Friday, January 9, 2009

From the Pitching Mound: Writing a Successful Pitch

This week I had to do something I had yet to do in my writing career. I had to write a pitch for my current book, Lost and Found. How was I supposed to summarize 80,000 words in a few short sentences? I’ve always wondered how some authors could pitch their stories with easy and confidence, the words sounding like they came straight from the jacket flap. It's like having to climb up on a pitching mound in front of thousands of people and throw that first pitch. Hard? Of course! Doable? For sure!

Luckily, I had the help of Author X, a friend of YAedge. “Conflict,” she told me. “The conflict of your story is the key.”

Conflict. Couldn’t be too hard, right? Actually, I sat there, even though I know my plot so well, and couldn’t even tell her exactly what my conflict was at first. Then I thought of my main characters, Madison and Pence, and what their purpose is in the story. I realized I needed to explain not only the conflict, but also their purpose.

Quickly, I jotted down a few sentences. I came up with the conflict and plot in a nutshell, but it was missing the WOW factor. It was drab, boring. It needed a hook, something to grab an agent’s attention.

Author X took what I wrote and used her magic. She pulled in aspects of my story that didn’t even occur to me. The traits and personality of my characters shone through in four short sentences. With a few tweaks from myself and Tracy, I now have something that WOWs (or at least I think so).

The next time I have to write a pitch and/or query, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it with ease and grace, but at least I’ll know where to start. It’s all about the conflict.

Batter up!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Princess Diaries--a thank you.

Ten or so years ago, I picked up a bright pink book in the bookstore. It wasn't the kind of thing that I normally would get--at 12 I was vehemently opposed to the color pink just for the sake of it. But I liked the book-flap, so I made my Dad buy it for me. (At 12, my Dad was the easiest person to bribe into buying me books. The man has bought me about 50 % of my library throughout the years--thanks Dad). 

I was awkward at 12. Hell, I was awkward through all my teen years and I still have my many moments at 22. I spent a lot of time writing in notebooks and ignoring other people (still do, but I've gotten better about apologizing for it). I was gawky and unsure of myself and generally said the wrong thing at the wrong time and ended up agonizing over my mistakes. I felt like a complete and total freak.

I'm telling y'all this because when I say that Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries books changed my life as well as my writing, I want to be clear that I am totally 100% serious about that statement.

I just finished Forever Princess, the last book in the series, and I fully admit that I cried through the last 100 pages out of pure sentimentality. For me, this is an end of an era, practically the end of my teenagerdom. This is the finish of books that I've faithfully read for 10 years, books I have read over and over again when I've had a bad day or a bad date or a bad ANYTHING at all. These are the books that, as a teenager, made me feel a little less freakish and awkward. Mia was like a friend--someone I could relate to on so many levels.  I loved her adventures and I loved the way she saw the world, because it was so much like the way I saw it as a teen. 

I bought the first book when it just came out--before the movies, before it hit the best-sellers list. I loved it so much that I instantly started tracking down anything else that Meg Cabot had written (her historical romances especially, because who doesn't love feisty girls in corsets?). I also wrote Meg herself and she ended up doing an interview for my teen e-zine, unladylike. She signed books for us and was such a wonderful, nice author and that's always really stuck with me.

What also has stuck with me is my sheer admiration for Meg Cabot as a writer and as a person. Not only is she wildly successful and has a career that all us YA writers dream about, but she has written several books and donated the proceeds to charity. She's a wonderful, imaginative writer whose ability to cross over genres I really envy.

Thank you, Meg, for letting us share Mia's world. The awkward 12 year old girl inside me thanks you from the bottom of my heart. You made my teenaged years much easier and your books inspired me to write YA. They made me think outside the children's book box--to think about characters who were going through real and fantastical things at the same time. Characters who were like real teenagers.

I'm grateful, because I'm not sure I'd be writing this if I hadn't, by chance, relinquished my hatred for the color pink and picked up that book 10 years ago.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I decided to plug a few of the titles currently on my TBR shelf or on my can’t-wait-to-read list. Okay – here we go. (Warning, I read a ton of YA paranormal stuff.)

TBR List Trailers:

Parties and Potions by Sarah Mlynowski. This was the winner at the 2008 Teen Book Video Awards. This award goes to student filmmakers who create trailers for upcoming books.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong – there was a trailer for this on Youtube but it had no backing music ?? so I wasn’t sure if it was the official trailer and didn’t post it, but there is a cute site for the main character:

Soulless by Christopher Golden - gotta love those zombies.

Love, Meg by C. Leigh Purtill – hey it’s not paranormal!

Can’t Wait to Read’m Trailers:

Evermore by Alyson Noel - looks magical.

Freaksville by Kitty Keswick - coming soon from The Wild Rose Press. I'm currently reading the galleys and loving it.

Got any awesome trailers we should be watching?