Sunday, December 27, 2009

Alexa Ranks AmSAW Tops

The first time I visited this site, which says it's a professional media organization designed to bring writers together with editors, publishers, producers, and all those other people whom writers absolutely need to get published or produced, I was blown away. The graphics and layout are unique and actually hauntingly beautiful. All the links seem to work. General navigation around the site is different from most sites that use a conventional nav bar, but it's actually easier to find your way around after you explore the home page for a minute or two. Best of all is the free information and resources--updated regularly--to help writers and media professionals do their work. The paid portion of the site seems to offer a ton more stuff, and I like the idea that there's a free look at a sample newsletter, so you know what you're buying before you join.

So far, I've just been enjoying the freebies, but I might spring for the annual fee and become a member. I have a feeling this is just the site for professionals run by professionals that amateurs like me need to take that next step forward and start publishing more often.


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Monday, December 21, 2009

Story Collections Poised for Comeback?

Our friends at Publisher's Marketplace, who like to track such things, have an update on the growing popularity of short-story anthologies. Though such collections traditionally sell poorly, 2009 enjoyed a variety of critically acclaimed anthology releases.

For starters, Entertainment Weekly recently picked Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders as their top work of fiction for the year. And New York Magazine's list of top-ten picks (below) puts Lydia Davis's collection on top.

On PM's own compilation list, pulling together over twenty of the best of the Best of 2009 lists, four of the top 10 fiction titles are story collections. Drawing on the additional lists published since PM's tabulation, Daniyal Mueenuddin moved into a tie for third place; Lydia Davis's The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, took sole possession of fourth place; Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness, remained in the top 10, and Wells Tower's story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, also joined the list.

Among the runners-up receiving at least some "best of the year" votes are Maile Meloy's collection, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It.

Then there was Oprah Winfrey's first book club selection in almost a year--yes, stories, by Uwem Akpan. In May, short-story master Alice Munro won the third Man International Booker prize. And at the November National Book Award ceremonies, for the 60th anniversary "best of the NBA" fiction, four of the six nominees were story collections, with The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor taking the prize.

Here is the New York Magazine list:

1. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, by Lydia Davis (FSG)
2. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, by Eric W. Sanderson (Abrams)
3. The Book of Night Women, Marlon James (Riverhead)
4. Lowboy, John Wray (FSG)
5. Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist, by Thomas Levenson (Houghton Mifflin)
6. This Is How, by M.J. Hyland (Black Cat)
7. Imperial, by William T. Vollmann (Viking)
8. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower (FSG)
9. The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons (Ballantine / ESPN)
10. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Penguin)


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

AmSAW Interviews Author Janet Kay

Author Janet Kay had something to say. And she said it. Choosing to go the alternative-to-conventional-publishing route, she is, by and large, pleased with the results. And she said it.

AmSAW caught up with her near a sprawling lake in the sprawling mountains of scenic sunny (in summer) Montana, where she spends her winters.

Don't ask us why.

Q: Although you have been writing for much of your life, Waters of the Dancing Sky is your first published novel. How did you feel when you received your first bound copy from the publisher?

It was like a dream come true - one of my lifelong ambitions finally fulfilled. After basking in the glow of this accomplishment for a few minutes, the reality set in. So... now that I'm a published author, now what? What's next?

Q: In what ways did the entire publishing experience surprise you?

I was surprised at the complexity of the process - all the steps involved in creating and marketing a quality product. However, I was fortunate to have a publisher who guided me through the process, involving me in every step along the way. I was able to maintain control, something that was important to me.

Q: A lot of first-time authors in particular don’t realize how much successful marketing depends upon the little things they can do to help the publisher sell books. What are some of the self-marketing tips you’ve learned over the past several months?

I've learned that in today's changing world of publishing, ALL authors are expected to play a significant role in marketing their books. Some of the self-marketing tips that have worked for me include establishing a web site for my book (check it out at Waters of the Dancing Sky), setting up a contest in which my readers can win prizes, using the Internet including Facebook and other sites to promote my book, mailing out promotional postcards and press kits, doing interviews for the news media, hiring a consultant to create a video book trailer promoting my novel, etc.

I've learned that book signings and book fairs aren't nearly as effective if I don't also do a book reading. And I've learned how important it is to solicit and utilize book reviews in my marketing efforts.

