Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Power of Books and Youth

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle

For most people who are avid readers/writers there is usually one moment in time that sticks out to them. A moment where a book changed how they saw the world. Changed how they thought about themselves. And this can be especially powerful when we are young.

For me, there have been a lot of world altering books, but I think one of the most striking was The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I read The Giver in seventh grade and it was my first real exposure to a dystopian future. I had already fallen in love with fantasy and science fiction, but there was something much more visceral about the world Lowry created. It was new. It was terrifying. It could happen.

And that is what I love the most about dystopias. There is an element of truth and that's what makes the story truly chilling. The possibility. 

Since that time, I have read many dystopias. From Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. There are many levels of verisimilitude, and, for me, the more realistic the better. That's why I've decided to tackle to the current problem of corporate personhood/deregulation in my book. By extrapolating the themes that I've observed in today's society I hope to create a new and terrifying and possible future. 

What book changed the way you thought about the world?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Write Wherever You Are

Where am I? In a hotel room a long ways away from my desk. My writing teacher, William Bernhardt, emphasizes the importance of writing every day. He also stresses the dangers of rituals. Writing rituals that is.  It's not good to require too many specifics in order to write. 

For instance. "I can't write without . . . ." I can't write without a hot cup of coffee/tea. I can't write unless I'm at my own desk. I can't write without my super special writing cat (though I do miss my cat). Et cetera. 

As a writer, it's best to be able to write wherever you are. These rituals can devolve into nothing more than excuses for not writing. And as a life long practitioner of the procrastination arts, that's all too easy for me. So here I am in a hotel room writing a blog instead of working on my book.

Tell me, how do you get in the mood to write?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Pitch

I hadn't planned on pitching to an agent. My word count is just under 30,000 words and I only have about a third of the book finished. So how did this happen? I got suckered into pitching. It's okay that your book isn't finished, they said. It'll be good practice, they said. So I signed up. 

At this point, I'd done absolutely no research on the agent. I had a vague idea of what she was interested in, but one of my friends who was assigned to escort the agent around told me she wasn't interested in science fiction. Now, my book isn't exactly science fiction. It's a near-future dystopia, which as a genre, is often lumped into the overarching field of sci-fi. So that's one mark against me. 

Luckily, the agent whom I'd signed up to speak with was giving a talk on pitching. It was a two day conference and my appointment wasn't until Sunday. So I went to her talk, which focused mainly on query letters, and learned that she did, in fact, once choose to represent a first time young adult author who had not yet finished the book when she got it. She went on to say that she absolutely would not do that again. Another mark against me. 

At this point, I'd pretty much given up any hope of her being interested in my manuscript. Yes, that may have been a little premature, but I'm not exactly a glass-half-full type of girl. So that night, after a brief celebration for winning an Honorable Mention in the conference's contest, category: poetry, I did some googling. Turns out, this agent does mostly nonfiction, including a lot of economics, financial-crisis, dangers of corrupt capitalism stuff. And, while my book is fiction, that fits in with the theme of my world in which corporations have supplanted government as the ruling authorities. So +1 for me. Then I read something that gave me hope. "Interested in dark, issue-oriented young adult fiction." 

I wrote my pitch and memorized it (which wasn't too painful). The next day, I was a nervous wreck. My mom was pitching at the same time, but to a different agent and she seemed much more calm about the whole thing. Of course she's already pitched to a couple of editors and had a request from TOR Publishing for the first 50 pages of her book. Me? I was falling apart at the seams. 

So after waiting nervously in the hall, I was called into the room. The agent was young, probably late twenties/early thirties and seemed friendly enough. I made it through my pitch without stumbling too badly. Because this conference is relatively small, we were given an unprecedented 10 minutes with the agents. My pitch only took two or three minutes which left a lot of time for feedback. The first piece of feedback she gave me? Publishers aren't interested in dystopias anymore. Seems they flooded the market after the success of the Hunger Games and now they are seriously backing off. My small bubble of hope evaporated. 

HOWEVER, she continued, she personally loves dystopias and the fact that mine is a metaphor for the current issues swirling around the U.S. with Citizens United and the push for deregulation, she thought my book could prove worthwhile. <insert extreme adrenaline rush here> She asks me to send the whole manuscript to her as soon as it is finished. 

So, with a time frame of two months and two thirds of the book left to finish, it's time to get to work. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Novel In Two Months

I recently attended a writer's conference in Midwest City where something both terrifying and exciting happened. A literary agent requested my manuscript. So what's the problem? It's not finished yet.

At the same conference, the importance of a blog and connecting to a community of writers and readers was discussed, so here I am. Writing a blog. I plan on documenting my trials and tribulations as I try to get my novel finished by the end of November/beginning of December (and by finished I mean first draft AND revisions) and sent off to a big time literary agent in New York City.

So I've got a lot of work ahead of me and this may have been the worst possible time to become addicted to Dr. Who (which I had, until recently, avoided)

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted.