SWA Presenter Spotlight: Author & Lit Agent Katharine Sands

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 interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.**

Next up is author and literary agent Katharine Sands.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Each year, the Southeastern Writers Association conference hosts one agent in residence; this year, Katharine Sands of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency will hold that spot.

Sands

As an agent, Sands represents authors in a variety of areas, including: literary and commercial fiction as well as nonfiction projects dealing with food/lifestyle, self-help, cooking, travel, spirituality, pop culture, film/entertainment, humor and home/design.

In addition to taking on and working with clients, Sands wrote Making the Perfect Pitch: Advice from 45 Top Book Agents (Kalmbach), which compiles pitching advice from several of the industry’s top agents.

At the conference in June, Sands will be teaching a class called “Pitchcraft . . . and Querial Killers: How Not to Get an Agent, Even If You Are a Talented Writer.” As well, she will hear pitches in one-on-one sessions and work with writers in group critique classes during the latter half of the program.

THE INTERVIEW

One of last year’s SWA presenters, editor Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books, posted a great interview with Sands on his Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Here is an excerpt:

GLA: Speaking of meeting writers at conferences, what do you think is the most common mistake writers make when they give a short in-person pitch to an agent?

KS: One of the things I believe people do wrong is to speak to agents as they would a tax professional or lawyer – somebody for hire who is there to listen to their process and backstory and get involved with their case in that way. Agents are listening in for a reason to be interested, first and foremost, and they’re not going to be interested in the writer’s (process), the word count, what is impeding, or why the writer doesn’t want to do extra work.

See the full interview here.

THE PLUG

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—you only have until April 1 to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

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

**For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

In the Blogosphere: 3/15-3/19

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

RESOURCES

If you didn’t see my post about the Shenandoah Writers Query Symposium I’m helming, please check it out.  I’m looking to compile some of best query-writing resources out there and discuss them with my writing groups.  I plan to turn this “symposium” into a series of blog posts, so even if you’re not a member of Shenandoah Writers, give me your two cents (i.e., comment or e-mail with your favorite query resources or tips).  A few brave souls have even given me queries they’ve written so we can critique them, so there are multiple ways you can get involved.

This is an oldie but goodie.  It was actually written on my birthday in 2006 (but I digress) by the long-retired literary agent known to millions only by her scathing pseudonym, Miss SnarkShe gives the straight dope on your plot pitch versus a synopsis.

Here, mystery writer Elizabeth Spann Craig offers some ways to reveal a protagonist’s character through self discovery.

I recently discovered young adult fiction writer Jamie Harrington‘s blog, Totally the Bomb.com (love that name, BTW!).  And I’ve already found two posts I love.  In this one, Harrington talks about five clichés used in young adult lit.  And in this one, she dissects the classic love triangle.

My favorite thing about this picture is that they actually made Taylor Lautner stand on a box. Hilarious!

This is another oldie but goodie, but at her blog, The Bookshelf Muse, the Jill Corcoran-repped kids’ lit author Angela Ackerman has a great resource for conveying emotion through a character’s body language.  It’s not just for overcoming the five clichés Harrington outlines above, and it’s not just for juvenile lit.  In this post, Ackerman introduces the idea of the “emotion thesaurus,” (which provides alternatives to having a character shrug his shoulders or roll his eyes).  If you look in her sidebar on the right, she’s got a slew of entries under The Emotional Thesaurus.

PLATFORM, BABY

Blogging making you crazy?  Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on what do to when your blog overwhelms you.

And here, Carol T. Cohn of Compukol Connection explains why you need to edit those pesky blog posts.

Shane Nickerson gives this amusing take on how Twitter slowly takes over your life.

Twitter zombie. Hey - not a bad idea for an urban fantasy! 😉

LITERARY AGENTS

Not sure whether to go with a big agency or a boutique agency?  Epstein Literary agent and founder Kate Epstein discusses the pros and cons of both.

Last week, Twitter was abuzz with talk of Lowenstein Associates, Inc., agent Kathleen Ortiz‘s blog post on query etiquette.  This week, she added an equally-as-important part two.

And I really felt for Caren Johnson Literary Agency‘s Elana Roth when she posted her thoughts on the protocol with regard to those queries/partials/fulls left hanging when a writer is offered representation.  Although she got a bit bashed in some of the comments, she started a discussion that I think needed to be addressed.  And she handled the backlash well.  Kudos!

POTTER PROVIDES HELP

Dudes—Harry Potter is on the brain! Like it or not, writers can learn a lot from J.K. Rowling‘s famous example.

Last week, I did a post on how to break up a manuscript of epic proportions, and I used the Potter series to illustrate dramatic arcs (in it, I outlined Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone‘s dramatic arc and discussed the overarching arc of the series).

This week, I’m seeing posts—left and right—using Rowling’s baby to illustrate all kinds of things.  Coincidence?  Actually, yes.  I’m not that important! As well, some of these posts are older:

  • Here, guest blogger Jim Adams talks “showing” and “telling” in scenes and dialogue on Jane Friedman‘s (of Writer’s Digest) blog, There Are No Rules.
  • In this post, Adams is at it again, giving tips on how to stretch the tension in a series.
  • On St. Patty’s Day, Adams addressed conflict, according to Potter.
  • Here, Friedman provides a complete list of links to all the posts in Adam’s 13-part series.
  • And the good folks over at guardian.co.uk‘s Book Blog talk about character names in fantasy (but the post will interest writers of all genres)—with special attention to The Series that Need Not Be Named.

