Jenny Adams Perinovic – Author Interview

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I met Jenny Adams Perinovic, a fellow TGNA member, through Twitter when she was looking for unpublished writers to interview about their journey, thus far. That led to me auditioning for and joining the group blog, and now a few years and a some memorable Google hangouts later, I am happy to call her a friend. I am honored to have the privilege of interviewing her now that she is celebrating the release of her first book!

All of us at The Great Noveling Adventure are so thrilled for her and couldn’t be more excited.

First, a little bit about her novel:

The BookAMDB

A MAGIC DARK AND BRIGHT by Jenny Adams Perinovic

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Genres: YA, Gothic Romance

Order a Signed Paperback (US): One More Page Books
Order the eBook:  Kindle (US) ·  Kindle (UK) ·  Nook  · Kobo  · Itunes
Order a Paperback:  Amazon / B&N / The Book Depository / IndieBound

Plot Summary:

She meant to help a ghost…not unleash a curse.

Amelia Dupree hasn’t seen the Woman in White since the night her brother died.

The ghost seems to have disappeared from the woods surrounding Asylum, Pennsylvania—that is, until Charlie Blue moves into the creepy old MacAllister House next door. Amelia can’t help liking him, even though she spent her childhood thinking his grandmother was a witch. And she definitely can’t ignore the connection between his arrival and the Woman in White’s return.

Then Amelia learns that the Woman in White is a prisoner, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Devastated by the idea that her brother could be suffering a similar fate, Amelia decides to do whatever it takes to help the Woman in White find peace–and Charlie agrees to help her.

But when Amelia’s classmates start to drown in the Susquehanna River, one right after another, rumors swirl as people begin to connect the timing of Charlie’s arrival with the unexplained deaths. As Charlie and Amelia uncover the dark history of Asylum, they realize they may have unleashed an unspeakable evil. One they have to stop before everything they love is destroyed.

_____________________________

Advance Praise: “A MAGIC DARK AND BRIGHT is a captivating mystery filled with magic and romance. It kept me enthralled until the heart-stopping finale.” — Lisa Maxwell, Author of  SWEET UNREST

Doesn’t that just give you chills? I love a delicious gothic mystery with some tortured romance on the side. This sounds like my kind of story. I’m so excited to get my hands on this book! Let’s hear more about how this story came into being.

JAP PicThe Interview

Valerie Lawson: What was the inspiration for this project?

Jenny Adams Perinovic: Would you believe it started as a homework assignment? I completed a few courses towards my MA in Fiction at Johns Hopkins, and one of my first assignments was a short piece that told the story of a character from another character’s point of view. The first line came to me right away: Halfway through November, Charlie stopped coming to school. By the end of the assignment, I knew three things: the story was set in the mountains where I grew up, Charlie and Amelia had done a Bad Thing, and I could keep going in Amelia’s voice forever. SO MUCH has changed since then (including that first line!) but Charlie, Amelia, and Asylum have always been there.

VL: Thank goodness for that assignment. Who says all homework is bad, right?

I just love the title for this book, and that plot summary sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it! What more can you tell us about this story?

JAP: Thank you so much! A MAGIC DARK AND BRIGHT is the story of a girl dealing with extreme loss–her brother, Mark, passed away shortly before the story starts and she blames herself for his death. They both knew that the woods behind their house were haunted by a mysterious woman in white, but after Mark’s death, the ghost stops appearing. Amelia becomes obsessed with watching the woods, and after several weeks, the ghost reappears, just as a pretty cute boy moves in next door. Amelia befriends Charlie, even though his grandmother is one of the most notorious citizens of their town. Things get complicated when the townspeople start to blame Charlie for a string of mysterious drownings, because everyone knows his family is Cursed with a capital C. I won’t get into TOO much more detail, but this is also a story about friendship and grief. And there’s magic. And kissing.

VL: People do crazy things when dealing with loss. Even before you throw in magic and cursed boys and kissing.

You took on the daunting process of self-publishing for the book. Tell us about that decision and why it was right for you, for this project. Did you have that goal in mind when you started out or did this evolve throughout your writing process?

JAP: It definitely evolved. When I started writing AMD&B in 2012, I didn’t know much about self-publishing, but as the years went on, it went from being a last resort to a really attractive option. I queried for a few months, but after doing a LOT of research and asking a ton of questions, I decided to pull it from consideration and dive into indie publishing.

VL: What surprised you the most about the process of putting a book out into the world yourself?

JAP: The support! I had expected a little bit of…not backlash, exactly, but maybe a little bit of snobbery about my decision? Self-publishing definitely has a stigma attached to it, because there are a lot of people out there who don’t treat it professionally. But everyone–from writer friends to family to my local community–has been so supportive and excited for me. It’s really amazing.

VL: That is so fantastic. Nothing feels better than the support of your loved ones and peers! It doesn’t hurt that you have painstakingly worked through each step of the publishing process to put out a quality book. I mean, that cover! So gorgeous!

