Archive for the ‘Joanna Stampfel-Volpe’ Tag

In the Blogosphere: 3/29-4/2

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

BAD WRITERLY HABITS

Science fiction writer Liana Brooks talks about a bad habit she has that I think most writers (myself included) also need help with: impatience.

If this post isn’t a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is.  On her blog, Between Fact and Fiction, upcoming young adult author Natalie Whipple explains “How to Wallow.”

Coffee has played a significant role in my days for the past several years—hell, I’ve been drinking the stuff since I was about nine years old!  Being that I’m genetically cursed when it comes to being anxious and being that the query stage of writing has kicked up those natural tendencies about 15 notches, I’m trying to cut back.  (I just bought decaf to mix with my fancy flavored coffees!)  But in honor of that bad habit, the drink I love—the drink that doesn’t always love me back—here’s The Oatmeal‘s 15(ish) Things Worth Knowing About Coffee.

From time to time, I have this bad habit, too! *doink*

INSPIRATION

This week, author and contributor to QueryTracker Elana Johnson had an awesome idea—paying it forward.  She and several other blogging authors interviewed 75 fellow authors who’ve “made it” (i.e., they’re agented, some have book deals).  Among the tons of inspirational stories these writers shared, I’m highlighting two:

Okay, so now that you’re totally inspired by those writers’ “pay it forward” interviews, what will you write?  Jonathan Morrow offers 10 tips on how to get your writing juices a’ flowing at Copyblogger.

THE CRAFT

On the Will Write For Cake blog, the Joanna Stampfel-Volpe repped kids’ lit author Lynne Kelly Hoenig lists some ways she injects characters’ feelings into her writing without “telling.”

APRIL FOOLED

Here, Jessie Kunhardt of The Huffington Post describes 11 great literary April Fools’ jokes.

FOR FUN

Ever wonder what those literary agents are really doing day-to-day?  FinePrint Literary‘s Suzie Townsend and Nancy Coffey Literary‘s Joanna Stampfel-Volpe fill us in on their secrets.

Finally, here’s some Venn Diagramming I can get behind.  The Great White Snark outlines the differences between the insults many of us grew up being called: nerd, dork, dweeb, and geek.

Venn Diagrams? Lucky.

In the Blogosphere: 1/18-1/22

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

RESOURCES

Over at his blog, The Book Deal, editor extraordinaire Alan Rinzler shares some tips on hooking agents and editors.  He also gives examples of good hooks.  This blog is chock-full of all kinds of writing tips and just brimming with awesomeness, so check it out.

Over at WOW! Women on Writing, fellow Writer’s Digest contributor Kerrie Flanagan gives tips on how to pitch an agent.

The Oatmeal has become one of my favorite sites, with its hilarious lists on various subjects.  I mostly love it for its grammar and spelling tips—although, I’m a little biased, as its style is reminiscent of the approach I used when I taught grammar.  This post on spelling had me laughing out loud (ROTFL).  This is my favorite:

I wrote two posts this week, mentioning poetry and screenwriting.  If these areas are foreign to you, the folks over at Writer’s Relief can shed some light on them.  Learn some poetry lingo here, and get some screenwriting resources here.

At Editorial Anonymous, learn a thing or two about deciphering those rejection letters with this tongue-in-cheek post.

As I discussed earlier this week, when I came to the end of last week’s fight to finish my manuscript, I realized my original title no longer worked.  Desperate to be done with the thing and eager to apply the icing on my literary cupcake (what??), I, naturally, turned to the Internet for assistance with titles.  I found some help at Writing-World.com, Writer’s Digest, and eHow.

LIT AGENTS

Blogger sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker give some of Nancy Coffey Literary agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe‘s tips on synopses.

WordServe Literary‘s Rachelle Gardner offers some advice on perfecting that elevator pitch.

As well, FinePrint Literary‘s Janet Reid details what a writer needs to have ready when looking for an agent for fiction, memoir, and nonfiction with this straightforward list on her blog.

Last but not least, The Last Will of Moira Leahy author Therese Walsh of Writer Unboxed asks her agent, Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary, about voice—something not easily defined, yet something every agent seeks.

