If You Missed the WB Live Chat on Query and Agent-Related Support . . .

Last night, the Write-Brained Network hosted its first live chat since moving back to Ning.

The topic was broad—query and agent-related support—but we kept a good convo going.

The gist . . .

One of the reasons we chose this particular topic for the chat was because of a question a Write-Brainiac had: How do you know know when to heed an agent’s advice in terms of making changes to your manuscript? This particular writer was talking about when one gets a personalized rejection—not when one gets an editorial letter or something, etc.

Some of the suggestions from the group:

  • Always. An agent knows what sells and what will make your book more salable. That is why you are querying an agent in the first place.
  • When the feedback resonates with you.

As we talked, I extended this idea of resonating to not just agent feedback, but for all feedback you receive—be it from betas, crit partners, your writing group, your mom, agents, or editors.

As I have been preparing to query myself (and, therefore, getting lots of feedback on my manuscript from multiple sources), I have thought much on this subject.

It seems like, at least for me, whenever I write something, I have certain insecurities with it—things that tug at my guts a little, and I’ll think, “If this scoots past X, Y, and Z betas, then it must be okay.” Many times, those are the things X, Y, and Z betas mention as items to change, cut, condense, or expand.  So, when I get their feedback, it resonates—and I know it’s not just my writerly insecurities being all OCD. (Sometimes that is the case, however!)

On the topic of resonating . . .

Sometimes you’ll get feedback that you never would have considered or recognized yourself.  (This is why you need to get feedback, people!)  It’s a subjective business, and sometimes someone will come up with a killer idea or ask a question that spawns a twist you hadn’t anticipated—but that is a good problem to have.  If it resonates, if you can see how incorporating the suggestion would make the book better, then, I say, do it!

More from the chat . . .

Another Write-Brainiac asked about nonfiction books and whether or not the writer should secure the rights to photographs prior to querying agents, or if that is the agent’s job.

This was a bit of a stumper.  We discussed it as best we could—I gave some suggestions based on what I know of related situations, but none of us pretended to be experts in this area.  If you *are*, please leave advice in the comments!

My immediate response to this was that, the closer a writer comes to having everything in place before he queries, the more professional and “together” the writer will appear to the agent.  Less work for the agent = happier agent, etc.

However, I can also see where this might not be the case.

Related(ish) examples . . .

Children’s author Gail Langer Karwoski spoke at the Southeastern Writers Association conference last summer about something similar, regarding the writer/author relationship:

  • Most picture books begin with the story, unless you have a legal relationship with the illustrator (it’s you, your relative, your spouse).
  • If there’s no legal relationship and you’re trying to suggest an illustrator in your proposal, it’s like a siren screaming “AMATEUR” (=rejection).
  • Many times, pub houses will pair a newer author with a more established illustrator to increase the book’s chances of selling.
  • If you can do both (you don’t just “doodle”), you should; just make sure your proposal is professional.
  • Many agents want author/illustrators (because it’s less people to pay and more of a cut of the money for them).

Also, I know that, when my Writer’s Digest Books editor, Chuck Sambuchino, wrote his Gnomes book—which is a nonfiction, humor book—he wasn’t expected to have the photos with it.  The publisher, Ten Speed Press, chose photographers to take pictures, and Chuck and his agent were able to pick their favorite from there.  (I also understand that the author having a say in that kind of thing isn’t common.)

Along the lines of securing rights, if there are specific photos you want and *you* are taking them (and there’s a reason you are the only one who can take said photos), I believe you technically already own the rights to them, as soon as the picture is snapped.  Same thing with writing.  Yes, you can register something with the U.S. Copyright office, but you actually “own” something as soon as you write it.

However, the WBer with the question was actually asking about photos of a structure that no longer exists—so it’s not as though new photos can be taken of it.  From what I know and what I’ve read*, my instincts lead me back to my initial answer—that the writer should have the rights secured before querying the agent.

