A Visit from Literary Agent Erin Murphy

Last Thursday my Writing For Children class had the honor of being visited by Literary Agent Extraordinare–who’s also the agent of the course professor, Susan Meyer–Erin Murphy!!!

YES. It was phenomenal. (Also she was wearing yellow & blue, #classcolors)

To give a bit of background information, Erin Murphy is one of the top children’s literary agents, and she’s based out of Flagstaff, Arizona (how cool is that?!).

Erin Murphy is one of my dream agents which is something I rarely reveal but having her visit our class was like meeting a celebrity. Seriously, I’m not even sure anyone could’ve topped this. Well, maybe meeting Octavia Butler (when she was alive), she’s my idol.

Other than giving up this amazing handout, which is priceless, Ms. Murphy left us with some amazing nuggets about being an agent, getting published, and much more.  I think one of the best things that happened during this visit was that I realized what kind of agent I want to have. I’ve always had an idea of the type of agent I wanted, someone who would put the time into editing my MS if needed, someone who cared about me as a writer and not just one a one book basis but after her visit, I’m able to articulate that clearly and concisely.

And now, so that all of you can share in this wonderfulness, here are her words of wisdom*:

On Publishing

Ms. Murphy talked a lot about how all agencies are different, and I think that’s something that’s key to remember. Some, like hers, are only open to submission by referral or by hearing them speak at a conference (tears, I know). Because of that she really emphasized SCBWI conferences as a great way to get your MS read. In addition, they’re a great way to make connections in the industry and get a feel for the type of material various editors and agents like.

For her, she’s looking for a connection. Editors depend on agents to find projects they like because of that agents know very well what editors represent what types of books.  Sometimes she sends things out to many editors and sometimes to only a handful, it depends on the project. A lot of it is taste. This is a very subjective industry, and that’s something important to remember. I’ve turned down manuscripts she knew were going to sell but weren’t for her. It’s all about the connection. A book has to set her on fire or she’ not going to do a good job selling it.

Everything in publishing seems like attention is thrown where attention is (e.g. if an author gets another offer of rep, that author is going to go to the top of her reading list since she has limited time to respond). That’s just how things are.

MFAs are a mixed bag. She represents a handful of authors from Vermont’s MFA program however sometimes MFA seems teach gorgeous writing but not things that are publishable or they focus too much on writing a certain way and can, if writer isn’t careful, erase individual style. She doesn’t think they’re necessary but if you think it’ll help you, go for it.

–On Writing

Everyone thinks they can write a children’s book, it’s harder than it seems.

She agrees with this quote: “Start on the day things change.” – Judy Blume

This process is such a long journey. Yes, we’ve heard this all before but seriously, don’t compare yourself to other writers, everyone, more specifically every book, is different.

On Trends

Middle grade is really booming. Partially because of increase in children of that age and decrease of teenage children.

Historical [YA] seems to often cross with other genres, ex. Steampunk, as a way of reaching more readers. However it all comes down to good writing.

-For a long time PBs weren’t selling, now they are. If you’re a PB author, it’s important to have multiple PBs. She likes to see the breath of author’s work.

And my personal favorites: What are your thoughts about how dark YA has become? & What do you think about retellings?

Literature is a safe place to explore beyond your own experience. What safer place to feel sad/scared than in books. Books play out feelings teens experience in an external way.

I love retellings. They’re a set, ever renewing market. If someone likes Cinderella retellings, they’re most likely going to check out a new one that was just published.

*I wrote this while listening to her & absorbing everything so it’s highly possibly that these are not exactly how she stated things but rather the basic gist. Also, don’t take these as an end all be all, publishing is subjective aka what works for one, might turn off another. 🙂

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Get Ready…WriteOnCon 2013!!!

Hey Y’all!

Have you ever wanted to attend a writer’s conference but didn’t have the money, time…?  Or Maybe you have attended a writer’s conference but want to attend another one.  Well, on May 28th some very exciting news was announced…WriteOnCon 2013 IS GOING TO BE FROM AUGUST 13-14TH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yipeeeeeeeee!!!!

What’s WriteOnCon?

Only the coolest online conference.

