Monday, February 27, 2017

Picture Book Queries. Again/

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This is a repeat post. But I had a query about the post and the West Side Writers Mingle is having their Picture Book Critique night this Wednesday, March 1
Westside Writers Mingle
Wednesday, March 1
7 pm - 8:45 pm
 Ocean Park Branch, Santa Monica Public Library
2601 Main Street (corner of Main & Ocean Park Blvd.) Here are their instructions:

To participate, bring 6 copies of your picture book manuscript (double spaced, please!). This is a great opportunity to find out what is working well in your manuscript as well as what could possibly use a little polishing. 

To assure everyone gets a turn, each author will get an allotted amount of time to read and receive feedback. Lori might even ring her yoga bell. Please note: Picture book manuscripts are often 500 words or less. If yours is lengthy, you may want to read only part of it so you don't miss out on valuable critique time!

Do you write novels and not picture books? Please come anyway and offer feedback. And never fear; you'll get a pass as well: the MG/YA critique night is next month!

It's also 100% okay and encouraged for you to come without material to share. Those who are reading will value your feedback.

For this Mingle, it's particularly helpful to know who is coming and who is bringing material to share. Please RSVP to westsidewritersmingle@gmail.com if you can!

Picture Book Queries

Picture Books queries are a different animal from Mid grade and YA queries. You are going to be emailing your entire ms.

I met with two of the four other members of my picture book critique group this week and we each tried to hammer one out.
One question that came up immediately was what do you put in the "experience" part of the query letter when you have yet to be published? 

Everybody had to have a first query. Even Dr. Seuss. And we all know how that one went. It took him lots of tries to get a "yes" for To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. And he had illustrations!

Then there are those of us who write stories only.  Doreen Cronin's first book was Click Clack Moo. Cows That Type. What did she put for experience?
 Best advice I could find was if you have not yet been published. Don't put anything. Except that you are a member of SCBWI.


Advice from Query Letter Wizard:
The first paragraph. Always. Why? Because most query letters are not read top to bottom. Sad, but true. Agents, buried under mounds of submissions, will give your query only a quick look to determine if the first paragraph grabs and sustains their interest.
This is why you must write and re-write those three sentences so they tell the plot and give compelling information about your protagonist and their challenge.
SENTENCE ONE: Introduce your protagonist (main character) and what they want in the first sentence.
SENTENCE TWO: Describe the obstacle (s) that stand in their way.
SENTENCE THREE: Hint at the possible outcome and the terrible "or else" that could happen if your protagonist does not succeed. Write this "tease" to motivate the agent to read your query second paragraph which expands the plot as it involves your protagonist.

Here's another POV Mary Kole's From KitLit.com

 Since most agents ask that the picture book manuscript be included in the submission, writing a really meaty query for that short a manuscript seems a bit silly. When I see picture book queries — and when I write my own picture book pitches, in fact — I keep it very simple.

I’ve had a book by Katie Van Camp and illustrated by Lincoln Agnew called HARRY AND HORSIE in my sidebar for a while as an example of a great picture book with an outside-the-box friendship hook. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I’m sorry for you, because you’re missing out.

If I were writing a query for HARRY AND HORSIE, it would read something like this:

Harry and plush toy, Horsie, are the best of friends. One night, Harry is trying out his bubble-making machine when one of his bubbles swallows Horsie and hoists him into outer space! Harry has to rescue his best friend — and go on a wild space adventure — before returning safely home.

A quirky picture book with a great friendship hook, spare text and retro-style illustration, HARRY AND HORSIE is sure blast your imagination into the stratosphere! This is a simultaneous submission and you will find the full manuscript of XXX words pasted below. I look forward to hearing from you and can be found at the contact information listed below my signature.

Easy peasy. No need to write an elaborate letter. Just present the main characters, the main problem, and the resolution, then work in a hook (“great friendship hook,” above), and sign off like you normally would with a novel query.

After that, just paste the picture book manuscript. If you are an author/illustrator, include a link to an online portfolio where the agent or editor can browse your illustrations. Do not include attachments unless the agent requests to see more illustrations or to see a dummy.
If you are an author/illustrator you provide a link to your portfolio. One of my PB critique members, Cassandra Federman has a wonderful website. Check out her portfolio. She also has a wonderful book to query.

Krysta Wittmore and I have nothing but our words. Together we hammered out the best queries we could. I don't have permission to share theirs, so I will share two of my own. I wrote short letters and did not follow the advice given above, although I did try to write letters that that my voice in them.

Dear John,

Your blog says are looking for fast paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories. Villains with vulnerability.

So I'm submitting my picture book, Fat Cat and Nat, the Rat (or War and Peace for the challenged reader) complete at 170 words. It's a crime story between rival gang leaders.

Besides writing, I volunteer with young students who are reading challenged. When I ran out of books I wanted to use to help them read, I started writing them. 

I am a member of SCBWI .My Great American Novel, Log on Log, complete at 65 words is contracted by Beach Lane Books.

Dear Linda

 My son’s best friend was terrified of undertows, which she called Undertoads. It set me wondering what would an undertoad look like? I wanted to see their world.

The Undertoads, complete at 463 words is a cautionary tale told by an older child to a younger child. It's in (hold your breath.) rhyme.

NO! Please don't stop reading! It's in meter, I promise you. I was seduced by Dr. Seuss at a tender age. 

I am a member of SCBWI and RWA. My Great American Novel, Log On Log, a picture book, complete at 65 words. is under contract with Beach Lane Books.

Places to Query. Things to do.

Here's a link to Manuscript Wish List agents who are looking for Picture Books. I know you always go to the agency website and check guidelines. Here is a link to more picture book agents. It includes link to their websites and my notes. (Suggest opening it in Excel.)
Do set up your own excel sheet so you can tract your queries. I have columns on my submission sheet for Agency, Email, Project queried, Date sent, Date responded and a note about the response  - or lack of response. So many agents do not respond. I know it hurts. We put so much time and thought into querying. But don't let lack of response stop you.
“It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” 
 
Martha Graham

 How do you query your picture books?   Want to show us one?    Leave it in comments or send to penink04@gmail.com. Write on!                   

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dispatch #61: Kissing in the Rain

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by Lupe Fernandez

Romantic versus realistic.

Have you ever kissed in the rain? I mean during a cold, drenching downpour. Water hammers on metal gutters, splashes in murky puddles, beats on window pane, liquid streaming off your hair, clotting your nose, stinging your eyes, dripping down your back, punching your membrane-thin umbrella.

I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral the other night. Great movie, but watching Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant kissing in an English downpour got me thinking about what’s it like to kiss in the rain. No, this isn’t a romantic disclaimer.

I present another version:

I walk with Sheila around the Lodi High school campus and talk what we will play in our set for the jazz festival. My hand brushes hers and I cross the great chasm of insecurity – what if she refuses - and slip my fingers around hers. Sheila holds my clammy hand.

Drops go tap, tap, tap on her wind breaker. We hurry to get out of the drizzle. The sleeve cuff of her wind breaker rubs against my palm. Her jacket fabric flexes and crinkles as her body moves; we hurry to shelter of the school auditorium.

My sneakers squish on a watery sidewalk. Humidity has frizzed her red-hair tucked under her hood. I kiss her quick. She smiles, a glimpse of dull braces, and quickly covers her mouth, embarrassed.

Back in the auditorium, our fellow jazz players see us, my sweater soaked, her face flushed and our nervous smiles, followed by a trail of damp footsteps.

Love is like that: a gentle tap on a window pane, an invitation to fill parched lips of dry earth or a root ripping torrent wiping away the past into a chaotic present.

A little of both, I should hope.

Is it raining now?

Is it raining all over the world?