Last week I visited an amazing school – Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa. Everything about it was awesome – the school, the teachers, the kids, and even the lunch! It almost made me wish I was in Middle School again.
Okay, maybe not.
But the visit was great!
The students had all read REBELS as a companion piece to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. My presentation was about mining their own family history for story ideas and creating characters. It was fun to show them the people and places in my life that I had used for “inspiration” in the book.
Those are my, “I’m an author” serious clothes. They are also my “I need to workout because these pants are too tight” clothes, but being comfortable is second to being fashionable, am I right?
David Schumacher, Librarian Extraordinaire, set up the event, drove me around Tampa, and made sure I was comfortable the entire time.
This is Susan Alexander, a great teacher and an AWESOME WRITER. I know, because I’ve read her stuff and it was so good I wanted to cry. Mainly ’cause I wasn’t the one who wrote it. She and David, and two other teachers – Jen Brown and Jen Martin- took me to dinner the night before the presentation. That could be the reason for the aforementioned pants issue. We all sat around talking books, and every one of them had a great story idea that they were mulling over.
Thank you, Berkeley Preparatory School, for hosting me. I am an official Buccaneers fan for life!
For several years, I wrote a personal blog. I spent a lot of time writing about my life, family and my writing endeavors. In July of 2009, I went to a Writers Conference and had some nice feedback from an agent. She told me that she thought I should start sending our queries. In August, I sent out my first official query, and soon after, got my first official rejection. Below is what I wrote then (names removed to protect the innocent).
Excited by my wonderful experience at the Harriett Austin Writer’s Conference, I decided to get on the ball and start sending query letters to literary agencies. I’ve sent out 5 so far. One has already gone out of business. Yea ME!
But I hadn’t heard from any of the others until yesterday.
Thank you for considering the _______ in your search for representation. I would like to start by apologizing for the delay in replying to your query. I was considering it for some time but due to the volume of queries I’ve received in the last few weeks, I am going to have to pass. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to review your work. I’m glad to find so many other people who are passionate about YA and truly I wish you the best luck in your search for the right agent (and hope to see you in print soon).
Did you see that? She said – I was considering it for some time! Someone actually read an excerpt of my story and WAS CONSIDERING IT.
Until she opened the other 893 queries and decided to give me the heave ho. It’s a start.
It’s funny how a rejection, done well, can still be encouraging.
Rejection is a part of the writing life. I got SEVERAL letters like the one above before I found my dream agent. Don’t give up!
Sheila TurnagemeetsKate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie in this debut about a small town and a young girl who discovers some old family secrets.
Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots.
While you’re shopping, how about taking a look at these titles? They are the other books on the Books All Young Georgians Should Read. You can’t go wrong with any of them!
A creative young boy with a passion for practicing origami finds a surprising source of encouragement on his diverse city block.
Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice — on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough! No more folding! But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy — and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself. A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.
‘A wonderfully complex love story unlike any you’ve read before. Saeed has given a novel that is both entertaining and important.”—Matt de la Peña, New York Timesbestselling author
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
From the mother-son duo behind the New York Times bestselling A Bucket of Blessings comes a zany picture book about a wild ride on a tuk tuk taxi in India!
This picture book brings an international twist to the beloved nursery rhyme, The Wheels on the Bus, by bringing you aboard a busy three-wheeled taxi in India! Anything can happen as the tuk tuk rolls through town—from an elephant encounter to a tasty treat to a grand fireworks display. And in the midst of all the action, one thing’s for sure: passengers young and old love every minute of their exciting ride as the wheels of the tuk tuk go round and round!
One day in the distant future, Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is destined to battle the giant snake that threatens to devour the world. Until then, mortals of Middle Earth look to Thor and his magic hammer for protection from evil. In this third volume of the Secrets of the Ancient Gods series, Thor takes time from his duties to lead readers through the mythological Norse realms, those mysterious worlds that are home to gods, giants, elves, and monsters. He also delves into the age of the Vikings and reveals how they lived and what they believed. Using Thor as her humorous narrator, author Vicky Alvear Shecter provides a well-researched and unconventional nonfiction introduction to Norse mythology. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index.
“Spare, poetic words sit as lightly as snowflakes.”–Wall Street Journal
“An enchanting glimpse of a dancer whose name has come to be synonymous with her most famous role.”–School Library Journal, starred review
One night, young Anna’s mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendently gifted Anna Pavlova. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova is a heartbreakingly beautiful picture book biography perfect for aspiring ballerinas of all ages.