One of the keys to success, I believe, is networking - working with and learning from the pros, people who have connections that most authors do not have when they begin their careers. There is a wealth of resources out there to help you promote your work. One great example is the American Society of Authors and Writers promotional services.

Q: Were you disappointed about anything in the publishing process that you might have felt didn't go quite right or didn't meet your expectations?

Overall, I was quite pleased with the process. However, it took longer than I had anticipated. I was continually pestering my publisher, trying to rush the process. Since I'd already done a fair amount of pre-publication publicity, I had people anxiously waiting for my novel to come out. They were trying to schedule book readings and launching parties...but I was still waiting for the product.

Q: Which was easier, the writing or the publishing/marketing of your book?

Good question! I LOVE writing....when I'm caught up in the flow, it's relatively easy. The words and scenes seem to bubble up from some place deep down. Other times, especially by the time you're buried in revisions and on your third draft or so, it's not as easy. Marketing can also be fun - it's a rush to do a reading and have people lined up to buy autographed copies of your book. But marketing, done right, can be very time-consuming. I'd rather be writing!

Q: What’s your next book going to be?

I have at least two or more "next" books, struggling for first place on my agenda! One will be a sequel to Waters of the Dancing Sky as requested by many of my readers. It will take place, again, on the wilderness islands of Rainy Lake along the Minnesota/Ontario international border but will venture farthar into Canada. I'm also currently researching and developing characters for another novel that will be set primarily in the old western ghost town of Virginia City, Montana. Tentatively titled "Amelia's Revenge," it will flow back and forth in time between the 1860's gold rush days and the world of 2012.

Q: And how about one final piece of advice to share with authors still in search of their first book-publishing contract?

Realize that the world of publishing is rapidly changing. You could wait a long time for a traditional publisher to take you on - and lose a significant amount of control over your work. Do not hesitate to check out some of the reputable non-traditional publishers. Examples include Llumina Press (my publisher), Author House, iUniverse, etc. They also offer an impressive array of editorial and marketing services. If you are determined to go 'traditional', your best bet is to obtain an agent first since many traditional publishers do not accept un-agented manuscripts.

Keep on writing - and best of luck to you all!


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Monday, November 30, 2009

New York Times' Reviewers' Top 10 Lists

The venerable (or whatever word you choose) New York Times asked its reviewers to list their top 10 books for the year. Here's a quick look.

Michiko Kakutani's Top 10
Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image, By Michael Caser
The Good Soldiers, By David Finkel
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, By David Grann
Lit: A Memoir, By Mary Karr
True Compass: A Memoir, By Edward Kennedy
A Gate at The Stairs, By Lorrie Moore
Lark and Termite, By Jayne Anne Phillips
Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, By Terry Teachout
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, By Wells Tower
In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic, By David Wessel

Janet Maslin's Top 10
The Age of Wonder, By Richard Holmes
Await Your Reply, By Dan Chaon
The Cradle, By Patrick Somerville
How It Ended, By Jay McInerney
The Imperial Cruise, By James Bradley
The Lineup, Edited by Otto Penzler
Lords of Finance, By Liaquat Aha med
Passing Strange, By Martha A. Sandweiss
Under the Dome, By Stephen King
Zero at the Bone, By John Heidenry

Dwight Garner's Top 10
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, By Rebecca Solnit
Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, By Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, By Novella Carpenter
When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood, By Said Sayrafiezadeh
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, By T.J. Stiles
Family Properties: Race, Real Estate and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, By Beryl Satter
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, By Richard Wrangham
Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee, By Chloe Hopper
Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places, By Bill Streever
Lords of the Sea, By John R. Hale


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Monday, November 23, 2009

AmSAW's "Writer for Hire" Unites Writers and Clients for Free

At the American Society of Authors and Writers, we're devoted to helping our Professional Members find new venues for their writing. New PAYING venues. That's how writers earn a living, from writing.

With that in mind, we're delighted to announce a brand new program that painlessly unites writers with those in need of their talents.

Writer for Hire showcases professional freelance writers before thousands of editors, publishers, business executives, and professionals in search of writers for their most pressing projects. As an independent contractor for hire, our Professional Writer Members maintain complete control of all negotiations, and THEY keep all proceeds. It's free for everyone--writers and clients alike.

