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January 2017

We’re Going on an Agent Hunt!

Mez and I have a rather ambitious plan; exchange our manuscripts at the end of this week, edit them for a week, give them back and swap submission materials (queries, synopses). The culmination of this plan is to have our manuscripts ready to be submitted to two agents on Jan 30th.

Just to give you a little idea, I am still working on turning my rough draft into a first draft and adding about 15k words. 70% done! Late nights, here I come.

Obviously, before we can submit manuscripts and queries, we have to find agents to submit them to! I actually enjoy this part, finding them and researching whether I think they’d be interested in what I write.

If you’ve never searched for literary agents, don’t be intimidated. That comes when it’s time to send the email out for some agent to look over and decide your fate!

I always start with books. There are so many books about finding agents, how to write queries or synopses, things to do, things to avoid.

Probably the best guide is Writer’s Market or any of the books like it (Guide to Literary Agents or Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, etc). They are self-proclaimed ‘the most trusted guide to getting published’ and I have to agree. They are updated yearly, though I don’t think it’s necessary to buy a new one every year, because they are a bit pricey. However, if you can afford it, I highly recommend buying at least one, even if it’s last year’s version. Each comes with a list of literary agents and if they are open to submissions, their websites, and what genre they represent.

Each book also has tools to help you with the submission process, though each book has different tools. Tips to make agents notice your query, how to write query letters, suggestions from published authors, how to build writing careers using social media. Basically, just a lot of great info!

The first thing I do is read the lists of literary agencies, underlining/flagging any agencies who are open to submissions, allow submission through email (my preferred method of submission), and are interested in my genre (young adult fantasy). I usually only get through the H’s before I get bored, so sometimes I start at the back. Then I look them up on the internet, checking out their websites.

If you don’t want to or can’t buy a book to help you, you can always just search for literary agents, but it’ll take more time to weed through them to find the ones that fit your needs.

Here are some things to look for on the websites:

  • What authors they represent and books published
    • It’s especially fun to find people who represent your favorite authors or books you enjoyed
  • If they are still open to submissions at that time
    • Just because the book said they are open to submissions doesn’t mean they are. Go with whatever the website says.
  • Which agent at the agency works in your genre
    • It’s best to submit to individual agents, not a general query to the entire agency
  • Their submission guidelines
    • It’s important to follow these. The last thing any of us want is an agent’s first impression of us that we can’t even read and follow instructions
  • If you like the sound of them
    • If they do decide to represent your manuscript, you’ll be working with that agent. So make sure they are someone you can work with!

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Not to sound overdramatic, but landing an agent is a huge, massive, enormous step in getting your book published, so don’t rush it! Take your time, do your research, make sure your manuscript and submission materials are as finished as you can make them.

And be brave! I can tell you from experience the first time is scary, but it does get easier, especially submitting through email.

Mez and I will discuss how to write a synopsis and query in the next two weeks. Wish us luck as we edit! We wish the same luck to you wherever you are in your writing process.

New Vlog in Literary London

In this debut episode of our newest Vlog featurette “Story Chasers,” we set out on a quest in Mez’s home town – London, England – to bring you the best bookshops, reading/writing nooks & chai lattes this literary city has to offer.

Hope you enjoy our bookish adventure to some of the most unusual, antiquated and enormous bookshops in London (including one that floats!), & see what we come home with in our tote bags…

Let us know what you think, & what you’d like to see more of on Story Chasers!

 

 

Story Snippets-Blue

So Mez and I recently had a tea time over Skype and discussed what we wanted to do with the blog for 2017. One thing we are adding is the occasional snippet of our own writings. Somehow, I ended up being the first to do this…and today is the date.

Utterly terrifying. Whose idea was this???

Because it terrifies me, I’m just going to do it, then ignore it. So without further ado, here is the beginning of my Novel in November story, Blue. Dunno if that title it going to stay, but that’s what I got for now. Let me know if you like it! Or you know, if you don’t. Either way.

Blue

Blue knew what was coming: The Sigh.

She handed in her career survey to her homeroom teacher, thankful it was the last one she would ever have to fill out, and waited for it.

Mr. Gossett looked it over, checking to make sure she’d answered all the questions, then heaved a heavy, heartfelt sigh.

There it was: The Sigh. The why-do-I-have-to-deal-with-this sigh.

“Miss Taylor,” he said, sighing again.

“Just Blue,” she said, like she always did. “Something wrong?”

“Miss Taylor, I believe your previous homeroom teachers and your guidance counselor talked to you about this. Cyrptozoologist is not a viable career.”

Blue put her hands on her hips and stared down her teacher. She knew her five foot frame-in slight heels-wasn’t intimidating, but Mr. Gossett had taught her for almost two months and she saw him brace himself.

