Wednesday, June 26, 2019

June 2019 CWHV Conference

We were honored to have Alvina Ling, Vice President and Editor-in-
Alvina Ling
Chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as our opening keynote speaker. She spoke on her publishing journey and the importance of goal setting. Five steps for attaining your goals: do your research, outline a step by step plan, work hard and preserve, network like crazy and believe and hope in your goal and abilities. As Abe Lincoln said, “A goal properly set is hallway reached.” I love that!

Her workshop session reviewed the basics of novel structure: voice, character, and plot. Voice: Who is the main character? Points of view: multiple or single. Tense, past or present. Prose or verse. Tips on making your character’s voice distinct was discussed. Character: learn about your character through physical descriptions, action, self-discovery and dialogue. Plots: the seven basic plots and three simple plots were explored.

Eve Adler
Eve Adler, Senior Editor at Sterling Children’s Books, picture book workshop talked about how to hook your readers with the right voice. Unfortunately, I was not in this workshop and can not give any specific details.

Emma Sector
Emma Sector, Literary Agent at Prospect Agency, discussed the difference kinds of chapter books. Some are like graphic novels in the structure and art style, some are episodic with three or four different stories using the same main character and others are one story line. Usual word count is 10,000 to 12,000 words with ten chapters. For a series potential, you need different characters with a structure that can be repeated. Think Magic Tree House.

Kate Brzozowski, Editor at Feiwel & Friends and Swoon Reads, discussed your writing voice in novels. Your writing voice is influenced by your tone, diction, sentence length and access into the character’s head.

Our closing speaker was David Neilsen, storyteller and author of creepy, funny middle grades. He described methods to build the mood so the reader can be scared, why the reader has to identify with the character, and why children
want to be scared discussed some dos and don’ts when writing to scare young readers. He closed his session by entertaining us with a reading.
We want to thank all of our attendees, without their support  our conferences would not be a success! Thanks to our fabulous speakers: Alvina Ling, Eve Adler, Kate Brzozowski, Emma Sector, and David Neilsen. A special thanks to Merritt Bookstore for all their heavy lifting to provide us with a bookstore, Panera for delivering our delicious  lunches and finally, to our dedicated CWHV committee members.
For my live tweets during the conference, search #CWHV.     

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Hybrid Publishing: What Is It?

Hybrid publishing is similar to self-publishing in that the author pays for some or all of the services. They are like traditional publishing in that the hybrid business model mirrors traditional publishers – a submission process, using book designers, editing manuscripts and making the business decisions.

The benefits of hybrid publishing are the author is seen as a business partner, and because they are financing their project, they keep the majority of the profits.

There are four classes of hybrid publishing:
1. Traditional publishers who hybrid publish, but keep it a secret.
2. Partnership publishing models
3. Agent-assisted publishing models
4. Other assisted publishing models

Authors have choices and must make the choice that is right for them. Some authors are comfortable converting their files and uploading their work, doing book design, editing, marketing and promotions. Others don’t have the desire or interest to learn self-publishing and want someone else to turn their manuscript into a finished project. Others want a little of both.

Click the link to find my source and read the distinctions between different hybrid publishers. The article also names publishers in the last three categories.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Identify Your Character's Love Language

Whether your character's relationship with other characters is a friendship or a long term commitment, identifying their love language will give more depth to your characterization.

The same holds true for your personal life. Recognizing your partner's love language will galvanize your relationship bonds.

1. Affirmation. Simply stated, this is giving recognition. It may seem silly to thank an adult for picking up his own socks or putting her own dish in the dishwasher, but giving praise or recognition says their actions are appreciated.

2. Service. What have you done for me lately? Talk is cheap. If this is your character’s or significant other’s love language, they don’t want thank yous; they want deeds. Bringing them chicken soup or ice cream when they're sick or sad or washing their car means more to them than saying you love them. Show them.