Want to learn more? Check out a Sample Listing.

Are you a writer who is not yet a Professional Member of AmSAW? Join Today so that we can begin promoting you and your work soon!


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grand Central Editors: What They Like

My agent handed me a copy of Grand Central Publishing's latest GCP at a Glance brochure, and I found some interesting reading in it. For starters, the profile of their editors is very revealing, not only about what they like and look for in a new book, but also about what we can assume many editors are searching for.

Want a peek? Here you go.

Executive Veep and Publisher Jamie Raab says she's drawn to "...thrillers that truly terrify me, love stories that move me deeply, books of humor that make me laugh all the way through and political books (all sides of the spectrum) that ignite my outrage. I love books with strong storylines and distinctive voices..."

Editor-in-Chief Deb Futter, in talking about what she's been acquiring lately and why: "...all of these books have one thing in common: a strong pull on my emotions--which comes out either as laughter or tears."

Veep and Twelve imprint Publisher Jonathan Karp says, "Ultimately, great storytelling is what matters most, along with authority and the kind of obsession that can only come from writers who are truly passionate about their subjects."

Executive Editor Caryn Karmatz Rudy, editorial director of the company's 5 Spot imprant, likes "...fresh, original voices in fiction and nonfiction for smart women."

Mitch Hoffman, Executive Editor, says, "...what I look for above all else are great storytellers--writers who entertain us, who inform us, and inspire us."

Senior Editor Karen Kosztolnyik is on the prowl for " intriguing voice, great storytelling, and a rollercoaster of emotion."

Associate Editor Michele Bidelspach wants "...fiction with a strong voice, unforgettable characters, and a great hook: think Emily Griffin, Jodi Picoult, and Jane Green."

Well, I think you get the point. After condensing these editors into a single palatable bite-sized package, what you come up with is simple: Strong Literary Voice. Great Storytelling. Passionate Writing.

And if you narrow these elements down to the single most commonly mentioned and sought-after element, you can't help but come up with "strong literary voice."

How's your own literary voice these days? If you're not sure, you'd better think about strengthening it. To find out more, check out AmSAW's "Writing Right," a complete compendium on how to write better, how to write more successfully, and how to get what you write published. All for gratis.

Fair enough?


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Sound of Freedom Falling

And from our Holy Cow, What's Happening to Our Freedom of the Press department:

An anonymous Democratic consultant claims in an L. A. Times, article to have received a call from the White House after making an appearance on Fox News. The friendly advice: Don't do it again!

The caller, according to the recipient, had an “intimidating tone” and a clear meaning. White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, denying any involvement with such calls, says her staff has "encouraged people to appear on Fox." However, former Carter pollster Patrick Caddell—a Fox News contributor—said he had talked to Democratic consultants who claim the White House had warned them too. He refused to name names.

Now my question is this. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, is it really only a Democrat dressed up like a duck? And, if so, why is the White House so paranoid about the people having access to all points of view, including the truth? Isn't that the real purpose of the press--to disseminate the truth so that others may reach studied conclusions?

This country was founded upon two major principles: Freedom of Religion and Freedom of the Press. Without either one, we would have no freedoms at all. Think about it. And let us hear from you!


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Monday, October 26, 2009

Keep Your Options Open for New Markets

Most writers spend a good portion of their lives looking for ways to expand their markets and generate new sources of income. Are you one of them? And, if so, do you take advantage of them all, even if they don't quite seem to be "right up your alley"?

I know one writer who had someone approach her about writing a family history for herself and her siblings. Now, that might not seem as if it would be the most exciting assignment around, and certainly not the best paying; but once she finished, one job led to another, until today, that writer is making more money than 95 percent of all freelance writers in America!

Someone else asked a writer I know to co-write a novel. Originally skeptical (what writer doesn't have fifty million of her own fiction ideas to turn into books!), she investigated the offer, fell in love with the story line and the characters, and connected with her co-author. And the rest, as they say, is history.

There are plenty of new and off-the-beaten-track ways for writers to generate income and find new avenues of literary expression. But the key is to remain open to exploring each and every one.

So, the next time someone comes to you saying he wishes he knew of a writer who could help him attention. It just might be the dream assignment of your life!


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can a Writer Get Published without "Inside" Connections?

