Monday, August 3, 2015

The Dread Synopsis

3 comments

 By Susan J Berger

I break out in a cold sweat when I hear the word synopsis. It reminds me of those horrible book reports I had to write in school. Images of How I spent My Summer Vacation and other hideous teacher subjects float behind my eyelids.

But a synopsis is part of the writers tool box. I wanted a better idea of what I should be writing. I approached the great reference desk in the sky - Google and I found help. Wonderful help. The links will give you the full posts from which I've quoted.


This is from Panic Free Synopsis by Jan Fields

DEFINITION: SYNOPSIS

Synopsis must be one of the most under-explained issues in children's writing. From a tall stack of writing books, I found nearly nothing on writing the synopsis. Finally, I spotted a definition in Book Markets for Children's Writers 2006: "A clear, brief description of the fiction or nonfiction project proposed, conveying the essence of the entire idea. A synopsis may be one or several paragraphs on the entire books, or it may be written in chapter-by-chapter format. Synopses should also convey a sense of your writing style without getting wordy."

Jan goes on to give some excellent ideas of what to include. For a children's book she suggests less is more. Limit synopsis to three pages or under.

 

Anatomy of a Children's Book Synopsis by Cynthea Liu

Points to remember:
The synopsis should give the reader a clear idea of what happens in the story (no cliffhangers)
It should also be INTERESTING TO READ.
It focuses on the main characters and the driving plot. It touches on minor characters and subplots AS THEY RELATE TO THE DRIVING PLOT.

Parts of a synopsis
Beginning – paragraph one
Middle – paragraphs two-three-four
End – paragraph five.

Cynthea gives good examples of beginning, middle and end.


Lou Treleaven in How to Write a Synopsis suggests that a good length is one page (I love this.)

When to write it

Should you write your synopsis before or after your manuscript? It depends on your method of planning. If you prefer to plot your novel first before writing, there is much to be said for coming up with a synopsis first which you can use as a working plan. It may need revision at the end to account for unexpected events but the basics will be there. Most writers, however, tackle the synopsis at the end, which is probably why it becomes so dreaded a task. Your precious manuscript is complete and ready to go out into the world, and now you have to squeeze all the magic out of it and bash out the main points in a page of dry, academic prose when all you want to do is get the thing out there and move on to the dizzy excitement of planning a new book. Tough! It’s got to be done.

Christy Burne gives Four secrets and a "before and after "example of her own.

1) Write your synopsis like you write your novel.
If you write in a sassy voice, use that same sassy voice in your synopsis. If your book is funny, use humour in your synopsis. And if you’ve crammed 10 tonnes of back story into the first sentence, cut it out and start again (just like writing a novel ;-))

2) Write your synopsis, then close the file for a week or three.
Just like your novel draft, a synopsis needs time to breathe. After three weeks of working on something else, you’ll see new mistakes and new room for improvement.

I like her examples and her voice. Worth clicking on..

Things to remember
Synopsis Format
In the upper left hand corner you should have the following info:
Synopsis of "Title here" Genre:.................Word count: By__________ Single space your synopsis. 
(Synopses longer than one page should be double-spaced.) Its paragraphs are usually indented, with no spaces between paragraphs. You do not use a cover page or any fancy headings or fonts.
Synopsis Checklist:
Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading?
Are your main characters' conflicts clearly defined? 
Are your characters sympathetic? Surely this only applies to the hero(s)?
Can the reader relate to them and worry about them?
Have you avoided all grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes?

Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book? Did you resolve all important conflicts? Did you use present tense?

Synopsis Examples:

Here's a link to the synopsis of The Way Way Back from Writer's Digest.
Examples of synopses from Miss Snark's Crapometer blog posts

 
I hope this helps.  I'm off to re-write my synopsis. Again. Happy writing.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Author Catherine Linka
In Conversation

1 comments
Catherine Linka
by Lupe Fernandez

Catherine Linka is the author of A Girl Called Fearless, a page turning, chilling prescient story about a Avie Reveare, a teenage girl, contracted to marry a wealthy aspiring politician in a country recovering from deaths of fifty million women. Can she escape her fate as a biological commodity in a male dominated society.

Daring escapes. Political intrigue. And true love.

I've known Catherine via SCBWI for several years. She's a gracious, generous, giving person and all around swell gal. I knew her when she worked for Flintridge Books; she assisted our modest blog with a few posts.