Online Conference???…idk how I feel about that

Don’t worry, I had my doubts when I attended last year,  one big one was how would I actually connect with agents, authors and fellow writers?  Well, it’s easier than you think:

At WriteOnCon these wonderful agents are invited (see the list from last year) as Ninja Agents to prowl the conference, where you’ll post your complete manuscript, and if they like it and want to request a partial or full…they’ll let you know.  In addition it’s a great way to get feedback on your completed MS or WIP from other writers, agents and many other industry peeps.

There’s also tons of contests and giveaways for an agent to critique the first page of you manuscript or to win a copy of a newly released YA debut, just to name a few of the ones I participated in last year.

Many of the writers I met during WriteOnCon have continued to be valuable writer buddies to me, it gave me an opportunity to connect with some many people, especially as someone who had just completed her first manuscript and wasn’t sure how all of this worked yet.  I got so much amazing advice, I got my query torn to shreds (a good thing, I promise, it wasn’t too good), and I was able to get my first “behind the scenes” glance at what it really takes to be a writer.

What about workshops and panels that are typically found at other conferences?

WriteOnCon has those too!  There are tons of blog posts (that stay up forever!!!) with words of wisdom from authors, editors, and agents on querying, writing, revising, characterization…you name it WriteOnCon will probably have it.  Also there’s these live chats where a group of editors and agents, for example, might get together and answer you questions about various topics.  So, so, so, so, so helpful!

So stop your worrying, get to polishing that manuscript (who knows, maybe this will be the motivation you need to finish it), and sign up for the WriteOnCon mailing list so you can stay up to date on the shenanigans 😉  Also while you’re waiting, why don’t you go digging through the archives…I promise it’ll be fun 🙂

–FYI, although WriteOnCon is mostly for MG & YA authors, it definitely has useful information pertaining to all writers–

To get you started, here are a couple of my favorite posts/events I blogged about from WriteOnCon 2012. Can’t wait to see you there!

WriteOnCon!  – A post with the schedule of events from WriteOnCon 2012 as well as a list of the wonderful agents who were disguised as ninjas!!!

Authors Lenore Appelhans and Phoebe North on Blogging Pet Peeves

How do you know when your MS is ready to query? Lara Perkins from the Andrea Brown Literary talks about the mystical query(ing process & when to know if it’s time for you to start)

If you attended last year’s event (or a previous one) what was your favorite part???

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Must Follow Blogs for Writers

Hello My Fantastically Lovely Readers,

A writer’s journey is often a very lonely one however we tend to make it lonelier than it has to be by not reaching out to those individuals/groups that have resources we need.

For me, when I decided I wanted to pursue writing professionally I didn’t know what to do or where to go.  Luckily this blog had started to gather a lot of traffic and via my Twitter account, more on the importance of that later, I met a couple writers who have been some amazing resources for me.

But in addition to their wonderful help, I needed and wanted more.  I wanted to hear from other professionals in the field such as the agents and editors whose help I would need if I intended, which I do, to traditionally publish.  So I started searching around and found some lists of best websites, but honestly no one wants to go through lists of 100 websites, trust me I did it, it’s hell.

So today I wanted to bring you my list of the MUST follow blog for writers.  These blogs will help you whether you plan on traditionally publishing, self publishing  or whatever.  They have helped me so much and are still helping me.  I am subscribed to all of them, and I wouldn’t have made it this far without them (queue the violins).

The List

(this is by no means a final list…I will update it when I discover more awesome sites)

Recently Suggested/Discovered blogs

That’s all I have for now, however it is highly possible I have forgotten some…what are your go to blogs for writers?

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Help! – The Publishing Process

This is a super helpful post…great advice for any newbie writer 🙂

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

The Blabbermouth Blog

I’ve been in a number of conversations recently where I explain to people what I do. I think a lot of people think I’m sitting around my house reading books and eating bonbons. (Maybe that’s just my family… ) Anyway, I’ve explained it a bunch of times now, and that’s forced me to go through the “how publishing works” spiel, to get to the part where I explain what a literary agent does. Then a friend of mine sent a friend of hers to me, because her friend was writing a book and she figured I’d be able to help her figure out the whole publishing thing. After writing the friend’s friend a big old e-mail, beginning to explain how the whole process works, I figured I’d put up a blog post for folks just getting started down this road. So this one’s for you, newbies!

#1. Write a kick-ass…

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