It’s Pitch Wars! WHOOOOOOOO!!! This year I’m teaming up with my CP and awesome BFF, Brenda Drake! We will be accepting in the YA category and can’t wait to read your beautiful words ;o)
I’m so excited for Pitch Wars this year! I actually joined the party a little late, but I’m so glad my co-mentor Brenda Drake asked me to participate! I’m so proud of my mentee, Whitney Taylor from last year. I had a blast working with her and reading her amazing words. There were many times I uttered the word, “Wow.” I absolutely love her voice and writing and I’m seriously excited that she signed with the wonderful Maria Vicente at P.S. Literary Agency! YAY!
Previous years I worked with more amazing writers. I even had a sister duo! Leah and Kate Rooper were so much fun to work with and their MS JANE UNWRAPPED was just sold to Entangled Teen Crave!! I also had an excellent experience with my very first mentee, Linda Budzinski. You can read our story here. You can also find her awesome novel THE FUNERAL SINGER here!
I’ve been writing for over 9 years in total–3 years in pursuit of publication. I’m going to recycle some of my bio info from last year because it hasn’t changed. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? #clicheoftheday
My writing is represented by the amazing Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. I had the pleasure of meeting her this year and I am incredibly proud and happy to call her my agent. She’s patient, kind, communicative, creative, and just the best.
A little about us (Brenda and me)…
We met during National Novel Writing Month 2010. And I knew instantly that she was a friend for life. Brenda is so talented and smart about her writing and plot choices. She won’t settle for the ordinary and instead pushes for the extraordinary! Which is why I’m so so so happy and lucky to have her be my co-mentor this year!! She knows a lot about world building, description, plot, voice, query writing… I could go on and on. So this year you get both of us! YAY!
My history in publishing…
I began in publishing as an intern for the incredible Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Louise taught me a lot of what I know about the industry and writing/editing. I was also an associate editor at Entangled Publishing where I had the opportunity to work with some amazing authors and editors including the talented Liz Pelletier and Stacy Abrams. I’ve learned a lot over the years about publishing, queries, voice, and most recently, story structure that I’m eager to share with my mentee(s). I’m a blog contributor for the YA Misfits and All the Write Notes. I love the Detroit Lions and University of Michigan football, alternative music, going to concerts, singing, reading, good movies, and playing my guitar (when I can). My spirit animal is Lorelai Gilmore.
What I’d love to see in the YA category… (Brenda too!)
This is always the hardest part for us. The truth is… I don’t know. I know what my tastes are like. I love YA contemporaries, a great sic-fi or thriller. I love stories about football, music, love interests who antagonize each other then fall for each other. DIVERSITY – Multicultural, QUILTBAG, disabilities – physical or mental, whatever you got. There has to be TENSION and STAKES, CONFLICT. A good romance is always fun to read. That doesn’t mean have them kiss on page 14. Have them almost kiss a few times then kiss somewhere around 60% or so, then tear them apart [insert evil laugh]. I want to stay up late reading your story. Torture me. Make me angry at you for not giving me what I want right away. Make me CARE about your characters. MAKE ME LAUGH. I love laughing so if your MC is funny AND has emotional baggage that’s a total win for me. Please no verse or lots of world building. And keep the info dumps in those beautiful brains of yours. Nothing really scares me off except people eating people. Horror – yes, Thriller- yes. Fantasy – yes, Sci-Fi – yes. I do love Dystopian but agents are shying away from it right now, so… unless it breaks the mold completely, I would submit something else. Same for paranormal romance. As I say every year, GREAT WRITING trumps anything I write in this bio.
STILL VALID —> My ideal love interest – Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf (if you’re not watching it, you’re missing out) – Why do I love him? Stiles is goofy, funny, sweet, loyal, smart. He’s kind of the whole package, folks. He makes you love him. Also, throw in some Mr. Darcy and you’ve got a dangerous combo.
My mentoring style…
I’m pretty blunt when it comes to editing. I will say exactly what I think is missing and what I believe will help, even if it’s something that seems ridiculous (like changing your love interest – it happened, ask Linda). This doesn’t mean you need to change anything. Feel free to tell me no. If I strongly believe something will help your story, I will push you to try to think differently. That’s our role–to guide you through this process. Many have pushed me to explore other opportunities in my stories. Sometimes I listened, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I was wrong and ended up changing it later. I will mostly point out big picture stuff; motivations, plot holes, structure issues, character arcs. As I say every year I do Pitch Wars, this will be a partnership. I want to work with you to make your story the best it can be.
Some of my favorite books:
GOING TOO FAR by Jennifer Echols (really, anything by her)
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson (anything by her, but this is my favorite)
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee
THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp
THIS SHATTERED WORLD by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord
THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey
SHUTTER by Courtney Alameda
THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotugno
DEFY by Sara B. Larson
JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta
QUERIES – Read your query and pages out loud. Read it as a reader would on the back of the book. Would you want to read your story? What is it about your story that you like best? Use that.
- Make sure to infuse your voice in your query (as hard as that is), that is what makes them stand out.
