Thursday, July 21, 2016

Notes from All Write Now Conference (Part II): John Rudolph on "Don't Call the Lawyers: Understanding Publishing Contracts"

One of the most informative sessions at the AWN Conference was John Rudolph’s presentation on “Don’t Call the Lawyers: Understanding Publishing Contracts.”

It was apparent that Mr. Rudolph, an agent with Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is skilled on his topic. Here are a few tips he shared with the standing-room-only crowd:

* Hiring a lawyer might cost more than what an author makes on a book.

* Pay attention to who pays for ancillary materials (photos, indexing).

* Unless you’re dealing with a movie studio, don’t give up movie rights.

* Author should have approval over copyedited manuscript.

* Unless you accept a flat fee (work for hire), you own the copyright.

* Reserve the right to an audit and ask for an accounting statement at least once a year.

* Plagiarism and lawsuits are rare but expensive.

* Limit as much as possible the first look at next book option.

* Define Out-of-Print status.

* Agent commission should match original agreement with agent.

* Any rights not expressly covered by contract belong to you.

* Areas to negotiate: Advance, Royalty, Territory.

Remember, the publisher wants you to succeed. A contract is an act of good faith, not an adversarial relationship!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Notes from All Write Now Conference: Perfecting Your Pitch with Jill Marr

Sioux reads her winning pitch while Jill Marr listens in

For the next few posts I'll share some notes and observations from the All Write Now! Conference last weekend at SEMO in Cape Girardeau, which was an amazing experience by the way.

The first event of the morning was "Perfecting Your Pitch" with literary agent Jill Marr.

During the session, Jill described what she considers to be the makings of a successful elevator pitch.

Jill stated the best elevator pitches can be done in about 60 seconds, so her first word of advice was for writers to keep it short and focused.

For fiction, the focus should be on your project, rather than yourself.

Here are some specific tips on pitches. Pitches should be:

* Concise (be brief)

* Clear (no acronyms or jargon)

* Correct (appropriate audience)

* Compelling (hook to ask for more)

* Conceptual (stick to high level, don’t give too much detail)

* Customize (be ready to improvise)

* Conversational (keep it flowing, not stiff)

Also, be sure to include: character, situation (inciting incident), objective (goal), opponent (antagonist), disaster (climax - blackest moment in time).

* For nonfiction, the focus is more on yourself. Why you are proposing this project? What is your personal story?  

When pitching, know your title and genre. Have two options in your head. Be prepared.

Jill has an issue with pitches starting off with a question; it usually doesn’t always work for her. 

After her talk, about a dozen brave souls volunteered to give their pitches to the entire audience. 

I was not one of those brave souls. Call me chicken, but I'm not one to volunteer to get up in public and read. But I did use what I learned during this session to polish my pitch for later that afternoon.

To encourage the audience to participate, Jill offered as a prize for the winner a ten-page critique.

My observation of those who gave pitches was that the best were concise, focused, and memorable.

The one selected as the winner was Sioux Roslawski’s. (Yay, Sioux!)

Sioux (pictured above) practiced her pitch last Tuesday during our critique group, so I had a hint at what she was going to say.

When Sioux practiced her pitch to our group we blown away. Still, her pitch was fresh. To sum it up, I’d say Sioux’s manuscript is wickedly funny.

After this session I revised my own pitch so I'd be prepared to pitch my project later in the day.

And I'm happy to report that when I pitched my project to Jill she had positive comments. She loves my title and subject matter. She gave me her card and asked me to send the entire manuscript after I've polished it. She told me she'd rather have it polished than quick.

Hope this post is helpful to anyone who plans to pitch to an agent or an editor.

For my next post I'll share some notes from John Rudolph's session on publishing contracts.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pitch Perfect at the All Write Now! Conference

Next weekend several members of the Coffee and Critique writers' group will be heading to the SEMO campus in Cape Girardeau for the Third Annual All Write Now! Conference.

A few of us have signed up to pitch projects to agents or publishers. At time of registration, we were allowed to select two members of faculty to present our pitches to during the conference.

I signed up for Jill Marr from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency or Tiffany Schofield from Five Star Publishing. I won't know which one I'll get selected to pitch to, but I'll be happy to discuss my project with either lady.

Several years ago I pitched a work-in-progress to an agent who invited me to query her after I finished my project, which, for reasons I won't go into, is still incomplete.

Keeping the "practice makes perfect" motto in mind, some of our critique group member are going to be perfecting our pitches before our Coffee and Critique meeting next Tuesday.

That leads me to the purpose of this post. Please feel free to respond to these questions.

Have you ever pitched before?

What were the results of your pitch session?

What advice do you have for someone giving a pitch?

Specifically, what dos and don'ts  do you have to share?

Curious minds would like to know.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

From Mules to Works of Art in Osage County

The day started early for my sister Kathleen and me. It’s a two-hour drive to the Community Center in Linn, MO, where we caught the bus for Osage County’s “Be a tourist in your own county” trip. This is about the seventh or eighth tour Kathleen and I have been on, and each trip has been a delight.

After boarding the bus, our first stop was the Thoenen Family Greenhouse on Hwy 100. We traipsed through greenhouses where the farmers grow tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, and eggplant; a barn full of sawdust that’s used to heat the greenhouses, and even a man cave converted into a tomato-washing operation.

Before we left, I bought some freshly picked tomatoes and broccoli, which tasted delicious when I shared them with my hubby the next day.

The second stop on our tour was St. Alexander’s Catholic Church in Belle, just across the Maries County line.

We learned about the parish’s rich history and its uncertain future, with declining population and the shortage of Catholic priests.

After the talk and tour we were treated to a Greek-style lunch and home-made desserts, provided by Maries County Bank in the church cafeteria.

During lunch I sat next to June, who has led a fascinating life. She told me that while her husband was stationed at SHAPE headquarters in Paris, she became acquainted with former first-lady Mamie Eisenhower.

When June and Mamie played Bingo together, Mamie mentioned how Ike loved his fresh sweet corn and had to have it no matter where he lived.

June also had fond memories of learning to speak French while living in Paris then later in Thailand and her trips to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s. After hearing June’s stories, Kathleen and I suggested she write a book.

Our next stop was the Pair-a-Dice Mule Farm, where we met Loren Basham and his family, who operate the farm.

Loren shared some biology about how mules are created (a female mare and a male donkey, called a “jack”) and how they are trained. We even were able to pet some of the mules, which were quite docile.

In addition to training mules, the Basham family publishes the “Mules and More” magazine. All bus riders were given copies of the glossy magazine, which is “published monthly for mule and donkey enthusiasts.”

A highlight of the tour was a visit to the Osage Arts Community Gallery in Belle. Mark McClane, the OAC Board of Directors President, shared the history of the center and its mission to “provide time, space, and support to the creation of new work in a retreat format.”

The gallery displayed some lovely art work, not only on the walls, but also on the ceiling. The 98-year-old tin ceiling is a true visual treasure. The center contains classrooms and has a loft which is available to artists from the community and region. And it’s all FREE!

We learned that retreats, held on the 170-acre OAC farm on Hwy D, can last from one week to one year, and artists must go through an application process. 

During our visit we were treated to a poetry reading in the gallery and a ceramics demonstration in the ceramics studio.

Our last stop was Bob’s Custard Shop, just down the street from the OAC gallery. The custard stand has a lot of character, with its vintage Rock n Roll theme.

As we headed back to Linn, we learned about the “Taste of Osage County” on Saturday, June 25 at the Linn City Park from 1:00-5:00. If I’m in Osage County that weekend, I will definitely check it out.

After a full day of sightseeing, Kathleen and I returned to St. Peters with lots of memories, and some fresh vegetables to share with or families. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On the Road Again

I'm excited about the tour I'll be taking tomorrow with my sister Kathleen. I'll be getting up at o-dark-thirty to drive us to the Community Center in Linn, MO. There, we will board the bus, which leaves promptly at 8:30. The tour will take us through the southeastern area of Osage and Maries Counties.

The trip is sponsored by the Osage County Agritourism Council. This is probably the seventh or eighth tour we have taken with this group, and each time has been a delight.

Here's what's on the agenda for tomorrow's trip:

* Thoenen Family Greenhouse on Hwy 100
* St. Alexander Catholic Church in Belle
* Lunch served by Maries County Bank at the church
* Par-a-dice Mule Farm south of Belle (hope we won't be asked to ride the mules)
* Osage Arts Community Gallery

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks like sunny skies and mild temperatures.

