Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Santa Clarita Schmooze on Story Structure

Lisa Gail Green, author of SOUL CROSSED, filled us in on the many ins and outs of plotting in this month's schmooze.  Her informative and fun talk - along with diagrams! - walked us through tips for how to plot using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, the Hero's Journey and Lisa's own plotting style.  

Blake Snyder, author of SAVE THE CAT, is a screenwriting guru, but his 15 point roadmap applied heartily to plotting a book.  We learned that opening a book and opening a movie are similar in that both require an "opening image" or promise to the reader.  In other words, readers need to get a sense of what the story will be via not just image, but by tone, voice, rhythm.  And Lisa pointed out that it's important to remember the Rule of 3's on every page  - or the the Three D's  - dialogue, internal dialogue and description.  

From there Lisa spoke about Joseph Campbell's HERO'S JOURNEY.  She reminded us that this map typically applies to fantasy but many of the elements in the HJ apply to writing any genre.  Every great hero will have a call to adventure of some kind and will likely have to face an ordeal before she "returns"(or learns or understands something that takes her to a higher plane of some kind) at the end of the story.  This is especially true in children's books.

Last, but not least, Lisa shared with us her own "hero's journey" or plotting process and not surprising her approach combines the best of Campbell and Snyder, along with other teachers she's studied like James Scott Bell's PLOT AND STRUCTURE.  Lisa's own approach followed the climbing arc where every time a hero faces a challenge, they rise above only to face a more difficult challenge the next time until the story crescendos in a intense climax.  

Lisa, a self-confessed pantser (or someone who writes by the seat of her pants) shared that plotting is important - however - there is no right -write way - ha!  Just write!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Westside Illustrators Schmooze MARCH MADNESS!

Share some March Madness with the 
  Westside Illustrators Schmooze!

WHEN: Monday evening, March 23, 2015
                        7:00pm to 9:00pm

WHERE: 445 15th Street, Santa Monica CA 90402
                  A two story Spanish-style private home. 
               5 blocks north of Wilshire,  between Montana & San Vicente.
                   Free residential street parking !
TOPICS: 'The World of Digital Marketing'
                         Open your eyes to promotion in the 21st
                         Expand your online presence....
step by step by step.
       'Your Website, part 2!'
                         REPORT on your progress!
                         Discussion of ideas for
improving existing
                                 websites and blogs

Let's enjoy a fun creative evening together
& move forward in our common pursuit
of making a contribution to the world of
children's illustration and literature!

Continuing monthly topics:     

"Doodle a Day "
"Dream Big... Start Small! "   with baby steps!
RSVP if you can ...  SuzyBlock@gmail.com 
MEETING Monday evening, APRIL 20, 2015
See you soon.... Suzy8-)

SCBWI Coordinator
Westside Illustrators Schmooze

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What to Expect When You're Expecting...the Recap on the Westside Writers AWESOME New Authors Panel!

This month, Schmooze Central hands the reins over to the delightful Cassandra Federman.  Take it away, Cassandra!!

On Wednesday March 11th, the Westside Writers Schmooze spoke with five published (that’s right, PUBLISHED) authors! Our panelists included:

-       Edith Cohn – Middle Grade Author, Sprit’s Key
-       Nicole Maggi – YA Author, The Forgetting and Winter Falls, (First book in the Twin Willows Trilogy)
-       Kirk Jay Mueller – Picture Books Author, Harriet Can Carry It
-       Sue Ganz Schmitt – Picture Book Author, Planet Kindergarten, The Princess and the Peanut, and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes
-       Tracy Holczer – Middle Grade Author, The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Interesting side note:  by way of a super-happy coincidence, the five authors participating in the panel had vastly different experiences on their paths to getting published.

Let’s begin the Q & A!
(Disclaimer: Answers are paraphrased and should not be considered direct quotes.)

How did you all get your agents? And how did you know they were right for you?

EC – Has had three agents.  As she improved her writing, she “upgraded” her agents.
She used Publishers Marketplace to see who was selling Middle Grade books well. The top 10 MG agents were her targets!
            “Go to workshops!” She met her current rep through the Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop.

NM – Has had the same agent for 10 years! Nicole’s agent helped her discover her voice as a YA author. They met at the Historical Novel Society Conference. She also recommended attending conferences, “They help you get off the slush pile.”

KJM – Doesn’t have an agent. He went to publishers directly and made sure to cite his experience as a teacher for over 30 years. (Use whatever edge you have!)
He made the mistake of sending out his manuscript before it was ready. It got rejected. Then he reworked it, selected 4 more publishing houses, and got it published by Star Bright Books.
Now his book is in Barnes and Noble and Kirk is over the moon!

SGS – Self-published two books on her own: The Princess and the Peanut and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes. She worked in marketing for years and knew she could sell these books without an agent because they had a niche market. (That’s the best situation for self-publishing. Make sure to have a niche book, then go to the big companies involved in that niche and sell lots of copies to them!)
For her third book, Planet Kindergarten, Sue wanted an agent. She reached out to friends over social media. That didn’t work out great. Then she selected 40 agents and reached out to them. That failed too. She reached out again over social media and finally struck gold. “Don’t give up!”

TH – After years of writing, she finally wrote a book that matched her taste. It was at that point she knew she could reach out to agents.
            She searched SCBWI for blog posts, interviews, and anything that had to do with agents. She read and researched A LOT!
She also used Query Tracker to make sure she targeted the agents that were right for her book.
            “Timing and luck is a big part of when you sell.”

What was it like when an offer was made?
Schmoozers listen with rapt attention to
the stories of the "big moment."

EC – Just got an email. The book had been on submission for 4 months.
She controls how much info her agent gives her about where they are in the submission process. She doesn’t want to hear if her book is getting rejected or if it is close to going to acquisitions. She only wants good news once it is definite.

“GOING TO ACQUISITIONS” is when editors take the book to their bosses and sell them on the idea. Oftentimes the book goes to committee (editorial committee) first, then to acquisitions, where they discuss the potential sales and marketing.

NM – Winter Falls was on submission for 6 months before they decided to go with a smaller press called Medallion Media. Medallion bought the first book in the trilogy. They bought the second and third soon after.
The Forgetting was only on submission for 2 months.
Agents send the book out to all their connections first, then to smaller presses. If it doesn’t sell, then you and your agent may decide to discuss self-publishing.

KJM – Got an email directly, since he had no agent. He cautions writers to make sure their manuscript is as good as it can be before sending it out and burning contacts.

SGS – Made sure to retain all Film/TV rights in her contract, as she wants her book to become a TV series.

TH – Got an email informing her of the two-book deal. When your agent recommends a deal, you take it (however you feel about two-book deals). Doesn’t mind hearing about rejections.

How much editing and adjusting do your agents/editors do? What’s the editing process like and how much time do you get for revisions?

EC – Got big picture adjustments first and was given one month. Then went through 5 more turnarounds, each allowing 2-3 weeks for changes.

NM – Got 3 weeks to turnaround The Forgetting, then it was done!
Winter Falls had already gone through 18 months of notes with another publishing company before the book was dropped and it went to Medallion. Not many adjustments were needed at that point because so much had already been done.

KJM – Only got notes on specific words, but no major changes.

SGS – Agent helped with some minor edits. Once they got an offer, she went through 2 more months of editing.

TH – Agent helped with big picture edits. First edit was 11 pages of notes from her editor, and she was given 3 months to turn it around. The editor helped with small details over the course of two more large-scale edits. Then it went to copyedits (to check for typos, facts, consistency of rules in your story, etc.)

COPY EDITING is the last place authors can make major changes to their books. After copy editing comes FIRST PASS PAGES, usually given to the author in PDF format. Once authors get these pages, they cannot make big changes because the book is formatted for printing purposes. Typos can be fixed, but nothing can be done that would extend text onto a new line.]

How did you end up with your illustrators? How did that process work?

KJM – Sent his publisher a DETAILED list of art notes, which he didn't know was a major faux pas. He is grateful they chose the amazingly talented artist, Sarah Vonthron-Laver, whose illustrations are absolutely wonderful! 

SGS – Received a list of potential illustrators to choose from. Since she wants her book become a TV series, she selected an illustrator who was also an animator. The one she chose wasn’t available for 7 years, so she suggested an illustrator/animator that she’d met at an SCBWI conference. He was available and it worked out!

EC – Got a say in her cover artist. She liked the artist who did Doll Bones and they were able to get her. (The artist, Eliza Wheeler, is a member of SCBWI right here in LA!)

Tell us about the marketing process. How much do you have to do and how much does the publicist help?

EC – Your editor sometimes helps get blurbs from other authors you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. Blurbs are very important and helpful to new authors.
They are great to have for promotion if your trade reviews take awhile to come.

Fall is the worst time for a debut author’s book to come out. They get overlooked, as it is the time of year when well-known authors release their books. It is also harder to get blurbs from other authors at this time.

Our esteemed panelists - many thanks!
NM – Publishers send out ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) to get reviews and blurbs.

KJM Does presentations at various schools, since he has lots of connections there. His publishing Company, Star Bright Books, is on the East Coast, and has been very supportive and helpful by marketing and promoting his book worldwide.

SGS – “The amount of promotion/marketing you have to do with a self-published book and a traditionally published book is the same, except with traditionally published books, they take care of all the big stuff.”
She did a flashmob book launch at Barnes and Noble!
            She also created a book trailer by hiring someone off of Fiverr.com, a FANTASTIC marketing tool! “You can hire anyone on there to create something for you for only five dollars.” Make sure you draw up a contract and retain the rights of whatever you have created.

