Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big Sur = Big Inspiration

Expressing what I gained from going to the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop is impossible, it would take me pages of this blog and your eyes would explode before you ‘x’ed me out. But to say it was wonderful and worth every penny is an understatement.

Just having a big-time literary agent, not dropping names, YET, say…”This is excellent.” Sent shivers of excitement through me to rival my first time! That’s a bad analogy, my first time was dreadful, let’s say my first time with my ├╝ber, awesome ex-husband. When words of wisdom flowed from her lips like buttery Chardonnay, I was ready to axe the very heads off of my characters to make them fit what she envisioned as the perfect tweaks. And now that I’m making those alterations…OH MY GOD, she was right!

Everyone at the conference brought such a depth of knowledge and approachability to the table, that I never once felt uncomfortable or like a bug under a microscope. My other critique group leader was the awe inspiring Eric J Adams, co-writer and producer of numerous books and movies, one hitting NETFLIX yesterday, December 6, ARCHIE’S FINAL PROJECT. (Please refrain from adding it your DVD cue until I’ve received my copy.) He was funny, honest, has met more celebrities than TMZ, and is way easy to talk to. He talked about his next film starting on January the tenth, the way I’d note my next dentist appointment. Not to mention he built us a fire and even saved me when the smoldering wood tried to attack. Yeah, maybe I developed a wee crush. But you would too, so shut up.

Ellen Hopkins, yes, THE Ellen Hopkins, was amazingly awesome to chat with and it was nothing at all like I imagined eating spinach salad with a two million copies sold NYT Bestseller author would be. Jealous, right? She was so totally chillaxed, I almost offered to pick out the stem stuck in her front teeth for her. I refrained!

I only had one critique partner the snarky queen herself, Gina White, was unable to attend with me.

I could gush and carry on about everyone there, but I won’t, it would make you physically ill that you missed it and I don’t want to be responsible for that. So why are you still reading this? Google, google my friends and sign up for the next one in March 2012.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My India

Today is my daughter’s twenty-fourth birthday and I can’t think of anything else. I’m not a poet but I wanted to say something to her.


Independent and stubborn, you screamed at me coming from the womb; I gave my life for yours.
How I loved you.
Tears streaming, glasses fogged, I closed the door of your classroom.
How I loved you.
Walking on your hands, a year viewed upside down, I worked far too much.
How I loved you.
Cheering with all your heart, I shouted louder than all the moms.
How I loved you.
With a timid wave and a shaky smile you left on a plane, I turned my back and cried.
How I loved you.
Angry with me you packed your bags, I begged you to come back.
How I loved you.
Decorating your dorm you swelled with pride, I drove away in tears.
How I loved you.
Hurting inside and out you blamed me, I accepted the blame.
How I loved you.
Rocking and rolling, you searched for yourself; I watched and waited in despair.
How I loved you.
New schools, new rules, you are searching still; I wait for your return.
How I love you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Third Time... Strike or Charm?

I’m not ignoring my blog, I’ve just been stupid, crazy busy. I have to finish one complete edit of UnAltered by November 4th. The rules of submission, state that the manuscript must be mailed by that magical date and I’m only on 189 of 262 pages.
The good news is that I’ve shaved approximately 4,000 words. The bad news I may have gone a bit heavy on the contractions and once those are fixed….well, you get the gist.

Another exciting news tidbit is the uber YA agent Suzie Townsend has skipped over to the Nancy Coffey Agency and is holding a query contest next Tuesday from 9 am to 10 am, est. Anyone can enter, but wear your rhino skin as she says she’ll be brutally honest. Googling Teflon underwear shops as soon as I'm done here...

Enough excuses. I eliminated a portion of the original query and now have a shorter, more in-yo-face kind of query. Okay, maybe not, but I’m trying to learn how to roll here, be kind.

This is the end product:

Dear Ms. Thang,

According to your website, you are seeking dystopian YA with character driven plots and real emotional power. You may enjoy my novel, UnALTERED.

“Primitive birth, genetically unaltered…mutt.” All names sixteen-year-old Ezra Thibodeaux is grotesquely familiar with. But she only has one goal: be the best Cadet Smith 902 she can be. In other words, assimilate or die. But when the Freedom Fighter’s grandson, Thorne bin Laden sets his targets on her, assimilation becomes the least of her worries.

Raped, pregnant, and selected for survival exercises, she faces the toughest decision of her life. It’s made tougher when fate reunites her with a boy from her past. If she chooses to keep her baby, she must fight her way out of One Globe or die. If she doesn’t, she’ll never have to tell the boy she loves she’s pregnant…with their enemy’s child.

UnALTERED is an 78K word YA dystopian. Per your submission guidelines, I’m including the first ten pages in this email and look forward to sending the remaining manuscript at your request.


So, any more advice or is everyone sick to vomit of this query? I’m kinda feeling that way…

Saturday, October 15, 2011

UnAltered Query Mess Numero Dos

I asked for a critique or ten of my query letter that I’m submitting for the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop and while I didn’t get ten, I did get a couple. Thank you so much Nancy and Gail for your time and assistance.

But instead of that warm, fuzzy ‘problem solved’ feeling, I now feel utterly addled. As a result, I’m going to break it down bit by bit over my next couple of blogs.

As you know by now, I deplore the longwinded; I’ll attempt to be brief.

The beginning of my query, as was posted:

Your website states that you are currently seeking YA, “…character-driven AND page-turning contemporary fiction with real emotional power; dystopian…”

My intention was to prove that I had gone to her website and researched what she is specifically seeking, without repeating her tweets and outing myself as a fangirl.

