Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reconnaissance and Writing

Fiction Addiction Book Tours

Aubrie Dionne has been on my blog several times. I’m happy to have her since I’ve critiqued so many of her manuscripts, which have been accepted for publication. I was even lucky enough to critique this manuscript.

How do you balance your private life, work, writing, and keeping up with social networking/writing friends?

That’s a great question! It’s tough. I work about 30 hours a week and I don’t have any kids, so that does give me some leeway. Sometimes I don’t get to something like I didn’t practice my flute or didn’t get my word count in. Then, I just make sure to try to fit that in for the next day. My social networking is patchy. I try to keep it up, but it comes in bursts and then sometimes a week will go by and I haven’t blogged about anything. It depends on if I have any deadlines.

What advice would you give to writers who are not yet published?

Keep writing. When you finish one book, go right to the next one. Don’t dwell on a particular book for too long. Right now I have five completed books that are looking for homes. I don’t wait until I get a contract before I carry on. If I did, I’d be waiting since last fall, when I got my last contract from Spencer Hill Press for a book that comes out in 2014. The publishing world is VERY slow, and you need to keep writing to keep up your skills and to have material to submit.

Good luck!

You’ve been writing for a while and have several books published. Looking back, what would you have done differently and why? What are you glad you did?

I would have skipped reading the negative reviews! All that does is undermine my creativity and make me not want to write. Now, I don’t read reviews almost at all.

The other thing I’d do differently is not checking my sales rank on Amazon all the time. That tends to bring me down and make me not want to write as well. So, instead of focusing on the end product, I try to enjoy the journey.

What am I glad that I did? I’m glad I kept on going. It took me four books to get an agent. So, what if I’ve given up after book 3?

Reconnaissance is the second in the Paradise Reclaimed series. Book 1 was Colonization. How many books will be in this series?

There is a free short story that takes place during book 2 that you can download here:

It’s called Breach:

I’ve also written a third and final book called Alliance, which is with my agent right now. I haven’t submitted it to Inkspell yet, but that is definitely in the future.

Thanks for having me, Theresa, and for asking wonderful questions!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Story Behind The Herbalist

When I discovered Niamh’s blog, I became captivated by her poems inspired by Magpie Tale picture prompts. Niamh and I sometimes commiserated about the querying process. When she’d found an agent and then publisher (Penguin Ireland), I was thrilled for her. The Herbalist has been my most anticipated read of 2013.

It didn’t disappoint. Here’s my review on  Goodreads.

Today Niamh’s talks about her journey to publication.

Thanks for visiting my blog, Niamh.

Hi Theresa, and thanks for having me over!

Did you start off as a poet or a novelist?

I started with short stories in 2008 after attending a local creative writing workshop. I was juggling very young children, a teenager and a part time job back then so the brevity of the form suited me. It fitted naturally into the tiny pockets of time I had available to write.  And it was portable, all I needed was a notebook- so I began to carry one in my bag and write whenever I could - parked in front of the school, in bed at night, in waiting rooms... And maybe it was because of my age, (I was thirty seven) but there were dozens of stories just dying to get out as if they had been building up for years. I wrote one after another, very quickly. I found that time very exciting creatively.  I suppose I initially wrote in forms that fitted in well with my life style, short stories, flash fiction and poems.

Can you tell us a little about your writing journey from novice to published novelist?

After that initial workshop I wrote around a ten stories before I started to send them out to magazines - and keep twenty-four hour watch on my inbox!  My first published story was called ‘Wild Cat’s Buffet’ and was quite gothic (think female ghosts fighting over a man!) It was published by a fantastic Irish magazine called Crannog. I think you always have a soft spot for those responsible for your first publication. 

Then a story of mine then was shortlisted for the Hennessy XO Literary Award.  That encouraged me to carve out more time for my writing.  Being nominated for that award made it clear to me, that though a ‘room of your own’, a desk, or a fancy laptop are desirable, good work can be created without them. So I stopped waiting till I had these working conditions to consider what I did my work.  The story that was nominated was written at a chaotic breakfast table while my middle son ran in and out of the room to tug my arm and tell me about transformers. I think the intensity with which it was written couldn’t have been duplicated in a ‘room of my own.’ I suppose I’m saying to other mothers out there, write whatever your environment, don’t wait!

When my youngest started school I thought about a novel, but I knew it had to be an idea with the strength to sustain my interest over a long period. There were several false starts at novels that petered out at 10,000 words. I harvested stories from some of them. It didn’t bother me too much, these poor fledgling novels that went nowhere.  I went back to writing stories, and when the character of the herbalist appeared in one of them I thought nothing of it. When he appeared in another, and then another, I realized if I were to write a novel, it would have to be about him.

