-See Resources Before You Query, by Lori Ann Palma

Your manuscript is polished, your query letter is compelling, and you have a list of literary agents ready to go. It’s time to submit, right? Not so fast! One of the major steps in the submission process that many writers skip is the agent research stage. This is when you take your list of agents and hone in on what they want and how you fit into that category. More than that, it also provides you with valuable information to personalize your query letter, letting the agent know that you’re not only serious about them, but also about your work.

 

Below are ten of the best websites to kick your search into high-gear:

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·         The Agency Website: The agency that employs your chosen agent should be your first stop in the research process. You’ll want to see what category and genre the agent represents. For example, they may represent YA, but only fantasy or science fiction. For this reason, be sure to look at the details. Additionally, this is where you should gather submission guidelines. While other sites will probably list them, always gather this information directly from the source, as they will be the most updated and accurate on the agency site.
 
·         ManuscriptWishList.com: Agents who set up a profile on this site can update their listing at any time, providing writers with a wishlist that is often more specific than the agency website. And if you’re on the hunt for even more wishlist details, use the link to see the agent’s latest #MSWL tweets. (#MSWL is short for “manuscript wishlist,” and some agents periodically tweet a story concept they want to see by using this Twitter hashtag.) As you mine this resource for an agent’s interests, be sure to save the information so you can personalize your query introduction.
 
·         PublishersMarketplace.com: In addition to the agent’s wishlist, you’ll want to visit Publishers Marketplace and review the agent’s member page. This will give you a snapshot of the number of clients they currently have, and the types of books they represent. If the list is heavy on science fiction but you write contemporary realism, it might be an opportunity to fill a gap in that agent’s list (provided they also represent contemporary). While you’re there, also review the number of recent sales to ensure the agent is actively making deals. To find an agent, simply enter their name into the search field on the home page.
 
·         Amazon.com: Now that you know the agent’s clients, take a look at their books. Hopefully, their current list has books that are similar to your own manuscript in style and genre. However, beware if there is book that’s a little too close to your own. An agent who reps a book that’s extremely close in plot or theme may pass because they don’t want a repeat, or two authors in direct competition.  
 
·         The agent’s own website/blog: Many agents have their own sites to provide more insight into their interests, share news about their clients, and provide updates on query response times. For example, Jenny Bent has a website called Bent on Books, where each agent provides a monthly manuscript wishlist item. Not all agents have the time to manage their own site or blog, but if they do, it’s a must-read.
 
·         LiteraryRambles.com: This site has a regular feature called “Agent Spotlight,” where they focus on an agent who represents children’s and/or young adult literature. The post includes information on what the agent is looking for, personal quotes, interviews, and links to their web presence. Links to every spotlighted agent are alphabetically listed by agent last name on the left side of the home page.
 
·         QueryTracker.net: See what other writers are saying about an agent by using the agent directory. Also, if you sign up for a free membership, you can also view real data such as query response times, number of queries sent, and response rates. The directory is located at: https://querytracker.net/literary_agents.php
 
·         WriteforApples.com: Query.Sign.Submit is a regular interview feature that discusses the agent’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission. Because the questions are directly related to querying, you’ll definitely want to check to see if an agent on your list has been interviewed. You can find a listing of participating agents here: http://www.writeforapples.com/p/query-sign-submit.html
 
·         Google.com: Don’t overlook the simple, yet effective Google search. The results will bring up additional interviews that might reveal important information, such as how the agent prefers a query letter to begin—with the title, genre, and word count, or the pitch. Using these small details to your advantage can make your letter stand out from a crowded in-box.
 
·         Preditors & Editors: A quick check of the Preditors & Editors site help you separate the legitimate agents from the scammers. Take the time to check and see if any names on your list are not recommended. You can find the A-Z directory here: http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.ht
 
Now that you’re armed with information, you’ll be able to narrow down your list to the agents who best fit your work, and avoid those who aren’t legitimate.
 
Now that I’ve listed my ten best resources, I want to hear from you. What sites do you recommend to research an agent? Add them in the comments below!
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Getting to Know Your-Shelf, by Kristen C. Strocchia

     Three pieces of writerly advice that I’ve heard most since starting on the road to publishing, are: 1) know the market; 2) know where your book will sit on the shelf; and 3) read your genre. At first, they sound deceptively similar. But while there are nuanced differences, the bottom line is that reading benefits writing—in craft as well as submission sense. Becoming more shelf-aware can help with finding just the right comp titles to include in a query and with discovering what makes your work distinctive within your genre in the market. Try this reading challenge to get to know your-shelf better!

Within the age group you write, read a book…

·        written in the same POV

·        with a MC the same race as yours

·         set in the same time period

·         with a character who shares the same name as one of your characters

·         in your same genre

·         with a MC who speaks the same first language as yours

·         that has a similar title, or shares an important title word

·         set in the same place

·         with a MC the same age as yours

·         that has a MC with a similar family situation

·         repped by an agent you’d like to query

And above all, read something that inspires you and have fun with it!

