Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Take Two: Writing for Self vs. Writing for Publication

Since we're all still recovering from last week's festivities, I thought I'd share an old post with you. I originally published this post back in October 2009, when I didn't have any many readers (except for Holly--hi, Holly!). At that time, I had just started Bob's first draft and was finishing my previous manuscript's query cycle. Hope you enjoy.

A month or two ago, I remember saying something very much like, “Ugh! I just want to be writing again! I’m so sick of all this querying!” This was back when I was still outlining Bob (new work-in-progress)--and still trying to adapt to a new schedule with a new baby in the house. I hadn’t written even a sentence of a novel for months, and the withdrawals were starting to eat me alive.

My husband laughed at this and said, “Wasn’t it just a few months ago that you were complaining about the writing? I believe you said something very much like, ‘Ugh! I just want to be querying again! I just want to have another manuscript ready to send out to agents!’”

He was right, of course. I did say something very much like that while I was editing my last book. That’s because I was starting to feel that same feeling I’d get whenever my parents would make me stop to eat food in Disneyland. There I’d be, stuffing my ten-dollar slice of pizza into my face as fast as I could stuff, scowling at all of the other kids skipping past, and knowing, just knowing, that their favorite ride was Big Thunder Mountain, too. That they were on their way there, and that they were going to get in line in head of me. As if Big Thunder Mountain were going to up and disappear sometime in between when they arrived and when I finally choked down that last fifty-cent pepperoni.

It’s irrational, I know, but sometimes we humans are just irrational beings (case in point: whoever decided mullets were attractive). And the truth is, while my life’s ambition has been to publish a book for as long as I’ve known what the word ambition meant (which is why I put up with all that querying), it’s not the reason I write. I write because I have to; because some days it’s the only thing that stands between me, my two kids, and the nut house; because it gives me a socially acceptable reason to talk to the voices in my head. I write because whenever I see something funny or beautiful or tragic, I imagine how I would describe it if I were writing about it in a book. I’m sure you understand.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I write for myself. As magnificent a dream as publication is--and it is magnificent and, for now, just a dream--it is not what keeps me going, what forces me to put at least a few words down on paper (or up on the screen) every day. I probably would have given up a long time ago if that were my motivation. And I’m not giving up. Because I can’t.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Christmas Means to Me

Tonight we celebrate the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, a baby who, I believe, was and is the Savior of the world. He died that we might be forgiven of our sins and return to live with our Heavenly Father, but He also lived that we might have an example, a way to follow.

The past few days have given Christmas a completely different spin this year. As you may have guessed, the picture at the top of the post is a picture of our house on Tuesday afternoon. Our neighbors took this from their front door just before they skedaddled. The water level was actually higher than this at one point--it made it past the palm trees and all the way up to the sandbags in front of the garage.

But this picture doesn’t tell the whole story. About fifteen minutes before we narrowly escaped, our friend from the nearby mesa showed up. He was there to aid in the rescue efforts, and he helped Honey Bear get the last of the sandbags in place. As they were sandbagging, he said something like, “You know you can always stay at our house, right?” Honey Bear thanked him for the offer and said we’d probably take him up on it.

Here’s the thing, though: We beat our friend to his house, which meant he probably hadn’t spoken to his wife before we showed up on their porch. But when she saw us climbing out of the car, she met us on the doorstep and asked, “Do you guys need a place to stay? We’re not really ready for company, but we can be in five minutes!”

As I sat in their living room that night, staring at the twinkling lights of their real, live Christmas tree, a few verses from Matthew came to mind:

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

When we showed up on their porch that wet and lonely afternoon, I felt like “one of the least of these my brethren.” My pants and shoes were soaked, my spirits even more so, but our dear friends didn’t hesitate. They gave us a place to stay. They gave us hope.

That’s what Christmas means to me this year. It means living the kind of life that precious baby lived--the kind of life our friends lived Tuesday afternoon--so that, when He comes again, we will be like Him and so abide the day.

Merry Christmas, everybody, and thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. I really think they made a difference. May you and yours have a beautiful holiday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours--Literally

Have you ever wondered what you would grab if you had five minutes to get out of your house and run for the hills? Well, I don't have to wonder anymore.