Question: I've sent out several query letters for my book and have received only form letters back. I've had several people tell me that the book is great, but if you don't know someone on the 'inside' of the industry, or go to a conference, or pay someone, forget about getting anyone interested in your work.

I can't really afford to pay anyone to read my manuscript at this time, as I'm already paying my assistant to help me edit the work. It is very difficult for me to attend writing conferences due to my speaking and work schedule.

I guess what I'm wondering is; in your experience, without a lot of contacts, is getting published a lost cause?

Please understand I totally 'get it' if it requires a financial investment, and if I'm unable to make that commitment, that is just the way it goes. - K. T.

Answer: With all of the books I have published over the years, I still need an agent to rep me to get new contracts, and those are by no means "automatic." The industry is particularly cautious about taking on new properties these days, what with the economic climate and all. From my observations, I'd say that one out of twenty writers gets published when he is repped by a good, reliable, reputable literary agent (not easy to find). Without representation, I'm guessing that number would fall to one out of every two or three hundred. Neither of those are very impressive odds.

Part of the problem, of course, is that publishers don't trust untested writers. If they put money into a property that never reaches fruition because the writer takes a hike or fails to deliver a satisfactory manuscript or delivers one that just won't sell, they're stuck holding the bag. Collecting too many bags full of nothing leads to collecting something totally else entirely: unemployment. At least with an agency-repped writer, a publisher has some degree of confidence that the agent has done some vetting and believes in the writer, his potential, and his ethics.

Another part of the problem is the tremendous number of unsolicited submissions a typical editor receives in a week. More than 99 percent of these are not something the editor is interested in, not something the publisher will publish (children's books, poetry, sci-fi, or whatever), not well enough written to merit publication, or not targeted to the publisher's niche market. Sending a romance novel to Workman Publishing makes about as much sense as sending a how-to book to Black Velvet Seductions.

So what has this to do with the difficulty of getting an unagented property published? When all these overworked and overloaded editors want to lighten their load (and they can't do it by ignoring their currently viable titles and contracted authors), they do it by rejecting all of those unsolicited and (mostly) unsuitable manuscripts. One mass e-mailing or one afternoon's work for a harried assistant can lessen an editor's load by several hundred properties. "Look, ma, no In Basket!"

The better editors, of course, will at least take a look at the first few lines or paragraphs of a manuscript and, perhaps, set aside those properties that he thinks MIGHT have merit to read more fully at a later date. Other editors simply send them on their way with the ubiquitous pre-printed rejection slip firmly attached.

As for paying someone to get an "in" to a publisher, it's not advisable. Agents who charge reading fees are almost unanimously viewed by the industry as unscrupulous scammers. Publishers who charge to produce a book are either scammers or vanity presses that turn out "printed" copies of your book with no marketing or sales backing behind them. You could accomplish that much by going to your local Kinko's.

The only time you might consider paying someone to help you get published is when you need a reputable book or script doctor. AmSAW and several other reputable editors will work with authors to get a property in shape to begin shopping it around (making syntax, story line, grammar, and formatting suggestions to bring the property up to professional level). In addition, AmSAW has a standing invitation from several respected literary agents who will look at any properties its editors guarantee to be of professional caliber.

Sans those options, your alternatives are pretty much to find a legitimate publisher on your own or to find a literary agent who loves your property and wants to represent you, which is even more difficult a task (if you can believe it) than finding a publisher. Neither option is easy, but writers succeed all the time. It's unfortunate that they don't succeed very often or very quickly. I know writers who have sent their material around literally for years before getting a nibble from an interested publisher. I guess that's what makes the concept of being a published author so "special."

As someone once said, if you want to be a published author more than anything else in life, sooner or later it will happen.


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Will the Real Acorn Please Stand Up!

From our "From Mighty Oaks, Tiny Acorns Grow" Department:

Harvey Bloginger, who writes a weekly column on truth and ethics in government, wanted to get to the bottom of the recent Acorn community group scandal in which the organization advised applicants on various ways of breaking the law. The most egregious example was an Acorn representative telling a prospective owner of a house of ill repute (for underage girls, no less) that Acorn had no problem in helping to set them up in business. Acorn, which is scheduled to receive billions of dollars in public funds this year, showed little remorse.

Bloginger: Ms. Ripemoff, you recently were caught on videotape by a couple of people posing as prostitutes trying to get funding through Acorn to set up a brothel for 13-year-old girls.

