Friday, February 29, 2008

The Awesome Julia

So most of you would know by now that I was super lucky to have the fabulous Julia Churchill from the Darley Anderson Literary Agency as my agent.

But what you won't know is that . . . she's leaving me!!!!!

Okay, so she's not just leaving me, she's leaving the entire company and that includes many an author, as well as Darley himself.

But still . . .

. . . she's leaving me!!!

She's leaving the agency for many brilliant and jealous inducing reasons, and I do not begrudge her any of them . . . but I am sad, I must confess.

You see, two years ago, Julia changed my life.

I had sent out several queries to agents and the next day she called for the full manuscript. She was the only one, I was to learn in the coming weeks, who would be interested. She helped me edit it and had an unwavering belief in it, even as we started getting rejections from publishers (in fact I think she got even more upset than I did about those rejections). She has been there to listen to me and my author neuroses. Heck, she even came to my going away party, when I left the UK.

She is also the reason I go into uber defense mode when people diss agents. She is the perfect example of how they go above and beyond the call of duty, are genuinely passionate about books, and . . . you know . . . are human.

So you'd better believe that I will miss her.

At any rate . . .

Thank you Julia. I've already said it to you like a million times, but I wanted to do it uber publicly, because really if you are going to say anything personal, it makes so much sense to do it online. And I wish you all the best with your upcoming adventures, and success with your life beyond that (though I do hope the adventures continue as well), because, as I always tell you . . .

You totally rock!

ETA - some of you have expressed concern over what will happen to me now, which is awfully sweet of you! Have no fear, I am definitely staying with the Darley Anderson Agency - everyone who works there is just wonderful, so I am not concerned in the least. Darley is looking for a new children's book author agent, and in the interim will be representing me. But thank you for the concern, my readers are the best!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Magic Potion

On Friday I attended an all day conference hosted by the film actors' union here in Toronto, ACTRA. I had signed up for one panel discussion and a workshop, both on the subject of auditioning.

Now I know a fair bit about auditioning, having taken courses on the subject, and also heck just plain auditioned a fair bit. I feel quite confident about the activity, and even enjoy doing them. So I didn't really learn anything new. But I was quite pleased to discover, or at least be reminded of, that even the most successful of actors still go through periods of no work, and yes, still have to audition. Sitting listening to these actors speak, I also felt like I belonged, like I hadn't made the wrong choice to pursue acting, despite the insecurity one can sometimes feel from all the rejection.

So I am very glad I went, and there were one or two small things I hadn't known about the process that were also quite interesting to hear about.

Then, later that day, I was on one of my usual writing forums at home and a thread was started discussing the nature of query letters. It had less to do with the typical, "How does one write a query letter" and more to do with "Why do we follow a certain formula when writing query letters". It was far more philosophical than practical, in other words. Many people weighed in with excellent advice, but I couldn't help but feel we were all overthinking the issue a bit much.

Having just been at that acting conference discussing auditions, and having had one yesterday, and also having also gone through the querying process myself, and being rejected by all but one agency, I decided that I wanted to post my thoughts on the process.

The fact is, there is simply no magic potion that will get you an agent (acting or literary) or get you the work (acting or literary). You can follow all the guidelines down to the letter and not hear a peep from anyone, and meanwhile some person you know will do everything "wrong" and become a huge success.

There is simply no tried tested and true method.

So what on earth are we supposed to do? It's maddening reading the stories from successful authors or actors on how they got to where they are today, because each story is different. We can drive ourselves to distraction trying to extrapolate that one universal thread of truth found within each tale of glory.

Yes, there are certain things you can do that will be unlikely to be frowned on. Show up on time to the audition, be polite, put in the work ahead of time, memorise your lines. Write a grammatically correct query letter. Double check the spelling, especially of the agent/editor's name. Make your story sound exciting and fresh.

And above all, in both cases, be yourself.



Be myself.

Myself which is so confused as to what myself should do or what myself should be that myself is just that blithering crazy person in the corner? Is that the myself to whom you are referring?

It ain't easy my friends. It ain't easy.

But I am afraid the "myself" factor . . . that's the key.

So this is what I have gleaned. Partially from my success in the writing world, and partially in my . . . not as great success (yet) . . . in the acting world.

In the end, dude, you have to find what works for you.

Listen to the advice. Listen to all of it. Read the stories, watch the interviews, be a sponge and absorb it all. Hmm . . . wrong metaphor. Don't be a sponge, be a sieve. Let the information pass through you, let it register, and then catch the larger bits that make the most sense to you. Those bits that work for your personality. That honours who you are. Steal the good stuff, and let the other stuff just go away.

It'll take a few tries to find what suits you best. And, while you're trying, people who don't like the method you chose will try to convince you to do something else. They could be right, they could be wrong. Just let it pass through you and see if anything remains.

But don't look for the magic potion. It doesn't exist. It would be nice if it did. But it doesn't. There simply is no one way, no one path, to achieving our dreams. It's what makes each of our journeys special. Would you really want to walk down a path with everyone else? It would be crowded, and you wouldn't be able to see anything except the other people around you. What about the sights man, what about the sights?!

Look, this whole acting/writing thing is really hard. And what sucks even more is that the kind of people who tend to be drawn to the arts tend to be more emotional, more empathetic, tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves more obviously than the average Joe. So not only do we have a really tough road ahead of us, we feel the pain all the more acutely (not meaning to diss other people and other jobs. Again, sweeping generalisation here.).

But don't let all the white noise confuse you. You can only do what works for you, not what worked for someone else. Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Be open to advice, but protect your heart.

Advice in the arts tends to be very impractical. You try taking a voice class. Seriously. "There is a fire in your belly and the smoke is slowly moving up your throat . . . " You learn everything by friggin' metaphor. And the reason you learn everything by friggin' metaphor is because the teacher is trying so darn hard to find one universal way to teach an entire class something very personal, something that you can't see, something visceral. You've got to give them serious props, that is so not easy.

Anyway, advice in the arts is impractical. It is the best someone can do at the moment. And so, this is very important, one must learn not to look at the words, but rather to look at the spirit of the advice. Really that's a good idea in general I think. Don't get wrapped up in the technicalities.

Just remember to be practical. Be professional. Be thoughtful.

And yes.

Be yourself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


A couple of posts ago, Book Lady made a comment in the comments section (a thoroughly appropriate place to put a comment I might add) that said this:

P.S. I had to stop by because you were the only commenter brave enough to actually put your name on your comment over at The Rejector. In a sea of anonymous commenters, you stood out. :-)

I thought it was important to post this as another example of my amazing wonderfulness.

And also because it really set me thinking in the last few days.

Everyone knows one of the joys of the internet is the ability to be anonymous. Everyone also knows it is one of its greatest dangers. Who exactly is the person behind the avatar? How can we trust anyone online? People have built relationships based on playing make believe, fall in love with someone they thought was a hoolahoopist and turns out to be a doctor, etc.

And hopefully when we enter the world of the wide web, we take caution, we don't trust completely, we are careful not to give out personal information to just anyone. We are responsible.

I have always been aware of the anonymity and its sinister evilness on the web. Of the extremes of horribleness. But now that I have become more of a participant, not just an observer, in the past few years, I have to say, it is the more subtle moments of anonymity, that have really begun to surprise me.

I exist in a part of the internet that is populated by more of the thoughtful, mature, and intelligent people out there. I am talking about the writing world. I have a lovely group of bloggers with whom I can have a very interesting exchange of ideas, as well as am a member of several very reputable writing forums - where, for example, a newbie will quickly be chastised for using "text speak".

And so I find it all the more upsetting when I read certain blogs by very intelligent professionals, and people in return post extremely nasty defensive comments. Okay, everyone is allowed their opinion, but here's the crux . . . they do it anonymously. And that is just . . . well . . .chicken.

To put it more eloquently, people have stopped taking responsibility for their actions. People are hiding behind the pseudo-anonymity (no one is truly anonymous on the internet as ISP's prove) of the internet to let the basest of emotions take over. You would think in an environment that forces you to write things out, to take the time to put words down, there would be a thoughtfulness associated with it. Not so.

And it isn't like these really strongly opinionated offensive posts (comments) are even helpful to the debate. I have never seen a nasty comment help move a discussion towards any direction other than mud slinging.

What happened to thoughtfulness?

Now some people claim they wish to be anonymous because they don't want the crazies to track them down, fair enough. But it has been my experience that these same people are also the ones who just run off at the mouth, feel free to insult whomever, and then run away as quickly as they can.

There are many reasons I am not anonymous on the internet. One of them being that I am here to try to promote my work, and it would do a great disservice to say, "Go buy my book, I won't tell you what it is called, or what it looks like . . . but you'll figure it out." But another is I knew that by being myself, I would have a responsibility to think before I spoke. To remember that ANYONE can read these blog entries, and that, this may sound cheesy, but I wanted to make sure that my parents would be able to read what I wrote, and I would not feel ashamed.

I have very strong opinions. I also talk loudly, you might not know this as I haven't chatted with many of you in person, but believe me, it's true. And I get carried away emotionally far more than is necessary in a debate. In short, I am far from perfect. No one is perfect, and, my word, EVERYONE makes mistakes.

But these days so few people own up to them. It isn't just the anonymity on the internet, it's the false apologies given by the media: "I'm sorry if this article offended you", or by politicians, "While things have turned out differently, we did what we thought was right at the time".

Heck it is the lack of apologies in general. The admitting you were wrong. We are so focused on feeling good that even when we know we did wrong, we can't admit to it because that moment of, "I'm sorry, I was wrong" is such an icky feeling. Can't we just get over ourselves?

What happened to people taking responsibility for their actions?

At any rate, that is one of the main reasons I do not post anonymously on the internet. It keeps me honest. It keeps me humble (yes humble, sometimes . . .sheesh, I too can be humble!). It keeps me kind. It keeps me embarrassed at times too when I do say the wrong thing, or just put my nose where it doesn't belong.

