Tuesday, August 25, 2015

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Heather Flaherty

Heather Flaherty grew up in Massachusetts, between Boston and the Cape, and started working in New York City as a playwright during college. After much country hopping and some work in editorial, Heather became a YA and Children's Literary Scout, consulting with foreign publishers and Hollywood regarding what the next big book will be. Now as an Agent, she's thrilled to grow authors for that same success.

Currently, she's looking for authors of Middle-Grade and Young-Adult fiction. For YA, she's looking across all genres, and loves an excellent and authentic teen voice. For MG, she's looking for more realistic stories (either contemporary or period), about coping, coming-of-age, or situations seen through the eyes of a young person. She also represents select Adult fiction, as well as humor and pop-culture non-fiction.  

Follow her on twitter: @HeddaFlaherty.

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.

And now Heather Flaherty faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books? 

JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

The Goonies 
Game of Thrones
I can offer like a hundred more in both categories… and of course faves shift depending upon daily mood. #Important

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client? 

Willing, Positive, Striver, Social, Sleeve-Roller-Upper
Funny. I like funny.
Interesting, my ideal client is also my ideal mate. :b

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?  

This changes, but right now I’d love some Middle-Grade, where something is witnessed through the childs pov. Whether that something is PTSD of a man in town that doesn’t fit in, or a family dynamic that’s becoming  struggle, what have you. Real life, but through the young persons pov.
I’m also craving some YA Contemporary, either high-stakes romance, or Issue-Driven Drama.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

Favorite thing: Bridging the gap between author and publisher – I love being in the middle, it gives me a feeling like I’m not missing out on something. Call it the scout in me.
Least Favorite: Getting so many queries that I have trouble responding quickly… I’m working on it everyone, I promise!

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Work. You have to work to get this. It’s not a reclusive writer typing away in their wood-panelled country study anymore… especially not for YA and MG.
You have to work.
You have to work on your manuscript (review, rewrite, revise, relook, get a critique partner). You have to work to get an agent to read the manuscript (query, rewrite your query, do your research on the agent, be a part of the industry so you can meet them, or twitter with them). Then, you can be prepared to work even more – once an editor says yes. Edits (of course), but publicity, marketing, promoting, etc.
Then… then you can begin work on your next.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

 Amy Schumer (she writes! not novels, but she writes!). The why? No need to answer that, right?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

GUEST POST: "On Perseverance" by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

It all started with my dad. He was a chemical engineer who wrote plays in his spare time. I noticed the way he was lost in his own world when he sat at his typewriter wearing a cap, muttering the lines to himself and laughing out loud at his jokes. I watched in amazement as he sat at the kitchen table, acting out the different roles by moving around the salt and pepper shakers. Laughing, again.

I helped my dad make copies, dividing the pages into different piles. I went with him to the post office to mail off his scripts. I saw the look of pride on his face as he told the post office worker that his manuscript should be mailed at the Book Rate, as it was a professional piece of work. And I saw the look of disappointment when he found one of those self-addressed stamped envelopes in the mailbox, a "Dear Writer" letter inside.

Then I saw him sit down at the typewriter, cap perched firmly on his head, and start all over again.

My personal writing journey began with a creative writing class in college. I was encouraged by my professor and completed my first young adult novel, which won the creative writing award for the school. Boosted by my accomplishment, I sent off letters to agents after completing only a first draft, confident that someone would "love the authentic voice" the way the professors had. Rejections boomeranged back at me. I revised some, then got busy writing my second young adult novel.

Soon I accepted my first full-time teaching job, leaving only summer vacations for writing. Although I revised those first manuscripts a couple more times, I didn't get serious until a few years later when I wrote my first middle grade novel. I signed up for a critique at a SCBWI conference, and an author asked to read the rest of the manuscript and then referred me to her editor at Clarion. I sent the manuscript off in the mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope and received a revision request a few weeks later.

As you can imagine, I was jumping up and down with excitement. This editor sounded really enthusiastic and couldn't wait to see my revision! She was going to publish my book, I just knew it. I worked on the manuscript a little while, sent it off again, and this time it came back quickly with a brief rejection and a handwritten note saying the editor was moving to Random House. When I tried to send the revision to her at Random House, she said she was only accepting new manuscripts. I was sure I hit rock bottom then, but it was only the beginning of my long rejection-paved road on the way to publication.

It took another fifteen years before my debut novel, EXTRAORDINARY, was published. During those years, I discovered critique partners who pushed my writing to the next level and sent out hugs when I needed them, received a number of R&Rs from agents and editors, and began seriously learning about improving my craft. I began writing EXTRAORDINARY when my oldest daughter, Eliana, was still taking naps in the afternoon. Eliana is now in high school. While I thought about how to fix EXTRAORDINARY, I worked on 4 or 5 other novels.

In between, I'd go back to EXTRAORDINARY. The book went through so many revisions before signing with an agent that I was sure the next part of the submission process would be easy.  I thought, finally, it's going to happen for me! Then came years of submitting to editors and umpteen more revisions. The book of my heart that made it to the shelf barely resembles that first draft or the ones afterward that piled up countless rejections.

Yes, I almost quit. A million times. It was always the characters that pulled me back to my computer, to the story that I didn't want to give up on no matter how many rejections I collected.

Some people might wonder why I didn't self publish. After all, fifteen-plus years of writing and submitting is a long time. But I knew middle grade that has been called literary and "quiet" would never find its way to readers without the help of a traditional publisher. My book needed to be in bookstores where people might see the cover and pick it up, and it belonged in libraries and schools. Though I had my hopes dashed many times, deep down I'm really relieved that my earlier versions of EXTRAORDINARY and other manuscripts did not make it out into the world.

And my dad? When he passed away last year at age 90, he was still writing plays and sending off to screen agents, hoping he'd become rich and famous one day. Over the years, he placed in some play-writing contests, had a number of plays published, and received small royalty checks occasionally from some high school or air force base that performed one of his productions. He never considered himself a successful playwright, based on the goals he'd set for himself. But he'd made people laugh by watching his comedies, and he left behind the greatest gift possible: he was a role model to one of his daughters, who never gave up on her dream of publishing a novel.

Miriam Spitzer Franklin is a former elementary and middle school teacher who currently teaches homeschooled students and is a writer in residence with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Extraordinary, her debut middle grade novel, was inspired by a niece who suffered a brain injury after a high fever led to a stroke. Miriam lives with her husband, two daughters, and two cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.

Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return.

"A moving novel…Franklin firmly grasps the climate and struggles among kids today. Her crystal-clear writing is filled with rich detail and believable characters." – Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ten Provocative Summer Picks for Young Readers

Extraordinary is a tender coming of age story that exemplifies the meaning of friendship, and gently reminds the reader that we are capable of more than we think.”- Compass Book Rating, FIVE STARS

“A gentle story about two ten-year-old best friends divided by illness…readers will recognize that Pansy’s dedication to her friend is plenty extraordinary…” Publisher’s Weekly 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Alec Shane

Alec majored in English at Brown University, a degree he put to immediate use by moving to Los Angeles after graduation to become a professional stunt man. Realizing that he prefers books to breakaway glass, he moved to New York City in 2008 to pursue a career in publishing. Alec quickly found a home at Writers House Literary Agency, where he worked under Jodi Reamer and Amy Berkower on a large number of YA and Adult titles.  Alec is now aggressively building his own list. On the nonfiction side, Alec would love to see humor, biography, history (particularly military history), true crime, “guy” reads, and all things sports. In fiction: mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, historical fiction, literary fiction, and books geared toward young male readers (both YA and MG).  Not looking for: Romance (paranormal or otherwise), straight sci-fi, high fantasy, picture books, self-help, women’s fiction, food, travel memoir.
Twitter: @alecdshane

And now Alec Shane  faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Danny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, The Stand by Stephen King, Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

Movies: Rocky, Dumb and Dumber, Braveheart

TV: The Simpsons (seasons 3-8 mainly), Sons of Anarchy, Seinfeld

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

My ideal client is one who, if I sat down and told him/her that I would never be able to sell a single thing that s/he wrote and nobody would ever read a word of any manuscript s/he produced, I'd still get fresh projects in my inbox without fail. My ideal clients aren't writing to make money; they are writing because they have to - because they love it.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

My first love will always be horror novels, and I'd love to find a great horror story that doesn't read like an 80s slasher flick or a SyFy Channel monster movie. The best horror tweaks reality just enough to make you wonder if maybe - just maybe - this kind of thing could really happen, which scares the bejeezus out of you. I'd love to see a novel like that.

I'm also on a huge WWII and Civil War kick, so any nonfiction projects that sheds some new light on those wars are welcome.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

I get to read for a living - what beats that? I also get to roll up my sleeves and really dig into a manuscript that, if all goes well, will be on shelves and in homes giving readers a great experience - it's really cool to see something like that through, from beginning to end, and know that not only are you helping to build an author's career, but you are helping to create something tangible that could very well one day change the world. The possibility and potential there is enough to make me excited to get out of bed every morning.

In terms of least favorite thing - this job really cuts into the amount of time I have to read for pleasure; the bulk of the reading I do is work-related, and during those brief moments when I do carve out some time just to read for fun, there's a little voice in the back of my head saying "you have over 1,000 pages of work reading to do - why are you reading this right now??!!" So it becomes harder to sit down and just enjoy a book in the hammock the way I used to.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Writer what you want to write and what you're excited to write. Don't chase trends, don't write to sell books, don't write because you feel like you should...just write what you want to write. At the end of the day, nobody really has any idea what's going to sell and what isn't; all we can do is fall in love with great writing and a great story and try to get it out into the world. And your best chance as an author of making that happen is to write what you're passionate about.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Stephen King for sure - he's pretty much the reason I'm in this business, and I have a lot of questions for that guy. But mostly, I just want to wish him Long Days and Pleasant Nights.