Monday, November 24, 2014

So. Busy. Ahhhh.

Well, you guessed it: I'm busy!  I've been requesting a lot of manuscripts lately and also have a ton of author reading that I am pressuring myself to complete before's never going to happen, but a girl can dream.  The manuscripts I have on deck are all for authors who I owe/have promised fast responses to, so looks like I'm going to be burning the midnight oil for a bit.

My mantra for the next couple weeks.

In other news, we have changed our submission policy.  I feel kind of bad about not responding if I'm not interested, but it will also make my life easier, especially since now that John is here my free time has shrunk down to next to nothing.  To counteract that sad news, though, is something extra wonderful: we are adding a new agent to the agency!!! She is going to officially start in January, but we all met her for lunch this past week and she is really nice.  Looks like I will no longer be the newest Prospect agent...too bad we don't have some kind of newbie hazing tradition. ;)

I'm also excited that Dean's Chinese contract for MURDEROUS MINDS is done!  He will be the first one of my authors to have a foreign language edition of a book, which is pretty cool (getting commission for something I didn't have to work on is not so bad either). 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Query Critique Winner

I'm happy to report that the first query critique seems to have been a success.  There were more entries than I thought there would be (thanks to everyone who entered!) and the winner of the critique was Emy Shin.

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
In a kingdom where magic promises power and wealth, the only fate worse than death is having magic stripped from you[This sentence didn't really draw me in. It was clunky and didn't quite convey anything important...wouldn't people with magic naturally be powerful and wealthy, and want to keep that power?]  To the elite few bestowed with magic, power and wealth are only a wish away. What To eighteen-year-old Rin wishes for, however, it’s  is the perfect revenge against her father, the coward who abandoned his family for magic [So then not everyone has magic?  And how would you abandon someone FOR magic? Explain this a bit more.] and caused her mother’s death.
However, the magic-draining spell is forbidden  only very few people know how to perform the forbidden magic-draining spell, and to steal it, Rin must seek out the man who invented it himself: the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who only cares for himself. [Maybe instead of letting us know he is vain here, tell us who is he (Government scientist? Rogue magician?) and why he has the magic-draining spell and is cursed.]
The Beast needs to have his curse [What curse?] broken before the winter passes, or risks being stuck in this form forever [So he’s man? How does he know how to drain magic and yet not deal with this curse?  Who was the curse bestowed by?... This sentence is bringing up a lot of questions for me as a reader.]-- and Rin needs an excuse to remain close to him. Her bargain: She will find him his true love in exchange for a new identity as his apprentice. It’s the perfect arrangement. [The word “bargain” makes me think that she’s not STEALING the spell from him so much as telling him what she needs and giving him something in return.  Is that the case?  If so, why would she need an excuse to stay close to him?]
What Rin doesn’t count on, however, is falling for the Beast herself . Except [Except what? This reads a little awkwardly – I get what you’re trying to say, but it needs to be worded differently or it doesn’t quite make sense.]falling in love with the Beast and thinking that she might be the one to break his curse. But she has already triedkissed kissing him. And failed he is still a monster.
MORE THORNS THAN ROSES is a YA Fantasy complete at 90,000 words [That word count is a little scary.  I would leave it off and instead say that this is a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast!]]. Thank you for your consideration.
Emy Shin

I thought this was a great story idea with a lot of interesting potential, and if you have any thoughts on the critique or questions about why I did the things I did, post in the comments section below.  If there are more than eight comments (and not just one-word things, please, real comments!  I don't want to be giving away 100-page critiques like glasses of water) then Emy will win the author treatment :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Literary Agent = Pro Juggler

So literary agent equals pro juggler because I've been feeling like I've been getting things done, but only by the tips of my fingers.  

I just realized that "the tips of my fingers" thing could be interpreted as I've only been typing this past week, but what I mean to say is that there is a maelstrom of things to do swirling around my head and I'm getting them done, but barely.  

And I blame John.

He moved in at the start of the month, and while it has been great, it has also been distracting.  I was able to have a pretty great work-life balance before because I pretty much only worked, aside from the odd special occasion here and there.  Now when I go home, I don't make ramen and edit, I cook something with John and watch a movie.  All lovely things, but it's driving my inner juggler crazy.  He keeps shouting at me, "You know I'm not a wizard!  It would be awesome if you could pitch in here."

Basically I am discovering the wise old adage that all couples know: moving in together can be tough.  I'm sure I'll soon have some kind of cleaning/organizational meltdown, but for now, I just need to get myself back on track and maybe create a "focus corner" of the house where I, well, can focus.

Wish me luck!

I'm 50/50, but this woman is clearly going to drop them all.

P.S. Query Critique results next week!!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Pub Day!

Big congratulations to Brianna, whose pub day for FAMOUS PHONIES: LEGENDS, FAKES, AND FRAUDS WHO CHANGED HISTORY is tomorrow!  This book is the first of two (and hopefully many more!) in her Changed History middle grade series and, I have to admit, probably one of the most fun projects that I've worked on so far.  Brianna has a hilarious, quirky writing style and the people she profiles in the book are so interesting -- definitely a great book for any history buff no matter their age.  I'm excited for you to learn more about Brianna and FAMOUS PHONIES!

