Monday, September 27, 2010

The Rejectionist's Public Humiliation Uncontest

The Rejectionist is hosting an uncontest, and I decided to jump in at the last minute. You can read about the uncontest here. The uncontest results can be found here.

I have only one diary from my childhood, and it's from fourth grade. Allow me to share a few things about nine-year-old me:

1. I lived in L.A. County with my parents and two older brothers, Jeff and Erik.

2. I knew when I grew up I would become a writer. Or a teacher, a nurse, a veterinarian, or a dolphin trainer.

3. I believed I was a fabulous speller.

4. I knew about commas. How to use them? Not so much.

5. I apparently found my waking times and breakfast foods fascinating subjects.

The year: 1978. (There's a stereotype that writers are bad at math. For those of you who fit the stereotype but would like to know my age, I'm twenty-four.)

Sunday, January 1, 1978

Today I woke up at 7:06, and couldn't wait to see if Megan [redacted] could play. Every once in a while I get afraid of the Hillside Strangler, because he only gets girls and ladies. Today if Jeff looks thrue this Diary, I'm gonna tell. Today for breakfast I had poptarts and milk. Today I planted my peanut plant with Erik. Today Megan slept over but came in the night. And we made alot of noise.

Monday, January 2, 1978

Today at 1:00 in the morning me and Megan went to get my lotien*. Megan ran down the stairs fell did a summer salt fliped once and hit something very hard and I jumped and fell on my head. I triped and ran down stairs. I spyed on everyone in my family except for my mom, dad. Today I woke up at 8:30. Today for breakfast I had frootloops and Team Flakes.

Wednesday, January 4, 1978

Today was raining and I had toast for breakfast. I woke up at 7:17. My teacher is going to move so we are giving her a surprise party. I played with Megan today and we had fun. Also I have alot of homework. Jeff thrue up in the cheerio bowl today**.

Tuesday, January 10, 1978

Today I went to school and started a report on squirrels. it is 3 pages long Megan is doing it on skunks. She came over today.

Thursday, January 12, 1978

Today I went to school and I had a terrible time. I was all mixed up all day. I had went*** out with my mom and had a great, great day.

INTERMISSION. Allow me to remind any literary agents or editors who may stumble upon this post that these excerpts are from the diary I kept when I was only nine.

Sunday, January 15, 1978

Today I didn't play with anyone, or anything exept Blackjack, Midnight****, and my skates.

Tuesday, January 17, 1978

Today I went to school and Megan came ofer and we had fun and I called Mrs. [redacted] to sign up for ballette, tap, and acrobatics.

Friday, January 20, 1978

Today I went to school, and had P.E., got pushed in mud by Megan by mustake. I didn't have anyone to play with. I went to the store with Mom, and Erik.

Saturday, January 21, 1978

NO SCHOOL DAY! today I went to the phone called Megan and she couldn't play.

Sunday, January 22, 1978

NO SCHOOL DAY! today Megan couldnt play and I forget what I did today.

Tuesday, January 24, 1978

Today I went to school, came home with Megan and went to balette. And then I came home with Megan and went to Jeff's basketball game, and Jeff didn't feel good.

Friday, February 10, 1978

Today I went to school and picked out a new book called SKINNY. I like it alot. Today, Allen, Jamie and Pat***** are sleeping over.

Friday, February 11, 1978

Today was the day Erik celebrates his birthday. I'll be surrounded by boys. Allen, Jamie and Pat will be there still.

*I think it's supposed to be lotion.

**Jeff and I still remember/are traumatized by this.
***The "had went" might be the most painful part to read, but I'm not sure.

****Blackjack and Midnight were my dogs.
*****Erik's friends.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interview: Agent Bree Ogden

When I received a New Agent Alert from Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents last April, it caught my attention. It was for agent Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management. Not only does she rep what I write, but her agency is here in Western Washington. A stone's throw away, bloggy friends. Yes, I was curious.

Ms. Ogden was so sweet when I contacted her, and I'm super excited to share her informative interview with you. Enjoy!

* * *

Bree Ogden is an agent for Martin Literary Management, representing graphic novels and children's books. She is especially interested in darker plots (think Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay) and loves dystopian, unique and fresh supernatural elements. Science fiction graphic novels and graphic novels that challenge the reader to think as well as have a great visual hook, stories that are very visual in nature, and books with a philosophical hook are equally of interest. What she is not interested in is vampires or werewolves.

Dawn: What do you like best about agenting?

My clients. They are SO creative. There is creativity bursting at the seams of my clientele and I get to help them make a career out of it. How awesome is that? I have so much fun promoting them and working side by side with them to help them fine-tune their ideas.

Dawn: Tell us about a couple of your clients' projects. What drew you to them?

All of my clients' projects are amazing. I wouldn't have chosen them for representation if I hadn't been drawn to each one in a very similar way, which usually consists of not being able to put the manuscript down, knowing it will sell in this market, great writing, and loving the characters. I'll tell you about some of my newer projects:

Pair of Normals
by D.M. Cunningham had me dying of laughter within the first chapter. D.M. had been sending me a few chapters at a time (he was already my client) and I would read them out loud to my nieces and nephews and the fact that myself as a twenty-seven-year-old, and them as six- to ten-year-olds all had the same gleeful/anticipatory reaction to the chapters and upcoming chapters really meant something to me.

Death's Island
by Kelsey Ketch really gripped my senses and at times, my heartstrings. It's dark and gritty, but somehow extremely realistic even though there are plenty of unrealistic qualities to it. I was really drawn to that sentiment of realistic horror.

I'm currently working on a few edits for a manuscript written by my client, Peter Landau, called
Nickelan Wand. Among all the amazing things that pulled me into this story I can just say that it is so ridiculously unique and irreverent. The writing is stunning and the characters are so loveable, even the ones you hate.

And of course, Kate Grace's
Burden of the Soul, which I started reading the manuscript around midnight and couldn't stop until I finished. I knew I had to sign her.

The truth is though, I am extremely excited about ALL my projects, I whole-heartedly believe in each one and the pending success each one will enjoy. Whether it is an overzealous, slightly snarky imaginary Raven; a sassy, buxom, teenage paranormal fighting dream machine; a young girl trying to find herself while fighting a war with faeries; or sirens and ocean nymphs living among us--horror, romance, middle grade humor: I only represent amazing characters and plot lines and I only surround myself by delicious talent. Period.

Dawn: I've heard we shouldn't write to the trends, but we should be aware of them. What are your thoughts on this? How do trends affect your decision-making process while reading submissions?

Trends are tricky. The very essence of a trend is that it is always changing. This is why you have to be insanely careful about writing on trends: by the time you have an idea for a manuscript, finish writing it, edit it, find an agent, sell it to a publisher, and see it on shelves, you've seen a few years pass. That trend is most likely dust by then. So either you need to be way ahead of the trend, or know that it will be a long lasting trend. Like vampires, for instance. As much as I hate to admit it, those suckers had (have?) a long shelf life. But I think that other less prevalent creatures, like anthropomorphic sea life or faeries, are going to have a shorter shelf life.

It's really tough, as an agent, to know if the specific trend of the manuscript I'm reading is already being published for some publisher's upcoming list and they don't want/need any more of that trend. No one is privy to that information but the editors. It's one big guessing game. I just have to go with my instincts. If I love the storyline and the writing, I have to believe that an editor will as well.

Dawn: Do you have any submission pet peeves?

I'm not fond of being called "Sir." Haha. I've seen some pretty bad queries but I wouldn't file them under pet peeves. The pet peeves come when I can tell that the author hasn't done the research, i.e., they query me for an adult true crime, etc. Also, most agents are pretty specific that they don't want attachments in the email, so that is kind of a pet peeve. But really, I just want to know what the manuscript is about without having to put a huge amount of effort into figuring it out. It shouldn't be an Easter egg hunt for the plot line.

Dawn: What are you looking for right now?

I'm looking for quite a bit...all very different from what is out in the marketplace right now. I just finished reading a series of devilish books from the Harlequin Vintage series, i.e., Kiss Your Elbow, I'll Bury My Dead, You Never Know with Women, etc. I would love--with a capital L--a manuscript with that sort of vintage noir drama but set in a modern day. Think femme fatale, film noir, dark and mysterious. Which leads to my next desire...I would love something along the lines of Mad Men. And of course I love zombies, but those are very hard to write well.

I've never been a huge sugary romance fan, so if you are submitting a romance to me, it has got to have grit, realistic conflict, and maybe not so much of a happy ending? I also think that a faux memoir, middle grade or young adult, if done well, could be amazing. I would love to see that in my inbox. And even more so, I would LOVE a real memoir told in graphic novel form.

And of course, I love quirky boy-centric middle grade, always! I am always and forever looking for great middle grade. It is my favorite genre to represent.

Dawn: Do you have any advice for new writers?

Start marketing yourself right now. Use the Internet in every way possible. Get your name out there. Build a powerful blog and get a following. Join writers' groups. Get beta readers. Join sites like Attend writers' conferences. Do your research. There are so many tools to help you achieve your goal. You just have to really really want it. This isn't a process you can rush through. You have to fine-tune everything before you move on to the next step in the business.

* * *

Bree Ogden will be at the SoCal Writers' Conference this weekend. She'll be speaking at the Missouri SCBWI Conference in St. Louis on November 6, 2010, and she'll also be speaking at the 13th annual Whidbey Island Writers Conference on Whidbey Island, Washington, April 1-3, 2011.

To learn about Martin Literary Management's submission process, click
here. You can visit Bree's blog at

Thank you for the interview, Bree!

