May 29, 2010

Remember what you’re never supposed to say to a writer on sub?

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:11 pm

This post turned out to be a little touchy.

For those of us who have been on sub, it stirred up a whole fraught roller coaster of feelings.  And for those of us who have simply spoken to someone who has, it showed how impossible it is to know what to say.

(Here’s another doozy I got recently, by the way. “Wait, have any of your [previously subbed] books been published yet?” No!!!!! If they had, you would’ve heard me screaming from the rooftops/received a cartonful to sell to your twelfth cousins twice removed/read a blog post on it!!!! I have to forgive the person who asked me that, though. A) he’s too young to understand how insane this business is and b) I love him dearly.)

Anyway, here’s a really interesting blog post that elaborates on the “How do you know when it’s time to give up?” question. Turns out a lot of good writers ask themselves this question all the time.

Just maybe not when they’re on sub though.

May 27, 2010

Made It Moment: KJ Roberts

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:34 am

Pieces of the Star

Some of you know about JA Konrath’s blog and his recent departure to points Kindle. (Or points Amazon.) In a week or so a commenter from JA’s blog will post a Moment here about her own forays into those uncharted waters–only she didn’t have JA’s platform and history of sales. But today we feature a Moment by an author who is exploring the same Kindle landscape. Read on, because I have a feeling there may be more of these on this blog as  the literary clime continues to evolve.

KJ Roberts

I’m not sure I feel as if I’ve made it yet. Writing is a journey and I’m evolving as I go. I used to dream of writing a children’s book and illustrating it. I loved to draw and paint. But I also wanted to join the military. So I chose the armed forces over college, I set up house and had kids. Then I homeschooled for a bit, but I still wanted to write.

While my kids were little, I read to them a lot. It stirred my passion again. I tried to write a picture book, but nothing really clicked. It wasn’t fun, and I struggled. I decided to give up. And I did. But I still yearned to write. I switched gears and wrote a few romances. My son got tired of never being able to read my stories, so I wrote a mystery for him. And it was good.

Now, I still write romances, and they’re where my heart is. I’ve seen my growth and my writing strengthen with every critique I’ve gotten. I cringe thinking about how many hours some writing friends of mine took just to teach me POV. The endless blue marks, line after line, have thinned out to a few here and there. My husband even enjoyed reading my latest romance manuscript I’m marketing.

I think for my mystery and YA writing, I’ll feel like I made it once I hold my story Pieces of the Star in my hand in graphic novel format. The combination of a good story, written for kids added with pictures, that will hit the dream spot and give me the, I achieved my goal, sigh.

Country girl born and raised, KJ Roberts has been writing for longer than she can remember. It’s a natural part of life to her. Indiana native, her stories are usually set in the Hoosier state. After a ten year stint in the military, she moved to Mississippi with her husband and two kids. She loves reading, listening to her son play guitar and watching her daughter dance.

May 26, 2010

Writing Matters: A Dialog on the Craft & Business of Words

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:35 am

Some of you know about the writing series I co-host at the cutest independent bookstore in the world (or at least that I know of so far). Here’s an article about Writing Matters that recently appeared.

Last Friday’s panel was a wowing success, every seat filled, thanks to three terrific authors, the bookstore’s gorgeous array of books–by the authors, but also a quirky display of books on craft since many of our attendees are emerging writers–and OK, a little wine to go with the food.

I hope that those of you in the NY/NJ area will come out for one of our upcoming panels, or contact me with ideas if you’re an author and would like to appear. And if you’re not from around here, hey, consider joining us anyway. The three authors you see below made their journeys from North Carolina, Boston, and western NY state!

If you’re interested in listening to the absolute pearls contributed by each of the authors, there’s a podcast of the panel here. (Note: It’s 1:23:30 long, and somewhat big at 14MB.)

Randy Susan Meyers

Shelley Stout

Therese Walsh

May 25, 2010

Made It Moment: Emily Winslow

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 6:06 am

The Whole World

Happy release day, Emily Winslow! Not only does Emily’s book look great–I’m off to buy it as soon as I get done posting this–but her Moment is full of enough thrills to make every writer tingle. Check out her psychological mystery, also guaranteed to deliver some tingles.

