The Writer’s Voice, Cheese, and The Wild Blue Yonder

You may be aware that I’ve been competing in a multi-blog contest called The Writer’s Voice. (If not, you can catch up here).  200 of us put our work on our blogs for the world to see. 44 of us were chosen by the amazing coaches, Monica B.W., Krista Van Dolzer, Brenda Drake, and Cupid. They polished up our queries and story beginnings. We edited like crazy and submitted, and resubmitted, then they posted the shiny new entries to their blogs.

Anyone could come by and comment over the weekend. Every time I saw a new comment under my entry, I jumped in my chair and rushed to click on it. You have absolutely no idea how happy it made me to see others who enjoyed my work. I write because I love it and can’t imagine not doing it, but I also write because I’m a reader and I want my words to affect others the way my favorite works have affected me. So thank you, each and every one of you who commented either here, or over on Krista’s blog.

Yesterday was D-Day. The agents came through. Eight total.Lauren MacLeod of The Strothman Agency was the first out of the gate and Twitter was all a flitter! Agents were coming, agents were coming! We all rushed to put on our prettiest ballgowns and nicest suits and stood waiting, trying to look appealing. She swept through the four blogs and voted for seven entries, but not mine. Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc. appeared next and voted for a whopping sixteen entries, hooray!! But still not me.

While Andrea was still out and about, Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency showed up. I raced around the blogs, refreshing and hoping. She tagged six entries, pushing the first entry into full request territory. The crowd cheered! No Sarah, but I wasn’t too worried, that was only three agents, still five to go. Then Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency swooped in and voted for ten! More full requests! I refreshed, refreshed, refreshed, but no dice for my entry. Later in the afternoon, the word on Twitter was that Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary was out and about. I scoured the blogs and found seven entries with her name on them, pushing two more into full territory.

I kept my eyes glued on my Twitter feed. Never had I been so glad I decided to join! As afternoon turned to evening, and evening gave way to night, I started to worry. In the previous Cupid contest, one agent didn’t vote for anything. Could these last three not be interested? Then, Roseanne Wells of Marianne Strong Literary Agency popped up. I opened all four blogs at once, running through each entry. By now, I knew the comment counts for each one so I knew when an entry got a vote. She voted for seven. My team, Team Krista, was lagging behind now, and more than wanting myself to get a vote, I wanted my team to win, and more than that, there were several entries I absolutely loved still sitting alone on prom night with no date.

As I was refreshing, I noticed Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency out and about. There was hope! She picked a member of my team, joy! Then my heart sank. She only chose one entry from each team. I was about to call it a night when I clicked on one more new tweet. Louise Fury of L. Perkins Agency made a triumphant entry! Better yet, she tweeted as she voted! It was glorious! It took stalking to a whole new level!

She started on Brenda’s blog and I refreshed as she tweeted each vote, rejoicing for those who were picked. “Go to Krista’s blog next,” I begged. “Please go to Krista’s blog next.” She went to Monica’s. Hubby yawned and I stifled one myself. I had to stay awake. I kept refreshing. Still on Monica’s blog. Hubby and I did our nightly Bible reading, then I immediately scooped up the computer. Still on Monica’s. It was late, and I was so sleepy. So, I decided to go to bed.

Of course I promptly loaded Twitter on my phone and kept an eye on Ms. Fury’s flurry of activity. Right before I put the phone down, she was spotted on Cupid’s blog. Of course Krista’s would be last. And she was taking her time combing through the entries, which is amazing and wonderful that she took such care, but I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I turned the phone off, my hope dwindling with every yawn. No sense stressing over it, I didn’t feel like it was going to happen. My poor little entry was the cheese in a giant game of The Farmer in the Dell. I went to sleep.

This morning, I stretched and picked up my phone, as I do every morning, to check the weather and email. I had a tweet. To me. My coach, Krista, asking if I was awake. Because “Playing with Fire” had a vote. I sat straight up in bed and read it again. Then I squealed, and started hopping up and down. Hubby ran in. “You got a vote?” “I got a vote!” We fist bumped, we hugged, we fist bumped again. I had a vote. I’m not the cheese!

Louise Fury, much like the comic book character of the same surname, swept down in the eleventh hour and voted for NINE of my team’s entries. Twenty-five total. I don’t know how she’s going to have the time to read all that. I guess maybe she does have super powers.

I had a vote.

While getting ready this morning, I danced and bee-bopped around the house. Then I realized what my celebratory song was and burst out laughing. It was “Wild Blue Yonder,” the Air Force anthem. (Edit to add, I realized I crossed it with “The Stars and Stripes Forever. Just think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to sleep when I did. Ha!). Except I was singing my dad’s made up lyrics: “Be kind to your web-footed friends, ’cause a duck could be somebody’s mother,” and “Off we go, wearing our striped pajamas.” No idea where it came from, but I hummed it in all it’s silly, ridiculous glory.