I've seen her at conferences and workshops, and she's been most kind to this Foreign Correspondent.

So read on MacDuff!

After writing the book, did your attitude change about "opportunities" for young ladies like beauty pageants, modeling careers and reality shows?
Hmmm. That’s a tough one. Not every young woman has the access to higher education I did. So while I am concerned about young women being exploited by people who do not have their best interests at heart, I’ve also met women who have used these avenues to further their careers using the poise, savvy, scholarship money and interpersonal skills they developed in the public eye.

At any time during process of selling or editing the book, were you told "This book is going to get banned. How about a massive plague affecting cats?"
When I first started working on the series, I was sure it couldn’t get published, because gay marriage was accepted in my story, but that just goes to show how quickly attitudes, and thankfully, laws have changed. My editor was nervous about one aspect of the politics I can’t tell you about, but I was more worried about getting sued by Cartier for making their iconic Love bracelet into a symbol of enslavement or Sotheby’s for showing them auctioning off young women. Fortunately, no one at Cartier or Sotheby’s has read the book yet.

Publishing a book is no longer just a book. There's ancillary promotions like author playlists and separate character stories. Is this more work or a greater outlet for your work?
Right now in the publishing world, most YA’s get a week of attention, if that. As authors we can spend years writing and editing our book so if there’s a way to extend its life and reach, we need to take advantage of that. I worked with my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, to put a novella, Sparrow’s Story: A Girl Defiant, up on wattpad.com so that I could reach more young readers. I don’t know if that has turned into readers for the series, but it’s been an interesting experience.

Who arranged your appearance at the Bay Area Book Festival Teen Stage?
I believe St. Martins pitched me, although I had hired a private PR person to work on festival appearances. It’s competitive to get into festivals, so you need to have someone promoting that for you. 

Who designed your Media Kit?
I did my own media kit after carefully looking at what other authors have on their websites, and reading online articles about how to prepare one. I made a list of the things that were included in media kits and made sure I had them in mine. It’s not hard, but a writer might try doing it as a project with a friend who’s read their book and knows them well, and can keep them from being so humble that they downplay their accomplishments.

“A deftly plotted portrait of the evolution of a teenage girl into a dystopian heroine. Linka weaves a believable, disturbing dystopian future and never shies from violence or tragedy. Avie evolves into a bold protagonist at a brisk but authentic pace... the revolution and the tense escape plot shine.”

In your website FAQ you wrote, "But the inspiration for the story came from asking what it would be like for an American girl to deal with the limits on her freedom of choice and movement that affect girls in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries today." Care to comment on contemporary political, social limits threatening American girls?
While American girls benefit from living in a country that offers free, universal education and has a constitutional separation between church and state, we continue to allow politics to dictate health policies that should be decisions between young women and their health care providers.

How did the college boys react when thirteen year old Catherine helped them use an axe?
Oh, that did not go well. I’m not sure who was more embarrassed--me or them-- when my dad sent me over to chop their firewood.


The Management thanks Catherine Linka for this interview. We wish her fame, fortune and flawless syntax. For more about Catherine visit  www.catherinelinka.com
 
Run, don't walk, to your nearest independent bookstore and buy a copy of A Girl Named Fearless and the sequel, A Girl Undone.

We're tracking you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rejection Junction, what's your function?

6 comments
Rejection Junction
by Hilde Garcia

To drive me crazy? Probably.

Rejection defined:
: to refuse to believe, accept, or consider something, (like my manuscript)
: to decide not to publish (my MS) because it is not good enough- really?
: to refuse to allow (me) to join a club (like an agency), etc.

Yet that’s what we authors do- submit and get rejected. 
Day in and day out.

It’s daunting to be sure.  So why do it?

In an article I read in Psychology Today, Guy Winch discusses 10 surprising facts about rejection.  He connects how our psychological well-being is affected more than just emotionally.  It’s actually affected physically because rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain. (Great article).

I thought, ok, I’m going to look up that well known story about Dr. Seuss and how many rejections he had, so I can feel better before I get my next rejection letter.  

And I stumbled on the site- LiteraryRejections

WOW.


It’s a list longer than the state of California. That is what surprised me the most, the sheer amount of books rejected.

I was blown away by the books that were initially rejected also, and in every case, so many times! It’s a miracle the author didn’t stop writing altogether. 

The most amazing thing is that the books rejected are LOVED by everyone else.