UPDATE (November 2011): Bree is now an Associate Agent at D4EO Literary Agency. You can learn what she is currently seeking here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This and That

Last Monday, Henry Holt editor Noa Wheeler led a hands-on writing workshop I was lucky to attend, and it got me thinking about future projects. While my current WIP has taken up residence in my brain, sprawling everywhere and getting its fingers into everything inside my head, the day will come when this WIP gets the spit and polish of a completed manuscript and is sent off into the world. That's when I'll need to dive into my next book. In my opinion, the submission process is so much easier when one's heart is invested in more than one manuscript. The workshop encouraged me to think about new possibilities, and I enjoyed it.

I had a manuscript consultation with Ms. Wheeler the next day. Since I recently began rewriting my book, it was a fabulous opportunity to get an editor's take on my new opening. The feedback was very helpful, and I feel my first chapter is stronger now because of it.

A week like last week makes me wonder where I'd be without the SCBWI. Seriously. The SCBWI offers so many opportunities for aspiring and established writers, everything from just hanging out with people who "get it" to receiving feedback from industry professionals. I think I'm sounding like a commercial, but that isn't my intent; I'm merely expressing how thankful I am to be part of such a wonderful organization.

Blogosphere news:

did her last post at Editorial Ass. It's sad--I adore her blog--but the good news is she's keeping it online so we can continue to use it as a resource. The great news is she loves her job. I wish her the best of luck.

My dear friend
George Shannon is now blogging. George is talented, hilarious, kind, and very wise. We can all learn from him.

Congrats to my friend
Margaret Nevinski. Her young adult short story, "The Eve of St. Agnes," has been published in the online literary journal Hunger Mountain. Click here to read it. It's great! You can check out her blog here.

The weather in my area keeps fluctuating between rain and sun. I like the rain, but my dogs do not. I'll end with a photo of Thistle and Pepper who regularly parallel park their skinny little bodies in sunbeams. Then you can see for yourselves how they feel about sunshine.

(The black and white thing by Thistle's leg is a skunk chew toy. Let's hope they never encounter a real skunk. It probably wouldn't be as polite about being chased as our beloved

How about you guys? What's going on with your projects?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Like a Rock Star

On Saturday, my family and I went to Bumbershoot, a three-day music and arts festival that goes on in Seattle each year. We'd never been, and my kids knew more about it than I did because...well, they're cooler than I am. We bought tickets for Saturday since that was when Bob Dylan was slated to perform.

After finding seats at the main stage, my daughter and I headed off to where
This Providence was playing. I went to their performance knowing and loving one of their songs, but having no idea if I'd like their other stuff. My daughter, on the other hand, already knew the songs from their first CD.

When we got to the stage where they were performing, I was planning on staying for two songs. Since my husband and son were staking out the seats we'd found in the nosebleed section of where Bob Dylan would soon be performing, I thought it would be rude to disappear for too long.

I had no idea we were about to have a super special experience. And you know what? We writers can learn a few things from This Providence.

Stay positive.
Something my daughter and I thought was fabulous--and shocking--was the crowd at This Providence's stage wasn't huge. This in no way reflects the band in a negative light. Bob flippin' Dylan was about to perform on the stage next door (an actual stadium). For writers, that would be like doing a reading next door to a place where J.K. Rowling was about to read from the Harry Potter series. Maybe This Providence loves smaller, more intimate crowds, but maybe they don't. I have no idea. What I do know is they put on a stadium-worthy performance, and they looked like they were having a blast.

Hook your audience.
Remember my two song plan? We stayed a half hour, which was when the show ended since we'd missed the beginning. Then we bought a CD and waited in line to get it autographed.

Were we hooked? Oh, yeah. It's like when you're reading a book that's grabbed you and won't let go.
Just one more, one more chapter...I bet I won't be that tired tomorrow if I read a tiny bit longer...

Don't just meet expectations, exceed them.
I don't know how many of you are familiar with This Providence, but they're great performers. They have an awesome stage presence, whether they're in the middle of a song or interacting with the audience between songs. In other words, they're totally entertaining. And their music? Wow. I often like only one or two songs by a band, at least until I become more familiar with their other material. On Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised when I liked each song they did.

We need our readers to walk away satisfied, and we have to try to make our books even better than expected. I realize this is so much easier said than done.

Be nice.
Before singing the last song, "Letdown" (the only one I knew going in--it was incredible performed live, bloggy friends), the lead singer invited anyone who was interested in meeting them to the f.y.e. tent after the show. A line formed and, despite telling my hubby we wouldn't be long (I love you, Jim!), we were in it. As the band members signed the cover of the CD we'd just purchased, the lead singer
thanked my daughter for buying their record. So sweet, so classy, and I'm so happy to buy their next CD. And the next one.

I'm linking to a July 2009
post of Moonrat's that talks about the importance of being nice. It matters.

Oh! Bob Dylan was cool, and I love that our kids witnessed a legend performing. That said, This Providence gave my daughter and me an unexpected experience I'll treasure. Even though I have no musical talents and will never be a rock star, I hope to write like one.

Click here for This Providence's video for "Letdown," which is anything but.