Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Polish Those Pitches

Don't forget that tomorrow is our December Mystery Agent contest.

Get those one-sentence pitches ready.

Here's a reminder of the details:


Fiction - pretty much any and all commercial fiction, but especially: science fiction and fantasy (and all subgenres), high-concept women’s fiction, contemporary and historical romances, cozy mysteries, and young adult books, including sci-fi and fantasy. 

No MG or picture books.

Non-fiction - popular mathematics, popular science, and spirituality, especially church history and philosophy (but not for the Christian market).

The contest will open at 9 am EST and will go till we hit 50 eligible entries.


See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Heads Up - Mystery Agent Heading Your Way!

We have another awesome Mystery Agent contest coming up on Thursday Dec 1st!! This time we are looking for ONE SENTENCE PITCHES.


Fiction - pretty much any and all commercial fiction, but especially: science fiction and fantasy (and all subgenres), high-concept women’s fiction, contemporary and historical romances, cozy mysteries, and young adult books, including sci-fi and fantasy.

No MG or picture books.

Non-fiction - popular mathematics, popular science, and spirituality, especially church history and philosophy (but not for the Christian market).

So get those one sentence pitches polished up and head over here bright and early Thursday morning! The contest will open at 9 am EST and will go till we hit 50 eligible entries.

See you Thursday!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fast Novel-Writing a la Melissa & Joey

It's Nano month, and even though I'm abstaining because of my serious need to re-outline a previous project, I understand the frenzy of writing that takes place while trying to eek out 50,000 words in 30 days.

It. is. hard.

That's why last night's Melissa & Joey-watching yielded some disbelieving scoffs from me. It's not the latest episode. The hubz and I are catching up on hulu. But basically what happens on the show is that Mel's teenage niece gets in an argument with her English teacher about her writing. He's very critical about her 200-word novel sample, maybe more than any teacher in high school should be. So in order to prove to him that her 200-word sample would extrapolate into a fabulous, life-changing novel, she decides to write it.

Before the end of the quarter (when the grading period ends).

That deadline is in a week and a half.

Not that a fifteen-year-old couldn't write a novel in that length of time! It's possible! It just reminded me of Nano and how difficult it is to keep a solid structure (at least for me) while I'm writing at that pace. Sure enough, our heroine ended up lying on her bed with a cough drop in her hair dreaming about the mess of note-cards and pages taped to her wall in random order while her teacher popped into the nightmare to remind her that she would fail, that she would never be a great writer and she should just give up.

In the show, her little brother, who has a stake in her happiness, helps her organize her thoughts so she can get all those wall-taped pages and note-cards into a massive pile resembling a manuscript.

I thought, How sweet! And then I thought, This is what I need.

I need a little brother to tell me I have a cough drop in my hair and ask me which came first, plot point A or plot point B. Everyone does.

I have a great critique group (see About Us tab above). But we all live in different places. Sometimes I wish I had somebody in my house who could look at my manuscript and point to the things that need to be fixed. Basically, I want someone else to do the really hard work of organizing my brilliant flashes of brilliance.

Sometimes my husband meets this need. I hope in the future, my sons will get in on the fun of telling me what works and doesn't in my middle grade or young adult projects. For now, organization is something I struggle with, especially when I've written something in a month or less.

Who's your little brother? Or how to do you keep the organizational demands of a novel from driving you to cough drops?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Operation Awesome!

May your day be filled with good people, good food, and good books :) 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post: Before, During, and After the Agent

We all love writing. We all hope our work will help us secure an agent (and a book deal). But what do you do if you get a book deal before an agent? Today, Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman (long with their fabulous agent, Natalie Lakosil of the Laura Bradford Literary Agency) are here to talk about just that. 

Before, During, and After the Agent

In a sane world, you write the book, get an agent who sells the book, and then you’re off to publishing heaven.

Not us. We wrote Sirenz. We shopped our series at Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators conferences. We talked to agents who encouraged us to send the manuscript to them. Or not. Months, conferences and rejections later, still without representation, we started trolling Writer’s Digest for articles like “50 Agents Who Want Your Manuscript.” We sent out queries by letter and email. We waited. We piled up more rejections, filed away unanswered queries.

Not ones to sit patiently and wait, we forged ahead with submissions to editors at conferences alongside the agents. Again we filed rejections, crossed off no responses, and started another round of submissions, dragging out the “Editors Who Want Your Manuscript” articles, and trolling the websites of all publishing houses looking for those who accepted unagented queries. There weren’t many, but we submitted to them, hoping for the best.

