"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Great and Powerful A to Z Theme Reveal

The "A to Z Blogging Challenge" is nearly here! In anticipation of this annual event, nearly 500 participants are revealing their themes today - learn more here.

Two weeks ago I delivered a few lessons at a local elementary school to celebrate one of my favorite authors - Dr. Seuss. He's a favorite in many households, so my theme this year is "Seuss-isms from A to Z". Each day, I'll share something from one of his works based on a different letter of the alphabet. April 1 will be "A", April 2 will be "B", and so on.

Want to learn more about the "A to Z"? Thinking about participating? Learn more, or sign up here.

Are you participating?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

7 Steps to Preparing Your One Sheet

If you’re planning to give a pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, you should consider creating a “one sheet” to take with you. Not familiar with this term? It is a one-page document that describes what you have written and why you think it should be published.

Other terms used for this page are “sell sheet” or “pitch sheet.” Its purpose is to show editors and agents your book is special, and encourage them to request more.

While some will tell you this page can contain a summary of all your works, I recommend a separate “one sheet” for each manuscript, unless you are pitching them as a series.

Remember, this is a professional representation of you and your work. It should be error free. If you show them a “one sheet” with mistakes, they will assume your manuscript (which is considerably more than one page long) will be full of mistakes. You don’t want to give them any reason to pass on your project!

However, if you can create a professional page design (consider using Microsoft newsletter format, or some other professional design layout software such as Illustrator) you will make a positive first impression, and they will want to see more.

To create the best possible One Sheet, include the following information in separate paragraphs or boxes:

1)      Contact Information – Your complete name, address, email, links to your website, blog, and social media. If you have an agent, include their contact information here as well, after your own.

2)      Image(s) – This should be an object or landscape which reflects your book’s setting, time period, topic, or theme. While your text should be black copy on white paper, consider using a color photo or graphic here.

3)      Genre/Title/Word Count – While Romance, Thriller, Horror, etc are typical genres, classify it more specifically if possible after listing your title. Be sure to include an approximate word count as well. Ex. Unmade Promises - YA Historical Romance of 100,000 words.

4)      Hook - This should be a powerful pitch that shows your book’s unique freshness, and will intrigue agents and editors to continue reading. It should be no longer than two or three short sentences.

5)      Brief Description – Write this like back cover copy. This is sales copy designed to draw readers to your story and main characters or the urgency of your nonfiction topic and make them want to buy your book. Or (for this documents purpose) make agents and editors want to request your proposal.

6)      Endorsements – A positive remark about your project by a popular author(s), or prominent professional in the field of your topic, can aid in garnering interest in your book.

7)      Your professional author photo and brief bio. Your bio should focus on your qualifications for writing your story or nonfiction topic.

Edit your text to be as concise and descriptive as possible. Be sure to leave some white space between each of these elements for a clean, uncluttered appearance and ease of locating specific information.

Be sure to print out more copies than you think you will need when attending a conference. You never know when an impromptu connection in the hallway or a workshop might occur. Be prepared.

Although I’ve seen one sheets recommended on a few agents’ blogs, they seem to be optional. If you’re more comfortable with a simple document, go with that rather than trying to create something fancy. The purpose is to give you one more tool to use in your effort to entice an agent or editor to ask to see more of your work, and an amateurish one sheet will probably not do that.

Curious what the professionals are expecting? Agent Rachelle Gardner discusses one sheets on her blog today, and has links to several examples her clients submitted.  Or try an image search for “author one sheet”.

Have you ever prepared a one sheet/pitch sheet?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Uncertain Choice

I just finished reading Jody Hedlund’s first YA An Uncertain Choice.

Due to her parents' promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father's enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents' will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

I enjoyed this tale and I hope she will keep writing and improving in this genre.
Cons -There were no surprises for me (predictable story line and villain), and the torture scenes were a bit much for a young audience. I was disappointed that the prequel I bought for $1.99 (see my review of it here.) didn’t become a driving force for this full length novel. Even though the main character is now four years older, I saw no great difference in her maturity or abilities. *SPOILER ALERT* The love interest from the prequel isn't even seen (and barely mentioned) in this book.