We live several hundred yards (insert metric conversion here) away from a river. It's not a very big river, mind you--most of the time, it's a lot more sandbar and a lot less river--but it is a river, nevertheless. We knew about this river before we bought the house. We even knew it had overflowed its banks during a historic hundred-year flood almost six years ago, so named because this sort of flood generally only happens once every hundred years.

Someone should have told the river it still had ninety-four years left on its hundred-year contract.

We woke up yesterday to the delightful strains of heavy machinery. A couple of city crews were digging trenches, throwing up levees, pumping storm drains. We assumed they were just being proactive. Several hours later, someone called my husband and asked him to help sandbag a few blocks over. He came back an hour later, smelling like a sandbag and soaked to the skin (despite his heavy winter coat), and said, "You might want to start packing."

So I started packing, methodically, deliberately. We were planning to leave for the parents' house the next day, anyway, so I was just getting a leg up on vacation prep. That was what I told myself. An hour later, I had all the laundry put away and the essentials in a duffel. And a good thing, too, because when I went into the kitchen to grab something, I saw the river. In our street.

My hands began to tremble. I told myself, out loud, "Think. Clearly." I grabbed Honey Bear's laptop and scriptures (he teaches religion classes to high school students, and those are just about the only things he needs to do his job), the kids' diapers and some wipes, and a few basic toiletries and threw them in the bag. Then I ran back to the kitchen and grabbed my flash drive. I thought about saving the latest version of Bob on it, took one look out the window, and realized I had no time. A minute later, Honey Bear, who had just finished building the last of the sandbag barriers in front of our house, stuck his head in the front door and yelled, "We gotta go!" We grabbed the bags, grabbed the kids (with no socks or shoes, regrettably), and ran.

We were shin-deep in river water while we loaded our kids into the car (which was parked in the driveway, thankfully, and not the garage). Honey Bear was mildly concerned our car wouldn't be able to make it up the street, but we made it. Barely. As we drove away, I burst into tears.

A kindly neighbor--who lives on top of a nearby mesa, I might add--took us in, and that is where I'm sitting as I type this, in our kindly neighbor's family room. We've been back to our house a few times to check on it, and the waters appear to be receding. So far, the inside of our house has stayed dry. The rain is back this morning, though, and several dams above us might not hold. So today will be a nail-biter, but at least we're all dry and safe--which is more than I can say for yesterday.

You know, I got a full rejection yesterday morning, and I was feeling kind of bummed about it. Now I'm just happy that my family and my house aren't underwater (for the moment). Nothing like a friendly neighborhood flood to put things back in perspective.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas I Remember Best

The Christmas I remember best was also the Christmas after my father lost his job. I was eight or nine at the time, so I didn’t really understand what was going on, but my mother tells me the day my father lost his job was also the only day she’s ever seen him cry.

I also didn’t understand the impact my father’s unemployment would have on Christmas, but my parents did. Thinking back on it now, as a parent myself, I realize their hearts must have broken as they thought about the much smaller Christmas dinner, the barren Christmas tree. So they did what any self-respecting parents would do: They set out to make that Christmas feel as unexceptional as possible.

They didn’t succeed.

They didn’t succeed because I remember the weeks leading up to Christmas with surprising clarity. I remember watching my mother disappear into her bedroom--where her sewing machine lived--with the express command that we were not to go inside when the door was closed. My dad played with us in the living room while she did who knew what, and neither of them ever explained. It never occurred to me to question what she was doing, so I didn’t.

They also didn’t succeed because I remember those Christmas presents better than I remember any others. I have a hazy memory of once opening up a keyboard (which my parents wanted me to have) and a boom box that played cassette tapes AND CDs (which I wanted me to have), but the two presents I got that year--a small handmade quilt and a muslin bunny rabbit with custom floral-print dress--stand out more than the others.

