Etc.

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Sorry wonderful readers–I’ve been traveling for a conference for five days and the weekend was really busy. Then I had a travel apocalypse getting out of Colorado. So I am giving myself a break this week. See you Monday!

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Sadly, I am not going to be at this one, but the spectacular writing guru and market expert Chuck Sambuchino is among the teachers at the Homeric Writers’ Retreat and Workshop on Ithaca, Greece this August 2nd through 8th.

Here’s more about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: writers will take sessions, get personal critiques for their work, and find time to write on an amazing island. The event is coordinated by editor & author Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest and author Jessica Bell, award-winning fiction writer and poet.

Attendees of the retreat receive the following:

  • A dozen different instructional sessions on how to write better and get published. These sessions include advice and instruction on how to find an agent, crafting voice in fiction, getting fiction and poetry published, how to build a writer platform, how to deal with editors, how to develop a great first chapter, how to write a novel/memoir synopsis, and more.
  • Multiple personalized critiques. Each attendee gets their first 50 pages critiqued, along with critiques on their synopsis, query and/or nonfiction book proposals.
  • Free writing-related books and materials.
  • Excursions on the Greek isle of Ithaca.

If you haven’t made vacation plans this summer and just happen to be up for a writing adventure, please check out the retreat by clicking here. If you sign up, make sure to let them know I sent you!

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This Thursday, June 14th at 1 p.m. Eastern, I’m teaching my first ever webinar on crafting characters for MG and YA novels! This is something I consider very important to any novelist’s toolbox, and so I’m very excited to give you the opportunity to join me. I’ll focus on rendering complex protagonists, secondary characters, antagonists, and give YA writers a special section on chemistry and relationships in novels–that romantic element is absolutely something you have to think about if you’re trying to enter the teen market these days. This webinar draws heavily on content I developed for my upcoming book–WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT–which won’t be out until October (from Writer’s Digest Books). Here’s your chance to get a sneak peek!

You’ve probably seen some of my posts about webinars in the past, and the same rules apply here. Registered students can call in via phone or log on with their computers to experience the webinar. Even if you can’t make the time of the webinar, you will get a recorded file of it that you can view for up to one year after the event. All registered students, regardless of whether or not you can attend live, get the following benefits:

1) Every question you ask will be answered, either during the webinar or after.
2) Every student receives critique. For this webinar, you can send in up to 500 words of character description or interaction from your MG or YA novel for critique…this will help you really hone in on your character development and relationships.

Sign up for the webinar here. This will probably be my last one until the fall, so hop on this opportunity while you can!

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Two weekends ago I met Dr. Mira Reisberg at the Northern California Central SCBWI Illustrators’ Day conference, where I gave a presentation geared toward illustrators marketing themselves. Mira is a former university professor who taught courses on children’s literature and art and is also an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. Mira is now teaching online courses including the Hero’s Art Journey, an interactive class starting June 4th (and lasting 6 weeks). The course is designed for very beginning to professional artists, and children’s picture book writers and illustrators. Students will explore their own hero’s journey while learning about a wide range of art techniques and materials, art history, mythology, and picture books in a fun supportive community. Guest video and written contributions throughout the course will come from Ashley Wolff, Marissa Moss, Elisa Kleven, Yuyi Morales, and Maya Gonzalez, in what Mira promises will be a transformative experience. She is also offering my readers a half off discount for $99.00 with this link http://bit.ly/InCDa0 You can find out more and contact Mira at www.herosartjourney.com.

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Sorry to close early, but I’ve gotten such an overwhelming response to my call for interns, that I’m almost at the point where I’d need to hire an intern to help me hire an intern. Keep in mind that I’ll offer this opportunity periodically. Everyone who managed to get applications in, you’ll hear from me next week about whether or not you’ve made it to the next round. I’ll keep everyone’s information on file for future intern calls. Thank you all for your responses!

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ETA, May 20th: I’m so sorry to close early but the call for interns is now closed. If you’re interested to be considered for future internships, email me and I’ll keep your information on file. But I’ve officially gotten more applications than I can handle.

The other day, someone asked me how I became a literary agent. I started out as a reader at Kimberly Cameron and Associates during the first year of my MFA program. I also interned at Chronicle Books. Then I started reading at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and the rest…as they say…is history. Now, I can’t offer you an agency slot or guarantee you a job, but interning for an agency or publisher is the #1 thing you can do if you’re curious about publishing, agenting, writing, or the children’s book world. It gives you insight into story and editing, as well as context for what other writers are doing. You’ll also learn about the inner working of publishing by talking to your mentor about what’s involved in giving notes to clients, pitching books, and negotiating deals.

In that vein, I’m looking for some interns now that I’m ramping up at Movable Type. This is an open call for all those interested in agenting, publishing, and writing.

You: College student, college grad, MA/MFA/PhD candidate who loves reading, giving notes, deconstructing story, and who wants to learn more about publishing and the marketplace. Ideally you have some knowledge of what’s on shelves today, but are yearning to learn more. You are a writer or interested in publishing as a career.
Your location: Anywhere! This is a remote position and you’ll work primarily over email. If you happen to be in the NYC area, we can have several in-person meetings.
Internship length: Six months minimum, more if it is a good fit, depending on your schedule.
Time commitment: I’m looking for candidates who can devote 5-10 hours per week to reading, putting together data, and otherwise corresponding with me. Only apply if this seems realistic–if you’re about to get busy and know you’ll have to flake out sooner rather than later, thanks but no thanks. We will set schedules and expectations as we begin to work together.
Responsibilities: Reading and responding to manuscripts, first and foremost. You should be very interested in editorial work and like the idea of putting your thoughts into reader reports (examples will be provided). The bulk of your work will be full manuscripts, but I’ll also expose you to the slush pile. Then, depending on your other areas of interest, you will be helping me with editor correspondence, market analysis, marketing, idea development, etc. Every day is different for me–I am always reading, taking meetings, negotiating a deal, reviewing a contract, etc. You should be flexible and be willing to roll with whatever comes up. I want you to get the maximum benefit from this, so I’ll give you tasks that correspond to your interests.
Pay: The good ol’ publishing starting salary of free. Unfortunately, this is an unpaid position, but I hope to reward you for your hard work with access to behind-the-scenes information that will give you new insights into children’s publishing.
Incentives: I’ll offer you some editor contacts at publishing houses, a letter or phone call of reference whenever you’re applying for a job, several phone calls over the course of our work together to discuss your questions or any pertinent issues that arise (if you are working remotely), and lunch on me if we ever happen to be in the same city.

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Skipsies!

Whoops. Once in a blue moon, a day completely gets away from me and I don’t blog, and that’s what happened yesterday. Sorry. But good stuff is coming your way next week, including a big announcement. Enjoy this unexpected break. I took it easy on y’all this week. Not for long! I see more thought-provoking craft posts in your future! For now, sign up for my webinar next Thursday, May 10th.

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This question comes from PK, who asked it during my Franco-Italian blog break:

In terms of agenting, would an agent of awesomesauce-ness like yourself consider taking on a project they didn’t necessarily love, but thought they could sell? Or vice versa? Or does it just depend on the agent?

I didn’t just pick this question because I was described as an “agent of awesomesauce-ness,” promise. This is actually an issue that I struggle a lot with. There are lots of things that I haven’t gone for that have gone on to sell. I rejected them even though I knew they had a possibility of selling. Do I wish I’d gotten some of those commissions? Sure. Especially when those books go on to do well in the marketplace or receive continued enthusiasm from their publishers. Do I live with myself regardless? Of course. I’ve long ago made it a goal to have no regrets.

Here’s how I see it: If I go into a project thinking, “This is commercial crap but I think it will sell and so I’ll offer,” my head and heart are going to be in a different place. I’ll never bond with the project–or the author–in the same way as I do with those projects and authors of mine that I love unconditionally for their creativity, artistry, and merit. And if I see flaws in the project, even before I go on sale with it, I bet some of those editors that I’ve pitched will be thinking, just like I was, “This is some Grade A commercial crap and I don’t really want to publish it.” The difference, of course, is that publishers are looking to make money and the editor may make a “go” of the acquisition anyway, even with a fluffier book that is mostly meant to generate revenue or capitalize on a trend, and my “I think I can sell this” prediction comes true. But it’s not the same as championing a more “long shot” project successfully, or seeing a book that you’re head-over-heels with come to fruition. And you better believe that when an editor gushes about a project to friends and booksellers, it won’t be BEACH BLANKET BONANZA, or whatever. It’ll be one of the books that they acquired out of love, not money.

Maybe that’s what could eventually drive me out of the agent game, but I have to fall in love with a project. I can’t do the “this is crap but it will sell” thing. This question made me think of that scene in Love, Actually (please forgive me), when aging rock star Billy Mack is recording a shameless moneygrab single, turns to his manager, and says, “This is shit, isn’t it.” His manager replies, “Yep. Solid gold shit.” But who wants to have shit on their record, at the end of the day? I know I can’t feast on my principles or use them to pay my bills, but for now, I know what love feels like with a project, and that’s what I’m chasing. It’s very hard to find, but nothing really measures up to when you do.

The truth is, I’ve tried taking on projects like this, that I thought were a good bet to sell and that I wouldn’t mind representing. Maybe I’m just a really bad judge of what’s commercial, but they never went anywhere. Maybe it was the project. Maybe it was a saturated market. Maybe it was a downturn in the really fluffy/paperback original/beach read sector that went the way of the chick lit. The fact is, I know what happens when I go to sell a love project, and I know what happens when I go to sell a commercial-but-I-can-live-with-it project. I’d much rather spend my time on the former.

Plus, I’m building relationships with clients that I hope will last across multiple books. I have high standards for my authors and illustrators, and I love watching them work and grow. If I take you on with only mild enthusiasm for you and your work because I’ve got dollar signs in my eyes, I worry it will be a false type of relationship from the get-go, and that’s not particularly fair for either of us.

There are plenty of great projects that go on to get published without my help–most books on shelves fall into the category, actually! And I’m happy to let them go. Not all things are for me. Not all things are awesomesauce enough for me to want to read them five or seven times (as I’ve read some client projects over the course of multiple revisions). Not all things are going to inspire me to an enthusiastic pitch. Not all things are going to connect with my target editors like I want them to. And maybe I’m just one of those people who has to have love at the expense of commerce. Of course, the best of both worlds is to have a book I’m desperately in love with that goes super huge in the marketplace. I’m happy to report that this feels really good, also!

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2011 has been a very interesting year for me, and I hope it’s been a fantastic one for you. I’m ready to relax for a few weeks and then hop right into what I hope is a tremendous 2012. Let’s make some books, live to the fullest, and see what adventures lie just around the bend!

I wish you lots of holiday love, warmth, time with family, good eats, laughter, creativity, and peace.

This Christmas, since I’m spending the month of December living in beautiful Napa, my family is coming up to visit and we’ll be sunning ourselves by a mineral hot springs pool. That’s right…a Christmas swim in 100 degree water. It’s going to be bliss!

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CWIM Winners!

The winners of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, are…

Erik Metz
Laura Burdette

Email me your addresses at mary at kidlit dot com!

For the rest of you, it’s still not too late to treat yourself or the kidlit writer and/or illustrator in your life to this fantastic, info-packed book. It makes great pampering for yourself or a fabulous gift for others…or both. And don’t forget to review it on Amazon and Goodreads!

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