Energy!

Monday, December 5, 2016

I am feeling so energized!!  It's very welcome after a few weeks of just wanting to hit snooze over and over, so to celebrate I've started my annual strategy sessions with my authors, phone calls I do every year to talk about plans, goals, etc. for the year ahead!  

I normally wait to start them after the holidays, but I wanted to take advantage of my alertness and also now that I'm balancing two full-time gigs, I wanted to get a head start since I have a feeling it's going to take longer to get them done than it has in the past.

Thanks to all the Excel training I've been getting at Cambridge, I was able to pump things up this year with a fancy Google Excel calendar to book everything.  Look at it!  Isn't it so cool?



On top of that, I got all my shopping done during Black Friday, so I am finishing 2016 with a extra-productive bang!  Now I just need to finish up all my contest reading and I can head into the unknown that is turning 30 years old with a light heart.

Cheers to Tryptophan!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  I felt like a kid with a school vacation last week.  Cambridge had a half day last Wednesday and then I had the following four days off!!!

I don't think I've had that long a holiday break since I was in college, so I was very excited.  I was planning on spending the whole time at in CT with my parents, but even though it's scary, Black Friday in the city is one of my favorite things.

Also I have to admit, I really liked the idea of just being alone in the apartment with the kittens and cleaning while binge watching shows on Netflix.  I love wrapping gifts right away, too, so I get it out of the way.  Probably not what a kid on school vacation would have done, but ehh...



It's weird that as I grow older, my idea of fun shifts more and more to include the words "alone" and "napping."  I was talking to someone at Cambridge last week and told him that when I first moved to New York, I went out almost every night, and his response was, "Really?  You?" because all I talk about there are my cats, how much I love my duvet, and how what they are saying relates to something I just read (which is probably annoying because the majority of what I'm reading are books that they could never have heard of because they're manuscripts).

Anyways, cheers to tryptophan!  What did you do for the holiday?

Query Critique

Monday, November 21, 2016

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)





If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

George Orwell's 2017?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Instead of talking about what's going on in my corner of the world this week, I want to share an excerpt from my client Brian Zepka's YA manuscript, GETTING ACROSS.  Here is a brief blurb about the project:

Parker Hernandez has a secret.  In a near future America, a wall has been built across the border, shutting out illegal immigrants and housing the military personnel and families needed to maintain order.  Adopted from Mexico before the shutdown, Parker lives on the Wall with his family and best friend Crew.  Although he goes to school and is preparing for his ascension to the cadet ranks of the Border Task Force, at night, he sneaks under the Wall to help children like himself cross into Texas.
 
Fueled by the desire to find a friend he left behind, Parker finds solace helping others and clings to his hope that someday it will be his friend Gabby he helps cross.  But when he finally gets a clue about her whereabouts from one of the people he helps, it is just as new security measures are enacted at the Wall, forcing him to go farther into Mexico than he ever has before to retrieve the next group for crossing and find out more about where Gabby is.
 
With help from Crew, he makes to his destination, but this crossing will prove to be the most elaborate and dangerous one he has ever done...and there are no guarantees he will make it back.

And here is the excerpt:

“Names and IDs please,” one says.

“Are you kidding? We live here,” Crew responds, irritated. He attempts to walk through them but one guard puts his hand on Crew’s chest and pushes him back. Crew shoots me a look of disbelief.  
 
“Sorry, son. Increased security measures due to the president’s expected arrival.”
 
We concede and hand over our IDs.
 
The U.S. Border Task Force operates the border wall system along the U.S. –  Mexican border and are responsible for keeping the millions of migrants in the adjacent regions from spilling into the United States. They also help guard the Isthmus of Panama Wall.

After the migrant crisis was left unsolved in the 21st century and conflict continued to escalate across the world, millions of people were displaced in their own countries and began fleeing to other areas. Destination countries tried to deal with the massive influxes of people, but at some point it became too much of a burden. It was too late. The government systems were overwhelmed. The United States shut down their Citizen and Immigration Services and stopped accepting any kind of humanitarian visas—no refugees, no asylum seekers, no one.
 
Other developed nations followed suit and groups of countries partnered together and constructed walls along their borders to keep the migrants out.
 
The walls kept the people out but they also created confined regions where large numbers of people became trapped with nowhere to go. There were eight walls built in total over a period of fifty years that literally divided the world.      
 

In America, small towns were built into the sides of the Wall around each of the Border Towers to house the workers and their families, which is why I, Crew, Hawi, and many others live here. Everyone who lives on the Wall works for the Wall. Including my dad, who’s Head of the Border Task Force for the Texas Region of the Mexican Border. He works to keep the people out. And I bring them in. But he doesn’t know that.  