Thinking back to your childhood, what heroes or role models did you look up to? What drew you to them?

JAP: Oh, this is a GOOD question. My first hero ever was Nancy Drew. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “Nancy Drew.” Now, clearly, I’m not a girl detective, but I think Nancy would approve of my career path. ;) I was drawn to her smarts, her drive, and her strong relationships with Bess, George, and Ned.

VL: Oh, yes! I loved Nancy Drew.

Who was your childhood best friend? Are you still friends today?

JAP: I actually have three best friends from elementary school who, at this point, are more like sisters than friends. One of them is Sarah Kettles, another TGNA blogger and the most talented writer I know. I can’t imagine life without them!

VL: How wonderful! My closest friend is from my childhood, too. There’s nothing like someone who’s known you all your life (and sticks by your side anyway).

What was the worst job you ever had while going to school?

JAP: Oh, hands down was when I worked as a student web developer in college. I spent 20 hours a week turning syllabi into web pages, which wasn’t terrible, but I was also working 15 hours in the library and taking a full course load. And then I caught mono and BAM. I was done for. When I asked if I could reduce my hours to 10 a week, my boss told me I should drop a class or two, because “there’s no shame in graduating late.” I quit on the spot.

VL: How dreadful! What a thing to tell a student.

What are you currently working on?

JAP: Three things: the sequel to AMD&B, which is taking precedence; my circus book, which is pretty much the book of my heart; and the new adult mystery I started during NaNoWriMo.  

VL: Oh, a circus book! That sounds interesting. Of course, after I start this book, I’ll want you to finish the sequel AMD&B book first. No pressure.

What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?

JAP: I was most excited about ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins–I loved ANNA and LOLA and ISLA didn’t disappoint. I was also really looking forward to the latest OUTLANDER book, because Jamie Fraser.

On book I absolutely loved was called LOVE IN A TIME OF MONSTERS by Teresa Yea. I stumbled upon the cover on Pinterest and just KNEW I had read it. It was SO wonderful and clever and imaginative, and I couldn’t put it down.

VL: I really want to read that series from Stephanie Perkins. And so many other good recommendations there. Although, Outlander seems to come with an increase in my cable TV commitment, as well. Although from what all my writer friends say, totally worth it.

What would be your dream assignment/what would you most like to write about?

JAP: I’m dying to write a cheerleading book. Cheerleading was such a huge part of my life in high school, and I think a mystery set in the world of competitive cheer would be SO MUCH FUN. Like Veronica Mars meets Bring it On.

VL: That is an excellent comp title. I’m sure you would have a ton of interest in that story.

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your beautiful new book with us, Jenny! I am thrilled for you, and wish your book a happy release day!

As a special treat to whet your appetites further for this book, here is an excerpt from A MAGIC DARK & BRIGHT:

Narrow stairs twisted up into the darkness. Charlie reached down and touched my wrist, urging me forward. My heart beat a frantic tattoo against my ribs; I wasn’t sure whether it was from his touch or nerves from the thought of heading up into the darkness.

I had the flashlight, so I went first. The stairs groaned under my weight, and I climbed slowly, focusing the yellow beam of light on the steps ahead of me until we reached the top and had nowhere else to go.

The rain was louder up here, pounding on the roof like an entire troop of tap-dancers. I swung the flashlight around, trying to get my bearings. The light danced over white-draped furniture, old-fashioned steamer trunks, and piles and piles of newspapers tied into neat bundles. The small rectangle of floor closest to the stairs was completely clear already. Lightning flashed, throwing the attic into such a bright light that I had to blink, and…

My breath caught in my throat. It couldn’t be. She never left the woods.

“What is it?” Charlie was right behind me.

I stepped closer, not trusting myself to speak. This time, with the flashlight focused solely on it, the silhouette of a dress form took shape, and I let out a shaky laugh, right as the thunder rolled overhead. “A dummy,” I said. “Just a dress dummy.”

“Did you think…?” He let the question trail off, and I shrugged. “Can you believe all of this stuff?” he asked.

I handed the flashlight back to him and lifted the corner of the sheet-covered lump next to me. An old rose-colored tufted sofa was underneath, a large rip in one of the cushions. “This all looks like…”

“Junk,” Charlie finished. “It’s all a bunch of junk.”

I plucked a large feathered hat from one of the piles closest to me and set it on my head. I posed in the dim light, fluttering my eyelashes at him. “Junk?” I pretended to be outraged, throwing one hand to my chest. “Why, Mr. Blue, how dare you? This here is one of the finest hats to ever grace this blessed Earth.”

He laughed. “I take it back,” he said. “That is a lovely hat.”

I stuck my tongue out at him, and he grinned. Feeling brave, I decided to venture deeper into the attic to see what else I could find. I’d only gone a few steps when I stepped on something that was definitely not floor. I gave a shriek as my feet went out from under me.

I threw out my arms, grabbing at the stack of boxes beside me, trying to keep my balance. That did nothing. In fact, I hit the ground in a heap, the boxes sliding down on top of me in a pile of dust and tiny plastic pieces.

Charlie was beside me in an instant. “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” I said, struggling to sit up. “Just clumsy.”

The boxes were all long and thin. Board game boxes. Some had opened in the fall; a cascade of faded Monopoly money and a few lonely pieces of Clue spilled across the floor. I pushed the boxes off me and stacked them neatly to one side.

Charlie leaned down to help me, tucking the flashlight under his arm. He picked up the pieces of the games on the floor and set them into the right boxes. “Look at these,” he said. “They’re ancient.”

I picked up a plain black box, almost the size and shape of the others, that hadn’t opened during the fall. I shook it gently. Something light rattled around. “I wonder what’s in here.”

He shone the flashlight on the box as I lifted the lid and set it aside. Nestled inside was a board covered in letters and a white triangle about the size of my palm. I picked the triangle up, running my fingers over the smooth, cool wood.

“Is that an Ouija board?” Charlie asked. He dropped to the floor beside me, sending up a cloud of dust. His long legs sprawled out, brushing against mine.

“I think so,” I answered. I pulled the board out and set it on the floor between us. “Leah and I tried this once.” It was one of my only clear memories of the days following Mark’s funeral: sitting in his bedroom, surrounded by his things, trying so hard to get him to speak to us. To me. “We couldn’t get it to work.” I turned the planchette over in my hands.

He locked his eyes with mine. His smile was slow and sweet, and it made my heart flip in my chest. “We could give it a try.”

“Now?” I couldn’t help the shiver that marched down my spine. Outside, the storm raged.

“What are you afraid of?” Charlie set the flashlight in his lap and reached over and plucked the planchette from my grip. He set it on the board, then looked up at me, his eyes dancing in the dim light.

Everything, I wanted to say. Instead, I scooted closer to him so my thigh pressed against his. “Fine,” I said, but I hesitated before putting my hand next to his on the planchette. Would I be able to handle it when it didn’t work?

Would I be able to handle it if it did?

Jenny is also giving away a SIGNED copy of her book and other swag on her website! Stop by to enter or clink on the link below!

ENTER HERE!!!  ➤➤➤ Jenny’s Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Learn more about Jenny Adams Perinovic here.

Follow Jenny on Twitter here.

Follow Jenny on Facebook here.

 

2015 TBR Challenge – BRAVE ON THE PAGE Review

2015tbrbuttonMy third review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is BRAVE ON THE PAGE; Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

I met the editor, Laura, through mutual blog admiration a few years ago. When she decided to take the plunge into creating her own small press, I applauded her efforts and followed her progress with great interest. This book is the first book her imprint, Forest Avenue Press, ever produced, but it is far from the last. They’ve actually opened their submissions nationally for the first time this past January. Based in Portland, Oregon, this imprint definitely has a Northwest flair and all the more reason for me to love it.

On to the review!

Brave on the PageBRAVE ON THE PAGE; Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill

Published by: Forest Avenue Press

Release Date: October 2012

Genres: Writing Reference

Plot Summary:

Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life is a homegrown writers’ resource featuring interviews and essays by forty-two authors, including Scott Sparling, Yuvi Zalkow, Bart King, Gina Ochsner, Kristy Athens, Joanna Rose and Jon Bell.

“If one was not aware of the vibrant literary community that exists within the state of Oregon, then Brave on the Page would be the perfect introduction to the varied literary voices from the state’s working writers,” said the Los Angeles Review’s Renee K. Nicholson. “Separated into three sections, the first and third consisting of interviews and the second made up of flash essays, this book offers interesting advice and inspiration from journalists, novelists, middle-grade authors, poets, nonfiction writers, writer-activists, short story writers, and all kind of writers in-between.”

“For any aspiring writer who feels lonely at the keyboard, Brave on the Page is a treasure trove of inspiration and advice on the writing life that will without a doubt encourage,” said Portland Book Review reviewer Kristen Leigh. “In an artfully curated collection of interviews and flash essays written by Oregon writers and edited by Laura Stanfill, authors speak candidly with equal parts depth and grace about their craft.” (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

This book not only made me long to move back to Portland, it let me know that when I arrived, I would find a welcoming and supportive writing community. (ALMOST as fantastic as the one I have here in Oklahoma.)

Through many of the writer interviews, you learn that these artists believe in paying things forward, in giving back to their creative community and helping the newer writers along their own journey. I just love that sense of support and encouragement. Writing is HARD! You need mentors to guide you and encourage you.

