Thursday, May 28, 2009

Editor - Joelle Dujardin

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009:

These notes are blurbs of information I picked-up from attending sessions from this editor.

There are a number of good interviews on the web with various editors from Highlights magazine, not to mention all the great information on submissions they put on their website, so I won't go into detail on those subjects. The focus here is on Joelle's preferences and thoughts and anything that I have not heard or read before, or gives an inside scoop on Highlights.

Joelle is Associate Editor at Highlights magazine, one of the best markets to try and place short works. After beginning her publishing career at Henry Holt and Company, she spent several years at Carus Publishing in both the Cricket Books and non-fiction magazines arena, before being moving to Highlights in late 2004. She edits fiction for independent readers, nonfiction for beginning readers, and verse.

At Highlights, they run manuscripts through ALL of the editors for comment, and (as is our entire industry) it is subjective. You may pass the same work before one editor at two different times and get differing opinions each time.

In Joelle's opinion, Highlights' intent is to be "not opposed to change, but not spear-heading it."

Reading the reader's mail part of the magazine will give you a lot of insight into the readers that Highlights serves.

Highlights buys all rights, but it is the Highlights custom (NOT expressed in contracts) to share rights with the author if they re-sell a piece to another market, like foreign rights. The split is generally 50%. Some authors have even made more money on pieces that Highlights re-sold multiple times than on a published book!

Highlights does a lot of non-fiction by subject matter experts, but they also do take works from people who interview the subject matter experts and write a great article. They like to see full back-up- get the experts to read and approve your article before sending it in. Also, it is a good idea to include ideas and material for sidebars or other angles kids can get out of the article. Kids want things that are relevant and usable. Make sure you give information organically, without a lot of exposition.

Highlights tends to avoid personifying animals or using their POV in non-fiction.

With science articles, they like to portray science as a self-correcting process, not just a body of facts. It is okay to show that we do not have all the answers, and that it is a learning process.

Highlights refers to their younger fiction as "Thirteen-point fiction", due to the type size they use for those pieces. Topics should not be too babyish , as they still have to please older readers (up to twelve years old).

In fiction submissions, Highlights likes to see all genres represented. Via the 2008 Highlights Fiction Contest, they discovered that sci-fi is a comfortable fit for Highlights. They are trying to branch-out and go for more variety, beyond "typical Highlights" stuff.

In the magazine, there are some mixed piece pages- even if something does not show a by-line, that does not preclude that type of material from being open to submission.

For fiction, Joelle personally likes it to bring her to another place, and she would rather see too much than too little in terms of variety of submissions. Leaving a story synopsis ending hanging in your cover letter is okay with her (not required or preferred, just okay if that is the way you want to write it), since she generally skims the cover letter and looks directly at the story.

Submissions are by snail-mail, but Joelle usually asks for revisions via e-mail.

Next time: Connie Hsu

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Editor - Sarah Shumway

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009 :

These notes are merely blurbs of information I picked-up from attending sessions from this editor. I'm presenting the editors from spring conference in the order of quantity of information, saving the editor with the most for last.

Sarah joined Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint at Harper Collins) six months ago, and is now building her own list. She is "wide open" for middle grade and young adult fiction. Literary, commercial - she wants to see it all.

I did not have a lot from her, so here is a great link to fill that gap. Laura Purdie Salas, a significantly published author, did an interview/workshop a few weeks back with the Institute of Children's Literature on finding markets for your manuscripts. The interview and answers are on-line, and she does such an excellent job of giving some nice basics for market research.

Next time: Joelle Dujardin

Friday, May 22, 2009

Literary Agent Update - Nathan Bransford

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009 update:

I did not attend any sessions that featured Nathan as a speaker, but he did state in the opening panel that he is open to just about anything, except picture books and early readers, and that he'd rather see too much than too little.

For the next two weeks, I will be on vacation sans electric umbilical cord and laptop, but through the wonders of prescheduled posts, there will be two posts per week with information on editors- Sarah Shumway, Joelle Dujardin, Connie Hsu and Krista Marino.

Have a great weekend!

Aloha, A Hui Hou Kakou!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Literary Agent Update - Kelly Sonnack

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009 update:

On cover submissions: "I'm pretty easy." She will read on in an e-mail query to see the writing sample even if the query letter is not catchy- She gives the benefit of the doubt.

It is important to do a two sentence pitch- especially for picture books.

In query letters, if your publishing credits are small, local, not well known, make sure to explain a bit about the work and publisher so she can understand.

If you have no publishing credits, leave that out entirely.

