How to get a literary agent

Advice, Books, Writing

I haven’t written about this much on this blog, but you may have read on my bio that I am a writer. I write novels for young adults, and it has always been my dream to be traditionally published. This means getting my books published by an established publishing house, rather than self-publishing. (Oh boy, let’s see how many times can I use the word publish in this post!)

In most cases if you want to be traditionally published, first you need a literary agent. There are some exceptions — maybe you’re working with a very small press or you feel comfortable representing yourself. In general, getting an agent is the way to go. Even literary agents who are writers themselves often get an agent to help them get their books published.

That said, it’s hard to get an agent. Many a writer tries, fails, and gives up. There are rumors that you have to have an “in” in the publishing industry and you’ll never make it if you don’t schmooze and network and meet some people.

I am here to tell you it’s possible to get an agent the old-fashioned way, because I did it. No personal favors, no industry contacts, no help from anyone.

What to read: what we’re reading now

Books

Book nerds, gather ’round. It is time for another installment of “what we’re reading now.”

 What Sophia’s reading now:

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a way she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.  (via Goodreads)

 What Lauren’s reading now:

THE SWEETHEART by Angelina Mirabella

It’s 1953 and seventeen-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father, Franz, in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day legendary wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime.

A debut, coming-of-age novel in which a teenage girl from Philadelphia leaves her old life behind to become The Sweetheart, one of America’s most infamous female wrestlers. (via Goodreads)

 What Jenna’s reading now:

PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James

In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. (via Goodreads)

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If you want more recommendations, have questions, or have suggestions for us, leave a comment!
-L

What to read when you want to get out of your own head

Books

Do you ever have a bad day where you are feeling sorry for yourself and you want to stop? You want to realize that other people have complicated lives too? You want to get out of your own head? Sometimes I find that best thing to do is to get absorbed in a book where the protagonist is unlike yourself. Their struggles, the way they think, their morals– they are different from your own. Here are a few books that have helped me do exactly that and are ones I strongly recommend picking up. What’s even better: they are all quick reads!

23302416    1618    rosieproject

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

I realize these are all male protagonists. Feel free to suggest any similar books with female protagonists– I’ve been looking but haven’t found any! 🙂 — J

What to read: What we’re reading now

Books

We are big readers over here. Between the three of us, we are constantly reading books that span a wide variety of topics and genres. So if you’re looking for your next book, we’ve got you covered! Check out what we’re reading now.

 What Sophia’s reading now:

THE WANDERER by Robyn Carr

From Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the popular Virgin River novels, comes Thunder Point-the highly anticipated new series that will make you laugh, make you sigh, and make you fall in love with a small town filled with people you’ll never forget. (via Goodreads)

 What Lauren’s reading now:

THE DUD AVOCADO by Elaine Dundy

The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s. Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about the American girl abroad, but it was Elaine Dundy’s Sally Jay Gorce who told us what she was really thinking. Charming, sexy, and hilarious, The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was first published and it remains a timeless portrait of a woman hell-bent on living. (via Goodreads)

THE HIP GIRL’S GUIDE TO THE KITCHEN by Kate Payne

The author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking shows you how to love your kitchen and learn to make creative, delicious food without breaking your budget. (via Goodreads)

 What Jenna’s reading now:

THE ROSIE EFFECT by Graeme Simsion

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novelThe Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again. (via Amazon)

Make sure to read The Rosie Project before picking up the sequel 🙂

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What are you reading now? We can always use suggestions!
-L

Seahawks Pride v. What’s Really Important

Books, Essay, Politics, Quick Read

10366158_10205399689098233_3634203972510044849_n v. NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

On the morning of the big playoff game this past Sunday I was sitting with my friend Jenessa, who is a music teacher, and my mother, who is the executive director of a non-profit that supports people with disabilites, discussing the Seahawks and money.

Jenessa was venting about not having enough funding to rent school buses to get her kids from their school to the local elementary school to put on a concert.  A major factor in running a non-profit is also wrangling funding.  The Seahawks however, are raking in the dough and the support of the entire city and beyond to much of the state.

It took me a while to realize, but it is really spectacular to see a city united in their support of something.  On the other hand, I wish we could all come together to support organizations in our community that make a long term, positive difference in peoples lives.  The back bone of a productive economy is education, and there are classrooms that lack the essential tools to be productive.

