Contest Winners AND An Interview with My Agent: Jennie Goloboy

Winning Song of the Day: “Jenny From the Block” by Jennifer Lopez

First off, thanks to all of you who entered the contest and who took the time to follow us on Tumblr and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We hope more of you will take part in our social media take-over later. In the mean time, we have some winners to announce!

So, that’s grammatically incorrect, because we have more than one, but you get the idea!!!

1. Leslie Wright!!!!
2. Melanie Conklin!!!!
3. Rachel Searles!!!!

Contact us at cuzwewrite@gmail.com and rank the prizes from one to three. Here are the prizes once more: Jennie’s query critique, Dawn Frederick’s query critique, or the ten dollar gift card. We will reward you all in the order that receive the e-mails.

In the mean time, why not learn a little more about my agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary?

You are a newer agent, when did you start and what made you want to become a literary agent? (How many clients would you consider your “max” and where are you on that list right now?)

People who’ve known me for a long time say I’m a natural matchmaker, and that is what drew me to being an agent– the idea that this writer and that editor should know each other, and I can help by introducing
them! Currently, I am growing my client list, but I do know I plan to keep the list small so each of my authors gets special attention.

What kind of projects do you usually look for/gravitate toward?
Right now my practice centers on YA and MG novels and science fiction and fantasy for adults. Beyond that, first of all, I have to love your protagonist and care what happens to him or her. I love funny books (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and Fay Weldon are current favorites). I love fantasy with a realistic feel– either because it’s set in the real world, or because the world and its characters are fully imagined and credible. Romance is always a plus, as long as the romance doesn’t solve all the protagonist’s problems (especially in YA). And as a historian, I appreciate historical settings!

I also love it when my authors already have an audience ready and eager to read their books when they are published– for example, by starting a popular blog and running exciting contests…

(Tee hee, Oh Jennie :D) 

When do you usually stop reading a query or sample pages?
I stop reading queries if I can tell that the book is not something I’d represent (like a thriller or a memoir). I skim queries if I think I’ve seen the idea before, in case the author has promising credentials or an unusual twist on the idea. Currently I’m seeing a lot of novels about girls who have prophetic dreams and girls who
either are or are dating the grim reaper.

If I like the query, I generally let it sit for a while, and if it still looks good at a second glance, I will request the first three chapters. (I don’t ask for a synopsis– I like to be surprised.) I always read all three chapters. If I like them, I will ask for the full manuscript, which I will also read in full.

In general, if I’ve asked for it, I’ll read it.

How do you network with editors and other industry professionals with your office being located in Minnesota?

I have the benefit of Dawn’s years of experience in the industry and great track record. Beyond that, I love conferences! I’ll be speaking at three this year, one at the Loft Literary Center in late April (https://www.loft.org/classes-at-the-loft-literary-center/writing-conferences), one at the DFW Writer’s Conference (www.dfwwritersconference.org), and one at the Florida Writers Association
(http://www.floridawriters.net/Home_Page.html). I also plan to be at Worldcon again this year, as well as a couple of history conferences.

You are a writer as well. How do you balance your time between writing your own material and helping your clients get published?

Coffee. I also try to keep a daily schedule: Monday is for sorting through the mail, Tuesday and Thursday are for client needs, Wednesday and Friday for my own writing. Of course, if there’s an urgent issue
from one of my clients, I get to it right away!

As a writer, what advice would you give to others still working to get published?
This shouldn’t be a lonely business! Once you’ve written that book, you’ll need beta readers. You’ll need people to show you the next steps, and you’ll need people to help you commiserate and celebrate.
Go out and find some writer buddies!

Do you have any recommendations for writers on how to build their platform?
It’s not enough to write a great book, you also have to know the kind of book you’re writing, so it can find its proper audience. At Red Sofa, we’re big fans of Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal, which has some great exercises to help you define yourself as a writer, and to publicize your work using social media.

What is your favorite book/author right now? What is your favorite book/author of all time?
Wow, that’s a hard question! The best book I read recently– the most creative, immersive, moving and satisfying– was Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City. Probably the book I think about most frequently is actually a
history book: Richard Bushman’s The Refinement of America. But when I want to reread a book, it’s usually one of Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork books, of which Thud! is my very favorite.

Random Questions!

Me and Pam are scared-y cats. We’re scared of clowns, mermaids, centaurs, and people on stilts… What freaks you out the most?