Check back later this week or early next week for photos and to read about the journey.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Swell of Memories -- And Aren't Memories are Swell?

I've been in a nostalgic mood lately.

Now that my granddaughter is spending a month studying with her college overseas, or "studying abroad" as she puts it, memories of living overseas with my husband and children for three years during the 1980s and working in Germany come flooding back.

My granddaughter has been studying in Europe for about ten days now, and over the weekend she went on an excursion to the German city of Berlin. She has called and texted and posted on Facebook about her excursion, which was filled with trips to landmarks, museums, and a concentration camp.

One site her group visited was The Berlin Wall, which was still intact when we lived in Germany during the 1980s, but is now a tourist destination. Although, she noted, she also visited another famous tourist-destination wall, the graffiti-decorated John Lennon Wall.

Back in the 1980s, my daughter (my granddaughter's mom) also traveled to what was then called West Berlin. At that time, my daughter was a high school freshman and an amazing athlete -- she ran track and played softball -- and her American high school was invited to play in a softball tournament against another American high school in West Berlin. And she made the trip with her team.

During the 80s, Americans working in Germany needed special permission for themselves or family members to travel from West Germany, where we worked, to East Germany, which had to be traveled through to get to West Berlin. My husband had to get a "flag" letter signed by a General Officer from his work authorizing our daughter to go with her school team.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to accompany her to Berlin, so I don't have photos, but when she returned, she had a wealth of memories. She told stories, not so much about the softball tournament, but of standing next to the Berlin Wall and of riding on a train that left during the middle of the night with the shade-drawn windows so the teenage girls and their coaches couldn't "spy" on the East German countryside.

Now, more than 30 years later, her daughter has made a similar trip, with her school, but on a bus with an open view of the German countryside, to a much different, undivided Germany and undivided Berlin.

This summer my granddaughter is making special memories that will last her a lifetime of her visit to Berlin, over the same, yet different, streets and sites her mom walked across and visited decades ago. And isn't that a wonderful adventure?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Last Call: Unbound Book Festival Conversation between Alex George and Eleanor Brown

This is the final installment of my notes and observations from the absolutely fabulous inaugural Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri, last month.

During the last event of the day, Alex George, Unbound Book Festival’s seemingly tireless festival founder and director and author of A Good American, sat down for a conversation with the very personable author of The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown. I found their conversation the most personal, relaxed, and enjoyable activity of the festival.

Alex and Eleanor, self-described “twins,” candidly talked about their writing processes and her soon-to-be-released novel, The Light of Paris, which Eleanor described as a story of “art, passion, and escaping other people’s expectations.”

I felt like I was sitting at a kitchen table with two fascinating and friendly authors chatting about writing; here are a few highlights:

The power of story makes us feel we are not alone; it’s reaching out to people.

The Light of Paris came about after Eleanor discovered letters her grandmother wrote home while she was living in Paris in 1924.

The Light of Paris is set in the Jazz Age in Paris during the 1920s. (Alex is also writing a book set in Paris in the 1920s.)

Eleanor’s latest book is her “never book,” something she said she’d never write -- a parallel narrative with two story lines, including letters and journals.

Parallel narratives have to connect.

Writers must know whose story it is.

First person is tricky because the narrator is unreliable.

Writers cannot control what other people think about their book.

After you’ve written it, the book belongs to the reader.

Research is important to draw forth images of place.

Can’t always be factually true, but must be emotionally true.

Either you plan out on the front end or you’ll have to on the back end.

Eleanor wrote The Weird Sisters “by the seat of my pants” and described her first draft as a “hot mess.”

The Light of Paris was planned out; her first draft took two months.

It’s scary to do something unfamiliar, but think about the “happiness of possibility.”

After a long, but thoroughly enjoyable, day Diana Graveman and I met up with my Mizzou-student granddaughter. She drove us to Trops, where we stood in a long line behind other thirsty patrons. We each bought a different kind of frozen tropical-flavored drink, which I’d describe as alcoholic snow cones. Yum! It was a delightful way to cap off a wonderful day.

I hope the Unbound Book Festival will become an annual affair. It was an inspiring and educational event for writers and readers alike.
And I hope my blog visitors have enjoyed these posts about the festival.