Through the essays you find inspiration and kindred spirits. Here’s an excerpt from the eponymous essay, “Brave on the Page” by Kristen Forbes:

My writing comes from a place of terror and inadequacy. A few of the fears and insecurities that rattle in my brain on a regular basis: I’m afraid of death (and sometimes life). I’m afraid of failure (and also success). I’m afraid of pushing myself forward (but stagnation, too). I’m afraid of the idea that I may never fully know someone. I’m afraid that no one may ever fully know me. I’m afraid of silly things: technology and gossip. I’m afraid of bigger things: aging and loneliness. I’m frequently afraid of the world. I’m often afraid of myself.

On the page I don’t just write my own endings – I write my own beginnings and middles, too. I’m not at the mercy of things beyond my control; I’m allowed to tell whatever story I want to tell, unconfined by the paralyzing thoughts that plague me in real life.My fictional characters are braver than I’ll ever be.

Then there is the practical writing advice that is unique and interesting. When asked how he captured such intense physical scenes so well in his writing, author of WIRE TO WIRE Scott Sparling said, “I remember Robert Stone saying that the description of a fight is always more of a poem than prose, and that was useful to me.” How fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great job, Laura!

Learn more about Laura Stanfill here.

Follow Laura on Twitter here.

 

I am a little behind in posting my reviews, as you can see with this March TBR book post. April’s TBR Challenge book is already finished and waiting to be posted. I shall do this very soon! Dying to crack open May’s book – SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.

How are your yearly reading challenges going? Read any good books, lately?

The Highly Anticipated OK SCBWI Spring Conference Recap – PART 2

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Welcome to Part 2 of our fantastic Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Conference recap!

Beginning from where we left off in Part 1, we broke for lunch where each table enjoyed the company of a conference speaker or a published author, allowing all of our attendees to have an opportunity to ask their industry questions in a more relaxed setting.

After lunch, we heard from our second literary agent of the day.

rachel-orrRachel Orr, Literary Agent with the Prospect Agency, gave a two-part talk beginning with, “Main Conflict: The Spark That Fires Up a Manuscript” and ending with, “A Conversation with an Agent & Author” where local author Jennifer Latham joined her to discuss their working relationship and her journey to publishing.

Many problems Rachel sees in novels revolve around conflict:

  • Some writers are afraid to give their characters flaws. They want to keep them as nice as possible; to avoid any conflict. This equates with boring.
  • Some writers have scenes that can fall into any order – when this happens, it makes her wonder about the strength of the story. It’s much better to have things build upon each other.
  • Another problem is when writers use a character as a vehicle to talk about a topic of interest or when they place conflict on a character unnaturally.

“Everything starts with character.” If you know your character well, conflict will follow.

Other problems Rachel notes involve the structure of the manuscript itself.

Conflicts may be introduced, but then they are resolved too quickly. “Instead of plot slopes, you have moguls.” This is a flat-lining approach. In picture books, this can be the day-in-the-life stories with no conflict.

Literary novels tend to be character-driven. Manuscripts like these with problems, nothing happens in the story. Even though your novel may be character-based, it still needs movement; conflict.

Conversely, plot-driven novels with very clear end goals still need some kind of change to take place in the character.

“Make your characters uncomfortable.”

For the second part of her talk, she invited Jennifer to join her and they discussed their professional relationship.OK SCBWI Spring 5

 

Rachel began by saying her approach to revision/editing is to point out the issues in a manuscript and let the author solve them. “This is what I think needs to be changed, you figure out how to change it.” This type of direction is important for her as an agent and Jennifer is very good at doing this.

Jennifer’s first project received many rejections. She said, “Four rejections is a starting point.” She also learned from her rejections. “Every editor who gave me feedback told me something useful.” It was like her own MFA program. But after so many rejections, She and Rachel decided it was time to shelve that first manuscript.

Jennifer stated, “I deserve to be represented by someone who believes in my writing, not just one project.”

Rachel did believe in her and helped Jennifer navigate her way through a few missteps until SCARLETT UNDERCOVER, her debut novel, was born. Jennifer’s book is scheduled to be released May 19, 2015.

 

Our next speaker talked to us about picture books.

JulieBliven

 

Julie Bliven, Editor with Charlesbridge Publishing gave a fascinating and informative talk entitled, “Elements of a Successful Picture Book”.

 

The top two elements are:

  1. Beginning
  2. Narrative Voice

BEGINNINGS

Why Beginnings Matter: “A successful picture book beginning knows its ending.”

Problems she sees with beginnings are too much description and too much back story.

3 TYPES OF PICTURE BOOK BEGINNINGS:

  1. The introduction is about character experience – has personal and immediate conflict. Examples include I WANT MY HAT BACK, ZEN SHORTS, and LITTLE PIG JOINS THE BAND
  2. The introduction recounts person, place or event. Examples include GRANDPA GREEN, ELLINGTON, and BALLET FOR MARTHA
  3. The introduction has an instrumental setting – something really important.  Examples include THE CURIOUS GARDEN, IMOGENE’S LAST STAND, and EXTRA YARN.