Mayonnaise. And yet, oddly enough, I love chicken salad, and I’m willing to make some to get it.

If it’s your last day on earth, what would you eat (all we think about is food)?

I’d head down to the North End in Boston and get pizza and an arancine from Galleria Umberto, followed by Italian rum cake from Modern Pastry (all I think about is food, too!).

“The Voice” or “American Idol”?
I’ve run out of time for most TV, but I always watch Mad Men, to see how Don’s messed up his life this week.

What would you do for a klondike bar?
For a Klondike bar? Not much. For a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar? I’m embarrassed to say…

Thanks so much, Jennie!

And again, thanks to all of you who entered the contest (and even those of you who were THINKING about entering). If you want to query Jennie, find out more about her here:

Jennie’s Facebook
Jennie’s Twitter
Jennie on Querytracker.net

Teach Me How to Beta!

Beta’ing Song of the Day: “I Bet it Stung” by Tegan and Sara

By the time this posts, I will have finished beta reading two different manuscripts: one from my worrisome, yet talented, cousin Quita, and one from the brilliant Alex Mullarky. During this time, I had a lot of time to find out how to give the best feedback possible for writers that entrust their WIPs to me.

Enough yapping–here are my 3 Easy Steps to Being the Best Beta Reader:

1. Make Like a Step Team and Break it Down!


Both Quita and I have diagnosed ourselves with Adult ADHD. Needless to say, the older I get, the more my attention span recedes. It wouldn’t be fair to the writers if I was thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner while I’m supposed to be reading their prized possessions. So I give myself a daily page/chapter quota when I sit down to read. This way, for about 2 hours or so, the WIP has my full, undivided attention. Once I close their document, then I can ponder what’s going into my belly.

2. Listen to Blink 182: Focus on All the Small Things

So, while I’m reading, I’ll notice small things–like if the writer uses a clever line more than once, or if they slip in and out of the character’s POV. Sure, this isn’t the most pressing work that needs to be done, but the writer is so used to reading the material that he/she may not see these minor errors. I wouldn’t want a tiny slip up like this to halt their path toward publication.
3. Throw on Your 3D Glasses and Look at the Big Picture!

And here’s where I get down the to nitty gritty: issues with pacing, plotting, character arcs, and anything else pretty major. I usually take a notebook or open up a separate document and start jotting down questions I have about the story. I treat the manuscripts like a book I’d pick up in a bookstore. Which questions would I love to ask the author? What areas left me wanting more–and what areas had me glossing over the paragraphs? I make sure to address these moments and any other questions I had at the end of the manuscript. What I try NOT to do? Make suggestions–though I break this rule for Quita. She has to love me, no matter how obnoxious my critiques are.

So, those are the basics for me. Have you offered to be a beta reader for someone before? What do you feel works best for you AND the writer?

A Few Announcements

Helping Song of the Day: “Help!” by The Beatles

We interrupt your weekly Road Trip Wednesday to bring you some important news:

1. The amazing Kate Hart is joining forces with other writers for Help Write Now. This is a writing auction to assist with storm relief in the South. Several writers, agents, and other publishing industry insiders will be donating their services. Quita and I have also joined a few of our writer buddies for a pretty awesome critique pack. Please stop by and see how you can help.

2. You may have noticed on our sidebar a cute icon for Black Fox Literary Magazine. Quita and I are co-founders and co-editors, along with our sister from another mister, Racquel Henry. Our very first issue will be this summer–woo hoo (if you can’t tell, we’re uber excited)! We’re still looking for submissions and interviews for our website, as well as for the actual magazine. For submissions, click here. If you’re a writer (published OR aspiring) that is interested in being interviewed, please email us at cuzwewrite@gmail.com.

2b. Black Fox Lit has also surpassed 100 followers on Twitter, so we’re having a contest! We’re giving away T-shirts, pens, notebooks, and a print copy of our first issue! Click here for details. Oh, and don’t forget follow @blackfox on Twitter. 🙂

Shwew, lots of news! Speaking of which, we’re in dire need of good news–big or small. Anything you have to share?? 🙂

Query Letter Blogfest!

Critiquing Song of the Day: “All the Critics Love You in New York” by Prince

It’s blogfest tiiiiiime! Once again, we’re joining the lovely Alicia, Holly, and Erinn in a new blogfest-this time it’s a Query Letter Blogfest!

