Monday, 20 April 2009

Now It Can Be Revealed - I Was Query 43!

The results are in for Nathan's Be An Agent for A Day Contest! Needless to say, I didn't win - but then my goal was never to be an agent, but to be a writer. Well, I am a writer; my goal is to be published.

In picking my five manuscript requests, I invariably went for well-written letters and stories that interested me. Obviously a real agent looks at letters quite differently. And thank goodness for that; I asked: "what about the whole 'can't cram every detail of the plot' into the letter rule - because, invariably, the minute you leave something out, the reader comes back with 'but you didn't explain this aspect, therefore the plot isn't viable, therefore I'm rejecting your manuscript.' Argh! How do you get around that?" and Nathan responded "Readers might do that, but an agent wouldn't. We just need the setup." So that's good to know.

As for Query 43 - yup, that was me! I received 303 comments and Nathan has kindly tabulated my results - the letter as posted had a 16% request rate. Allowing for readers vs agents, I'd say I've got about a 5% chance of receiving a request from a real agent - 5 agents out of 100; to date, I've sent about 50 query letters and received 1 request for a partial.

My goal for the next few weeks will be to revamp ye olde query letter!

My Fill in the Gaps Project

Moonrat has posted a list of 100 books to read by 2015 (Project Fill-in-the-Gaps). Since this fits in with my own ongoing book ban, wherein I try not to buy new books but get cracking on reading the ones I already own, I’m going to put up my own list.

Using similar criteria, my goal is to read the following 180 books, or at least 75% by 1 January 2015. Most of the books on the list are classics, or books that come up on 100 Best Books type of lists, which I’ve never read but pretend I have simply because I’ve read another book or two by the author. For instance, Crime and Punishment by Dostoevksy is usually on such lists, and I pretend to have read it only because I’ve read The Double, Notes from Underground, White Nights, etc. Other books on the list are those that I’ve owned without reading for years – mostly the ones I picked up for free during preparations for the McGill University Book Fair; this includes all the Rabbit books by John Updike.

While Moonrat doesn’t generally read white male authors, this is usually my criteria for books I *do* read, preferring British authors almost exclusively – except for YA, where my lists tend to run to female Canadian authors. But this is neither here nor there – such classifications do more harm than good.

The main method of creating this list is to stand in my library, look around and write down all the books I own but haven’t read. I’ve also taken a handful from Moonrat’s list, because I don’t own those and I want an excuse to buy them (e.g. P. G. Wodehouse :-)) I feel good about my progress already since I’ve read quite a few on Moonrat’s list (but then I’m sure there are many on my list that others have read – please send suggestions and comments)! Especially Marilynne Robinson – if you haven’t read her books yet, please do!

When finished this list, I should have read every book I own, finally (barring a select few in Welsh, Turkish or German, as well as certain text books that were merely skimmed)! I'll add a column on the side to compete with my Books Read list...

“There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more” - The Smiths

Extra books on Amazon Wishlists that I'd like to add to this list: Canada; United States

Without further ado:

1. Austen, Jane Emma
2. Aiken, Henry David The age of ideology: The 19th century philosophers
3. Alcott, Louisa May Good Wives
4. Alcott, Louisa May Old Fashioned Girl
5. Alighieri, Dante The Divine Comedy: Purgatory, Hell and Paradise
6. Andersen, Hans Christian The Complete Tales (two volumes)
7. Aristophanes Clouds
8. Aristotle Ethics
9. Aston, Margaret The Panorama of the Renaissance
10. Auden, W. H. Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957
11. Balzac Top Oynayan Kedi Magazasi
12. Bartlett, Robert Medieval Panorama
13. Beckett, Samuel Endgame and Act Without Words
14. Belloc, Hilaire Cautionary Tales and Other Verses
15. Benchley, Nathaniel The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming
16. Bevan, Tom The Mystery Trail
17. Blyton, Enid The Book of Fairies
18. Boethius The Consolation of Philosophy
19. Boll, Heinrich The End of a Mission
20. Brecht, Bertolt Ausgewahlte Gedichte
21. Brecht, Bertolt The Threepenny Opera
22. Brockmeier, Kevin The Brief History of the Dead
23. Browne, Sir Thomas, M.D. Religio Medici
24. Bunyan, John The Pilgrim's Progress
25. Byatt, A.S. Angels and Insects
26. Byron, Lord George Gordon Selected Letters and Journals
27. Byron, Lord George Gordon The Poetical Works
28. Carl, Sagan Cosmos
29. Carr, Emily This and That
30. Carrier, Roch La Guerre, Yes Sir!
31. Carrier, Roch Mes oeuvres completes
32. Celebi, Evliya
33. Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales
34. Chekhov, Anton Five Great Short Stories
35. Chesterton, G. K. Stories Essays and Poems (Everyman's Library No. 913)
36. Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Was Thursday
37. Chesterton, G. K. The Collected Poems
38. Chesterton, G. K. Heretics
39. Chesterton, G. K. The Secret of Father Brown
40. Chesterton, G. K. Ten Adventures of Father Brown
41. Christie, Agatha Das Geheimnis der Schnallenschuhe
42. Churchill, Winston My Early Life: 1874-1904
43. Cleland, John Fanny Hill: John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
44. Collard Montreal The Days That Are No More
45. Cran, Marion The Garden Of Ignorance The Experiences Of A Woman In A Garden
46. Dali, Salvador Diary of a Genius
47. Darwin, Charles The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life
48. Dickens, Charles The Old Curiosity Shop
49. Dickens, Charles Weihnachts Erzahlungen
50. Dickens, Charles David Copperfield (don’t own yet)
51. Donne, John The Works of John Donne
52. Dostoevsky, Fyodor The Idiot
53. Dostoevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment
54. Dostoevsky, Fyodor The Brothers Karamazov
55. Doyle, Roddy A Star Called Henry, Volume One of The Last Roundup
56. Duncan-Jones, Katherine (ed.) Shakespeare's Life and World
57. Emre, Yunus Turk ve Dunya Klasikleri: Yunus Emre
58. Feiler, Bruce Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses
59. Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Her
60. Findikli, Selma Imbatta Karanfil Kokusu
61. Findley, Timothy Dust to dust: Stories
62. Findley, Timothy The Wars
63. Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Crack Up With Other Pieces And Stories
64. Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary
65. Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion
66. Forest, Antonia End of Term
67. Forester, C. S. The African Queen
68. Forester, C. S. The General
69. Forester, C. S. The Ship
70. Frazer, James George The Golden Bough (abridged)
71. Fuat, Memet Cagdas Turk Siiri Antolojisi (two volumes)
72. Gabaldon, D. Yabanci
73. Gabaldon, D. Der Ruf der Trommel
74. Gaiman, Neil Anansi Boys
75. Gaster, Theodor H. The Dead Sea Scriptures
76. Geck, Martin Johann Sebastian Bach: Life and Work
77. Gide, Andre The Immoralist
78. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von The Sorrows of Young Werther/Die Leiden Des Jungen Werther: Dual-Language Book
79. Green, Roger L.; Hooper, W. King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
80. Gregory, Philippa The Favoured Child
81. Halman, Talat Yunus Emre and His Mystical Poetry
82. Hampden, John Nine selected plays: With commentary and acting roles
83. Hamsun, Knut Dreamers
84. Hamsun, Knut Women at the Pump
85. Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
86. Heyerdahl, Thor Kon-Tiki Man : An Illustrated Biography of Thor Heyerdahl
87. Hibbard, Howard Michelangelo
88. Hikmet, Nazim Bursa Cezaevinden Vanu'lara Mektuplar
89. Hikmet, Nazim Hikayeleri
90. Hoeg, Peter Tales of the Night
91. Homer The Odyssey
92. Homer The Iliad
93. Houghton, Norris (ed.) Great Russian Short Stories
94. Ilgaz, Rifat Hababam Sinifi
95. Ionesco, E. Rhinoceros, The Chairs, The Lesson
96. James, Henry Daisy Miller
97. Kandinsky, Wassily Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Painting in Particular
98. Kemal, Yasar Butun Hikayeleri
99. Kesey, Ken One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
100. King, Stephen Cujo
101. King, Stephen Pet Sematary
102. King, Stephen Bachman Books
103. King, Stephen Four Past Midnight
104. King, Stephen The Dark Half
105. Kingsley, Charles The Water Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby (abridged)
106. Kington, Miles, Ed. The Pick of Punch
107. Kinsella, W. P. The Thrill of the Grass
108. Konigsburg Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World
109. Kulin, Ayse Kopru
110. La Mare, Walter De Stories From The Bible
111. La Mare, Walter De Time Passes and Other Poems
112. Leacock, Stephen Literary Lapses
113. Le Corbusier (biography)
114. L'Engle, Madeleine An Acceptable Time
115. L'Engle, Madeleine The Young Unicorns
116. Lewis, W. H. The Splendid Century
117. Lewis C. All My Road Before Me
118. Lewis C. Boxen
119. Lewycka, Marina A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
120. Lindbergh, Anne Morrow Bring Me a Unicorn
121. Linke, Lilo Allah Dethroned: A Journey Through Modern Turkey
122. Llewellyn, Richard Green, Green My Valley Now
123. Maguire, Gregory Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
124. Maugham, Somerset Of Human Bondage (don’t own yet)
125. MacDonald, George At the Back of the North Wind
126. Machiavelli, Niccolo The Prince
127. MacLennan, Hugh The Watch That Ends the Night
128. MacLennan, Hugh Barometer Rising
129. Magnusson, Magnus The Icelandic Sagas
130. Malory, Sir Thomas Le Morte D'Arthur
131. Mandela, Nelson Long Walk To Freedom (autobiography)
132. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia One Hundred Years of Solitude LP
133. Melville, Herman Moby Dick, (don’t own yet)
134. Miller. Henry Tropic of Cancer (don’t own yet)
135. Milton, John Paradise Lost
136. Milton, John The Poetical Works of John Milton
137. Morris, William The Wood Beyond the World
138. Morris, William The Well at the World’s End
139. Moss, W. Stanley Ill Met by Moonlight
140. Mother Teresa of Calcutta A Gift for God
141. Munro, H. H. The Best of Saki
142. Orwell, George Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters Volume 3. As I Please 1943-1945
143. Orwell, George Inside the Whale and Other Essays
144. Osborne, John Look Back In Anger
145. Ozay, Mahmut Tireli Hafsa Hatun (Yildirim Han Zevcesi)
146. Pamuk, Orhan My Name Is Red
147. Pamuk, Orhan Benim Adim Kirmizi
148. Pamuk, Orhan Istanbul
149. Parker, Dorothy The Portable Dorothy Parker
150. Perrault, Charles Fairy Tales
151. Pinter, Harold The Caretaker
152. Pinter, Harold Plays One
153. Pirandello, Luigi Plays
154. Plato Symposium
155. Plutarch Lives XXI
156. Plutarch Fall of the Roman Republic
157. Poe, Edgar Allan Complete Tales and Poems with Selections from Critical Writings
158. Pope John Paul II The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae)
159. Poulin, Jacques Volkswagen Blues
160. Poulin, Jacques Mr. Blue
161. Rilke, Rainer Maria Poems (Dual Language Edition) (don’t own yet)
162. Rimbaud, Arthur Complete Works
163. Russo, Richard Nobody’s Fool (don’t own yet)
164. Saz, Leyla Imperial Harem of the Sultans
165. Skrypuch, Marsha Daughter of War
166. Souhami Gertrude and Alice
167. Spenser The Faerie Queene Book I
168. Steinbeck, John East of Eden (don’t own yet)
169. Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath (don’t own yet)
170. Stevenson, Robert Louis The Master of Ballantrae
171. Stevenson, Robert Louis Black Arrow
172. Stevenson, Robert Louis The Isle of Voices and Other Stories
173. Thomas, Lewis The Lives of a Cell
174. Tolstoy, Leo War and Peace (don’t own yet)
175. Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina (don’t own yet)
176. Troost, J. Marten Getting Stoned With Savages
177. Wharton, Edith Ethan Frome
178. Wodehouse, P. G. (don’t own yet – any book besides the two I’ve read will do!)
179. En Guzel Turk Hikayeleri
180. Classic Slave Narratives

Friday, 17 April 2009

Katherine Paterson Contest

I read Katherine Paterson's latest, Bread and Roses, Too, last week and loved it. I hope she writes a sequel made up entirely of letters between Rosa and Jake.
Now comes word of a new contest: The inaugural Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult (YA) and Children's Writing in Hunger Mountain, the arts journal of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Deadline is 30 June. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Be An Agent for a Day Continues!

Now the UK press have picked up on Nathan Bransford's Challenge.

Today Nathan asked, if you were an agent how would you handle submissions? I thought I'd be the type to offer personalized comments, but after having done all 50 in one day, I've realised:
a) how much work that would actually involve; and
b) how hard it is to keep it simple if you're personalizing - it's so easy to start a flow of criticim and suggestions, and so very difficult to keep them reined.
I now have much greater sympathy for form rejections.

I also agree with Adam and Nixy's points, and can definitely see how they fit in with, say, Query 43.

In the end, I only "chose" 3 to request a partial from. There were two others - the ones I think came from already-published authors - that I could have chosen, but I'd already rejected them (since I was reading them in order from 1 to 50 and had many more to go) and couldn't retract my rejection. Without the set limit of 5, i.e. if I was a real agent, I would have requested partials from those.

I've been sending out my query letter without a word count, because I'd been told that 90,000 words is a little much for a middle-grade novel. Now, though, I think it might be best if I re-jig the letter to include the word count, but omit Austin's age and call it YA.

Meanwhile, come join the latest Forum House Party!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Be An Agent For A Day

So you're a write and you want to see how the other half lives? Find out why those rejections keep piling up? Enter Nathan Bransford's contest here!

The Spymaster's Lady Needs You!

Jo Bourne's book, THE SPYMASTER'S LADY, is in the championship round for the 2nd Annual DA BWAHA (Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors run by the bloggers at Dear Author and Smart Bitches Trashy Books)!

Vote for her here before the day is out!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Alexandria by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Hermit Crab by Peter Porter (poem)
  • The Hidden Land by Private Irving (poem;
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Managed by Kristen Callihan
  • beta read! (JB)
  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
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