Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Saw It Through and Got My Stuff Out There

No use beating around the bush. I have signed with Becky Vinter at Fineprint Literary!

That's not me, but a friend of mine cheering on another friend about to cross the finish line. Yay for not getting sued for copyright infringement!
This is all thanks to the awesome Michelle Krys and Ruth Lauren Steven who put together the Xmas in July query contest. The whole experience has been a whirlwind. Truth be told, I had never written a query before. I had never gotten to that stage before. The last two manuscripts I'd worked on never made it past revisions. I kept telling myself that my writing wasn't good enough, that it wasn't agent quality. Another year would pass, but I would be stuck in the same place. I would read the standard "I Got An Agent!!" post from dozens of writers. Enough was enough. For 2012, I promised myself that I would see this WIP through and get it out there.

I'd been working on my latest book for a year when I heard about the Xmas in July contest. I had just read about another blogger I follow who got an agent through a contest. I said the heck with it. It's time to start getting my stuff out there. Let others say no. If I wanted to be a writer, I'd have to get used to rejection. My favorite piece of writing advice is from Meg Cabot: You're not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone's going to like you.

So I dashed off a query, revised it a bunch, and officially sent my book into the world. It's amazing to think that I have zero connections in the publishing world, and yet I could still find an agent. Slush works! In the film/TV world, if you want an agent, then you need connections. It's only about who you know and who can get your stuff in front of the right people. (Amy Tintera has a great post on this.) In fact, most big agencies don't accept unsolicited submissions. But for publishing, it's all about the writing. (though I'm sure connections help, too)

A few weeks later, after sitting through a five-hour meeting at work, I got back to my desk and saw an email from Becky. She loved my book and wanted to discuss. *cue Carlton Banks happy chair dance*

After almost five years of writing YA, I can now add my How I Got An Agent story to the blogosphere. Ok, that's enough talking about myself.

I feel very lucky and fortunate about how this all turned out, and my heart goes out to all writers in query hell. There are a few contests about to start like GUTGAA and Pitch Madness. Definitely take advantage! Get your stuff out there. Frankly, even if you're not sure if your book is up to snuff yet, use these opportunities as motivators to set writing deadlines, polish your query, meet other writers/potential CPs, and gauge interest in your story. (But don't enter if you only have half a first draft or something.) Don't let fear hold you back. Honestly, the worst that happens is someone says no.

And Just keep swimming!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why 50 Shades of Grey is fine by me

50 Shades of Grey recently beat out Harry Potter/Deathly Hollows to become Britain's best-selling book of all time. In any language, in any country, the book is a smash -- except with critics and those in the literary community. 50 Shades has been bashed as a poorly-written piece of crap. I haven't read the books, so I can't judge, but all I hear are negative things about it. Awkward dialogue, paper-thin characters (which are based on someone else's characters), simplistic plot. I'll admit, when I first heard about 50 Shades' success, I got ticked off. We perfect our manuscripts and query letters and get rejected over the slightest shortcoming, but then EL James comes out with amateurish Twilight fan fiction and is a hit. And even Twilight has received its fair share of crappy reviews. Add it to the list of ways the world is unfair.

But you know, I'm actually happy about 50 Shades' record-breaking success. I'm always happy when a book sells like gangbusters. Books like 50 Shades and Twilight are bringing in a broad audience outside the demographic of hardcore readers. People who usually never step foot inside a bookstore are charging in and buying books. They're choosing reading over watching TV, surfing the net, or going to the movies. Maybe some of those sporadic readers will turn into voracious ones thanks to these critically-maligned books. They'll continue to buy books, share them with their friends. None of this is bad for the publishing industry. True, it would be nice if people were going gaga over more well-regarded books, but the real victory is that they're reading. In an industry that's fighting off decline, that's nothing to turn your nose up at.