If you are paricipating, don’t forget that we’re asking each person to critique at least five query letters–you can definitely do more though!

Since query letters are always so subjective, what exactly should you be looking for in your critique? Here are some helpful suggestions:

*Tell whether or not the letter hooks you–is there a pitch line apparent somewhere through out the letter?

*Determine whether or not you GET what the novel is about.

*How is the sentence flow? Transitions?

*If you were an agent–would you request pages? Why or why not?

*Try to stay away from grammatical errors- that’s a little nitpicky. We just wanna know what you think about the content.

So, obviously one of us will not be posting their query…*coughs* Pam already has a super agent *coughs* But I am braving the masses and posting my query letter for all to see and critique.

I’m fragile, yes–but critical feedback is good…even for those as precious as me. Show me what you got!

Dear Agent,

Solving the murder of your drug-dealing best friend can be difficult, especially when you’re only sixteen.

Blake Farmer’s suburban neighborhood in North Carolina has always bored him. The worst crimes ever committed on his street were from teens pushing pills to their peers. But one summer night after the tenth grade, Blake’s father is murdered following a car jacking. A suspect is never found, and despite his mom’s efforts to get Blake to see a counselor, he buries his emotions by working at a skateboarding park and getting high with best friend, high school drug dealer Kyle.

But then Kyle misses a day of school without letting Blake know. At first, Blake believes the text messages from Kyle—he’s just under the weather. He even trusts the updates that Kyle’s boyfriend, Evan, gives him. Eventually, dependable Kyle doesn’t show up for too many commitments and Blake knows something is wrong. With help from Margo—the target of Blake and Kyle’s teasing in middle school—Blake tries to figure out what’s happened to his best friend.

Not wanting to rely on the police who let him down before, Blake and Margo start their own investigation. They both become entangled in a long-standing drug war that Blake had no clue was happening right under his nose. Confused about new feelings for Margo and the real identity of his best friend, Blake becomes overwhelmed as he uncovers an entire underground drug ring and makes enemies out of people he never thought twice about before.

The Blues is a contemporary young adult mystery about the violence, drugs, and betrayal that ensues when trying to get to the bottom of a small town crime.

I am currently a secondary history teacher and a member of SCBWI and AWP. I am working toward my MFA at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) and I read for the FDU Literary Review Magazine. I have included the synopsis and the first ten pages per your submission guidelines. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

RTW: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Reading Song of the Day: “Neighbors Know My Name” by Trey Songz

One more ‘gin it’s time to road trip with our pals over at YA Highway. This week’s prompt:

Which book character would you like most as a next door neighbor?

This couldn’t BE any more fun! Pam and I already want to live all up in the books that we read. I can’t tell you how many time we turn to each other while reading a book and say, “Man, I wish these people were real!” Sad, but true. And I know that all of you out there agree with us. Okay, without further adieu, here are our answers!

Pam’s Choice:

Simon from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Yeah yeah, I know. Jace is the hawt one–the bad boy. And I have to admit that I swoon along with the rest of the world whenever he comes on the page. But his golden locks and witty banter can only get him so far. If he had some cute retort every time I walked to the mailbox, I may want to start pulling my hair out. I’ll take Clary’s loyal best friend, thank you very much. Why? Didn’t I just mention he was loyal? Aside from that, he has the same self-deprecating sense of humor as me, and we could stay up most nights listening to cheesy rock music and coming up with names for his band. Even though most of the world has vampire-fatigue, this is one bloodsucker that I’m not tossing aside. BTW, could City of Fallen Angels come out like, tomorrow please??

Quita’s Choice:

This was really hard for me, considering that I read a lot of cryptic books with mean characters…but after some thinking I came up with a good choice. I would want to live next door to Seth from Lisa and Laura Roecker’s The Liar Society. Not only b/c this AWESOME book is fresh in my mind, but because Seth is so uber SA-WEET. He always looked out for Kate, even when she was being less than nice to him. We could spend our time looking into conspiracies and doing one of my favorite activities… eating! I can always count on him to bring some snacks while we peruse the web for the latest government cover up.

Tell us, what book character would you want to be your neighbor?

A Few Announcements:

1.) Thanks to EVERYONE who contributed their first lines to our First Lines Critiques (Day 1-click here, Day 2- click here, Day 3- click here) that we held last week. Thanks for being so brave and allowing your fellow writers to share their opinions. A BIG thank you to, all of you who not only contributed lines, but also commented on the other first lines provided. Although the number of comments were not through the roof–there was some good quality critiquing occurring and we hope that the authors got some feedback that they can work with.