NARRATIVE VOICE

What contributes to voice?

  • Distinctive language
  • Author’s attitude
  • Clear structure
  • Illuminating metaphors
  • Definitions in context
  • Use of quotations
  • Awareness of audience
  • Sense of story
  • Character
  • Remarkable facts
  • Connections/juxtapositions
  • Humor
  • ResearchBalloons over Broadway

In BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melissa Sweet, the author’s voice shows through distinctive language by her use alliteration and simile.

Think about word choice. Circle all adjectives and verbs and consider if they can be replaced with something more descriptive or active.The Wall

Peter Sis shows an example of voice through clear structure in THE WALL when he shows two world views in juxtaposition; his own personal view versus the global world view.Day Glo Brothers

We find a good example of voice through definitions in context within the pages of THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS by Chris Barton and Tony Persiani.

Awareness of audience is shown in FEATHERS by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen by understanding how different aged readers experience picture books. The main storyline used similes for beginning readers like this: “Feathers can dig holes like a backhoe”. Then the second layer of text for slightly older readers included more detailed facts.Feathers page spread

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final speaker of the day gave us tips on tightening those first pages.

alysonHeller1

 

Alyson Heller, Editor with Aladdin Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) enlightened us with some great ideas for improving our beginnings with her talk entitled “Put a Spark in Your First Pages/Chapters”.

Opening Line

This is your book’s handshake, the opening to your reader. It should be assertive and strong.

  • Asks a questions (not always in a literal sense)
  • Sets the mood/directs the reader to what you want them to experience.
  • Sets up voice of a character.
  • Can throw out a surprise.

Books with great opening lines: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White, MATILDA by Roald Dahl, and WINGER by Andrew Smith.

AVOID GENERIC!

“It was a day that changed my life.”

How?

Did you get a new dog? Meet a best friend? Fall in love? Witness the Zombie Apocalypse?

Define it better than in that generic, non-specific way.

First Chapter

  • Should involve the main protagonist. The reader needs to care. This means your character has to be sympathetic, doesn’t mean likable.
  • Have a sense of drama/conflict  – do you have internal as well as external conflicts? Make sure to introduce the opponent. Is your protagonist proactive? They should not just be reacting to events.
  • Tone – set through dialogue, pacing, and voice.

Book Recommendations: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, SEEING CINDERELLA by Jenny Lundquist, BUCK’s TOOTH by Diane Kredensor, EXTRAORDINARY WARREN SAVES THE DAY by Sarah Dillard.

Make your first chapter like the perfect skirt; “long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting.”

 

OK SCBWI Spring 6
Our speakers (from left to right) Rachel Orr, Alyson Heller, Laura Biagi, Julie Bliven, Kristine Brogno, and Erica Finkel

Our conference closed with a Q & A Panel with our speakers that was fantastic. What an amazing group of ladies!

 

I did manage to buy a few books from some of our published members. We’ve had quite a growth in this area. At this rate, we may need to add another table to the book store soon.

Some of our published members holding their books.
Some of our published members holding their books, looking very professional.
…and one for fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our rising stars, Hannah Harrison, signing my book.
One of our rising stars, Hannah Harrison, signing my copy of REMY AND LULU.

 

And I almost forgot to mention the part of the day where I nearly lost my mind. During announcements, when our new Regional Advisor, Helen Newton, announced that for our Fall Retreat in October, LINDA URBAN WILL BE SPEAKING!!!

If you haven’t read A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT or THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING, you must get yourself to a bookstore immediately. And once you’ve read her work, you will be compelled to come to our Fall Retreat. So I’ll see you there.

 

 

The Highly Anticipated OK SCBWI Spring Conference Recap – PART 1

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This year our Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Conference was outstanding. The theme “Ignite the Spark” set the stage for all of the discussions, as each speaker delivered a truly motivating talk. I’m surprised we didn’t set the place on fire with the collective creativity bouncing around in that ballroom.

Ignite the Spark Conference-Ad

The first speaker of the day was a familiar face to readers of this blog as she had just given a wonderful interview right before the conference.

our_team_biagiLaura Biagi, Literary Agent with the Jean V. Nagger Literary Agency gave a talk entitled, “The Spark an Agent Brings to the Table”. She discussed how an agent works and what an agent can add to the manuscript process. She also shared some of her  red flags that would send a manuscript straight to the reject pile.

One observation she made about when she finds herself searching for quality manuscripts, deep in the slush pile, is that the discovery process can feel “a bit like archaeology”.

And not in the glamorous, Indiana Jones way.

Unlike the adventurous whip-yielding Jones who finds priceless treasure in every place he falls, most great archaeological finds have already been discovered, and it takes a great amount of pain-staking digging before you carefully unearth something truly unique.

She may sift through over 400 queries in a month before finding a manuscript that piques her interest. But the story has to do more than that; she has to absolutely love it. She needs a story she can’t help telling everyone about.

