February 15, 2015

Tips from the Kentucky Writing Workshop

Last week I attended the Kentucky Writing Workshop.  In a word, it was FANTASTIC!
Chuck Sambuchino, an editor at Writer's Digest, presented four amazing lectures:

* Your Book Publishing Options Today
* Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Pitches, and Queries
* How to Market Your Books: Platform and Social Media
* How to Get Published

Just after lunch and before the last two lectures, four agents formed a panel for a session called Writer's Got Talent.  Chuck read the first pages of manuscripts from conference attendees.  When two agents raised their hands to signal they had heard enough, Chuck stopped reading and the critiques began.  As an attendee, it was fun trying to predict what the agents might have to say.  I noticed that Chuck was halted before most of the first pages were completely finished to the end, which signaled a problem with the manuscript.  Agents didn't care for too much backstory which slows down the pace. They didn't like rhetorical questions.  If the main character asks a question, then there must be an answer.  But, on the positive side, all of the agents loved great voice.

Here' s some tips that we learned:
*  Book publishing options include self-publishing or traditional publishing.  With traditional publishing you can choose to use an agent and you can aim for a big publishing house or a small house.  Publishing houses will help you sell subsidiary rights.  Traditional publishing creates an air of legitimacy. On the other hand, with self-publishing you are in more control of publishing.  Book length and genre no longer matter.  Some self-pub services include as CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Lulu.

* A pitch is like reading the back cover of a book.  It is generally 3 - 10 sentences.  Chuck advises not to give away the ending in a pitch.

*  A platform is your visibility and influence to others.  It can be a website, a blog, an e-newsletter, column writing, public speaking, and social media presence.  The key is to have take away value, whether it's humor or education.

Attendees spent a full day reaping valuable information and pitching agents.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by Chuck, you will not only learn about writing and marketing your work, you will be inspired to write your very best and to get your work in front of agents.

Here is a link that you might like to check out:

February 1, 2015


Throughout each week, I like to work out at the gym, walk for an hour, and take ballet. Of the three activities, ballet is the hardest.  Ballet requires strength, balance, coordination, and focus.

One of the most challenging ballet poses is a passé.  This is when a dancer balances on one foot with the other leg opened wide to the side and the foot arched and pointed at the knee.  Looks easy, right? However, I can only balance for two to three seconds without holding onto the barre.  

In one class, I asked the instructor what the secret was to balancing in passé.  She said a dancer had to develop a strong core and be able to lift the body up from the legs, hips, trunk, shoulders and head.  That's a lot to think about. 

I was struck with the similarity of writing nonfiction for children and performing ballet because both seem easy to do and yet, that's hardly the truth.  Both take perseverance to do well.  

With ballet, dancers practice to make it look effortless. They take classes which begin at the barre with a series of movements that warm up and stretch the entire body, literally from head to toe. From there, they move to the center of the studio to perform a combination of steps, applying the principles of the barre without the aid of the barre. Lastly, the dancers move across the floor practicing turning and leaping. 

In writing children's nonfiction, authors must strive to educate a young audience within a tight word count (generally 500 words).  Writers don't rely on the Internet for research. They dig deeper to find primary sources and current studies.  They present research in a lively, creative manner to engage children.  Writers edit, edit, edit, until the piece flows, the word choices are perfect, and the meaning of complex concepts are simplified. And, writers put this all together in such as way as not to talk down to children.

I love doing ballet and writing for kids, but sometimes they are not always easy.  There are always challenges like doing a perfect passé or aiming to have an article published. Since I want to succeed at doing both, it takes hard work and dedication.  It takes time and practice. And as Victor Hugo once pointed out, it takes "perseverance, secret of all triumphs."