February 2018 Archives

Begin every story in the

Begin every story in the middle. The reader doesn't care how it begins, he wants to get on with it.
Louis L'Amour

Shadow Magic

shadowmagic.jpgShadow Magic (Disney Hyperion, 2016) by Joshua Khan is fantasy told from two viewpoints. We have twelve-year-old Thorn, the outlaw peasant who was purchased from a slaver to become the executioner's squire, and thirteen-year-old Lily (Lilith Shadow) who is now the ruler of Castle Gloom and Gehenna, the land of the dead. Thorn just wants to escape and find his father. Lily would like to escape her onerous duties. How can she be a successful ruler when girls are forbidden to do the magic that members of her family have done for ages?

These two are drawn together over their dislike of Gabriel, who Lily is pledged to marry. Secret passages, assassins, a puppy named Custard, zombies, and a giant bat named Hades all have their roles in this fantasy. What's not to like?

I was pleased to discover this was book 1 in a trilogy. Dream Magic came out in 2017 and Burning Magic comes out in 2018.

Read more about the books and the author here.

Lucky Broken Girl

luckybrokengirl.jpgI read Lucky Broken Girl (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017) by Ruth Behar before the announcement that Ruth won the well deserved 2018 Pura Belpré Author Award. This historical novel is based on the author's own experience of being in a body cast for almost a year. One of the things this story set in the 60's did for me was make me grateful for medical advancements.

Fifth grader Ruthie Mizrahi and her family have emigrated from Cuba. Hear her voice in the opening two lines: "When we lived in Cuba, I was smart. But when we got to Queens, in New York City, in the United States of America, I became dumb, just because I couldn't speak English."

However, Ruthie is a fighter and an encourager. She makes friends with another student who is from India who is also "not dumb." She gets the teacher to agree to them both being promoted to the smart class. She's also the hopscotch queen in her neighborhood and has even talked her father into a pair of go go boots.

But then the family is in a terrible car accident and Ruthie is put in a body cast. She is pretty discouraged--she's alone so much and afraid. Surprisingly, in time her life improves. The question remains though: will she ever walk again?

Amazingly enough this is Ruth Behar's debut novel. Ruth is also a cultural anthropologist. Read more about her here. And read about the other honors and lists, etc. for this book here.

Electronic Submissions

dog-laptop.jpgThe first step in submitting electronically is to KNOW WHAT THE AGENT or EDITOR WANTS.

Read each specific editor or agent's guidelines to see whether to send a query only, query with sample pages, query with synopsis and sample pages, and for the latter two, how many pages. Usually, you'll be pasting into an email or form versus using attachments.

Verify the email address the information should be sent to or whether they use querytracker.net, querymanager.com, or a form on their own website.

Next, PREPARE for PASTING the REQUESTED INFORMATION into the body of an email or into a form. A form will have separate boxes for different info. In email, it will all go into the body of an email. You can easily separate your query letter from synopsis and synopsis from manuscript by using returns (enters) and ten or more dashes.

  • Write your query letter in Word and save it.
  • Ditto with your synopsis, if required. Some agents or editors will specify how many pages of a synopsis they want. Others won't. It's good to have several versions, such as one page and three pages.
  • Go to your manuscript and copy the number of pages requested and paste into a new document. Make sure you end your last page on a full line. It's better to be short than have a partial line. (Of course, you are using standard manuscript format.) I like saving different length page samples with the number of pages in the title-it makes for future ease of use.

Third, open your email or the form. As appropriate, copy your letter, manuscript pages, and synopsis one at a time and paste into the form or email. Remember, for email dashes and a blank line are good separators.

Don't stress if your pasted in manuscript loses centering for title and chapters. It won't look perfect. However, I've found both yahoo and gmail work fairly well. If in doubt as to how your email will look when sent, you can always send a sample to a friend as a test although it still may not match exactly what the agency or publishing house receives unless your friend uses the same mail service.

In email, type an appropriate subject. E.g. Query - Red River, Query SCBWI Oregon Conference, etc. Use whatever the agent or editor has requested. If they don't specify, putting the word Query and type of submission is helpful. It doesn't hurt to put your manuscript title.

Lastly, double-check that all your information, including the subject line looks all right. Or for a form that you have filled in all the boxes.

When you are ready to go, enter in the TO: email address for email and send. For forms, choose "submit." (Multiple page forms might have "continue" before you can submit.

SUBMITTING a QUERY with an ATTACHMENT
In the rare case, you may be able to send an attachment. Usually a Word document is requested. Your most recent or your current version of Word is fine. MAC users, never send a Pages document unless it is requested.