So, how did you come up with the idea for this book/series and what made you decide to gear it towards children rather than adults?

Like many books, Famous Phonies started out as a completely different idea. The original proposal was for a book about thieves who changed history. It evolved over the course of eighteen months into this multi-book series. I've always been interested in the so-called “underbelly” of history, which to me is infinitely more interesting than memorizing dates and battles and such.

As for writing for children, that’s easy. If I can get a kid interested in another side of history, that’s what I’m after. Besides, I think all children’s writers believe deep down that they've never grown up. Call it the Peter Pan syndrome, but I’d prefer reading and writing children’s books all day. 

What has researching these books been like?  And how did you choose which historic figures to profile? Can you tell us about your favorite ones and maybe some that didn't make the cut?

I probably considered thirty different historical figures for the book, but ended up with the twelve you see. I can say with 100% certainty that I spent way more time researching than actually writing. For every week of research, I probably spent a day of writing, which is fine by me since research is my first love. Maybe that’s why I insisted on finding more and more people to consider—I loved the search! I also strove to find a good mix of well-known people (whose stories hadn't been fully told for kids yet) and lesser known figures. To that extent, I think my favorites are the lesser known ones. Prester John is incredibly cool. An imaginary guy who was invented to stir up pro-crusader sentiment and who “lived” on for hundreds of years, spurring crusades and exploration. It doesn't get much more awesome than that. My husband’s favorite is the Turk, though. Anything with robots gets his vote.

I did write a whole chapter for Mary Magdalene so her story could finally be told, but she ended up not making the cut. I think when you've got to figure out how to say the word “prostitute” without actually spelling it out, there’s a fundamental problem.

When writing for a middle grade audience, did you have to tone down any sensational facts about these people or eliminate more scandalous details?

I try not to tone down anything. Kids are very perceptive, and they’ll probably figure out if you’re trying to hide something. Anyway, if it’s scandalous, it draws their attention. Why not harness that? If it’s super controversial to this day, as in the Mary Magdalene example above, then it’s best not to put it in there. But on the whole, I didn't cover up instances of nakedness, lying, or even cannibalism. I didn't try to gloss over it quickly, either. When famous people are given this glossy sheen and treated as super heroes, we’re doing a disservice to them as a person.

You have been working really hard at promoting FAMOUS PHONIES.  Can you give other writers advice given what you have done?

Reach out to other successful authors. You can’t know everything, and the business side is one place where I think many writers are at a loss. I contacted a few middle grade writers whose work I appreciate and asked for their advice. (Another reason I love writing for kids—the authors are so friendly!)

Second, set out a day each week to work solely on promotion. I’m busy writing the second book of the series, Fugitives Who Changed History, but I make sure to give this first book, which I worked so hard on, its just due.   

You have had a very interesting journey to the final title and cover image for this book.  What was that like and what have you learned about what an author can do when it comes to voicing an opinion over elements of the book that aren't strictly in his/her territory, i.e. the actual writing?

Speak up. I read a book about the journey your book takes to the bookshelves, and in it, the author, Susan Page, says there are two things that you must (and should) fight for—the title and the cover of the book. It’s hard to be a pain to the editor you want to impress, but if something comes back that you’re not happy with, you've got to speak up. You’re the one who has to live with it forever. That being said, I've talked to authors whose stories got turned into graphic novels against their wishes or who didn't get listened to. That happens. But you’ll never know unless you ask. Make sure you’re polite, tell them your concerns in a thoughtful letter, and bring alternate ideas to the table. Be open, be flexible, be kind. Everyone wants your book to succeed—they just have different ideas on how to go about it.

Speaking of journeys, your road to finding a publisher was a crazy one, too!  Do you think your story can inspire other authors having a hard time finding a home for their work and can you tell us about it?

Like they always say: patience and perseverance. There’s really nothing else you can do during the waiting period. Once you receive feedback, take it honestly, leave your ego behind, and revise, revise, revise. Good books find good homes eventually. 

Tell us about the next book in the series!  You also are working on other projects - what are those?

Fugitives Who Changed History is the second book, due out a year from now. I’m currently halfway through the first draft and feeling good about it. This time, I really wanted more girls in the mix, and fugitives, surprisingly enough, gave me a great outlet for that. The book is half women, half men. There are some really fantastic stories in there. Did you know that the world’s greatest pirate was a Chinese woman? She commanded 70,000 pirates in her hey-day, the largest confederation of pirates the world has ever seen. So it’s incredibly fun.

I like to keep a few novels in my back pocket to work on during weekends and weeknights. Writing isn't just a career, it’s also my hobby. If I take time off, it’s only a day or two before I’m doodling scenes and characters. Since it’s not really work, I love having multiple projects going at once. Middle grade fantasy and historical novels have been favorites of mine since I was a kid and not much has changed.  So I've been simmering away at a historical fiction piece and a fantasy series for about a year now.  Then, just because I like the variety, I also work on a memoir when the mood strikes. It’s an industry/millennial piece and a little bit of a coming of age story. Never boring here!

Any advice for middle grade writers out there?

Get involved in your writing community. Join a critique group online or become involved in your local chapter of SCBWI.  Get support and help from others. You’ll be rewarded tenfold. 

Be sure to buy a copy of the book, everyone!