My triumph waned as I went through the blogs this morning, adding the new votes to my spreadsheet (oh yeah) and tallying. Some of my favorites still didn’t get picked. Some entries were still the cheese. There are some amazing stories out there though, and while they might not be what these eight agents were looking for, the writers are all phenomenal, and I have no doubt they’re going to go places.

So that was The Writer’s Voice. Exhilarating, nerve-racking, exciting, frightening, silly, crazy. I met a wonderful group of writers, who I hope stay connected, I got some incredible help with my work, and I got a partial request. We also, all forty-four of us, got personalized feedback from author Tara Dairman, whose debut novel, The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby, come out in 2014. How awesome is she? Thanks for your comments Tara!! Oh, and my team won. Go Team Krista! What an incredible experience.

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We Belong

I’ve brought this up before, but after this weekend, I think it bears mentioning again: I love the writing community. LOVE it.

As you all are (should be) aware, I’m in a contest called the Writer’s Voice (see my entry below).  There are 200 entries. 200! Plus more writers who tried to get in and couldn’t because of the rush, and problems with the Mr. Linky widget (yes, it’s really called Mr. Linky, and yes, I have fun saying it and have been trying to come up with creative ways to drop it into conversation. “So I entered this contest via Mr. Linky.” “Have you heard of Mr. Linky?” “Hey Sweetheart, have you fed the dog? Oh, by the way, Mr. Linky.”)  So basically, all this means is there are a lot of writers circling through the blog waters reading entries and waiting on comments from the judges/mentors saying they’re on a team. (FYI, I got picked, whoop whoop!)

Here’s the amazing and wonderful thing: everyone has been so incredibly supportive.  Most have made it a point to read each entry, several have commented on every one.  I read them all and tried to comment on most (especially those without many comments, at least when I first read the entries, ’cause I know how good it feels to get comments!). Even though 200 people are vying for 40 spots, everyone has been extraordinarily encouraging. Initial posts of “good luck!” and later posts of “congratulations!” on the entries who are in so far is all I’ve seen. Not that I really think people would post something nasty. I’m sure they just wouldn’t post anything on an entry they didn’t like rather than something hurtful.  But even that speaks well of the community, doesn’t it?

I’ve read plenty of posts other places, and articles, etc on the internet where people have said mean, hateful things.  Here though? There’s only love. My Twitter feed has been blowing up all weekend with supportive tweets. Every time I see one, I grin ear to ear. Even if it’s not addressed to me or about me.

A song keeps playing in my head, yes, I’m about take you back, way back, back into time (that’s totally another song, points if you know it!). Maybe because I heard it on the radio this weekend and Hubby is a sucker for a ballad, so he’s been singing it randomly since, but I can’t shake “We Belong” by Pat Benatar. It’s pretty apt for what I’m talking about though. We writers belong to this remarkable and marvelous community. (And now you have it in your head too, muahahaha!)

This contest, this opportunity, has not only spread my writing to a wider audience (over 500 views of my blog this past weekend, wow!), it has also introduced me to other writers.  I’m following new blogs and people on Twitter that I might not have otherwise found, and I’ve gotten new followers as well (hello! *waves*).

So, if I wasn’t enamored with writing already, and trust me, I was, I’m even more in love with it now.  Because it means I get to be a part of this wonderful group of people, and whether or not this current story, or my writing period, takes off, that’s something special.

Stay tuned for updates as the contest progresses, and check back later in the week for a Super Special blog post (hint, it might be my first guest…)

I’m In! My Writer’s Voice Entry #146

I’m SO excited! I made it into The Writer’s Voice! I can’t tell you how nervous I was, but I’m even more nervous now knowing Brenda Drake, Monica B.W., Krista Van Dolzer, and Cupid are out there scouring the entries for the folks they want on their team.

My fingers are crossed that they like me! I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity! Go to any of their blogs (Brenda Drake Writes, Love YA, Mother. Write. (Repeat.), or Cupid’s Literary Connection) and check out the other entries.  I’ve been reading them and there are some amazing writers out there!

Here goes nothing, I give you entry #146, Playing with Fire.

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Pollock Avery can steal anything for anyone. Her electrokinesis allows her to short out security systems with a quick zap, then it’s easy as rolling out of bed to nab a priceless painting. Since her parents’ murders, the money has kept her and her little sister out of the foster system.

When a mysterious new client offers Pollock information about the murders in exchange for stealing exclusively for him, she knows the deal is sketchy. But she can’t resist the allure of finally uncovering the killer and getting revenge. As the heists get riskier, the client grows more deceptive, and Pollock realizes he wants more than art and jewels…he wants the key to her ability.

Ending their arrangement won’t be easy, though. Pollock discovers the client will do anything to obtain the Avery sisters’ abilities, even kill them like he did their parents. When he kidnaps Pollock’s sister, she has to work fast to get her back or lose her forever. Killing a murderer won’t be simple as stealing, but Pollock’s electrokinesis packs a shocking punch.

PLAYING WITH FIRE is a 76,000 word, stand alone Young Adult novel with series potential.

First 250:

The security guard’s heavy thud echoes on the stairs below us. A static buzz fills the air as his radio clicks on.

“This is SG9. Robbery in progress at the James Anderson Museum. Two female suspects headed for the roof.”

“Are you happy now?” I huff. We burst through the roof access door and dash to the edge. The scarf covering my mouth and nose muffles my voice. “On my back, Rem.”

My sister climbs on and digs her heels into my side. I twist my long ponytail over my shoulder so she won’t use it as reins. The last time she did that I expected to be bald when we landed. I imagine my body is a spring, picturing shiny metal coils squishing against one another. My muscles contract. Tension builds.

A deep breath and…release!

Together, Rem and I leap through the night sky. I look back as the guard runs on the roof. I don’t know if he saw us jump, but right now I need to focus on the landing. I shot too far.

Gritting my teeth, I try to pull back, but it’s too late. We slam into a tall oak tree in the park a mile or so from the museum. Sharp pain shoots through my left shoulder, twigs scratch my face. I’m wedged between two small limbs. Loud cracks of splitting wood cut through the silent park as Rem tumbles off my back and falls through the branches. She better hold on to the backpack.

The Writer’s Voice- New Cupid Contest

Cupid’s Literary Connection is hosting a brand new contest, and this one sounds really exciting! (Okay, they’re all exciting but this one is neat).  The Writer’s Voice.  It’s set up much like the singing competition “The Voice.”  There are four judges/mentors: Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica B.W. of Love YA, Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat.), and of course, Cupid.

Here’s how it works, tomorrow morning, May 3, at 9am EST, the submission window will open.  Contestants will submit via special widgets on any of the four blogs.  The first 75 will make it through.  Another window opens at 9pm EST for an additional 75 entries.  If you make it though, you’ll email in the query and first 250 words of your finished, polished manuscript and post the query and first 250 on your blog.  The judges/mentors will then choose ten entries they want on their “team.”  Just like “The Voice,” if two mentors choose the same entry, the entrant picks whose team they want to be on.  The mentors will then help the entrants, polishing up their manuscripts and queries and helping them shine.  The entries will go up on their blogs for agents to see and hopefully request.

Sounds cool, huh?  I’m excited!  This is a chance not only for agents to see your work, but for great feedback and guidance from experienced writers.  Go to any one of their blogs for full details and instructions and a list of genres they’re accepting. You can also follow all the details on Twitter by #TheWritersVoice.

Polish up those queries and good luck to all who submit!!

Nervous Wreck

*UPDATE* I made the first round cut of the Amazon contest!  I’m so excited!!  Excerpts will go up and the next round cut will be announced on March 20.  Yay!!

*UPDATE #2*  I got a request from the Cupid contest!  Double yay!

Today is D-Day.  I’ve currently got novels in two contests.  Cupid’s Literary Connection Blind Speed Dating, and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know all about Cupid’s contest.  So far, 26 entries out of 70 have had partials requested (4 entries were added after my last blog post on the subject).  The number was 27, but one of the entries was withdrawn.  Today is the day for fulls.  Every agent but one has used at least some arrows.  In case you’re curious, of the requested entries, I gave 11 a yes (12 if you count the withdrawn entry), 7 a no, and was split on 8.

So far, my little manuscript hasn’t had any requests (whomp, whomp), but there’s still a lot of day left so my fingers and toes and every other crossable appendages are crossed!  (And I’ve been praying pretty much non-stop that someone wants me.  In my head, I sound like Sally Field when she won her Best Actress Oscar.  Except it’s more “like me, please just like me!” but for some reason it’s in Sally Field’s voice).  The final results are posted tomorrow, but since today is the last day for requests, I’ll know by this evening whether my entry was successful.

As for ABNA, the first cut results are posted today.  Not sure when, since stupid Amazon is on the stupid west coast, with a stupid time zone difference, but I’m hoping at least by lunch.  I don’t think I stand much of a chance of getting through, but you never know!  I’ve written about the contest once before, here, but I didn’t go into much detail as to how it works.

