Monday, June 2, 2014

Shutting the door

 If anyone ever comes by here they can plainly see that Ye Olde Blog hasn't been updated in a while. Didn't have a whole lot to blog about, and I was also tinkering around with a new website.

So I'll be closing this one down.

It's funny to look at how long this blog has been up. Since 2007. Wow.

I want to keep this blog so I can come back and look at my old posts sometime. It may also provide some inspiration to someone in the trenches trying to get an agent and a book deal.

If anybody stops by, thanks for being a part of my writing journey.

You can now find me here:

So onward!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sleeping Dictionary

I had a chance to attend a lecture at the local library titled The Adventure of Writing an International Novel, given by the novelist Sujata Massey.

She's known mostly  for her Rei Shimura novels--international mysteries set in Japan--but the Sleeping Dictionary is historical fiction that takes place in India at the turn of the century.

 I was curious to hear her, since my debut book is historical fiction (something I didn't even realize until someone pointed it out to me!) Sidebar: How far back do you have to go for your book to be considered historical fiction? The 60s? 70s? I once saw a tweet from an agent who commented on a query she received from a writer whose book was set in the 80s. The author pitched it as historical fiction. I guess the term changes based on your own age! (That didn't really need an exclamation point.)

Sujata's presentation was casual and friendly, punctuated by a slide show of her family and her travels in India and abroad. I asked her if she set a daily word count for herself. She's written a LOT of novels. I think she said no, she just tries to work as often as she can. She has two children to take care of. She said that a writer friend, don't remember who, said that every child you have deducts XXX number of books from your career as an author. The audience got a chuckle out of that.

 Here's a blurb from her agency:

“Sleeping dictionary” was the term for young Indian women who slept with British men and educated them in the ways of India. Set between between 1925 and the end of World War II, The Sleeping Dictionary is the story of Kamala, born to a peasant family in West Bengal, who makes her way to Calcutta of the 1930s. Haunted by a forbidden love, she is caught between the raging independence movement and the British colonial society she finds herself inhabiting.
In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness. - See more at:
In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness. - See more at:

In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness. - See more at:
Anyone who is a fan of historical fiction might want to pick this up.

Well, I don't have any kids, so I better get to work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's up Wednesday

What's up people?

 What I'm reading
Hmm. A few things. I finished Tides by Betsy Cornwell. Really nice. It centers around the myth of the selkie. Also reading an arc of Hexed by Michelle Krys and the Boneshaker by Kate Milford. All good stuff.

What I'm writing
Hmm, at the moment, I'm tinkering around with the second book we sold, tentatively titled the Mesmerist. I'm waiting for the characters to speak to me. They're being a little stubborn. It's a different world than Hoodoo, but still an historical novel. That's all I'm saying.

What inspires me right now
Other writers.  I joined the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of debut authors with books coming out in 2015. It's a really wonderful and supportive group. I'm amazed by the commonalities we all share.

What else I've been up to 
I'm actually watching Bates Motel on AMC. Corny and addictive. Also listening to the new Goldfrapp album. Do you know her?

I'm also waiting with itchy fingers for editorial notes from my editor. Wow. I said that.

I've also spent a number of obsessive hours playing around with different website platforms including Squarespace, Wordpress and Tumblr. I want to update my look, you know? I like the Tumblr themes but I'm not sure if I am one to reblog stuff. I'm not even really sure how it all works. So if you find something cool on Tumblr you reblog it on your Tumblr with a credit? 

That's it for me. I hope the Muse shines Her light on you today.

 Check-out my post below with Lee Kelly, author of City of Savages, coming out this year!

Want to participate in What's up Wednesday? Go here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Debut Details with Lee Kelly

Happy Monday.

I did a few of these Debut Details a while back, and wanted to revive it. It’s always interesting to hear how writers went from query letter to Getting the Call to selling a book.

You can find a Debut Details featuring Elizabeth Richards, author of the Black City Series here
And Kate Walton, author of Cracked and Empty here

I’ve always devoured these posts whenever I’ve come across them, and hope visitors enjoy reading this one. Today we have Lee Kelly, a fellow Wolf Literary writer, repped by the super-awesome Adriann Ranta. She is also a member of a new group blog for 2015 debut authors I’m proud to be associated with called the Fearless Fifteeners.

