Wednesday, June 30, 2010
But more than once in a while, it seems like some books get published on sheer luck.
And then there are books that are sheer genius. Books that make me want to always read and write. Always. Because I couldn't live in a world that had neither.
I have read books that have frustrated me, left me with nothing more.
But then there are those stories that make the world slow down and I can see it for more than I ever had before. The world becomes bigger, and smaller. It means more. More than my tiny life could ever make of it on its own. Books that bring me out to another ledge of knowledge. Another depth of feeling. Understanding.
And I realize how big and small my own little world is. How it's full of nothing and everything at the same time.
Because even though sometimes the book was fiction, the thoughts were true. The feelings were real. And my eyes are opened a little wider.
In some ways I feel bad for devouring in hours what took months or years to write. Like Thanksgiving dinner gone in a half hour.
But it was made to be feasted on. I'm just glad I made it to the table.
And my feeble attempt to thank the strangers who have shaped my mind and life. To the multitude of authors. Thank you.
Monday, June 28, 2010
And I learned some things. It's so great having a variety of perspectives. I always see things in a new way when I listen to critiques.
Voice. It's usually one of the hardest things to write well, and the most important. According to my writers group, this new piece I'm working on has the strongest voice they've ever seen me write. And it is why I will go on and finish it.
The genre is such a switch for me that I still doubt my skills in pulling it off. Can I do it? Now I have to find out. If the voice is right, I can make the story work. It's just going to take some genius to pull it off.
And, on assignment, I came up with a high concept description for my latest work. Spiderman meets Phantom of the Opera. Only contemporary YA style. Now you're wondering if it's even possible. I know. But so far, it is.
I'm listening. In spite of my fleeting thoughts of jumping off this story and into a new one, I'm going to stick this out.
And in the meantime, can I just say that summer reading rocks!!! Yesterday I read Wintergirls, today Book Thief. I know, I'm behind the times a little. Just finished Fallen. And the last Fablehaven book. And I seriously can't wait for Mockingjay.
So, if you're looking for me, I'm either with my computer writing, or curled up somewhere with a book. When I'm not chasing after my kids. Or doing all those other house-hold necessities.
On with summer.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Patient: Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness; tolerant, understanding; capable of remaining calm awaiting an outcome or a result
Persistent: Refusing to give up or let go, persevering obstinately; insistently repetitive or continuous.
This is the hardest part of all. When it comes down to it, I'm the kind of person who likes to see things go. I'm not good at waiting around for the answer to finally come.
I prefer getting out there and working to sitting around and waiting.
And yet, in finding an agent or an editor, one must endure the excruciating pain of the waiting game.
You've sent your query letters. Some have asked you for a partial, maybe even a full. Now what do you do?
Sure, you go on living life as normal, kind of, but this is one of those rare cases where no amount of work on your end is going to speed up the agent/editor's answer. True, sometimes there is such a thing as "nudging" when over a month has gone by, but let's face it, a month can feel like forever.
Then, you finally get your answer, and it's "NO". Now what? That's where persistence comes in. Go read the definition again. You simply can't give up. Maybe it's time to send out more queries.
I'll tell you my own experience so you can see how well I failed at following my own advice......
The first positive response I got from my query letters was a full manuscript request. Suddenly, I was in heaven. Someone finally wanted to see my work. And not just a little of it, they wanted the whole thing. I sent it off and searched the Internet for every possible detail about the agent. This was it. We were going to make a great match.
And then the answer came back "No".
Devastation . I knew this lucky chance was probably going to be my last. It was all over.
Uhm, talk about having faith in myself....
So, I cried. Had a bad day. And then sent out a bunch more query letters the next week. It made me feel like I was doing something constructive.
And then more requests came. Partials, fulls, and all the sudden I realized that things might start to fall into place.
But I still received lots of rejections to go along with it. Don't get me wrong, I'm still receiving them. I guess that's the beauty of querying a lot of agents. You WILL get a lot of rejections, and hopefully a lot of requests too.
So where I may have failed in the patience department, I made up for in persistence. And, the truth is, persistence is what gets the job done. Patience just makes you easier to live with in the meantime.
For all you patient people out there- kudos to you. I'm still working on it. And, as it turns out, getting an agent isn't the end of rejections and the requirement of patience. It's the beginning of a whole new level of the two.
Monday, June 21, 2010
It doesn't matter how many of these you get, or how well they're written, they all mean the same thing. "No."
If you've started your querying to agents, one of the first lessons you'll learn is how to handle rejections. From the start, I learned that not everyone learns how to deal with it the same.
The first writers conference I went to back when I had only barely learned what a literary agent was, I sat in a discussion where an agent fielded questions. That was the first encounter I had with bitter writers. The argument was that the writers wanted their manuscripts back so they could figure out via finger prints and ruffled paper just how many pages the agent actually read.
Even before I had started the process I picked up on the not-so-subtle angst the writers felt.
And I wondered if I would become a bitter writer too.
How you handle rejections is a decision. I don't think there is a specific formula that will work for everyone, but here's my thoughts on it.
*Whether the rejection comes via e-mail or snail mail, don't spend very much time reading it.
*Only re-read rejections that are clearly not form letters and then, read it after you've had enough time to not be upset with the agent/editor.
*Tell yourself it's going to hurt. I think acknowledging the hit of rejections helps. If you pretend it doesn't matter, you're lying to yourself. They do matter, but you will get past it.
*Stay busy. You're a writer. Write. If you spend all of your time waiting for the next rejection letter it's going to be a painful life.
*Remember that all decisions are nothing if not subjective. Just because your work isn't right for some people, doesn't mean it's not right for someone.
*Keep submitting. I submitted in waves. A bunch in a couple days, then waited a while for the next wave. Submitting can start to feel mechanical when you send things out to a lot of agents.
*Keep track of who you've submitted to. I wrote names on a calendar. Best idea I've ever had. When someone requested a partial or full manuscript, I wrote it next to their name. If someone rejected, I crossed their name off. By doing this I soon came to realize that I had almost as many requests as rejections.
*Take a break. When you're stressed up to your eyeballs in rejections, figure out something that will take your mind off of it for a little while.
*You will feel a lot better by the next day. I promise. Tell yourself that.
*Don't respond to rejections. Don't hit "reply" on your e-mail and tell them how wrong they are. If your work isn't right for that agent, you don't want that agent.
*If you never get any requests and you've submitted to every single agent in your genre, write something else. You managed to write something in the first place and chances are, that experience has made you a better writer. So go write.
*Then again, if you have a deep-seated belief in your story that refuses to go away in spite of hundreds of rejections, wait a while and try again. I never thought I'd say it, but I met someone who did exactly that. She changed her pen name, changed the title and not only found an agent a year later, but secured a contract with a big NY house. It's possible.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Seventeen years ago we married on the day before Father's day just like today. The weather was windy, but not too bad. My hair was self-made because my stylist got the flu. Uhm, I sort of had poodle hair as a result of my efforts. Oh well. With all the wind I don't think it made much difference.
We headed out on Father's day for our honeymoon. That's when a horrible sore throat settled in. I smiled through the six hour drive and hoped it would go away. Well, it kind of did. It moved out of my throat and into my lungs.
So there we are in the middle of nowhere in a cabin without heat, and it snows. In June. And if that's not enough, I've got bronchitis so bad that I can't even talk at all.
Yeap. That was our historic honeymoon.
And here we are, seventeen years later. You'll never guess what my husband picked up while we were on vacation..... bronchitis. He hasn't had a real voice for a week. He can't talk sometimes or he'll end up in a coughing fit. It's sort of like we've switched roles to celebrate our anniversary.
I should have known that would come back to haunt us.
Anyway, thank goodness for antibiotics.
And, in spite of snow in June and bronchitis, I would do it all over again because being married to my man is worth it all. For those of you who know him, you understand how amazing he is. And for all of you who don't, you'll just have to take my word for it.
