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Michelle4Laughs: It's in the Details


A Celebration by Breaking the Rules

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 25 April 2015 · 28 views

In honor of going over half a million pageviews, I wanted to do something fun! I can't believe It's In the Details went from some place no one visited, to a site where people return for more, all in just two years.

I love filling my blog with helpful content, and I love when writers comment how much the posts have helped them. Thank you for making It's In the Details a successful haven for writers!

To celebrate, I'm giving away a query critique or a paperback copy of KINDAR'S CURE (your choice) and asking you to break the rules to win it.

Post a short bit of flash fiction in the comments of this post. I want you to write a paragraph of the dreaded and forbidden scene--MC looking in a mirror and describing themselves! That's right! You can let your freak flag fly and do what must normally be avoided.

And to break the rules further, I want you to load it with adjectives and adverbs. Let the 'ly words fly! Always, always we're told to avoid these. Great advice under normal circumstances when you're trying to get published. But WHERE'S THE FUN IN NORMAL?

Go past normal and ooze the unthinkable, quickly, beautifully and poetically. Go honestly, inventively crazy. 

So that's a short paragraph of your main character looking in a mirror and describing themselves with lots of adjectives and adverbs. I will pick my favorite for the win.

Contest will stay open until we get at least ten entries, which will hopefully be by May 4th (cause that's when it's ending.) Please leave your twitter handle or email address so I can contact the winner.

Good luck. Have fun. And please help me spread the word. The more who enter, the more silly this will get, I think.     



Query Kombat 2015

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 24 April 2015 · 33 views

Bloggers SC, Michael, and Michelle are back again to bring you the third annual Query Kombat tournament.

The Basics

Query Kombat will host 64 kombatants in a single-elimination, tournament style query-off. Entries will go head to head (one on one) with one another until only ONE entry remains. There will be a total of six rounds in Query Kombat. 64 entries in round one, 32 in round two, 16 in round three, 8 in round four, 4 in round five, and 2 in round six.

As we said, some things have changed. We’re doing away with tournament brackets this year. Instead, entries will be matched up based on target audience and genre. We'll continue grouping that way until it's no longer possible.

If you secure a spot in the tournament, your query and the first 250 words of your manuscript (to the end of a complete sentence) will be pitted against another query and first 250 words. Judges will read each match-up and vote 'Victory' on the best entry. Remember, this is subjective. Considering last year, votes may come down to personal tastes.

The entry with the most ‘victories’ at the end of the round will advance to the next round until only one champion remains. 

This year the agent round will be held after the first round. That mean 32 entries will make it into the agent round. 32!

Of course, there's a twist!

The agent round will be conducted in secret. And by secret, we mean TOP SECRET. Entrants won't know who requested what—or how much—until that entrant has been eliminated from the contest.
On the plus side, winners of the first round will be able to resubmit their entry prior to the agent round. So, any feedback the judges give can be implemented before the agents see your work.

Who’s invited to submit:

The Query Kombat tournament is open only to unagented writers seeking representation. Your manuscript must be complete, polished, and ready to submit. If your manuscript has already been in the agent round of another contest, you are not eligible to participate in Query Kombat. Please don’t try to sneak in. The QK team includes about fifty people and a few hundreds of spectators. Someone will notice and inform us. Submissions for Picture Books, MG, YA, NA, and Adult works will be accepted.

The submission window will open on May 22nd at 5:30 PM Eastern time and close in ONE hour. Repeat: YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO ENTER ONLY. The window closes at 6:30PM.

We will have email confirmation. If you don't receive it within an hour of submitting your entry, contact us via twitter and let us know.  Kontestants will be revealed on May 30th, and the tournament will kick off on June 1st.

ONE ENTRY PER PERSON ONLY. No cheating and using other email addresses.

IMPORTANT: The Query Kombat team reserves the right to disqualify any entrant at any time for any reason. If an entrant is disqualified before the agent round, an alternate will take its place. If an entrant is disqualified after the agent round, the opposing entry will automatically advance to the next round. The only time we will ever disqualify an applicant is if you say or do something to blemish the spirit of query contests. Query Kombat is supposed to be fun… 

So none of this!

In order to enter the contest you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow said guidelines will be considered. 