Lee’s debut, City of Savages, is published by Simon & Schuster's new imprint, Saga Press, and drops Spring 2015 (I just said “drops.”) My short post-interview responses are in red. 

Hi Lee, thanks for agreeing to do a Debut Details. Can you give us a blurb for City of Savages? 

Thank you for having me!  And sure -- here’s the short blurb from Simon & Schuster:

CITY OF SAVAGES. Lee Kelly’s startling debut novel, a taut drama set in a post-World War III POW-camp Manhattan, in which two sisters must learn the truth about the city’s past in order to take hold of their own future.
Their words, not mine J! Sounds unique and fantastic!

Why YA?

While City of Savages started out as YA with S&S Books for Young Readers, we’ve actually moved over to my editor’s new imprint, Saga Press, which will be using the adult and young adult sales forces to market books that fall somewhere in between.  I’m beyond excited to be part of this new venture (and humbled by the company I’m keeping!)  City of Savages has a significant adult subplot, which parallels and compliments the story of the two sisters, so Saga feels like the perfect home.
Pretty cool to debut with a new imprint. How wonderful.

When did you start writing with the goal of being published?

If I’m honest, I think I’ve always written with the goal of being published, at least secretly – even when I was seven and scribbled down poems in my journal.  But I didn’t conduct myself like I was hoping to make a real go of it, if that makes sense, until after I was practicing law in New York.  So about three or four years ago, I’d say, I started writing nearly every day and trying to learn and understand the business.

Was City of Savages the first book you submitted to agents? 

Pretty much.  The first “book” I wrote (a 130,000 word semi-autobiographical clunker that read like a 14 year-old’s journal written by an adult -- YES), I sent to an agent friend-of-a-friend.  I still blush when I think about that.  I hope that doesn’t count.
I think we all have one of these, Lee!

Are you a pantster or an obsessive plot outliner?

I’m somewhere in between.  Since that 130K mess, I have a process.  I always start with a brainstorming session where I gather notes and inspiration into a word document, and flesh it out with research and notes on things big and small: snippets of scenes, thoughts on characters, thematic considerations, that sort of thing.  After a while of this, when I feel like I’m antsy to jump into a story, I’ll write the synopsis.  Then I’ll write a super messy first draft that generally follows the synopsis for the beginning and the end.  Often the middle goes totally rogue.
Uh, I think I’m going to steal your process.

How many agents did you query for City of Savages?

I believe somewhere around 30, in batches of 5-10 at a time – I came across Adriann’s name somewhere in the middle of this effort.  It’s odd, I actually had this weird premonition that things might work out with her purely based on her bio on wolflit’s website.  (Which you know as well as I… “edgy, dark, quirky voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin…”)

What was your first response when you got the call for an offer or rep?  Did you get an email to set it up?

I was on vacation, laying with my husband by the pool our first Saturday up in Maine, and I got Adriann’s email saying she loved the book, and would I have time to talk soon about it?  I FLIPPED OUT!  We planned on chatting that Monday, and I spent the next two days of vacation in knots talking my husband’s ear off about what her email might mean – do you think she’ll offer?  Is this a test run to see if we click?  Will I get revisions?  I drove him crazy.
Yes, it takes a special kind of person to be the spouse of a writer.

I took the call in my hotel room after two to three hours of research on every book deal and tweet Adriann made in the past few years, and talked to her for an hour.  I was so nervous I didn’t realize it was a definite offer call until the end.
I didn’t realize it was an offer either! I had to ask her at the end of our call! What’s up with that Adriann?!! Making writers all crazy…

Where were you when you got the call that S&S was buying your book?

Again, while away, which is weird!  I was down with my in-laws in Philadelphia for a long weekend, and Adriann had told me we were going to auction that day.  I’d been fine at 10 a.m., nervous at noon, visibly sweating by 3 p.m…. and completely ignoring my mother-in-law by 4 p.m.  My hands were actually shaking when Adriann’s number flashed on my iPhone.