And it keeps me human.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Occasionally I get asked for advice. Most of the time I get specific questions about specific issues a writer is dealing with. But sometimes I get:

"What advice can you give an aspiring writer?"

. . .

This is a pretty big question as you can imagine. There is a lot a lot of advice that can be given out. About writing. About the publishing process. About marketing. About maintaining sanity. Of course I always have opinions on any subject, and I thought I would maybe write a couple of posts in the coming days on each of these topics.

But today's entry is going to be a nice list of links. Because there is no way I could feel comfortable giving my relative newbie advice without sharing the knowledge of some pretty smart and more experienced individuals first.

So . . . check out JA Konrath's blog if you are interested on advice on self promotion, he has some truly amazing insights.

John Scalzi just recently posted a very interesting entry on Writers and Money (but his blog in general is an excellent read).

There are also a gazillion agent blogs out there all trying to help writers find their way through the mysterious querying process, as well as just being informative about the agenting business. Start with Pub Rants, and follow the links on her page to other agent blogs.

Interested in writing for children? I've just come across this blog by an anonymous editor of children's books. There are also these two websites devoted strictly to writing for children: Verla Kay and Write4Kids.

For general information about agents and a good introduction to the world of query writing, check out Agent Query.

And to check up on the legitimacy on any agents or editors, we have Predators and Editors, as well as Writer Beware (and its fabulous blog). Writer Beware is also the site that introduced the Twenty Worst Agents list, well worth checking out.

I also have already linked to several other blogs and websites in the sidebar here at The Temp, The Actress and The Writer, totally check them out.

Lastly, if any of my fabulous readers would like to add to this list in the comments section please do so! I only learned about many of these sites through online friends like yourselves!

Next post, I shall attempt to answer the writing advice question myself. Until then . . .I think these links will totally keep you all rather occupied!

Friday, February 08, 2008

I have the best readers ever!

Okay, I don't know who it was, or even when it happened, but I have to say it really made my day when I checked out the Amazon listing for Timothy, and noticed that I had a sales rank!

For those not in the know, on Amazon it tells you where your book is in terms of sales. Alex for example is currently at 44,028 (the rank changes hourly and really reflects a general state of your books, it really isn't an exact science. If your book is in the top 1000, you are doing very well, in the tens of thousands, not bad, hundreds of thousands . . . well you get the idea).

But you only get a sales rank once someone buys your book (obviously). Until then there are no numbers. So if you see numbers, that means someone somewhere bought a copy of your book! And I see 747,446 over at Timothy!

So thank you to whomever bought my book! I feel very JK Rowling (obviously I'm on a JK Rowling kick this week) with all my pre sales. Or should I say, pre sale.

Silly, but it really made my day!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Great Defender . . .

Maybe it's because I adore her books. Maybe it is because she is so cool under pressure. Maybe it's because I think we would maybe actually get along really well and I would love someday to go for coffee with her in a very civilised absolutely non-stalkery way.

But I feel a need to be JK Rowling's great defender.

Not that she needs my help, of course, she can more than take care of herself.

Still, I get a bit sick and tired when I read in various different locations (blogs, articles, forums), that all JK Rowling is interested in is the publicity and the money. People said this when she announced Dumbledore was gay. People said this when she made those seven books (oh, and gave away six of them, auctioning off only the last, you know, for charity, but whatever). People say this as a general rule, as if J K Rowling sat down one day and decided to be an author to make the big bucks.

And it gets me . . . grr.

First of all. Anyone who has seen any interview with JK Rowling knows that she is a writer through and through. All she has ever been since she was little was an author. It's so obvious how passionate she is about writing, that even if you don't like her work, you simply can't deny she loves what she does.


EVEN if let's say she was doing this for the money (uh . . .right . . . because there isn't any easier way out there to make money than writing books), there is no way on this green earth that she could have predicted the kind of success she was to get. Because the kind of success she's had? Has never happened to any other author ever.

Yes Dan Brown, very successful. Yes Mr. Grisham does splendidly. But the attention, the money, the world wide phenomena, the awesome parties, the changing the nature of an entire genre (by which I mean demonstrating to publishers that writing for children is indeed a viable market, and making said market one of the hottest of all markets right now)? That distinction belongs to JK Rowling, and JK Rowling alone.

And if she could have predicted all that . . . well then I think the ability to see so clearly into the future itself is a pretty admirable thing, and she still deserves accolades.

So yes, as you can see, I am quite obviously JK Rowling's great defender.

Or so I thought.

Until I found this article, and I realised that of course there is one out there who has always been in her corner, who has always been supportive of her books. He has written many an article about her, but this one I think is just brilliant. Forgive me if any of you have already read it. I am often late to the game. But it's a good'un, and really shares just how impressive a thing JK Rowling has done.

May I present to you the true bearer of the great defender title: a one, Mr. Stephen King.