Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hey! Hey! Writer Spotlight!!!!

Everyone please help me welcome Emily Cushing for our second ever Writer Spotlight!!! (And that link there goes to her twitter, so go follow her, too!)

These spotlights are a lot of fun, and I can already tell Emily has a super cool MG story that I hope I get to read someday! Just wait, you're gonna want to, too. Promise. :)

Also, at the end of the interview I've posted her query and first page. PLEASE help her out and give some of your invaluable support and advice! That's what we're all here for, right?

Now heeeeeere's Emily......

What category/genre do you write?

Middle grade--specifically mystery, adventure, and historical. In this book, Maggie's modern-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy's life. The two stories interweave (Maggie's story is told in the odd chapters and Butch's in the even.) For example, Butch is in a town after a bank robbery in 1901 and then Maggie and Jake go to that same town looking for the loot in 2012. At the climax, the two stories come together. I have loved doing research about Butch Cassidy. My family and I visited the house where he was born, his parent's gravestones, and the Best Western Butch Cassidy Inn (talk about friendly folks.) We even visited the town in Scotland where his grandparents lived.

How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.

RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY'S GOLD is my first work of fiction. My WIP is up to 10,000 words. It's another mystery involving Maggie, Jake, Grandpa Jim, and of course, their beat-up Winnebago, Blue Bessie. 

Do you outline or write from the hip? 
I outline. But it's my slave, not my master.

(Haha! Love that!)

When do you find time to write?

I have five children. Yep, you read it right, FIVE children :) Ages twelve down to thirteen months. That doesn't leave a lot of time for writing. So I mostly write when everyone's at school and the baby's napping. And occasionally I stay up wayyy too late.

Have you had anything published or other credentials?

I have my Master's degree in Elementary Education (which may explain my love for middle grade.) I have three published magazine articles and I created a marketing website, Giveaway Today. Writing daily posts for the website was a lot of fun. A few years ago I published a daily inspirational calendar called One Heart, Many Voices

Is there anything/anyone that has changed the way you write or look at writing? 

I'm part of an amazing writing group. We meet twice a month. I couldn't have written this book without their incredible feedback. And although receiving feedback stung at first, I've developed thicker skin and I'm a much better writer because of what I've learned from them. 

The feedback I've received from entering contests (like yours ;) has also been invaluable.

Do you have a favorite book(s)/author(s)?

A few of my favorite children's authors include Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, and JK Rowling is a genius. Ready for some complete nerdiness? The last Harry Potter came out right before my anniversary. My husband and I went to dinner and spent the night at a hotel. As a gift, I gave him Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and brought a copy for myself. We spent part of the night reading (I said part of the night--we're not that nerdy ;)

(LOL! That's awesome!) 

What's your favorite music to listen to while writing? And writing snack food favorite?

I've tried to listen to music and it just doesn't work for me. I've had to quit buying chocolate chips because if I get stuck while writing I head to the freezer and grab a handful--not good for the hips. 

Anyone you want to give a shout out too?

Dee over at, Brenda Drake, Kat Brauer, and I met Julie Decker through your "Come and Get It" contest. Their feedback and encouragement has been amazing.

Anything else you'd like to share:

Three random facts about me:
I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order in less than 20 seconds.
I was born with a deeply-grooved geographic tongue. The first time my mom saw it, she rushed me to the hospital because she was afraid I had some sort of strange illness.
I met my husband on the first day of 8th grade. He had a mullet, I had 5-inch high bangs.


Alright, that interview made me laugh more than once! Super curious about the tongue thing now. lol And I totally had to switch to semi-sweet chips so I'd stop sneaking into the freezer. :)

I've posted Emily's query and first page just below, because you guys are awesome and helpful and she could use some of your priceless critiques! 



Twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy wants to be brave and spontaneous. But she's not. Especially when it comes to school bullies and flying by the seat of her pants. So when she and her fearless cousin Jake stumble upon century-old clues leading to gold coins hidden by Butch Cassidy—farm boy turned infamous bank robber of the Wild West—she crumples her "to-do" list to prove she really can be daring and impulsive.

And at first, searching for gold with Jake and their quirky Grandpa Jim in his beat-up Winnebago is the grand adventure she's always wanted. But Maggie's newfound courage falters when she learns they must outsmart and outrun a dangerous thief who is also after the treasure.

The race is on. But just as Maggie and Jake think they've solved the mystery, Jake is captured and all the "to-do" lists in the world won't save him. Maggie’s his only hope…if she can find the courage. 

RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY'S GOLD is a middle grade mystery in which Maggie's present-day adventures parallel Butch Cassidy's past until mystery and history collide. This book stands alone, but can open the door for a series that exposes readers to fast-paced adventures across the fifty states.

With a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, I have taught both elementary and middle school. I am a regular attendee of writers’ conferences and have three published magazine articles. I created the successful marketing website, Giveaway Today, with an apex of 176,000 page views per month.

First Page:

Twelve seconds until summer vacation. Maggie stared at the classroom clock, counting down the last seconds of sixth grade. Someone in the back of the room began chanting, “Ten, nine, eight—”

Everyone else joined in, “Seven, six—”

Almost time! Maggie thought, sitting at the edge of her seat.

“Five, four—”

Just a few more seconds.




RRRRINGGGG!! The class erupted into cheers.

Maggie jumped out of her seat, slung her pink backpack over her shoulder, and slipped out the classroom door. As she ran down the school’s rickety old steps, she pulled the “to-do” list she had carefully prepared the night before out of her back pocket.

Five minutes. That’s how long she’d given herself to make it to Slotz Convenience Store. She studied the large crowd in front of her and took a deep breath. She examined her bright green digital watch, pushed the start button, and took off running. 

“To your left,” she called, pushing past a circle of fifth grade girls in a group hug.

“Watch out.” She darted around a curly-haired girl rummaging through her backpack. Just a few more steps and Maggie would bust out of the crowd. She glanced at her watch again. One minute down, four to go. So far, so good. She thought she just might make it in time.
“Coming through.” Maggie sidestepped a large boy picking gum off the bottom of his shoe.

Boy, was she wrong.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo Sign in!!!

As you all know the amazing month of November is just around the corner! Which means one thing: NaNoWriMo is almost here!!!!!!!

Just think guys, in a little over 30 days we could all have fun new first drafts to play with! So if you're already planning to participate, great! If not, change your mind RIGHT NOW! It might be one of the best decisions you ever make!

I thought we could all cheer each other on and give updates as the month progresses and share a little about what we're working on, so weekly, I'll put up a post where we can all do this. Accountability always helps in situations like this, right? Also, I thought it would be cool to randomly choose a few of you to guest post about how your nano is going and any tips you have and whatnot! We can also use #CLCnano on twitter to stay in touch.

So today is the first day of SIGN IN!!!! Feel free to sign up anytime between now and through the first week of November. (We'll totally take late comers. :)

What I want for sign in:

Title of project (or working title)
How many times have you done NaNo
Any other pertinent info you'd like to share

Alright. Let's do this!!!!!

*ANYONE can participate. Even if you are published or have an agent. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Fab "Blind Speed Dating" Cupid Connection!!

Yes! Another connection from "Blind Speed Dating"! *Sigh* "Blind Speed Dating" really was fun, wasn't it? Can't wait till next February!

Anyway, it's never too late to party!!!! So let's party now with author Kat Ellis and agent Molly Ker Hawn!!! And stop in to read Kat's BSD contest entry for HELLFIRE

First, we'll chat with cool Kat. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.) Make sure you check out her twitter and blog, too, cuz she really is cool!!!

C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice? 

Banoffee Cheesecake. 

C: How long have you been writing? 

I've been writing properly for about 4 years. I say 'properly' because I'll assume we're going to pretend the teen years where I wrote emo poetry in a little black book don't count. *Performs secret handshake with Cupid* Thanks.

C: How long did it take you to write PURGE? 

It took me about 8 months altogether, spread over 4 years. When I first wrote it, PURGE was a very different animal - it was an adult sci-fi (it's now YA sci-fi) and had a few significant plot/character differences. After realising the first incarnation sucked, I put it away for 3 years before I finally figured out what I wanted to do with it.

C: How many did you query with this novel? 

The first go-round (when it sucked), I queried about 15 agents before one very kindly clued me in to the reasons it wasn't working. After I reworked it, I queried about another 30 before signing with my amazing agent, Molly!

C: What made you decide to enter the contest? 

I was pretty new to twitter, but I kept reading about these awesome contests run by a cherubic anonymous author, so decided to check out BSD for myself. I was querying my other manuscript, Hellfire, at the time, so that was what I entered into the contest. Molly had seen a few pages of this already, and placed the winning bid on my entry to request more. I was beyond thrilled, even though Hellfire didn't end up being the manuscript which sealed the deal. It's still on the back burner, though!

C: What is your favorite part of the writing process? 

I love outlining. (I know, I'm weird like that.) I like knowing where I'm going with each scene, and how I want the plot and the characters to develop. I'm also a major scatterbrain, so having the outline helps me to avoid forgetting things (like the ending, MC's name, the major reveal... *sigh*)

C: What is your least favorite part of the writing process? 

Drafting the first 10k. This is where I'll usually doubt myself the most, and keep going over and over what I've written. Should I change the POV? Write it in 3rd or 1st? Dual narratives? Am I starting in the right place? And so on. The real reason for this is that I once reached 60k into a draft and realised it needed to be written in 1st person - I had to go back and basically rewrite the whole thing. And really, I'm much too lazy to want to do that again.

C: If you could only pick up three things from the grocery store, what would they be? 

Serious coffee ("My name is Kat, and I'm a caffeine addict.") Microwaveable meals, because I never cook - not because I can't or don't like it, but I feel *guilty* for spending time on food prep when I'm drafting a manuscript. And wine. I don't need to explain that last one, right? ;)

C: What advice do you have for other writers? 

When you're not writing, READ. Writing a novel isn't really a solo effort - we learn writing tips and techniques from other authors whose books we read, and if you beta read another writer's manuscript, it helps you develop a keener editorial eye for your own work.

C: What did you do to celebrate your offer? 

First, I did an epic Running Man dance routine in my living room. Then I lay on the floor and stared at the ceiling while my brain rebooted. After that, I went out for a meal to my favourite restaurant with my husband and best friend.

C: Tell us a little about your success story:  

Before entering the BSD contest, I'd been in the query trenches a while and my request rate was OK, but not great. Entering the contest looked like a really fun way to get my work seen by a stellar group of agents, and my twitter pals were entering too, so I thought: why not? 

Getting Molly's request from BSD, and her notes on Hellfire after she'd read it, really encouraged me to persevere. Molly said she would be interested in my next project (which I'd mentioned I was working on), and as soon as I finished revising Purge, I queried Molly. She asked for the full right away, and a few weeks later came back with a R&R request. Her notes were absolutely brilliant, and I could see right away that revising it as Molly had suggested would make Purge stronger. So I did that, sent it back, and a few days later I had an email asking if Molly could give me a call. There followed the Running Man/ceiling-staring episode described above, and a telephone conversation where I'm fairly sure I sounded like a strangled five-year-old. Somehow, I ended up being signed by an amazing agent who could overlook such things.

Now I'm waiting to see how Purge gets on out there in the big, wide world of publishing - with baited breath, crossed fingers, and everything generally clenched.

I never get sick of these interviews, and I totally agree about writing the first 10K being the worst part. Now let's hear from the awesome Molly Ker Hawn! Make sure you check out her info here and follow her on twitter!

C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?

Anything with caramel. I will eat caramels and toffees until I'm ill. Every time.

