Tag Archives: agent

Writing on the Red Cedar

“They’re just not serious about writing,” was my super-judgmental and not-very-insightful perspective on people who talked about writing, maybe even went to writing-related events, but didn’t actually, you know, write.  No new short stories.  No energy for reworking stuff in the hopper.  How hard can it be to churn out 500 words a day?  If you watch one TV show a night, you should be able to write something every day.

I should be writing here!

I should be writing here!

Oh, but now the shoe’s on the other foot.  Because in 2014, here are the number of words I wrote, fiction-wise:  Zero.  And here are the number of times I took my current work-in-progress out of the drawer:  Zero.   And here are ALL the things I did to set myself up for writing:  One.  Yep, one.  I registered for Write on the Red Cedar.

Write on the Red Cedar is sponsored by the Capital City Writers Association (of which I am a member but have done, wait for it… zero!).  It kicks off with a cocktail party on Friday night and then Saturday is dedicated to education that accomplishes two goals:  1. Helps writers improve their writing and 2. Gets them motivated!

“This,” I told myself, “this will ensure that I get my act together.”  Surely I will regain my focus, with January 16, 2015 looming.

And loom it did!  And now the day is today and dang it, I’m excited.  My good friend Addy Whitehouse is driving up from Skokie to spend the weekend and hit the conference with me.  She has, I assure you, written thousands and thousands of words this year.  She is kicking butt.

Don Maass

Don Maass

We also signed up for the four-hour post-conference hands-on workshop with uber-agent Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, and other helpful writing books.  I will share that I am petrified, petrified, of Don Maass.  He read my first mystery eons ago and passed, although he did say some sorta nice things.  But I will put on my big girl pants and go because the chance to learn something fabulous is, well, fabulous.  Did I say I was petrified?

Considering Killer Nashville

It’s 468 miles – about eight hours to drive or $200+ to fly – from Chicago to Nashville.  Still, I’m considering going to Killer Nashville, a mystery/thriller conference scheduled for August 20-22 at the Marriott Cool Springs Hotel & Convention Center.  What’s attracting me is that it seems extremely well-organized, highlights authors I enjoy, and has many features for the not-yet-published author.

First, regarding organization.  Although the schedule is still in development, the Killer Nashville website shows that workshops will be organized into four tracks:

  1. The Writing Track – providing support, information, and craft techniques for beginning authors, writers, playwrights, and filmmakers; and
  2. The Marketing Track – providing advanced information in the areas of business, finance, publishing, writing, and promotion.
  3. The Fan Track – providing a miscellaneous offering to readers and fans of literature
  4. The Forensic Track – providing insight into the latest in forensic investigations.

As I am writing, need help marketing, can always use more info on guns, blood splatter, and the like, and am definitely a big fan, there’s no doubt that I’ll have something great to do in every time slot.  The hard part might be choosing. Plus, Jeffrey Deaver is the guest of honor.

When it comes to features for new authors, Killer Nashville has a great one:  a contest that results in at least one new author getting a publishing contract from Avalon Books!  I’ve already entered the Claymore Dagger award and sent the first 50 pages of my completed mystery in for consideration.  And although you don’t have to attend Killer Nashville to enter, the contest has certainly piqued my interest in the conference.

Plus, there’s the pitch sessions.  Jill Marr from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency will be on hand.  I queried them once because they publish Kate White – similar style to my Paula Berger books – but no luck.  Also an acquisitions editor from Oceanview Publishing.  And it appears they will be offering manuscript critiques, although the details are not on the website yet.

Early registration (through May 28) is $140 and includes all the sessions for the whole weekend; banquet tickets are extra, as are critiques, although pitch sessions are included.  If anybody has gone in the past, I’d appreciate a comment to let me know if it was disappointing, okay, good or great!

Resolution: Keep living the literary life

Friends and readers know that I had resolved to get an agent in 2009.   Sadly, missed that one, but I did get lots of extremely nice feedback from agents who blamed the economy and the tightening publishing market for not picking up Character-Driven, my first-in-series mystery featuring former actress Paula Berger.  Kind of took the wind out of my sails for the second book in the series, In Scene.

But, by working with Addy, Michele, and Claire to found a new writing group, I gave myself a kick-start and things are humming nicely, with about 80 pages complete that I’m pretty happy with and the next few chapters all outlined.  It’s fun and you’ve got to have faith, right?  If you’d like to read the first chapter of this book, here it is:  InSceneChapterOne.

And I’ve been dragging my feet on sending short stories out.  I’ve got some literary shorts and then some mysteries/crime stories, many of which feature a Chicago detective named Kathy Martinez.  It’s tough to decide where to send them after Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen reject them.  But then, out of the blue, I got an email from author Robert Friedman, thanking me for my reviews of his short stories on the audio shorts web page, Sniplits.  (Go there!  It’s awesome!  You can fill up your iPod and enjoy your treadmill time much more.)

He suggested I might enjoy his story, The Actor in the Family, published in Story Quarterly Online.  (I did.  He’s a great storyteller and there’s always a little something extra by way of character development.)  We emailed back and forth a couple of times, and wow!  He turned me on to a new resource.   Authors in search of publishing options, check out Duotrope’s Digest.

Duotrope is more than just a listing of publications, it’s interactive with a snazzy search feature.  Pick your genre, pick your theme, pick the length of your fiction, pick your payscale… and you end up with a list of publications that might want to buy/publish your work.  Searching for mystery short stories, any theme, token payment or up netted me 30 publications (including Hitchcock and Queen, of course).  There’s a separate search function for poetry.  Fabulous!

It seems like the fates are conspiring to keeping me living the literary life in 2010… and that’s just fine with me.  Unlike resolving to eat healthfully, exercise faithfully, and become fluent in French, resolving to live literarily is like resolving to hug my pugs…easy to do, and rewarding, too.

Broken-hearted, again.

Thirty pages.  100 pages.  The full manuscript.  Now – rejection.  I know that the market is down for mysteries and agents are having a hard time selling even established authors (not that Michael Connelly’s feeling it, I’m guessing).

She was very kind, which softened it somewhat.  Here’s her note in its entirety:

Dear Karen,

Thanks so much for sharing this with me.  There is much to admire and you write very well.

Alas, due to the enormous workload I have now – and the difficult market, I’m afraid I can’t take it on.  I do think another agent will grab it and I wish you the best.


If you’re that other agent, give me a call or email me!