When you heard the word “Auction,” every writer’s dream, actually associated with your work, what did you think? When did it really hit you, if ever? 

It still hasn't! I think the whole process for me was very surreal. Sometimes I still need to remind myself that this book is actually going to be out in the world :-)

How long was it between signing with Adriann and getting an editor to say, “Hey, I want this?”

I believe it was eight months, start to finish – though I had an R&R with one editor before Simon & Schuster, which prolonged the process (for those of you who don’t know what an R&R is – I didn’t – it’s when an editor likes it enough to set up a phone call and talk through revisions they think will elevate the book, but makes no commitment until they read the finished product based on their feedback).  That R&R process took six months. 
That must have been a stressful time!

How much did the book change with Adriann’s input?

On this book, we didn’t do substantial edits – just a few nits and tweaks before rolling out.

What about your editor?

Oh, it massively changed haha.  I’ve been working with Navah Wolfe, and we’ve gone through one serious rewrite as well as a smaller revision and a line edit.  Backstory fleshed out, whole chapters discarded and rewritten, characters combined, that sort of thing.  And all for the better.  I’m so excited about the new version.

 You’ve got a new addition in your home. How do you find time to write with a little one running or crawling around all over your laptop? (Isn’t that what kids do? Like cats or something? Obviously I don’t have kids.)

God, I’d get nothing done if my son crawled around in my lap ;).  But he is running – EVERYWHERE.  I get no writing done when he’s awake.  My daily writing time is his nap, about an hour-and-a-half every afternoon after chores and such.  My parents also help out a few days a week, and I log a ton of hours then, and usually write for a good three-hour stretch on the weekend when my husband hangs with the little guy.  It’s tough for me to do actual writing at night – that’s for emails and critiquing.  My writing brain seems to shut off around 5 or so.
Now, that is dedication, people. No excuses! Just write!

What is something you’ve learned now about publishing/writing now that you’re on the “inside?”

Hmmm, I don’t know if I’m on the “inside” haha!  But one thing you do learn through the submission process to agents and editors is how subjective everything is.  One person will love another’s deal-breaker.  One finds something “fresh and original” while another will find it totally weird.  Even though it’s so tough to internalize this, you do eventually.  You have to.

You’re a member of a new group blog titled the Freshman Fifteens. I’ve seen a lot of these blogs over the years. But yours has a different twist. Can you tell us a little about it?

Sure!  We’re actually going on a retreat next week to hammer out details, but our goal is to work with young writers through various efforts, most of which are hopefully done in-person.  I believe all of us have wanted to write since we were little, so the idea of working with young writing hopefuls is something that’s important to all of our members.
That is fantastic and very admirable.

Do you plan on delving into other genres with subsequent books? Fantasy? Paranormal? Mystery? What are you working on now?

YES!  A writer friend of mine said if you aren’t trying something new – style-wise, genre-wise or voice-wise – with every book, you aren’t pushing yourself to become better.  I totally agree.  So right now I’m working on a historical fantasy, again YA-crossover, and I’m also (slowly) revising a middle grade fantasy/contemporary hybrid.

What is the one TV show you cannot miss?

Oh, tough question -- depends on the season: 
Spring – Game of Thrones
Summer – used to be Breaking Bad, now I suppose Mad Men
Fall – Homeland

Last great book you read?

I was equal parts enamored and disturbed by CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Keuhn.  It’s tightly written, evocative, haunting -- absolutely loved it.

Thanks, Lee.

Everyone make sure to check out Lee's blog and Twitter!

*After eight years on Blogger, I still can't get my hyperlinks to be a consistent color*

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Where do you write?

This is very cool, from the New York Times.

The Writer's Room

I write mostly in coffee shops, and do very little at home. Something about packing-up my laptop and heading out makes me feel like I'm going to work, without the distractions of the household: the lure of the couch, the urge to rearrange your bookshelves, the "I-should-be-writing-but-let-me-watch this-documentary-about-crows-on-Netflix-first" syndrome."

So, where do you write?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What's up Wednesday

Hey folks, it's time for another edition of What's up Wednesday.

 So I ask you, What's up people?

I'm on a train right now headed to New York for some work stuff. Train travel is nice. So less stressful than airports. 

Well, as you can see from the post below this one, I will soon be a published author. It's all very exciting. Yes. Yes. It all went down rather smoothly so I consider myself quite fortunate.

What I'm reading
I'm reading a book called Tides by another Clarion/HMH author, Betsy Cornwell. It's quite lovely. Wonderful language and voice. The story centers around those elusive creatures from Irish myth, the selkie. The book has a very literary feel, one of the reasons I was drawn to Clarion.

What else am I reading? Very soon, I'll be reading my contract!

What I'm writing
I'll be tackling revisions for HOODOO as soon as I get my editorial letter! It will be interesting to start this next step of the publishing journey. I've read so many posts and articles about editorial revisions that I can't wait to get started. I think I even have some bookmarked so I can learn from other writers' experiences.

What inspires me right now
Looking at my deal announcement.
Knowing that I achieved one of my life goals. Also, telling people to not give up on their dreams.

What else I've been up to 
I've been watching True Detective on HBO. Fantastic show. Well-written and very deep. Not your typical TV detective trope.  Waiting for Game of Thrones to come back on!

What's up with ya'll?

What's up Wednesday is the brainchild of Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.

Want to participate? Go here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Agent Sold My Book

I'm still a little numb. My agent Adriann Ranta sold my MG novel, HOODOO, to Lynne Polvino at Clarion/HMH!

How exciting.

Here's my agent, Adriann "Khaleesi" Ranta making the deal.

I'll be back with details. Well, some of them.

Ronald Smith's HOODOO, a Southern Gothic set in rural 1930s Alabama, about a boy from a long line of folk magic conjurers who must unravel a web of family secrets and overcome his inability to cast a simple spell in order to defeat a stranger who wants to use the darker powers of hoodoo for evil, to Lynne Polvino at Clarion in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary Services (World).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014


The best coffee and croissant in Chicago. Intelligentsia.

God, I miss this place. It's where I used to do all my writing.

That is all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


It's been a while. I missed one of my What's up Wednesday posts! Oh noes!

I think I just got really busy with work and real-life stuff.

Other than that I'm just working on new projects. I did get a chance to meet my wonderful agent, Adriann Ranta in New York. We had a nice time over coffee. Really psyched to have her as my agent.

Plus, I got some books! These are all from Adriann's clients. Looking forward to reading!

I'm finishing throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas right now. I plan on reading as much contemporary YA as I can this year. My tastes run to the fantastical and I'd like to get a little more perspective on the contemporary category.

That's up with me. How about you?

Oh, and I'm glad that Lost Girl and Being Human are back on. Two of my guilty pleasure shows!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What's up Wednesday 2014

Happy 2014 to all. Ok, let's do this. What's up Wednesday.

What I'm reading
Finishing Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I really like it. It's fast-paced and has some really good world-building. I'm also reading Skellig by David Almond. 

What I'm writing
I am working on a YA novel right now. It's a major overhaul of an existing work. I guess it's YA fantasy, but it only has one very crucial fantasy element in it, so I feel it's actually more contemporary YA than fantasy.

What inspires me right now
Having a lot of time off over the holidays was great. It proved to me how much I can really get done. So I'm still riding on that high, as well as getting back into the real world crap.

What else I've been up to 
My MG novel should be going on submission soon, but I don't think I'll be blogging about it. Just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

I also joined a great community of kidlit writers. It's called the Enchanted Inkpot. Check it out.

My goal this year is to read more contemporary YA. What about you? I hope the Muse shines her light on you this year.

Want to participate in What's up Wednesday? Go here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Word Count for Novels

I am obsessed with word counts for YA and MG novels. Especially debut books. When I go to the local bookstore and browse the YA and MG sections, I sometimes take out my iPhone and take a quick shot of the cover. It makes me feel like I'm in a John LeCarre novel. When I get back home, I look up the book on one of the sites below and find out the word count.

I don't know why I do this.

I've only written a few novels. The first one was a MG at about 60k and the second one was a YA fantasy at about 59k. But the one that got me signed--Hurray--is a 36k MG.

My research tells me that around 36k is the sweet spot for MG. Although, I'm sure we've all seen MG books that are 80k+.