But why do we do it? Why even submit? Surely, we don’t deserve to be the punching bag of someone’s error in judgment?  We can spend our time doing more positive things like knitting, playing volleyball, or eating cake.

I have no good answer for you. We do it because we are writers. We are rejected because there are some people out there who get a hold of our letters first.

How do we ensure our letters find the right home?

Send it to every darn place on the planet! 

Have you sent out your query letter this week? 

I did.

Feel free to have a cookie while you read this.
(I’m only going to highlight some of the titles from the list.)



Yet in spite of their phenomenal success, every single one of these best-selling authors was initially rejected.  Literary agents and publishers informed them in an endless stream of rejection letter that nobody would be interested in reading their book.

Here is an extensive collection of the some of the biggest errors of judgment in publishing history.

The Christopher Little Literary Agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million.

If we could only let kids be the editors… after all, we write for them or for the rest of us who refuse to grow up, like Peter.

Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” A rejection letter sent to Dr Seuss. 300 million sales and the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time.

Obviously, they didn’t have a clue, huh?

The years of rejection do not break his spirit. He only becomes more determined to succeed. When he eventually lands a publishing deal, such is the demand for his fiction that it is translated into over 47 languages, as The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis goes on to sell over 100 million copies.

Oh my, I wonder what the rejection said. Too violent? Too fantastical?


After two years of rejections stating that her fiction would have no readership, Reilly and Lee agree to publish The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, launching the career of the best-selling author Judy Blume. Combined sales: 80 million.

Can you imagine a world without Judy Blume?


We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.” The author does a rewrite and his protagonist becomes an icon for a generation as The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger sells 65 million.

Umm, try reading the book.

5 publishers reject L.M. Montgomery‘s debut novel. Two years after this rejection, she removes it from a hatbox and resubmits. L.C. Page & Company agrees to publish Anne of Green Gables and it goes on to sell 50 million copies.

I simply do not have words. As you know Anne is my favorite.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.

How’s that for chutzpah?  And people think self-publishing isn’t worthy. Beatrix set the standard, indeed.


The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Perhaps the most misguided literary critique in history. With a further 15 rejections, there remained little hope her personal thoughts would see the light of day. Eventually, Doubleday, bring the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sells 25 million.

This one left me speechless, the other reason my daughter is named Anne.  One of the most powerful books I read as a child, one that has stayed with me ever since.  Who could possibly read it and not see her “special perception”?

An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” Rejection of The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The novel did sell: 25 million copies worldwide.

I have my copy!

Despite 14 consecutive agency rejections Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight goes on to sell 17 million copies and spends 91 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

It’s a good thing she went for rejection number 15!


An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Rejection letter sent to William Golding for The Lord Of The Flies. 15 million sales.

Required reading in high school since I went to school but the one book no one had to be forced to read!

Three years of rejection letters are kept in a bag under her bed. The bag becomes so heavy that she is unable to lift it. But Meg Cabot does not dwell on the failure. Instead she keeps sending out her manuscript. It gets taken and The Princess Diaries sells 15 million copies.

And I LOVE The Princess Diaries!

Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” L. Frank Baum persists and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz sells 15 million.

Translation- it’s too weird for kids.  No it’s too weird for the person who said this quote!

26 publishers reject A Wrinkle in Time. It wins the 1963 Newbery Medal and becomes an international best-seller. 8 million sales and counting.

HA! I am still laughing about this one.  26 rejections?  I am only on my fifth, so I have no excuse but to keep going!

Stick to teaching.” Louisa May Alcott refuses to give up on her dream. Little Women sells millions, and is still in print 140 years later. Unlike the name of the publisher who told her to give up.

Way to go Louisa!  As if teachers can’t also write! Sheesh!

Alex Haley writes for eight years and receives 200 consecutive rejections. His novel Roots becomes a publishing sensation, selling 1.5 million copies in its first seven months of release, and going on to sell 8 million. Such is the success that The Pulitzer Prize award the novel a Special Citation in 1977.

Although this one is not children’s literature, I had to include it because it’s one of my favorite novels, and because 200 is an insane number of rejections. Are there even that many agencies?  Alex Haley did not stop! And the world is lucky for his perseverance!


I feel better.  I inhaled a dark chocolate candy bar!  I'm ready to face rejection junction.


Are you?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Writing 101

10 comments
How to be a Writer
by Victoria Anne Krol

You might ask yourself, how do I become a writer?