- White space is your friend. Push that return button to emphasize an important line or phrase.
- Pay attention to the structure. Don’t forget to tell us what will happen if the MC doesn’t reach their goal! Less is more.
- The only purpose of a query is to get us to READ MORE. That’s it. It’s a sales pitch for your book. You don’t need the kitchen sink.
PAGES – Your first line should introduce your voice as well as the tone of the MS. Make sure you snag us right away. Don’t bog us down in description and info dumps; it’s okay if we don’t know your MC yet, we shouldn’t! Just make them interesting and unique enough that we keep reading.
- Pay attention to the rhythm of the words too. Do they flow? Are there any awkward phrases? Look for sentences that are trying too hard, or repeat the same thing as the line before (I do this a lot).
- Check your dialogue. Does it sound authentic? Do they sound like real people/creatures/robots etc.? Read the lines out loud too.
- Make sure the actions you write are really possible. If you have your MC performing some crazy, flip-turn combo, make sure it’s something they can realistically do–in your world, of course.
- Most of all, don’t censor yourself or think about someone reading it yet. That’s where a lot of writers get hung up. Just let your voice shine.
That’s all I got for now, feel free to find me on twitter @ericamchapman if you have anything specific to ask. I’m thrilled to join the Pitch Wars team for the fourth time! Be sure to check out the awesome agents and my amazing fellow mentors to see what they’re looking for! GOOD LUCK!!!
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Stay cool, rockers!
I hope you’re all having an awesome week so far and enjoying your summer (YAY, SUMMER)! By the way, if any of you got the song reference in the title you have excellent taste in music! Man, it feels like it’s been years since I’ve blogged instead of months. It’s kind of amazing the changes your life can take in just a few months.
I’ll spare the gory details of all the recent changes in my life… but as some of you know I’m still at home recovering from open heart surgery. I’ve had a lot of time to think. A LOT OF TIME.
I know I should be relishing in all this time off. You get to read all day. Write all day. Binge-watch Transparent and Orange is the New Black! HOW AWESOME ARE THESE SHOWS? I already know most of you watch OITNB, but if you haven’t seen Transparent trust me, watch it. SO good. Sorry for the aside, if I go off on any more tangents during this post I’m blaming the anesthesia.
Anyhoo, it’s been all well and good to be off work, but something else happens when you have time to waste, you begin reflecting, on life, on your relationships, on regrets, on your decisions. All of it. And I’ve been on this earth for [redacted because I’m a spy (no, not really.) Or am I?] years. And in those years I never once thought about what negativity had done to me. How I never realized how far it had clawed and carved its way into my mind and soul. How did I find out I was unhappy? Well, recently my grandma remarked about how she hadn’t seen a particular look on my face before. And I realized the expression she was talking about was happy. YES happy. Had I never looked happy around her? And then I realized that maybe I haven’t. Maybe I haven’t looked happy around anyone. Maybe I’d been faking it. And that hit me hard. I had to be happy right? I mean, I felt happy. But the truth was, I wasn’t. And I had no clue. Not until that day with my grandma, not until I had time to think about it.
Not a small task, right? I know you’re asking. How the hell do you do this? Well, I don’t actually know. But I can tell you what I’ve been doing and how it’s made a difference for me.
So to start, I decided to take joy in the small things, like getting a cool new planner to organize with (Erin Condren anyone?), or spending time with my sister and mom, reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in a while. I’ve been researching more about gender identity so I can understand more about YA diversity and improve my writing. I’ve also downloaded Rosetta Stone (Spanish) and have been learning that while I’m off.
The biggest change I’ve made is how I talk to myself. It’s been difficult because it’s almost impossible to get rid of negative thoughts once they’re implanted in your brain, but I’m trying. It helps that through the recent changes in my life I have been able to rid the negativity that once surrounded me. It’s amazing the freedom that comes with expelling the negativity around you whether it be in a person or a situation. I kind of feel re-born. I think that’s the biggest thing that anyone can do to make their lives more positive and maybe find this ever elusive and mysterious happiness that people talk about.
I’m not saying I’m happy all the time, but instead of being more like this…
I’m more like this…
And that is a pretty awesome thing. How about you? What makes you happy?
Song on repeat: “Indifference” by Pearl Jam
Hi Everyone! I’m so excited cause today I get to help reveal my bestie Brenda Drake’s cover for LIBRARY JUMPERS (along with some awesome other people and thanks to YA Bound Book Tours). I remember the first time I read LJ, it was a few years ago and I adored it. To see it become a real book is such an amazing moment. I’m proud and honored to call Brenda my friend and I’m thrilled for the world to read her beautiful words ;o) So let’s get to it!!!
Here we go!!
YAY!! HERE IT IS!!!
(Isn’t it GORGEOUS?)
by Brenda Drake
Release Date: 01/05/16
Summary from Goodreads:
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.
Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.
Cover Reveal Organized by:
I hope everyone is well. So it’s been forever since I’ve blogged. In fact, I checked and I hadn’t posted in 2015 at all. Yes. I am a bad blogger. So I put the call out to twitter on what they’d want to see and I got a tweet from a lovely tweep who suggested I post about the importance of a first line (Thanks, @2000_words. Go follow her!)