I find it interesting to see how many words a writer uses to tell a story. Some writer--I forget who-- said to use as many words as it takes to tell the story. I don't think I'll ever be a writer with high word counts for my books. I like paring down as much as possible.

Right now, I'm working on a contemporary YA with only one very crucial fantastical element in it.
I feel like it's done at almost 30k. But that can't be right. From what I understand, contemporary YA can be a lot shorter than other categories like romance, paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy. We'll see what happens. I still need some plotting to do on it and it may grow in length.

Here are a few really short books that were well-received and went on to win major awards:

When You Reach Me is only 39k words and won the Newberry Medal and a slew of other awards.
(That's an interesting word: slew. Say it with me: sleeeewwwwww. Let it roll around your tongue. Yum. Very satisfying word.)

Skellig comes in at only 31, 202 words. It won the Carnegie Medal, the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year, was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book of theYear and received many more accolades.

Anyway, two sites have been helpful in satisfying my need-to-know for word counts. Maybe you'll find them helpful, too.

One is AR BookFinder. The other is RenLearn.

I hope that 2014 brings you success in your writing endeavors!

Friday, December 6, 2013

First Five Pages

Here's my agent, Adriann Ranta, on what she looks for in a writer's first five pages:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What's up Wednesday

Just realized it's Wednesday. I wonder what people would think if you went around pronouncing Wednesday the way it's spelled. So instead of saying wins-day you said wed-nes-day, like three syllables. Hello non-sequiturs!

Anyway, Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Looking forward to stuffing my face with the type of food I never see during the course of the year:

Mashed Tates: Yes
Gravy: Yes
Cranberry sauce: Never been a big fan, but I'm beginning to like it.
All kinds of veggies up in here.
And sweet potato pie, of course.
That and pound cake.
God, I'll have to fast afterward.

What I'm reading
Almost done with Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Really love it. I really like Laini Taylor's world-building. It's also cool that the story takes place in Prague, Czech Republic. I love that city and she writes about it with great visual flair.

Here's my to-be-read pile.

 What I'm writing
About to send back final revisions for Hoodoo to my agent and then we take the next step!

What inspires me right now
Writers, articles about writing, reading about debut authors and anything else to do with writing. Also meeting new writers/people and visiting their blogs.

What else I've been up to 
Twitter. Can I say that? I like reading tweets from the writers and book-lovers I've been following. 

Working on the book I hope to concentrate on once Hoodoo goes out into the world. 

I also need to see Catching Fire. Hopefully, the crowds might die down a bit over the break.

What about you? I ask you, what is up, dear people?

Want to participate in What's up Wednesday? Check out the creators:  Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Write your First Book

Good article from Buzzfeed.

I think I missed a What's up Wednesday.


I don't even know if this counts as a blog post because it's so short. I just saw the article on Twitter and thought I'd put it here.

That's all for now.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Agent Podcast

One nice thing about having an agent (sorry, I can't help pausing every time I say that) is that I get to let others know how fabulous she is.

Here's why. Check out Adriann Ranta's podcast on the Business of Writing over at The Fiction School.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's up Wednesday

How can it be another Wednesday already? Didn't I just write one of these?

Let's do this.

What I'm reading

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. This is my type of fantasy: the weirder the better. I just love her prose. She's got a twisted visual style and I love that. I also bought Divergent. I read the first 50 pages or so but just wasn't feeling it.


What I'm writing
Aside from this blog post, still toying around with other manuscripts. I'm trying to figure out which one to pursue. MG? YA? NA? Something wholly new?

What inspires me right now
Great authors like Laini Taylor--ones who can create a world and characters so vivid they pop off the page and get in your head. A true gift, to be able to do that. I heard her speak on plotting once at a SCBWI event and she was great.

What else I've been up to 
Trying to find a way to get in more fiction hours. I do it in the morning, before work. I always want to keep going but, alas, I  have to put on the Don Draper Advertising Suit and write ads for burgers and laundry detergent. 

What have you been up to?

Want to participate in What's up Wednesday? Go here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's up Wednesday

I've seen a lot of blogs doing this weekly meme, and I thought it was not only a fun idea, but a great catalyst for weekly blogging.  So thank you Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk!