If someone requests a PDF, but you can't print to PDF or don't have a PDF maker, download PrimoPDF. It's free and easy to use.

If you have questions, feel free to put them in the comments.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Nathan Bransford, former agent, author says in How to Format an Email Query: "Note that I did not begin with the recipient's address or my address or the date, as that is not customary for an e-mail."

How to Format an Email Query for Literary Agents - Seven Tips says: "...so start your subject line with the word 'Query.' . . . After the word query, list your book title and genre or category."

Grandma's Purse

Perfect Picture Book Friday

grandmas-purse.jpgGrandma's Purse (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) by Vanessa Brantley-Newton just makes me smile. Not only while reading it, but whenever I think about it.

Told from the viewpoint of a little girl who is excited "Mimi is coming for a visit," the book shows us treasures from Grandma's purse. And those magical things make her grandma Mimi. Items are explained and the little girl gets to use them.

I love how she calls her grandmother's perfume "smell-good" and how Mimi explains that her coin purse "also holds memories."

At the bottom of the purse, there's a surprise, but you'll have to read the book yourself to find out what it is.

This is one of Vanessa's three authored books. To see the other two, and all the books she's illustrated for other authors, go here.

Dad and the Dinosaur

Perfect Picture Book Friday

dadanddinosaur.jpgDad and the Dinosaur (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2017) by Gennifer Choldenko and illustrated by Dan Santat was "just right." It was sweet, had humor, a problem and solution, and a happy ending.

Nicholas is afraid of the dark, but his dad is not afraid of anything. Nicholas tries to be brave like his dad, but needs help. Big help. He needs a dinosaur. "When Little Nick had his dinosaur in his pocket, he was just as brave as Big Nick." But what happens when Nicholas' dinosaur is lost?

I love the relationship between Nicholas and his dad.

If you aren't familiar with author Gennifer Choldenko, don't forget to check out her wonderful middle grade books, too. You can find them here along with 5 other picture books.

Dan Santat is a prolific illustrator and an author himself, too. Look at his long list of picture books, chapter books and graphic novels here.

Ideas are the cheapest part

Ideas are the cheapest part of writing. They are free! The hard part is what you do with the ideas you've gathered.
Jane Yolen

Strange the Dreamer

strangethedreamer.jpgStrange the Dreamer (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017) by Laini Taylor is a fascinating book. And it just was named a 2018 Printz Honor Book. Woo hoo!

Lazlo Strange--foundling, loner, and now librarian--has always been fascinated by the Unseen City, or Weep as it is now called, the city that was cut off from the rest of the world 200 years ago. As a librarian Lazlo has made his own books about the Unseen City from every scrap of information he can find. He's even learned to speak the language. So when visitors from the Unseen City arrive in the Kingdom of Zosma asking for help, Lazlo must figure out a way to make the trek to the Unseen City and find out what their problem is.

As I neared the end of the book, I wondered how Laini was going to pull off a satisfying ending, and she did, but I was thrilled to find out there's going to be a sequel. Maybe even this year...

Read about author Laini Taylor and her books here.


If writing is easy youre

If writing is easy, you're doing it wrong.
Bryan Hutchinson

Wonderling

wonderling.jpgWonderling (Candlewick Press, 2017) by Mira Bartók is a touching story perfect for the middle grade reader.

The wonderling is an 11-year-old groundling (part animal, part human) with only a number instead of a name. Number Thirteen has only one ear and is foxlike, but has not tale. He lives in the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures run by Miss Carbunkle. Mistreated, overworked and bullied, he keeps his head down and does what he's told. But he yearns for something more. His life begins to bloom when he makes his first friend, a young bird groundling he defends. Trinket gives him a real name, Arthur, and through an invention of hers the two friends escape the home. And that's just the beginning of their adventures.

This book is Mira Bartók's first book for children and will be the first of a fantasy series. I just read on the author's website that a movie based on the book is in progress. Read more here. I'm looking forward to both.

Rejection isnt a sign of

Rejection isn't a sign of failure. Rejection is a reminder that there's always room for improvement.
Ana Hart

What Goes Up - a picture book

Perfect Picture Book Friday

whatgoesup-pb.jpgWhat Goes Up (Tiger Tales, 2013) by Paula Bowles is a darling story of persistence and hard work.

Martin is a sad dragon. His wings are too tiny to fly and he wants to fly. He tries various solutions, but "What goes up, must come down." The village children who love him play a game of belief and imagination with him every day, and eventually . . . Well, you'll have to read it to see what happens.

I love the humor in both text and illustrations. And isn't Martin adorable?

Go here to see the other books Paula has illustrated or written and illustrated.