UP FOR DISCUSSION

Over at Fiction City, my writer buddy, Lisa Katzenberger, asks: How Soon Do You Start Critiques?

Here, Robert McCrum of The Observer talks plagiarism and lists some famous examples of authors’ works which have been accused of it.

In this guest post on Rachelle Gardner‘s Rants & Ramblings, editor Chuck Sambuchino asks, “Would you pay more for an agent?” And many weigh in…

CONCERNING A WRITER’S NEUROSES

I shall keep these three posts close by during this query (and, hopefully, submission) process:

Yes, that's "Monk."

OPPORTUNITIES

Like to read?  Like to blog?  Here, Thomas Nelson PublishersMichael Hyatt tells how to get your hands on free books and get your name out there by reviewing them.

Don’t forget to enter my contest here on the blog.  Click here for details on my easy-peasy contest, and see how you can win a brand-new 2010 Guide to Literary Agents!

JUST ‘CAUSE

I’m with COCO.

You Have a Question? I Have an Answer: Sci-Fi/Fantasy & Subgenres

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.


Q:  I have a vampire novel.  What is it, sci-fi?  Fantasy?  What’s the difference between these things?  How do you tell them/their subgenres apart?            -S.B.

A:  At the South Carolina Writers Workshop this past weekend, literary agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation) and Suzie Townsend (FinePrint Literary Management) led a session on paranormal, dark comedy, dark drama, and horror, and similar questions came up.

One of the conference attendees wanted to know what is with all this urban fantasy business she’s been hearing so much about. Another asked about the difference between paranormal and supernatural.

All good questions.

supernatural-tv

Supernatural. I've never seen the show, but I do love me some Jensen Ackles!

Stampfel-Volpe and Townsend explained that writers often confuse these genres and subgenres because, in some cases, industry peeps use some of the terms interchangeably.  I will mix a bit of what they said with a bit of what I’ve found in cyberspace in order to help answer these questions.

The sci-fi and fantasy genres confuse many because they tend to overlap in their most basic requirement: imaginary elements.  Because of their common ground, bookstores often lump them into one section.

However, this rule should help you distinguish between the two: Although they both include fantastic or imaginary elements, which contradict our current world/our understanding of it, those elements in science fiction are generally based in scientific reality, while those elements in fantasy rely more on myths and fables.

Still lost?  Here’s some help.  Disclaimer: With all the subgenres out there, there’s no 100% hard and fast rule, but if you stick to the below, you should be on the right track most of the time.

Sci-Fi?

Ask yourself:

  • Is something different about the time?  Think: Back to the Future.
  • Is it set in the future?
  • Is there time travel?
  • Is it set in the past or the present, but there’s some element that is different from what we know?  Does, as Doc Brown puts it in BTTF2, the timeline skew into a tangent, creating an alternate 1985 (or whatever year)?
  • Is science or advanced technology involved?
    • Do the words “time machine,” “anti-matter,” “cryogenics,” or “technology” appear?  How about “flux capacitor” or “Mr. Fushion”?
  • Is it set in outer space?
  • Are there aliens?  Robots or computers becoming self-aware?
bttf2

"Pull out your pants pockets. All kids in the future wear their pants inside out." --Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II

Fantasy?

Ask yourself:

  • Does anyone use magic or have supernatural powers?
  • Is it set in a mythical world, or are the main characters drawn from a contemporary setting into such a place? Think: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or Harry Potter
  • Are there fairies?  Trolls?  Goblins?  Centaurs?  Basilisks?  Rings or grails?  Wizards with long white beards?

The Scary and the Hairy

Sci-fi/fantasy subgenres get particularly complicated because this is where a lot of terms are used interchangeably—much to the chagrin of, well, everyone trying to figure out this stuff.

The biggest head-scratchers for newbies at SCWW:

Paranormal vs. Supernatural

These are pretty much the same thing.

In the Stampfel-Volpe/Townsend session, we fleshed it out as a class, and here is what we came up with:

  • Supernatural is more when a character is born with or discovers he has super powers—in other words, these powers come from within.
  • Paranormal more has to do with ghosts, spirits—in other words, outside forces.
  • However, we also said that, because you usually have one when you have the other, these terms often get tangled, and that is OK.

Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal Romance

These are often used interchangeably as well.

Both are set in contemporary/real-world/urban settings, both can contain vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters (Oh, my!), but according to Publisher’s Weekly article “When Love Is Strange: Romance Continues Its Affair with the Supernatural,” the treatment of the relationship is the key element which separates the two.

  • In paranormal romance, the romantic relationship is the primary focus of the plot (yes, Edward Cullen fans, I know you’re salivating all over your keyboards right now).
  • In urban fantasy, the world the couple lives in takes center stage.

That shouldn’t be too hard to remember.  Paranormal romance = romance, and urban fantasy = setting.  So, they’re not just clever names!  See?  Not so difficult after all.

See Gwenda Bond’s article in Publisher’s Weekly for a more comprehensive look.

edward-cullen

I know, I know, but he's still fun to look at.

To see a general breakdown of all literary genres, Writer’s Digest to the rescue. This link not only defines the above, but it also has a more extensive dichotomy of subgenres within sci-fi/fantasy (i.e., space operas, Arthurian fantasy, etc.).

I hope this gives you some basic insight as to how to classify your manuscript. Although, according to FinePrint Literary Management agent Janet Reid, authors need not worry about genre.  She says the agent will be able to tell and will categorize accordingly, if she wishes to sign you.

So, if you’re still confused, fear not.  The agents will set you straight.

Surprises in South Carolina, Coming Down off My Conference High

I spent the weekend in beautiful Myrtle Beach at the South Carolina Writers Workshop.

scww

Being around writer folk for the first time since June made it pretty darn difficult to return to writing all by my lonesome today.  However, I’m dealing with it by mad networking, blogging, querying—oh yeah—and editing.

Here are some highlights/surprises of the weekend:

LITERARY AGENT JANET REID

First of all, Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management is awesome.  Actually, I figured she would be, considering her blogs on agenting and query letters, but I was pleasantly surprised by her as an instructor.

Miss Query Shark herself really cares about writers.  See this blog post if you don’t believe me.  This hit me the most during her session “To Whom It May Concern: Effective Query Letters.”

Where most other agents say to narrow your querying pool to a select few, Janet says to query widely because it’s in the best interest of the writer to do so.

“What does it hurt you to query?” she asks.  “If it’s not right, you’ll just get a rejection.”

She also stresses not to beg in your query (e.g., “I know your time is exquisitely valuable…”).

“We’re all busy,” she says.  “Some of you have jobs and husbands and children to take care of.  Your time is exquisitely valuable.  We’re just sitting around reading.”

She even empowers writers—albeit realistically.

“Don’t demean yourself.  Remember: Agents and publishing cannot exist without writers—though, no one’s going to treat you like that.”

Another helpful hint?  To increase marketability, she says you might consider changing the sex of your main character, as this can make it stand out against other books like it.

Most importantly, however, she stressed that a query letter is the foundation upon which your publishing career rests.

“You can query too soon; you cannot query too late.”

For more of Janet’s query tips, see my guest post on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog.

LITERARY AGENTS

  • Despite their busy schedules, they are approachable and willing to answer any questions at writers’ conferences.
  • They know how to party.  No elaboration necessary.
  • If you’re slightly dressed up, people might think you are one.  (Even though I look nothing like the fabulous Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary, I still enjoyed being mistaken for her.)
  • They are curious creatures.  They vary in submission guidelines as well as personal preferences, but check out their Web sites, blogs, and interviews to gain insight.

MORE

  • It behooves writers to be somewhat ADD.  As far as I can tell, the more active your mind is, the more ideas you’ll have for books and articles.  I gotsta get me some of that!
  • According to one faculty member, stealing ideas is okay, as long as you make them your own.
  • Pitching is scary, but just get over it and do it…because the agent might just request pages. :)
  • New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry is a down-to-earth guy.  It took him 12 years and eight finished manuscripts before he ever sold anything.  Keep at it, he says.
  • Your first novel may not be publishable.  And that’s OK.  Put it away and start the second.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this weekend such a success.  I had a great time and am rejuvenated to continue my work.

Bring on the next conference!

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