“Not a viable career? If I had written housewife, would you be complaining? A housewife makes no money and has no opportunity for advancement. Yet I know Missy wrote that and you didn’t say anything to her.”

She whirled around to face the class. “Missy, I hope I didn’t offend you. I’m just using you as an example. I’m sure you will make a wonderful housewife.”

Missy, a cute brunette and Blue’s best friend, smiled. “Aww, thanks Blue.”

“Welcome.” She turned back to her teacher. “Aren’t you supposed to tell me I can be whatever I want to be? To aim for the moon? Where is your encouraging spirit? I am part of the class of 2021. Are you trying to crush my hopes and dreams right before I graduate and launch myself into the world?”

“Someone warn the world.”

At the low words, Blue glanced over her shoulder, then tilted her head back. Diego stood just behind her. He was her opposite. She had pale skin with pale gold hair and dark, very blue eyes-hence her name. And, to her irritation, her frame was so slight, if she gained even five pounds over ninety-five, she started to look chubby. On the other hands, Diego had tanned, rough skin, dark brown hair, light brown eyes, and a six foot, rather impressive body. She was so envious. Of the height…not the body.

He reached around her to drop his survey on the desk.

Mr. Gossett picked it up. ‘Thank you, Mr. Vicello. And you want to be…a mechanic. Fitting for you.”

Blue raised her eyebrows. Did he even realize how condescending that sounded? Not that there was anything wrong with being a mechanic. She started to blast the teacher when Diego spoke.

“Yeah, I thought about putting cryptozoologist’s husband, but I didn’t think I’d have the guts to follow through.”

For a second it didn’t sink in, then the laughter behind her started.

She gave Diego a saucy smile. “I don’t know, a mechanic could come in handy. If you get the guts, send me an application.”

“Sure thing, short stuff.”

The nickname rankled, but she kept the smile on her face and went back to her seat, pulling her enormous satchel into her lap. It took her a moment to find the book she wanted amid the three other books, two notebooks, a dozen pens, dozens of loose papers, a small digital camera, and a pair of high end binoculars. And a rock. Why did she have a rock?

As she freed American Monsters from the chaos, an envelope slipped out and fell to the floor.

Blue frowned and looked down at it. How had that gotten in there? She set her bag back on the floor and picked up the envelope, flipping it over to see the address.

The mailing address was to her house and it had her name, not her mom’s. There was no return address, but she recognized the handwriting and her hand crumpled the letter.

Her mom must have slipped it into her bag before she left. As if that would make her open it.

“You alright?”

Blue jumped and looked up at Diego. He stood beside her desk, looking even taller from her seated position.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said, pulling the letter into her lap. She saw his gaze follow it, but he didn’t ask.

The bell rang and she stuffed the book back into her bag and stood up. “Time for geometry,” she said, moving past Diego with her bag over her shoulder and the letter in her hand. As she passed the trash can, she tossed it in without another glance.

She wanted to look back and see if Diego cared about the letter, but forced herself to move through the crowd to the next classroom.

Book Review: Winter Magic (curated by Abi Elphinstone)

There’s no time like Winter for story-telling. Winter Magic capitalises on the season of snow, magic and wonder in binding together this collection of wintery short stories by eleven Middle Grade & YA front-running authors. Contributors range from new stars of kids’ lit like Michelle Harrison (Thirteen Treasures) to long-lauded authors such as Michelle Magorian (Goodnight Mister Tom). And the whole collection is capped off beautifully  with a short-story from the curator herself, Abi Elphinstone.

It’s safe to say that with eleven stories representing eleven styles, Winter Magic offers something for every reader’s taste, be it elves, witches, avalanches or dragons. Each short story takes the reader on a tingling winter’s adventure of one kind or another in relatively few pages, and each one brings her back again to the warmth and safety of a happy ending.

From a Middle Grade or YA writer’s perspective, this collection is absolute gold dust. Rarely do we have the chance to read well-known writers’ responses to a prompt (such as “Winter Magic”), and even more rarely do we come across their work side-by-side. I found it hugely instructive to quickly read across the breadth of styles, voices and approaches that are leading kids’ fiction today. It was an excellent reminder of the huge variety on the market, and an encouragement that there is always room for new voices and new imagination in the Realm of Story!

Of course my principal purpose for reading Winter Magic this December was not literary or market analysis, but pure hot-chocolate-drinking-curled-up-under-blankets-winter-reading pleasure. And it certainly delivered the goods!

I daren’t tell which story was my favourite, but here’s a little clue: it starts with “Snow” and ends in “Dragon”, and was written by the curator. That story, in my opinion, captures the stuff classics are made of – adventure, whimsy and heart. *(And what’s pretty cool – she signed my copy of Winter Magic!)img_3545

But don’t take my word for it! Go and read them all whilst Winter lingers! 

Genre: Middle Grade & YA

Recommended Tea: hot chocolate

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