Anything to add?

*Helpful copyright articles from the Guide to Literary Agents blog:

**Not a Write-Brainiac yet?  Click here to get started.

***For more with Karwoski, click here and here.

Conference Corner: Southeastern Writers Association

Interested in writing?  Want to come see me?  I’ve got just to conference for you: the Southeastern Writers Association conference.

THE 4-1-1

The 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference will be held June 20-24 in scenic St. Simons Island, Ga.

The full conference fee is $395, and it includes:

  • Up to three manuscript evaluations
  • One-on-one critiques with instructors
  • Entry into up to 15 contests (in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, inspiration, humor, romance, juvenile writing—children’s through young adult—science fiction and fantasy)—cash prizes for winners!
  • Access to all workshops, evening speeches, and open mic night
  • A one-year membership to SWA


While registration is open until the conference takes place, you’ve got just one more week to take advantage of the manuscript evaluations and contest entries—the deadline is April 1.


Held at the beautiful Epworth by the Sea in St. Simons Island, Ga., SWA’s annual conference is the perfect place to soak up some rays along with some writing knowledge from seasoned professionals.

As well, at $395 for a four-day conference, SWA is a steal.  Check around; most other conferences and writers’ retreats charge extra for manuscript critiques and contests.


Did I mention I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing?  Come heckle me!**  To learn more about my workshop, click here.

Go easy on me!


This year’s presenters include:

To learn more about these presenters, click here or click on the presenters’ names above to see my interview series featuring several of them.

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.

Again, you must be registered by April 1 in order to gain full access to all this conference has to offer, so reserve your spot today!

**Actually, while I would love to see you, I’d rather you didn’t heckle me!

One Reason I Love Writing for Kids

One of my faves, YA author Lauren Myracle, posted a video on her Web site  of her son’s school doing a reading promo video, using a book-related rewrite of the Black-Eyed Peas‘s “I Gotta Feeling.”

It’s called “Gotta Keep Reading.” 🙂


Here’s a link to the video.

Besides because of its general adorableness, I got psyched because, at the end, one kid holds up a book – QUAKE! Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 – which was written by children’s lit author and fellow Southeastern Writers Association conference presenter Gail Langer Karwoski.

Click here to see my recent Karwoski interview.

I don’t know why (because it essentially has nothing to do with me), but it made me feel really awesome to have made that connection!  It’s just so cool to have interviewed both these women.

Do check out both the interview and the video if you haven't already. You'll feel all gooey inside - I promise!

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Gail Langer Karwoski

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presentersFor more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up is award-winning children’s author Gail Langer Karwoski.


Karwoski’s historical novels, short stories, nonfiction and picture books for young readers have been Junior Library Guild Selections, Mom’s Choice award winners and have received attention in Parade magazine as well as an endorsement by SeaWorld.

Her latest novel, Quake!  Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 (Peachtree Publishers, 2004) appeared on eight state award lists, and she has been named Georgia Author of the Year for Juvenile Literature three times—most recently for River Beds: Sleeping in the World’s Rivers (Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2008).

For more information on her books and ideas for how to use them in the classroom, please visit her Web site.


RS:  How did you get into writing?

GK: I love a good story!

I love swapping them with friends and acquaintances. I love reading them. I loved telling stories to my daughters and my students. I loved listening to my dad tell me stories about the imaginary kitties and mice that outwitted each other in the storeroom behind his hardware store.

Writing is a form of storytelling. I’ve always been into it!

RS: What keeps you writing?

GK: My readers!

I also love the process of writing: I like delving into a subject, looking at it from every side, turning it inside and out. I like the poetic parade of words—seeking the memorable turn of phrase, discovering the image that lays bare the essence.

RS: What do you do when you’re not writing?

GK: Cook (and eat)

Go for walks (and talks)

Read (and listen to books on CD)

Chat with our grownup daughters (and shop)

Snuggle my favorite cat (and my husband)

Watch movies (and whatever is my current favorite TV program—lately, I’m stuck on the PBS historical soap, Lark Rise to Candleford—maybe because of the British accents?)

Do crosswords (and Sudokus)

Look for humor in this nutsy world (and try to remember it long enough to get the punchline right when I share it!)

RS: What draws you to children’s literature?

GK: I’m a mom. For many years, I was a teacher. Plus, I view the world in a child-like way. (I’m never gonna grow up!) Writing for kids feels like my natural place.

As I craft a story, I think of my reader. I like thinking of a child skipping into the world that I am creating and having an epiphany: “Maybe I could do that . . . maybe there is another path for me . . . maybe I could be happier if . . . .”

Writing for kids is all about possibility, optimism, innovation.

RS: What are you currently working on?

GK: I have two novels for middle grades kids that I’ve been tweaking toward the finish line. They are quite different than my published work and very different from each other.

I have one historical picture storybook under contract, and I’ve got a few picture book scripts that I’ve been “sculpting.”

RS: What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?

GK: I think it might be fun to try a sci-fi book—just for the sheer delight of going off in some wacky direction and ending up who-knows-where.

RS: What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

GK: I’m reading Phil Lee Williams’s latest novel, The Campfire Boys.

I recently, I finished The Help—talk about delightful characterization!—by Kathryn Stockett. But it’s not on my nightstand because I borrowed my friend’s Kindle to read it—to see how I liked reading this new way. (I have mixed feelings about the electronic reader, BTW. I liked the screen display much better than I anticipated, and, to my surprise, I did like the ease of holding it with one hand. But it was a real pain to scroll back to find a scene that I wanted to reread. No, I’m not going to buy an e-reader anytime soon. But if I was taking a long trip overseas, I probably would.)

My favorite read in the last year was Suzanne Collins’s YA, The Hunger Games, because it was heart-pounding, mind-bending, and the writing was so powerful, intense and invisible that I forgot that I was reading—I was there!

RS: Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

GK: Well, I read Scott O’Dell as a youngster, and he inspired me to try to make history come alive for a reader.

I shared the work of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor—who wrote a perfect fourth grade novel starring a dog (Shiloh)—with my students.

I met Roland Smith at a Florida book festival a few years ago, and he reminded me that this is a job that we got into because it’s fun.

And I’m continuously inspired by my friend, Lola Schaefer, who is optimistic and energetic and sensible, as well as prolific and successful.

RS: Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

GK: The Art, Business and Craft (ABC’s) of Writing for Young Readers

We’ll begin with a consideration of the art: Why do grownups write for kids? Are we writing to instruct, inform or entertain? Do we write to relive and share our own childhood experiences? Do children’s books need a “message”?

There are as many genres in juvenile as in adult writing. What are the different types of books for children? How old are the kids who will read or listen to each type? What are the requirements of each genre—word length, content, organization? What kinds of characters and topics are appropriate for kids?

What are your options for establishing a readership? The “gate-keepers” of children’s books are adults: How do you connect with readers through publishers and educators?

Focus on the Picture Book: We’ll take a hands-on look at this special form, where less is more. (Some have described the picture book as War and Peace in a haiku!) Picture books can be grouped into concept books and picture storybooks, and each has specific requirements. Today’s picture books reflect today’s culture, so we’ll examine the current picture book scene. What role do author and illustrator play in developing these books?

Focus on the Novel: We’ll take a hands-on look at fiction for “middle grades” and “young adult” readers (ages 8-16). Today’s reader is faced with a world of hi-tech distractions, so how do you keep ‘em down on the page after they’ve seen TV? What’s the difference between novels for adults and kids? What’s the difference between contemporary novels and the books you savored when you were a kid?


For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.


Here’s a link to a short interview another SWA presenter, Amy Munnell, did with Karwoski in 2008 on her blog/zine 3 Questions . . . and Answers.