Agent Acquired!

Hello everybody. Long time no see. I doubt anyone’s been languishing at my sorry lack of posts, considering the world bursting into flames and all, but I need to get away from Twitter-space and I’m still not done processing the whole procedure, so what the hell – I’ve got an agent! A real literary agent with an agency and a track record and great ideas for my book and stuff!

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I’ve blabbered a little bit about my novel before, so I thought I’d skip that blabber and go straight to the blabber about my querying experience. There were things I did that, in hindsight, were an excellent idea and I would recommend to queriers. And things I did that were definitely not so excellent.

I actually started my querying process by entering contests. The first five pages contest and the first line contest, held by Adventures in YA Publishing, helped me hone my work on a detailed basis and got me in the door with a couple of agents. PitchWars got me fantastic feedback from amazing people, and PitchSlam did the same – and put me into contact with the inestimable Kurestin Armada, who now represents me. Contests are ways to connect with other writers and get honest, helpful feedback about your work. Every contest I entered, I got some kind of feedback from at least one of the judges, even if I didn’t ‘win’ or ‘place’ or even make it past the first round. I would heartily recommend that  queriers start with contests to help make their submission material shine. Other authors have also found critique partners through contests – so you never know what you’ll get out of it!

After PitchSlam finished at the end of September, I started querying in earnest. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea, but I sent out a query a day. No, I don’t recommend this. It’s kind of a dumb idea. I never got a breather or the chance to analyse what worked or didn’t work about my submission materials. I researched all prospective agents in advance, and again before sending off their query, but it proved to be a big time sink and I was kind of burned out by December. I also made some dumb mistakes – I put in the wrong agent’s name at one point! – and that’s something to keep in mind, too. Maybe if I’d slowed down, I’d have caught the error. It’s important to send out queries on our schedules and not any one agent’s, but maybe not like this.

I never knew how I’d feel about an agent’s reply until I got it. Requests for more material always made me ecstatic, of course, and usually I could take rejections on requested material with optimism and a healthy dose of perspective. Form rejections sometimes stung me, especially when I queried agents who had a manuscript wish list that included my exact novel concept. Many agents say that a rejection has less to do with the author than the agent. Maybe they just don’t connect with the writing, or can’t bear to ask for more work when they’ve got a lot piling up already. That was what I tried to focus on as I prepared the next query, and the next, and the next.

Some people will say that the opposite of love is indifference; I think that’s why some form rejections (or no responses) hit writers so hard.

I thought the hard part of my journey would be over once I got an offer of representation. Other stories of querying and representation that I read made everything seem so simple, like I’d get some lightning bolt when the right agent called. That so not happened. I got multiple offers of representation, all from agents that I would have been ecstatic to say represented me.

To any agents that might read this, y’all are a classy bunch. I never had an unpleasant interaction with any agent at any point in the process, and trying to choose a first among equals left my head spinning more than once. But when I got a chance to settle down and think things through, point by point, Kurestin shared my vision for the book and suggested revisions that filled me with energy and enthusiasm. I’m stoked to have signed with her and I can’t wait to share the rest of the journey – just as soon as it happens!

 

 

 

Pitch Wars: #Pimp my Bio

Hello beautiful people. It’s Pitch Wars time. I’ll be entering this year with my YA fantasy, Night Witches. And as part of the Pimp My Bio program, I humbly offer this blog post for your amusement.

night witches cover7
My mock cover. Cover art from  left to right: Wild Blue Yonder by ALAMOSCOUT6, Dragon 01 by totmoartsstudio2, and The Serious Pilot by *Sanchiko. All images scoured from the land of Pinterest.

First things first – thanks so much to Lana Pattinson for arranging the mentee blog hop. All the mentees and their enviably fabulous bios can be found here.

Let’s do this thing.

 

Hullo.

I’m Claire. I’m a U.S. citizen living in Copenhagen, and I make my living telling stories as a tour guide. I live just outside of the city with my tall Danish husband. As our apartment building does not allow pets, we often make ridiculous cat noises at each other to fill the void. There are no ridiculous cat noises in my novel. Make of that what you will.