RED FLAGS – Query/Manuscript Level

  • If the characters or plot sound stereotypical
  • If adjectives or adverbs get in the way of a clear message
  • If the story is all about plot – maybe your characters aren’t significant enough
  • If there isn’t a strong plot – your story has to go somewhere
  • Moral message

Once a manuscript has risen above the rest and shown promise that it can be polished into a treasure, then she may make THE PHONE CALL! This is a very important step in the process. An agent can gauge personality compatibilities, discuss the revision process and discover how open the author is to making changes and to taking advice. Creating a book is a very collaborative process. You have to be open to suggestions, and be willing to make changes.

Once both agent and author decide the phone call went well and they want to work together, the next step is taking that rare find and cleaning it up with some editing. Laura makes line edits and brainstorms with her authors. She may even bring other agents from her agency in to help – more eyes on the project to get more ideas.

One of the most important things to remember about making a book, “It’s so much more a collaborative process” and it’s important to respect the expertise of everyone involved, from the art director to the editor, to the copy editor, to the marketing department, etc.

 

Our second speaker of the day kept the momentum going with her discussion about picture books.

kristine-brognoKristine Brogno, Design Director for Chronicle Books, delighted us with her talk, “Words+Pictures or Pictures+Words: The Difference That Creates Spark!”

Kristine began by stating that in a picture book, there’s not a lot of real estate to tell a story.

Every word must count.

“Picture books are the perfect marriage between text and art; one couldn’t exist without the other.” They are more than the sum of their parts.

Words+Pictures versus Pictures+Words – what’s the difference? Here are the different types of picture books to help us get a better idea:

TYPES OF PICTURE BOOKS:

1) BORING – the illustrations say exactly what the text says. This is the biggest mistake you can make when creating a picture book.  (Although many examples of this types existed, she kindly chose not to share any titles.)

2) TIGHTLY WOVEN NARRATIVE TEXT – Longer, character-driven picture books that can hold an entire world on a single page.

Examples:

A RIVER OF WORDS: THE STORY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS by Jen Bryant, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

A River of Words

THE BIG WISH by Carolyn Conahan

The Big Wish

SAN FRANCISCO BABY! by Ward Jenkins

San Fransisco Baby

3) WORDS THAT SET THE STAGE – These books say just enough to set the action in motion. The text on the page has a very thoughtful and intentional place to be.

 

In Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, for example, the illustrations begin to take up more and more of the space until the words disappear altogether.

WTWTA

But then Sendak reverses this at the end when he has only text on the final page:

“and it was still hot.”

Why was there no image?

Because Sendak was bringing us back to a warm, safe place. No image was needed. If there had been an image of Max, it would have been all about him. Again, the choice was very deliberate.

More examples:

A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE by Philip C Stead, illustrated by Erin E Stead

Sick Day

THE GREAT PAPER CAPER by Oliver Jeffers

Great Paper Caper

THE BERENSTAIN BEARS OLD HAT NEW HAT by Stan and Jan Berenstain

 Old Hat New HAt

4) WORDS AS A COUNTERPOINT – Here, what you see doesn’t match what you read. There are many ways to use this form. For example, you can let the text play the straight man while the picture is the comic relief.

Children love this; they like to be in on the joke.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen is a great example of a very unreliable narrator. The illustrations are very simple, yet incredibly expressive.

 

This Is Not My Hat 2

notmyhat1

More examples:

ROSIE’S WALK by Pat Hutchins

Rosies Walk

NO! by Marta Altes

No 2

Kristine closed with these words of wisdom. No matter which style you choose, remember to “leave just enough space between the words and pictures for magic to happen”.

 

Our third speaker educated us on the different categories in the marketplace and cautioned us about common errors that may send our manuscript to the rejection pile.

erica-finkel-photo1Erica Finkel, Associate Editor with Amulet/Abrams Books gave a talk entitled “Put a Spark in Your Submission by Knowing the Market”.

She began by comparing manuscript submissions to dating. “You’ll have lots of experiences, and not many will work out.” Each side also comes in with a set of expectations.

Some common errors may sour that experience from the onset – and they have nothing to do with writing skills. Here are a few of them:

COMMON ERRORS:

  • House Mis-match – Don’t send your NF biography to a house that doesn’t sell non-fiction or biographies. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.
  • Format – If your chapter book is written at the wrong reading level, your target audience won’t be able to understand it.
  • Comp Titles – This is only helpful if the titles used are current (published within the past five years). It also needs to be helpful and realistic. If you claim your story is the next HUNGER GAMES meets TWILIGHT meets HARRY POTTER, that is not only confusing, it’s not very helpful.

Know your marketplace, from board books to YA! Do this by reading! You have to know what’s out there.