But one critiquer thinks this is grand faux pas numero uno.

That commenter, a fellow writer with extensive querying experience, stated:

“Unless an agent specifically asks for an introduction, always jump right into the meat of the query. Besides, the agent already knows which genres she reps so you don't have to remind her.”

The other commenter, one-time journalist, poet, children’s writer, etc., had a different idea:


As I’m no expert I went to the expert’s corner…

In my world that’s Chuck Sambuchino’s blog, A Guide to the Literary Agent. All the following quotes are from his immeasurably helpful blog. (Maybe I have a small crush…)

These are a few of those wants and don’t wants in queries:

Molly Glick of Foundry Literary & Media told Chuck: “…No. 3-Proof that you have researched and hand-picked an agent…” (Maybe I will repeat her tweets…)

Janet Reid, the infamous Query Shark, says it a little differently: “…Section Three: 1. Why you chose this agent…” Essentially, keep the intro but put it at the bottom.

She also demands a query letter not surpass 250 words. I’m good there, mine currently is 203.

And I could go on and on, but your eyes are already bleeding and you’ve just scrolled down three-fourths of the page.

This is my current intro:

According to your website, you are currently seeking dystopian YA with character driven plots and real emotional power. You may enjoy my novel, UnALTERED.

So you tell me, do I scrap it or keep it or rework one more time?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Querying We Shall Go

The upcoming writer's workshop at Big Sur requires a writing sample and query letter before I'm officially approved to attend. So, I'm asking your help. I SUCK at writing query letters.

I'm sticking in my current sample and ask for your feedback. Tear it to shreds, spare no blood, please!

Dear Amazing Uber Agent,

Your website states that you are currently seeking YA, “…character-driven AND page-turning contemporary fiction with real emotional power; dystopian…”

They say religion ended the world in a day. It only took 7 hours. And two years later it was banned. So was reproduction.

Primitive birth, genetically unaltered…mutt, 16 year-old Ezra Thibodeaux only has one goal, be the best Cadet Smith 902 she can be. In other words, assimilate or die. But when the Freedom Fighter’s grandson and future One Globe leader, Thorne bin Laden sets his targets on her, assimilation is no longer an option.

Raped, pregnant, and selected for survival exercises, escape becomes her obsession. In a rare twist of fate she’s reunited with a boy from her past and faces the toughest decision of her life. If she chooses to keep her baby, she must fight her way out. She must also tell the boy she loves that she’s pregnant…with their enemy’s child.

UnALTERED is a 82K word YA dystopian. Per your website, I’m including the first ten pages in this email and look forward to sending the remaining manuscript at your request.

Lea McFalls Zeqiri

Lea McFalls Zeqiri
1234 Sunshine Ln.
Dallas, TX 75666
(469) 222-2222 cell
(888) 515-5555 fax

Now, ready, set, my heart out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Big Sur Here I Come!

Big Daddy has agreed to my attending the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop! Yay me!

Of course, he’s insisting on tagging along.

Now we are squabbling on how to pay for it and which package to buy. But thanks to the infinite wisdom of a fellow blogger, I’ve come up with a solution. There may or not be a midnight organ snatch on a certain father-in-law who may or may not be living in foreign lands. Well, financing is in order.

So now my new puzzle…

Which manuscript do I use for the workshop?

My very first novel is a fictional piece set in both and Kosovo and needs massive overhaul. And that’s after 4 full edits. It started at 174K so I’ll let you figure out the ridiculous shape of it. ALKONOST-A TATTOO AWAKENS

My second is a tongue-in-cheek YA with major voice issues. McDRACULA

My third is my NaNoWriMo YA love story from this past November that I’m currently editing and it’s getting kind of cute. BLAZE

But my favorite, which I think is the best I’ve written to date is a YA dystopian that I’m letting simmer. UNCLASSIFIED

Should I start editing the fourth, the dystopian, so that I have something that I love to work on or use the NaNo YA love story which is in a better position editorial wise?

I don’t want to get laughed out of my chair, but I think the dystopian has the most potential overall…

What would you do?

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Conference or Not to Conference

The Big Sur Writer’s Workshop is coming up December 2-4, 2011.
And I’m dying to go.

I had wanted to go the one they held in the spring at Seabreeze/Monterrey, California, but I’d just returned from a month off in Europe and couldn’t justify the funds. I considered on cutting the kid’s stipends but was terrified that would lead them to life of crime or pan handling. Or more truthfully have them making voodoo dolls with my face stuck on them.

So what does that have to do with now, right?

Well, my other half chose the same day to announce his father had overblown our patio renovations on our retirement home by a “Democratic Party” amount and funds are once again tight. Like hairball tight.

This workshop is unique in that you work with three specific faculty members throughout and it includes critiques! I could go on and on but don't want to do an ad here. And these faculty are not your typical ‘Jane Harlequin wrote a dirty book, epubbed herself, and is now going to show you how do it’ authors. These are BIG name YA and children’s writers with several NYT Best Sellers under their frockcoats.


But it’s pricey. The price without airfare and rental car is $720 and that’s sharing an adjoining bathroom with a stranger. It’s an additional $150 if, “…you have a special reason to be private…” Doesn’t that sound like they don’t want you to get your own room? If you want to bring a friend that’s not attending the conference but wants to view the redwoods, well that’s an additional $390. Of course, that includes their meals. Why can’t I just pay the $150 extra and he get his own meals?

So now, my conundrum…

Which organ do I sell to pay for it?

See you in December at the Big Sur Lodge in California!