As befits a future President of the United States of America, Maggie Mayfield has decided to write a memoir of the past year of her life. And what a banner year it’s been! During this period, she’s Student of the Month on a regular basis, an official shareholder in Coca-Cola stock, and defending Science Fair champion. Most importantly, though, this is the year Maggie has to pull up her bootstraps (the family motto) and finally learn why her cool dude dad is in a wheelchair, no matter how scary that is. Author Megan Jean Sovern, herself the daughter of a dad with multiple sclerosis, writes with the funny grace and assured prose of a new literary star.
A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
No one knows much about Mer, the underwater kingdom where Mermin the merman was born, but due to a rising conflict with the people of Atlantis, Mermin is needed back home immediately. Which means that his human friends get to accompany him and see all the aquatic wonders of Mer. But once again, Mermin is tight-lipped about his past – even when it’s swimming right in front of him. And there are enemies lurking in the seedier depths of Mer, who’ve got their sights set not only on Mermin, but on Pete and his friends!
Thank you again to the Georgia Center for the Book! Lou and the gang couldn’t be happier.
PS: If you are looking for a free curriculum guide for REBELS, click here.
I’m so excited to be a part of Pitch Wars again this year as a Middle Grade mentor. Yay, Middle Grade! This is my THIRD YEAR. Whew.
I hope you’ll find these next few weeks both fun and helpful. I will do my best to give you honest feedback, lots of encouragement, and useful advice to get your manuscript ready to present to agents.
What I’m Looking For:
I love to read anything with great characters and a voice that leaps off the page. While I like a wide variety, It’s probably contemporary that suits me to a –
I’ll read anything that has rich world building and a protagonists I can cheer. Humorous, bitter-sweet, coming of age -you name it, just give me a good, UNIQUE story! Upper middle-grade is probably more of my wheel-house than lower, or younger middle-grade.
What I Don’t Want:
While I like funny, I don’t love slapstick humor. And ghosts stories are great, but I’m probably not the best mentor for bloody, horror types of entries.
Some of My Favorite Books:
Fish In A Tree
Counting By 7’s
The One and Only Ivan
After Tupac and D Foster
Lockwood and Co.
I’m a Southern children’s book author represented by Susan Hawk at The Bent Agency. My mid-grade novel, Last In a Long Line of Rebels, was released on September 29, 2015, thanks to Nancy Paulsen Books, (Penguin). I am also a co-founder of the Middle Grade Mafia, (along with fellow MG pitch wars mentor -Kevin A. Springer) and frequent contributor to The Huffington Post. I am currently revising my 2nd novel with Nancy Paulsen Books.
Growing up in a small town in Tennessee surrounded by my crazy family and neighbors, I learned early on that not every child had a pet skunk, a dad that ran a bar in the front yard, or a neighbor that was so large his house had to be torn down to get him out. Think I like southern literature and/or crazy characters? Yes!
I want this experience to prepare your manuscript and YOU for work with an agent, so I try to mimic what that relationship is really like.
First, I’ll do a complete read-through, then send you an Editorial Letter. This is where I’ll tell you what I think about each character, the setting, plot, pacing, sub-plots, etc. and give advice on areas where I think you can improve things. I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about your first chapter as this is what we’ll be showing agents.
After you have a chance to revise and send the manuscript back to me, I’ll do another read-through and make notes throughout. It might be a smiley face where something makes me laugh, places where the voice seems inconsistent, or scenes that don’t move the plot forward. I’ll do my best to give you line edits if time allows.
Once you get that and revise, I’ll look at it again and we’ll concentrate on any lingering problem areas or scenes.
Finally, we’ll take a look at your query and make sure that’s good to go!
One last word about revisions. At the end of the day, this is YOUR manuscript, so I will try to persuade you if I feel strongly about something, but you have the final say. However, I don’t want to mentor someone who feels that their manuscript is perfect as is and is reluctant to change things. I think this is also important when working with agents and editors. They are more likely to want to work with people that listen.
I can tell you this. If we work together, I will be your biggest champion!
Whatever mentor you choose, I wish you the very best.
Need a reminder about the submission guidelines?Click HERE.
I was recently asked to give the keynote speech at my high-school graduation ceremony. It was a great honor and not something I ever imagined happening in my life. I’m sure no one was really listening since I was the least important person there, but I thought I’d post a transcript in case anyone wanted to see what I had to say. This is just like being there without having to witness the flop sweat and constant lip licking. Enjoy!
