Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interview with Tor Sr. Editor, Claire Eddy

Claire Eddy is a senior editor at Tor/Forge Books and has been with the company for 28 years.  She began editing science fiction and fantasy early in her career and has worked with such authors as Orson Scott Card, Gordon R. Dickson, Fred Saberhagen, and Jack Vance.  

She has brought out such newcomers to the fantasy scene as Jacqueline Carey, Sara Douglass and Juliet Marillier.  While she still edits these genres, she has broadened her projects to include historicals, thrillers and mysteries.  On the mystery side, she has worked with Stuart Kaminksy, Carole Nelson Douglas, and Sharan Newman.  

She’s spent the better part of her adult life working with authors to make their stories and dreams be the best they can be, becoming that “third eye” and nudge to accomplish this feat. And she is the final judge of the F/SF category of The Sandy and will be attending the June 5-8 2014 Crested Butte Writers Conference.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
    Answer: I acquire SF/F, mystery, thrillers, and historical fiction.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?
Answer: Synopses are torturous for you to write and us to read, but they are helpful in the end! I don’t really care about the format—ultimately it’s the writing that is going to convince me to buy a project.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: My motto is, never say never! So I am loathe to say that I am “sick” of anything. What I am looking for is someone who is passionate and has a story to tell.


  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?


    Answer: While I can teach many tricks to help a writer develop their craft, the essential hook for a story is hard. If the writer pulls me into a story and makes me care about the characters, then I am willing to overlook a lot of flaws.


  1. For you, in general, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
    1. Voice
    2. Weak Grammar
    3. Common plot
    4. Poor character development
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow
    10. Story starts in wrong spot
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory
    12. Other
Most of the choices given here, I feel can be fixed if the author is willing to put in the work. Even the simplest of stories can have heart. And that is the key.

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?
Answer:  Sometimes. Although I will admit, like most of my colleagues, I am massively overworked. But meeting me at a conference puts a face to the name and pulls the project out of the slush pile. In addition, I am perfectly happy to get a nudge if you haven’t heard from me in two months. Guilt works wonders…


  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc
Answer: The publishing field is a fascinating one at this point. We are all trying to learn how to reinvent ourselves in this new digital age. Anything that the writer can bring to the table to help raise their profile is a good thing, but not strictly necessary.


  1. Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: This may sound silly, and you might believe it never happens, but please suggest to your writers never to follow an editor and pitch them stories when they walk into a ladies’ room. Or wait for them right outside.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Meet Harper Collins Editor, Tessa Woodward

Bio: Editor Tessa Woodward has been at HarperCollins for 8 years. She edits a wide array of romance, women's fiction, and mystery as well as selected creative non-fiction titles. On the romance side, she edits authors across all genres, including the New York Times bestsellers Tessa Dare, Karen Ranney, Jennifer McQuiston, and C. L. Wilson. She's the final judge for The Sandy's romance category and is looking to acquire all genres of romance! Tessa was kind enough to answer these questions, but won't be able to answer any questions.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
    Answer: I acquire all genres of romance as well as erotica and New Adult. Historicals are my first love but I’m also a huge contemporary fan.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double? 
Answer: Whatever is needed to explain the book. A couple of pages usually does it. And it makes no difference if it’s single or double-spaced.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: Honestly, right now I’m not seeing a bunch of the same things over and over again. There’s a ton of variety out there! I’m probably not looking for Vampires right now. And I’m definitely trying to find the next big thing in erotica. I also love anything with governesses.


  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?


    Answer: Voice, voice, voice, voice, voice. I want your writing can grab me right from the start.

  1. For you, in general, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
    1. Voice – Voice is the most important thing. If it’s not there, it’s not worth it.
    2. Weak Grammar – always fixable!
    3. Common plot – sometimes fixable depending on the writing.
    4. Poor character development – this is usually a deal breaker for me.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)- If the writing holds up, and it makes sense in the context of the story, I’m fine with controversy.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – huge problem.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing – doesn’t bother me unless it interferes with the story development.
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – if there’s not enough tension, suspense, or world building, it’s probably not for me.
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow – if the writing is amazing, this is fixable
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – this happens all the time! Totally fixable.
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – as long as the author agrees to make changes, this is fixable.


  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)? 
Answer: Not really. I try to be as specific as possible for any submission I personally receive.


  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?
Answer: As long as the writing is there and the author and I have spoken and can agree on a vision for the book and her/his career, I don’t need anything else.


  1. Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: Not actually telling me what happens in the story in your query letter.











Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Unleash the Past Do you have a memoir in you?