It's pretty simple, really. Every Wednesday, I'll write a post that answers these questions:

What I'm reading
What I'm writing
What inspires me right now
What else I've been up to

Sounds easy enough. Let's hope I can do it every week. I'm a notorious neglect-the-blog writer.

So, without further doo-doo, here's my first What's up Wednesday post:

What I'm reading
Okay, well, nothing at the moment. Great start, Ron! I just finished Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake.  I bought the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt but haven't started it yet. I also picked up a non-fiction book called Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy, by Jim Elledge.

What I'm writing
I'm working on a middle-grade fantasy right now. I have about 20,000 words. I just finished revisions on Hoodoo, my middle grade supernatural horror novel for my agent. What? Agent? Hells yeah!

What inspires me right now?
That's a tough one. Let me think.
(Insert Jeopardy theme or Pachelbel's Canon here. Or possibly Air on A G String from Bach.)

Okay, I think what inspires me right now is...waking up and knowing that I have achieved one of my writing goals, which is being offered representation by an agent. I know there's still a long way to go to selling a book, but I feel like I can see a little reward in this journey that so many of us have taken. It gives me the creative fuel to wake up and jump into my current work in progress.

What else I've been up to
Hmpf. I've been on Twitter a lot lately. Trying to get a little bit more of a presence there, finally.

Playing with my new iPhone.

Visiting and commenting on like-minded people's blogs.

Trying to find the time to watch mindless shows like the Vampire Diaries and the Originals. (I know they're bad, but I can't help it.)

I'm out.

Want to participate in What's up Wednesday? Go here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The "How I got my Agent" Post

Well, I can finally write this post. One day there will be an even bigger post, if all goes to plan, but this is a topic I’ve seen my fellow writers in the YA community write about, and I’ve always read their stories with a sense of happiness, a little bit of jealousy (c’mon, let’s be honest!) and with the belief that when they say don’t give up, to believe it.

I've always enjoyed reading these "getting an agent" posts, so maybe someone out there will stop by and enjoy mine and get a little inspiration.

(I'm afraid I don't have any funny gifs to go along with this post. (Where do these writers find them!???)

I'll just have to add this photo for visual interest. You certainly won't see one of me signing, but I like seeing other people do it.

I've always been a writer. When I was a kid I enjoyed sci-fi and fantasy, but as I got older, I drifted more towards literary fiction. My formative years were spent around a lot of writers, painters and visual artists, and this world inspired me in many ways.

I also had very many drinks.

My favorite writers were people like Martin Amis, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin and Francine Prose. I read a lot of short stories by Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, Mary Gaitskill and others.

Yes, I was a literary snob.

I wrote a lot of short stories. I sent them to the Paris Review and other literary journals. Some even came back with hand-written notes on the rejections! This was before the interwebs, kids.

Anyway, I needed to make some money so I went to a well-known school for advertising. 
After a few years  I landed a job as a writer at a huge ad agency in Chicago. Like, real huge. I worked on all kinds of big corporate brands, wrote a bunch of TV spots, flew to LA and Europe and stayed in expensive hotels and ate at expensive restaurants and, well, pretty much became an ad guy, a term I now loathe.

So I worked on ads for years. (I still do this for a living but at a smaller firm.)

So during this time I wasn't writing fiction. 

At all. 

I just sold crap to people. But one day, a few years ago, my brother, who was working in a Barnes & Noble Bookstore at the time, turned me on to some great middle grade and YA books. One of them was Sabriel by Garth Nix. Another was the Lemony Snicket books. And another was Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. And there were many more.  Hmm, I mused. These books are awesome. And they're not dumbed-down for kids, either.

After reading these books, I was like, Hey, I should start writing again. But I should write what I loved as a kid--you know, books of fantasy and adventure. That kind of thing.

As soon as I discovered that, and started taking pen to paper--or fingers to laptop--my voice just kind of came. I wasn't supposed to be writing for adults. I was supposed to be writing for kids and young adults, ya'll!

A year or two passed. I joined a critique group. I joined SCBWI. My writing got better. I sent out queries on my first book: a MG fantasy. Got a few requests, no offers. Hey, it was my first time out!

