Tag Archives: Project Writeway

Week Two –Another Elimination and

Another Winner!

This week’s winner is

Serendipity Jones!

When Grandma fell in love, she gave Grandpa strawberry jam. When Mom fell in love, she baked Dad oatmeal cookies. Now I’m in love, and I’m lying in front of a muddy bulldozer. I’m not sure this is a step forward.
The bulldozer driver comes and stares at me. The longer he stares, the more the drying mud itches.
He says, “Hey, Squirt. Parents know you’re here?”
I shake my head, which is a bad idea, in mud. “No. And don’t call me ‘squirt’.”
He nods. “You wanna tell me what you’re doing?”
I take a deep breath. “Simplicity itself. I’m showing my undying love and affection for Rudy.”
He stares at me again. “By lying in the mud.”
“By protecting an ecosystem. Rudy believes in protecting ecosystems.”
He looks around. “Ecosystem? These plants are just weeds.”
I smile. “Teacher says many indigenous organisms thrive in this ecosystem.
He shakes his head. “You’re what—eight? Nine?”
“I’m eleven and a half. And in love.”
He stands still. The mud dries. I itch. He hauls me up and slaps my shoulder. “Try again in ten years.”
I check on the cookies and jam stashed with my bike. Time for Plan B.

Let’s talk a moment about what works in Serendipity’s piece– the things that are right.
It’s funny.
It’s unusual
and there’s a great voice here.
Not only that, but our writer made good use of the words we had you use. They feel natural to the story–not forced.

And who is this anonymous writer? (cue Star Wars musice here) Monelle Smith
and this week she wins
IMMUNITY!
Now, Monelle, still work hard on next week’s challenge. No unfinished hems or poor construction (wink wink!). Write just as hard as ever.

Our lowest scorer this week is Razzle Dazzle. RD, please slip on over to the Play at Home side of things and don’t quit. Voting was VERY close.

FYI
Here’s how voting works:

*Right now, while we have so many entrants in the main contest Ann Dee, Kyra, Chris and I are the main judges (to get to know a bit more about us, please read our bios above).
*When we get a few less entrants we’ll have several guest judges who’ll work with us.
*Remember that there is a popular vote going on at the same time and that plays heavily into scoring.

Play at Home people–no winner will be announced until the very end of the contest–but there will be weekly drawings–on FRIDAYS–for prizes. At the end of Project Writeway that person who stayed in the top spot the most often, will be the winner.

So are you ready for

NEXT WEEK’S CONTEST

Paranormal Haiku.
You know what a haiku is, right? Now paranormal it up!
You may enter two poems, but just like in The Next Iron Chef, having two entries may make you lose, so choose wisely. Send both haiku in at the same time.
And please, take your time. This may seem easy, but if you whip something out with little thought and send it, and someone else spends time writing the best haiku possible, you’ll lose.

You have until 5 pm tomorrow night (that’s Tuesday!). Play at Homers should keep going–we’ll have a weekly drawing and you can only win if you’re playing–and that includes the final agent critique.

IMPORTANT!
Don’t forget new pen names. Don’t tell anyone what you’ve written OR your pen name until voting closes. We want people to vote on your writing strength.
Voting will start Wednesday morning and close at midnight on Thursday.

So there you go! Happy Writing! We’re excited!

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Stephen Fraser–Project Writeway Agent!


Stephen Fraser joined the Jennifer De Chiara agency in January of 2005. Prior to this, he was an editor for Simon and Schuster and more recently the senior executive editor for HarperCollins. He is a graduate of Middleburry College in Vermont and received his Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature at Simmons College in Boston, MA. During his time as an editor he worked with a large variety of creative talents and continues to do so now as a literary agent. He has written many children’s book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor, Five Owls, and Publishers Weekly, and is a popular speaker at conferences.

What a client or two has to say about Steve!