Five Scribe Readers, I met some fascinating people on my trip to Georgia, South and North Carolina last September.  One stop included a visit to Sisters in Crime/South Carolina Chapter.  One of my fellow SINC members is Danielle Dahl, author of Sirroco, a girl comes of age in war-torn Algeria.  She mentioned at our meeting that she was writing a memoir.  Impressed, I wanted to know more.  Please welcome Danielle Dahl as she talks about memoirs. 
How to write a great memoir.  Dig deep.  Resign yourself to guilt of things done and regrets of things left undone.  Know that anguish and sleepless nights will go away. In time. And, above all, don't spare the laughter.   ~  from the website of Danielle Dahl  http://www.dadahl.com/

My eyebrows shot up and I glared at my critique partners. “Write a memoir? Why would strangers be interested in childhood memories I’m writing as a legacy to my nephews and nieces?”

Howard said, “If you added a little-known piece of world history to your stories about family dynamics and your descriptions of war-torn Algeria, your memoir would not only interest, but resonate with your readers.  Especially since this fifty-year-old historical issue mirrors modern global problems."
 
“Nah! I don’t want to go there. Couldn’t bear the hurt.”

“Perhaps the telling will exorcise the hurt. Besides, isn’t it part of what made you the person you are now?”

I brushed the question aside and interjected one of my own, “And how do you think my family will feel having our personal history made public?”

“You don’t need to tell all. Be tactful. More important, do not seek their blessings as their memories might be different, if not opposite, to yours. Just tell your story, your truth, as you remember it.”

My two other critique partners nodded, causing me to wonder. Do I have a memoir in me? 

“Really? A memoir?”

“Yes, a memoir. Your memoir.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to write a fiction, which would give me the latitude to manipulate, create or recreate facts to fit the story?” I took a breath then went on. “I understand that memoirs do not allow such artistic license. They require faithful representation of facts. In brief, a memoir writer must subject the story to the facts—”

“Ah, but consider this,” Howard cut in. “The best feature of memoir versus fiction writing is that in the former, your plot, your era, are already set. Your characters are drawn. The sensations, emotions, tastes, sounds colors have already been experienced. They are there waiting for you to bring them back to life.”

So, I gave in to the idea of writing my memoir, but would I have enough stories to make up a book? I worried, twisting the ring on my finger. My grandmother’s ring. My mother had presented it to me the day I left home… That moment unfolded before me. Maman’s tearful smile. The auburn frame of her curls. The afternoon sunlight slanting through the open French doors. The light breeze cooling my face. The squeals of kids playing ball in the street. The rich aroma of roasting chicken…

I started as if waking up from a catnap. Heart pounding. Thrilled. I had just come up with the topic for a new story.

SO, THAT’S THE WAY IT IS! An object, perhaps a photo, a sound, the feel of a touch, a taste—very much like Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time where he describes tasting a madeleine cake dipped in tea that jump-starts a chain reaction recall of nostalgic memories. 

Five senses, five windows to reach into the past, unleash the flow.

In my excitement, I hurried to my computer, sat down, hand hovering above the keyboard and…blank. The white page as uninspiring as a virgin canvas. I panicked. Where did the flash of memory inspired by the ring go? RING. Ah, Yes!

I typed, ‘Ring’ then ‘Mother’ then ‘The day Maman gave me her mother’s ring…’ 

My fingers started flying over the keyboard, propelling words onto the screen.

That day, I learned that, as is true for almost everything in life, story writing starts with one step at a time—one word.

Writing snapshots of the fun childhood episodes I shared with my brothers and sisters had always been a joy—not that I didn’t remember the other times. It’s just that I only chose to keep alive the feel-good moments. Keep the less tasteful ones locked inside the deeper folds of my brain.

I reluctantly committed to retrieve the bad, relive it for the sake of the story, the truth. During the fact-checking research process, I tore at scabs I hadn’t realized were still festering. I sobbed uncontrollably. Couldn’t sleep. Had nightmares when I did. The anguish lasted days at a time during which I was unable to write—like hitting a stone wall. Then, with great effort, I’d sit at my computer, scale the wall or walk around it, pick up the thread until the story slid back into the fun times. Back into sunlight.

I read books and blogs on writing, attended conferences, lectures. Learned that rather than following the linear thread of a story, as happens in diaries, memoir writing, as in fiction, needs to pick up the thread of a story any place other than at its beginning, thus arousing the readers’ interest. Cajoling them into finding out what comes next.

I learned that in memoir writing, just as in fiction, the first concern should be to put down the raw story, keep the inspiration juices flow. Speak from the heart. Let my voice sing. Leave the task of the various edits and polishing to further drafts.

When I had exhausted my critique partners and beta readers’ feedbacks and believed my fourth draft was IT, I submitted it to a professional editor who suggested my memoir would be better served saving parts of my story for my next memoir. Several anguished soul-searching days later I cut out twenty-five thousand words. Painful, but wise as the sacrifice ended in a tighter story, teaching me in the process a valuable lesson in humility: not to fall in love with my writing.