Wrote another book, YA this time. A lot more requests. A few close calls, but no solid offer. I still love this book and want to revise it.

Started another book, a middle grade southern gothic horror called Hoodoo. I kind of felt like I really had something with this one. The voice and setting really just rang true for me. I sent it out and got several requests. A fair amount of no-responses and rejections, too. 

Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary was one of the agents I queried. I read her bio and found out as much as I could about her. I liked her references. She said she was looking for a good middle-grade story, so I sent her the query and 50 pages, which her bio requests. (Always follow agent preferences.) 

A few weeks later: 

She really likes it! But wait--she has a few issues with it. But she's cool enough to tell me what they are and invites me to send again if I revise.

So I spent the next few months--seven actually--revising and doing other life stuff. I also took a class by Nova Ren Suma at Media Bistro. She is an awesome teacher and fantastic writer. Read her.

So, after the big revision, I wrote back to Adriann and said, Hey, remember me? And she's like, NO. 

Just kidding. 

She says Yeah. Sure. Send it along. 

I send. 

I wait. 

A week later I get an email saying she totally loved it. And do I have time for a call!

Do I have time for a call? Nah, sorry.


I told my crit partners.

Poured a glass of water.

Stared at my phone.


I was nervous at first, with all my printouts about “The Call” spread out around me. But after a few minutes, I realized that what many writers have said really is true. Hey, agents are just people. Book lovers like us. And they see something in our work that they really like. Or love, as I should say. 

That word love is an interesting one. Before I took the call, I did some research on Adriann’s writers. One of them, Peter Brown Hoffmeister wrote this:

The first thing you need to do is to listen for the word “LOVE.” You need to hear that word. Not “like” or “interest,” but “love.” And if everyone’s saying the L-word, think back to high school and decide who really means it.

I know I'm over-analyzing, but when I sent Adriann the manuscript after the revision, she said she totally loved it. So I took that as a sign. Now, for all I know, maybe she didn’t even mean it in that way, and was just saying “really like,” but I obsessed over it all night, as any obsessive writer would: "Wait, she put a comma here, so that must mean that..."

Adriann reps some amazing YA and MG writers, so I feel like I'm in great company: Kendare Blake, author of the Anna Dressed in Blood books, Mindy McGinnis, author of newly released Not a Drop to Drink, Michelle Krys, whose YA novel Hexed comes out next June, Lee Kelly, author of Manhattan Savages (great title) out in 2015. Writer and Illustrator Cyndi Marko, whose Kung Pow Chicken series is for little kids.

Her adult and non-fiction titles are quirky and interesting, too.

Ok. Enough. Longest post ever. Duhhhh....

I'm doing some minor revisions and will send back to Adriann soon. She's really cool, easy to talk to and totally accessible.

One last thing: I'm not going to post how many queries I sent or how many offers I had or did not have. I think that what's important to remember is that it only takes one person to say Yes to your book. 

Because once you get that, all of those stings of no response, all of those curses for FULL manuscripts that come back with a NO without any comment, all of those times when you say, “But this is exactly what she was looking for in her bio,” they all don’t really matter anymore. It just goes away.

Because when it comes down to it, I have to say what everyone else has said and you’ve heard it a million times: It only takes one Yes.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I'm in the throes of revising my middle grade novel HOODOO for my agent.

Oh, you didn't know I had an agent? I have an agent!

I did a big revision before I signed with Adriann, and now I am making some tweaks.

As writers, we are constantly revising, but it does feel strange to do it now, post-agent.

I'm looking at the manuscript a bit differently, trying to be as critical as I can. We do this, of course, when we are revising for our crit groups, but this somehow seems different. I can't really put my finger on it.

It feels like a real job now, as I write. I've always been pretty disciplined in getting words on the page, but now I wish I could do this full-time. I want to finish this book and move on to the next one. But I have to be patient. We all know how slow publishing is. Of course, there will be editor edits, too, if I am fortunate enough to get that far.

So if any pubbed authors stop by, how do you look at your revisions? Any advice? How do you look at your manuscript with fresh eyes when you practically read the next sentence in your head before you even get to it?