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!!

Contests!

I’m quite competitive so I LOVE contests.  I’ve stumbled across a few writerly contests and thought I’d share them with you, dear readers:

The first is a blog contest from Ruth Lauren Steven.  It’s an agent judged contest that opens on April 18th (judged by Gemma Cooper of The Bright Literary Agency, and Julia Churchill of Greenhouse).  You have to follow her blog to participate.  Submit a query and the first five pages of your manuscript.  It’s open to YA and MG fiction.  You can find the details here.

Next up is a logline contest. The winner receives free registration to the Backspace Writers Conference and tickets to the play “Seminar” featuring Jeff Goldblum, Alan Rickman, Jerry O’Connell, and Justin Long.  The loglines don’t have to be from a particular manuscript and can be something you created just for the contest.  If you don’t know what Backspace is, it’s a huge conference at the end of May.  Writers meet with agents, yes ACTUAL agents (like Janet Reid, Brooks Sherman, Kristen Nelson, Sarah LaPolla, and so many more!), one on one and in small group sessions.  The agents will critique your queries and first pages, AND there are lots of great speakers.  This year’s keynote speaker will be Donald Maass of the Donald Maass agency.  It’s a great opportunity!

Finally, the publisher Strange Chemistry is opening its doors for unsolicited (i.e. unagented) manuscripts from April 16 through April 30.  These entries must be YA science-fiction or fantasy.  They’ve got some pretty strict guidelines so check out Open Door, 2012 Strange Chemistry.  This isn’t exactly a contest in that there isn’t a winner.  They’ll just read your manuscript, which is a BIG thing!  Last year, they signed three authors from this opportunity.  This is also something you should do at your own risk.  If you get an agent later, and Strange Chemistry has already seen your manuscript, there is a good chance they won’t give it another look, even if you revise/rewrite, etc.

Other places you should continually check out are Cupid’s Literary Connection.  One contest is wrapping up there, but another will be coming along soon!  Janet Reid also frequently has contests and is famous for her 100 word stories.  She’s also wrapping one up now, so check there in the future. Gabriela Lessa also hosts contests, so check her out too.  Right now, she’s accepting submissions for a short story anthology, but has also offered query critiques.

Know of any other contests you’d like to share?  Good luck to everyone who decides to enter these!

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).

Slipping on My Agent Shoes

I posted recently asking who’s opinion mattered more when it comes to buying books: agent, reader, publisher, etc?  Recently, it seems this very question has been cycling through the publishing community.  (Check out this entry over at Jenny Bent’s blog).  Well, yesterday, I got to step into an agent’s shoes (kind of) and realized just how subjective this business really is.

I entered a contest of sorts at Cupid’s Literary Connection, a blog that “brings writers and agents together to form magical literary connections.”  I don’t know who Cupid is, only that he/she is a writer and must have excellent connections.  The contest I entered is a blind speed dating sort of thing.  I emailed my query and first 250 words of my manuscript to Cupid.  The first 50 on Friday and the first 50 on Saturday were entered into the contest.  In Round One, four “Bouncers”, three writers and an editor, weed through the first 50 and choose which will advance to the next round.  Next week, they’ll go through the second 50.  In Round Two, twelve agents are each given a set of “arrows”.  They read the entries and shoot arrows to choose manuscripts they’d like to request.  One arrow for a partial, three for a full.  They get a different amount of arrows each day and the cost per request increases throughout the week.  At the end of the week, their requests will be posted and connections will be made.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?  I was lucky enough to be one of the first 50, and even luckier that one of the Bouncers put me through to the next round.  Now I just have to wait another two weeks to see if I get any requests.

So, how did I step into an agent’s shoes?  All 50 entries are posted on the blog.  I numbered a legal pad and started reading.  Next to each number I wrote either “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or split up my answers based on the query and the first 250.  Several received a “no” on the query and a “yes” or “maybe” on the first 250.  I’ve then been checking the blog, somewhat obsessively, and writing down which Bouncers put through which numbers.

Here are my stats:

Of 50 entries, I said yes to 22, maybe to 9, straight up no to 12, and was split on 7.  Of my picks:

The first Bouncer put through 1 yes, 1 maybe, 1 no, and 2 splits

The second Bouncer put through 4 yeses, 3 maybes, 2 nos, and 2 splits

The third Bouncer put through 12 yeses, 3 maybes, 2 nos, and 2 splits

*UPDATE* The fourth Bouncer put through 3 yeses, 1 maybe, 2 nos, and 1 split.

Bear in mind that 9 11 of those were entries at least 2 Bouncers agreed upon, so as it stands 32 entries have been put through to the next round.  There are still 9 7 entries I gave a “yes” to that haven’t been put through yet, and one Bouncer remaining.  Now, some I didn’t put through because they really just weren’t my taste and were, therefore, hard to judge, but most I tried to look past genre and judge on the premise and the writing.

If I were an agent looking for say, YA, and I received these queries one morning.  I would have immediately rejected 17 for not being the right genre.  Of the remaining 33, I would have outright rejected 8.  Based on the query alone (which is all most agents see), I would have rejected 5 more.  As for the maybes, they probably would have been rejections too because I didn’t love them, and I’d only have time to take on so many, so that’s another 5.  That leaves 15.  Of those 15, I was really interested in 10 (interesting note: only 5 of those were put through by the Bouncers).  Of course, how many of those 10 I’d request would depend on my schedule, what I already had on my plate, and if I had anything similar or had recently tried to sell anything similar, so let’s just guess and knock it down to 5.  That’s 5 out of 50.

It’s pretty eye opening.  I appreciate an agent’s job so much more now.  It’s such a highly subjective business.  I’m certain some of the entries I passed on would greatly appeal to someone else.  5 of my outright “nos” were put through by the Bouncers.  Several others had scores of comments underneath by people who loved the premise and sample; but it didn’t appeal to me.  So next time you get frustrated, remember how subjective it is and that there could be someone out there who will love your work, you just have to find them.  I think everyone should head on over to Cupid’s blog and try it out for yourself and see how your picks compare to the Bouncers!  It just might surprise you (and will give you an idea of just what some agents are looking for/interested in).