Posted on 2 Comments

Part III- What is Our Faculty Looking Forward To?

For the last two Thursdays, we’ve been hearing what our team and attendees are looking forward to at the 2019 Conference. Today we hear from some of our faculty. For more information about each one of these workshop leaders, please consult our Faculty page.

Tessa Emily Hall, Author and Associate Agent Hartline Literary Agency

Since I began attending this conference as a teen writer, Write2Ignite holds a special place in my heart! Every year I look forward to returning to this campus, which is cozied in the mountains, and being surrounded by people who share my passion for writing for the youth. I am always shocked at how much this conference can pack into these two days—inspirational keynotes, informative workshops, encouraging meetings with professionals, and more. This year, I especially look forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. And, of course, hearing from the social media expert, Edie Melson! If I have a chance to glean from the other sessions, I would love to hear Daniel Blackaby’s workshop, “Tolkein, Lewis, and Christian Imagination,” as well as Tony Snipes’ workshop on jumpstarting your writing business. But it looks like I wouldn’t go wrong with attending any of these workshops! 

Lori Hatcher, Author and Editor of Reach Out Colombia 

So many kind people have shared their knowledge with me over the course of my writing journey. What I’m most looking forward to is sharing some of the tips and tricks of the trade I’ve learned with others so they don’t have to figure it out on their own. I love helping writers polish their writing, so the 15-minute critique times are always fun. I get to read what others are writing and (hopefully) add some sparkle or shine.

Edie Melson, Author and Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference

I call it eavesdropping on God. Because I’m part of the faculty, I get to hear some of what God’s doing in ways others don’t. It’s so encouraging to see the care our Heavenly Father takes with each dream and calling. I also look forward to “geeking out” on technical discussions of grammar, publishing and the writing craft!

Jean Hall, Picture Book Author and Blogger

I’m looking forward to spending time with old writing friends and making new ones. I’m also excited to help attendees hone their skills at writing picture books. I relish every opportunity to teach people about something I love as much as creating picture books.

Kim Peterson, Writer, Freelance Editor, Writing Mentor

I am looking forward to meeting aspiring writers and helping them find answers to their questions about writing. I also enjoy seeing how their ideas develop and their writing skills grow during the conference as they learn new techniques and they make new writing friends. I also enjoy hearing from returning conferees. Many share how God provided a great contact for them, or they’ve sold an article, or their new picture book or novel is now in print. I love rejoicing with them!

Kenzi Nevins, Junior Agent at C.Y.L.E

I’m super excited to talk about this exciting and constantly-growing industry I’m so passionate about, as well as hear pitches from some amazing writers and illustrators! I love spreading awareness about the illustration industry and some of the changes in it in regard to publishing. Also, I adore hearing about people’s books! Whether it’s the genre I represent or not, I’d love to talk to you and help you figure out what your next steps are. 

Terri Kelly, Author

On Friday, what sounds fascinating to me is Tony Snipe’s talk on five things he learned in corporate America. Who doesn’t want to learn how to jumpstart their writing business?

Since I’ve written strictly non-fiction, I want to hear all about how to deepen your Middle Grade/YA Novel from Kim Peterson. I’m ready to dip my toe into fiction for kids.

And of course, Jean Hall’s going to give me everything I need to know about writing picture books for children in her class on Saturday afternoon. I expect I’ll be ready to pen a picture book as soon as Write2Ignite is over.

Can’t wait to go! How about you?

Linda Phillips

I have heard about W2I conference for years, especially through the eyes of good friends Carol Baldwin, Jean Matthews Hall and Donna Earnhardt. Now I finally have the opportunity to experience it myself and I am totally excited!  I agree with Carol’s assessment that this conference exudes “encouragement and helpfulness” and I hope my contribution, “Using Verse to Get to the Heart of Your Story” fits into those themes.  I am enjoying learning about the wonderful staff, and can’t wait to meet Deborah, Diane, Gail and Brenda. I always come away from conferences with new insights, great inspirations, and a host of new friends. I know this conference will offer all of that and more, and I can’t wait!

Vijaya Bodach

I am so excited there are times I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin. What am I looking forward to? In a nutshell:
catching up with old friends, making new ones, soaking up all the goodness, learning from you all, and sharing what I know generously.
What a grace-filled weekend it’s going to be with my fellow Christian soldiers!

God bless, Vijaya

Steve Hutson

Fellowship with my tribe. And if I should find a kindred spirit to work with? Even better.

 

 

 

 

Posted on 14 Comments

How To Find an Agent:  Six Questions for Picture Book Writers

As an aspiring picture book author, I had high hopes for breaking into children’s publishing. I worked on my craft, joined a critique group, revised and polished my picture book manuscripts, then sent them off to publishers, hoping my dream would soon be reality. That’s when I encountered two seemingly impossible hurdles: the slush pile and, worse yet, the wall – you know the one I mean – the one that has this sign posted: “Open to Agented Submissions Only”.  So, after two years of submitting  picture book manuscripts unsuccessfully, I decided it was time to seek an agent. That search took over a year, but finally, with an agent representing me, I sold my first book, then three more, all acquired by top-notch publishers. What made the difference?  Having an agent. Taking that step, however, required thought. Here are six questions to get you started.

Question  #1: Am I ready for an agent?