They take 5,000 entries in two categories, General Fiction, and Young Adult (10,000 total).  The first round, Amazon editors review your pitch only and knock it from 5,000 to 1,000.  So there’s a 20% chance of making it through the first round (basically 1 in 4).  The second round, Vine Reviewers (still not entirely sure who they are) read 3,000-5,000 word excerpts of each manuscript and cut from 1,000 to 250 (25% chance).  Then Publisher’s Weekly reviewers read the full manuscript and cut from 250 to 50 (20% chance).  During the next round, Penguin’s editors read the full manuscripts and scores from the prior rounds and cut from 50 to 3 (.6% chance–yes, that says point 6).  The final 3 from each category have excerpts posted on Amazon and Amazon customers vote on the winner (33% chance).  I’ve got a .02% chance of winning.  But, someone has to win and I stand just as good a chance as everyone else.

Suffice it to say, I’ll be completely unproductive today as I continually refresh both Cupid and Amazon’s pages.  To all who read this blog who are entered in either, or both, good luck!  Let me know if you get through!

For Those of You Playing Along at Home

Round 1.2 of Cupid’s Blind Speed Date contest started yesterday (i.e. the second 50 entries were posted for the Bouncers to weed out).  Just because I thought it was fun to play agent, and because I thought you might be curious, here are this week’s stats:

Me:

Of 50 entries, I said yes to 17, maybe to 7, straight up no to 17, and was split on 9.  Of my picks:

The first Bouncer put through 5 yeses, 1 no, and 3 splits

The second Bouncer put through 6 yeses, 1 maybe, 1 no, and 2 splits

The third Bouncer put through 6 yeses, 2 maybes, 5 nos, and 3 splits

The fourth Bouncer put through 9 yeses, 2 nos, and 3 split.

Two Bouncers agreed on 7 entries (3 yeses, 1 no, 3 splits), 3 Bouncers agreed on 1 entry (yes), and a whopping 4 Bouncers agreed on 2 entries (2 yeses).  So 33 entries have been put through to the next round.  This time there are only 3 I gave a yes that haven’t been put through.

If I were to play agent again, I would automatically reject 19 for not being YA.  Of the remaining 31, I would outright reject 7.  Based on the query, I’d reject 8.  The maybes would be rejected so that’s another 6.  That leaves 10, and considering the same factors as last time I’d probably request 5.  Remarkable how I ended up with the same number.  5 out of 50.

As it stands, 65 out of 100 have been put through to the next round.  In Round 2, twelve agents will be considering these entries.  I’m going to toss out a guess on how many of the 65 receive requests and say…20 will be requested by next Friday.

Tune in next week for the exciting (ha!) conclusion!

(By the way, if you haven’t guessed, I’m a total nerd when it comes to making lists, so yes, I have all of these in a color-coded spreadsheet.  And yes, my closet is arranged by color and by style, i.e. from white to black: short sleeved, 3/4 sleeved, and long sleeved shirts, then dresses in the same manner, then pants.  Yeah, I’m weird).

Bullet, Consider Yourself Bitten

I have just entered my first real writing contest, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA).  You have no idea how nerve racking clicking that submit button was!  I spent the last week editing my manuscript one last time, then I spent this past Saturday on final revisions.  I think there will always be things I want to change or add, but I reached the point where I had to stop fiddling with it.  I can make edits up until February 5, or until they receive 5,000 submissions, but I refuse to look at it anymore.  I’ve checked (and re-checked) formatting, making sure my chapter numbers are all in order and all line up and the spacing didn’t get off, until my poor little fingers are worn out from typing.  I’ve read the thing so many times I could almost recite it verbatim.  Now, I can only wait.

The first round cuts will be announced on February 24, my birthday.  Until then, I’m going to put this manuscript out of my head and focus on my next.  Okay, mostly out of my head.  I still have a couple of partials with agents and I’m going through a final round of betas.  If I don’t make it to the next round of the ABNA I’m considering taking this manuscript to the Backspace Conference in New York in May.  I figured one more round of betas reading my revisions wouldn’t hurt.  Yes, I know I just contradicted my prior statement that I’m leaving it alone.  I’m mostly leaving it alone, that counts right?

To be honest, the most difficult part of the submission was the personal information.  I never know what to write in a bio or “personal anecdote”.  On the whole, most writer’s are fairly self-deprecating, so trying to come up with statements to sell myself is especially hard.  At least it’s over!  On to the next story.  Sally forth.  Tally ho!

Just a note: I’m not really expecting to get that far in the contest (see aforementioned self-deprecating comment), I’m just proud I talked myself into submitting my work.  I’ll keep you posted though.  Does anyone else have experience with ABNA?  I’d love to hear if you’ve submitted in the past and how it went, or if you submitted this year (if so, good luck!).