Emily Winslow

There’s a fantasy that the getting of an agent or book deal will be celebrated over lunch in a New York restaurant, with mutual toasts and a deferential waiter. The truth, though, is that many writers don’t meet their agents or editors in person. They work quite happily apart, sending manuscripts back and forth over mail or email, and hashing details out over the phone. New-York-area writers may get a meal, but it’s not the standard.

So I was pretty stoked that circumstances have allowed me to enjoy FOUR such milestones over the past two years.

I don’t live in NYC; in fact, I live in England! But I grew up close enough to New York that a friend and I would cut school once a year to catch a commuter train into the city for the day. I still have lots of close ties train-distance from Manhattan. So when I signed with my agent, marvelous Cameron McClure at the Donald Maass Agency, I was quick to point out that I’d be traveling for a family wedding soon, and would love to “pop into” the city to meet her. I took Amtrak from Rhode Island, just like my grandfather used to for work. Normally, when someone else is paying, I try to order with restraint. But I felt so celebratory that I bookended the entree with appetizer AND dessert. The restaurant had a bustling business-y atmosphere, and the sink in the bathroom was filled with lovely, smooth river stones.

She sold my book a few months later, and a couple months after that both she and the editor who bought it headed to the London Book Fair. I live nearby, so that was chance number 2. We met at Bibendum, a fancy London restaurant. It has a unique stained glass window of, of all things, the Michelin Man. Hilarious stories of misbehaving authors were shared without naming names. Plans for future books were discussed. I skipped appetizer, but got dessert again.

About eight months later, I was in New England again, for family and business reasons. I volunteered to catch the train from Boston to meet the editor who would be editing my book (he works under the acquisitions editor I met in London). I assume that what they set up was done so for efficiency but to me it seemed the peak of luxury: eating in a private dining room in the Random House building. It was pretty much a meeting room with a waiter thrown in. The waiter was so formal and intimidating that I could only nod whenever he asked me if I was finished with a course, whether I was really done or not. It turned out that both my editor and I had been theater majors in college. We got along great.

The most recent lunch came at the transition between the editing phase and the publicity phase. I wanted the chance to meet my publicist, and make a good personal impression. I had no nearby obligations as an excuse to “drop in,” so this time I had to make a dedicated effort to get there. My husband travels a lot for business, so I was able to make use of all those accumulated air miles to travel from England for free. The most amazing thing? THERE WAS A SPECIAL OFFER ON THAT ALLOWED ME TO TRAVEL INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS. Apologies for the all-caps, but you have to understand–I have never even SEEN the inside of a proper first class cabin. They have these sort of personal pods where you can lie all the way down, or you can swivel your seat to face a desk, and you have a pop-up TV screen with a ton of recorded shows, and they just keeping bringing you food and alcohol for basically the entire flight. Wow.

This time we went to a Greek restaurant, with a large group: agent, editor, acquiring editor, and publicist. I handed out presents, including a lovely winter scarf for my editor. He wrote me a thank-you note weeks later, signing it with a stick-figure drawing of himself, scarf billowing behind, and my book in his hands. He drew a huge smile on his face. I keep that note as a bookmark. That’s my “made it moment.”

Bio: Emily Winslow is an American living in Cambridge, England, where her debut novel THE WHOLE WORLD is set.

May 23, 2010

Made It Moment: Lois Winston

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 6:29 pm

Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception

I am very glad to feature Lois’ Moment  because not only does she elaborate on an oft-appearing theme–the fact that your definition of making it changes as you in fact do make it–but she also has both feet–and one more besides–in some very interesting worlds in addition to writing.

Lois Winston

When Jenny asked me to write a blog on “How I Knew I Made It,” my first thought was, “Define it.” Did I make it after I sold my first book? Lots of authors sell one book and never sell another, winding up as one of those {shudder} One-Book-Wonders. No, I definitely didn’t feel like I made it after selling my first book. However, for some authors selling one book would be enough for them to feel they’d made it. For others,it comes after the second book. Still others, not until they’ve signed that first multi-book contract. Or their first 6-figure advance. Or hitting a national list for the first time.Or being able to kiss that dreadful day job good-bye.