Some things about me:

  1. I left the US ten years ago and I haven’t lived there since (though I’ve visited my family often)
  2. I can read 4 out of 5 phases of the Ancient Egyptian language. Yes, hieroglyphs. I also speak Danish. Useful languages are for suckers.
  3. DC over Marvel. Sorry, but comic book Batman and the Sandman stole my heart when I was 16.
  4. Having said that, my favorite television show is Agent Carter. Still bitter over its cancellation.
And to make matters worse, it’s not even in the top ten for crappy newsflashes this year.

What I like to write:

  1. Fantasy. Particularly with some historical influence (not historical fantasy like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, as much as I love it, but history-inspired fantasy a lot like the work of Guy Gavriel Kay). I have very rarely written anything not fantasy.
  2. YA. I love the rawness that comes with YA. I don’t write YA exclusively but from the time I was about 8 to now, it’s been the section I gravitate toward in the bookstore.
  3. 3rd person, past tense. Nothing’s wrong with 1st person present tense, but I feel like 3rd person is missing some love in the YA section right now.

My recent favorites:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  4. Star-touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The best compliment my manuscript ever received was during the 1st 5 pages workshop for June, in which it was called a cross between Code Name Verity and the Grisha series. Yassssssssss!

My work here is done. Actually…no.

So…what will I bring to the table?

As your mentee, I will:

  1. Provide you with a polished manuscript. It’s been through 4 CPs so far. This doesn’t mean that I think it’s perfect! But it’s not a first draft anymore.
  2. Work hard. I am a borderline workaholic, and I want to make writing my full-time job. That’s only going to happen if I go for it, and go for it now. Give me an assignment and deadline, and it’ll be back in your inbox before the due date.
  3. Be clear with my goals and reasons. If I’ve done something in my MS and you don’t think it works, I will want to chat with you about what I was trying to do and how I can achieve that in a better way. But, at the same time, I will…
  4. Be willing to change. I’m not here for validation. This might sound arrogant, but I already know I’m good. I also know that I can be better, and that’s why I’m here. At the same time, I will…
  5. Be open to any and all criticism and feedback. I don’t care if it’s tough love. I don’t care if it’s just tough. If you’re working hard to make me a better writer, I’m so grateful and I respect your dedication. I want your honest input, no matter what form that takes.
  6. Work on a lifelong friendship with you. I want to engage in the writing community and I want to be in this for the long haul. I want to chat with you about the Princess Bride, Mulan (many Disney films actually, but Mulan more than most), writing troubles, awesome novels by beautiful people, and, of course, Agent Carter. And other things. But those things are always a good starting point.

 

Still with me?

You may enjoy my manuscript if you like the following:

  1. The story of the actual Night Witches. (Haven’t heard of them yet? You’re welcome.)
  2. High fantasy/dieselpunk YA
  3. Strong female characters
  4. Heavy focus on female friendships
  5. Little to no romance. Like blink-and-you’ll-miss-it romance.

 

I don’t have a reason for including this. Other than it was an awesome opening scene.

If you’re a mentor and you got this far, then I hope you read something you liked. I’m on the twits at bartlebett if you have any questions or comments. Or you can immortalize them here.

And remember the amazing other potential mentees, linked at the top of the blog!

SFFpit – a recap

June 15th: Shit shit SHIT there’s something called #SFFpit and it’s happening NEXT WEEK. I can’t do it. I’m going to do it. I’m not ready to do it. I’M GOING TO DO IT.

June 18th: Dear every writer I know – want to swap twitter pitches?

June 19th-20th: *crickets*

June 21st: Okay, no one is interested, I guess I’ll go back to being a failure at life WAIT WAIT SHIT PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED.

June 22nd: *frantically trades pitches* Ha! I totally know what I’m doing. Dammit, I’m a total failure. Why are these people so much more awesome than meeeeeee

June 23rd, 4am EST: Dum de dee, I’ll just tweetdeck all my tweets so that they activate at the right time. Then I can go about my day and be all productive.

June 23rd, 6am EST: Did it wrong. I’m going to adjust all my tweetdeck tweets.

June 23rd, 6:30am EST: Did it wrong. I’m going to adjust them back.

June 23rd, 7:25am EST: Did it wrong – you know what, I’m just going to take a walk.

June 23rd, 8am EST: THE FALCON HAS LEFT THE NEST. THE EAGLE HAS LEFT THE EYRIE. WHY AM I SAYING THESE THINGS.

June 23rd, 8:08am EST: A HEART, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE A HEART. I’M GOING TO GET ALL THE HEARTS.