In the event that we receive more than the available 64 spots (this is highly expected), Michelle, SC, and I will savagely attack the slush pile in attempts to build the best team. We will pick (and announce) three alternates in case a submission is disqualified.

Entries should be sent to:  QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com. The email address has changed from last year. Be mindful of that.

Formatting guidelines:

Font: Times New Roman (or an equivalent), 12pt font, single-spaced with spaces between each paragraph. No (I repeat: NO!) indentations.
Subject line of the Email: A short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. (ex. I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll: Adult Erotica)

For the nickname, make it as unique as possible so that there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament (or an abbreviated version if it's too long) so keep it PG-13 and try to have it relate to your story in some way.

In the body of the email (with examples):

Name: Michael Anthony
Email address: myboyfriendwasbittenbyashark (at) gmail (dot) com.

Entry Nickname: I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll
Title: Eunuchs and Politics
Word count: 68K
Genre: Adult Erotica


Your query letter here. Do not include your contact information. Do Not include your bio or comps.

I FELL IN LOVE WITH A KEN DOLL tells the harrowing story of Barbra B. Doll, a US senator who goes against country, family, and the Illumaniti to be with an amateur surfer with no genitalia. 

First 250 words:

Don't include the chapter title and please, don't stop in the middle of a sentence. DO put spaces between paragraphs.

All queries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send. You have several weeks to polish your work. Take advantage of it. Competition will be fierce.

Because the immense amount of work ahead of us, the tournament will be hosted on three separate blogs. In order to enter the contest, you MUST following Michael's and Michelle's blogs, and have signed up for SC's monthly newsletter concerning the 'Write Inclusively' campaign.' All three blogs will host the first round and agent round. The second round will be hosted by Michael and SC. The third round will be hosted by Michelle. The fourth round will be hosted by SC. The fifth round will be hosted by Michael. The final round will be hosted by Michelle. Have no fear, each blog will have links to all rounds so you will not get lost.

Agents and judges will be revealed soon. (As of now we have 15ish agents and 30 judges!)

Questions can be left in the comments and I'll answer them as quickly as possible. As always, Query Kombat announcement call for celebration.



Getting the Call with Emily Moore

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 April 2015 · 22 views

I was drawn to the unhurried voice and literary tone of Emily Moore's middle grade manuscript. Long before I knew it was based on Tom Sawyer, I knew I had to include it among my picks for my New Agent contest. I'm so glad it found a home with a great new agent!

Thanks for having me on here Michelle! I’ve read so many of these posts and am excited to finally share my story!

The call… that moment every author aspiring for traditional publishing yearns for. I’ve read many blog posts, Facebook comments in writers groups, and even tweets about all the fantasies writers have about their call and how it will go.

I strangely didn’t have any specific thoughts about it. I curb disappointment by taking each step of the process as it comes. So when Jessica emailed me on a Thursday gushing about my novel and asking when a good time to talk would be, I was shell shocked. Was this really happening? Had I read that right? I read it a few more times just to make sure I didn’t misunderstand her. Nope. After a few more email exchanges, we arranged to talk the following Wednesday, and I wondered what in the world I would do to keep myself occupied until then. I sent out nudge emails to five agents I’d recently sent the same novel to and received a request for a full and about ten days to read through it. Then I re-researched Jessica and messaged a few of the authors she’d worked with as an editor in the past. I had reservations about how new she was to the agent side of things, but I was drawn to her bubbly personality and how much the authors that worked with her endorsed her. I researched questions I should ask a potential agent and made a two page list, hoping she wouldn’t think I was interrogating her. I also reached out to a couple author mentors, you included Michelle, and asked for opinions and suggestions.

Wednesday finally came. A babysitter had my daughters occupied upstairs and I was lounging back on a pile of pillows on my bed staring at my phone. My stomach was doing flip flops, and it somersaulted when Jessica’s number jingled across the screen. As soon as she said hello, I settled into easy conversation with her.

We hit it off like old friends, getting to know each other in a relaxed but professional manner. She reiterated how much she loved the country feel but modern take on Tom Sawyer. She loved my descriptions and the voice of my novel, and gave me a few page numbers. (I looked them up after the call and was so happy to see some of her favorites were some of mine too!) She answered all my questions with the answers I hoped she would, and even when I threw her a curve ball question, she didn’t falter or seem overly flustered. When we discussed publishers she thought were a good fit, I was ecstatic to hear Scholastic and Harpercollins as the front runners. Our vision for my novel to be something a teacher could hand to a student with confidence and give them some of the same lessons as Tom Sawyer but without the drag down of historical terms and out-of-date slang had me super excited to work with her. She also asked about my other projects and encouraged me to get the rough draft done on a series she couldn’t wait to read and sell.

Even though the call went great, I asked for a week to decide and she was gracious enough to wait. It was an agonizing week of indecision. The other agent that had Dom was from a major agency, and I’d be dumb not to accept them if they offered right? Was I selling out if I did that? But I’d really connected with Jessica. I prayed a lot and felt a pull toward her. I’d all but decided to choose Jessica when I got an encouraging and kind rejection from the other agent. I immediately felt relief and that’s how I knew Jessica was the agent I wanted to work with. I tweeted and then called her, but malfunctioning technology prevented a call until later in the evening. (One of her tweets said “Don’t make any decisions until I call you! I’d hate to lose you over this!”) Her excitement when I told her I’d like to work with her confirmed that I’d made the right decision.


E. G. Moore is a poet, freelance writer, and storyteller (the first of which her mom still has recorded on a cassette tape.)   She is a long distance member of For Pete’s Sake Writers Group in Washington, active in an email writer’s response group, and a Rocky Mountain Chapter SCBWI member. She’s also a contributor and blog assistant for YAtopiaHer essay WEARING TERESA’S BOOTS is scheduled to be featured in Hope Paige’s Anthology on loss in 2015. When she’s not telling “Mommy Made stories” to her two daughters or nagging her husband to edit her latest YA or MG manuscript, she can be found off-roading in her suped-up ATV, swimming, or in a long, plot-refreshing bubble bath. She tweets, posts on facebook, and blogs at: www.emilygmoorewriter.blogspot.com         @EGMooreWriter



New Adult Fiction- Fad or Fact

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 22 April 2015 · 37 views

Going along with trends in contests, I got to thinking about the New Adult age category. Is it here to stay or a fad?

I can't say I see any drive behind the search for NA manuscripts from the agents. There might be a few more entries coming through in contests this year, but I don't see agents looking for them specifically. When we asked agents to let us know their wishlists for Query Kombat, no one mention wanting more NA.

And I have seen agents on twitter mentioning that NA is still only for romance. Though we get many NA fantasy or NA science fiction, I believe agents are considering that as purely adult. They're ignoring the NA label when they request and looking at those entries as if they are to be sold as adult fiction.

Three years ago, I tried using the NA label as something new and possibly becoming the new hot fad, like dystopian had been before. It flat out didn't work. Over these three years, I haven't noticed a change except for more acceptance of NA being a real thing--for romance only. Yet, there is still no real drive to find NA or any hot demand, that I've been able to detect.

NA Romance inside a fantasy/paranormal world is selling based on my CP, Angie Sandro, sales of four books to Grand Central of her NA Romance Southern Paranormal, (That's a mouthful.) DARK PARADISE and it's sequels.

Another instance, our NA champion in last year's Query Kombat (Cozy Mystery) got a wonderful three book deal, but as an adult story. Max Wirestone's THE UNFORTUNATE DECISIONS OF DAHLIA MOSS sold to Orbit. 

I don't think the NA label has turned into a real and steady market yet...  time will tell whether this grows to include more than romance or falls flat.  



Query Questions with Melissa Jeglinski

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 21 April 2015 · 45 views

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

I've been trying to get an agent from The Knight Agency for forever. I'm so pleased to bring you Melissa Jeglinski!

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
I’m open to queries all year round.  I try to reply within two weeks, unless I’m out on holiday.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
A small typo or misplaced comma will not make me turn down a project, but a lot of such mistakes warn me that you might not be careful with your work and that is a red flag.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I will look at the first paragraph without fail because honestly, I know queries are really hard to write.  Sometimes the writing is much better than I would expect from what is presented in a query so I always take at least a smidge of a look. 

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
At The Knight Agency all of our queries go to our submissions email and our submissions coordinator gives them a first look.  However, anything I’ve asked for or that may be in response to an article, contest, or interview I’ve done will be forwarded directly to me. 

Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?
Nope.  I make a decision on queries right away.  It’s the only way to stay on top of them. However, I can sometimes waver on partials.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Let it be known that I do not like prologues; I find them almost always unnecessary.  However, if you choose to start with one, then they are your first pages and should be included. 

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
I find many queries include strange or wrong comp titles and I’d rather not see any than think I should be getting one type of read and end up with another. 

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
At The Knight Agency we prefer you query only one of our agents at a time.  We will frequently pass along queries we feel may be perfect for one of our colleagues as we are always in touch with one another about what we are looking for. 

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
Feel free to include a bit of chit-chat if we have met before or if you have been referred to me by one of my clients. Otherwise, I just want to know what your manuscript is about.  You’ve got mere paragraphs to grab my attention so don’t waste any space. 

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
I will not request a project when  either the genre or word count is not included.  I just can’t read your mind and these are usually the most important elements of a query.   

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I don’t see every query I receive as our submissions coordinator does weed out ones for genres I don’t represent or perhaps are obviously just not right for me as I always update her on what I’m looking for.  But I estimate I get about fifty queries per week.  Of those I’ll request one, possibly two partials or complete manuscript. 

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
I never base my requested on whether the author is active on social media. But I do check to make sure if they have a presence, it’s a positive one.  Once I sign on a client I do encourage them to try their hand at some social media but it’s not a requirement. 

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive? 
I wouldn’t turn down a query if there are links in their email signature. However, if the entire query is just a link it becomes an automatic no for me. 

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
When I do use this wording as a response, it means that I didn’t find the project so exciting I couldn’t say no.  It could be the writing, the plot, the ultimate execution. It could also be how the writer presented themselves and maybe I just don’t want to be so detailed in my response.  I often hesitate to give detailed feedback because I think that gives a writer hope that I’ll take a look at the project again when often the issue is not something I think can be easily changed; style, plot—these are big issues.  So I find it better to pass in a more generic matter. I know that can be frustrating to a writer but my workload prevents me from being so detailed.  Also, I find some writers can be downright nasty when I give a true reason for passing and I just don’t need the negativity.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been cursed out by complete strangers just by telling them I don’t represent their genre.  So I tread carefully for my own sanity.   

What themes are you sick of seeing?
In Middle Grade age projects it’s the children receiving special powers on their birthday or just being so downtrodden I’m not sure how to connect with them.  For Young Adult it’s a female protagonist so obviously in love with the wrong boy you just want to snap her out of it.  In Romance it’s the simple conflicts that can be solved with a good conversation.  I like complex plots and characters.    

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
Coming from an editorial background I am a very hands-on agent.  I work with my clients to edit their projects while we are on submission to editors.  However, once their manuscript finds a home, I do step back and let the author/editor relationship deal with issues. 

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
A Cozy Mystery series with a unique setting and different kind of protagonist (no paranormal.)
A Middle Grade novel featuring a ghost or something quite dark but not horrific—keeping the readership in mind.
A Romantic Suspense series featuring super sexy heroes in some dangerous profession.

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
My favorite book of all time is THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. The plot is complex and the MC’s conflicts are timeless. 
I have really enjoyed Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflower series.
Recently I have enjoyed WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart and CAROLINA MAN by Virginia Kantra.
My favorite movies include The Winter Soldier (Not usually a super hero fan but Cap is so earnest, what’s not to love), State and Main (quirky cast and plot) and Aliens (the most kick-ass heroine ever.)


A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008.  With over two decades experience in the publishing industry, Melissa has fostered her clients to National prominence including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of RWA and AAR. Melissa is currently seeking projects in the following areas:  Romance (contemporary, category, historical, inspirational) Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women’s Fiction and Mystery.



Trends in Contests

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 April 2015 · 24 views

Now that Pitchslam is over, I decided to put together a few thoughts on how contests have changed and where they might be headed.

Twitter parties are growing and getting bigger. There is much more chatter and spontaneous games on the twitter feed than ever before. Writers are joining twitter simply to hang out under contest hashtags and interact with other writers. They're making friends, finding CPs, and interacting more than ever before. It's a fun and wonderful result of contests.

On the other side, while agents are still eager to take part in contests and be part of the show, there is a change here. Agents are much less free with their requests than ever before. While last year and the year before, one blog of entries (10-12) might receive thirty requests; now the same group of entries would be more likely to garner half that in requests. This year, agents who used to do seven or eight requests each on a blog, now settle for two to three, or even zero requests.

The agents are being much more selective. Perhaps they overdid it in the past and lived with the result of tons of manuscripts to read filling their inbox. Perhaps they are not seeing what is marketable in recent contests or their wishlists are much narrower. But even the requests that do come through are for fewer pages than in the past.

I had only one full request in Pitchslam and the majority of requests were on the lower end of the scale, asking for twenty-five pages instead of fifty or one hundred. In the past, there were usually a couple of full requests and many more larger samples sought.

I can't begin to predict whether that will carry forward into future contests. Perhaps there are simply too many contests, packed too close together. It makes for interesting speculation.

Also there is a decided trend away from adult entries and toward YA and middle grade. That was always the case, but even more than usual now. Adult entries are virtually ignored. Perhaps the adult writers are relying too much on tried and true plots and not experimenting enough. Who can say? But I have noticed another trend toward high concept and multicultural plots.

Agents tend to agree (even when the comments are hidden) on requesting entries with multicultural plots. Plots which have elements of other cultures are almost sure to get requests--in YA and middle grade. As are plots that are very unique and haven't been seen before--what I call high concept. Unusually and fresh plots are easy to spot when you've read hundreds of query letters. They do stand out from the crowd just by virtue of being different from everyone else.

Look at entries in Pitchslam with multiple requests and it's probably either high concept or multicultural (including LGBT) or both. 

I hope this gives writers ideas for their next story concept and what agents may be looking for. Have you spotted any trends in contests? What have you noticed?  



Query Kombat Sneak Peek

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 18 April 2015 · 39 views

I'm interviewed about the upcoming Query Kombat over at Whiskey, Wine, and Writing. Get early advice about preparing to enter.



Query Questions with Jennifer Rofe

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 17 April 2015 · 41 views

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

From Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Jennifer Rofe is here. And I'm happy to have another agent who reps picture books for all the PB writers coming to my blog after PB Party!

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Not really, but over the winter holidays isn't the optimal time. 

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Certainly not. This would be an ineffective and inconsiderate practice, wouldn't it? However, a quantity of typos and misplaced commas is a different story. 

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I look at sample pages if the story, as pitched in the query, piques my interest.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
When I have an assistant, s/he goes through queries first and color codes them based on my system. However, I still look at every query. There are exceptions, though: Queries that don't include a greeting and that are sent in a mass email are automatic deletes.  

Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?
I do.  

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Based on the Andrea Brown submission guidelines -- first 10 pages, in this case -- the prologue would be part of the query. In a related comment, I rarely see prologues that are crucial to the story.

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
Comp titles are nice, particularly because they give an indication of a writer's knowledge of the market and how his/her manuscript fits in. However, they are not imperative, and one must choose comp titles smartly and realistically.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
At ABLA, we share queries with each other on a daily basis. For instance, I might receive a query that doesn't suit me, but I think three of my colleagues might like it, so I send it on to them. 

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I like knowing that a writer is querying me for a specific reason -- because of my interests, because of certain authors or illustrators I represent, etc. It's also helpful to know if I've met the writer before or if s/he has seen me present at a conference. This kind of professional chit-chat, which has context, is fine.  

Writers hear a lot about limiting the number of named characters in a query. Do you feel keeping named characters to a certain number makes for a clearer query?
If I have difficulty keeping track of your characters or plot because there is too much detail in your query, then it's a problem. Writers should use jacket flap of published books as a guide for pitching their own work.  

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
Writers should give their work the best title they can. And then they should have a healthy detachment from this title because it can change.

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I can receive 30-60 queries in a week, depending. I might request none; I might request a few. I have no exact number, but the general answer is "very few." 

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
If an agent took the time to offer feedback, then the writer would be wise to at least let the agent know that s/he has revised and would be happy to send updated materials if the agent is interested in reviewing them. 

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Include information that is relevant, such as specific work experience or involvement in the writing community. Are you a member of SCBWI and do you attend conferences? Have you attended craft workshops, such as the Andrea Brown Literary Agency Big Sur Writing Workshop? (My shameless plug.) This kind of information is perfect for the bio. 

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
It means I didn't connect with the story or the writing. Why this lack of connection exists is a different question that could have numerous answers. 

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
I do, yes.  

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?
Back when we accepted queries in the mail, writers would sometimes send me photos of themselves, their children, their pets. I always found this strange. What was I supposed to do with them?

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Funny picture books; any kind of middle grade; heart-bursting-hopeful YA and/or big-world YA.

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 
I always forget the answer to this question. My favorites list changes and grows. 

Movies: Dirty Dancing; Sweet Home Alabama; Almost Famous; The King's Speech; Rushmore
Books (by non-clients and in no particular or sensical order): The Schwa Was Here; Elsewhere; the Dairy Queen series (I love DJ Schwenk); Openly Straight; The Known World; Catherine Called Birdy; Flora & Ulysses; City Dog, Country Frog; Punk Farm; Never Talk to Strangers; most books by Toni Morrison.  


Jennifer represents projects ranging from picture books to YA. Middle grade is her soft spot and she's open to all genres in this category, especially the tender, hilarious, or zany. She is always looking for fresh and distinct voices; stories that simultaneously tug at her heartstrings and make her laugh out loud; and "adorkable" heroes. As for YA, Jennifer is drawn to contemporary works; dramatic, funny, or cringe-worthy romance; and urban fantasy/light sci-fi. She's especially interested in smart stories that are layered, complex, and unexpected, and she appreciates big, developed worlds. In terms of picture books, she is interested in character-driven projects and smart, exceptional writing. Jennifer also represents illustrators and author-illustrators. 

Jennifer is co-author of the picture book PIGGIES IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH (Charlesbridge). She has been on faculty for several conferences including the Big Sur Writer's Workshop and numerous SCBWI conferences, and she is especially known for her The "So What?" Factor presentation. Jennifer earned a BA in English with a minor in Social and Ethnic Relations from UC Davis and has a background in secondary education. 



Getting the Call with Wendy Vogel

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 16 April 2015 · 27 views

I like to share a call story after a contest to give everyone a dose of inspiration. But this story is the motherload of inspiration. It will just make you want to buy the world a Coke and hug everyone you meet. Congrats, Wendy. It was an honor to share your story. 

The month I turned forty, I got the news. 

You have breast cancer.

No family history, no risk factors.  I was halfway through training for my fifth marathon.  Wednesday I did a fourteen mile run.  Thursday I started buying headscarves. Cue five months of chemo, a double mastectomy, radiation, and two years of reconstructive surgeries.

Cancer makes a lot of things suck. But there’s one thing it really does well, and that’s put things in perspective. “I’ll write that novel someday” becomes, “What day would that be, exactly?  How many days do you think you have?”  You look at your bald head in the mirror and realize the time to start is right freakin’ now.

So I did.  I wrote a book.  I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it.  I was a closeted writer.  That’s pretty funny coming from a person who was known to say things like “Hey, I had a double mastectomy, wanna see my scars?”  (Lifts shirt.  Watches friend turn pale and pass out.  Giggles).  I’d happily explain to anyone about the worst part of chemo (losing your nose hairs) and barf in the middle of the mall, but oh God no I can’t tell anyone I’m writing a book.  But I did.  I wrote one.  It’s a coming-of-age feminist fantasy, and it took me about nine months.  I read a lot of advice about editing, 
rewriting, and waiting before you query, and ignored it all.  I spammed the world with a truly hideous query which somehow got a couple of requests for that unrevised piece of crap manuscript but (shocker) no offers. 

So I took some advice and wrote another book.  THIS was it.  THIS was the one.  I knew what I was doing now.  Agents would have fistfights on the street to be the first at my door for this manuscript.