Making it means different things to different writers. For me, making it happened the day my agent told me she thought I was funnier than Author X. And no, I’m not going to tell you who Author X is. This was one person’s opinion and one person only. Author X happens to be one of my favorite authors. She’s definitely made it; she has the fame, fortune, and awards to prove it. I, on the other hand, will most likely never reach the pinnacles of success she has reached. Few authors do. However, being compared to her and coming out on top made my day that day and saw me through a long dry spell when no other editor seemed to feel the same way about my writing.

So to me, making it was the day that I realized a compliment from the right person could mean as much as a contract. It kept me writing, and eventually that multi-book contract arrived. Maybe someday I’ll see that 6-figure advance and my name on the NY Times list. Meanwhile, I never forget that at least one person, and now maybe more, believes I’m funnier than Author X.

Lois Winston straddles three worlds and is a long way from giving up her day jobs. She’s both an associate with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and an award-winning author of romantic suspense and humorous women’s fiction. Lois is also an award-winning designer of needlework and crafts projects. In January 2011 Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series will debut. Visit Lois at and Anastasia at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers (

May 19, 2010

Made It Moment: Erica Eisdorfer

Filed under: Kids and Life,Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:05 am

The Wet Nurse's Tale

I heard about Erica’s wonderful, original, well nigh unique book in the thorny jungle of a writing contest. (The book was already published. Had already Made It.) Erica stood out amongst all of us clamoring souls because of that book. This Moment contains a hefty spoonful of the writing life, a dab of kids–in short, everything that makes this blog what it is. And read her bio. It’s a story–if not a Moment–in of itself.

Erica Eisdorfer

My novel, The Wet Nurse’s Tale, was published by Putnam in August of 2009. I’m a bookseller by trade and the news of my contract—which I received over the phone behind the bookstore counter—so stunned me that my colleague had to practically administer smelling salts to restart my breathing. I remember riding my bike home from work that day: it was summer, I was flying along, and for a moment I was filled with a gasp of total joy. I’ve never skied, but I figure that’s what it feels like.

But maybe it’s because I am a bookseller that, soon enough, I found the grain of salt in the good news. My office, after all, is paved with publishers’ catalogues, each describing hundreds of new books. I see thousands of books arrive at the store and then (alas) get returned to the publisher when they haven’t sold.

I know all too well the odds against which my book stands. To wit: will my readers see what it was I meant to do? (Yes! They’ve understood that my novel’s no romance, but rather is about class and gender and a whole lot of bodily fluids!) Will the publisher spend the bucks to send me on a tour? (No, dang it.) Will my book get reviewed happily? (Yes! The Washington Post liked it! New York Magazine likes it!) Will I shrivel at the less than happy reviews? (Apparently not. Thick skin, I guess. ) Will I be totally frustrated that the local B&Ns keeps selling out (despite the fact that people KEEP going in and asking about it)? (Uh, yeah. Totally frustrated. Dumb chains. )

In the end, I guess my Made It Moments are just exactly those: instants which flare up and then die away again. What’s important is to find them in the work, of course, as you put two words together to say exactly what it is you’ve meant to say.

Erica Eisdorfer, born in Durham, North Carolina, was the first of the three children born to her parents, who had moved down south from the great city of New York and lived for some years in culture shock. The family rented a wonderful house edged by forest and she and her two younger brothers spent a great deal of time playing in the trees where she, due to her birth order and general bossiness, was constantly the admiral of the ship, the mayor of the town, the principal of the school. This sort of innocent play lasted only until her brothers, in what must have been a co-epiphany, realized that they didn’t have to take it anymore and went off by themselves to play with their trucks, leaving her alone forever. This is when she discovered reading.

After having graduated from Duke University, she considered, then rejected the idea of further schooling and went to work at the Bull’s Head Bookshop, where she has found gainful employment for the last thirty years as buyer and manager.

May 16, 2010

Win a Great Read

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:04 pm

It’s easy! To win a free copy of Sara Backer’s novel about love and loneliness amidst the foreign backdrop of Japan, just enter here!

Writing Matters

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:51 am

Don’t you love a good double entendre? I am terrible at coming up with them, which is why my co-host, Marina Cramer of Watchung booksellers, named the series we run now.