Humility, a great quality for fiction writers to develop, must become a virtue for memoir writers to cultivate as they expose their most inner selves. Their strengths and weaknesses. Their virtues and dark sides.  They must learn not to take constructive criticisms from critique partners, beta readers, and editors as personal offenses, but as a team effort toward the good of their story.

A story—we all have one to tell, but will it resonate with our readers? I discovered that mine did. What about yours?

Do you have a memoir in you?

Danielle Dahl is a member of the South Carolina Writers Workshop, Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the Seneca Writers Critique Group.  Dahl won second place in the 2011 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards for nonfiction. She was semi-finalist in the 2011 William Faulkner Wisdom Competition for a novel-in-progress as well as for a short story. Lastly, two of her creative nonfiction stories appeared in the 2011 and 2012 Petigru Review Literary Journal.












Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Interview with Disney Editor Tracey Keevan


I like to interview all my Sandy final judges so writers can get a feel for the editor and what she's hoping to acquire. I'm so excited to say that this year's final judge for the Children's/YA category of The Sandy will also be attending the June 5-8, 2014 Crested Butte Writers Conference. Traccey was kind enough to answer my questions, but she won't be able to answer questions--this is purely information for C/YA writers. Take a look . . .

Tracey Keevan is a senior editor at Disney * Hyperion Books where she edits a range of children’s books, including picture books, early readers, graphic novels, middle grade and young adult fiction. She is thrilled to be working with a number of talented writers and illustrators including Mo Willems, Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti, Robin Mellom, Stacey Kade, and Laurie Faria Stolarz.

Currently, Tracey is looking to acquire young adult/middle grade action-adventure series; literary fiction, particularly middle grade; YA and middle grade short story collections; contemporary chapter book series; and multi-voice / POV novels. She has a strong interest in humor, science/nature, contemporary fiction, and magical realism. Tracey also has a background in digital media and is interested in transmedia story-based projects for middle grade and YA readers.

Tracey has worked in children’s media for nearly 20 years as an editor, writer, and producer. She was previously a senior digital editor at Disney Publishing Worldwide and the former executive editor of Nick Jr. Magazine. Tracey has also worked at Workman Publishing and The New York Daily News. She is a Daytime Emmy-nominated writer whose children’s fiction has been featured on Nickelodeon television as well as in books and magazines.



  1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?

    Answer
My YA list spans a number of categories, including: action/adventure, contemporary/realistic fiction, horror, humor, paranormal romance, literary fiction, and magical realism. There will always be a place in my heart (and on my list) for a great story and strong writing—regardless of the category. That said, I’m often drawn to literary coming-of-age stories, humor, survivalist narratives, and experimental fiction.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?

Answer
I prefer to have a solid sense of the direction of the novel. For me, more is more in this case.  Typically, a two-page synopsis (single spaced) does the trick along with a partial manuscript. If the author has a chapter outline, I’d love to see it as well.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer
I’d like to see more issue based submissions, literary humor, realistic fiction, and original voices that jump off the page. I’d also like to consider YA short story collections. In general, the submissions that are the most challenging to consider are those that come after a trend has peaked. Trend-focused themes (superheroes, vampires, aliens, etc.) work well when the timing is right, but can under perform if the timing is off.


  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?


    Answer
    Voice, heart, humor, originality—and perfect pacing—make for great read. Sharp, clever writing grabs my attention. I appreciate attention to craft and language as much as character development and world building. I want to be thrown into the action right along with the characters through great dialogue and memorable events. Lengthy exposition slows the pacing down and detracts from the overall experience.


  1. For you, in general, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
    1. Voice
    2. Weak Grammar
    3. Common plot
    4. Poor character development
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow
    10. Story starts in wrong spot
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory
    12. Other

Answer
Red flags for rejection include: generic voice; weak grammar; uninspired writing; overused plot; excessive clich├ęs; lack of action; expected plotting.

Fixable issues include: character development; pacing; story intro/ending; subplot development; chronology problems; plot holes; tense changes; language and situational content.

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer
It’s great to meet authors at conferences, signings, events, etc. However, submissions are treated equally for potential new authors to our list. If I’ve read a submission, I typically share my thoughts with the agent.


  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer
I enjoy working with authors who are enthusiastic, full of creative ideas, and who are open to collaboration. I also appreciate an author who hits her deadlines and is flexible with the editorial process. Of course, being active in the industry is a plus as well.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer
An overuse of dream sequences to foreshadow events, reveal plot points, and/or uncover dark secrets is a pet peeve. The buffoon parent/teacher/adult is another one!