Ripemoff: Yes, uh-huh.

Bloginger: And these underage girls were to be used to provide sexual favors to the brothel's clients.

Ripemoff: Yes, that is my understanding.

Bloginger: And they told you that the girls were to be supplied by a South American cartel running a children's sex-slave ring.

Ripemoff: Yes, that is correct.

Bloginger: In the process, you admitted on-camera to having once run an illegal "escort service" yourself, so you certainly had no quarrel with setting these people up in a brothel paid for by taxpayer's dollars.

Ripemoff: That is correct.

Bloginger: You also confessed to having killed your former husband in cold blood.

Ripemoff: Yes, that's right.

Bloginger: What do you say now that an undercover video camera recorded your murder confession as well as your offer to help these people set up a child-prostitution and sex-for-sale ring?

Ripemoff: Well, honey, the way I see it, it's like this: everybody needs a hobby.


Copyright 2009 AmSAW

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Where Have All the Editors Gone?

I wonder where all the editors have gone. I think I know, but I don't want to admit that I'm right. So, instead, I will continue to wonder. Where have they gone?

I know a writer who has written a moving, funny, and memorable memoir concerning her experiences about turning sixty. The demographics for marketing the book are huge: this is the original Baby Boomer generation, remember, the generation that still buys books and actually reads them? Yet, she can't find a publisher. Or, more accurately, she can't find an editor willing to take a chance on her or her book by publishing it.

You see, this writer has a terminal flaw: it's called No Name. Oh, by that I don't mean she is nameless, of course, but she has no celebrity status, no national recognition. She's not Julia Child or Justin Timberlake or Janet Jackson or Monroe Doctrine or any of those big names. She is, in effect, a memoirist-non-gratis.

Why should that matter? Here's why.

Editors point to the sagging store shelves of memoirs with titles screaming out for sale--the vast majority written by celebrities. (You know, those people whom Tom Wolf once described as "famous for being famous.") Without name recognition, these editors fear, the book will languor in sales-statistics limbo forever.

They may be correct. They may have statistics and other documentation that shows them to be correct. But that doesn't make them right.

At one time, an editor who fell in love with a project would pursue its life's history through publication and marketing and sales all the way into the option of film rights based upon the story. But that editor is long gone from the scene that plays out each day along New York's Publisher's Row. That editor is a dinosaur, a fossil left over from an era when people had integrity and moral fiber and weren't afraid to work hard for a living, to build up a sweat working toward the accomplishment of a goal they really believed in.

The last time I recall seeing an editor actually sweat was when the corporate CFO came to town to talk to the executive editor about lagging book sales. I know. I was one of those editors once.

Now, don't get me wrong. I live in this century, too, and I understand why the bottom line is so critical to corporate America. When corporate profits dwindle, stock prices fall, shareholder dividends fall, confidence in management falls, and the blame falls on the Board. (Old joke: "What's the surest way to lose money in the stock market?" Answer: "Buy G. E.")

Once the blame starts flying, it's only a hop, skip, and a jump until people find themselves on the unemployment line.

I get all that. I really do.

But once--okay, maybe twice or three times, even--in every publishing season, couldn't one editor somewhere, at some publishing house, stand up and root for the underdog, insist upon staking his or her reputation (not to mention job) on the success of a quirky offbeat "little book" by an untested "no-name" author? Just once?

See. I told you when I began this article. I already know the answer to that, but I just don't want to admit that I'm right.

Smoke if you got 'em.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seeking Education Titles for Review

Please ship the requested item by Thursday, August 20, 2009.

Educator’s Reviews provides articles, book and product information in their newsletter sent to 653,706 college, public and private school educators. The reviews, articles and review abstracts on the requested item will be published on our web site for our newsletter readers.

Educator's Reviews is seeking to review educational books, products for their upcoming issue of their educational newsletter. Your items will be featured in their newsletter and in their "New Book Alerts" section of their web page.

Send your titles to:

Educator’s Reviews

2300 Holcomb Bridge Road

Suite 103-153

Roswell, Georgia 30076

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mae West

From AmSAW's "It Happened in History" Series

She was every man's greatest fantasy and every woman's worst nightmare. She draped her trademark hourglass figure with tight dresses over tighter corsets and set them off with diamond necklaces, bangles, and baubles. A natural comic known for her irreverent style, incomparable wit, and sultry voice, for more than half a century Mae West remained the quintessential Hollywood sex symbol upon which all future divas would base their personas. To many people's surprise, she also wrote numerous screenplays.