About two years into our quest, we received an email from Brian Farrey-Latz at Flux, expressing interest and asking for a conference call. We conferenced, we revised—and were offered a contract! But with talk of our book having series potential and having a pile of individual projects, we knew we needed an agent, so we continued to query—and continued to collect rejections.

That’s where I came in. Nat and Char submitted to me through the infamous slush pile, and, once I got my hands on the full manuscript, I couldn’t put it down. I spent and entire conference longing for just one more break minute to get back to the book!

But it was a book they already had a contract for. I’m inherently wary of on-the-table offers; the last thing I want to do as an agent is sign a client, negotiate a deal, and…never like anything else they write.

So I asked them to send me more. Luckily, these two knocked my socks off with their individual projects as well – so I offered representation, and the rest is history.

Natalie negotiated a sequel to Sirenz and is shopping our individual projects around. We might still collect rejections, but it’s great to have someone in our corner. Although we had the contract, Natalie was able to follow up on foreign rights, and ebook, audio and other media rights—things it would be difficult (if not impossible) for us to do on our own. She’s fielded questions about ARCs and publicity copies, and reviewed Sirens: Back In Fashion before we sent it to Brian. Natalie’s also made suggestions for publicity and themes for future books.

But most of all, having an agent means that with all future projects, she gives them one (or more! ☺) professional reviews to smooth out any rough spots—and we don’t have to spend time researching who the best potential editors are for a manuscript and submitting to them, then following up. (I also field questions or concerns to maintain a good editor/author relationship – they get to let me be the bad guy.)

Lesson learned: even if you’ve sold the first contract, keep shopping for that agent; there’s so much they do that you’re going to need and want (and, to jump in again…so much you can miss or miss out on including in a contract by not having an industry professional – not just any lawyer- look at it! There’s always a chance to revise and better the next contract you do – and an agent can make that happen!).


More about Sirenz:

Bickering frenemies Meg and Shar are doing some serious damage at a midnight sample sale when the fashionistas find themselves arguing over a pair of shoes-with fatal consequences. One innocent bystander later, the girls are suddenly at the mercy of Hades, Lord of the Underworld himself. To make them atone for what they've done, Hades forces the teens to become special-assignment Sirens, luring to the Underworld an individual whose unholy contract is up.

Finding that delicate balance between their fashion addiction and their new part-time job in the eternal hellfire biz turns out to be harder than Meg and Shar expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved. Then there's the matter of the fine print in their own contracts...

Sirenz is avaliable here.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Publisher's Weekly
Angela Townsend's AMAROK, set in a remote Alaskan town, when a runaway is kidnapped by an evil man and his black wolf, whom she later discovers is a boy enslaved by an ancient shaman; she must find the strength to save herself and the wolf, and in turn discover what love truly means, to Kate Kaynak at Spencer Hill Press, by Jill Corcoran at The Herman Agency (NA).

I'm thrilled to announce that my YA novel, Amarok is being published!!!!! Amarok's story came to me while I was researching one of my favorite time periods, the Ice age. I love Woolly mammoths, Saber-toothed tigers, giant bears, sloths and the megalodons that ruled the sea. I'm also fascinated with early mankind and lost societies and ancient civilizations.

Once I started writing I just couldn't stop! I really fell in love with the characters and the ice age lore. After a few weeks my house was a total mess, and kids thought a homeless person had taken over their mother's office and I nearly drove my critique partners crazy with grammatical questions.

I took breaks from editing and writing to do art for chapter heads. I spent hours studying cave drawings and paint mediums used by early man. I mixed my Celtic knotwork art with cave drawings in vivid colors and reversed them on my computer screen. I loved the result. After endless editing and resizing my artwork I sent it to my agent, Jill Corcoran. She loved the art and was very encouraging about the story. Though all the ups and downs, Jill never gave up on me--not once--even though I tried to give up on myself several times. Thank you Jill!

I've been so blessed to have so much love and support on my writing journey. I would like to thank my family, my critique partners, friends and the awesome women of Operation Awesome! Thank you everyone!

~ Angie

Amarok's release date is tentatively set for November of 2012.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Virtues of Procrastination: a late-in-the-day post

"Eh. I'll do it tomorrow."

Like all good procrastinators I started reading last night a book I knew I was scheduled to review today. Luckily for me, it was an awesome book and I zoomed through it, intermittently in tears and smiles. Fabulous literary novel!

That book is STRING BRIDGE by Jessica Bell and you can read my review here. <--book giveaway in the comments section.

But since it's Nano month, I want to talk a little bit about procrastination and its role in a writer's life. :) Fitting, right?

Maybe you don't think it's fitting at all. Maybe you're one of those writers who ALWAYS meets her target word count every single day of November. Not me. I write like this:

Day 1: 5k words
Day 2: 500 words
and so on...

I embrace procrastination in my art because, given deadlines, it works for me. Some people invite their muse by writing a little every day even when the words coming out sound like crap. I do this sometimes, too, but the crap-writing phase without fail makes me feel like I'm wasting my time. I do much better under a deadline.

I invite my muse by doing OTHER things. Things that make me want to write. Here's a little list:

  • doing the dishes
  • taking a shower
  • watching a movie with the hubz
  • watching a favorite TV show
  • listening to new music
  • listening to an old mix CD
  • going for a walk or run
  • playing with my kids (the middle grade ideas flow from their lips like manna from heaven)
  • playing Sims 3
  • reading, reading, reading
In short, procrastination is just living in rebellion of your own ambition. It's putting something else as priority besides your goals. Keeping writing from becoming routine and normal can lead to huge bursts of creativity.

Maybe not the healthiest way to write, but I've always done my best work this way. The world calls it crazy. My mom calls it artistic temperament. To me it's just life.

This isn't an anti-goals post. I still set goals all the time and take a long-view on reaching them. I set deadlines for myself when I think I can possibly meet them, and give myself a break from deadlines when family, church, or my physical health suck me into reality.

But I'm a proud procrastinator. Sure, this post is a little late in the day (it's 10:30am here in Cali). But it's here!

Note: The problem with procrastination comes when you set a series of goals, like, say, Nanowrimo, and then consistently procrastinate writing until November 30th and you've still got 30k words to write.

In the words of the bard...

It's Day 18 of Nanowrimo. How are you all doing?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Midweek Fun

And now some OA promotion:

Want to know what happens when you get a book deal from a publisher but you don't have an agent? Next Wednesday all will be revealed with a wonderful guest post from Charlotte Bennardo, Natalie Zaman (authors of The Sirenz Series), and their awesome agent, Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

THE HUNGER GAMES Full-Length Trailer!

The trailer. Is. Finally. Here.

What do you think? Is it what you hoped it would be or not? Let's discuss in the comments!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Mystery Agent and Winners Revealed!

She asked for twitter pitches and the first 500 words of your manuscripts and you guys delivered!

Please welcome twitter-savvy literary agent...

Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary!!
Natalie Fischer Lakosil
Bradford Literary Agency
Natalie is an Assistant Agent at the Bradford Literary Agency. An honors graduate of the University of San Diego, California, Natalie holds a B.A. in Literature/Writing. After nearly four years at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and a brief dabble in writing author profiles and book reviews for the San Diego Union Tribune, Natalie joined the Bradford Agency in February of 2011. (pic and bio from her agency website)

And the winner of a full request is:

Kate Larkindale 

Name: Kate Larkindale
Title: Chasing the Taillights
Genre: YA Contemporary
Manuscript word count: 87 000

Twitter pitch: Lucy has to explain the accident that killed her parents or she'll lose her mind–if she does, she'll lose the only person who loves her.

First 500 words: The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide.

Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I can’t think, can’t make sense of the darkness threatening to drown me. 

Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into. The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas?

Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.

A taillight.

I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge of relief passing through me at this small achievement. It’s a taillight. But why is it there? What is there? And if that’s there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzying circles around my skull.

My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring into it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.

More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the flood of brightness. All around me I see fragments glinting in the beam, tiny jewels strewn across the road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road?

Ghostly music drifts in my direction. A song I know, an oldie, The Beach Boys. It makes no sense here, must be in my head. I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself onto my elbows for a better perspective. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck to my still-aching head. The heavy, metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down, I see the yellow line is smeared red.

The slamming of a car door breaks through the dull thumping in my skull, chases the music away for a moment. Footsteps scuff across the gravel, heading away from where I lie.

I would also like to request to see 30 pages from these two:

Lisa Aldin 

Genre: YA dark paranormal

Twitter Pitch: A depressed teenager agrees to switch places with her dream-self, and becomes trapped in her own mind.