It’s hard to level the playing field between garnering support for teachers versus sports stars, because teachers don’t fill big arenas and attract the popularity and with it the merchandising that a sports team does.  But why not?  Most of us have gone through the educational system…and the better educated our society, the more success we will have as a whole.  I just can’t wrap my brain around the disparity sometimes.

One particular book helped me see education in this light, and that is Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn.  It inspired my passionate and absolute support of education from the bottom up.  Everyone should read this book!

Just to further my point, one of the trademark attorneys at my office sent this article around this morning.  Unbeknownst to most of Seattle, the Seahawks have been aggressively trying to cash in on many of the phrases associated with the Seahawks and Seahawks fans.  Trying to trademark the “12th Man” and the word “Boom” in order to make even MORE money.

This is not to say that people should stop spending money on their beloved Seahawks merchandise, but rather that maybe some of that passion and support could be redirected towards education in our community.

What is your take on this subject?  I’d love to hear any and all opinions.

-S

What to read: 2014 Favorites

Books, Holidays, Reviews

I love books.

I love reading them, holding them, smelling them, and… keeping track of them. I avidly keep track of the books I read using Goodreads, and this year I was delighted to find out that they have this wonderful feature called “Your Year in Books.”

2014books

Don’t they look so pretty?

You can see all your books together, and check out your stats to find out how many you read and how you rated them.

Looking through my year in books was how I discovered that, of the 29 books I read this year, I gave only three of them a 5-star rating. So really, I didn’t even have to think to figure out which books were my favorites in 2014. It was more of a discovery.

  

The similarities between these three books are clear. They are all vivid, dark, sometimes creepy historical novels with (no surprise at all given my tastes…) strong female characters.

PUSH NOT THE RIVER by James Conroyd Martin

There’s nothing I love more than learning actual history through a novel, and this one fits the bill.

Based on the true eighteenth century diary of Lady Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through a turbulent time in Polish history, this is a story of loyalty and deceit, patriotism and treason, love and hate. Anna puts herself in the way of destiny, making herself an indispensable part of the fight to save her country.

THE KINGDOM OF LITTLE WOUNDS by Susann Cokal

I don’t even know where to start with this book. Let’s just say it’s magical, mind-boggling, and not for the weak of stomach.

Two young women — a disgraced seamstress and a mute nursemaid — struggle to survive and thrive in a fictional 16th century Scandinavian kingdom, while a mysterious illness plagues the royal family.

THE LINNET BIRD by Linda Holeman

This 19th century tale is vivid, detailed, and captivating. As a child in London, Linny was orphaned and sold into prostitution, but she reinvents herself and marries a horrid but wealthy man in British India.

In the lush setting of India, Linny learns that money isn’t the freedom she always thought it would be — and that she may be capable of finding that freedom deep within herself.

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If you like historical fiction, give one of these a try!

What were your favorite books of 2014?

Happy New Year!
-L

The Four Agreements

Books, Fitness/Health, Quick Read

At a yoga class I did last year with my dad, the teacher read this at the end of class and it really resonated with me.  I hope it can provide some inspiration to others as well!  It’s from the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

____________________________________________________________________

Be Impeccable With Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.  Avoid using the world to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

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I like to remind myself of these Four Agreements from time to time, and there is no better time to get back to being your best self than in the New Year.  They are all quite simple, but I find they are harder than they seem to apply on a daily basis.  It takes concious effort when interacting with others to stay true to ones own feelings and emotions and not let other peoples slither their way in.  I find myself very affected by the people surrounding me and tend to let others’ thoughts and ideas into my head in such a strong way that my own are stamped out.  This is a quality I would really like to work on this year as I am finding my own, unique, voice.  And I’m going to kick ass in the big city when I move to Capitol Hill next month!  2015 is going to be a great year filled with new, exciting, changes!

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-S

Gift Guide for the Girl on a Budget

Books, Fashion, Holidays

Budgeting gifts can be a bit overwhelming.  Friends, family, coworkers, pets.  On my list are mom, dad, brother, four of my closest girlfriends, one office party gift and a white elephant gift.  I have been prowling the internet for affordable gifts guides, and by affordable I mean under $25 to adhere to the price limit for the office and white elephant gift.  So far I have seen under $100 from The Zoe Report and under $50 from chicityfashion.com, which just won’t do!  So here’s what I’m getting for my people.

For the moms:

Polychroma DOF Glass

Chocolate Book

Dads/Brothers:

’47 Brand Seattle Seahawks Hat

Mobile Phone Bike Mount

Girlfriends:

They have 10 other cities to choose from as well!

City Beanie

Gold Stemless Wine Glasses

495706_STEMLESS_WINE_FACETED_GOLD

 

Office Party:

Abhati Hanging Lantern

I added a mini bottle of Whiskey and stuck it in the lantern too 😉

490190_490441_490194_EO_ABHATI_LANT_HANG_GRN_DD_FAMILY

 

For an office with a younger crowd:

Clip String Lights

  

White Elephant:

Friday Night Wine Glass (My Favorite Gift)

480169_FRIDAY_NIGHT_WINE_ GLASS_ver2

 

Happy Hippo Biscuits

happyhippo

 

My favorite places to look for gifts are Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and World Market.  I tend to look for unique/fun items that whoever I am gifting them to would not pick out themselves but will love!  Urban Outfitters has tons of quirky books and funny items like a stuffed animal grumpy cat, and is great for both men and women of all ages.  I’d go to Anthropologie for the more refined gifts, for those people who love pretty, sparkly things.  Their home goods are spectacular and will add a bit of flair to any home.  World Market has everything, and great quality for the price you pay.  Shop away!

-S

What to read: Holiday Season (Part 3)

Books, Holidays

Welcome back for the final installment of What to read this holiday season.

Now, even as someone who celebrates Chanukah and has a late-December birthday that tends to get forgotten (bitter? me? never!) I still enjoy stories that make me feel like I’m in a winter wonderland. They go so well with hot cocoa and a warm, fuzzy blanket!

If you’re in the mood for some feel-good holiday stories, read on!

Holiday Cheer

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Twelve festive and romantic stories by bestselling young adult authors, including Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, and Laini Taylor. The stories are full of the magic of love, friendship, and the holiday season.

LET IT SNOW by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Three interconnected stories begin with a Christmas Eve snowstorm. Watch the love unfold with an escape from a stranded train, a midnight trek to a Waffle House, and an early-morning shift at Starbucks. If all snowstorms were as romantic and exciting as this one, we’d all say let it snow.

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY by Helen Fielding

A classic. To me, Bridget Jones’s story feels like the holidays. Painfully awkward family get-togethers, occasional bouts of self-loathing, and, of course, romantic things happening in the snow.

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Happy holidays and happy reading! Tell us, what are your favorite holiday reads?
-L

In case you missed it, check out the rest of this series:

{Family | Escape | Holiday Cheer}

What to read: Holiday Season (Part 2)

Books, Holidays

As magical as the holidays can be, sometimes we just need to get away. Away from our families shouting at televised football games, away from relatives who ask too many questions about our love lives, away from the cold, gray weather.

That’s why part two of this series is all about escape.

Curl up in front of the fire with one of these books and let the winter blues melt away.

Escape

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley  The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller

It’s 1909, and Victoria Darling has just been expelled from her French finishing school for posing nude for her painting class. In the wake of her scandal, Vicky is willing to do anything to get accepted to the Royal College of Art — even marry the awful beau her parents have chosen for her. When she befriends a suffragette and begins to fall for a boy beneath her class, Vicky questions everything she’s been taught about her world.

THE WINTER SEA by Susanna Kearsley

Carrie McClelland moves to a small Scottish village to write a novel about an 18th century battle fought at nearby Slains Castle. When she discovers in her research that her own ancestor lived at the castle, Carrie delves deeper into the history of the era — deeper than she ever thought possible. Turns out history is not dead, and her family has some unfinished business.

THE LOST CROWN by Sarah Miller

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. The last Romanov daughters come to life in this re-imagining of the last years of their lives. Poignant, thrilling, and heartbreaking, this tale might give you a new appreciation for your own family — annoying relatives and all.

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What books do you read to escape? Suggestions welcome!

Happy reading!
-L

Check back for the final installment of What to read this holiday season.
{Family | Escape | Holiday Cheer}

In case you missed it, here is What to Read, Part One.