June 23rd, the next 7 hours and 52 minutes: *crickets. No productivity is accomplished. Computer monitor is watched like a bucketful of roaches on the verge of tipping.*

June 24th: I got me a heart and it is MADE OF AWESOME.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how my SFFpit went. For anyone left out in the cold, take a look here.

 

I’m in the 1st 5 pages workshop

I was super excited to get into YA Publishing Adventures’ 1st 5 pages workshop. The idea is that five writers submit the first five pages of a YA manuscript, each of which is critiqued not just by the other participants, but by mentors that have experience in the field.  Over the course of 3 weeks we revise and resubmit our pages, finishing with a pitch and the first five pages which are submitted to a literary agent.

The workshop is free and takes place once a month, but there were only five spaces available so as soon as I read about it I knew I’d have to be fast.

I prepared the application the night before, and made sure that everything was just as I’d been instructed. I read and re-read the instructions, sent the email to myself to make sure everything would be fine, and queued up the final application in my saved drafts to be sent out as soon as the submission window opened the next day.

The window usually closes in under a minute, so I set my alarm to three minutes to noon. I watched the clock obsessively until it ticked over to the hour. But I still wasn’t sure I’d get it, not until the email confirmation.

I’m most excited to see what critiques of the first five pages will tell me about the rest of my writing. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of good intel that I can apply to the whole manuscript.

Anyone can follow along with the workshop, so if you’re wondering if it’s something for you, go take a look! You might want to submit for next month!

April Submissions

Number of submissions sent in April: 2. 1 rejected and sent again, 1 written and sent for the first time.
Number of pieces on submission: 4
Number of pieces rejected: 2. 1 form, 1 very helpful rejection. I’m working with the feedback on the 2nd to improve the story and send it again.

The rough draft of my novel is finished, which means it’s time to move into edits. I have a tight deadline with my critique group so I’ve been slaving away in the train on my way to work.

March Submissions

Not so much to report on the Submissions this round. This is both good and bad.

Number of submissions sent in March: 0. I suck.
Number of pieces on submission: 4
Number of pieces rejected: 1.

The rejection actually came from a work for hire project. The people with whom I was negotiating are absolutely lovely, and said 1) that they simply didn’t feel I was right for the project and 2) they would like to keep me around to audition for another project. Of course, I’ve told applicants at my place of work that we’ll keep their applications on file, too. Maybe this is karma coming back to kick me.

At the end of the day, all a rejection means is that it’s a rejection. This is what drives writers up the wall, really.

The four submissions out have been out since December/January. My general rule is that the longer a submission has been out, the farther up the ladder it’s gotten. One piece has been shortlisted (hooray!).

 

 

February’s Submissions

This has been a fairly quiet month. I got one submission out, mainly because the glut of work I did in November and December got sent out in January. I’ve also been working on the novel. I think it’s going well. Additionally, I’m participating in a YA novel workshop – so I also spent a large chunk of February reading a fellow participant’s novel and making comments.

For anyone interested in statistics, this means I’ve got four pieces out – three from January and one from February. I haven’t gotten a reply to any of my January pieces yet. That’s a good thing. From my (limited) experience with short story submissions, the longer you wait for a reply, the further up the queue your story has managed to get.

I’ve also been invited to submit to a few projects, which has me super excited. I won’t go into detail on them until and unless I get locked in to them. But it’s a beautiful feeling to be contacted by an editor!

Sci Phi Journal

Sci Phi Journal

I’m always looking for new places to submit work, and recently I came across Sci Phi Journal in the bowels of Duotrope (which is a beautiful tool to help fledgling authors submit). I thought I’d try for it.

Of course, a lot of science fiction and philosophy go hand in hand. Science fiction often takes a philosophy or concept to an extreme, and it’s this factor of Science Fiction that is most appealing to me. I often wish Fantasy did a little more of this.

Another cool thing about the journal is that they emphasize the philosophical element. They have a ‘food for thought’ section at the end of each story, that teases out the philosophical elements and gives us, well, things to think about. I like this concept.

The site is also well laid out and easy to navigate, so you can check out all different parts of it. You can even get a taste of what you’ll be paying for from the ‘Free Stories’ page.

Sci Phi Journal operates via funding from Patreon, so if you’re interested you can always check it out.

As for me, I’m about to submit. Wish me luck!