Agent Suzie Townsend from New Leaf Literary gave a talk on Thursday that contained a lot of helpful advice for those looking for agents.
Query letter do’s:
- Keep paragraphs to about four lines each. Don’t block text together.
- In talking about the book, think of it as the first act or set up. Keep it centered on character not plot. Character drives plot.
- The letter should be about the book, not you (she’s talking about fiction).
- Keep the letter to 250 words or so.
Query letter don’ts:
- Don’t include marketing ideas. It’s not the time.
- Don’t compare your book to the biggest book titles our authors out there. It looks then like these are the only books you know.
- Don’t start with a question or the sentence, “Imagine . . .”
- Don’t tell an agent what he or she is looking for. He or she knows.
- Don’t send the first draft of your letter. Be sure to have others–both who have and haven’t read your manuscript–review it.
Some good websites she mentioned are bookjobs.com to look for jobs or internships, agentyquery.com and querytracker.net to find agents and their submission guidelines, and queryshark.blogspot.com to see some helpful but harsh reviews of actual letters.
I’ve never met Dinty W. Moore before this week. He’s funny and smart and quick. Here are some para-phrased highlights from one of his craft talks at AWW:
- Creative Nonfiction is “truth, artfully arranged.”
- there are three main categories of CNF: memoir (writing about an event or events in your past), literary journalism (writing that focuses outward on an event or person) and personal essay (the action of which isn’t not so much what happens but the drama of the narrator’s thinking).
- What happens to the writer doesn’t matter. It’s the sense the writer can make of it (this was para-phrased another degree from Vivian Gornick.
- The writer’s only pledge is that she do her darndest to tell the events correctly and honestly, to fact check what she can, to recreate the fabric and texture as best she can.
- The more you remember, the more you remember.
- “You know when you’re lying.”
Cathy Bower’s craft talk on Monday was really informative. Even though I write fiction not poetry (and you’re welcome for that given what I’ve tried of poetry in the past), it was incredibly helpful and relevant. Some para-phrased highlights:
- Write into the mystery of an image not knowing what else is there. You’ve got to be okay with the mystery.
- You must be emotionally honest. Don’t confuse this with literally honest.
- The image is smarter than you are.
- She talked about how her poetry turned a corner when she learned to “shine a light on a moment of intensity.” Before that she tried to obscure things, make them difficult and smart and nothing was working. I know exactly what she means.
The Antioch Writers’ Workshop is underway, and so far, it’s awesome. I went to Lee Martin’s craft talk this morning where he talked about character, and because I’m an old woman, I brought a pen and paper and not an ipad and tried to keep up. Here are some para-phrased highlights:
- There are two stories in a good short story: the one the character tells him or herself, and the real story.
- Characters have to be capable of contradiction and have the ability to have emotions in more than one direction. It’s not just that a character seems like one type of person but ends up to be another; it’s that he or she can be more complicated than one or the other.
- Characters create plot. Action comes from their contradictions.
- A good story seems to be heading in one direction, but all along, it’s heading in another.
He recommended the craft book Writing in General and The Short Story in Particular by Rust Hills. He called it a “good chestnut” which delighted me. Speaking of book recs, have you guys read The Bright Forever by Lee Martin? Amazing. One of my favorite books of all time.