Well, to talk about why first lines are important we should probably see some huh? There are some classics that just evoke that special something when read. Like these first lines…
“Call me Ishmael.” — Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, (1851) (Okay, but who are you?)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” — Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, (1813) (Oh, she’s about to tell me why that matters. I need to know.)
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984 by George Orwell, (1949) (Wait, the clocks strike thirteen? How is that possible? I need to know more about that.)
What do these have in common? Besides the fact that they’ve stood the test of time? They make you wonder what happens next, right? That’s what a good first line should do. Set the tone with your character’s voice.
Oh, is that all? So how do you do that?
Well, I can only offer my opinion on it, but I think basically just talk to the reader. What do you want them to know about your character? Notice I said character and not story. I truly believe that in order for a first line to have an impact it has to be personal in some way. We have to care about the character and what is about to affect them to move on to the next line.
Since I’m a YA writer, I chose a few YA first lines that do just that.
“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.” –The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (This series, you guys. So good. If you could stop after reading this first line you are a stronger human than I.)
“Here’s everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge.” – Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (I love this book so much. If you ever want to know about what voice is, read this book, really any of hers.)
“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.” The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (John Green just knows how to do it. His voice is unique and keeps us turning the pages)
“My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die. I counted.” Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (This book is a favorite of mine for so many reasons. This line is just the beginning of the emotional torture of this story.)
One example that I love that is all about the story is this one. We may not know who’s talking to us but just the idea of what is happening is enough to move us forward.
“It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since scientists perfected a cure.” Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Why does this resonate? Because it hits a cord. Love is universal and the idea of it being a disease? Yeah, I’d want to know more…)
Honestly, I think there’s a lot of pressure on the first line. It is important but if you make the reader interested in reading the line after that, then you’ve done your job. Another thing all these books have in common is they are excellent from the first line to the last. First lines matter the most when they are followed by better lines. Now, why are you reading this post? Get back in that seat and write the next great novel ;o)
What are some of your favorite first lines?
Have a great Sunday!
Hope you’re all having a great week! I wasn’t sure how to start this post except to be honest about what I’ve been going through. A lot has been on my mind and I’ve felt a bit out of sorts lately. I’ve been having fun writing NaNo this month when I’m not binge-watching Supernatural. How adorable are Sammy and Dean?? Anyhoo. Time to get serious. Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts where I pour my heart (ha ha. you’ll see) out in an attempt to either help someone going through something similar or just to share a part of me with you.
So… I’m going to have open heart surgery again either in December or January to replace my valve. So, pretty soon. I had this same surgery 6 years ago and thought my valve would last longer, but it didn’t. And that’s life, right? At first, I was kind of living in denial, hoping my symptoms were my imagination or something else. I was (am) extremely short of breath and can’t really walk long distances. I had no idea how bad it was until I went to the mall with my sister after a concert last month and I couldn’t walk the mall and had to sit down because I felt like my legs would give out.
It sucks to have to admit you’re weak and that you can’t do something. I’m stubborn and I don’t want to feel like this. My cardiologist recently offered a handicapped sticker to me and I was shocked. Me? I don’t need that. The first thing that popped in my head was that I was too young for that, and if I was to accept it and someone saw me, they would think… what is that healthy young girl doing taking up a handicapped spot. I know. I know, that doesn’t matter cause truly I am on the verge of a major surgery and I have earned that sticker, but it’s almost like if I took it I would be admitting weakness, and I’m not weak. I’ve already been through this 6 years ago. I can do it again, right?
But, weakness is sneaky. It leads you into believing you can’t do something. It casts shadows of doubt all around you until you can’t imagine anything else good. Until you’ve convinced yourself it’s right. You are weak.
I never knew what a panic attack was until recently. I’ve always had a problem with the unknown. And waiting around to find out if my heart valve was failing or something worse was torture. I’ve had attacks before but didn’t have a name for them. I didn’t want to admit that either.
I wasn’t weak, remember?
So my heart would start pumping fast, I would get hot, and nothing, and I mean nothing, felt familiar anymore. I couldn’t breathe or get calm. I had convinced myself I was going to die in my sleep. That my heart would go out and I wouldn’t be able to get to the hospital on time. As irrational of a thought that was, it was ALL I could think about. I kept thinking I would be okay if I did die in my sleep. I’ve had a good life. And in a small way, that would comfort me. When that didn’t work (which was almost always), I took a Benadryl and listened to this cool rain app on my phone. Now, I have a bottle of something that helps more, but I haven’t taken one pill yet, because again, I’m not weak. Yes, I know this is all bullshit and if I needed it there is no shame in taking that pill, and you know, I probably would take it. If it made me feel better. Why suffer, right?
I thought I was weak. All those attacks, all those moments. But really, I’m strong–because of those moments. I made it through and I’m okay. I’m facing my surgery head-on and I’m going to conquer it because I want to feel better. Because the alternative is giving up and letting weakness win. And that’s not me. I’m a survivor.