I slept with that quilt every night until I was, like, fourteen. Now it lives at the bottom of my cedar chest, waiting for the day when my own daughter will sleep with it, too, and appreciate the story of where it came from. I toted that rabbit around whenever my sister and I played house, since I didn’t particularly care for baby dolls. In fact, that rabbit was so iconic we decided that ought to be the secret signal of my engagement: When I brought a boy home wearing rabbit ears, my family would know I was getting married:)

My parents wanted that Christmas to feel just the same as all the others, and at the time, it did. I didn’t realize until years later that those presents had come from my mother’s sewing machine and not some store or catalog. But it is precisely because of where they came from that I remember that Christmas now. Far and away, that was the Christmas I remember best--and the one I treasure most.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Elana Roth

Today’s interactive interview features Elana Roth of Caren Johnson Literary Agency. Ms. Roth maintains a thought-provoking blog and also contributes to the CJLA blog, so if you’re looking for more information about her querying preferences and the agency in general, check out those links. Details on the interactive part of the interview are at the bottom. Now, without further ado (although there’s been quite a bit of ado so far (sorry)), I give you Ms. Roth.

KV: How often does a query intrigue you enough to look at the included pages? And how often do those pages intrigue you enough to request the manuscript?

ER: I pretty much always look at the sample pages. I've had cases where the query wasn't wonderful, but the pages had a great tone. I find the two work really well together. I really do need that query to tell me clearly what the story is, but the pages can give me the broader picture of the book's potential.

I request 5 to 10 manuscripts a month, from an average query rate of 300 queries a month. So the odds are so high, but about par for the course.

KV: What are you looking for in a requested manuscript?

ER: First and foremost I just want something really cool--a concept or voice I haven't seen a million times before. I don't expect crazy plot-lines, since most stories have been done, but I do want something fresh with the hook and setup and character. Those are things I can pick out in the query. But the manuscript just needs to keep me reading, which means something tightly written, plotted and edited. I am a plot girl. I like actions and events and intrigue. Keep me interested.

KV: What are some of the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you request?

ER: Pacing is a huge problem. If I hit page 50 and nothing has happened yet, we have a problem. That's usually where I stop reading. Children's books aren't that short, but they aren't that long either. If you think of having about 250 pages for a YA novel to work, you've just wasted the first 1/5 of your pages. Start the story where the story starts, and then keep it moving.

Voice is also a problem but one I find is harder to pinpoint. It's also very personal. I've hated voices other people loved. So it goes. But I think we are all aware of the hyper-cliché girl voice in YA. Before writing a whole book, find your voice. Both your own voice as a writer, but also the voice of the character. Do those exercises where you write conversations with the character, let them talk. Make sure you know exactly who they are, and then write that.

KV: When you come across a manuscript you really like/love, how do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?

ER: This is really case by case. It really depends on that inherent level of excitement. It also depends on any significant problems. Several books that I now represent had some problems, but I loved them, so I asked for revisions before I offered representation. This is mostly to make sure the author is actually capable of the work and capable of collaboration. But other times I just discuss any notes with the author during the phone call and if I think it jives with them, then I'll offer and handle the revisions later.

KV: When you do make that Call, you’re probably going to ask the writer if she has any questions. What sorts of questions should she ask?

ER: Every author should know what some deal-breakers are for them. Some authors might have a problem if their agent is also an aspiring writer. Some authors might want a more editorially hands-on agent.

I think it's mostly really important to talk about communication styles. For example, I'm a really blunt person--and I use that conversation to let authors know that I'm always going to be a straight-shooter and maybe don't work with me if you're too sensitive for that. I find a lot of a good agent-author relationship is just personality and willingness to communicate openly.

Beyond that, I think authors should be aware of all the basics, like commission breakdown, how the agreement works, how rights are handled, etc.

KV: And now for a few quick questions from the normal interview. What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

ER: I have a weird gap in books coming out because we (agents as a whole) had a bad run in 2009 selling anything at all. I went more than 6 months between selling things. So my last book out was Laura Toffler-Corrie's THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF AMY FINAWITZ, which is a hilarious middle-grade novel that I always think of as FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER as told by Woody Allen.

My next client book out is M.P. Kozlowsky's JUNIPER BERRY, which I can't be more excited about. It's a modern fairy tale, but it's charming and scary and imaginative and amazing. That is due out in May 2011.

While these projects couldn't be more different, both authors are just so talented in their fields. Laura is an incredible comedy writer, and I still laugh every time I pick up AMY FINAWITZ. And JUNIPER BERRY grabbed me from the first go--the concept is just that fresh, but the book fits so strongly into that classic timeless middle-grade genre we love so much. Michael is just a beautiful writer.

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were?

ER: I haven't been seeing anything new, really. I've been getting hammered with fallen angel books of all varieties. And I'm still getting lots of paranormal, girl-who-has-dreams kind of stuff. It's not really right for me, unless there's truly a spin I haven't seen before.

I would still love some really cool twist-on-reality-with-a-science-edge kind of book. I'm a nerd, so I like nerdy things.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

ER: E-mail! All of our submissions info is here:

And like I said above, include the first 3 to 5 pages of your novel at the bottom of the e-mail body. It helps!

Thank you, Ms. Roth, for these wonderfully in-depth responses. My favorite line from this interview (for obvious reasons): “I would still love some really cool twist-on-reality-with-a-science-edge kind of book.” (And if you don't know why it's obvious, maybe you should read a little of Bob.)

As for the interactive part, just leave a question down there in the comments sometime between now and 5:00 p.m. EST (that’s 2:00 p.m. PST, for those of us on the West Coast), and Ms. Roth will answer it sometime between now and whenever the world ends--but probably a lot closer to now:)

P.S. This is the last agent interview we'll be posting this year, but we'll be back in January with more agents, more interviews, and maybe a few more surprises. And I'll be back next week with a few Christmas-related posts. In the meantime, have a wonderful last weekend before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Tidbits

I’ve been trying to come up with a blog post for the past few days, and all I can say is, I got nothin’. So here’s a random list of the Christmas things I’ve been doing/thinking about.

1. Racing to finish this round of edits on Bob so I can get him off to ANOTHER beta reader (thank you, Kelly!) before we leave for Kaysville next week. I realize said beta probably won’t get to him until after the holidays, but I’ll feel much better over the Christmas break if he’s out of my hands.

2. Writing a letter to my soon-to-be brother-in-law. We do a sibling gift exchange in Honey Bear’s family (he’s the oldest of six, and by the end of this month, half of them will be married), but this year, my mother-in-law had the awesome idea of writing letters to each other. I drew the soon-to-be brother-in-law's name out of the hat, which is arguably the hardest one since we don’t know him as well as we know everyone else, but I’m up for the challenge. How hard can it be to write a nice letter to someone who has a lovely singing voice? :)

3. Gloating about Honey Bear’s Christmas gift. I’m really excited about it, and he has no idea what it is. He usually figures it out, so this is exciting. (Maybe someone should get me a thesaurus for Christmas…) Honey Bear was home when the FedEx man delivered it, and I was kind of afraid the box would give it away, but he’s still clueless. Fantastic:)

4. Looking around my house and thinking, “You know, I really should clean you before we go out of town.” But I haven’t. I think I need to get pregnant again. When I was pregnant with Lady, my nesting instinct set in so bad that our house was spotless, SPOTLESS, for months. Ah, the days.

5. Singing in the ward choir for the Christmas program this Sunday. (We’re doing it a week early since so many people are going out of town.) We’re not very good. I hope a few angels show up to sing with us:)

What about you? How are your holiday plans shaping up?

P.S. If you haven't already, check out Kathleen Ortiz's TCUHBIP contest. Today she's giving away a Tor prize pack filled with fabulous last-minute Christmas gifts for the readers in your life books. Good luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Heather Evans

I think a lot of you are going to like this one:) Today’s interview features another FinePrinter, Heather Evans of FinePrint Literary Management. (If you’re looking for more FinePrinters, check out my interviews with Suzie Townsend and Marissa Walsh.) Enjoy!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

HE: I've been officially agenting for about six months now. I grew up on books, reading them and writing them, so a career in publishing was a no brainer. After three years of being an assistant at FinePrint, I took the next step and starting looking for my own projects.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

HE: Good books take a lot of hard work, and I like to be very involved in that work. If I sign an author, it means I'm in love with their book and am committed to making it as perfect as possible before it goes out to editors. I expect that same commitment from the author. It's important that they're open to revision. An author needs to have (or fake) patience with the process. Good communication is key here, of course. I want all my authors to know that I'm available whenever they might have a question, concern, or just want to bounce ideas around about their current book or their long term career.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

HE: While I'm still on the road to making my first sale, my client Laird Barron will have his first novel THE CRONING coming out Fall 2011. Laird writes literary horror and already has two short story collections out. There's so much I'm drawn to in his work--it's intelligent, fresh, and strangely beautiful even at its most frightening.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

HE: I represent horror, fantasy, paranormal romance, historical romance, LGBT, commercial fiction, literary fiction, and YA in each of those genres. I like dark stories, both grim and whimsical.