This manuscript was written before Trump even announced he was running.  It stuns me that we are now living in a YA post-apocalyptic novel.   


Pop the Champagne

Monday, November 7, 2016

Last week was full of deal-filled fun, so...champagne for everyone!



Super excited to report a four-book audio deal for Lauren Smith with Tantor!  Lauren has a lot of fans who are audio listeners, so I'm so happy that we will have these books in audio book form and that I'll get to work with Tantor for the first time!

Another audio deal is also in the works for Kristin Lenz for THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO with Audible!  Although I worked with Audible on deals for Prospect, this is the first time I'll be working with them on one of my own projects, as well, so I'm very thrilled about this deal, too!

Also, these deals aren't reported in PM, but I decided to announce them here:

Rie Neal is going to be working on an IP project for Little Bee that is set to be a four-book series.  Rock on, Rie!

Charles Maynard is working on adapting Dan Emmett's I AM A SECRET SERVICE AGENT to be a middle grade book for St. Martin's Press!  

Team Carrie is killing it 

Query Critique Winner

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween, everyone!  This month's query critique winner is Ellery Krueger.  Yay, Ellery!  Also, awesome name 

Here is her critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible.
 

Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited the local museum of fine art one day and fell asleep. When he woke up Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. 
 

Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream. All he knows is the plain, dismal life his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer. 
 
The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist. The work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches. 
 

That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. 
 

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request. 
 

Thank you for your time and consideration
 

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


And here is my critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited visits the local museum of fine art one day and fell falls asleep. When he woke wakes up, he is shocked when the young boy in the painting in front of him asks him why he is sleeping in the museum.  He learns that his name is Ayden Fragonard and that he has been trapped in the painting for 500 years. Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. [First: be careful with your tenses.  I noticed you switch to present tense in later paragraphs, but this section is the one that should be in the present tense and the others in past.  Second: the way this paragraph was formerly written makes it sound like Stefan isn't at all fazed by being spoken to by a boy in a painting, which either means we are in a world where magic is out in the open or Stefan is WAY under-reacting!  Either way, this needs to be adjusted to something along the lines of what I have above in blue.] Before this, Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream was a farmer with nothing magical about him. All he knows is knew was the plain, dismal life of working his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit visited his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets was Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer. 
 

The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents [The fact that Botticelli has magical powers is so casually mentioned here, I didn't notice it on the first read. You should explain this more,] takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist decides to become his apprenticeHowever, The the work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter that Ayden give up his apprenticeship and tell Botticelli to leave. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches [This needs some more description so that we really understand what is going on here and how Botticelli "paints" things a certain way] That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. [This entire paragraph is very confusing.  Why is a world void of color and depth perfect for a lazy artist?  Why is Botticelli described as lazy--we see no indicator of it anywhere before this.  Does Ayden need to step out of his father's shadow or is it that he needs to be brave enough to do disobey him in some way?  Also, why does he need to battle for control of the magic paintbrush with the help of painters throughout time?  Do they all also have magic?  And finally, WHERE does Stefan come into any of this?  We never heard about him again.  Is Ayden telling Stefan this story the whole time?]
 

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request. 
 

Thank you for your time and consideration
 

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


Although I liked the way this query opened and the idea behind it, there needs to be a lot of ironing out done here before it makes sense to readers.  One of the thing that threw me the most was the way things were organized here: as you can see by all the questions at the end of the query, a lot of questions came up from the fact that things were explained or were brought up at random times.  When writing your story, the advice that I always give (and I think I've given it here before!), is to think about it as if it is back cover copy and you need to succinctly and compelling let readers know what the story is about and also give a snapshot of its voice.  I hope that's helpful, Ellery and everyone else working on their own pitches, and thanks so much for entering!

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below!

Warp Speed

Monday, October 24, 2016

Does anyone else feel CRAZY this week?  I can't tell if it's just that I'm super busy or if there something wacky going on with my brain, but I feel like everything around me is going at warp speed and I'm sort of looking around at the cosmic, speed trails of to-do items flying by.




I'm so happy I have another intern to help with the reading load, and hoping to have follow-up things for submissions smoothed out in time for my one-year anniversary at the end of the month!  

It's so weird to think that I've been married for a year.  Because I still use my maiden name professionally, I rarely ever think of myself as Mrs. Houlihan, but, you know, I am!  


Okay, that's all my brain can handle talking about for now.  Query critique winner next week!
 
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