You might look at the book Spilling Ink for help.

You might ask other authors what they do.

Here is my article with some tips on what you need to know about writing and querying- I'd never heard of that verb.


Last day of school, helping Ms. Bennett pack up her room.
I am Box Lady, hear me roar!
To be a writer, you have to have an imagination and a good source of ideas.  A good source could be anything; a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or even a person that knows a lot of information about your topic!

You will also need a writing group.  Well, you don't always need a group, but it is easier to have others to help you think.  You should always have a pad and pencil nearby in case an idea strikes you and your computer isn't working.  I sometimes get ideas in the middle of the night, but I don't write them down because I'm sleepy, and when I wake up, I don't remember the idea.

It happens… must remember to wake up and write the ideas down on that pad.

Time and passion for your work is essential because sometimes meetings or brainstorming sessions can take up to three hours.

You will probably need an idea (duh!) for your story.  If you having a hard time coming up with an idea, you can use Mad Libs or sit somewhere where your imagination flow is the strongest.  For me, it is in my tree garden where I have a writing table or my front yard where I can set up my blanket. Sometimes, if I don't have an idea, I play with my Lego's or do arts and crafts.  Here I am making insects out of pipe cleaners.

Summer, doing absolutely nothing, on our blanket, in PJ's.
I just spotted a bird's nest above me.

You also need to be able to edit it because sometimes what you write doesn't work as well as something else.  This is when your group can really help you, if you let them. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of your writing when you edit it because you get attached to it.  It happened to my mom during the group meeting.  She didn't want to change her words.

When you edit things, it is easier to have someone else edit them for you because some things that you think are wright actually aren't and others can spot it.  If you have a group, you have to be able to trust them and their edits.  It is okay to have "stubborn characters" and "over helpful partners."  It's what makes writers, writers.

When you submit your story, you have to write a query letter (new word for me).  You first have to look up agencies on line and see if you can find ones your really like.  Then you read the rules, which are called the "submission requirements" so you do it correctly.

My mom's group was meeting to this together.  Mom spent all day on the couch with her computer reading about agencies and agents.  By the end of the night, she had picked four she thought would be good. Her writing partners, Sue and Lupe, helped her re-write her letter.  Mom got upset when they made lots and lots of changes to her letter.  And by the time they finished, Mom loved the letter.  She told me that writer's often "get attached" to their words.  She's glad she has her writing buddies to keep her on track.

Steps for a Query Letter:

1- tell them who you are and what you have written.
2- where you have submitted your work
3- then include a synopsis (really cool word) and the word count
4- and finally, make your letter succinct (another good spelling word)

I asked the group what else they thought makes a good writer.  They said-

writing
re-writing
editing
and more editing
typing and more typing

I think I get it.

And mom added sharing and networking too.

I really, really enjoyed watching the Pen and Ink team work on query letters and support each other. Lupe lives in Northern California, so he was Skyping with us. Sue, Mommy, and I set up our large folding table in the living room and set up our computers and got to work.

Just call us the Query Ladies.
You can't see Lupe, but he's on the TV in front of us.
I was able to read Sue's book, Tasha, and too bad I am not an editor or it would already be published.  It was excellent. And I read everyone's query letters and they were very good. 

The result of the meeting? Everyone submitted to at least one agency.  

Cool!!!

Writing is a lot of hard work and some of the work isn't even about writing your story.  I guess you have to really, really love it to do it because it's harder to do than my homework.

And I can't wait to do it more!

I took lot of notes- if I could only read my handwriting!
What are some tips you have about query letters and submitting?  Let's share!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Getting Out The Query

5 comments
 By Susan J Berger.

 I am bad at sending out queries. It’s a lot of work and I am never sure I’m saying the right thing. Last week Pen and Ink met to force ourselves into the query process. I respectfully suggest you try this with your own critique group.

Hilde set up a long table to accommodate our laptops.



I’d sent an Excel spreadsheet of the Darcy Pattison lists for the top 20 agents for Picture Books, Mid Grade and YA that Greg Pincus mentioned on the SCBWI ListServ, so we could each research beforehand who we wanted to query.
(Yes, you can email me at penink04@gmail and I will send you the list.)



 Lupe Skyped in. Victoria Kroll, our junior Pen and Inker, attended the meeting to study our process. She’ll be doing her own post.

Goal: To get out at least two queries each before the end of the meeting.