I'm not the right agent for straight up mysteries or thrillers, chick lit, middle grade, or inspirational. In general, I'm not right for something that's lighthearted or sweet.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

HE: Don't send the same "Dear Literary Agent" e-mail to me and fifty other agents. If you don't care enough to address me by name, why should I care enough to read your query?

Really, the best way to get my attention is to write a pitch that sounds like something you'd read on the back of a novel. Although a short bio is fine, don't get bogged down in personal details or give lengthy explanations of why you wrote the book. Your pitch should be clean, concise and polished; it should give me a good idea of the novel's plot and characters, and be written in the same tone as the novel itself.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

HE: I'm looking for a strong, fresh voice that's relevant today, edgy characters, and beautiful writing. I would really love to see a YA (or even adult) in the vein of TV's Dexter or Weeds, something grounded in reality, but pushing the envelope.

In YA and romance, vampires and angels feel very "been there, done that." In horror, I'm tired of seeing the same old-fashioned monster, etc. premises that just aren't scaring people today. It has to mean something. It has to make you think.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

HE: Send me an e-mail, and include the first several pages of your manuscript pasted into the bottom.

Told you you’d like this one:)

Thanks again, Ms. Evans, for these detailed responses. Now don’t everyone query her all at once.

Have a great weekend, all. Hope you get lots of Christmas/late-Hanukkah shopping done!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Query Update

First off, some numbers:

Total queries: 33
Pending queries: 10

Minimum response time (requests): 0 days
Median response time (requests): 12 days
Maximum response time (requests): 30 days

Minimum response time (rejections): 1 day
Median response time (rejections): 3.5 days
Maximum response time (rejections): 22 days

In some ways, this seems a little counterintuitive. Why do agents take longer to request? Don’t they pounce on the manuscripts they’re interested in? Maybe they do if the concept’s super amazing, or if they wake up that morning and think, “Gee, I’d really love a YA space opera with a line-dancing ocelot,” and then one lands in their inbox.

More often, though, I suspect requests tend to take longer because agents are mulling them over. Mary Kole blogged about the way she tackles queries several months ago, and the moral of the story was, if you receive an insta-response from her, it’s probably an insta-rejection. That’s not always the case, of course, and every agent is different, but I think a lot more agents are quick to reject than are quick to request.

In other news, I’m happy to report I've only sent out nine queries since my last query update, so I’m definitely trying to be more conservative. Also, you’re probably wondering what happened to that partial-turned-full request I mentioned last month. (Or maybe you’re not. My life’s probably not as interesting to you as it is to me:) ) Well, it turned into a revise-and-resubmit a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty excited about it. The agent had some fantastic ideas, and I hope to be able to send off that revision sometime in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, it’s onward and upward. Even though I’m working on this revision, I still stand behind the original Bob. Because you never know when someone will come along and love him just as he is.

How’s everybody else doing? Did you survive NaNoWriMo? Any other good news (or bad news) you’d like to share with the rest of us?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Recommendation: WE TWO (Plus a Long Subtitle) by Gillian Gill

Honey Bear and I checked out the movie The Young Victoria the other day (we never see anything in theaters anymore), and I LOVED it. I loved it so much that I decided I needed to find out more about Victoria and her German prince. (Who also happened to be one of her first cousins. Hey, don’t judge. They did that a lot back then. Too bad no one informed them about the genetic risks…) So I checked out Gillian Gill’s WE TWO a few days later--and loved it just as much.

WE TWO is split into two parts: The first details the Queen’s and prince’s early lives (the Queen is always capitalized, by the way, to the utter dismay of capitalization rules), and the second describes their life together. What’s more, WE TWO doesn’t map things out strictly chronologically; rather, it treats its material thematically on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Ms. Gill picks up a story thread (such as the Queen’s daughter’s engagement to the surprisingly adorable heir of Prussia) and follows it through to its conclusion, then backs up several years and picks up a parallel thread.

A lot of WE TWO surprised me. For instance, Victoria despised having children (although she ended up having nine) and wasn’t a terribly affectionate mother. On that same topic, she never had a miscarriage (a feat for any woman in any century, let alone the nineteenth), and all of her children grew to adulthood (which is even more impressive when you find out her youngest son, Leopold, had hemophilia).

