Monday, March 30, 2015

Settling Back In

Now that my dad is back at home, I'm settling back into normal life and catching up on reading.  I've been finding some manuscripts with great potential in my slush lately, which is always exciting, and am hoping I'll continue to receive more romance submissions, too.  I've been helping Emily put together a teaser anthology of steamy sections from our romance authors' books for RWA--it's been a lot of fun and I'm crossing my fingers it will be a hit this summer!

While I was away, I also signed a new client, the lovely Katherine Fleet.  I had read her YA manuscript, CRIMSON & CLOVER, awhile back and suggested some edits.  Katherine sent her novel to Entangled--an editor there (Karen Grove) really loved it and wanted to take it on, and Karen's edits were pretty much the same as what I had advised Katherine to do before.  She ended up reaching out to me, and once I came back to the city, we had a great phone call and decided to work together.  The deal won't be officially announced just yet, but I'm very excited to be working with Katherine and to have her book with Entangled!


Besides reading, another part of normal life that I've been catching up on is cleaning!  My apartment is a bit sad-looking since it hasn't been thoroughly scrubbed in the past few weeks.  I don't know why I'm bothering to do this now, though--John's brother, Micheal, and one of his friends are staying with us for their spring break this week, and I have a very awful premonition that the addition of two teenage boys in our cozy studio is going to mean I'll be cleaning for some time after they leave.





P.S.  Micheal really wants to do this thing called Mission Escape while he's here.  I'm pretty sure from their website that it involves being locked up in a room for an  hour and given clues to solve to escape.  Wish me luck!!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Query Critique Winner

Congrats to Mikah, who was the winner this round!  I had to rush a little to get his critique done, but here it is.  This is the original query:

Dear Agent Pestritto,
I retired at age 25. It may seem silly just after finishing grad school, but when I saw my 58-year-old father die of cancer--losing his chance at retirement--I wanted to make sure I didn't suffer the same fate.
So I drove.
I spent 260 days living out of my car and exploring North America, taking the Dream Road Trip my father never got to, and searching for the parental advice lost through his death. (Think Cheryl Strayed's WILD, except with a prominent minister father and closeted-to-openly-gay son).
But my story is about more than the lessons learned across 16,400 miles and 46 states/provinces. My memoir shows the development of a personal credo--one learned through travel--which inspired my book's title: LIFE'S MORE FUN WHEN YOU TALK TO STRANGERS. Through the example of a European love affair, my unofficial adoption by a Swiss family, and a Dream Road Trip where I fall in love with a man I read about in a magazine, I show readers how life can be enriched by reaching out to the strangers in their midst.
My summary of the book recently went viral on Huffington Post Travel--gaining over 33,000 Facebook Likes and Shares within a week (article "The Road to Everywhere: Why You Can't Put Off That Trip Any Longer" linked here: http://huff.to/1g3syBm ). That same story also has me in final negotiations with a major non-profit to sponsor my next big road trip, second book, and documentary--a three year journey that will launch on my father's death anniversary/the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Act (2016), and earn me a world record as the youngest person to visit all 410 US National Park Units.
This trek will be both a sequel to, and a promotional tour for, my 105,000 word debut memoir LIFE'S MORE FUN WHEN YOU TALK TO STRANGERS.
Pasted below are the first ten pages. A full manuscript/proposal are available immediately via email or post.
My writing has been published by the Washington Blade, Believe Out Loud, GLAAD, and in diverse sections of the Huffington Post (Travel, Religion, Black Voices, Sports, Gay Voices, Politics, Third Metric, Good News, Healthy Living), and my extroverted life has been featured by over forty media outlets, including USA Today, FOX Television, and Virgin Radio. Outside of writing, I am a professional countertenor singer and founder of "Queer For Christ."
Thank you for your consideration,
Mikah Meyer

And here is the critique:

Dear Agent Ms. Pestritto,
I retired at age 25 twenty-five. [From what it says later on in the query, I’m not sure if you mean you retired at twenty-five, because it doesn’t seem like you had a job to leave.  Perhaps instead say that you knew at age twenty-five that you would never enter the corporate workforce?] It may seem silly that I did something like that just after finishing grad school, but when I saw my 58-year-old father die of cancer--losing his chance at retirement--I wanted to make sure I didn't suffer the same fate. [Was your father’s death the thing that made you realize that you had to live your life, or were you worried because you had a family history of cancer?  Clarify a bit more here.]
So I drove.
I spent 260 days living out of my car and exploring North America, taking the dDream rRoad tTrip my father never got to [Did he want to?], and searching for the parental advice lost through his death [I’m not 100% sure what you mean here.  How did a road trip help you search for parental advice?]. (Think Cheryl Strayed's WILD, except with a prominent minister father and closeted-to-openly-gay son).
But my story is about more than the lessons learned across 16,400 miles and 46 states/provinces. My memoir shows the development of a personal credo--one learned through travel--which inspired my book's title: LIFE'S MORE FUN WHEN YOU TALK TO STRANGERS (Think Cheryl Strayed's WILD, except with a prominent minister father and closeted-to-openly-gay son). Through the example of a A European love affair, my unofficial adoption by a Swiss family, and a Dream Road Trip where I fall falling in love with a man I read about in a magazine [This confuses me a little bit.  Do you go out in search of this man?  Is he an ideal that you develop and compare other men to?  Or do you perhaps actually meet this man and fall in love with him?], I show readers how life can be enriched by reaching out to the strangers in their midst all enrich my life and help me realize the value of reaching out to the strangers in my midst.
My summary of the book recently went viral on Huffington Post Travel--gaining over 33,000 Facebook Likes and Shares within a week (article "The Road to Everywhere: Why You Can't Put Off That Trip Any Longer" linked here: http://huff.to/1g3syBm ). That same story also has me in final negotiations with a major non-profit to sponsor my next big road trip, a second book, and a documentary--a three year journey that will launch on my father's death anniversary/the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Act (2016), and earn me a world record as the youngest person to visit all 410 US National Park Units.
This trek will be both a sequel to, and a promotional tour for, my 105,000 word debut memoir LIFE'S MORE FUN WHEN YOU TALK TO STRANGERS.