 The first order of business was to vet each other’s query letters to make them shiny. To make sure that our writing voice was reflected in our query voice.
And we did. Hilde's and my query letters were immeasurably improved. I'll let you judge for yourselves.
I want to say how indebted I am to Hilde and Lupe for improving my letters. I now have two base query letters for Tasha (long and short, in case they ask for synopsis.)  I know that between the three of us, Hilde’s letter now reflects her style and voice. Hilde now has a base query which can be adapted to suit any agent. 
We changed two words of Lupe’s letter. He already had a standout letter that reflected the voice of his main character.

Here is his final letter.
 
7/5/2015
Jordan Brown
Walden Pond Press
17 New England Executive Park, Ste. 305
            Burlington, MA 01803 

Dear Mr. Brown,

“…deep and thoughtful feedback and willingness to go to the mat for his authors…” states Laura Ruby in her novel Bone Gap about you, Mr. Brown. That’s the kind of editor I want.  

In I WAS A TEENAGE LAWYER, [YA-62K] a contemporary comedy, Roger Herrera finds a porn video that may or may not feature Masha Rulin, the girl in his Media Studies class who rocks his world. He uploads the video onto his high school's website for a second opinion. And a third. And a four thousandth. When the video goes viral, the Student Council uses a mock court to try Masha for violating the school's moral code. Roger feels shitty and nominates himself as Masha’s defense counsel. His divorced parents are lawyers. He’ll wipe the floor with those attorney wannabes. 

Roger soon finds out he knows squat about legal proceedings and botches Masha's defense. Everybody, including himself, thinks he's a loser. His mother sentences him to a summer internship at her law firm. When the firm capitalizes on the notoriety of Masha's case by holding its own mock trial, Roger gets a second chance.

 This time he exposes a perv attorney hiding documents that can help Masha’s case. But Even if Roger wins with off-beat, innovative arguments, he still has a problem. Should Roger tell Masha he's the guy who got her into trouble? Or keep his mouth shut and get the girl?
 

My work experience at a law firm and attendance at student mock trials inspired me to write I WAS A TEENAGE LAWYER. I belong SCBWI and I am a founding member of the SCBWI listed blog, Pen and Ink  at  http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com 

I look forward to discussing my manuscript with you. 

Sincerely,

Lupe Fernandez

 This is a snail mail letter. It sounds like Lupe and the description of I WAS A TEENAGE LAWYER gives a flavor of Roger's character.


Hilde’s first query was to Dystel and Goderich.
Obviously a query is dictated by what the agent we are sending to asks for.
Their Criteria from their website:

We like our unsolicited queries to be concise, well-written and well-proofed, and as devoid of gimmicks as possible. Tell us who you are (past writing credits or celebrity status is helpful to know about but not mandatory), what your project is (a summary paragraph is good), and whether you have submitted this project to the entire publishing community already.

In order to get your foot in the door remember that appearances count. We don’t like our names misspelled. We don’t like a lot of typos in general. We don’t like generic “Dear Agent” letters, but we don’t like overly chummy greetings, either. Photographs generally don’t help—unless you’re George Clooney. Plain and simple works best for us. Don’t try to convince us that you’ve written the next Atonement… we’ve heard that one before. Let your project speak for itself.



Hilde’s original query (Specially note the description of her book.) Spacing had been changed because of length.
Dear Ms. Goderich:
I have been a member of SCBWI since 2006. Prior to pursuing a writing career, I was a professional actor and producer. I ran the entertainment network of Florida State alumni called The Florida Project. As president, I provided many opportunities for actors and writers to be showcased, often giving them a positive push in their respective careers.
I produced the award-winning world premiere production of WAITING, by Lisa Soland, which was published by Samuel French in 2004, and then again by Best Women Playwrights in 2007.
To support my writing habit, I teach Spanish in a dual language program in Glendale. I started The Franklin Players at our school and love bringing the gift of theatre to elementary school.
 My most recent, work-in-progress involves a collaboration with my husband in raising our dynamic duo who are almost 10.
 My usual writing day consists of laundry, dishes, grading papers, and some type of sports practice. One child will look over my shoulder, the other will take the tape dispenser and my 60-pound dog will lay at my feet thinking he’s a small, hand-held puppy.
During any given day, a constant sea of friends will drop in to play basketball, print something, borrow cupcake liners, crash in the garage, or do laundry. I do my best writing between the hours of midnight and 2am.
Thank goodness for spell check.
I have a happy, but noisy home in Burbank
I’m currently working on my debut novel, Wet Foot, Dry Foot.

My novel takes place during the summer of 1980.
In Cuba, thousands clamber onto ramshackle fishing boats in the Port of Mariel, praying they can make it ninety miles north, to the United States. Elsa, a rebellious 16-year-old, doesn’t care about any of that – until she gets thrown out of her prestigious Communist high school in Havana and is forced to leave the country with her father.
 In Hialeah, Florida, fifteen-year-old Estrella – or Star, as she prefers to be called – is searching for freedom of a different sort: she’s trying to get out of the shadow of her overbearing Cuban mother, while attempting to escape incessant harassment about her body.
When Elsa winds up at Star’s high school, Star instantly dislikes this “Marielita,” whom everyone equates with Star, while Elsa can’t understand Star’s priorities. Forced to get to know each other, they’re dismayed to learn that they have very much in common – including that they each have fragments of a secret that may unravel their entire lives.

Wet Foot. Dry Foot has been submitted to a few select agents at the request of the agent through SCBWI events. I submitted to Marietta Zacker, Allyn Johnston and Jen Rofé and my novel was in various stages of evolution.
 Most recently, I sent it to Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literacy. They requested more pages after my initial query, but after several months of waiting, also ultimately passed on the project.
 What all 3 rejections have in common was that they all agreed that my voices were gold, unique, and strong. They agreed that this story should be published. And in Marietta’s case, who’s also Cuban, she felt that I told the story of her people and shared with me that if she was a writer, this would be the story she would write.
 Why didn’t they accept my MS? They said the story didn’t quite connect with them, plot problems over voice. I sought the help of Elizabeth Law, after she left Egmont Publishing, and we figured out the core problem.
I then rewrote it and submitted to SCBWI’s Work in Progress Award this passed November.
 I believe it’s a compelling story, one that hasn’t been told, and from a perspective that is original and deep. I hope you will consider it.
 

Hilde’s final query

 Dear Ms. Goderich:

Does being an alien on Star Trek shows give me celebrity status? No? Well then . . .

My name is Hilde García. I came to this country in 1969 at the age of two from Cuba. I grew up in Miami and attended Florida State University. Prior to pursuing a writing career, I was a professional actor and producer in New York and LA. Currently, I'm a member of SCBWI and one of the co-creators of the SCBWI listed blog, The Pen and Ink: http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com.

To support my writing habit, I teach 6th grade Spanish in a dual-language immersion language school in Glendale, California where I also started an after school theatre program.

My debut novel, Wet Foot, Dry Foot, complete at 95K, takes place in Cuba and Florida during the summer of 1980.

Sixteen-year-old Elsa cares more about kissing her boyfriend than the crumbling political situation in Cuba. Until the regime’s paranoia slaps her in the face. Thrown out of her prestigious communist high school in Havana for treason, she and her father are forced to leave the country, joining thousands of others who clamber onto ramshackle fishing boats at the Port of Mariel, praying they can make the 90-mile journey to the United States. How will she survive without her friends, without her country?

In Hialeah, Florida, fifteen-year-old Estrella, or Star, as she prefers to be called, would love to have a boyfriend, if she could escape the ever vigilant Warden of Rancho Sanchez- her mother. Her mother's crippling sadness has imprisoned Star's soul and clouded her happiness. How can she pursue the American Dream when her mother won’t even let her watch Dallas?

When Elsa enrolls at Star’s high school, she and Star become instant enemies, but neither is sure why. Star can’t understand how the other students equate this “marielita,” with her. Is it just because they have the same body type? Elsa doesn't understand why she needs Star to tutor her when she had been one of the smartest students at her school in Cuba.

They gradually learn that they have very much in common including fragments of a secret they share that may unravel their entire lives.

Wet Foot. Dry Foot has been submitted to a few select agents through requests received at SCBWI events. I've submitted to Marietta Zacker, Allyn Johnston, and Jen Rofé during various stages of my novel’s evolution. Most recently, I sent it to Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literacy. She requested more pages, but after several months of waiting, she ultimately passed on the manuscript.

Why didn’t they accept my MS? They said the story didn’t quite resonate with them due to plot issues. I sought the help of Elizabeth Law as a freelance editor after she left Egmont Publishing. We were able to figure out the core problem with the plot and now, I believe it’s a compelling story; one that hasn’t been told, and from a perspective that is original and deep. 

I hope you will consider it. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

All my best,

Hilde García
(contact information followed name.)

 Better, Yes?

 My original letter for Adams Literary. They have a submission form and want a note, and the entire MS.

Dear Josh, Tracy and Samantha,
I was all set to query you re picture book representation, till I read you only want author/illustrators. Allyn Johnston told me when she bought Log on Log that my illustrations suck. I have to agree with her. On the plus side, she told me I was a genius with rhyme.
Instead I’m submitting a mid-grade multi-cultural novel, Tasha, the Magnificent, complete at 29,200 words.
What do you do when your parents don’t love each other anymore? 
Street smart, sassy, Tasha buries her pain in stories. Izzy withdraws into herself, terrified of change. When they friend each other, everything changes.
On her way to her first sleepover at Izzy’s, Tasha sees a statue of a smiling sun in Gramercy Park. She’s convinced it’s a wish granting statue. All they have to do is touch it. Problem? You can’t get in or out of Gramercy Park without a key.
Tasha and Izzy have big wishes. Tasha wants to be famous so that her estranged father will want to see her. Izzy wants her parents undivorced. When their Karate teacher, Master Lee insists the make peace with their arch enemy, Jose Alvarez, they find he has a big wish too. He wants his sister Carmina to speak. Jose becomes their ally in the search for a way to get into Gramercy Park, even though he isn't sure he believes in magic.
They find a way in. Jose’s sister Carmina touches the statue and she speaks for the first time since her mother died. When Izzy’s father says he is coming for Thanksgiving, Izzy’s convinced her wish that her parents will get back together is coming true.
Tasha, scared that Izzy will move back to California goes back to the statue to wish away Izzy’s wish. Everything starts going wrong. Jose is sick. Tasha and Izzy’s friendship explodes.. Somehow Tasha has to find a way to make things right again.

I am a member of SCBWI and RWA. My picture book, Log On Log, is under contract with Beach Lane books. (I consider it my Great American Novel. It’s sixty five words long.)

I have three published picture books with Guardian Angel Publishing. I’ve a few more to query. My debut romance novel, Time and Forever, written as Susan B. James, is a 2015 Golden Quill finalist for Best First Book and a 2015 RONE Award finalist for Best Time Travel Novel. I’m revising my second adult romance. I have a first draft of my third.

Per your guidelines, I’ve attached the ms. I do think you would have liked Nat the Rat and Fat Cat, my mafia picture book complete at 170 words. and Fair Claire, a medieval fairy tale complete at 314 words. If only I could draw!

Blessings
Susan


My Final letter


Dear Josh, Tracy, and Samantha:

What do you do when your parents don’t love each other anymore?

Street smart, sassy, Tasha buries her pain in stories.

Izzy withdraws into herself, terrified of change.

But when they friend each other, they find magic.

Real magic. 

Tasha and Izzy have big wishes. Tasha wants to be famous so that her estranged father will want to see her. Izzy wants her parents undivorced. When their Karate teacher, Master Lee insists the make peace with their arch enemy, Jose Alvarez, they find he has a big wish too. He wants his sister Carmina to speak.  
 
Together, they find a way into Gramercy Park because they are convinced that the statue in that park has magic and will help their wishes come true.

Tasha, the Magnificent, complete at 29k words is a mid-grade multi-cultural novel.

I am a member of SCBWI and RWA.
 
My Great American Novel, Log On Log, complete at 65 words, is under contract with Beach Lane Books. (Nat the Rat and Fat Cat, my Mafia picture book, complete at 170 words and Fair Claire, a medieval fairy tale, complete at 314 words would be worthy of submission to your agency if only I could draw!)

I have three published picture books with Guardian Angel Publishing and a fourth under contract. My debut romance novel, Time and Forever, written as Susan B. James, is a 2015 Golden Quill finalist for Best First Book and a 2015 RONE Award finalist for Best Time Travel Novel. I’m revising my second adult romance and have started my third.

Attached you will find the manuscript for Tasha. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings,
Susan
Susan J Berger

I do have a longer version for those agents who want a more complete synopsis. I sent that one to Rebecca Sherman at Writer's House. But Hilde and Lupe, by changing the beginning , changed everything. They also fixed my bio. Woohoo.
My goal is to get out at least seven more queries this week. I have already completed my research on three. (And yes, I still hate it, but my letter is better.)
So how about you? Are you querying?