But perhaps the biggest surprise was that Albert wasn’t quite as, uh, swoon-worthy in real life as he was in The Young Victoria. He wasn’t nearly so in love with her, at least at first (although Christopher Hibbert’s biography offers some evidence to the contrary (yeah, I’m currently reading Hibbert’s brick-like QUEEN VICTORIA:) )), and he was more than a little misogynistic. Albert was definitely a product of his times, and I like to think The Young Victoria explored the man that would have been had he been raised in this century.

The subtitle I failed to mention, “Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals,” really says it all. Both the writing and the subject matter of WE TWO thoroughly engaged me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about England’s longest-reigning monarch and her beloved prince.

P.S. Honey Bear and I also attempted another recipe from MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, but I decided not to blog about it because the dish turned out so well:) For all my fellow culinary experimenters, you might try cotes de porc poelees (with gratuitous accent marks I’m not even going to attempt to reproduce, page 386 in the teal-and-orange edition) with the mustard, cream, and tomato sauce mentioned on the next page.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Kathleen Ortiz

As promised, I give you Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates. Check out the interview, then check out Ms. Ortiz’s awesome blog. (She’s kicking off a huge twelve-work-days-before-Christmas contest next week, so click that “Follow” button right away!) Happy reading!

KV: How often does a query intrigue you enough to look at the included pages? And how often do those pages intrigue you enough to request a partial?

KO: I keep an updated stats report on my blog ( It varies month to month. From September 1 to 30 I requested 23 partials out of 1,179 queries. This is really high compared to the average agent, but I’m looking to build my list of clients:)

KV: Jumping in to add Ms. Ortiz recently posted her agency's October stats, which are similar. Okay, back to the interview!

What are you looking for in a requested manuscript?

KO: I’m looking for a great voice, great plot--do I get sucked into the world you’ve created/the characters who interact with each other? Is it a realistic voice? Is the pacing good or am I falling asleep/thinking about laundry that needs to be done?

KV: What are some of the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you request?

KO: Too much backstory; super slow pacing; not knowing what the story is to begin with (tons of side plots but no actual, main plot); non-engaging characters; telling instead of showing; writing a story that’s already been written except with different character names; etc.

KV: When you come across a manuscript you really like/love, how do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?

KO: If it’s great writing and an intriguing read but there’s a major plot issue, then I’ll chat with the author about it, let them know my thoughts, and then if they want to revise/resubmit then I’ll take a look and go from there. If it’s great writing, an intriguing read and just needs minor adjustments then I jump on the phone:)

KV: When you do make that Call, you’re probably going to ask the writer if she has any questions. What sorts of questions should she ask?

KO: Great question! :) Hannah Moskowitz actually guest blogged about this on my blog:

But in a nutshell, be prepared to ask how the agency works, thoughts on your manuscript, communication policies, submission styles, etc.

KV: And now for a few quick questions from the normal interview. What client work do you have coming out soon?

KO: Jaime Reed’s YA trilogy SOUL IMPULSE sold to Kensington recently.

KV: What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

KO: I love it because it’s SO different from the paranormal out there--the MC is a kickass teen who isn’t a damsel in distress. And the paranormal element = Cambions, the offspring of humans and incubi? Um hello amazing.

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were?

KO: YA Thrillers!!

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

KO: By e-mail:

Please send us a one-page query letter, along with the first ten pages pasted in the body of the message (if fiction; for non-fiction, please send only a query letter), by e-mail to Please put the word QUERY and the title of your project in the subject field of your e-mail and address it to the agent of your choice. Please do not send an attachment as the message will be deleted without being read and no reply will be sent. We reply to all queries and generally send a response within two to four weeks.

By mail:

For Fiction: Mail a query letter, short synopsis, first chapter and a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope).

For Nonfiction: Mail a query letter, proposal, if available, or else a project overview and a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope).

Lowenstein Associates
121 West 27th Street
Suite 501
New York, NY 10001

Thanks, Ms. Ortiz, for these responses. And look how easy she made it on us queriers--we’ve got her submission guidelines right here!

Best of luck to all who query. I’m hanging out in Ms. Ortiz’s query inbox right now, too:)