Also, a handful of mega best-sellers can fund the publishing of a ton of smaller, acclaimed books. The film industry is loaded with loud, expensive tentpole films. Many of them receive critical drubbings. The Transformers trilogy comes to mind. Critics HATED those films. As an action fan, even I couldn't stand them. They had weak story, bloated action sequences, and unnecessarily long running times. But they also made billions of dollars worldwide. Why do these films make a boatload of cash, but better films like The Artist and Moonrise Kingdom can't even top $50 million? Add it to the list of ways the world is unfair.

But without Transformers, there would be no smaller, artsy films. Studios make a bulk of their profits from these tentpole films, which allows them to bankroll riskier, cheaper films. Even if they lose money, the studios still have their cash cows to keep them in business. In the same year as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, its studio Paramount also released the great film Young Adult. That film only made $16.3 million in the US -- 1/20th of Transformers:DOTM's gross. Summit made bank on the Twilight films, which allowed it to release The Hurt Locker and 50/50. Thanks to 50 Shades' and Twilight's (the book) success, those publishing houses were able to release lots of books that may not contribute much to the bottom line, but still hold a place in readers' hearts.

So yes, 50 Shades of Grey may not be the best thing that's happened to literature, but it's a pretty good thing that's happened to publishing.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August! AKA Countdown to Fall

Wisconsin Apple Orchard. Fallgasm!

Yesterday was August 1st. It's still summer, but in my mind, we are now in Fall Countdown mode. I don't know how it's been by you, but in Chicago, we have had a cruel summer. I will take the cold over the sweltering, unescapeable heat any day of the week. But more than that, I LOVE fall. It's my favorite time of the year. The crisp chill in the air, the leaves changing color, the holidays. Sure, it's nice when it starts getting warm in April and May. But by mid-July, I'm so over summer.

Here is a list of things I love about fall:

1) The weather
Crisp chill in the air, leaves changing color, cool but not freezing. Beautiful! I love the gloomy fall landscape. Check out the background of this blog for proof. (If you also like fall landscape, check out Moonrise Kingdom. Total fall porn.)

2) The Back to School mentality
I've been out of school a number of years, but I still have that mentality that come September, it's time to get my life back together. Summers get so busy with vacations and fun outdoor activities. And this summer has been crazy busy with moving and work. I look forward to post-Labor Day, when I can get back on track. Back on a regular schedule for the gym, for writing.

3) The Good TV returns
I should clarify and say good Network TV. There's lots of good cable shows on this summer (Breaking Bad, Suits), but the return and premieres of network shows won't happen until September-October. I'm always curious which new shows will be hits or bombs.

4) Apple Picking
Especially on a nice fall day. I love apples, particularly macintosh, which is only in season during the fall.

5) Holidays
Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas. All the best holidays are saved for Sept-Dec.

6) Awards Season
I'm a movie buff, which you can tell by half of my posts. Starting in September (September 14th to be exact), the real Oscar bait comes out. Right now, there are lots of films nobody has seen that have Oscar buzz: Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, etc. It's fun watching these films premiere, waiting for the initial reviews that say whether the buzz is warranted or not. Awards season isn't just Jan-Feb. It's a 6-month process that I love watching. Late August/early Sept brings the Toronto, Telluride, and Venice Film Festivals, which is where many Oscar contenders premiere for the first time. Those premieres can make or break a film's Oscar prospects in one night. September 14th is when The Master opens, and I'm super excited to see that film.

7) Thanksgiving
I realized that I love the countdown to Thanksgiving more than the actual day.

8) Crappy made-for-TV Christmas movies that air in November
I'm addicted. I have a problem. I won't seek help.

9) Football
I'm not a huge football fan, but I do like to support my college (go Cats!) and city (go Bears!). But there is something so fall (and so American) about watching football. I don't actively seek out games, but once I do start watching, I get sucked in.

10) NaNoWriMo
I've never done NaNo. I'm always in the middle of a project, but maybe this year will be the year. If not, I still get a rush of inspiration watching everyone else participate.

Are you looking forward to fall?