What J.H. Trumble (www.jhtrumble.com) has to say about Steve: I freely admit that I’m a little fangirly when it comes to Steve. He’s everything I could want in an agent and so much more–professional, experienced and insightful, respectful of his clients as artists, gentle with his criticisms, generous with his praise, and funny as hell. 
He probably has no idea how much I hang on his every word. For example, he once told me that I had a tendency to slip into the banal. I had no idea what he meant, but once I finally got it, that one comment completely transformed my writing. When I was freaking out during the final line editing phase of Don’t Let Me Go (so many things I wanted to rewrite!),  he told me to relax, I was going to be a hero to a lot of young people. And then as I held my breath as he read the manuscript for Where You Are, he emailed to say, “Oh my.” 

I remember each of those moments so well because they were each transformational for me. I’ve learned so much from him, including these little gems–we should embrace and acknowledge our talents, and small advances can be a good thing! I feel very very fortunate to have found him. Is it silly that I want to make him proud?

Then in another email Janet continues–One of the things I really love about Steve is that he doesn’t try to take over your work. He may tell me what’s not working well, but he leaves it to me to figure out how to make it work. And I love the way he phrases things. I have to admit I’ve taken a few comments right out of his emails and used them in a novel 🙂
Then, in yet another email, Janet says this: Another thing I adore about Steve. I know he must be quite busy. But he ALWAYS responds to my emails within hours, if not minutes, and often on the weekend. And he never makes me feel like a pest. And he says sweet things when I get insecure, like “I can recognize a natural storyteller a mile away, and you are a natural storyteller.”

Ann Bowan (annebowenbooks.com) said this about Steve:
Supportive and encouraging are the words that come to mind when I think of Steve.  It’s been a frustrating year with the picture book market and yet Steve continues to remind me that I do know how to write!  His responses to my new manuscripts are positive and genuine.   He also supports my desire to venture into other genres like the YA novel I’m working on right now.  I even received encouragement from him while in Vermont for VFCA.
I like the man.

Here’s what Kyra says about Steve: Steve Fraser is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The second time I went to NYC with mom he brought us flowers for our hotel room, he took us to lunch at the raddest place ever {Can’t remember the name…} and then we went shopping! It was a lot of fun.I loved doing this interview with him! I hope you guys all enjoy, because there is a lot to learn just from reading this.

And here’s an interview!

I know that you used to be an editor–how did you wind up at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency? What was your path?
 I was an editor for years, most recently at Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins. Some of the authors I worked with were Gregory Maguire, Brent Hartinger, Daniel Pinkwater, Mary Engelbreit, and Ann Rinaldi. As you can see, I liked working on a variety of books, from picture books to middle grade to young adult. I get bored otherwise!
When literary agent Jennifer De Chiara started her own agency, I was her first client, buying the landmark y. a. novel Geography Club from her. When I left HarperCollins, she asked if I’d like to join her. We are dear friends, so it seemed like just the perfect opportunity. As it turns out, my back-ground in publishing, from children’s magazines, book clubs, paperback, and then hardcover books, was perfect training for an agent.

What kind of books do you look for when you’re reading through the submissions pile?
 I am never looking for anything specific, but I am looking to be dazzled. Good use of language always gets my attention. I have to say, I don’t like books that are too dark. I like imagination, a sense of fun, real drama. And most of all, a fresh voice. Even Cinderella, of which there are more than seven hundred versions worldwide, can be told again in a writer’s fresh voice. I mostly look for children’s books but sometimes I represent an adult novel. I agented a book of photographs this past fall which I was quite taken with.

What’s your favorite part of being an agent?
 Calling an author and telling them I have an offer from a publisher – the author, of course, always has to say yes before we accept the offer – is the best part of being an agent. Second best is reading a wonderful manuscript by someone new and starting them on the path to publication. To feel you have some small part in literature making it out to the world is such a joy.

What’s the hardest part of being an agent?
 Dealing with money is the hard part for me. Certainly, there is a fair price for each book. One doesn’t want to be greedy, but an agent wants to do what’s best for the writer. Plus, most people don’t know it, but an agent isn’t paid any kind of salary, so when an agent signs someone up as a client, it is done entirely on the agent’s own time and energy and love. I think if people knew that, they might be nicer to agents!

What’s something someone should never do when looking for an agent? 
Being overly intrusive is a no-no. For instance, sending a whole manuscript without any kind of query letter is annoying. Or sending along a manuscript by special delivery when I haven’t even heard of the person before is also bad. Simple courtesy is always best. And if an agent politely says no, they usually mean no.

Why have an agent?
 No one strictly needs an agent. Sending manuscripts to editors is not that hard a job. However, as some editors only want manuscripts already screened by a professional agent, that is where the need comes in. And it does take time to broker one’s own work. An agent can take care of all the business aspects of a writer’s career so that the writer can spend his or her time writing. Isn’t that nice?
An agent takes on other roles, too. For instance, since my background is editorial, I can often given editorial guidance on a manuscript or even a sample chapter if a writer seeks help. As an agent, sometimes I am a cheerleader, counselor, therapist, minister, friend – all wrapped into one.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading on your own time? Or do you have free time?
 I make myself read at least half an hour every night. I love good nonfiction, like that wonderful two-part biography of Henri Matisse by Hilary Spurling (Knopf). And I usually read a second book at the same time – again, I get bored – so I’ll read a novel like the recent National Book Award Winner, Let the Great World Spin by Colin McCann (Random House). One of my worst habits is reading a line or two aloud, if I really love the language. Some of favorite writers are Ethan Canin, Anne Tyler, Julia Glass, anything by Virginia Woolf, and Colm Tobim.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
 I am a movie fiend. I try to see two or three movies each week. Living in New York, I am spoiled and I try to see movies the day they open. My favorite movie of the past year was Jane Campion’ Bright Star about the poet John Keats. I saw it three times.

What the best advice you could give a first time writer?
 Never be apologetic or falsely humble. Respect your talent. Think of yourself as a professional writer already. Make sure you always act professionally, when you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or an editor, when you are working on a revision. If you act professionally, you will find yourself becoming a true professional writer.

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Are You a Wimpy Writer?

What’s wrong with these sentences?

Mistakes were made.

People were hurt.

My manuscript was rejected.

If you recognize the problems in these sentences, pat yourself on the back.  If you don’t recognize the problems in these sentences, you may be afflicted with a debilitating prose malady that if not corrected, will leave you fit for only the most obscure and useless kinds of writing: political and academic.  If that’s the kind of writing you plan to do, stop reading now.  If you hope to write fiction and nonfiction that people might actually want to read, read on.

The world has need of all kinds of writers, so you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you’re doomed to write for political or academic stuff.  Someone needs to write vague, ambiguous, wordy sentences, and if that’s you, embrace your fate and prepare for a career as a weak-willed, mealy-mouthy, wimpy writer.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But most writers prefer an audience of living, breathing readers, readers who have a wider view of the world.  And those writers, my friends, do not use the passive voice.  Real, living-breathing writers compose in active voice, that is, their sentences have subjects that are also the doers of the action of a sentence.  If you look at the sentences above, you’ll see that although they have subjects, the doer (or actor, or perpetrator) is obscured.  I love the political, sideways admission of guilt, “Mistakes were made,” because it’s absolutely true.  Mistakes were made, but it cleverly leaves out the committer of those mistakes.  A revision of that sentence into active voice would look like this:  “I made mistakes” or “My vice president made mistakes” or “The blasted cat made mistakes.”

The second sentence suffers from the same wimpy, brain-sucking disease.  Instead of writing, “People were hurt,” a living, breathing writer would say, “The blasted cat hurt people” or “The shipwreck hurt people” or something like that.  In the last example, rather than letting an editor off the hook with a passive construction of “My manuscript was rejected,” it should say something like “Throckmorten Jones, a bloodless editor at Mammoth Corporate Publishing, rejected my manuscript” or “The soulless, humorless Blogmistress at Throwing Up Words Inc. rejected my Project Writeway manuscript.”  As you can see, active sentences place the doer in the subject seat of the sentence and provide additional information that makes the sentence more direct and more specific.

If you need to brush up on your use of active voice, check out the passive voice link about and/or watch this video:

 

 

And then watch this video:

Image

 

So, don’t be a wimpy, whiny, indecisive, weak-willed writer.  Use active voice.

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Danger! Will Robinson! Danger!

Okay everyone–already we have had had quite a few submissions for Project Writeway. In fact, I had just posted a note on Ann Dee’s write up of the contest and two people submitted.

So, here’s what I have to say.
You can only enter the contest one time per challenge, so take your time.
Read through what you have.
Ask yourself these questions–
Is this beginning THE very best you have ever written?
Could this be tweaked?
Are you so close to your work that you don’t see the flaws?
Could someone give your contest submission a quick read-through?
Are you wasting words? Not using enough words? Are you trying to do too much? Are you writing the opening too slowly or too quickly as far as pacing goes?

Once, a million years ago, Richard Peck spoke here in Utah. And I was his driver and got to talk to him. I was in heaven. It was great spending time with one of my favorite writers.
Anyway, when he spoke to a packed audience he said (and this is from memory from a million years ago), “You’re no better than your first line.”
Of course he meant was we need to start with a line that grabs the reader.

At one point, Richard looked at two pages of an unpublished middle grade novel I’d written. “I like so much of this,” he said, “but this isn’t your best first line.”
I took the piece home and realized that the best line was just one or two sentences down. I chopped away that first line or two and then I had it, a great first line, hidden in the words.

Richard said a lot of terrific things that day to me and during his speeches. But what I came away with (and this has evolved over the years since his visit as I have written and rewritten and rerewritten and rererewritten and . . .) is that every word is important.

Many of today’s books would tell you differently, that only story matters.
And maybe if publication at all costs is your desire, that’s true for you.
But I think that writing is more than that. It’s the perfect start, the best word choice and a strong story line.
It’s writing and rewriting and rerewriting and rererewriting and . . .

So–
Take your time during this contest.
Put your best work forward.
Make every word count.
And, most of all, have fun!

PS Even if you are eliminated, continue to Play at Home (we’ll tell you how). There’s a prize for the Play at Home winner, too!
Plus a few give-aways.
And schtuff!
Yippee ti yi yo!

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Project Writeway . . .

On Monday everyone will be posting goals.

On Tuesday, Project Writeway will begin. This competition is similar to Project Runway (one of my favorite reality shows) except our competition will be more professional and the prize will be much more fantabulous (hahahahhahahahahah).

It will go like this: the first week will be a first line contest. Turn in your best first line ever. I’ll post the email address that you’ll send it to and then I’ll post them all together on Wednesday or Thursday–we’re still getting the timeline worked out. We want a lot of entries for this so tell your friends. By the end of the week, we’ll have guest judges pick the top twelve first lines. This will be anonymous so with your entry you’ll need a pen name (so fun).

The top twelve will be our contestants on Project Writeway. Each week we’ll have a different challenge. I’ll post the entries on the blog and they will be judged based on both a popular vote (people can send in emails telling us their favorites) and the guest judges vote.

Week by week, we’ll get smaller and smaller and eventually we’ll have a winner! The winner will get some signed books (details soon) AND a ten page critique from a New York Fabulous agent!!! This is a great opportunity to get your work in the hands of a mover and shaker, people!

The competition will only work if we get entries and if we get people voting. If we don’t get enough people doing it, we’ll have BLAH cancel the whole thing. So please please please tell all your writer friends to polish those first lines and get ready to enter next week. We’ll have more specific details next week. All you need to know now is this:

1. First line.

2. Tell your friends.

3. You could win big.

4. Starts next week.

5. You can do this!

I think that’s all. I’m off to try to make dragon birthday decorations. December is a big month for us.

SPREAD THE WORD and let us know if you have questions.

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