3. Gifts. If this is their love language, they want to receive gifts, cards, flowers, notes. Giving them something tangible says to them you care about them and you love them.

4. Quality time. Spend time with your significant other, but that doesn’t mean being in the same room, but doing different things. It means actively listening, eye contact and giving them your undivided attention. Put down the phone or remote and really listen to them. Hear what they are saying.

5. Physical touch. Touch can be anything from hand holding to sex. Physical toughing is therapeutic. It lowers our blood pressure, reduces our stress hormones and releases dopamine and serotonin (the feel good hormones) and oxytocin (the bonding hormones). Physical touching tells our partners they are important and fosters feeling of safety and security.

What's your character's love language? Does it clash or complement your significant other? For example, if your main character enjoys hand holding and hugging and the recipient doesn't want to be touched. This could be a source of conflict or frustration for one or both characters.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Unreliable Narrator: What's the Truth?

One of my favorite picture books is The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! By Jon Scieszka. Besides the attitude of the wolf, the fun is knowing he’s lying, and for little kids who know the real story, they enjoy being in on the secret.

For adults, when they discover the author is using an unreliable narrator, they must question everything they thought they knew about the characters and the story. The story becomes more interesting. This literary device encourages readers to keep reading to discover what else the author is hiding and why.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins uses an unreliable narrator. Rachel, the main character, also a drunk, thinks she witnessed a murder. As she investigates, she becomes personally involved with the case and entangled in the lives of the other characters. Can the reader believe a black-out drunk?

There are three types of unreliable narrators:
1. Deliberately unreliable: Narrators who know they are lying. They lie because the point of view is theirs and they can tell the story whichever way they want.

2. Evasively unreliable: Narrators who aren’t aware they are lying. This can be the author’s way of telling a story so that it proves something or serves their purpose.

3. Naively unreliable: Narrators who tell the truth, but lack the information. For example, child narrators are truthful, but don’t understand the way the world works or understand the consequences of what they’re seeing or hearing.

If you use an unreliable narrator, make sure your narrator has a reason for deceiving the reader. Confuse the reader just enough so the reader doubts or questions the narrator; is the author lying, and why?

Below is my source and a link to the top ten unreliable narrators.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Agent Etiquette

Always be professional and courteous when sending out query letters to agents. This will be your first introduction to the agent and you want to make a good impression. Below are tips to guide the newbie and refresh the seasoned writers.

1. Address the agent formally by their last name: Mr. or Ms. Smith followed by a colon. You may address them by their first name if you have a relationship with that agent or the agent addresses you by your first name.

2. Remember your query letter is a business letter. Use spell checker, be concise, don’t ramble on about your story or yourself, don’t put yourself in a negative light (listing how many times you’ve been rejected), don’t use flowery fonts, do be respectful.  Nanthan Bransford's How to format an email query letter.

3. Follow the agent’s guidelines. If they want the query and X number of pages pasted in the email, don’t send attachments and vice versa.

4. Read their profiles to see what they represent. Don’t send genres they’re not interested in. You are wasting your time and theirs.

5. Don’t get cute or clever with the query letter. One writer turned the query letter into a question and answer format about the writer. The end result was the query letter was all about the writer and very little about the writing project.

6. Do try and highlight your writing voice in your query letter. This can be accomplished by taking text from the manuscript and using it in the letter. Text that is funny, witty or a clever turn of phrase gives the agent a taste of your writing style and hints about the story.

7. After you make your submission, do not call or email the agent pestering them if they received it, did they read it or when will they read it. Believe it or not, reading the slush pile is not their primary job.

8. Be respectful of their time. Their primary job is taking care of their current clients including tracking down royalty payments, getting submission packages ready for editors they want to query, reading manuscripts and making revision notes for current clients, negotiating deals with editors over current submissions and negotiating contracts once an offer has been accepted to name a few of their jobs.

9. When you receive a rejection letter, do not contact the agent complaining that they didn’t tell you why the manuscript was rejected or how to make it better.