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Solving the Query Letter Conundrum: Four Parts to a Perfect Pitch, by Lori Ann Palma

If you’re in the process of writing a query letter, you’ve likely struggled with the pitch section. Nestled between the introduction and your biography, it’s easily the most difficult part of a query to master. Not only do you have to condense your novel into a few paragraphs, but it has to be compelling enough to intrigue the agent or editor into reading your sample pages.
 
After analyzing hundreds of online query letters to assist with my own process, I’ve learned one key thing: your pitch should include four key elements. This sounds a bit formulaic, and there are always exceptions to the rule, but once I understood this concept, my query letter not only improved, but I started receiving requests for my full manuscript.
 
Let’s go deeper and talk about the four parts. If you want to play along, grab a copy of your manuscript and a highlighter. Here we go!
 
1. The hook: The beginning of your novel, and most often the first chapter, includes the inciting incident—the big thing that pushes your protagonist out of the status quo and into a situation that requires action. If you’re stuck on developing a good hook sentence, look no further than your protagonist and the inciting incident. Jot it down in simple terms, or highlight the lines in your manuscript where this occurs. For illustration purposes, I’m going to make something up, such as “Bob finds a body in the woods behind his house.” This line says what happens, but it’s pretty boring. Next, I’ll jazz it up by adding details to make us care about Bob. For example, “Sixteen-year-old Bob thinks the worst part of his day is waking up late for school, until his short cut through the woods turns into a gruesome crime scene—with a dead body he knows.” Now we know Bob’s age, that he’s late for school, and he’s found a murder victim that isn’t a stranger to him. As far as hooks go, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. This is where you’ll continue to workshop your hook sentence until it sizzles. I suggest looking at book jackets within the genre of your own manuscript. When a description grabs you, ask yourself why. One caveat to remember—stick to reading jackets of debut novels only, as the copy is often taken directly from the author’s query letter.
 
2. The conflict: The lines that follow your hook reveal why the inciting incident causes conflict in your protagonist’s life. In other words, why is it a bad thing? These are the complications you’ve developed in your opening chapters. Take a moment to identify and highlight them in your manuscript. Using the example above, perhaps Bob has a brother that’s just been released from jail, and he becomes the prime suspect, and to make matters worse, Bob doesn’t have an alibi because he’s been secretly following the police chief’s daughter every day after school, trying to find an opportunity to talk to her since he’s too shy to approach her outside of his harmless stalking. Now we have reasons to support why the inciting incident is a bad thing. As you develop the conflict part of your pitch, ask yourself what complications exacerbate your character’s situation.
 
3. The Reaction: After you’ve defined the conflict, you must present what your protagonist does as a reaction to that conflict. How does he or she try to make the situation better (which usually makes it worse)? Use your highlighter to pick out reaction moments. Back to Bob again. Perhaps he lies to the police about where he’s been, which leads them to look closer at his brother. But he also succeeds in talking to the police chief’s daughter, and a romance begins.
 
4. The decision: Last, but perhaps most important part of your pitch, is the decision your character has to make. This is where you outline the stakes—what might be gained, but what might be lost. This is the ultimate teaser, because it states the main question that your novel has to answer. Imagine it like a roller coaster—you’ve just reached the top of the first hill, and you’re teetering on the edge, about to go over. That’s what the stakes should do in your query—keep the agent on that edge, ready to freefall. In your own manuscript, collect all the information you’ve highlighted and put yourself in the shoes of your protagonist. What is their choice? In Bob’s situation, we currently know he’s found a body and his brother is the accused murderer. Also, he didn’t commit the crime, but he doesn’t have an alibi he can reveal, and he’s also courting the daughter of the very person he’s lying to. So, his decision might be this: tell the truth and lose the girl, or keep lying and allow his brother to take the fall. In both scenarios, something is at stake, which makes for an intriguing pitch.
 
There you have it! While it’s difficult to condense your manuscript, I hope breaking the pitch section into four key parts will simplify this challenging aspect of your query letter. When in doubt, ask a friend who hasn’t read your manuscript to look over your pitch. Does it make them want to know more? Can they identify the protagonist, the conflict, and what’s at stake? If the answers are yes, then you’re on your way to a great query letter.  
 
Do you have a query letter resource you swear by? Share it in the comments!
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Come to the Bucks County Meet & Greet August 8!

Calling all SCBWI members! Please join EPA members Virginia Law Manning and Anita Nolan on Monday August 8th at 10 AM at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, PA for a free event. Enjoy casual conversation at this Bucks County Meet & Greet. Weather permitting we’ll be under the pergola in front of the farm store. If it’s too hot or threatening rain, meet us inside on the second floor. Baked goods, lunch items, ice cream, fruit and veggies available for purchase inside.  
 
What: Bucks County Meet & Greet
When: Monday August 8th, 10:00 AM – 12 noon
Where: Shady Brook Farm, 931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley, PA 19067. Meet us at the picnic tables if nice, or in the store on 2nd floor).
No RSVPs necessary. 
 
We hope to see you there!
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Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award, by Nadine Poper

Most of us follow the annual ALA Youth Media Awards.  As an aspiring children’s writer and librarian, I personally keep tabs on the titles that are being considered for the Caldecott and Newbery. All year long  I feverishly reserve them from my local library and read, read, read.  And we know that the winning titles are chosen by a panel of very skilled, very talented, and passionate people of the kid lit scene.  We cheer along with the audience as each title is announced at Mid-Winter Conference.  I stream it live each year for my morning classes of elementary students.   I have prepped them for these announcements since the beginning of the new school year by reading aloud the potential winners or making the books available so that come announcement time, my kiddos are bursting with anticipation.  Did they pick a winner during our mock Caldecott, Newbery, and Geisel awards?  But then sometimes we are left with a bit of confusion when a title wins that we totally didn’t pick up on the radar.  My students look at me and say, “But Mrs. Poper, we didn’t hear about that one”.  I explain to them that I must have missed that one as I was reading the latest Elephant and Piggy instead.  What fun we have in the months leading up to the ALA Mid -Winter announcements!  I just love being a librarian for over 800 urban students.  Following these awards gives them a sense of being part of a much larger literary environment beyond the walls of our cozy library space.

Fortunately for them, I am on the committee for the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award.  As a member of the Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association (PSLA), I have chosen to be a part of this exciting state book award.  As the name indicates, the winning book is chosen by…the kids of Pennsylvania.  The winning books are simply chosen by popular vote.  Yes, the 2016 winning books below are what PA kids chose as their favorites!

The purpose of the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program is to promote reading of quality books by young people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to encourage teacher / librarian collaboration in young adult and children’s literature, and to honor authors whose works have been recognized by the students of Pennsylvania.  It has been in existence for 25 years.

2016 Winners

Kindergarten – Grade 3: The Monkey Goes Bananas by C.P. Bloom 

Grades 3-6: El Deafo by Cece Bell

Grades 6-8: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Young Adult: Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryla

monkey            el deafo

 the-fourteenth-goldfish                  those-who-wish-me-dead-cover__130925171129

I will be posting more about the PAYRCA in future EasternPennPoints issues.  Stay tuned.

If you are not familiar with this award, please visit  http://www.psla.org/index.php/awards/psla-awards/pennsylvania-young-reader-s-choice-award-program/

 

 

 

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#MGGetsReal in August

One of our Eastern PA authors – Shannon Wiersbitzky – is participating in #MGGetsReal, where several middle grade novels that share a common thread will be highlighted. The common thread for #MGGetsReal? Each of the books tackles a tough topic in a way appropriate for Middle Grade readers.

The participating authors are:

  • Shannon Wiersbitzky—WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER (Alzheimer’s)
  • Kathleen Burkinshaw – THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, (Hiroshima)
  • Joyce Moyer Hostetter—COMFORT, (War Trauma)
  • Kerry O’Malley Cerra—JUST A DROP OF WATER, (Religious Intolerance)
  • Shannon Hitchcock—RUBY LEE & ME, (School Integration)

During the month of August, these fantastic authors welcome you to:

  1. Read and review the books listed above. (Writing a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites is an important way to support fellow authors.)
  2. Tweet about the books using hashtag #MGGetsReal
  3. Share posts on Facebook about the books.
  4. Tell your friends, interested kid readers, teachers, librarians, or reading groups about these meaningful books.

mggetsreal

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Did You Sign Up for Illustrator Day?

For illustrators from Eastern PA and surrounding areas, in case you missed it, registration to our annual Illustrator Day is under way. This is a great opportunity to spend a day with fantastic faculty: uniquely talented Judy Schachner, art director Lily Malcom, and agent Stephen Barr who will share expertise and and talents with us. 
Take the opportunity to participate in the pre-workshop assignment set by the art director and have it critiqued. Lily Malcom is one of the best in the business and you’ll be doing yourself a favor to have your work seen by her.
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Lily Malcom is the Executive Art Director and Associate Publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. As an art director, she has had the privilege to work with many talented illustrators, among them Judy Schachner, Jon Agee, Jerry Pinkney, David Small, Erin E. Stead, Tao Nyeu, Zachariah OHora, Claire Keane, and Elanna Allen to name a few. Lily enjoys working with long time professionals as well as new first time illustrators. She is always on the lookout for unique memorable characters and stories with a strong visual narrative. Some recent titles from Dial are Dragons Love TacosThe Book with No PicturesRoller Girl and It’s Only Stanley.

 
Log on to the registration page on the SCBWI Eastern PA web page for details.
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Register for Novel Nuts & Bolts: Only 5 Spots Left!

Novel Nuts & Bolts Round Table 3-Part Writer Event

with Literary Agent Carrie Howland of the Donadio & Olson Literary Agency

Eastern PA SCBWI Sponsored Event

Dig into your completed manuscript with Literary Agent Carrie Howland. Participants will meet with Carrie three times at a variety of locations including Donadio & Olson’s office in New York City. Through Round Table Format, twelve lucky participants will work on their manuscripts, discover what’s working, what isn’t, and gather suggestions for polishing and submitting each project.

**Registration is limited to 12 SCBWI Members –  only five spots remaining!!. Must have a completed manuscript to apply.

Read more about the event and register here!

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