First 500 Words:

Chapter One

"What do you want to talk about today, Kate?"

Every session, Dr. Gray starts with this question, but we both know it doesn't matter what I want to talk about. She's driving this therapy train and I'm just a passenger along for the ride.

I shift in the chair that’s the color of pink vomit and glance at the notes scrawled on my arm. Hungover, I can’t pretend to pay attention.

"We can talk about this being my last year of high school," I say, assuming this a relatively harmless topic.

Dr. Gray nods. "How are you feeling about that?"

"I guess how every other senior feels."

"And how's that?"

I answer with a lie, stifling a yawn. “Um. Nervous?’

I haven’t slept in seventy-six days, or maybe it’s been eighty. The number on my wrist written in faded black marker says seventy-six, but as I look at the black digits again, I think I lost track somewhere. According to Dr. Gray, after a certain amount of time, insomnia will start to erode my organs. Without a cure, vital parts of me will switch off, one-by-one, like carnival lights at the end of a season. I don’t know how much time I have.

Hot milk. Counting sheep. Heat pads. Sleeping pills. All failed cures.

“What are you nervous about?” Dr. Gray’s voice sounds muted, like she’s talking to me from behind a thick door. My eye lids grow heavy and I shift my weight again, trying to focus. A cluster of dust dances in the stream of light pouring through the window.

I imagine the rest of the house is as spare as the office, which holds only the pink chair, a rotting desk, and some cardboard boxes full of bubble wrap. Stuff that normal people might leave on the side of the road for trash pickers.


“What? Oh, sorry.” I rub my eyes. “I don’t know. I’m nervous about everything, I guess.”

After the accident, I slept fine, enough to function anyway. The nightmares began when Dad moved to Florida at the beginning of August, when the sky burned and the grass wilted into crusty, brown blades. Sprinklers around the neighborhood attempted to pump life back into the dying lawns, with little luck. The grass would live when it wanted to live, for a few brief weeks in September before October rolled in to color everything brown again. That was at least three months ago. Ninety days. Worse than I thought.

I pull a black marker from my back pocket and write 90 Days onto my palm.

Dr. Gray leans back, folding her delicate hands. She never writes anything down. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. She says, “Let’s talk about Buck’s room.”

I roll my eyes. “Why did I ever tell you about that?”

“Don’t.” She shakes her head. “Don’t retreat. Have you tried entering his room again?”

Elizabeth Briggs 

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Pitch: A teen hacker is drawn into a war between parallel universes when she meets an alternate version of herself from another dimension.

First 500:

The fire alarm blared to life right when I got past the proxy server. Just my luck. It took me all lunch to hack into the school’s record system, and now this.

My fingers flew across the keyboard while the alarm pierced my ears without any hint of giving up. Just another drill. Maybe I could finish this before I had to leave. If not, I'd have to start all over again tomorrow. Cracking the system wasn't hard, but it took a long time to make sure no one could trace it back to me.

Mr. Wilson, my calculus teacher, stuck his head inside the door to the computer lab. “Everyone out. Fire drill.”

The other students grabbed their things and rushed out, but I couldn't leave yet. My brother wasn't adjusting well to our latest move, this time to Los Angeles, and now his grades were too low to get on the school’s soccer team. With tryouts next week, there was no way he’d have time to improve them. Normally I wouldn't condone something like changing grades, but it wasn't my brother's fault he couldn't keep up with school.

Plus, breaking in was fun.

A screen popped up asking for the student's name. I was so close now. I just needed a few more minutes.

“Sara, come on,” Mr. Wilson said, waiting for me at the door.

“I'll be just a minute, sir,” I said, giving him my sweetest smile. “I have to save my English essay and print it out. It's due next period.”

Mr. Wilson’s forehead creased, but he nodded. I knew what he saw -- a straight A student who always followed the rules, with an innocent face everyone called “cute.” Teachers loved me.

“Okay, but come out right after. We're all gathering on the football field and you need to be there for the head count.”

“Of course. I'll be right out.”

The door closed behind him, and I leaned over the keyboard and entered my brother's name. Another page loaded and I scanned it, shaking my head. The user interface for the records database was unforgivable. They really needed to hire a better programmer.

I found my brother's transcripts and changed a few of his grades, just enough to get him the C average he needed to get on the team. He still had to study, after all.

The alarm continued its incessant shrieking. The door opened again, probably another teacher about to tell me to get down to the field. “Coming,” I called over my shoulder, as I scrambled to close programs and hide all the evidence of my break-in. I wasn’t really worried about getting caught—I doubted the school’s IT monkeys would even know I was in their system—but I was still careful, just in case.

“Sara Morgan?”

Behind me stood a girl in a long black jacket with straps across the chest. She wore large reflective sunglasses that hid most of her face, and her dark hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail.

Thanks so much for the great contest!!

Thank YOU, Natalie! 

Q&A With the Awesome Mystery Agent:

Katrina: Now that you're happily married (congrats again!) are you still pining for romantic stories in the query inbox or is something else at the top of your want list?

Natalie: I’m still a sucker for romance, but for me, it can’t be the driving nature of the plot (unless it’s adult romance – then it better be!)

Katrina: Speaking of queries, what makes you cringe in a query letter? Conversely, what catches your eye in a positive way? What was your favorite feature of your favorite query letter, something you still haven't forgotten?

Natalie: I STILL cringe at inappropriate word counts (anything over 100,000) and vampires and werewolves. What catches my attention is a well-written query – to the point, and with a clear, unique hook.

: An interview with Let the Words Flow tells your favorite TV shows:

Favorite TV shows: Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, House, Bones, CSI: Las Vegas, Law and Order: SVU, Cake Boss, Family Guy, Simpsons, NCIS, Eureka (I love connecting with people on the random shows I like or used to watch.)
Loved this! Since I believe it gives tremendous insight into your soul, I found this very helpful! :) Any additions to the list? 

Natalie: Modern Family :)

Katrina: Be totally honest. Did you like Twilight? Harry Potter? The Hunger Games (Team Peeta!)?

Natalie: All of them! And YES team Peeta. ;)

All three series are honestly completely different breeds from each other – Twilight, though yes, everyone knocks…totally had me turning pages because I was COMPLETELY invested in the characters. Harry Potter was unique and fascinating – and again, totally invested in the characters. And Hunger Games was gritty and fresh…and I was 100% invested in the characters.

Hmm, I wonder if I like stories where I’m completely invested in the characters…

Katrina: Please share your exciting agency/client news with us! We love to get excited about upcoming bestsellers.

Natalie: Probably the lamest thing to be stoked about…but I am honestly SO excited we just re-vamped our agency website ( Otherwise, I have some very exciting projects coming up – including the sequel to SIRENZ by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman, and Jessica Souders’ debut, RENEGADE. On the adult side, I just sold a debut mystery for Monique Domovitch…but what is MOST incredibly amazing about her are her self-published novels – which Costco Canada has just agreed to sell!!

I have such an amazingly fabulous list of clients, it’s a tough bar to match…but I am ALWAYS looking for someone new to meet and exceed that bar!

Add it on goodreads
Add it on goodreads

Wonderful! Thank you so much, Natalie!

And thanks to everyone who entered and re-entered the contest last week! You guys rocked those twitter pitches.

And if you'd like to query
Natalie Fischer Lakosil, be sure to check out her...

Agency Website - Bradford Literary PLUS Submission Guidelines
Let the Words Flow Interview
A View From the Top Interview
Teens Writing for Teens Interview
Beyond Words Interview
Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Interview
Casey McCormick's Literary Rambles Spotlight: Natalie Fischer Lakosil
Publisher's Marketplace

As always, check the dates on interviews and contests. Take the most recent info as gospel when submitting work. Happy Nano!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fear of Failing

Writing is like a wonderful meal. The anticipation that comes with the starter of the idea. The wonderful main course of writing, creating that story into being. Then, finally, the delicious dessert of editing and polishing until full. But being a writer comes with a side-order of worry.

We worry about plot holes, adverbs, character development, purple prose, and the million other things that go along with writing.

But perhaps the thing that worries us the most is failure. That one word haunts us. Pulls at the edges of every fresh story idea. Every new WIP. Each draft of edits. Every query we send out.

But maybe we shouldn't fear failure. When I read this on Nova Ren Suma's blog, I knew I had to share it with you. Why? I'll let these wonderful words from Sara Zarr explain:

I’m inspired by failure.
Which is a good thing, because right now I’ve got a first draft of a new book in front of me, and it feels like a massive pile of FAIL. (I should note: this is my book.)
This, I know, is a somewhat distorted version of reality. Oh, there’s good work here, the bones of something. And, in places, muscle, flesh, blood.
But it’s far from a success. And that’s exactly where it should be right about now. I’ve been doing this and observing others doing this, or things like this, long enough to know that every book, every painting, every dance, every song, every screenplay, every movie, every craft project lives most of its life as a failure.
The creative process, and the creative life, is mostly full of moments between the idea and the being done, the spark and the blazing fire, the shimmering magic and the finished piece. We’re always living in the gap between our vision of what could be and what might be, and what is.
Even typing that paragraph kind of breaks my heart. I want the writing life to be made of more moments of capturing the vision, and fewer of feeling it slip through my fingers, uncatchable as time.
I need all the reminders I can get that I’m not alone in that gap, that this is the nature of the work, this is what it is: learning to live with a certain degree of failure. (I’m intentionally using the cringe-inducing, scary F word. You know how some social, ethnic, or religious groups have “taken back” certain words, claimed them, and made new meaning? That’s sort of what I’m doing here.)
So, I seek out any place where I can hear other creative people talk about their failures and their fears. Those places include documentaries, interviews, essays, articles, blog posts, and maybe even tweets from fellow writers who, in 140 characters or less, reveal their moments in the gap.
When I hear Bob Fosse say that every time he choreographed a new show, he didn’t know how to move dancers across the stage…
When Anne Lamott writes about the completely confounding process of writing her second novel…
When John Lasseter talks about being fired from Disney before going on to make Toy Story—which, by the way, was a disaster in its first version, as was Toy Story 2, and also p.s. Monsters, Inc. didn’t “find its center for a very long time” and then became the highest grossing animated feature at the time…
When I remember that Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple… (Steve Jobs! Kicked out! OF APPLE.)
When I see artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude endure a quarter-century of obstacles before they were finally able to install The Gates…
When I read that the masters painted over their own work time and again when they felt their first attempts weren’t worth the canvas…
When I hear demo versions of just-okay songs that became gorgeous favorites…
I’m reminded:
Without risking failure, maybe even running headlong into it, there’s no chance for discovering something new and beautiful. Without wandering off the trail that the rest of the world is trudging on, we don’t know where we can go, what we can do, what’s out there beyond our current vision.
I’m reminded that the point of creating isn’t control.
The point isn’t saving yourself from embarrassment.
The point isn’t preserving an image of yourself dear to you, and/or dear to others, or earning out your advance or gritting your teeth as you check to see if your ranking, wherever, is ticking up.
The point isn’t avoiding failure.
We can’t. It’s inevitable. Those who finish what they start persevere through it, blow gently on those embers, tend to that first love, protect the shimmering magic, in hopes of…
…Insert your hopes here.
Maybe: To enflesh some truth—maybe beautiful truth or maybe not-so-beautiful truth—and the experience of living in this world, or a world in your imagination. To translate vision into whatever the medium of your craft is, for whatever your reasons are. To understand? To be understood? To ask questions well? To explore, maybe. To entertain, to show love, work out your demons. Or—gasp!—to have fun.
Whatever the answer is for you, there’s going to be a lot of failure along the way. In a way, “failure” is just another word for “the journey,” for not being there yet but on the way. It’s the road we walk on to get wherever it is we’re trying to go.
Today, I’m looking at my draft and its large and small failures, and I know: if everyone I admire and respect, everyone whose work has endured for more than five minutes, everyone who has come out with something beautiful, has struggled in this same, frightening gap, I must be on the right track.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New THE HUNGER GAMES Cast Photos: What Do You Think?

So. There's this movie coming out in March 2012. It's called The Hunger Games.

Maybe you've heard of it.


Anyway, Vanity Fair magazine has released brand new pics with the cast! 

Le pics:

Now tell me: what do you think? Do they look like the Tributes you imagined? Are the pics getting you pumped up for the movie release?? (confession: Despite a few actors not looking like I thought they would, I. Cannot. Wait.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keeping the Little Darlings Busy

So, I know not all writers have children. But for those of us who do, working on any sort of project, let alone something like Nano, can be a challenge. Here are a few ideas I've picked up over the years for keeping your kidlets (or significant others) busy while you are pounding the keyboard.

1. The Electronic Babysitter

Yeah, yeah, I know....Bad Mommy! But, I've found this one highly effective. Movies and video games can keep my little ones occupied for hours. And it doesn't have to be bad, mind-numbing drivel. There are lots of great, educational games and shows around. But just like the Borg, your kidlets will adapt quickly. You gotta keep throwing fresh, new material at them or they will develop immunity and it will no longer be effective.

2. Find the Coin

When I was growing up, my parents would play this game with us (we called it something different but it probably isn't PC anymore so...we'll just call it Find the Coin) :D I realize now it was a great way to give them a few kid-free moments, but at the time, I just thought it was a fun game. They would hide this huge silver coin my dad had somewhere in the house, and we'd have to go find it. I don't remember if we got a treat for finding it; I just remember how much fun it was to look. And I never suspected that my parents were just trying to keep us occupied for a while :D

3. Skittle Surprise

This one cracks me up and was suggested by my awesome friend Toni Wilson. I don't know that I'd ever do it but it's hilarious. Take your kids in the backyard, open a big bag of Skittles, and let them fly :D It'll take your kids hours to find them all :D

4. Pen Pals

My kids love to do projects with me. So sometimes we'll set up a whole Writer's Corner at the kitchen table. My kids will either get their toy laptops and play their games while I work, or they'll get out pencils and paper and create their own books. They love making up their own stories, drawing pictures to go with their ideas. And I love sharing something that such a big part of me with them :)

What are some things you do to keep your kids occupied when you need to work?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Guide to Writer Traits

When drafting a new WIP there are certain things a writer will encounter. We can try to fight them. Pretend they won't happen to us, but the time will come when you are faced with these things:

Your appearance will suffer. You may/will be so engrossed in your WIP that your hair protests. Embrace it. Our presentation may suck, but the words you could write in the time it takes to brush your hair are what counts:

You've marked out your writing time. Everyone knows not to disturb you, but someone will interrupt you in the middle of THE MOST IMPORTANT scene to ask you a question. You'll need a speed answer to preserve your wordage flow:


Your computer will decide to shut down/freeze/go wonky at the most inconvenient moment. You will utter this phrase many, many times:


Or possibly want to do this:


A balanced meal takes time to prepare. Valuable writing time! Sometimes the major food groups will end up looking like this:

We all know that sometimes the brain needs a break. Never underestimate the value of procrastination time: 

A writer will find that everything else is exciting while procrastinating:

And don't forget the benefits of a power nap:


And then there is the ultimate writer trait to embrace. You can try to avoid it with carefully thought out writing plans/word count goals/time management, but the words are tricky. The words will hit you when you least expect it. Then comes the time when the words demand you write all night:

Happy writing! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Mystery Agent Contest!!!!

--- Contest CLOSED -- 
Thanks for participating!! Stay tuned for our Mystery Agent's winners. Happy Nano!

Update 11/1/11: Writing a
twitter pitch, aka a pitch in 140 characters including spaces, is extremely difficult. But most of you bent over backwards to do it! Kudos to those of you who did it right. Fifteen of you were over the limit, by anywhere from 7 to 180 characters over. This obviously isn't fair to those who followed Rule 5 down there

You've been disqualified and I'm reopening the contest for anybody who wants to submit or resubmit with the correct type of pitch.

Please check the length of your pitch to see if you're one who is being disqualified. Michelle also sent out emails (or tweets or a blog comment if you don't have an obvious email) to those who were disqualified. If you made a mistake and want to correct it, you're welcome to do so now! :) 

I promised our Mystery Agent 50 twitter pitches PLUS first 500 words, so I'd appreciate your help. Thank you!

It's true that NaNoWriMo begins today, but for those of you with a pitch-ready novel under your pillow, something even cooler is going on...


This month's Awesome M.A. has requested a twitter pitch PLUS first 500 words. This has never been done on OA before, so I'm excited to read the entries!

Requested genres include:
Picture book - YA/Teen:

commercial fiction
romance (contemporary and historical)
historical fiction
multi-cultural fiction
sci-fi/fantasy in YA or romance only
dark novels
fairy-tale/legend spin-offs

The Rules:

1) Entries must be left in the comment section of today's post. (Please do not email us your entry.)

2) You must have a completed manuscript and be ready to send it upon request.

3) You can only pitch once per contest. So if you participated in any of our previous M.A. contests, no worries--you can submit your pitch today, too.

4) Please include TITLE and GENRE along with your pitch.

5) Your pitch should fit nicely in a twitter box. Please include the first 500 words of your completed manuscript following your twitter-length pitch.

Winner gets a full manuscript request from our Mystery Agent! Good luck!

And Happy NaNoWriMo!!