May’s panel should be a beaut for emerging writers, anyone who’s ever wanted to write a book, as well as people interested in this brave new world of publishing.

What To Do Before You Debut is not a southern thing (you know, sixteen, I think there’s something called a cotillion, sounds very romantic) but instead focuses on the process of bringing a novel into the world today.

As always there’s food, drink (of the loosen your lips variety), and a lot of give and take. Please join us on May 21st at 7 pm!

And here’s a link to a recent article about the Series if you want to read more.

May 14, 2010

A Good Time Was Read By All

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:46 am

‘Tis the season for book launches at cool as you-know-what bookstores.  Last night’s was the phoenix rising of Chris Grabenstein’s Ceepak series. The sixth in the series, ROLLING THUNDER, just came out…the book, as Chris calls it, that almost wasn’t.

Chris, a former actor, gives one heckuva reading and if you ever get a chance to come out and meet him, I promise you’ll get a night of literature, theater, and stand-up all rolled into one. (Get it? Rolled? Like the title of his latest?) OK, so I’m not so good at this, but Chris is, and his series adds metaphors, puns and other clever things to the usual mystery mix.

Chris, along with his lovely wife, have a way of making even someone totally new to the books feel like family, which is always nice when you come out to meet an author.

Two other interesting things about last night. First, the phoenix part.

In this tumultuous time of publishing–when perhaps more than ever art is meeting commerce, or banging headlong into it–the Ceepak series was dropped by its second publisher. An outpouring of protest from fans, and even critics–like the legendary Oline Cogdill–plus some dogged work on Chris’ agent’s part led to Pegasus Books, which brought the series back from the dead, original cover art and all.

From the voices raised last night, Chris has many readers who are happy Pegasus knew a great book when they were given it.

And where were those voices raised? Readers of yesterday’s post already know how I feel about cool bookstores in the city. Here is another.

The Mysterious Bookshop is the baby of Otto Penzler, a legend in the mystery/suspense world if ever there was one. Behind the desk last night at the store was a helpful, knowledgeable proprietor–who didn’t even have to look up the slightly esoteric author I asked about, before giving me some new information about him.

The store itself is dotted with skulls, child-sized mannequins, and other creepy effects. Not to mention a huge range of signed editions, plus mysteries categorized according to dimensions that make sense to mystery readers–parodies, Sherlock Holmes, you get the idea.

Oh. There was also salt water taffy.

To find out why you’re going to have to read Chris’ series. Again, I’m going to suggest that if you buy a book, you do so here.

Folks at The Mysterious Bookshop and at the helm of Pegasus–these publishers actually came out last night to see their latest baby ushered into the world–are ensuring that good times can be read by all for a long time to come.

May 13, 2010

Of Books, Parties, & Raising a Glass

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:05 am

I spent last night at the fabulous Partners & Crime bookstore in NY (which just happens to sit right below the equally fabulous literary agency I’m represented by) celebrating the release of the equally equally fabulous Stefanie Pintoff’s second novel.

Stefanie’s mystery series, set in old New York, was the perfect release to echo the atmosphere at Partners & Crime. Candles–electric, but still–flickered. A marble mantle–behind the podium where Stefanie read one of her sharp, sly scenes, laden with portents–recalled such eerie childhood classics as John Bellairs’ THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS. Partners & Crime boasts many first editions, set behind multi-paned wooden cabinets with the glass removed for easy access and perusal, which brought me right back to days spent combing the library stacks in the early 1980s. Stephen King’s CUJO with a picture of the slavering dog. Dean Koontz.You can go there–the bookstore, not the stacks–and find some of your own lost treasures.

A good time was had by all.

In these changing times, bookstores such as P&C can accomplish something internet purveyors of books will never be able to do: bring authors and readers together in real-time, live interaction. No video feed embedded in an e reader can ever match that.

So I’m going to add something to the above. If you buy Stefanie’s thus far dazzling follow up to her first Edgar award winner–this one set in the brutally competitive world of the Broadway stage–why not give something a little different a try and do so here.

And raise a glass with me to books and bookstores. Long may they run.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress