SCBWI

Remembering the Query Daze – a Writer Looks Back with Gratitude

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Lately, I’ve been thinking back to the “query daze.” How hard it was to put my work in front of strangers who were experts and ask them what they thought. At that time, I received some pretty tough feedback. The first query/writing sample I’d ever sent out (for a book entitled Kicking the Beehive) came back with a written response—I was thrilled, believing that a hand-written comment on a rejection means you’re on the cusp of success! The note read, “I love your title. However, you never need send me anything again.”

Ouch, right?

Thing is…I knew the book wasn’t ready. That I wasn’t ready. I sent it as a Hail Mary. A hope and a wish. My head thought I had a chance. My heart knew better.

So, I began another book. The voice popped. I believed in it. Yet, there was this other voice, too. Not demanding to be written but relentlessly tugging at me. So, I began to write that one instead. It was entitled, One for the Murphys, and was later published with Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin in 2012. The book I’d left in order to write Murphys is now under contract and due out in Fall, 2016.

Dreams come true, folks! Believe me; they do.

So, I’ve been thinking about my fellow writers in the pre-agent days. I wrote a love letter to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) after receiving an ARC of One for the Murphys because SCBWI was so crucial in getting published.

I’ve been replaying those times with friends and critique group members I met through SCBWI who both encouraged me and kicked me in the butt–depending on what was called for that day. We were a tribe. We still are. And I am grateful to benefit from their caring, honesty, and wisdom.

And, oddly enough, I am grateful for that time of querying and waiting for the phone to ring. Knowing that 212 was the area code for New York city where many agents and publishers would call from. And hoping. Hoping that when the phone rang, it would be a 212 call. These were the days of high hopes laced with days of wondering if I should just work on something easier. Like pulling a tire through a keyhole.

However, that time taught me about grit and determination and the business of publishing. I learned what I wanted and how very much I wanted it. It was a time of feeling both alone and part of something bigger all at the same time.

My second novel, FISH IN A TREE, (avail for pre-order now ~ release is Feb 5, 2015) has many themes that remind me of my early author journey:                                                                Copy (3) of FISH IN A TREE COVER high res

  • Grit and resilience
  • Having the courage to accept help
  • Don’t play the comparison game. Recognize both your strengths and short-comings not in terms of being better or worse but in being human with your one-of-a-kind voice.
  • Let your strengths shine in the first try (draft). Work on your short-comings later (in revision).
  • Being vulnerable to your audience can be hard–but it often deepens connections with others (Here is an old post on the vulnerability of being a writer )
  • Sometimes the things that make you feel like there’s something wrong with you are actually your strengths (i.e. – never being able to follow an outline like other writers)
  • Having others on the journey with you makes for a richer ride and a happier person.
  • Yup–we’re all in this together. And we have to support each other. That’s what it’s all about. Not just writing but the whole being human thing.

So, since I am making these connections between my early writing career and FISH IN A TREE…

and bubbling over with all of this gratitude for my tribe…

and looking for a way to celebrate the release of this book…

AND knowing how much I was/am helped by others…

I’d like to try to help other writers who are longing to break into children’s publishing. So…

I am offering a giveaway where two children’s writers will be randomly chosen. The winners will be contacted with instructions re: sending me the first ten pages of their book (12 pt, double-spaced) and I will give a balanced critique and speak with the writer on the phone for 30-minutes about his/her writing sample.

To enter, you must:

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1) Be an adult who has been actively writing fiction for children

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2) NOT be published in any genre (as I am trying to help those who have not broken in YET)

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To earn entries, you may:

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~~Make a comment below. Please enter your email address OR twitter name so I can contact you if you win

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~~Share this giveaway link to FB (which you must tell me about in the comments)

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~~Tweeting or Retweeting with the hashtag,  #WritingAllies  (This will help me find your tweets in order to enter you in the drawing. You may also tag me @Lynmullalyhunt )

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The winners will be chosen at 11:59 PM on December 10th. Winners will be notified by the following morning and also announced here. Due to travel plans, I must receive your ten pages via e-mail within 2 days of winning and I will schedule the phone conversation within a few days after that.

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**Thank you and good luck. I’ll leave you with a favorite quote about being a writer:

The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Categories: author, courage, Fish in a Tree, Giveaway, Grit, SCBWI, writing | 65 Comments

SCBWI Intros Authors to Professional Publicists

Planet-sized kudos to Melissa Stewart who puts together stellar events for published authors here in New England. Saturday’s event at The Eric Carle Museum was no different! It was a program about working with a professional book marketing consultant.

First up was Deborah Sloan of Deborah Sloan & Company who did a panel with her clients Patricia Intriago and Deborah Heiligman. Deborah is a seasoned author while Patricia is a lucky debuter like those of us on 2k12. I enjoyed their different perspectives being in completely different places in their careers. It’s evident that Deborah Sloan knows how to navigate the waters of publicity. One of her gifts seems to be the online world, knowing how to make the best use of the internet. She has an online program entitled Kidsbuzz that sounds fantastic! Clearly a publicist is able to reach places that an author is not on his/her own. Also, I like Deborah very much. We only had a short conversation but she’d clearly be a wonderful person to work with.

Kirsten Cappy of Curious City was there with clients, Cathryn Falwell and Anne Sibley O’Brien. Kirsten discussed some of the projects she has done to promote books for her clients. She is an over-the-top creative person who described one events that she had organized that sounded more like something you’d see on Nickelodeon. She also talked about the materials that she and her clients had created to reach out to the nooks and crannies that word of a book wouldn’t normally reach. I have had the opportunity to talk with Kirsten at a couple of SCBWI events lately, and I have to say that I adore her. She is good people. She really is.

There were lots of pearls of wisdom on Sunday, but the one that sticks with me the most is this: There are only so many hours in the week, so as a self-promoter, you should stand back and figure out what your real strengths are. What you enjoy doing. Do those often and well and let go of the things you don’t really enjoy because that lack of enthusiasm will shine through. Besides, this is supposed to be fun! I think there is much wisdom in this advice.

Thank you, SCBWI, for another stellar program! I love that SCBWI-NE does these events for published authors. SCBWI does so much to help us get the contract; how wonderful it is that they take our hands to show us the way post-contract as well. I found Saturday’s program to be informative and entertaining. I do love to get out and see other writers, too! I hope that more programs like this are on the horizon; I’ll be the first to mail in my registration!

Picture caption: L to R: Deborah Sloan, Deborah Heiligman, Patricia Intriago, Anne Sibley O’Brien, Kirsten Cappy, and Cathryn Falwell

Categories: Marketing, Online marketing, SCBWI, writing | Tags: | 6 Comments

A Letter of Thanks to SCBWI

Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser,
Co-Founders of SCBWI. I wonder
if they had any idea what they
would actually create!

My Dearest SCBWI,

I love you.

No, no. I really do.

I know. When we first met it was just infatuation. I mean, you were so interesting. So fashionable. So vibrant. You had so many wonderful life experiences behind you. You were a world of art and color, beautiful language, with a focus on making children happy readers; as a mom, teacher, and human, I adored all of these things.

Kristin Russo and
Laurie Smith Murphy

I stepped through your doorway apprehensive. Unsure I belonged. Starry-eyed and naïve but ready to learn. You welcomed me with open arms. Back then, you may have only fed me boxed lunches, but you would end up feeding so much more than just my stomach.

Barbara Johansen-Newman,
Liz Goulet-Dubois and Moi

And the people you knew? I mean the kind of people that when you see them in living breathing form, you just can’t believe it. You introduced me to so many of them and I often got chills when you did. You invited me to your events and made me feel like a part of something special.

Moi and Lucia Zimmitti

I sat in your audience and listened to the likes of Richard Peck, Cynthia Lord, Katherine Paterson, Ellen Wittlinger, Nancy Hope Wilson, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Patricia Reilly Giff. Literary stars that have written the kinds of books that stick with readers—young and old. And you know what? All of these novelists are completely and utterly approachable and down-to-earth. I admire their talents so much, but their warmth, wisdom, generosity, and kindnesses are why the memories of our meetings have lingered. Why I have carried each of them with me on my journey.

Gael Lynch, Ann Haywood Leal,
and Jame Richards

Without you, SCBWI, I would never have met them and spoken with each of them and had been moved by their messages. I would not have had that career-changing conversation with Laurie Halse Andersen about making time to write around our kids’ schedules. I would not smile now, thinking back on how Richard Peck quipped that we’d do signings together one day. I would not have had—back in the very beginning—Patricia Reilly Giff stare, not only into my eyes, but also right through my apprehension. “You should write that book,” she’d said. Those words reverberated as I walked away; perhaps it was easier to listen to her than myself. Can you imagine what it was like to have her do a blurb for my debut novel?

Moi, Mary Pierce, Jeanne Zulick,
Kate Lynch, and Bette Anne Reith

I feel like I’m living within the Hallmark Channel sometimes, I swear. (Shouldn’t Richard Thomas be around here somewhere?) Oh, SCBWI. For this alone, I could love you forever. Chisel you a shrine. Name my next child after you. Tattoo a heart with your name cradled in its center on my arm. But then…

Cynthia Levinson, Tamara Smith,
Anna Staniszewski, Moi,
Ammi Joan Paquette

You gave me even more. Some of the treasures of my life.

My friends and writing colleagues. People that I’ve met in the trenches. People that cared enough to tell me when my writing needed work and kicked me in the butt to get it done. I adore and respect and cherish them. People that make me laugh until my sides ache and bring me to tears with their poignancy. People with hearts as good…and as pure…as hearts can ever be.

My amaaazing agent and awesome agent
mates at Erin Murphy
Literary Agency

Truth is…SCBWI introduced me to myself. The self that I didn’t know I could be (cue 80’s Whitney Houston song here?). I’d found a home for the dreamer/creative side of me and was so grateful—even then. Wanting to give back, I stepped up to organize Whispering Pines, an annual SCBWI Writer’s Retreat in Rhode Island.

Carlyn Beccia, Jenny Bagdigian,
Betsy Devany

At first, I was a bit shy, but forced myself to stick with it and learned that I could do it well. It boosted my confidence in speaking to groups and publishing professionals. (Many of you wouldn’t believe it, but I used to be shy.) That confidence—unbeknownst to me—spilled into my writing craft, as well. My husband and children have always made me so happy but, with SCBWI, I found the missing piece that I hadn’t known was missing. Honestly, the past five years have been some of the happiest of my life.

Fantastic Fairfield Ladies!

But, you weren’t quite finished with me, were you? By providing avenues for meetings with editors and agents, tons of information, critique group partners, encouragement, nuts-and-bolts writing instruction, and the message that hard work and persistence are key, you cleared the way for me to become a published author. Wow. I am so, so grateful for having reached this level and can’t wait to get out and talk with kids everywhere about writing. A dream come true.

Thanks, SCBWI!

And, yes. Getting published is just…Well, “amazing” is a thin word to describe it, I think. I have only held an ARC of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS in my hands thus far, but I can tell…this ride is going to be fun! Honestly, though, the contract is just the cherry on the sundae–albeit a Jupiter-sized cherry!

Because suppose I’d never been struck by publishing lightning? Suppose I’d just had all the blessings of these people of SCBWI and never gotten published? Suppose my writing career had never led me to the amaaazing people of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency?  This answer I know—from the tips of my Sharpies down to the base of my office chair.

Jeopardy! at Whispering Pines.
This is me being shy.

Without a contract, I still would have died complete. A blessed woman. However, if I were to reach the end of my time here not having known these fellow writers and artists that are now such an integral part of my life—knowing their hearts the way I do. Learning so, so much more than just writing from each of them. Well, if that were to be my fate, I would leave this earth feeling less. Being less…than I will now.

A lot less, actually.

With love and undying gratitude to SCBWI and its splendid members,

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

From L to R: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Padma Venkatraman, Linda
Crotta Brennan
, Regional Advisor~Sally Riley, Betty Brown,
Cheryl Kirl Noll, Marlo Garnsworthy, Sarah Hemenway,
Julia Boyce, Mary Pierce, and Sue Fraser Perrotta
(Bottom center: Willow the Golden Lab!)
Categories: SCBWI, writing | 47 Comments

First Author Interview! YEAH!

Hey!

Check out my first author interview (and the crowds cheered! Well, I did anyway…) done by the wildly talented, Jame Richards:

http://jamerichards.blogspot.com/2010/05/interview-with-nancy-paulsen-author.html

Categories: confession, interview, journey, Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), One for the Murphys, SCBWI, writing | 3 Comments

SCBWI Whispering Pines Retreat, 2009

Photo L to R:

Jennifer Rees, Senior Editor, Scholastic Books

Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Author/Illustrator

Anna Webman, Agent, Curtis Brown

Sarah Shumway, Senior Editor, Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)

Printz Award winning author, Ellen Wittlinger


Hey, All!

Well, as director of the SCBWI Whispering Pines Retreat, I’m gearing up for another year…And apparently, many others are as well!

The retreat’s weekend slots were filled in about two days and the “day slots” are going quickly! Overall, I’m pretty excited! As always, it’s lookin’ like a nice group of people–some old friends with some new people folded in (Ouch! Sounds painful!)

As I head into another year, I always think back on past ones… Last year was a blast! Above is a pic of our 5 mentors and they were terrific! Such talent and professionalism and tons of laughs!

I’m always nervous going into the weekend. Those of you who’ve organized events such as this know that you plan for months and months and then pray it goes off well. True—I have to have my ducks in a row, but in the end, a retreat like this is only as good as its mentors–so this retreat was pretty great! Pretty great…

Ahhhh, though…It’s time to look to the future! With the lineup we have this year, the future is looking pretty dazzling! The future’s so bright I gotta pull shades…

Forgive me for I know exactly what I do….

Categories: agent, editor, friends, SCBWI, Whispering Pines, writing | 1 Comment

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