NM – Smaller houses can be great for marketing. They have fewer books and you receive more attention from the publicist.

TH – Told her publicist that she was going to the ALA (American Library Association conference) with her debut group, and they offered a signing at the Penguin Booth. It’s definitely worth asking for these types of events even if it’s not part of the official publicity campaign. She paid for it herself, but they loved the idea.
            Follow the Nerdy Book Club on Twitter. They are an influential group of librarians and teachers!

All the authors print their own postcards, business cards, and other marketing materials. “Build a good relationship with the poor, overworked publicists!” Help them by self-promoting and coming up with inventive ways they can help you! You want them to love you!

That about wraps up the Published Authors Q & A.  Hopefully, you learned more about the process of publication and picked up some useful tools for the future!

Cassandra Federman
HUGE thanks to (the really rather lovely, doncha think?) Cassandra Federman  taking copious notes during the panel and somehow wrangling an amazing amount of info into this blog post! Charlie had to take to his bed even thinking about the effort involved. And when he saw how concise and informative her writing was, he seriously considered a move to Borneo. However, given that this would have required him figuring out where Borneo was, he chose instead to roll over and go back to sleep until the next schmooze.

Be sure to join us for the next Schmooze on Wednesday April 15th where—

We Interrupt Our Traditional Publishing Trajectory…

            --We’ll explore eBooks, aps, self-publishing and other new-fangled and fabulous ways of getting to your readers.

***PLEASE NOTE:  The April’s Schmooze has been pushed to 3rd week due to Passover.  This in no way implies that the fact that it is both Charlie and Karol’s birthday month should be “passed over.”

Until then, keep passing the open windows,

Charlie & Karol (…and Cassandra!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Romance Novels: YA Style

In honor of Valentine’s Day our February meeting found Hollywood Schmoozers reading and analyzing Young Adult romance novels. Below, a few Hollywood Writers share their thoughts

Our next meeting is Thursday, March 26th at the Fairfax Public Library, 161 South Gardner St.  LA 90036. Gardner is just off West Third Street -- between Fairfax and La Brea Avenues. There’s a Seven-Eleven on the corner of south Gardner and Third, turn there.  Start time is 6:30 pm, meeting ends at 7:45pm.

Bonnie Berry LaMon: “Author Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park is set in the 1980’s. I believe it resonates with adults as well as teens, because it captures the magic of a first love. Eleanor and Park are very different people, and each has a difficult home life.  At first, they don’t even like each other but as they grow in friendship, they feel that special magic—the first stirrings of love. Told in alternating viewpoints, like Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, the reader has a complete picture of all the complications and issues Eleanor and Park face, even when they themselves can’t identify their problems and are unable to solve them.”

Sarah Kapp: “My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares tells an adventurous, unique love story that transcends time. Daniel remembers his many past lives from all over the world and the girl he has loved throughout his lives. In present time, Daniel recognizes his past love, now named Lucy, at the high school they both attend. Scenes from their varied and tumultuous past incarnations are interwoven with their present chance at love, along with the evil force that seems to always force them apart.”        

Carolina Nalasco: "Romance is not the only thing that draws me to romance novels. I like to read the ones that blend in a bigger, more pressing problem than simply two people meeting, breaking up and meeting again.  In Black City,  author Elizabeth Richards, ties political unrest into the romance, thus upping the ante for the protagonists. While some may  consider it a typical romance a la Twilight,  the built in political tension, along with the romance, makes for a gripping read."

Annie Calhoun: "Author Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard is a YA romance novel that explores different kinds of love. There is the romance potter Min has with the clay. This relationship, between artist and material, is fraught with quarrels and the pursuit of perfection. Then there’s the maternal love Min feel for Tree Ear. The author goes on to unveil a friendship kind of love, between Crane Man and Tree Ear.  This book is not the typical Valentine’s Day selection, but after I put it down I felt as though I was brimming over with love, which is, I think, the point of a romance!"

Jean Perry: "I like to come to a book raw and innocent; unknowing and unsuspecting. I read neither back copy, nor front flap. It’s the first few sentences I’m looking for. The connection must be instant and must promise a strong lead character. So when I read the first sentence of April Lindner’s Jane, and behold, I was Jane, was in her body, saw as she saw and felt as she felt, I was sold. Lindner drives the plot bus all the way to the climax and satisfying ending with Jane guiding the reader, providing that invisible netting that unifies a book. Jane’s relationship with her rock star employer put me inside a romance strewn with hard times, and a hard boiled lover, who is at once disgusting, yet redeemable."

--Jean Perry, Co-coordinator, Hollywood Schmooze
--Deborah Fletcher Blum, Co-coordinator Hollywood Schmooze