Newer writers sometimes seek representation prematurely, so my first bit of advice is to make sure that the manuscripts you are presenting reflect your very best work and clearly demonstrate an understanding of your form. For example, it should be clear from your picture book manuscript that you understand that the story needs to be told in 14 spreads and that the text needs to leave room for the illustrations. Your text should be so smooth and tight and full of heart, that it will be clear to prospective agents that you’ve spent a lot of time revising and polishing. Finally, an agent is not going to be interested in just one picture manuscript.  They will want to see a body of work. So make sure, before sending that first story to an agent, that you have a whole portfolio of at least five solid stories that are ready to be seen.

Question #2: Are you sure you want an agent?

How can you be sure that you want and/or need an agent? Here are a few considerations: 1) If you intend to self publish, you do not need an agent. 2)If you are primarily interested in publishing for the children’s magazine market, you do not need an agent as most children’s literature agents are interested in representing book-length projects.  3) There are still a few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, so it is possible to submit on your own.  4) However, if you are serious about publishing with a traditional publisher and want the expertise of someone who not only knows the market, but also has the skill to negotiate a contract to get the best terms possible, and who also has many contacts within the industry to help connect you with the right editor, then I would recommend that yes, you might want an agent. That is what I decided was best for me.  

Question #3:  What kind of agent do I want?

Once you decide you want an agent, the next consideration is what kind of agent you want. Some agents, for example, are highly editorial. Is that something you are interested in or would you prefer an agent who sends out your work without that editorial stage? Different agents also have different philosophies regarding submissions.  Some prefer to send pieces out one at a time in small batches.  Others send larger batches. And what is their procedure for following up on pieces they have submitted?  Most important, what would YOU like from an agent?  These are all questions to consider before starting your search.  You might even take the time to create a list/chart of what you are looking for in an agent, so that when you start your search you can keep track of which agents fit those requirements. 

Question #4:  How do I start my search?  

I started my search for an agent by doing a little investigating to see which agents and agencies my favorite authors were represented by. Then I went to those agencies websites and read through every bio of every agent, making notes as to which agents I thought might be interested in my work.  I also signed up for my local SCBWI’s annual conference and made a special effort to meet each agent there, not to foist my work on them, but just so I could get a sense of what they were like.  I also looked online for interviews with prospective agents.  A fantastic resource for that is Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, which includes a page with links to dozens of agent interviews. Finally, once you are ready to query your list of agents, go back to each agent’s website and follow the submission guidelines EXACTLY. Then, be patient…. This journey is not for those who are in a rush.=)

Question #5 How do I know the agent I am querying is legit?

Unfortunately there are some scammers out there hoping to offer representation to gullible writers. To avoid finding yourself in unwanted situation with a questionable agent, it’s helpful to know a few things.  Legitimate agents will not charge you to read your manuscript, nor will they demand any upfront costs.  They will not charge editing fees, nor will they submit your work to publishers that charge fees.  For more details on this important understanding, I recommend you check out an expert source called Authors Beware, managed and run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This, in my opinion, is a must read before beginning your agent search.

Question #6:  What do I do when I get the offer?

Most likely an offer will be preceded by a phone call.  This pre-arranged phone chat is a chance for you and the agent to connect live.  It’s your chance to make sure your are both on the same page and can communicate easily.  It’s also your chance to get to know them a little bit better and to make sure they will represent you in the way you want.  (Remember they are working for you, and you are benefitting from their expertise and connections.) So, before “the call”, as it is excitedly known, go back to that list you generated (see question #3) and create a list of questions that you want to ask during the call.  If the call indeed ends with an offer, be excited, but also keep your wits about you.  Make sure that before signing the contract with your new agent that you read the fine print carefully and ask any final questions that you want answered.  Once you’ve signed, have a little celebratory chocolate (or whatever)!  Then be ready for the next step… going out on submission as an agented writer!
 
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of four picture books: GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a 2015 Christian Book Award® finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories and won First Honors in the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award, and her newest release LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).
Find Laura on the web:
Posted on 3 Comments

The Dreaded Elevator Pitch

elevator buttons

When I worked as a Human Resources executive, one of my responsibilities was to offer outplacement training—a fancy term for helping people who lost their jobs find new employment. Outplacement training included creating a resume, polishing interview skills, and developing an elevator pitch.

The elevator pitch is something writers need as well. A pitch is a summary of your book project and information about why a publisher or agent should be interested.

What does an elevator have to do with a pitch? A typical elevator ride lasts twenty to thirty seconds before someone exits. An elevator pitch should be concise enough to include all your pertinent information in under thirty seconds.

Why does a pitch need to be this brief? Consider the opportunities you may have to meet editors and agents at a writer’s conference, such as the Write2Ignite Conference in March. You might meet an agent while waiting on line in the cafeteria. Or you may sit next to an editor at a meal. What do you say when they ask you to describe your project?

You have less than a minute to hook them before someone else comes along with a question, a comment, or a pitch of their own.

What do you include? An effective pitch will include your story as well as why and how it differs from similar published projects. What makes your project unique? Why should the publisher invest in your book? What is the reader’s take-away?

What should you not include in your pitch? Don’t include clichés or exaggerated claims of grandeur (e.g., “This is the next Harry Potter series!”). Don’t make financial demands (e.g., “This is so good that I require a minimum advance of $10,000!”). Don’t cite reviews by family members (e.g., “My mother loved it!”).

Know the person to whom you’re pitching. Does the agent represent fiction or nonfiction? Does the editor publish only Young Adult projects? Don’t waste your time and theirs by pitching a picture book if the editor specializes in middle grade curriculum.

Practice your elevator pitch until you can communicate it naturally and confidently. And be prepared to provide additional information—such as a complete book proposal—when asked!