Monday, August 18, 2014

Susan Hawk closing to queries August 18th, opening September 22nd



I will be closed to queries from this Monday, August 18th, through Sunday, September 21st.  I’ll be away for the last two weeks of August, and will take the first weeks of September to get caught up.  On Sep 22nd, I’ll open again.

If you queried before this announcement was made (on Monday at 7:00 pm), I will reply to your query in the next couple of weeks. 

If I requested your material, or if you were referred by a client or someone I know, please go ahead and send your query.

If you are attending the SCBWI Carolinas Conference, you can query me immediately after the conference ends (on the 22nd, when I open).

All other queries will receive an auto-reply, reminding you that I’m closed, and requesting that you re-query when I open again.

Many thanks all, I look forward to seeing your pages in September!

Friday, August 15, 2014

REVISION TIPS AND TRICKS, from Susan’s clients



Revision. Does the word fill you with glee or terror?



My part of revision is to ask questions, point out inconsistencies, cheer for the writer, and ask more questions. It’s one of my favorite parts of being an agent. I love the work that goes into understanding characters, what they want, and how that must shape the plot.  There are as many ways to go about it as there are writers, but I’m lucky to work with a group that consistently amazes me with their ability to dig deeper into a story.  So, I thought I’d ask them how they go about revision – what tips and tricks they use, what keeps them going when they’re stumped, and what they enjoy the most.



Hope this inspires everyone working on a revision right now!



The joy of working with a great editor or agent is that most of the time revision comments are things that really resonate with me. Of course that's not always the case and it's often the comments that I don't agree with that I spend the most time considering. It's easy to just ignore them or go and complain to whoever happens to be nearby (probably why my husband and kids make themselves scarce when I get a revision letter). But I find that digging a bit deeper into the hard-to-swallow comments can really make a difference. I ask myself things like "why can't they see that I've already answered that question?" or "what makes them think that my character would ever do XYZ (of whatever their suggestion might be)." And normally what I find is that I haven't been clear enough in my motivation, or that I've hidden some insightful little nugget at the bottom of a paragraph and that it needs to be brought out more. – Amanda Ashby, Dating the Guy Next Door (Fall 2015), Sophie’s Mixed Up Magic, Demonosity, and more



I think being open to a revision is most important - even though it's a very counterintuitive process.  I feel like I want to fight every note but then once I let go of my resistance, the note often inspires something beautiful or something I never considered before.  The book has a chance to become deeper and I, as the author, have an opportunity to know my characters more fully.   And then after it's done, I can't imagine going back to the way it was! – Dana Middleton, currently revising a middle grade novel for submission this fall



Filling up a blank page to create a first draft is labor, but revision is a blast. It’s my favorite part of a project. I really enjoy getting ideas and feedback for making things better, and then I pretty much incorporate every single suggestion -- even the ones I disagree with -- to see what it does to the work. (When done in concert with an editorial letter, I make it a game called "Let's Pretend She's Right.") From there, I begin to put things into a shape that makes sense to me. At that point, I really discover what matters and even what’s going on in a story. (I also discover that I don't have to pretend that my editor is right. She usually is.) For me, no good writing takes place until the revisions start. With that thought in mind, the first draft becomes a lot easier too. It gives me permission to make a mess now because I know I am going to clean it up later. – Paul Acampora, author of I Kill the Mockingbird, Rachael Spinelli Punched Me in the Face and more



Just like a good manager for any skilled job, I'm rarely looking for solutions beyond suggestion. I'm looking for someone who can tell me "this isn't working" and why. Who can make observations about the broader strokes, the things that make a story exciting: character, scene or arc tension, richness of the storytelling. An editor who can not only tell me what the problem is, but help me understand it, is giving me tools to problem solve and make informed decisions for improving the work. – Christopher Baldwin, author/artist, Little Dee (Spring 2015)



I guess the biggest obstacle I have overcome in terms of revision is distinguishing the original inspiration for the novel from believing that what I wrote first is itself the best way of expressing that inspiration. That is, I am no longer afraid to just write new stuff, cut characters, take a weird tangent, change the ending--see what happens. Now I trust that I can rewrite, build new structures, listen to others' thoughts and be the final arbiter of whether the revision is syncing with what I set out to accomplish. – Sarah Lariviere, The Bad Kid (Summer 2016)



What helps me revise: Susan's awesome notes. Oh, you meant once I have the notes ;)

If I don't have any ideas immediately, time spent doing other things - walking my dogs, reading, watching movies, taking a shower (I get a ridiculous amount of ideas in the shower) - is really helpful. So is brainstorming with my critique buddies. – Rachael Allen, 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook, (Summer 2015)



Before I write the first revised word, I spend a LOT of time thinking. The first answer to my problem is almost never the one that ends up getting written. – Lisa Tyre, The Wars of Zollicoffer (Spring 2015)



My mantra: no one can help me revise that which is only in my head, but once the first draft is on a paper I can employ the troops!  Yeah, for me revising is not always solitary.  My process usually involves a lot of brainstorming (by myself and with others), bouncing several drafts of trial and error off of others' heads (ouch!) and marinating.  I've learned not to rush but to let myself enjoy the process.  My best work comes when I'm having fun. The second it isn't fun anymore I stick it in a drawer and work on something else. – Marcie Colleen, currently revising a new project for submission next month



If I'm stuck on a particular character (their motivation for something, making them more 3D), it really helps to highlight that character's sections and read them through all at once, almost like it's a mini-book about that character. – Rachael Allen, 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook, (Summer 2015)



I like to do revisions in long stretches of time - no quick edits for me. This means I have to clear my schedule and find a quiet place free from distractions. My office tempts me to do other things, so I grab my coffee, a blanket and my computer and head out to the screened-in porch. I settle in and refuse to answer emails, phone calls, etc. until I have a few hours under my belt!

I've also been known to use http://anti-social.cc/ to ensure NOTHING gets my attention other than my novel. – Lisa Tyre, The Wars of Zollicoffer (Spring 2015)



Want to know the crazy change-up/choice that finally got my rough draft of Book Two moving forward more quickly? HAND-WRITING it!! Yes, with a pen, in notebooks. It immediately took care of my seemingly unbreakable urge/compulsion to revise as I went which the computer makes so alluringly easy.  An urge/compulsion which pen and notebook make effectively impossible to indulge in. It made me much more willing to let imperfect/ugly/prosaic lay where it fell with the knowledge that there will be a time for revisions. I recommend this method for anyone struggling with embracing the "rough" in rough draft. – Jen Swann Downey, The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand and Ninja Librarians book 2 (Summer 2015)



For more on these author’s books and upcoming projects, visit them online and on twitter!






Dana Middleton on Twitter






Christopher Baldwin on Twitter









Lisa Tyre, also on Twitter






Saturday, August 9, 2014

And how does that make your character feel?--a post by Gemma



Last year, I did a series of posts with some tips on how to polish your manuscript before submission, including:


I thought I’d covered a lot of the familiar editing notes I make in manuscripts across these, but recently when out with a group of my lovely clients, they were laughing about all getting tattoos of ‘and how does that make your character feel?’ because that is apparently something I’ve said to all of them on many occasions! 

I’m known for preferring character-led books with a strong voice, so usually I’m looking for characters with big personalities who lay their emotions out for all to see. I don’t want passive characters who just observe the world around them, so I suppose I do use this editing note quite a bit.

I use this note when something happens in the narrative and the main character (MC) doesn’t react to it. For example:  

He moved closer to me, so close that I could feel the warmth of his breath on my cheek. This was it, time for my dreams to become reality. I pressed my lips to his.
“What the...?” He jumped up startled. “Sorry, I didn’t mean...”
“Oh, no it was me! I’m sorry.”
“No, no, it’s fine. Let’s just put the movie on.”
He dropped back on the sofa and wrapped his arm around me, like nothing had happened. 

So in this quickly dashed off example, the POV character should be confused, embarrassed, angry or something! She needs to react to what has happened, and let the reader know how she is feeling. Otherwise we’re left guessing. This reaction could be done physically – ‘I felt blood rush to my cheeks.’ Or it could be a mix of emotional and physical: ‘My stomach churned as embarrassment mixed with the pizza now threatening a comeback.’ But we need to get inside her head. 

Another example is when I see the MC witnessing dialogue between other characters. ‘Mum said X, Dad said Y, Mum said Z,’ etc. The MC is observing the interaction between other characters, but not reacting to what she’s observing. You need to break into this dialogue with the MC’s thoughts on what is being said. 

Think about it like this – in every scene, a net hangs over everything your MC can see and hear. So when any movement or sound happens, a ripple effect means the MC is affected by this movement or sound. How does this make her feel? 

People are constantly thinking and making decisions all the time and you don’t want to overload your narrative with too many feels, but you can’t just have your characters just observe, especially in first-person POV. 

With third-person POV, you need to watch out even more for scenes where the MC is just observing and not interacting with what is going on around them. Anyone who has ever read any of Rainbow Rowell’s books will know that you can get tons of emotion and feels from third-person POV MCs if done well. Read her books if you want a masterclass on this!

So when editing, look back at your key scenes and ask yourself, ‘And how does that make my character feel?’

And clients, if you’re reading this, please don’t get those tattoos!



Friday, August 1, 2014

A day at YALC--a post by Gemma

What’s YALC? Well, it's the first ever UK Young Adult Literature Convention, curated by Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and organised by Booktrust, with help from a team of publicists from across children’s publishing.

The event took place over two days during the London Film and Comic Con 2014 at Earls Court (a place I’m normally familiar with during London Book Fair – much more fun to see queues of people in cosplay, I can tell you). 

I attended on the Sunday, and I didn’t know what I was expecting from the day, but queuing in the mammoth early-bird line, I really did feel like I was amongst my people. I immediately spotted Lucy Ivison, author of LOBSTERS (which if you haven’t read, you MUST), and we chatted about which panels we were looking forward to and speakers we were hoping to meet. Once inside, we bumped into a big group of my favourite bloggers all waiting for the Bloggers Brunch – it’s always fun to catch up with bloggers and hear which new releases they’re excited about. And I loved that so many of them were carrying giant heavy bags of books for signing – in the intense heat of Earls Court, that was a true commitment! 

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon

The space at the back of the venue was a fantastic haven from the bustle of the aisles and signing queues. Something about seeing the wall of books and giant beanbags was instantly calming, and I could have spent all day just hanging out in the chillout area and catching up with friends. 

I attended many of the panels, and there are some great writeups out there from people who took better notes than me – the best one from Megan Quibell in the Guardian. However, I do have to mention my favourite panel, ‘I’m Too Sexy for This Book,’ a frank discussion about sex in YA from authors Non Pratt, Cat Clarke, and Beth Reekles and chaired by James Dawson. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed more during an author event (James may be Queen of Teen, but Non is surely Queen of Innuendo). It was a lot of fun, but the serious takeaway from the talk is that teenagers have sex and YA books are about teenagers, so if it feels right for the book, then it’s okay to for your characters to have sex and have this shown in a positive way. Kids are very good at self-censoring and often know when a book is too much for them. 
 
The fantastic 'I'm Too Sexy for This Book' panel

It was great to see TBA client love at the event. Katy Cannon’s LOVE, LIES AND LEMON PIES was on the book wall, alongside SPLINTERED by A G Howard. Also, there were lots of posters for ENSNARED, the third book in the trilogy. And I spotted bookmarks and swag for Kat Ellis’ wonderful debut, BLACKFIN SKY.

 
Ensnared by A.G. Howard - coming Jan 2015

Other highlights for me was meeting one of my favourite authors, Robert Rankin, and getting a signed book. Also, I was kindly asked to take part on an agents’ speed-pitching event at the end of the day, and it was fun to see a different type of book than those I usually see at SCBWI events or in my slush. Mostly though, my big takeaway was that book people are the nicest people (I knew this already) and that there is a real hunger for UK YA. It’s an exciting time! 

A big thank you to Katherine Woodfine and her team for organising, and all the volunteers who made the event run so smoothly. I do hope this isn’t the last we see of YALC!  

There were many fantastic write ups of YALC from bloggers and authors - here is a link to some of my favourites:

And finally some fantastic photos from Booktrust