Thank you. As a writer, I love this idea that our lives are like a story, so to be with you at such an important chapter in your story, even as a small footnote is exciting for me. I’ll admit it’s also a little surprising to find myself a keynote speaker, considering the type of student I was while at LA.
On the day I graduated I only knew two things about my future. One was that in a few short months I’d be following my friend Gina Coleman to Murfreesboro where we were going to start college at MTSU. And secondly, I knew that immediately following the graduation ceremony, I was going to Dale Hollow Lake because Martha Carmack’s daddy had taken the family camper there for us and a group of girls were going to have a graduation party. And I was super excited and had put a lot of thought into one of those things. The other, not so much. I figured whatever happened, happened. I wasn’t a particularly focused or ambitious student.
A few months ago, I interviewed my awesome agent, Susan Hawk, for The Middle Grade Mafia. In case you missed it, I thought I’d share her thoughts here. Here are quick Ten Questions with Susan Hawk. Enjoy!
The number one questions has to be, “What are you looking for?” I found this on your website: In middle-grade and YA, I’m looking for unforgettable characters, rich world-building, and I’m a sucker for bittersweet; bonus points for something that makes me laugh out loud. I’m open to mystery, fantasy, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre). In picture books, I’m looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and indelible characters. I’m interested in non-fiction that relates to kid’s daily lives and their concerns with the world. I’m actively looking for diversity in the stories and authors that I represent. My favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial.Is this still correct? Anything else you’d like to add?
SH: It is! The books that I love the very most all share a couple things in common: the characters are complicated people whose hearts are big, as big as the mistakes they sometimes make. And in spite of those mistakes, these characters are wrestling with life, engaged in discovering the best parts of themselves and the people around them, all while seeing how people are unexpected, contradictory. I want writers who are interested in complexity, who aren’t afraid to show the good parts, and the bad, of their characters. The richest, most memorable books come directly from characters of the same quality.
I have had a blast reading all of the wonderful entries to The Bertie. The Middle Grade Mafia folks are the official judges, but that didn’t mean they got to have all of the fun! I read through each story before sending them to the judges and I was very impressed. Talk about imagination!
I don’t know how the Mafia managed to narrow it down, but below you will find the finalists. The winners/honorable mentions will be chosen from the names below and announced on May 15th on the Middle Grade Mafia website. If your name is NOT on this list, don’t despair. EVERY entry was entertaining, which is the goal of a good storyteller, and you have created a world that didn’t exist before you put the words on paper. How cool is that??
Keep writing, keep submitting, keep telling stories. I can’t wait to read what you write next!
The Bertie Short List –
Brandon Bell, Beyond Reality
Mary Bielamowicz, Chronicles of Plastimandu
Cadence, The Dreamer
Maddie Cargile, The Basement
Rosie Curtis, Faces on the Ceiling
Hunter Echols, There Goes Breakfast
Allison Fawley, Fabia Fredrick and the Dragon
Morgan Hairfield, Waves
Sydney Hairfield, The Poachers
Zachary Harrison, Make Life Worth It
Kendra Hernandez, Mom
Joseph Lupi, The Jurassic Pocket Watch
Emily Meier, When We Meet Again
Evie Mendez, Evelyn: The Adventure Begins
Lily Reed- Nordwall, The Red Eyes in the Dark Corner
Niharika Panjala, The Door Not Opened
Noel Vanderbilt, Seasonal Rounds
Isabel Worley, An Everlasting Promise
Ansleigh Wyman, The One Who Felt Alone
Again, thank you to my wonderful sponsor, Winnwood Retirement. This contest would be a lot less fun without prize money. 🙂
Reading Last In A Long Line of Rebels in your classroom and looking for teacher resources? Homeschooling and looking for a free curriculum guide to supplement your studies? I am happy to provide this curriculum guide, aligned with Common Core State Standards, to you at no cost.
I have received some awesome submissions for The Bertie! I feel bad for the Middle Grade Mafia judges as they try to choose the winning submissions. If you haven’t yet uploaded your story, no worries. You have until midnight on Friday, April 1.
The submission window is between March 1 and April 1
Writers may submit only one story per contest year
Stories must be written by only one writer
Writers must be ages 11, 12, or 13 years old
Previously submitted or published stories will not be accepted
Story must be no longer than 1500 words total
Story MUST contain a intergenerational aspect (two characters from different generations) no matter how minor.