2.) Did you see we’re having a contest???!!! Well, we are! Click here to enter. You have until Saturday (March 26th, 2011) at midnight EST to enter.

First Lines Critiques: Last Day!

Critiquing Song of the Day: “Between the Lines” by Sara Bareilles

Okay, we’re a little sad. We had such a good time helping out our fellow writers this week. In case you’ve missed it, last week we asked some of you to submit your first few lines of your WIPs, and we offered an open forum to receive some awesome feedback. Click here to check out Day 1’s submissions, and here for Day 2.

We know you know the rules, but we’re a bit anal (insert 13-year-old boy snicker). Here are some questions to ask yourself when critiquing:

1. Does the opening shock you?
2. Does the opening pull you in and make you want to read more?
3. Is the voice apparent?
4. Do you have an idea of the pending conflict?
5. Do you get a sense of the setting?

Again, you do NOT have to answer all of these questions–they’re just to get the ball rolling. By the way, thank you SO MUCH for all of you brave souls who were willing to put your work out there, and thanks TONS to our followers for chiming in with help.

Now, for the last time, here are the submissions:

Title: Freakhouse
Genre: Middle Grade
Author’s Name: Lisa-Marie
First Lines: “Of course you know, the place is haunted,” the real estate agent said with a big, dorky grin. The tag pinned to his bright blue blazer read George Finkle. A funny sounding name for a funny looking guy: short, not a lot of hair, and has what my dad used to call a “beer belly”.

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Author’s Name: Amy Thomas
First Lines: People are selfish. It’s a basic truth, just like the sky is blue or the grass is green. People are selfish, cruel and weak; and I must do everything in my power not give in to the weakness.

Title: Distraction
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Author’s Name: Anonymous
First Lines: They lay coiled together like two serpents, spent by their passion. Justine’s lashes lowered once, twice, and she shifted to stay awake. Xavier stirred behind her and a hand crept over her hip and covered her breast.

*BTW, are you a fan of flash fiction? Then swing by here and my group blog, Paper Hangover, tomorrow for Flash Fiction Friday. Tomorrow’s topic: “In 300 words or less, write a story beginning with the cliche, ‘Another One Bites the Dust.'” Just post it on your blog and leave the link on Paper Hangover’s comments! 🙂

First Lines Critiques: Day 2!

Critiquing Song of the Day: “Straight Lines” by Silverchair

It’s time to take another look at your awesome first lines! Last week, we requested and you all came through big time! Please Note: You can STILL critique for Day 1–I’m sure the authors would love more feedback. 🙂

Brief overview: we’re posting some first lines entries from a few of our brave followers, and you all help them out by giving them feedback (which you guys rock at, by the way).

We mentioned this yesterday, but we’re known for repeating ourselves. Here are some questions to ask yourself when critiquing:

1. Does the opening shock you?
2. Does the opening pull you in and make you want to read more?
3. Is the voice apparent?
4. Do you have an idea of the pending conflict?
5. Do you get a sense of the setting?

Anything else that you can help them out with would be great. Remember, you don’t HAVE to answer all of these questions. Heck, you don’t even have to comment on each of the entries, but it sure would be nice. 🙂 Here’s our next 4 submissions:

Title: Untitled
Genre: New Adult
Author’s Name: Alicia Gregoire
First Lines: I was late for the first day of freshman orientation, but as far as I was concerned, it was justified. My best friend, my confidant, the sole person who understood the betrayal I had felt when I discovered my ex with someone else, had left me that morning for the army. The understatement of the year would be to say that I handled his departure poorly.

Title: Cursed
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Author’s Name: Amie Kaufman
First Lines: Samuel was already running when the miller’s shed exploded. The wind whistled behind him and he closed his eyes as it overtook him, lifting him off his feet. For a brief moment, he soared.

Title: The Way Things Fall Apart
Genre: YA Contemporary
Author’s Name: Danielle Bunner
First Lines: It all started when the cold came. Fast, brittle, unexpected. That first morning in late October when it snowed on the way to school and I stopped walking to watch it all fall around me.


Title: Untitled
Genre: Fantasy
Author’s Name: Alex Mullarky
First Lines: Even in the dark I could tell it was there. It is the black shape in the sky that blots out the stars.