BOARD BOOKS: yummyuckyBarnyard-Bath-copy

Age Range: 0 to 5 years-old

Length: 10 to 32 pages

Novelty, concept, repurposed bestsellers (Goodnight Moon, Babar, etc), and some few original narratives. All have short sentences.

Examples: Sandra Boynton, Leslie Patricelli

PICTURE BOOKS:

Fancy NancyPigeon BathA Ball for DaisySky Color

 

 

 

 

Age Range: 2-8 years-old

Length: Anywhere from 24 to 48 pages with 32 pages being the standard.

Language Level: Adult reading to child

Examples: Chris Raschka, Peter H. Reynolds, Big series like Don’t Let the Pigeon… series, and Fancy Nancy.

I CAN READS (Early Readers):

Age Range: 5-8 years-old

Length: 32-64 pages, limited trim 6×6, often paperback with more illustrations.

Language Level: Meant to instruct, clear and simple.

CHAPTER BOOKS: 

Captain Underpants 2013Judy Moody BookMy Weird School Junie B Jones

 

 

 

 

Age Range: 6-9 years-old

Length: 80-176 pages.

More text than illustrations. Series dominate. Most put out two books per year and take up a lot of shelf space in bookstores. It is very hard to do a one-off title or publish an unknown author in this category.

*Language: Simple for new independent readers. *This is tough for authors to nail.

Examples: Series like Captain Underpants, Judy Moody, My Weird School, Junie B. Jones

MIDDLE GRADE: 

Diary Wimpy KidOrigami YodaPercy JacksonLiar and SpyOkay for Now

 

 

 

 

Age Range: 8-13 years-old

Length: 200-400 pages.

Usually released in hardcover first, then as a paperback a year later. Some have illustrations, but most do not. Protagonist is often the same age as the reader. They are attracted to characters going through same issues they are.

Language: Fully independent; level is simple and age-appropriate.

Examples:

Stand Alones – LIAR & SPY, WONDER, OKAY FOR NOW

Series –  Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Origami Yoda, Percy Jackson

YOUNG ADULT: 

DivergentMaze RunnerScorpio-paperback-websiteEleanorPark_cover2-300x450TFiOS

 

 

Age Range: 13+, 14+

Length: 300-500 pages.

Hardcover release, then paperback one year later. Most are unillustrated, except for graphic novels. Protagonist is often the same age as the reader.

Language: Comparable to adult

Examples:

Stand Alones – ELEANOR & PARK, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, THE SCORPIO RACES

Series – Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games

NEW ADULT:Glines bookUgly LoveWalking Disaster

 

 

 

Age Range: 18-25 years-old

This is a new category. The protagonist is out of high school and dealing with “new adult” issues – college, first jobs, emerging sexuality. Many authors began as self-published.

Examples: Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines, Jamie McGuire

Whatever you choose to create, be innovative and show publishers something they haven’t seen before, but in an educated way. You’ll be able to do that if you know the marketplace.

Stay tuned for PART 2, coming soon!

Fantastic Literary Events in April – a TGNA Post

tgnahead

It’s List of Five Friday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m sharing a list of literary events happening this month that is sure to excite every bibliophile among us.

Here’s a preview:

Don’t you just love spring? Creativity is in the air! It’s blooming right outside your window. And it’s just mind-blowing how many cool events are happening this month for people like us who love books. What’s even more amazing is some of them are happening RIGHT NOW! I had to take time out today to share them with you. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out.

  1. YA SCAVENGER HUNT 

    YASH-circle-background-2-300x300

    I remember when this bi-annual celebration of YA authors was a much smaller two-team event. Now it has mushroomed into EIGHT TEAMS! During this event – now in progress and ending April 5th at noon PST – you visit each participating author’s website to find out about new authors and exclusive content. You will also find on each page highlighted numbers you’ll need to enter the grand prize contest. This grand prize is unbelievable; one book from each participating author – that’s 160 books! – will be shared by six winners. Many authors may have additional giveaways on their own websites, so there are many opportunities to win FREE BOOKS and other fun literary prizes.

     

To read the full post, click here.

I do want to mention that one of the events discussed is an opportunity to submit an entry for consideration in our first ever TGNA anthology that we will publish later this summer. We’re VERY excited about this latest project.

TweetIf you like a challenge or need some company to help you write in the mornings, feel free to join me on Twitter every weekday. I host AM #wordsprints on Twitter @Novel_Adventure from 6-8am CST.

Laura Biagi – Agent Interview

our_team_biagiI’m so excited that Laura Biagi, literary agent with the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, will be speaking this weekend at our 2015 SCBWI OK Spring Conference. This year’s them is “Ignite the Spark”. In Laura’s talk, entitled “The Spark an Agent Brings to the Table”, she will be discussing “insights from the front line about what literary agents do and what they offer clients”. She’ll also discuss what red flags may make an agent pass on a manuscript, among other issues.

Laura graciously consented to giving an interview here on the blog to entice us with a little preview.

