Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
By Susie Kralovansky
You might think you’re organized, but are you really, really organized?
I thought that I had a great filing system. It's one that I had been using for years.
Then, I read my friend Nancy I. Sander’s blog on writing journals. Previously, I always began each project with a new folder where I stuffed every slip of paper, note, magazine article, and photos on my current project.
My materials were together, but they were a mess. I was continually looking for a line, phrase, page, etc. that I knew I’d written, but couldn’t get my hands on.
I assumed that this was just part of the creative process. It never occurred to me, until reading Nancy's first post, that there was a much, much better way to keep track of your work. I’m embarrassed to say that I have actually spoken at conferences on organization and writing. Yikes!
Nancy is truly the master of organization. Imagine this - a Table of Contents! And notes!
More importantly, imagine being able to know exactly where your images, quotes, resources, reference tools, opening and closing lines, etc. are!
Nancy explains her system in a series of seven posts. After these first few, each one will include organizational skills that every writer needs to know, right down to putting a sticker on the upper right-hand corner of your journal’s Table of Content since you will be flipping back to it so often.
One of my favorite posts was an explanation of the topics Nancy puts in her journal. This gem will always be on the inside cover of my writing journals.
I love notebooks, markers, stickers, and glue sticks. As a former librarian, I love cataloging information. This writing journal stuff was made for me. And now I can say (thanks to Nancy) that yes, I am really, really organized.
Learn more about Susie Kralovansky and her writing process at https://www.susankralovansky.com/
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
By Christine Liu-Perkins
My favorite book on writing nonfiction is Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great
Serious Nonfiction—and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. One key concept they discuss in Chapter 2 is the importance of having a question that drives the book: "Every work of serious nonfiction begins with a question the author has about the topic and ends with an answer the author wants to provide." (p. 77) That question determines how interested editors and readers will be in the book.
I find that asking an overall question also focuses my writing. Knowing what question I'm trying to answer helps me decide how to structure the book and helps in making those many decisions about what to keep and what to leave out. For At Home in Her Tomb, my question was, What do the tombs and their artifacts tell us about life in ancient China?
Sometimes authors reveal in interviews, Author's Notes, or blogposts what question(s) inspired them to create their books. Here are a few examples:
- In Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West, Candace Fleming explored: "Who was Buffalo Bill? Was he a hero or was he a charlatan? Was he an honest man or a liar? Was he a real frontiersman or was he a showman?"
- In working on Feathers: Not Just for Flying Melissa Stewart wondered, "How else do birds use their feathers in unexpected ways?"
- In her Author's Note for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant said she wanted to know, "Who was this man Roget? . . . And what compelled him to undertake this immensely difficult task?"
- "Every day, creatures lose their lives on our highways. What, I wondered, can we learn from them?" This question led Heather Montgomery to write Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill.
- At the end of her prologue for Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend, Karen Blumenthal wrote of the two outlaws, "They are romanticized, celebrated, and remembered as the stuff of legend. But why?"
To identify the question driving your own project, Rabiner and Fortunato recommend recalling what originally captured your interest in the subject "and why you find it compelling enough to write a book to answer it . . ." (p. 78).
What's the question driving your work-in-progress? Defining that question will help you research, write, and market your book.
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
By Stephanie Bearce
Anybody who has been writing for a while has been hit with the agent questions. It’s whispered and chatted about at conferences, workshops, and in critique groups. The questions sound like:
Do you have an agent?
How did you get your agent?
Can you tell me how to get an agent?
Can I contact your agent?”
A good agent is worth her weight in toner ink and paper! She can negotiate a contract, critique a manuscript, and answer fifty emails all before her cappuccino cools. That’s why everybody wants an amazing agent. But--and this is a very big BUT –- an agent is only as good as the writer she is representing. To get an excellent agent you need to be an excellent writer.
New writers often believe that getting an agent is going to solve all their writing problems. The agent will edit their manuscripts, sell their work, and get them on the The New York Times Best Seller list. It’s a lovely dream, but it is not reality. Experienced writers WITH agents will tell you that it is no guarantee that their manuscript will sell. If the editors are not looking for a book about three-toed sloths and vampire bats – it’s not going to sell. What an agent can do is help you to navigate the market trends and get your work in front of editors who are looking for manuscripts in your content area. They can also be your biggest cheerleader.
BUT you may not be ready to look for an agent if you are not a polished, experienced writer. You only have one chance to make a first impression. You want it to be a good one. This is a check list that can help you evaluate whether or not you are ready for an agent.
1. Do you belong to an active critique group?
This is probably the single best thing you can do to prepare for an agent. Find a group who will tell you what is WRONG with your manuscript. You want people who are honest and will help you learn how to improve. And every manuscript can use improvement.
2. Do you have more than one polished manuscript or proposal available?
That’s right – more than one! Agents often want to see three polished picture book manuscripts. If you are writing for middle grade or young adult you need a full proposal and some additional ideas already in the development stages. Most agents want to work with you on multiple projects and you need to show that you are at that stage with your work.
3. Have you attended conferences and had professional critiques of your work?
Before you send your work out to an agent – get it evaluated by other professional writers. They can tell you if your story is ready or if it needs more work. And listen to their advice! Too often new writers discount the advice of other writers. If an experienced writer gives you suggestions for revision – consider it a gift and go revise! Negative feedback is not meant to hurt you-- it is meant to make you a stronger writer and build a better manuscript.
4. Have you had work published previously?
Have you published magazine articles or had work in professional journals? Have you done work-for-hire and learned how to partner with an editor? This can be a big plus when you are a nonfiction writer looking for an agent. Don’t discount the value of publishing in a variety of venues including hosted blogs and professional journals. Working with editors to hone your writing will be a huge advantage as you look for that perfect agent and those book contracts.
These are just suggestions for what you should do before you look for an agent. There are other things like contests, e-zines, and mentorships that can also help you reach the writing level that is necessary to attract a good agent.
Remember there is no substitute for hard work and lots of revision. Your manuscripts should be as perfect as possible before submitting to an agent. And then – if she is a fantastic agent – be prepared to some more revisions!
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
By Nancy Churnin
Here’s something that gets forgotten on the writer’s journey – the importance of getting to
know and support folks in your local bookstore.
People get into bookselling for the same reason authors and illustrators get into creating books – THEY LOVE BOOKS.
You sit alone, crafting your story to the best of your ability, revise, revise, revise with the help of critique partners and ultimately, you hope, with an acquiring editor. But when that book comes out, the next part of the journey is to get the book into children’s hands.
Librarians and educators are key allies. And so are the people who run bookstores. If a bookstore loves your book, they’ll display it prominently and recommend it to patrons. They may host your launch party, pitch your book to schools and, possibly, set up an arrangement where you can personalize the books people order.
So how can you build that relationship?
BOOST You think it’s a struggle making it as an author? It’s a struggle making it as a bookstore. Look for excuses to post about your local bookstore on social media.
BUY Your budget may be limited. But bookstores, especially small ones, remember every customer. Plus, there’s nothing like seeing what bookstores put on their shelves to help you understand what kind of stories and storytelling people love.
BE THERE Make regular trips to your local bookstore. While you’re there, sign your books they have in stock and see if you can help out with a storytime. On July 13, I’ll present storytimes at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. as part of the two-year birthday celebration for Interabang Books in Dallas. I stay in close touch with friends at my local Barnes & Noble and Express Booksellers, which sells books to schools and non-profits.
And here’s the best part. I’ve met wonderful people at these bookstores – people who inspire and encourage me. These are people that believe books matter. So make friends with a bookstore and the amazing people in it. You’ll be glad you did.