If your book is long, example of a 130,000 word novel, don't tell her that in your cover letter. It usually signals to her that there is a lot of cutting that needs to be done. She said leave it out, and let her fall in love with the work first before letting her find out how long it is.

On the other end of the word count spectrum, she says it is almost impossible to sell a novella right now.

Make sure you give a full sense of the work in your cover letter- don't leave an editor or agent with a cliffhanger in an effort to get them to read a snippet if you are submitting to someone who only goes off of query letters.

She thinks a thirteen-year old protagonist is way too young for a YA novel.

In the last few months, especially with picture book authors, she'll ask to see other picture book manuscripts to see what is in the future for the author.

A short paragraph or sentence about your other works in progress might intrigue her if she likes your writing but the specific work that you submitted is not a fit for her.

Don't panic if you do not have previous publishing credits. A lot of Kelly's authors are debut authors, and for her, it is all about the story- credentials won't guarantee a work will be acquired.

She's interested in graphic novels.

Tomorrow: Nathan Bransford

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Literary Agent Update - Michael Stearns

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009 update:

This guy is pretty funny in person.

(Added 5/22/09 Why eat light when you can have the full meal deal? Make sure you click on the comments so you can see Michael's own helpful cross-ex and redirect on this post.)

Still likes literary novels that have plots. Example - A Northern Light- repped by agent Stephen Malk.

On plot: think of it as complication and follow through, not just in action, but in character.

He can tell quality of writing in two pages.

Take time in building worlds and choosing names of places and characters. Work hard to make them right.

He kind of likes lists (think Bubba in Forrest Gump)- this was quite a surprise to me.

Tomorrow: Kelly Sonnack

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Literary Agent Update - Stephen Malk

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009 update:

Still not looking for new clients.

In a "first pages" session, Stephen told us that he always reads beyond the first page of a manuscript, unless it is clearly something that he does not handle, like an adult book. He wanted to make sure that we were not stuck in "first page mentality".

He mentioned that he tends to not like books that start with dialog, especially in a picture book.

As for alliteration, he thinks you have to go all the way, or use it sparingly.

He loves absurdity (think author/illustrator Adam Rex).

He's thinking that at some point, really short middle grade novels like Frecklejuice will make a come back, but that real/true animal stories will be played-out soon (think Marely and Me).

At least two of his cats were adopted from shelters.

Tomorrow Michael Stearns

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hi from the SCBWI Western Washington Spring Conference

I'll be posting content from my notes for those of you who couldn't make it to the conference, live way too far away (a hearty welcome to my readers in Peru, Spain, Sweden, Israel and India), or even those who were there but just plain missed some of the comments in the sessions today.

Today was only day one, and hoo boy, do I have a pile of great tips and tidbits from and about editors, agents and authors to share with you already!

First things first- congratulations to one of my critique group pals for a winning entry in the joke contest at the conference today- you go, Grumpy Old Man!! You make ASWAAGS proud!

It is going to take me a while to get all this conference information in readable shape, so in the meantime, here are examples of things to come:

-Updates on the literary agents already posted on this blog thus far (Stephen Malk, Michael Stearns, Kelly Sonnack, and Nathan Bransford).

-Notes on editors from the conference

-Great quotes from the presenters

Find out who said s/he really only likes picture books about dead animals, which of the editors used to work for one of the agents, who is young, hungry, and completely weird; who really wants graphic novels; and which venerable children's magazine is now accepting sci-fi in fiction submissions.

Stay tuned!

Monday, May 11, 2009

And here's my card...

Summer conferences for writers are just around the corner. If you have not already, now is the time to ponder creating business cards to keep connected with the people you will meet.

Of course you still need cards even if you are not published! Will that potential critique group pal remember your contact info. if you scribble it on a napkin? What about that person from the first pages session (dream a little dream, here) who wanted to connect you with her agent? How about the guy at lunch who had taken every writing class locally and knew which teachers rock, and which are off their rockers?

You may not have a full brand identity yet (for the moment, mine is rather schizophrenic, and I'm wondering what therapy/medical help/exorcism might help me lock one identity into place), but you can at least start with some basic contact information to hand out to your new writing friends. Or, to your old writing friends who can never remember your blog address -you know who you are...(squint-eyed grin).

Here are some links to help you get started:

An editor's take on writer's business cards:

Business Cards designed for writing professionals at Vista Print:

100 Cards Free from Ooprint:

Go for it!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Free Comic Book Day

Exactly what it sounds like.

No, really:

Saturday, May 2, 2009, support your local independant comic shop and get free loot to boot!