Monthly Archives: April 2013

Attending a Literary Event

Okay, this is something that has been a long time in the making, because, frankly, I didn’t like the way is sounded when I first wrote it. But anyway…

About a month ago, the English department at my University put on several literary events, including a Grad School Panel and one on one (well, one on twenty really) sessions where local authors would come in to talk to students.

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One of the best events put on this semester was the In Print Festival (this event takes place annually at Ball State University). It’s a two night event – night one a reading, night two a Q&A session – where local emerging authors visit the campus. This year there were some pretty colorful character there, including:

1) Eugene Cross with his book Fires of Our Choosing, (Interview)

2) Marcus Wicker with his book of poetry Maybe the Saddest Thing, (Interview) and

3) Elena Passarello with her book Let Me Clear My Throat. (Interview)

Each author was extremely talented and interesting to talk/listen to. However, there are certain things you want to do before attending a literary event.

1) Do research – Just like when you’re getting ready to query or pitch a story, you want to do a little research about the guest authors attending the event. You don’t have to go nuts, but read up a little about them, and if you can’t find the information, don’t worry about it then.

2) Bring a copy of the authors’ work(s) with you – When the reading is finished, if allowed, go up to the author and ask them to sign your book. It’s a great time to talk to the author real quick about their work. I talked with all three guest authors at In-Print, and it was extremely rewarding.

3) Read a little of the work – You don’t necessarily have to read the entire book/collection, but it’s a good idea to read a little to get a feel of the author’s style. You may discover a new favorite author/book, plus you will have more to say to the author than: “I liked your book.”

4) Pen and Paper – Now, I’m not saying you should sit there and actively take notes like you’re in a seminar, but it’s a good idea to have a pen and paper tucked away somewhere so you can jot down any advice you find helpful.

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These are the more important things to keep in mind when going to a literary event, especially if you’re going for more than just the reading. In all my time at college, I’ve never experienced a group of authors quite like the ones at In-Print this year. It was extremely entertaining and something I wouldn’t have missed, and neither should you.

Look for literary events going on in or around your town. There aren’t any? Get some people together and put one on yourself!

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The Pitch – The Next Step

While doing some research for a homework assignment, I noticed that many people were saying that the pitch can either be written in a letter or verbally delivered. In my opinion, this definition muddles it up a bit, so erase it! Here’s what you need to know about the pitch.

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1. Generally speaking, the pitch is verbal. When you have the chance to meet with an editor or agent, you deliver your pitch to them. A written pitch is more akin to a Query Letter.

2. Do your research. When preparing to pitch your manuscript, do a little research on the person you’re pitching your work to. See what kind of books they’ve worked on in the past. You want to make sure you’re pitching to the right person. You don’t want to pitch your supernatural thriller fiction to someone who works on romance fiction.

3. Hook them early. You only have a limited time (10 minutes, if you’re lucky, they’re busy, busy, busy) that you’re meeting with an editor/agent, so make sure you get their interest early. Which leads me to…

4. Keep it brief. Try to boil your book down to 3-5 good sentences that thoroughly explain your manuscript. Like I said, you have limited time. So, you want to pitch your story and allow time for possible conversation (Q&A) about your manuscript.

5. Practice, practice, practice! It’s good to write your pitch out first, then practice it until you can deliver it smoothly. You don’t want to take notes with you. You want to be perfectly prepared.

6. There are different techniques for fiction and nonfiction. For fiction – divide your pitch into three main points: setup, hook, resolution. For nonfiction – your title should clearly convey what the book is about, explain your book and your qualifications to write on the topic, who your audience is and how you intend on promoting it.

7. In a short meeting like this, you want to sell the agent/editor on you – the writer – and your talent. If interested, they will follow up with you. But don’t try to force your manuscript into their hands right then and there. Sell it, yes. However, most first time authors meet potential agents at writing conferences. In situations like this, they’re not willing/able to carry your partial or full manuscript around with them. If they are interested, they will follow up and ask for you to send your manuscript to them.

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In the end, it’s a short meeting – a short pitch. Be confident. Prove that your manuscript is worth their time, and that you’re devoted to it. In short, sell it.

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The Art of Querying

Until last week, I had kind of forgotten what it felt like to type up a fresh query letter. Despite the fact that I had written, and saved them, before, when my hard drive crashed everything went ka-put. So I got to experience writing a query letter all over again, as if it were new, fresh.

Here are some things you should know:

1) Know who you’re talking to. Do research on the literary agent. Find out what kind of books she represents. Are they similar to yours? If so, how? What is the one thing that makes your book DIFFERENT from what your prospective agent has represented in the past?

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2) Include a word count. It’s best if you’ve finished your manuscript (meaning: written from beginning to end, not necessarily completely edited, shined, and ready for publication). Here’s a sample letter and some other useful tips.

3) If you haven’t had any previous publications, it’s not necessary to include a “Writing Bio” in your query. Don’t worry too much about it, just skip over that part for now.

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4) Pitch your story. Ultimately, that’s what the query letter is – a pitch on paper. That’s how you should approach it. You’re trying to pitch your manuscript to the agent via this one single piece of paper. Briefly talking about your story, the main character(s), and a few plot points. Give the agent just enough to hook them, without giving everything away.

5) Keep it brief. You want your query letter to be no longer than one page (single spaced, white space between paragraphs). You want to hook the agent, not drown them in superfluous information. When ti comes right down to it, if you think it might be too long, take a quick break from it, go back and see if there’s anything you want to cut on that second run through.

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6) Be pleasant. Always be courteous in your letters. Remember: they don’t have to read your manuscript. Being pleasant might help tip the scales in your favor. Ultimately, it won’t hurt. Which leads me to my final point…

7) Don’t seem crazy. This is probably the most important point. Always, always, always go back and reread what you wrote in your query letter. Don’t just type it up and send it off without a second thought. Don’t seem crazy. If someone else has already passed on your manuscript, don’t bring it up in your query letter with hatred and bitterness dripping off your words. The agents will pick up on this. Don’t seem crazy. Don’t act all palsy with the agent if you’ve never met. Ultimately, you point is – besides getting your manuscript picked up…

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DON’T SEEM CRAZY.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I recently become somewhat distracted playing this new Wizard of Oz game online and it got me to thinking: What if we all had a yellow brick road and a band of singing munchkins directing us on our way through life?

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If only it were that easy… Unfortunately, there is no yellow brick road, no dancing/singing munchkins with helpful little tidbits to help you along your way, no Glinda to show you the way and protect you as you set out towards your destination. Kind of unfortunate, isn’t it? But then, it might be to easy.

The ultimate question is: Which way now?

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What is this ‘it’ I refer to? The frightening world of life after college. Especially in today’s job market. Many days I feel like I’m being kicked out on my keister without a second thought about it. I, along with my fellow graduates, have been in school for almost 2 decades – Kindergarten through college – and even more if you count pre-school or if you stay in college longer than four years, which seems to be a new trend in college.

I mean, I guess we all have a certain path we follow, but are they invisible? Are we just stumbling along, the road right beneath our feet, but we’re not able to (or don’t want to) see it? I wonder how many other people feel/felt this way once it was time for them to enter “the real world”? And what is it with that term “the real world”? What is it, we’re not in the real world until we’ve graduated from school? Like everything before that moment was pretend-fantasyland?

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I have no answers, just hopes and, ultimately, many worries. But does anybody really have all the answers? If so, point me in their direction, I have a few questions. Until then, I, like everybody else, must remember: Follow the yellow brick road.

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