C: At what point during a MS can you usually tell you are going to offer?

Somewhere in the first twenty pages, I get the feeling that I might love this manuscript -- and I start hoping that the story isn't about to fall apart in the next chapter.

C: How can you tell?

When I start looking around for someone to show a particularly good line in the manuscript. Usually it's one of my agency colleagues, but I have in fact done this to a stranger on the Tube. Once. When I want to share how terrific the idea or the writing is, I know I want to sell the book.

C: What is the first thing you will do after finishing a MS you are going to offer on?

I make rough notes about any editorial suggestions I want to make to the author. I look at the author's blog or Twitter feed, if she's put links to them in her query. I might run the project by a colleague if i'm worried the project's similar to something else that's already been published or is in the works. And then I sleep, because my reactions to the manuscript solidify overnight and then I have a very clear idea of what I want to say to the author.

C: Do you ever offer on a MS that you had to take time to decide on first? Or is it typically a fast and easy love?

The impulse is usually pretty fast, though I weigh other aspects of the book beyond "I LOVE THIS!"  Can I think of specific editors I'd submit it to? Does it need more work than I have time for at the moment? Is it too similar to another project that's out there already? It's got to be a business decision as well as an emotional one. 

C: Do YOU like to do anything to celebrate before/after MAKING "The Call"?

I don't celebrate till the author accepts my offer! But after I make the call, I usually engage in some thrilling administrative tasks like tidying up my desk or updating my editor database because I'm full of nervous energy and it needs an outlet. 

C: Do you have any advice for a writer who just received "The Call"?

If you hang up the phone and realize you forgot to ask all of your sensible questions, call or email the agent back. You need to make a considered decision when offered representation, and a good agent won't mind you getting all the information you need. I always give the author a general idea of the scope of the revisions I'd recommend so that if she totally disagrees with me, we'll know that we probably aren't destined to work together.

C: What kind of things can you forgive in a MS when considering offering? What things must already be in good shape?

The voice has to be clear and fresh, and the MC's journey has to be one that I have a strong emotional reaction to. If those two crucial aspects of the book are solid, I can work with it.

C: If you could only grab three things from the grocery store, what would they be?

Tea. Milk for the tea. Everything else is negotiable.

C: What made you request the full on PURGE?

When I turned down an earlier project from Kat (which I really liked, but felt would be tough to sell as a debut), I asked if she had anything else in the works. When she said she did, I asked her to send me the full.

C: What made you offer on PURGE?

Lots of things. I loved Mason's voice -- he's smart, he's confident, he's capable of real emotion, but he's also a bad boy, and I find that irresistible. I love science fiction, and the world Kat dreamed up for Mason is intriguing and accessible while still being really, really creepy. And Mason's journey is a tense and complicated one, which I appreciate -- I like it when books make me think. Kat's written a smart, sexy book, and as soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again. 

C: What is the most common reason you will NOT upgrade a partial to a full?

I very rarely request partials -- only from contest entries, really, where I've only seen a query or a few hundred words. I ask for the first ten pages in my submission guidelines.

C: What is your biggest advice for writers seeking agents?

Do your research, follow submission guidelines, and be persistent and professional. 

C: What is your favorite part of being a literary agent?

It's something different every day, and it constantly engages my brain. For someone who gets bored easily, it's ideal. 

C: Anything specific you are seeking right now?

Another four hours in each day, please. 

C: Now please tell us something super weird about yourself. :)

Whenever I'm near a swimming pool, I can only with great effort control my urge to dive into it. When I went to Hearst Castle and the tour guide took my group out to that giant pool, I had to move to the back of the crowd to keep myself from jumping in the water. Is that a disorder of some kind? Wait, don't answer that.


Okay, Molly, we won't :) Seriously, love the answer to that last question every time! 

THANKS to both you lovely ladies for letting me interview you, and I wish you both much success with PURGE! Can't wait to read it!

Thanks everyone!