Friday, December 23, 2011

You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em

Its not surprising that often when I think of submitting my work to agents and publishers I find myself singing "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers.  But in today's post I want to talk specifically about submissions at this time of year.

I have often written about the fact that I am a goal oriented person.  I especially like to set goals for myself to accomplish before the end of a year, or a birthday, or a season.  It just seems logical to me.  Therefore, with this logic, it would seem appropriate to send out as many queries and submissions as I can before the end of this year.  What a wonderful thing to be able to say that I accomplished before 2012.  However, I need to put the brakes on and reign myself in.

Having a boyfriend "in the biz" allows me a little insider knowledge at times and can be very helpful.  When I expressed to him that I wanted to send out queries this week and next, he reminded me of a very important bit of info that we should all know...the publishing world literally shuts down the week between Christmas and New Years.  And when I say, LITERALLY shuts down, I mean that many publishing houses and literary agency are not open at all.

If I was to send out queries and submissions in the next week I would most likely end up in a huge slush pile that would only overwhelm whomever I queried upon their arrival back at the office in January '12.  No one wants that!

Therefore, its better to "hold 'em" and wait.  As hard as that is for me, I know that waiting until January to send out my queries and submissions will actually help my work be noticed.

So...instead, this coming week, take a break.  Enjoy family.  Eat lotsa stuff you aren't supposed to.  Sing songs.  Dance.  Create memories.  Gather stories.  Rest.  The  publishing world does...they need it...and so do you!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dear Santa: one writer's Christmas wish

First I want to thank each and every one of you who have read my entry, A Jelly Bean's Christmas, for Susanna Hill's Holiday Writing Contest.  Your comments have been wonderful.  Thank you so very much.  Should I happen to be chosen as one of the 3 finalists, voting with occur online on Monday, December 26th.  Stay tuned here for updates.  And Happy Holidays to all!

And letter to Santa.

Dear Santa,

Its been awhile, I know.  I have found it difficult to write ever since the Easy Bake Oven incident of 1979, however, I have finally let that go.  From what I have gathered through the years, you saved me and my family from many a cake with the consistency of a hockey puck.  However, I have to say at times I do feel a little unfulfilled, having never had the "cooking by lightbulb" childhood experience.  But despite all of that, I am quite a good baker, as you know because of the milk and cookies I have left you over the years.  And we will come back to that later. 

I write today with a very specific want...desire...need!  Santa, I WANT AN AGENT!  I want a literary agent real bad. 

There I said it.

To think that I could have that one person who believes in my work as much as I do and who has the professional clout and know-how to launch my career is wonderful! 

To be able to say to other social invitations, "No sorry.  I am not available Tuesday.  I have a lunch meeting with my agent," would be grand! 

To be "represented" to the Publishing BIG HOUSES in NYC...priceless.  Well, not "priceless"'ll cost me 15% of any earnings...but STILL!  To even imagine having earnings from my writing is unfathomable!

I know what you are going to say.  I know you are not in the business of giving people as Christmas gifts.  I remember that letter I wrote when I was 10, requesting Rick Springfield to be my boyfriend.  You answered that you had found that people did not take kindly to being shoved in your sack and flown around the world only to be delivered under a tree on Christmas, so you gave up the practice.  Therefore, I had to be content with a Rick Springfield poster...hardly a substitute. 

I know as much as I promise to take good care of my agent and treat my agent well, you are NOT going to shove one down my chimney.  That's why I came up with Plan B.

When you arrive at my home on Christmas Eve, instead of the customary milk and cookies, you are going to notice three things:  my computer with a window already open to a blank document in Microsoft Word, my printer all ready to go with plenty of paper, and a dictionary (agents do not like to see misspellings or misused words). 

I am asking you, dear Santa Claus, to write a Query Letter for me!  Who better than someone who supposedly spies on me all year round?  You know all about me.  You know what I've been writing.  So pitch it! 

They say to think of it as an elevator speech...or maybe in your case, a chimney speech.  For example, if you suddenly ran into Steven Spielberg on someone's roof and had a script you wanted to sell to him, what would you say to Mr. Spielberg on the trip down the chimney?  Get it? 

Anyway, I will also include a list of guidelines. And Santa, please make sure you follow the appropriate guidelines so that your letter can be seriously considered. If I am interested in using your letter, I will certainly follow up by sending the appropriate milk and cookies. However, if you haven't heard from me within 6 to 8 weeks, please assume that I am passing on your letter and will be seeking help elsewhere.

Thank you in advance for your help.  Oh...and Merry Christmas!  Let's hope this is the beautiful beginning of the renewal of our friendship.

Marcie Colleen

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Twas a Holiday Contest!

As a writer I am constantly looking for motivation and inspiration to write.  That kind of discipline can be grueling sometimes.  With a semester break from my writing class at Gotham Writer's Workshop, I somewhat feel like a college student again who does not want to do ANY work til class starts again.  Without the homework assignments and deadlines, it can be easy to "fall off the wagon".
I am determined to not let that happen. 

So, what better way to keep the keys on my laptop clicking, then to enter a Holiday Writing Contest!?

The contest is hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill ( and asks participants to create their own, preferrably rhyming, version of the traditional poem, Twas The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. 

And that's that! 

Please enjoy my submission...A Jelly Bean's Christmas by Marcie Colleen.

A Jelly Bean’s Christmas  by Marcie Colleen

‘Twas the pageant for Christmas, and all through backstage,
Every actor was nervous, no matter their age.
The donkeys were oldest and required to dance,
But their costumes were much too big in the pants.

The shepherds were ready but one broke her staff,
When the choir of angels knocked over a calf.
And I, as director, tried to stay composed
Right until the moment Rudolph lost his red nose!

But no one was more sad than Maggie McFlan,
Whose costume was not exactly as planned.
Her father just grabbed one from last Halloween.
So Maggie was dressed as a large jelly bean.

Now everyone knows jelly beans come in spring,
Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs, that sort of thing.
Worst yet was the fact that the jelly bean was
Three sizes too small and caused quite a buzz.

Maggie was stuffed in the tiny legume.
She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t dance with little legroom.
But with a deep breath, I concocted a plan,
Before the music started and the play began

Now Christmas is for all, its spirit of cheer
Should be a celebration throughout the year.
And no one could have missed the message that night
When a shiny pink bean stepped into the light.

For Maggie McFlan shuffled out with the cast
To deliver the line that would be the last.
Surrounded by Wise Men, sugar-plums  and cows
That jelly bean raised quite a few eyebrows!

She gathered the hands of all in the theater .
Looked out at the crowd and in words never sweeter
Explained rather boldly how her mom was gone
Fighting a war that has gone on too long.

Her mom was the one with a creative flair.
Dad did as he could when she wasn’t there.
Maggie looked at her costume and suddenly knew
Christmas is for everyone, that much was true.

So this Christmas time, she’ll continue to smile
And pray mom will come home, and stay for awhile.
‘Cause God listens to us, even jelly beans
When we focus on what Christmas truly means.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Query Query

I am sure I am not alone in this...or maybe I am, and if so please don't tell me...but I am terrified of the "query letter'. 

I'm a writer.  That's what I do.  I write.  Ask me to write anything and I gladly will.  But the mere thought of writing a query letter to a literary agent terrifies me. 

Maybe its because I have read too many blogs, etc that mention that a bad letter can actually overshadow a good manuscript and cause it to NOT get picked up.  Eeeeek!  That places an awful lot of pressure on that one little letter.

The problem is, its time I write one.  And although I know there are people, such as my Critique Group and classmates, who often read my manuscripts and provide feedback, I do not know of anyone who would be able to provide such guidance on a query letter.

I have read countless postings on the internet, books and spoken to people about what a query letter is supposed to be.  I have drafted up query letters.  I have listened to podcasts and lectures that include info on "how to write a query letter".  But that does not take away the fact that my sole wish would be that SOMEONE would offer to help me develop a GOOD query letter. 

Enough ranting.  But in this season of making wish lists of what we really want out of life...I guess this is mine.  At least at this moment.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If it Walks Like a Writer, and Talks Like a Writer...

Let's face it, being a "pre-published writer" can be a tricky thing.  We have all probably been in social situations where you tell someone you are a writer and the conversation goes as such:

Person You Just Met: are a writer?
You:  Yes.
Person You Just Met:  What do you write?
You:  Children's Picture Books, mostly.
Person You Just Met:  Wow!  That's wonderful!  Would I have heard of anything you have written?
You:  Not unless you broke into my computer!  (insert awkward laugh).
(Cue crickets to serenade the awkwardness)
You:  No actually, I am pre-published.
Person You Just Met:  Oh....

Have a few of these conversations and its no wonder that many of us often have trouble referring to ourselves as writers.  At least I know I do.

But the truth is, I am a writer!  And this week I embarked on a mission to feel like a writer everyday.  Now, this is different from "writing daily"..although I try to do that, too.  But I am talking about feeling like a writer everyday.

What does that entail?

First, I realize that it entails treating yourself as a writer.  For me, that means the following:
  • taking time to research (ie. reading published works, reading others' blogs about the craft, reading trade publications)
  • carrying a notebook around at all times and jotting down any ideas that come to me on the train or in the grocery store, etc.
  • and obviously, writing daily...or as much as possible.  Meaning, always finding a project to be working on...whether that is a homework assignment, a contest entry, or simply an idea you had for the next story.
Second, look for ways for others to treat you as a writer.  This means putting yourself in a community of other like-minded people who will think of you as a writer.  Examples would be:

  • Enroll in a class
  • Blog
  • Enter a contest
  • Submit your work
  • Attend a critique group
  • Go to a seminar/conference
  • Celebrate your accomplishments with your friends and family
The more you develop the habit of treating yourself and having others treat you as a writer, the more it solidifies this identity for you. time you sit down to read some blogs or read a published work...think of it as exploring the field.  Going to the library is professional work.  Hanging at the playground with your kids is research.  When you think like this, its easy to feel like a real writer every day.

What have you done so far this week to be treated by yourself or others as a writer?  What will you do before the end of the week?

Happy Writing everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Blogger Blues: Why Blog?

I started this blog back in September with a real desire to beat dabbling and to start writing every day.  AND...I am very happy to report that I have been able to accomplish this, for the most part (plus or minus a day here or there).  So why do I feel like a failure?

Let me back up...

In September I embarked on a journey to become a writer...and therefore, make writing a part of my daily routine.  To do so, I became involved in a variety of different activities to ensure that I would do this. 

First, I enrolled in a weekly writing class.  Homework assignments certainly kept me busy.  I have also enrolled for next semester to ensure that this momentum continues.  Check!

Secondly, I started a Critique Group through SCBWI which meets monthly.  This group has provided a certain accountability (needing to have a manuscript ready to be critiqued each meeting) and inspiration for future projects.  Check!

Thirdly, in November I set out to participate in PiBoIdMo 2011 (Picture Book Idea Month) and took the following oath:
I solemnly swear to faithfully execute
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge,
and to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into picture book manuscripts.

The result...I was a WINNER!  And now in my arsenal I have 30 ideas for which to embark on the next challenge 12 x 12 in 2012 (12 manuscripts in 12 months of 2012) starting in January.  Check!

Bottomline, since September I have 2 completed manuscripts, 1 semi-completed manuscript, 30 ideas, a Critique Group that meets monthly, another class starting at the end of January, registration for the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge, as well.  PLUS I sent my first query letter to an agent.  All of this in 3 months of hard work!  Does this sound like failure to anyone? 

Well, to my perfectionist mind, I have failed to do one thing.  I have not been consistent in blogging. 

In September, to document my ups and downs with this "Writing Daily" challenge, I decided to start a blog.  In fact, every where I turned there were articles about how EVERY writer should blog.  Blog, blog, blog! order to follow the fold, I started The Write Routine.

With only a few followers, I found myself getting discouraged.  Why was I blogging? 

And with the onslaught of so many other ways to meet my challenge...blogging became a hassle that I didn't have time for.  So again...why was I blogging?

I hope to make this blog a priority in the new year. In fact, I would go as far as to make a resolution. However, the last thing I want at the end of March is to look back on all that I accomplished in 3 months and feel like I failed in this area. One thing I do know, I will not blog in the place of writing new manuscripts, revising manuscripts, or sending out queries. That, my friends, is a fact!

The truth is, I do feel compelled to create a blog and have this online presence.  I would love to see this blog become something.  But I still come back to the question of why?  Why blog?  Do writers need to blog?  How do writers find time?  How do you keep blogging for taking over other writing projects?  Any advice or anecdotes would be appreciated.

In the meantime, Happy Writing!