"Ohhhhh, Accio DEATHLY HALLOWS." --Hank Green

IN THE NEWS

Business Wire reported that Follett, college textbook wholesaler, will join forces with Bookrenter to start a textbook rental program.  Where was this when I was in grad school?

CONTEST

Are you a Jane Austen fan?  Adept at writing queries?  Here’s a contest over at Getting Past the Gatekeeper that combines both of these things—write a query as if you wrote, and are pitching, Pride and Prejudice!

CLINK!

Last, but not least, congratulations are in order.  My Writer’s Digest Books editor pal Chuck Sambuchino got a mention in Publishers Weekly for his upcoming humor book . . .

. . . and in the same post, it was announced that young adult fantasy author Beth Revis signed a huuuuuge three-book deal (I don’t really know her, but we have some mutual friends and I’m deciding to share in her excitement).

Congrats, peeps!

A toast to you!

Editing: Get Distance, Get Advice & Get Over It

When I finished my first manuscript—well, the first time I finished it (heh)—there was one nagging question I had in the back of my mind: is the time span too long?

It started with my protagonist in her sophomore year of college, flashed back through some of high school, and ended up just after her college graduation; so, while the span was technically only two years, it seemed like six or seven because of the flashback.

SEEK HELP

I swapped manuscripts with a few other YA writers—without mentioning my concern about time span.  I figured, we’ll see if it slides.  For the most part, I received positive feedback, but one woman—the one whose manuscript was the best out of all those I critiqued and the one who, during our swap, landed a literary agent—mentioned she thought I should set the whole thing in high school somehow.

Ugh—I wanted to query—but I knew she was right.  So I set out to make it fit within the parameters of my main character’s sophomore through senior years of high school.

NOT SHORT ENOUGH—SHOOT ME, PLEASE

Halfway through the manuscript makeover, I attended the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop and had a critique with Waxman Literary’s fabulous Holly Root.  When she said three years is still too long of a time span for young adult lit, although it killed me, I knew she was right. As a friend at that conference put it, “Three years in YA is the equivalent of War and Peace.”  So I trudged home, consulted several fellow writers, read several YA books and studied those I’d already read, and even asked YA author Lauren Myracle for some advice.

Myracle reiterated what most people had said, most kids’ books take place over a very short period of time (a few weeks, a semester, a school year at the longest). In addition, she asked if I had more than one arc—because, if I did, I could split the book into two.

GET SOME DISTANCE AND GET OVER IT

During that month of researching and gearing up to edit once more, the biggest thing I had to overcome was wrapping my head around mushing my story from three years into two semesters.  I was too close to it at the time, and I just didn’t see how it was possible.

I thought a good deal about what my editor and friend, Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books, had said when he reviewed my pages: there was a lot I could cut—if the reader “gets it” with just one scene, why drag it out and have three similar scenes?  He said he often sees this when writers add autobiographical elements to their manuscripts; they want to stay true to “how it happened” and they end up sacrificing story because of it.

So, with some distance from my novel and armed with lots of great advice, I put marker to dry-erase board and plotted out my story.  I looked at every scene and evaluated its worth to the overall story.  With the fictionalized autobiographical scenes, I let go of the “how it happened”—and in most cases, I eliminated them altogether.  It all began to click into place.

SO . . .

It took about a month of revisions, but what I now have is a much tighter, much better, much more marketable story.  I ended up changing my focus pretty much completely, playing up my hook, adding/deleting scenes—and it still wound up being 20K words shorter.

I’m not saying this process won’t likely happen all over again when/if a lit agent is interested in it—and then probably again when/if a publisher is interested in it.  But the most important lesson here is that, if you’re too attached to the “how it happened,” too in love with your words, and too close to your manuscript, you cannot be an effective editor.

In the below Vlogbrothers video, YA author John Green talks editing.  He says he deletes over 90% of his original words and that all the things people like about his books emerge in later drafts. Enjoy!

You Have a Question? I Have an Answer: Where to Find Script Agents/Managers

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.

Q:  Hi Ricki. Even though I live in LA and am a screenwriter, I need your assistance in approaching agents from CAA, WME, UTA, et al who would be appropriate.  In other words—a few suggestions?  I got the idea to approach you after reading your interview with Dorian Karchmar.  I need an agent and am clueless as far as whom to approach.  Would you know, and could you help?

–Anonymous

A: Thanks for the question!

I’m not as versed in the area of script agents/script managers, as I’ve only interviewed literary agents and authors at this point.  However, I’m very interested in screenwriting—and I will be interviewing some script managers for Writer’s Digest Books’ 2011 Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market—so I guess it’s time to dive into that subject!

*Some* literary agencies handle screenplays - but in my experience, most do not. You just have to do the research to find out!

On the GLA blog, where I’m assuming you read my Karchmar interview, Chuck Sambuchino lists “Screenwriting and Script Agents” as one of his categories located on the left of the blog.  If you click on that heading, he has some interviews with script agents as well as a few other informative posts in the area of screenwriting.  Maybe that could be a lead?

As well, in addition to Guide to Literary Agents, Sambuchino also puts out the aforementioned Screenwriter’s and Playwright’s Market, which is a huge database of script agents among other things.  I’ve got the 2009 edition right here, and one major section of it lists agents/script managers.  Many of the listings even show what genres the agents accept, so that should help you find someone tailored to your (awesome!) projects.

If you can get your hands on one of these babies, you'll be able to find exactly what you're looking for.

Good luck to you!