The first draft was written in 2009 fairly quickly and put away to cool off. Now I’m not forgetful or anything but, because another novel (as yet unpublished) called Ghost Estate demanded to be written, and because I went ahead and wrote it, I didn’t get back to The Herbalist till 2012. That was when I decided to enter it into The Irish Writers Centre’s Novel Fair Competition. I opened the manuscript and started work on the second draft after three years. There was an upside to the gap in time, I found it fascinating to read, almost as if someone else had written it! Luckily I won a place at the novel fair, and that was where I met my agent Ger Nichols and afterwards signed with Penguin Ireland.

Your writing has a lyrical quality. How has poetry influenced your writing?

Oh, that’s a hard one! I don’t know if I know! Well, I enjoy writing poetry, and reading it too, and perhaps that has nurtured my love of language - I relish startling images, good clean writing, and understatement. 

When I write poetry I look closer at the world, zoom in on the details, so perhaps that practice has played its part. I think I use the same energy to create images on the page that I once used to create images on canvas. So perhaps both visual art and poetry have exerted some influence on my writing.

How is your writing journey similar to 
or different from Niamh Boyce’s?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Colors in Between

This poem is inspired by what a thirteen-year-old boy musician would write to the girl he likes in the middle grade WIP I’ve almost completed. (So if it’s not any good, it’s because a thirteen-year-old boy sort of wrote it.)

Music’s hue
Is like a poem from Langston Hughes
Swirls and soars
A life beyond markings on pages

Your eyes bright,
You remind me of Van Gogh’s Starry Night
Hidden curls
Underneath a cupcake dress, you twirl

We are more
Than the clothes we wear, texture of hair
Ethnicities, strokes on a painting

True black’s like
A bear’s coat, the ocean at midnight
What is white?
Bright, like creampuff clouds sweeping the sky

With coloring,
I just see, the colors in between
Subtle shades
Expressionist details, contrasts fade

Truths whispered
Vibrant moments, memories, laughter
Our wishes
Just you, me, music, a dance, a kiss

P.S. Thank you to everyone who shared and especially donated for my Contest for a Cause  .

Peace First,  a local charity is working to reduce violence. Living in the Boston area, people here couldn’t help but feel it personally. Your support meant a lot to me.

There were people who donated, but just wanted to help. They didn’t take a book. There were also people who won, but aren’t blogger. Those who won and are bloggers:

 Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (signed)

 Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden (signed)

 Jennifer Government by Max Barry (signed)

Congratulations to the winners! I’ll be in touch soon.

As a result, the remaining books will most likely be donated to Books for Boston , if it works out with the contributing authors/book donators. Details about Books for Boston HERE. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

KidLit Cause and Contest!

M.T. Anderson was part of our charity event.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, I wanted to do something different to help. I belong to a group called KidLit Drink Night.  (We’re all adults who like kids lit and work with kids. We can drink off hours, right?) Our group consists of librarians, writers, editors, agents, and booksellers who meet in Cambridge.

I asked the founder of the group, Sam Musher, if we could use our group to raise money for Boston Marathon victims. She liked the idea. But she felt we could expand the charity to include more victims of violence. She suggested Peace First. 

We sent out a call for books and even signed books. We got together a few weeks ago and people gave $ to get their name put in a raffle. We gave away a book about every 30 minutes and raised over $150.

A big success!

One problem: we had more book donations. Sam and I decided to take the raffle online. She’s put the word out to our group. I want to spread the word here.


Time for Book Raffle Round 2: Online Edition! Buy tickets via Theresa Brown Milstein's PayPal: theresamilstein at gmail dot com. $5 per ticket or 6 tickets for $20. Indicate book preference(s) if you like in the comments and we'll try to make every winner happy. Ticket deadline: June 13.

Remaining books include:

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech (signed)

My Dog Lyle, a picture book by Jennifer Pulver Goldfinger (signed)

Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton (unsigned)

Stealing Air by Trent Reedy (unsigned)

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (signed)

Jennifer Government by Max Barry (signed)

Set of 3 Phoebe Stone books (Deep Down Popular; the 2 Romeo and Juliet Code books) (signed)

Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden (signed)

Enter to win by donating to my PayPal. Or if you’d prefer, donate directly to Peace First and email me a copy of the receipt.

You can earn two EXTRA raffle tickets each way you spread the word:

Twitter (+2)
Facebook (+2)
Blog Post (+2)

Please provide links.

Thank you for your support!



Monday, June 3, 2013

Laura Cummings of Foreword Literary

Laura Cummings is an assistant agent at Foreword Literary.
When we followed one another on Twitter, I wondered what exactly an assistant agent does. I also thought it would be interesting to get her perspective on the publishing industry. She enthusiastically agreed to be interviewed. Thanks, Laura! 

Before I dive into this interview, I’d like to thank the fabulous Theresa for inviting me onto her blog. Also, to any readers out there, please feel free to ask me more questions in the “comments” section. I’d be more than happy to answer them!

I see from your description on Foreword Literary that you’re the assistant agent to Laurie McLean. How did you become an agent assistant?

The short answer: Connections I’ve built over the years.

The long answer: At the beginning of the year, my internship with another agent—the fabulous Verna Dreisbach—came to an end. When I told Verna that I’d like to continue interning in the publishing world, she very kindly recommended me to Laurie McLean. I sent my resume to Laurie, we chatted back and forth a bit, and then met at the San Francisco Writers Conference for an interview. She graciously took me on as her assistant, and I’ve been working under her ever since!

What does an agent assistant do?

It feels like my job changes every day! My tasks are always varied, but a few constant ones are:

·      Sorting through the query inbox. (One of my favorite parts of the job! It’s such an honor to be able to read all the queries sent in, and to experience the genius of writers first-hand.)
·      Evaluating requested partials
·      Reading requested fulls (Laurie always makes the final decision on whether to reject fulls, but she very kindly allows me to give my opinion.)
·      Answering questions from writers.  (Another one of my favorite parts! I love dealing with writers hands-on, and helping them through the submission process.)

Do all or most queries go through assistants first?

It really depends on the agent/agency and their personal policies.

Here at Foreword, Laurie is an extremely hands-on agent, so she reads most of the queries that come in. However, it’s my job to read them more in-depth, evaluate them, and pass along the golden ones to Laurie.

What types of manuscripts pique your interest?

Young Adult will always hold a special place in my heart, although I also adore New Adult. I’d love to see some more Fantasy or Sci-Fi NA, and YA with a male MC and a truly accurate voice. Also, any novel with a kick-butt LGBT character will likely make me break out in fan-girly squealing.  

Is there a genre or category that’s big right now?

Well there’s NA, which has recently exploded in popularity, largely due to indie authors. It just received its own category at PM, which seems to have many publishing professionals giving the genre a closer look.  

I’m also noticing a large surge in the amount of serialized novels being put out, probably sparked by the success of Hugh Howey’s WOOL series. And I think we’ve all noticed the huge amount of erotica published since 50 Shades of Grey became a phenomenon.  

Can you tell us the process from reading the query to an offer of representation?

The process at Foreword Lit is pretty typical for a literary agency. There’s always some variation, but it usually goes something like this:
1.     The process starts with the discovery of the author, whether through a conference, pitch session, or query.
2.     A partial is requested.
3.     The partial is read and evaluated.
4.     A full is requested.
5.     The full is read and evaluated.
6.     If Laurie likes the full, she sets up a call with the author.
7.     The author and Laurie chat, and if they both seem like a good fit, then an offer of rep is given.
8.     If the offer of rep is accepted, then lots of hugs and chocolate and cupcakes are distributed all around!

Where do you see your role in the publishing world in 5 years?

As for the general role of agents and their assistants, I see it changing over the years. I think indie authors are going to more frequently become clients, and I believe many agents are going to have to change their policies/perspectives to accommodate for that. I think digital publishing is also going to add a whole new twist to the industry (it already has!), and agents will have to rapidly shift with the constantly-changing digital world.

As for me personally, I’d like to think I might be an agent in five years-time. But, as for now, that remains a dream.  :)

Since you’re younger than many long-established agents, do you think you have a different perspective on the state of publishing or what would interest younger readers?

Yes and no. Some literary agents, like the agents at Foreword, are totally understanding of the changing industry and the interest of young readers, and our views are very similar. And, despite the advantage of my young age, I think the agents at Foreword have a way better grasp of those concepts!

However, there are other agencies that don’t seem to be adjusting to the changing times. In those cases, yes, I think I might have a different perspective than they do. I’m a huge supporter of indie authors, digital publishing, and incorporating diversity into plots/characters. I’ve seen agents who don’t agree with these views, so it seems my opinions do clash with some agents.

That being said, I will always have something to learn from established agents, and I fully respect their varying opinions. :)