Writing

The Business Of Author-Agent Relationship in Writing And Publishing

Today, at Mixed-Up Files, we discuss the business of author-agent relationships.

Behind every successful novel, the author-agent team works together for months and years to turn an idea into a finished product that the editor and the reader will love.

Author Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez  and Agent Linda Camacho talk about how their enthusiasm to place a good book in the hands of readers propelled their relationship.

Suma:  Yamile, your novel On These Magic Shores will be published by Lee & Low/Tu Books in 2020. You also won the New Visions Honor Award for this manuscript in 2015. Although, it was one of your earliest novels, it was not the one that first sold. Tell us more about your journey with this novel, how you first got published, and what kept you motivated to keep writing?

Yamile: On These Magic Shores has been growing from the moment Minerva Miranda walked into my mind in 2014 until it turned into my love letter for the child I once was, a child with a lot of responsibilities but who still wanted to do all the things we associate with childhood. When I started writing it, I didn’t envision how deep into this character and her journey to reclaim her childhood I’d go. It’s amazing to see my growth as a writer as I see the growth of this story. Since it took such a long time for this story to finally be accepted for publication, I worked on different things in between revisions. When I won the New Visions Honor I was just starting my MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. While I was in the program I had the opportunity to try my hand at genres or age groups I’d never tried before, like picture books and poetry. In between semesters I wrote a poem for my children, which later I shared at my graduate reading. The public’s reaction was so strong and positive that I submitted my poem to my agent, believing it would be a wonderful picture book but not expecting much to happen from that. To my surprise, the story resonated with my agent and then several editors she shared it with. WHERE ARE YOU FROM? sold at action and it will be published by HarperCollins on June 4, 2019. After this contract, my agent and I have signed many others for middle grade and young adult novels, and I’m also a contributor in several anthologies. My publishing journey hasn’t been a straight line of overnight success, but the result of years of working on my craft, a wonderful team by my side, and a little fairy dust for good luck.

 

Suma: How do you balance your family responsibilities and your writing deadlines?

Yamile: Writing is my full time job, and I have a big family composed of five children, several animals, and a husband with a very demanding job. Like his job, writing is also very demanding, so my husband and I are equal partners in taking care of our family and home, and supporting each other in our professional endeavors. My writing time is sacred, just as time with my children is sacred. But we make it work one day at a time.

 

Suma: What advice would you give to writers facing rejections?

Yamile: My advice is twofold: keep writing and remember the why. My journey until I met my agent was also a long road paved with rejection notes, but in the end, I knew that if I stayed true to my voice, I’d find the right agent. And I did.
The novel my agent signed me with never sold, and I’m grateful that she was interested in my career as a whole and not just a book. My mind is always bubbling with ideas, so by the time the rejections start arriving, I’m already invested in a new story. Because ultimately I didn’t start writing for publication or acclaim. I started writing with a desire to share my vision of the world and to connect with the child living inside me, to hopefully connect with a child reader who could see themselves in the words that come out of my heart. Publishing and writing are such separate elements. Remember why you’re doing this, and pick up your pen, or open the laptop and write.

 

Suma: Linda, what impressed you about Yamile and her work when you took her on as a client? How would you describe your relationship with Yamile from the beginning to where you are now?

Linda: It’s all in the voice, really. Yamile’s writing has a beautiful, distinctive voice that comes from a genuine place, somewhere that’s as authentic as the creator herself is.

In terms of our relationship, while I’ve been in publishing for about fourteen years now, I was new to agenting when Yamile signed with me several years ago. I’m fortunate that she took a chance on me then, and I think it’s pretty special that we’re growing and learning together as the years pass.

 

Suma: What is the best line from a query letter or a manuscript or proposal that you read that made you want to sign the author right away?

Linda: Oh wow, that’s a tough one, since I’m the absolute worst at picking the best anything! This makes me think of Yamile’s picture book Where Are You From, actually. When I signed Yamile, I’d signed her on the basis of a middle grade manuscript. And I knew she was interested in writing young adult as well. Then one day she said she had a picture book manuscript and I was a tiny bit afraid, lol, since I had no idea if it would be any good. Needless to say, it was amazing. I read it, cried a little, then went out with it without editing it at all–It was that terrific. It went to auction and is now coming out from HarperCollins this June. Where Are YourFrom is about a little girl who gets asked where she’s from, so she turns to her grandfather for an answer. This is a line from it: You’re from hurricanes and dark storms, and a tiny singing frog that calls the island people home when the sun goes to sleep. Yamile’s writing is so lyrical and lovely and, above all, memorable.

 

Suma: What advice would you give to agents facing rejections?

Linda: As someone who experience rejections pretty much every day, I know it’s tough, but I would tell them to take heart. We took on a project for a reason and we have to keep the faith that if we keep submitting, the right editor will fall in love with it. And if not, then it’ll happen for the next one. The only way to get there, though, is to keep at it. Just like creatives do.

 

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American who loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s also a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Writing for Children’s and Young Adult program. She’s a PB, MG, and YA author. Yamile is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx MG and YA authors. She’s represented by Linda Camacho at Gallt & Zacker Literary. You can find her online here and here.