Friday, June 18, 2010
So, I've been breaking "rules". I never announced when the contest would end, but then, I've been on vacation and now that I'm back, it seemed like as good a time as any to move things along.
Thanks to all of you who sent warm thoughts! It really meant a lot to me.
Since I've announced that I signed with an agent, I've had some more questions related to the subject.
Who did I sign with? That's been the most common question. And, without further ado, I give you Irene Kraas from Kraas Literary Agency. She is an intriguing agent who represents an assortment of genres that I can't help but love. If I'm lucky, she'll keep loving everything I write and we'll make an unstoppable team.
Since I'll probably never stop writing, I'm going to come up with lots more new ideas. The book I'm working on right now is really different than everything else I've done. Hopefully it will someday be a hit too.
If by some miracle, we sell my latest manuscript any time soon, I'll be sure to let you know. I'll have to celebrate big time and do some kind of giveaway.
As for the latest writing-related stuff, I've been asked to be an agent/editor coordinator for the LDStorymakers conference which will be held May 6-7, 2011 at the Downtown Sheraton in Salt Lake City. How I got lucky enough to have the funnest job, I'll never know. Already it's been a blast.
And, for those of you who live in the proximity to Boise and are interested in writing childrens-YA, SCBWI will be holding a conference September 11. I'll be giving a presentation regarding my path to publication.
So, if you have any questions you want me to write about, drop in. I'd love to post about something you're interested in!
Till then, you'll probably end up with stories of my vacation and other mysteries of the universe....
Monday, June 7, 2010
For those of you who are submersed into the writing world, you will understand the significance of what it means to get a literary agent. If those words mean little to you, just think of an agent as the possibility of great things.
Without an agent, writers are often limited to small press, religious markets or niche publications.
With an agent, writing has new exposure to the national market publishing houses. Having an agent does not guarantee success, but it does improve the chances.
That said, my big news is that I signed with an agent. YAY!!!
And, as fate would have it, an online store approached me last week and asked if I would host a giveaway on their behalf.
For your enjoyment, there is a $40 gift card up for grabs from CSN stores. They have so many great things to choose from that you can't go wrong. Need a new bookshelf, a new chair, throw pillows, a hammock, whatever, they have tons of stuff.
To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address. Right now I haven't picked an end time for the contest, but it might go all month. I'll update that as I get more info.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Your face is like the beautiful, wonderful New Zealand.
Your hugs are like the fuzzy warm socks that you absolutely love.
Your favorite feeling is funny and you sure know how to show it and how to use it.
You're sweet as your homemade chocolate milk.
Along with that milk, you're the dark chocolate, sweetening the whole world, not just me.
Your voice is soothing, as if Josh Grobin is singing in the back of my head.
You are the one helping me change my dark world into a wonderful green one like yours.
Friday, June 4, 2010
As promised, I'm going to talk a little about query letters. When I first heard about them, I looked in books and on the internet trying to find out as much as I could. While I did learn a few things, I still felt under-qualified to write a compelling one.
What I really wanted to see was an honest-to-goodness real query letter that actually got the attention of agents. All the pretend ones didn't help me see how I should do it.
While I won't say I'm a professional at it, I do have my own query letter that I will share with you. With it, I made some notes in red.
Here is the e-mail version of mine ( if you want to snail mail your query, format accordingly)....
May 18, 2010 (putting the date on the top helped because it was easier for both me and the agent to keep track of when the letter was sent)
For your consideration, I give you Point Champions, an 82,770 word dystopian, speculative fiction young adult novel. (It is imperative to put the title, word- count and genre.)Seventeen-year-old Cherry is determined to make it on the elite government Jr. Team. Not only would such a feat provide her family with a way out of poverty, but as a Point Champion she would get the chance to leave her small town. Though trying for a spot nearly takes her life, she makes it in and is sure a better life awaits her. But no one told her that serving her country meant pretending to be married and acting as a spy. When her teammate goes missing she is on her own to solve the mystery. It’s up to her to find the lost Champions and unravel the web of her government’s plan. (Short synopsis. I think the shorter the better. If they want more of an explanation than this, I promise, they'll ask.)
My other published work is a young adult fantasy novel, Älvor released May 2009. (Do mention your other published work, but don't bother to brag about it. Just the facts. They have more than enough resources to look you up more if they want.)
My marketing strategy currently includes book signings, school visits, presentations and panel discussions at writers conferences and Writer’s Leagues, blog tours, a blog http://alvor-daretodream.blogspot.com/, a website www.laurabingham.com, twitter, an author page on Amazon.com and a Published Author List member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and LDStorymakers (a group of published authors). (This is where I brag. I think authors don't give themselves enough credit for the work they do. I was surprised to see in writing how hard I worked to market my book. This is definitely a selling point to agents.)
I have a Bachelor degree in Biology from Boise State University and earned certification to teach all science subjects in secondary education in the state of Idaho. I currently direct and teach clogging for a studio group I’ve owned for seventeen years. (Short and sweet- who are you in real life? Don't go on and on.)
I look forward to hearing from you.
Other than the query letter, pay attention to the submission requirements. Always follow their rules and give them exactly what they want. It gets time consuming, but thanks to the new standard of e-mail, it's now a lot less expensive. 90% of my queries were e-mailed. I did snail mail submit to agents if I really wanted them, but it doesn't improve your chances of getting them. Sometimes agents accept e-mail queries and then ask for snail mail manuscripts. Be prepared to print all 300-ish pages and mail them off. When mailing partials, get a large clasp envelope and send it with tape over the flap. When mailing whole manuscripts, be sure to use a small box, not one that drowns your book, and mail it MEDIA. This will save you tons of money.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
And then, when it's all said and done, realize that they are only suggestions and that anything I say might not be the way some agents would advise.
I think the agent query thing is pretty old-school. What I have to say could be found anywhere. There are a couple tricks I've learned though, and they very well could be the difference between finding representation and not.
First, let's talk about finding agents.
My best advice is signing up with publishers marketplace.
It is an exclusive list of deals made by publishers and agents. It costs $20/month. For a long time I thought I didn't really need it, but I haven't regretted a single cent I've spent in the last two months. I feel suddenly very connected to the publishing world. By using reverse engineering, I found agents who are selling what I write right now. I don't have to guess at it. I spent a couple days going through deals from the most recent and backwards and submitting to agents who looked right for my genre. Of course, I always cross-referenced my research by looking at their websites and other resources.
Other helpful tools agent query
and query tracker.
I used both of these resources to see either more info about each agent or to track the average response time. I also like the Absolute Write Water Cooler where you can do research on any agent or publisher through other people's experiences.
I have to admit, I've used all of these. When I get a request from an agent I always check the water cooler site to see what the buzz is about that agent.
Coming next, query letters...
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Maybe it just feels like it's been forever. Last weekend was busy!!! We left early in the morning on Friday and headed down to Utah for the CONduit convention.
And I didn't come in costume.
I did, however, get a picture of the very talented Sarah Seiter. She did the artwork for an optioned cover of Alvor. Click here to see more of her art.
My synopsis of the weekend would go something like this.....
Was hugged immediately upon arriving... thanks Julie Wright, for making me feel special.
Shortly after realized that I have no clue how to think like or converse clearly with high-fantasy-fanatics. Gave up trying.
Went to the best author panel discussion there, yeah, because I was on it. Had a blast talking to other writers about everything YA.
Saw James Dashner the next day and actually got maybe five whole minutes to talk to him. He still rocks. I can't wait to read SCORCH TRIALS.
Dragged my husband through the vendors room where all the creepy things were sold. Saw many costumes, some cool, many disturbing. Accepted the fact that I'll never fit in with the costume-clad crowd.
Walked to the Gateway Mall for breakfast and lunch and felt spoiled for staying only one block away.
Then drove home and I've been trying to catch up with my life ever since.
More news to come this week, I promise. But ta ta for now.