Born on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, N. Y., West was the first child of a boxer and a corset model. Her mother, Matilda, exerted a profound influence on her, instilling generous amounts of self-confidence and ambition and pushing her daughter onto the vaudeville stage by the age of seven.

West quit school after the third grade and for the next two decades lived the rough-and-tumble life of a stage performer, appearing on Broadway, in vaudeville, and on burlesque stages across the country. She was the first performer to do a dance called "The Shimmy" on stage, creating an international sensation. Her first Broadway role was in A la Bradway and Hello, Paris and was quickly followed by a starring role with Al Jolson in Vera Violetta in 1911. She soon built a reputation for adding spicy asides to her scripts and was often censored by producers.

Her introduction to national notoriety eluded her until 1928, when she wrote and staged her own play, Sex, in New York. That led to her arrest and a widely publicized trial on obscenity charges, culminating in one week of incarceration and a lifetime of fame. The charges against West were "corrupting the morals of youth," and the arresting officer testified that she had not only revealed her navel in public, but also moved it up and down and side to side. The resulting controversy made her a star.

The following year, her next play, Drag, was banned on Broadway because its subject matter was homosexuality. With Diamond Lil (1928), West became the toast of Broadway. After several more controversial plays, she was signed by Paramount Pictures in 1932, where her phenomenal success is credited with keeping the studio solvent. To get around the Hayes decency code then in effect, West, who wrote nearly all of her own screenplays, began disguising her risqué material in innuendoes and double entendres, which became a trademark of her comedic style. "I'm no angel, but I've spread my wings a bit," she once said, and "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it." Still, by the mid-1940s, her films and popularity were so compromised after her bouts with censorship that she could no longer find work in Hollywood.

During her long and varied career, West wrote and starred in numerous plays, including Diamond Lil (1928) and The Constant Sinner (1931); and she starred in suggestive movies such as I'm No Angel (1933) and She Done Him Wrong (1933). As a comedic actress, she was the magnificent foil opposite W. C. Fields in My Little Chickadee.

Mae West once said, "When choosing between two evils, I always like to pick the one I never tried before" and "When I'm bad, I'm better."

Mae West died in 1980 following a series of several strokes.

Discover May West

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

From AmSAW's "It Happened in History" Series

Marjorie Kinnan was born August 8, 1896, in Washington, D.C. A writer from an early age, she won a prize of $2 for a short story published in the Washington Post in 1907. She was the youngest winner in the contest's history. And life as a writer for Marjorie Kinnan had begun.

In 1914, after graduation from high school, she moved to Wisconsin with her mother and younger brother. Her father had died the year before. In Madison, she attended the University of Wisconsin where she was a member of the women's honor society, the drama society, and the Delta Gamma Sorority. In 1918, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

A year after she was graduated, she married Charles Rawlings, also a writer. The couple moved to New York, where they worked as journalists for various newspapers. From 1926 - 1928, Marjorie wrote verses for United Features Syndicate. In 1928, the couple purchased a 72-acre orange grove near Hawthorne, Florida, aptly named Cross Creek because it lay nestled between Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake.

In 1933, the couple divorced; but Rawlings was so drawn to the natural, untamed beauty of the land and the simplicity of the rural lifestyle that she continued to live at Cross Creek on and off for the rest of her life. In 1941, she married Norton Baskin, a hotel owner from St. Augustine, Florida, and lived with him until her death in 1953.

The style in which Rawlings wrote is typically referred to as local color or regional writing because the themes that so often populate her stories and novels are about the organic fabric of rural life. Using an external voice, Rawlings wrote about characters whose internal motivations drove them to overcome often overwhelming environmental forces. Although her stories are based on the seemingly simple lives of rural people, her themes are universal.

Rawlings sold her first two short stories in 1930. Three years later, she received the O. Henry Award for her piece, Gal Young 'Un, about a vulnerable widow living in rural Florida during the Prohibition Era. Later that year, she began The Yearling, her best-known work about a young boy named Jody who lives in rural Florida and adopts an orphaned fawn as a pet. As both the boy and the fawn grow, Jody struggles with the practical hardships of life on a farm, family relationships and expectations, and his responsibilities as he approaches adulthood. The story, which in 1939 earned Rawlings the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was loosely based on actual events.

