Monday, November 26, 2012

JRW Conference Redux

My experiences at the James River Writers Conference this fall (Oct 19 - 21) have truly been a gift that keeps on giving. The pre-conference intensive led by Kristen-Paige Madonia (, who presented a class on "First Words," is a good example. She advised the participants via email that it would be a "discussion that considers the creative elements likely to engage an editor or discourage them from continuing to read a submission..." She asked us to prepare the first page that we planned to send with our submission according to standard submission format guidelines: double-spaced with one inch margins and 12-point font, title and content beginning half-way down the page. I prepared my first page and ran a word count: 100, give or take. Whoa! How was I going to captivate an editor/agent with only 100 words? Exactly the point Ms. Madonia made in her class. On average, 100 words is all you have to fascinate/excite/seduce your submission target into asking to read more. As she promised, the class was enjoyable, supportive and loaded with constructive criticism. I've since revised my first page three or four times. Some of the changes are small, sometimes large. So far I 've made no changes that require a rewrite of the entire first chapter, but the introduction to my novel gets stronger each time. Each succeeding version improves and polishes; I am learning how to make my first 100 words sparkle and shine. And the silver lining to all this work? My writing in general is sure to improve. So look hard at your first 100 words, then look again, and again. The wily charms of Mata Hari or Cleopatra will pale beside your utterly irresistible first page!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

RCW author Brian Rock in River City Richmond magazine

I am so grateful to have my group of friends, cowriters, and therapists known as Richmond Children's Writers. They help keep me focused, motivated, and (almost) sane! This Thanksgiving I am also thankful for a ncie write up I received from River City Richmond magazine (pg 14) in their Nov/Dec issue. They feature me and my latest picture book, WITH ALL MY HEART (ironically in a section titled, "Writer's Block"!) I'm also thankful for the cozy cocktail recipes, but that's another story!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Opening Worlds at VAASL

Troy Howell and Lana Krumwiede spent a couple of days with Virginia school librarians last week. Here's a shout out to all the librarians who work hard to get good books to young readers.

You're awesome!

Lana and Troy gave a presentation about the value of Fantasy and Science Fiction for diverse learners. You can read a transcript of their presentation over at Lana's blog: 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Literary Agents: What You Should Know About Them

You've got your novel ready. You have written, rewritten, revised, edited, lost sleep, written and written some more. Beta-reader after beta-reader has torn it apart and you have made the appropriate changes. Is your manuscript perfect? Probably not, but it's as good as it's going to get.

Now what?

You are either going to self-publish or try to get picked up and published traditionally. If you are planning to get picked up traditionally, most likely you are going to try to get an agent to represent you.

What kind of agent do I want?

How do I get one?

Will they even know I exist?

I want to share with you some of the experiences I have had over the last few months as I have a) been researching agents and b) interacting with agents at local writing conferences I have attended.

The very best way to sum up the whole process of trying to get an agent was said by Rachel Dugas, a literary agent for Talcott-Notch, who said these wise words at Hampton Roads Writers Conference in September, "Trying to get an agent is like speed dating."

Say whuuuu?

I can tell you she meant it figuratively, because the moment you send an agent flowers, you have taken a step backward:-)

No, what she meant was that, just as in speed dating, when you are trying to find an agent it's all about making the right connection with the right agent. There is not just one agent out there for every writer.

I repeat, it's important to make connections with the right agent. And believe it or not, those same agents are out looking to make the same connection with you.

"Are agents really interested in making a connection with me?" you ask.


Question: How do you think agents make a living?

Answer: By building long-term, professional relationships with writers they feel they can represent.

That means YOU! That means right now, this minute, there is an agent out there who wants to work with you, now you just have to find them (which, I admit, is the tricky part).

But the first thing you have to remember is that they are people, just like you and me. Just like you want to find the right agent to represent your book - your baby - they want to find that story that they can fall in love with and they can share with the world.

You don't have to be scared when you talk to them and you don't have to be nervous and you don't have to hope that it's a once-in-a-lifetime.

You DO have to be professional and you DO have to do your homework. If a particular agent isn't right for you, more often than not they are going to give you positive feedback to help you improve your work so it's even better for the next agent that you approach.

As I mentioned, in the past six weeks I have talked to a total of five literary agents (and one editor) and every single one of them was approachable, willing to answer questions, and wonderful to work with. They were regular, everyday people that I was able to have a professional conversation with.

You can too!

To find out more about the agents that are out there, try some of the sites listed below:

To find out more about some of the conferences that may be in your area where you can talk to an agent face-to-face, try some of these resources:

by Chris Sorensen

Friday, November 2, 2012

Giving Thanks

This fall marks my one year anniversary with RCW.   As we kick off the month of November, I decided to devote my first official RCW blog entry to this very special group of people.  They continue to provide me with priceless support, guidance and motivation.    As I see their successes, they inspire me.  As I read their pieces, they move me.  As I share my work, they help me.  THANK YOU to the members of RCW for walking with me on my journey to publication and giving me the confidence and the courage to keep writing. 
A portion of this message was originally posted on the TWP blog on 10/1/12.
Deb Dudley