10. If you receive a detailed revision request from an agent (multiple pages with thoughts, comments or suggestions on how to make the manuscript stronger/more marketable), you owe that agent the first look.

11. Know the acceptable word counts for your story. Don’t send a 2000-word picture book or an 80,000-word chapter book or middle grade. This is an instant rejection.

12. Pick a lane. Don’t write your story, intentionally or unintentionally, so it straddles the line between middle grade and YA. There are important distinctions between these two categories. Writer's Digest article on the differences between a middle grade and a YA novel.

13. Always be courteous and considerate of the agent’s time. Never insult, threaten, berate or belittle the agent. Being rude never works in your favor and agents do talk to each other.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Six Rules for Writers and their Critique Group

All writers should have a critique group or partner. Critique partner(s) are objective, non-emotional readers.
1. Writers need a fresh set of  eyes: Writers become blind to the faults in their own manuscript. Critique groups or partners are detached from your words which makes it easier for them to spot weaknesses in your manuscript. 

2. Trust your gut: New writers tend to have blind faith in their critique group or be doggedly obstinate about their writing. By that I mean, the new writer doing everything or nothing their critique group suggests. Doing either one is a bad idea. The key is balance. One must be open to changes and at the same time know when to trust their gut and hold firm. Trusting your gut comes with time and experience.

3. Write what you feel passionately about. If you write to follow trends, it will show in your manuscripts with a lackluster prose. For example: if you’re writing a story about a little girl who dances with unicorns every night and your critique groups says it should be dragons because they’re “hot right now” or make it dinosaurs because “all kids like them.” Don’t do it. Unless you feel as passionately about dinosaurs or dragons as you do about unicorns.

4. Your critique group or partner should be compatible with what you write. They should write in the genre and age group that you do. For example, if you write science fiction novels and your critique group or partner writes picture books or romance novels, you'd be better served by finding a science fiction novel writer looking for a critique partner.

They should also have some experience with writing or critiquing. You may go through several critique groups or partners, but eventually you’ll find a match. When that happens, treasure them!

5. Find beta readers: When you've completed your revisions and the manuscript has settled in a drawer (literally or figuratively) for weeks or months, reread and revise. When you feel it is as polished as you can make it, now use a beta reader, ideally someone who is not familiar with the manuscript.

6. Once your manuscript is finished and you are happy with your revisions based on your critique group, beta reader and gut, check out the following link before submitting your manuscript.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

October 2018 Boosting Creativity with Sara

We were delighted to have Sara Sargent, Executive Editor at HarperCollins lead her workshop, Sparking Creativity, at our 2018  Children's Writers of the Hudson Valley fall  event.  She was enthusiastic and fostered a fun learning environment. Below is a sampling of some of the topics that we discussed.

 Before you start writing, think about what you are writing, why are you writing it, who is it for and what is your goal. We talked about why writers get stuck and how identifying what makes us stuck is the answer to solving it. If you are feeling mired in your writing progress below are some ways to stimulate your writing muscles.

Some external ways to boost your creativity include changing your environment, create a vision board of the story you want to write, help someone else with their project and get your brain off your problems to name a few.

Internal ways to spark creativity include journaling or seeing a therapist to awaken that inner child or stir that pot! These were only two of the multiple suggestions. I picked my favorites.

Sara discussed elements for a good beginning: sense of intrigue, strong sense of place, compelling voice, good writing, compelling character and one good device.

Other topics discussed were how to fix your beginning, errors on the first page, tangible and emotion objects of the story and writing exercises to encourage creativity.

I left with three pages of handwritten notes and a three-page handout from Sara that also included additional writing exercises.

Thank you, Sara, for spending your Saturday afternoon with us. We received numerous compliments about your workshop and look forward to having you as an encore presenter in the near future.

The CWHV team also thanks our local writers for their continued support of our conference.

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