My writing has been published by the Washington Blade, Believe Out Loud, GLAAD, and in diverse sections of the Huffington Post (Travel, Religion, Black Voices, Sports, Gay Voices, Politics, Third Metric, Good News, Healthy Living), and my extroverted life has been featured by over forty media outlets, including USA Today, FOX Television, and Virgin Radio. Outside of writing, I am a professional countertenor singer and founder of "Queer For Christ." 
Pasted below are the first ten pages. A full manuscript/ and proposal are available immediately via email or post if you would be interested in taking a look.
My writing has been published by the Washington Blade, Believe Out Loud, GLAAD, and in diverse sections of the Huffington Post (Travel, Religion, Black Voices, Sports, Gay Voices, Politics, Third Metric, Good News, Healthy Living), and my extroverted life has been featured by over forty media outlets, including USA Today, FOX Television, and Virgin Radio. Outside of writing, I am a professional countertenor singer and founder of "Queer For Christ."
Thank you for your consideration,
Mikah Meyer

I thought that this was a very interesting query letter.  Also, the platform Mikah already has in place is fantastic and definitely something that will work in his favor with agents, so great job mentioning it so well.  I was intrigued by the story, but also slightly confused about the overall purpose and narrative arc.  It seemed to me that the point of writing this memoir was to talk about Mikah’s life experiences and how they lead him to reach out to strangers.  However, reaching out to strangers (what that entails, how exactly they enriched his life, what he wants his readers to take away from his story) was a bit glossed over in the query letter.  I didn’t leave with a strong sense of the memoir’s purpose, and would have loved to know a little bit more about just why getting to know random people  is so great.  

Mikah briefly mentions being the gay son of a minister, and I would also have liked to see that touched on a bit more in the query in terms of family issues and if this road trip helps him shape his identity in any way.

What do you guys think?  Comment below!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Scariest Week of My Life

I am in my bed with a glass of wine watching Vikings as I write this, as a well-deserved treat after having the scariest week of my life!  My father had a stroke last Wednesday and had to be rushed to Yale New Haven Hospital via helicopter.  Thanks to wonderful doctors and a drug called TPA whose mechanics I still don't quite understand, he has fully recovered.

John and I dropped everything and ran (literally...I brought no clothes home and almost got hit by a car as I sprinted into the road to hail a cab) home to CT, which is where I've been all week.  Now that he is fine, we are back in the city, and I am starting to catch up on all the emails I missed while I was away.

I am so glad to have this week behind me.  Everyone, give your parents big hugs after you read this; after all this, I have decided to call my parents every day and tell them how much I love them!!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Request for Revision

The fact that authors are sometimes wary of or discouraged by agent requests for revisions, aka R&Rs, blows my mind.  I sometime stalk authors if they have blogs or are active on Twitter, and I've stumbled across a few freaking out over my requests for revisions.  They are pretty sure it is me enacting a long con to brush them off.  At first, I was just silently surprised by this, but then I realized that it was something I should probably blog about to set the story straight.

GUYS, IF AN AGENT ASKS YOU TO DO AN R&R, YOU SHOULD BE THRILLLLLED!!!

I can't speak for everyone, but here's why this is great when I do it:

1. There is enough about your work that really intrigues me and shows me that you have potential.
2. I am giving you really valuable insight about potential ways to strengthen your manuscript and bring it to the next level, even if I don't end up signing you.
3. If you want to, you can probably wrangle a phone call out of this (I always offer to chat via phone with everyone I ask for revisions) to get a sense of me as a person and whether you think we would work well together.
4. I am giving you another shot (or really more like multiple shots), to submit to me!

When I email an author with my notes on how to improve the manuscript, it means I am excited by important elements of the story, but everything isn't quite coming together perfectly for me.  I want to see if we can at least start it moving in the right direction; if you agree with my suggestions for the story; if you're capable of pushing your writing further; and how well you can revise.  This doesn't mean that I expect the next version to be perfectly submission-ready, but I do want to get a sense of how you take direction and enact changes.

I'd love for my authors to weigh in on what it's like to revise with me in the comments section.  I know that I adore  working with all of them, because they all are great at visualizing change, working through edits, and knowing when to slash their manuscript and when to ask me if I'm really serious about killing off a character.

So if you get an R&R from an agent, don't despair!  You're getting a great opportunity.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Query Critique

It's 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!