Rawlings continued to write until her death from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 14, 1953. Several of her books, including The Yearling, Cross Creek, and Gal Young 'Un, were made into movies.

Discover Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Monday, July 20, 2009

Swetky Agency Seeking Contmporary YA

Literary agent Faye Swetky of the Swetky Agency is looking for new, well-written contemporary Young Adult titles to consider for representation.

"The YA market remains fairly strong, even in this sluggish economy. Did I say 'sluggish'? So, we're expanding our representation of YA authors who have a continuing supply of books or solid outlines that we can pitch to our publisher clientele.

"As with all of the material we represent, the writing must be of the highest quality, the story line must be timely, and the characters have to be believable with at least one of them--the protagonist--also being likable."

Swetky is seeking material in both fiction and nonfiction categories, leaning more heavily toward fiction. All genres are open. "The only prerequisites are that the material be strong, the writing be solid, and the story be marketable. As if that weren't enough!"

If you're a YA author looking for representation and think you may have what the agency is seeking, visit their site at and follow the advice for submissions. The agency is a respected professional literary agency that adheres to the practices of the AAR and does not charge fees of any sort.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harlequin Eyes YA Market

With an eye on capturing some of the tremendous following behind the Harry Potter and Twilight series YA books, Harlequin Books announced recently a new imprint, launching this fall, that will target the lucrative Young Adult market. The new imprint by the Canada-based publisher will be called Harlequin Teen and include genres such as mystery and science fiction/fantasy. The news is sure to please YA authors everywhere, since it stands to increase the outlet for their works, if only slightly.

Although Harlequin–which is best known for its flagship Harlequin Romances–has been planning on the new imprint for several years, its approval wasn’t officially green shirted until 2008. Senior Editor Natashya Wilson will helm the new line.

“I’ve always been a YA reader,” said Wilson. “I never stopped reading it since I was young. I’m familiar with a lot of the authors […] and I’m also probably one of the three biggest Twilight fans in the whole company.”

Support for the new imprint will come from employees at both the publisher’s U.S. and Canadian offices. Additional editors may be brought in as sales figures are evaluated.

The new program will feature in its inauguration three urban fantasy novels–My Soul to Take (August 2009), Gena Showalter’s Intertwined (September 2009), and a reprint of a 2004 Harlequin Luna work, P.C. Cast’s novel entitled Elphame’s Choice (October 2009). Print runs have not yet been determined. In total, Wilson said she is planning on adding 17 books in 2010 and 18 – 20 books the following year.

In addition to marketing the new releases through teen-popular social Websites Facebook and MySpace, the company has created an online focus group of young adults who will be asked to vote on potential covers and story lines. A free e-book and audio book of the imprint’s first title, My Soul to Take, will be released in July.

YA writers interested in sharing their works with Harlequin might want to consider literary representation first, since agents have a much easier time accessing acquisitions editors than do writers. For more information on literary agents, check out AmSAW at the link below.

Christian Fiction Expanding Bounds

An article in The Washington Post points to an encouraging trend among Christian authors and publishers. "The Christian book business, optimistic that a little literary escapism might be an antidote for readers in hard times, is turning to bonnets, buggies and bloodsuckers," wrote AP's Eric Gorski.

"Even as Christian publishing suffers during the recession - one study found net sales for Christian retailers were down almost 11 percent in 2008 - several publishing houses are adding or expanding their fiction lines with both the tame (Amish heroines) and boundary-pushing (Christian vampire lit).

"The undisputed industry leader is so-called Amish fiction - typically, romances and family sagas set in contemporary Amish communities. They're a surprise hit with evangelical women attracted by a simpler time, curiosity about cloistered communities and admiration for the strong, traditional faith of the Amish."

The success of the genre is promoting authors and publishers alike to yield to the temptation of spinning off new series about other cloistered communities. "If you want to sell it, as one literary agent put it, put a bonnet on it."

Could there be a book somewhere down the road entitled The Ephrata Cloister Meets the Taliban Anti-Christ? You tell me. - D. J. Herda