Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Check In

Heyo! I hope everyone is having a fantastic holiday season. There's nothing more exciting than all the frenzy and finality December can bring. 

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at home in Baltimore with my family. Not only did I spend lots of time with my favorite cousin, Sara and her new husband, but we threw her a baby shower (in which I promised her a blog mention). Our cousin Crystal made all the food, which included bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, meatballs cooked in grape jelly (is this a Maryland thing or does everyone make this?) and a pretty epic cake. 

My reading has slowed down considerably, only because things have been so busy. However, if you're looking for something new to pick up, consider:

ALL AMERICAN BOYS, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily. A duel-narrative of two American teenagers--one white and one black--and how police brutality affects their lives.

THE BOSTON GIRL, by Anita Diamant. Follows the life of a young woman born in 1900 to Jewish immigrants in Boston and touches on pieces of history I hadn't read much about before: World War I, the flu of 1918, and the Minnesota orphan train.

THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY, by Stephanie Oakes. A story about a girl who escapes from her Kevinian cult at the price of both her hands.

Lastly, and most sadly, we lost our sweet pup this month. Nelly was my trusted cocker spaniel for the last fourteen years. I've owned her my entire adult life and she's spent many nights sleeping under my desk while I wrote stories and blog posts and query letters. To be honest, I'm not sure what to do with the hole she's left by my side. While I figure it out, I hope this year brings a bit of peace and some healing. And I hope it brings you joy and love.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Agents Like Us - Caitie Flum

This week Caitie Flum from Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency stops by to chat agenting secrets, clients, and life with us.

She is looking for commercial and up market fiction, middle grade, young adult, and new adult, as well as nonfiction. You can learn more about Caitie here, find her submission guidelines there, and follow her on Twitter @CaitieF. Her answers are below in bold.

Caitie on Agenting

  • When writers query me, I really wish that authors would would follow my guidelines. About a third do not. I also really wish authors would have someone read their query who does not know their book at all. Sometimes it is confusing and the author or their beta reader is too close to it. Make sure it makes sense!
  • My favorite part about being an agent is authors! I love authors, that is why I do this. I love working with authors, fighting for authors, and having that partnership. 
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is a voice I adore. If I don't like the voice enough, I can't be the champion for it.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I make sure the author celebrates and is properly excited. I also have some champagne. 
  • I really wish I saw more mysteries in the slush for all age groups. A good mystery is timeless.
Caitie On Clients
  • My ideal client would be someone who wants to be a long-term writer, someone who will grow and improve with every book. 
  • What I love most about my current clientele is they are enormously talented, incredibly kind, work really hard, and are just the loveliest people ever. 
  • What I want most for any client is whatever is best for them, whether that is a print deal, digital, or some combination. I want them to be happy and feel supported and to know that I have their back. I want them to have the career that they want and will do everything in my power to make it happen.
Caitie On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be working somewhere else in publishing or maybe in a library? I can't imagine doing anything else. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is I just finished ILLUMINAE by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (had to change the billing since Jay is always second because of the alphabet) and it was AMAZING. Best book I read this year. It could easily move into the running for top 5 oo 10 favorite books of all time.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of I can't do heights when there is a chance of falling. I love tall roller coasters and flying, but I had high seats at a stadium Taylor Swift concert and had to exchange them because I started shaking.
  • My secret boyfriend is Chris Hardwick because he is so nerdy and cute. I know that is a really weird answer!
  • I have a total girlcrush on Viola Davis. Have you WATCHED How To Get Away With Murder? The woman is brilliant and beautiful.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing along to Hamilton. Sometimes I even rap REALLY badly.
  • My favorite drink is Moscato wine. I love all wine, but that is my favorite!

    Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    I Promised You A Blog Post

    I promised you a blog post
    But all I can do is stare at a blank screen
    Struggling to write
    The one thing I'm good at
    The one thing I've always been able to do

    So I'll try to say it in a new way
    Words aligned into neat little lines
    Freestyle it from my heart
    Even though my thoughts knot and snarl

    With one click of a button
    I sent a Pack-and-Play to your doorstep
    And it will never feel like enough
    To say that I'm happy for you
    And sorry
    For all the times I've been selfish and cruel
    Or just confusing
    And thankful for
    And all the times you've picked up the phone
    Pretended like nothing was wrong
    My first friend
    My first best friend

    You are a new person now
    Your belly round 
    (but not that round)
    A new girl inside
    For our tribe of strong and fragile women
    A new partner at your side
    Who makes you laugh
    In a way I've never heard you laugh before
    The kind of laugh that means you're truly happy

    I promise you a blog post
    As I play the role of court jester
    Clutching a paper plate and a plastic cup
    Everyone laughs as we shower you with gift cards
    Cringe at chocolate bars melted inside diapers
    Cut cakes made of pink fondant
    Ooo and aww in all the right places
    Tiny clothes with cupcake covered behinds
    None say Future Feminist
    Like I know how you will raise a daughter to be

    She will have 
    The best of both worlds
    Southern sweetness
    Northern nerve
    Just like you

    In just 4 months 
    You will be a mother
    A role that seems so adult
    When did we become adults?
    I still think of us as two heads
    In a sea of family
    One blonde and one brunette
    Always together

    I write this late at night
    When I know you'll be sleeping
    Being the responsible one
    While I stay up
    The dreamer and star counter
    Because I promised you a blog post
    Even though you deserve so much more

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

    In Search Of YA Books for Women's Shelter - An Update

    Last month I posted a blog asking for book donations for a local women's shelter in my area. To be honest, I've never tried any type of fundraising or asked for donations online--so I'm so excited to say it was a big success!

    The request was pretty simple: when I had dropped off a sizable donation of books to the shelter, the director asked if I had Twilight or Harry Potter. The residents had mentioned wanting to read those titles specifically. I'm excited to say we were able to deliver 3 copies of Twilight, as well as the rest of the series, and books 1, 2, 5, and 7 of Harry Potter. In addition, we were able to give a few other commercial titles: If I Stay, Water For Elephants, The Vampire Diaries, and The Secret Life of Bees.

    I have to thank Maria Entenmen, Briana and Krysta at Pages Unbound, and the Upper Dublin Public Library for all their help in rounding up all the books, and thank you to everyone who helped spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. The shelter was so thankful to receive these. I'll be keeping in touch with the women's shelter and continuing to round up book donations for them.

    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Agents Like Us - Jennifer Unter

    After a year hiatus, I'm so excited to bring back my blog series, Agents Like Us! And here to help kick things off is Jennifer Unter from The Unter Agency.

    She is looking for fiction and general nonfiction, with a particular interest in memoir, food/cooking, nature/environment, biography, pop culture, travel/adventure, true crime, politics and health/fitness as well as all kid lit (picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects). You can find her submission guidelines here, and follow her on Twitter @JenniferUnter. Her answers are below in bold.

    Jennifer on Agenting

    • When writers query me, I really wish they would do their homework. I’m not a “Sir”, I don’t do a lot of genre fiction and I’m more inclined to ask for something if I see that they know what I have agented in the past.
    • My favorite part about being an agent is the excitement of the day-to-day work. Every day I have something new to do, whether it’s meeting new clients, poring over a contract or talking to the publicity team at a publishing house with an author for their new book. I feel like I get to do many jobs at once!
    • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is something that moves me. I love an emotional tale. Anything that makes me cry, if done well, is usually something I’ll take on.
    • Whenever I make a book deal, I get very excited for the author. Their work is going to go out into the world, and that’s the reason why I do what I do.
    • I really wish I saw more books for the “in between middle grade and YA” in the slush. There aren’t enough of those books being published.

    Jennifer On Clients
    • My ideal client would be someone with whom I share a sensibility and connection. Also someone who is willing to do the work to get their book to the best possible place before going to a publisher. 
    • What I love most about my current clientele is their willingness to get out there and push for their book. Writers have to be their own best publicists and it’s sometimes difficult for them to do, but they all do it.
    • What I want most for any client is to feel that their work is being taken seriously and that they have a support system in their publisher and in me.

    Jennifer On Life
    • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be an environmentalist of some sort or farmer.
    • My favorite (non-client) book is anything by Michel Faber.
    • Secretly, I'm terrified of being buried alive!
    • My secret boyfriend is Mark Wahlberg.
    • I have a total girlcrush on Cindy Sherman.
    • Sometimes, when no one is around, I do yoga or take a nap.
    • My favorite drink is rose.

    Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

    October Check In 2015

    Hello, hello!

    I waited to write up my October check in post this month because things were so busy. I've been writing (of course), but trying to figure out the best way to make this "full-time writing thing" work best for me.

    It's helped a lot to listen to Sarah Enni's First Drafts podcast and get a feel for what other writers do to make the daily demands of creativity work for them. For me, I'm finding, it's different almost every day. When I have a deadline (either self-imposed or agent-assigned), I can buckle down and work, but those other days when I'm free to just create? It's hard.

    Over the summer, I wrote a 22-page outline for my next book. It covers everything plot-related, and some character arcs, which is great. But, I've been struggling with these two main characters of mine and trying to figure out who they really are--especially this one named Miles. Sure, you can give a character a name and a sassy attitude and just go with it, but underneath it all you need to know who they really are. Miles wasn't talking to me. I tried to give him a backstory, but it felt so generic. After all, how many I've-known-him-since-kindergarden stories are already out there? I wanted more from this character, and he refused to tell me.

    Sometimes when I get stuck like this, when the character won't come to me, I go out into the world and find them. Yesterday, I was at the gym and Miles walked right by and jumped on the treadmill in front of me. In fifteen minutes I had him all figured out, and realized how much I love this exercise in character development. Because when you can see the person right in front of you, and can observe how they carry themselves, how they look around at the world, it's easier to figure out what their hang ups are and their place in the story. So, if you try this method, let me know how it works for you!

    In things I've been reading, check out Aaron Hartzler's What We Saw! I was so impressed by his writing and the strong message this one carries about rape culture, especially in small town, high schools where everyone wants to look away.

    Wolf by Wolf is also very exciting and so different--especially if you're into reimagined WWII stories (with motorcycles and wolves!). Fans of The Scorpio Races would like this one.

    Faking Normal was my favorite contemporary this month. I have a huge writer crush on Courtney Stevens.

    That's it for me this month. It's time to get back to writing. :)

    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    In Search Of YA Books for Women's Shelter

    This morning, I donated a ton of books to my local women's shelter. I gave a lot of romance, historical romance, young adult and commercial fiction, and the residents and staff were so excited to get it! Before, they only had text books to read.

    While I was there, I was so touched by the friendly staff and how eager they were to fill their empty shelf with books. One of the residents had a special request--she wants to read Twilight.

    When I checked in with the director, she said her residents have been asking for the Twilight and Harry Potter series.

    Blog readers, can I ask for your help? I'd really love to collect and donate the following books for this women's shelter. They are a non-profit shelter for homeless, pregnant women and their newborn. I was told the residents love to read, especially while they are nursing.

    Here's what I need (number of copies is indicated in parenthesis)*:

    From the Twilight Series
    Twilight (1)
    New Moon (0)
    Eclipse (1)
    Breaking Dawn (1)

    From the Harry Potter Series 
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (0)
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (0)
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1)
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (1)
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (1)
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (1)
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (1)

    From the Divergent Series
    Divergent (1)
    Insurgent (1)
    Allegiant (1)

    From the Hunger Games Series
    The Hunger Games (0)
    Catching Fire (0)
    Mockingjay (0)

    Please help me spread the word and if anyone has a book or two to donate, please contact me via Twitter (@ValerieColeYA) or email (ValerieFM at gmail dot com).

    *As donations come in, I will update the numbers above. 

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    Celebrating 10 Years of Twilight -- With Gifs

    The news of a new Twilight novel exploded on Twitter this morning and there were so many discussions of what it meant for Stephenie Myer, the fandom, and of course YA writers.

    And, of course, the first thing I remembered was the rise of Twihards, the excitement around each new book release and the movies--AND THE GIFS AND MEMES, you guys. THE GIFS AND MEMES WERE EVERYTHING.

    In fact, deep in my Dropbox I have a little folder of them from 2006-2009 that I saved because they were so funny. I sorted through them this morning (I had a lot of Britney pre-meltdown and Rock of Love gifs too so don't judge me) reliving all my memories of the Twilight fandom. And now I'd like to share them with you.*

    Here we go...

    Okay, let's get it out of the way: Edward sparkled. We all know. And the memes and gifs were fantastic.

    And no one really understood our fandom...

    But we all knew...

    And protected it like it was the special sparkly flower it was...

    Because HOW adorable was RPatz? He was our heartthrob who could look like this on screen...

    But in real life he was like this...

    Move aside, Jennifer Lawrence. Robert and Kristen were the real media fail darlings (I used to have a gif of Kristen dropping her MTV Movie Award but lost it).

    And his hair! Remember RPatz hair?? We were so obsessed with it!

    RPatz rolled with his crew of vampires and we were onboard for the ride.

    Pop quiz! What was the true answer to this question??

    Here's a hint. And, congrats if you got his fandom joke!

    And when the movie news started to slowly leak, we were so insanely excited. I remember gasping and flailing at this tease from ET.

    And screamed when I saw this clip "HE ALMOST TOUCHED HER!!! HE'S COLD!!!"

    So cold. 

    And if anyone ever gave me crap for loving Twilight, I pulled out this gif.

    And I went to Burger King for the first time since I was ten just for this beauty.

    Let's not forget the special flower that was Jacob, who tried so hard to win our affections. Really, all he had to do was cut that damn hair and take his shirt off.

     But we all knew the real love was between Edward and Bella.

    Speaking of Bella, she was extremely mature in her romantic pursuits.

     Even if she did fall for this guy.

    But he was protective.

    And sensitive.

    And damn cool.

    And could save you from a flying van and leap over a truck with a single bound.

    So, YAY for Twilight! YAY for Stephenie Myer! YAY for the fans. If you'll excuse me, I need to run to the bookstore to buy my copy of Life and Death now.

    *Guys, gifs and memes are not my own. Thank you to whomever created them. You are the true blessings of the Internet.

    Sunday, September 13, 2015

    What I've Been Reading - September 2015


    Last month, I finally finished my Summer Reading Challenge, which focused on reading books that had been gathering dust on my shelves. During that time, there were so many ARCs and recommendations for books I could not WAIT to read.

    Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between by Jennifer E Smith

    I love Jennifer E Smith, and even had the awesome privilege to interview her on my blog. I admire her writing style, which is 3rd person, present tense--an extremely hard combo to write in! Her stories are always fun and swooney. Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between follows the last night Clare and Aidan have together before they leave for college. Jennifer did such an excellent job capturing the last minute doubts and nerves before leaving for college, while also showing the strains the college process can take on families and friends, as well as the teen. I finished this book with a heavy heart and a goofy smile. I'd love to put this in the hands of every graduating high school senior. Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between is out now.

    The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

    I've also had the opportunity to interview C.J. Redwine on my blog and was really excited for this ARC (which I stole from Jodi Meadows when I went to stay with her a few weeks ago). Going in, all I knew was that there were dragons and it was a Snow White retelling. 

    What I was not expecting was for this to be such a high-energy, thrilling story. Lorelai was a brave and fearless main character, who took on her evil stepmother's magic with the powerful force of her own.

    What really made this book exciting was Kole, a reluctant king who needs help in protecting his half-dragon, half-human kingdom from ogres. I loved the descriptions of his two hearts (one human and one dragon), and how one overpowered the other.

    I'm excited for this series, which is several retellings that stand alone. The Shadow Queen comes out in February 2016.

    I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

    You know it's a good book when you mention that you're reading it, and you get this reaction on Twitter.

    I'll Meet You There combined some of my favorite things: a wounded Marine, a feisty girl, a lower-middle class setting, and blue collared jobs.

    I'm not sure what there is to say that most haven't already. It's become a favorite with many readers in my circle, so I'm late to the party with this one. It came out in February 2015.

    What's Up Next

    Una LaMache is one of my favorite authors. I loved Like No Other, and was super excited about Don't Fail Me Now, which is about two teens who live in Maryland (my home state) and go searching for their dying father.

    Also highly recommended has been A Million Miles Away, which is an Alloy-developed romance about a twin girl stepping into her deceased sister's shoes when her sister's boyfriend comes home from Afghanistan. 

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