The Interview

Valerie Lawson: What advice would you give to querying writers?

Laura Biagi: One of the more obvious pieces of advice is to do your research on agents so you’re not querying agents who wouldn’t be likely to represent the type of book you’ve written.  But there are many other pieces of advice that writers too often take for granted: Be persistent–not only in submitting to many agents or reworking your query letter to make it the strongest possible, but also in writing new material.

Your writing will keep growing and become stronger the more you write, and sometimes it’s the next book right around the corner that will be your breakthrough.  Prior to querying, make sure your manuscript is as polished as you can possibly make it.  Show your work to your writer friends or anyone else you trust and get their feedback, then incorporate it organically.  Don’t skimp on the time you devote to revisions.  Revisions are usually THE most important part of a successful writer’s process!  Be sure to read very widely in your genre, not only so you know whether your book is unique enough to stand out in the crowded marketplace, but also–and more importantly–so you can learn better how to write with authority and grace and build tension.

VL: Do your research, don’t skimp on revising, and read a wide variety of books. Great advice!

What makes you stop reading a query?

LB: This varies widely depending on the book.  I make sure to consider each query on its own terms.  However, some examples of things that might convince me to pass include stereotypical characters or plots, too many adjectives and adverbs that get in the way of conveying a clear image, too few details about the characters and their relationships with one another (this makes me worry the characters aren’t developed enough in the manuscript), too few details about the plot (this makes me worry the pacing isn’t strong enough and the stakes and conflict aren’t developed enough).

I’ll be discussing more red flags in my talk at the conference–so for more info, please come!

VL: Yes! You definitely don’t want to miss out on this conference!

What’s one major aspect of a manuscript that hooks you? What doesn’t?

LB: What hooks me right away is an immediate voice that cleverly and organically reveals details (even better if they’re unexpected details!) about the characters, setting, situation, etc.

What doesn’t hook me is a tepid opening that feels too familiar or unintriguing or takes too long to reveal its purpose.

VL: What type of manuscript would you love to find in your inbox?

LB: I’d love to find more magical realism YA novels with literary bents.  I’m very interested in books set in the South or Kentucky, as that’s where I’m originally from.  I’d also love to find a literary YA with Romani characters.  I’m searching for more middle grade, too, but the voice, characters, and plot must be stand out; quiet middle grade novels can be very challenging.  I’m also always glad to find more humorous picture books in the vein of Jon Klassen or with heartwarming, big-voiced characters, and early chapter books.

VL: Oh, those are are intriguing ideas – a Romani character in Kentucky. Hmm. Thoughts are churning here…

Tell us what happens after an author signs with you; what’s the next step?

LB: It’s always so exciting after an author signs with me!

If I think the manuscript needs some revision before I submit it out to editors, I’ll send detailed feedback and discuss it all with the author and we’ll work on revising the manuscript until it’s ready.   Then I’ll create a list of the best editors to go to for submissions and get them excited about the book.  There are many more steps afterwards, including negotiating the deal and contract, selling subrights, working with editors on getting my authors the best publicity and marketing possible for their books, and more.

To learn more behind-the-scenes details about what an agent does for her clients, please come to my talk at the conference!

VL: I for one, cannot wait to learn more.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Laura.

Learn more about Laura from her agency bio here.

Follow Laura on Twitter here.

SCBWI OK Banner

 

 

 

ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT BEFORE CONFERENCE IS SOLD OUT!

For more details on the conference or to register online, click here. I hope to see you there!

TweetAnd for those who’d like more enticements, another one of our speakers for the conference this up-coming weekend, Editor Erica Finkel of Abrams Books for Young Readers will be our special guest this evening on our 2nd official OK SCBWI Twitter chat! Join us from 7-8pm CST and use the hashtag #okscbwichat. Follow Erica on Twitter here.

***If you missed the chat, CLICK HERE to view the recap on Storify. Enjoy!

Book Review – SOLD by Patricia McCormick – a TGNA Post

tgnahead

It’s Things I’ve Read Thursday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m discussing SOLD by Patricia McCormick.

Here’s a preview:

SoldMy daughter started reading this to me on a road trip. She was so excited about this book that she had to share many of the passages. That kind of enthusiasm for a story is contagious. When I got around to reading it from start to finish myself, I felt the same way. The layout of the book and the style of writing read more like free verse poetry to me – put me in the mind of an Ellen Hopkins novel set in Nepal. The short chapters paint such vivid imagery of the day-to-day life of the young girls, both the innocent and horrifying, that you felt you were living in the story. I felt for these girls, for the main character Lakshmi, especially. I wanted to her escape and feared that she never would.

To read the full post, click here.

TweetI’ve taken a brief hiatus from AM #wordsprints this week for spring break. I’ll return bright and early next week, if you care to get your early writing work out started with some company. I host AM #wordsprints on Twitter @Novel_Adventure from 6-8am CST.