Pros – a sweet romance, and something I would feel confident recommending to my own daughters. Hedlund touches on what marital love means, and how the partner should be a friend who helps you to become a better version of yourself.

While I wish a few of the better character qualities had been more fully developed in the story, the author provides a discussion guide on her website to go along with the book: http://jodyhedlund.com/books/an-uncertain-choice  This is an excellent source to aid in opening dialogue either with your own children or in a classroom setting. Topics include “boundaries in relationships”, “modeling courage”, and “dealing with disappointments.”

Overall, this is a clean and fun read that can be shared in a day and age where the content in many books (even YA) is becoming increasingly about characters and situations which are derogatory, negative, and self serving. I look forward to this authors next YA creation.

Want to win a copy of this book? Check out the authors website mentioned above. Have you read any of Hedlund's works? Do you recommend any YA books?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jambalaya Writer's Conference 2015

I just registered for the Jambalaya Writer's Conference. This will be my fourth year in a row to attend, and I'm so excited. Every year, I enjoy myself, learn so much, and meet interesting authors, agents, and editors.

This year, the 12th annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference and Book Fair will take place on April 11, 2015. It's always held at theTerrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma, Louisiana - an absolutely beautiful library.

New York Times best-selling author Wally Lamb will be the keynote speaker. He is the author of five novels Wishin' and Hopin', The Hour I First Believed, I Know This Much is True, We Are Water, and She's Come Undone which was twice selected for Oprah's Book Club.

A list of other presenters - authors, agents, and editors -  can be found on the library conference page at http://mytpl.org/jwc/ and their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jambalayawriters

Conference registration is only  $35. A Novel Excerpt Contest and a Poetry Contest are held in conjunction with the conference and have additional entry fees for interested participants - about $5 each.
Attendees are able to network with other accomplished and aspiring writers, editors and publishers. The Book Fair provides a variety of both professional development volumes and reading materials for pleasure.
Support for the conference comes from a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council. The Arts Council of New Orleans administered the grant.
The event runs from 8:30 am until 5 p.m. at the beautiful Terrebonne Parish Main Library, 151 Library Drive in Houma.
Have you been to this conference? What has been your favorite conference to attend?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Captivate Your Readers

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

I just finished Captivate Your Readers. I was able to read this book as a "beta reader" and was immediately struck by how helpful this could be for writers at all levels. While compellingly useful for beginners, I found helpful nuggets for the more experienced author as well.

This third guide to writing compelling fiction by respected editor and award-winning author Jodie Renner provides concrete advice for captivating readers and immersing them in your story world. It’s all about engaging readers through the use of techniques such as deep point of view, showing instead of telling, avoiding author intrusions, and basically stepping back and letting the characters tell the story.

Today’s readers want to lose themselves in an absorbing story. Renner shows you how to provide the immediacy and emotional involvement readers crave in fiction, and she does it in her usual highly accessible, reader-friendly style, with plenty of concrete tips and examples.

Chapters include:
• 12 Essential Steps from Story Idea to Publish-Ready Novel
• Checklist for Creating Fiction Readers Can’t Put Down
• 33 Must-Do’s for Writing a Winning Short Story
• Create a Complex, Charismatic Main Character
• Character Descriptions – Learn From the Pros
• Those Critical First Five Pages
• Introduction to Point of View in Fiction
• Engage Your Readers with Deep Point of View
• How to Avoid Head-Hopping
• Let the Characters Tell the Story
• 10 Ways to Add Depth to Your Scenes
• How to Keep Your Dialogue Real and Riveting
• Tips for Showing instead of Telling
• How to Avoid Annoying Author Intrusions

Have you read any of Renner's books? What helps you "captivate your readers"?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Seuss Birthday!

I've always been a Dr. Seuss fan, and this week I get the chance to share my enjoyment with several elementary classes. Super excited!

Who were your favorite authors when you were in elementary?