One slight problem.  The book was a paranormal romance about a demon (holds for laughter).  I happen to think it’s a pretty good paranormal romance about a demon, but since there are about nine hundred thousand other paranormal demon romances already out there, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Jane Eyre of demon paranormal romance… no one wants it.  I did find an editor at a very well-respected house who loved it, but as it turns out for a romance house to publish a book, it has to be an actual romance.  Which requires a happy ending.  Which my demon romance doesn’t have. 

So I wrote another book. THIS was it.  THIS was the one.  A fun little middle grade sci-fi about dinosaurs.  It got me into Pitch Slam and got some requests.  Close.  Really close. 

 Not close enough.

So I started a third book.  While I was writing it, I read through a bunch of entries on WriteOnCon and thought, No wonder you can’t get any attention.  All you write is speculative.  All anyone writes is speculative.  Way more than half the entries were sci-fi/fantasy.  My stuff was drowning in an ocean of dragons and space travel.

So I set myself a challenge.  I abandoned the WIP, my third fantasy outing, and wrote a murder mystery.  No magic.  No demons.  No dinosaurs.  Just a dead guy in the middle of a forest.

I queried it.  I got a featured spot in AgentMatch.  I went to a conference. I got requests.
I got an R and R.
I got another one.
I got a phone call.

The agent of the R and Rs loved it. She wanted it.  I spent the next week sending out joyous “Offer of Representation” emails and had a lovely conversation with another agent who was awesome but not The One.

Carly Watters of P.S. Literary is The One. 

Finally after three years of writing, two years of querying, four manuscripts and countless rejections, the murder mystery made it happen.

And those other novels?  The ones that weren’t THE ONES?  One of them got picked up by a feisty little indy publisher.  After months of grueling and much-needed edits FLAMEWALKER will be released April 24, 2015 from Word Branch Publishing. The other two poke at me from the depths of my hard drive from time to time.  They’ll probably stay there forever.

I have hair now, and a lovely new aftermarket rack. I have a shiny new agent and high hopes. But most importantly, I have the kind of confidence that comes from knowing that as scary as querying is, as scary as rejections are, as scary as being on submission is, I’ve already beaten the scariest monster of all. 


Twitter: @drwendyv

Wendy Vogel is a veterinarian, cancer survivor, SCUBA diver, cake decorator, marathon runner and all-around badass.  She lives in Cincinnati with husband chef-instructor Andrew and a houseful of special needs pets.




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 12 April 2015 · 23 views


The Critics will soon be busy making their selections from the Red-Carpet Premier entries! 

Remember again that contests are subjective. What tickles one person’s fancy, may do nothing for another. There were tons of excellent entries. Even with five people making selections, that's nothing compared to the number of literary agents out there. No matter what, keep querying!

I hope that the nature of this contest has been a benefit to everyone. There's not too many contests that provide feedback to everyone who enters. The whole Tinseltown crew tried their best to share their experience and give solid advice.

Before Team True Grit out guns the rest, here are some guidelines!

There is no commenting in this round, except for Critics. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias. All the comments are on modify anyway. No requests will be revealed until the end of the Red-Carpet Premier on Wednesday, April 15th.

But we are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on twitter under the #Pitchslam tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun! I'll be announcing when Critics have stopped by this blog and giving hints about requests.

I’d better be seeing my Team True Grit members there. Get out your six shooters! This Cowboy team is going to stick together and celebrate with each other! This team is full of true grit. Each and every entry is tough as nails!

Critics will consider entries at all the Directors' blogs. If more than one agent has the highest level of request on an entry, there will be a showdown on twitter after the Red Carpet ends. The first Critic to answer the Movie Trivia question wins the entry and gets first shot at the pages. (Sorry I'm not sure what time this will happen.)

Here's what the agents will be requesting: 
Stunning Debut - Query and first 10 pages
Instant Classic - Query and first 25 pages
Dark Horse Hit - Query and first 50 pages
Box Office Smash - Query and first 100 pages
Blockbuster - Query and full

If you haven't found your entry here, try the other director's blogs: 


That's right! We have a fifth team to add even more entries into the mix. This group is for entries that Directors couldn't give up. The entries that no amount of trade offers could pry fingers off. In addition, each Director picked a special entry to make up this team! Yay for surprises!

Good luck to everyone! Thanks for making Pitchslam such a fun experience!


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