Linda Camacho was always a fan of escaping into a good book, so the fact that she gets to make it her career is still surreal. She graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Communication and has seen many sides of the industry. She’s held various positions at Penguin Random House, Dorchester, Simon and Schuster, and Writers House literary agency until she ventured into agenting at Prospect. She’s done everything from foreign rights to editorial to marketing to operations, so it was amazing to see how all the departments worked together to bring books to life. Somewhere in between all that (and little sleep), Linda received her MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Now at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, Linda continues to work with colleagues and clients who inspire her every day in both the children’s and adult categories. You can find her online here and here.

STEM Tuesday All About Conservation- Writing Craft and Resources

 

Maps & Footprints

(Author’s Note: I recently read an estimated 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist in 2018. That’s only twelve years from now. 12 years! Today’s elementary students and those kids who aren’t even in school yet will face a whole new world and workplace. The way we raise, teach, and prepare the future adults of 2030 must also shift as we bridge the gap between the industrial age and the digital age. Conservation will occupy a fundamental piece in this shift and STEAM will have to rise to the forefront to meet the challenges. Think STEAM literacy and philosophy are important now? Over the next decade, they will become considerably more vital to the education of our young minds. The future that rests in the hands of the kids out in the playground today depends on how we manage our limited resources. We need STEAM thinkers and we need to crank up their STEAM education. It’s up to us to make sure they are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. 12 years will be here in the blink of an eye.)

There are two ways of looking at conservation. Conservation from an ecological point of view means we work to preserve our resources. Animals, plants, land, soil, materials, culture, etc. are generally the common resources targeted by conservationists. In the majority of these cases, these projects are undertaken for either efficiency or ethical reasons. For example, plant and agricultural scientists look to protect the biodiversity of existing foodstuffs by preserving seed varieties deep under the ice, such as at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The second way to look at conservation is through the physical science lens—the nuts and bolts science that underlies the way our world works. Conservation of mass, energy, and momentum all state that some property (matter, energy, momentum) in an isolated system doesn’t change over time. The old “matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed” principle many can probably recite in their sleep.

Conservation of a system

Our world is an interconnected system. Planet Earth is an isolated system, but we are not isolated within the system. One of the most important thought shifts, as we move forward in the field of conservation, will be to recognize interconnected systems and how the pieces and parts of the system function together.

  • How does protecting this one factor affect the entire system?
  • How does one behavior cascade down, around, over, under, or through the behavior and well-being of others?

Take an electric car in the year 2018 as an example. Big environmental impact? Not as much as you might think. Sure the emissions are down, which is great.

But how was that electricity generated? Fossil fuels or solar or wind or hydroelectric?

As you can see, the system matters. The conservation issues, both the ecological and the physical parts, must be studied for the entire system in order to develop long-term and successful solutions.

In order to develop long-term solutions to our local and global conservation issues, we need to develop system thinkers. Problem solvers who are able to attack problems from a systemic approach and look at all the parts of the whole.

In short, we as parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and scientists need to develop STEAM thinkers!

Maps

Last month, Heather gave us an excellent exercise for making sound maps. I like this exercise both as a writer and as a scientist. It’s a simple, easy, take-it-anywhere method to develop observational skills. This month for a conservation slant, work those observational muscles by repeating the sound map exercise several different times at several different places/locations (Preferably completely different places, like a park, a busy intersection, a mall, a sports event, a pasture). To this map, add additional details of the system. People, cars, workers, stop lights, animals, weather…whatever interacts with this small system you are observing in the time in which you are observing.

Footprints

Take your detailed map from the above exercise and think about all the observations that were recorded in that system. Now the fun part. Make a list of those moving or static interacting parts and consider the ecological or physical footprint of those parts within your mapped system.

  • How are energy and mass being incorporated in this system?
  • What story do they tell?
  • What are some of the reaching effects happening in this system?

Here’s a quick example from what’s going on outside the laboratory today with a construction crew patching potholes on a busy street leading into a high traffic flow intersection.

  • What effect does the construction have on the traffic flow? Traffic congestion.
  • How does the intersection system benefit when the construction crew is finished? Improved traffic flow and increased safety due to the poor quality of the road causing vehicles to swerve out of the way of monster pothole leading into the busy intersection.
  • What’s the economic impact of the work? The workers make money which they spend at local businesses. They patch that monster pothole and save potential repair costs on hundreds of vehicles that pass that way every hour. The area businesses around the intersection may experience a temporary lull in business due to the construction which will return to normal quickly.
  • What’s their environmental impact? The trucks and asphalt produce harmful emissions in their use and disposal but traffic flows smoother which allows travelers to reach their destinations within the system more efficiently.

Thinking Points

What are points to consider as conservation efforts move forward taking into account the systemic effects?

Laws of supply and demand. The economics of conservation is perhaps the single most important force either blocking or promoting conservation efforts. Economics from both the supply side and the demand side are important pieces of the puzzle that need respect and consideration in the solutions

Management and design. Great strides have been taken over the past few decades in these facets of conservation. Smarter buildings, transportation systems, and energy production have made and will make a difference. But these things take time and money so patience and persistence are important.

Saving the planet vs saving ourselves. We need to get a little selfish but in a smart way. Conservation, at its core, is about us protecting the things important to our survival and wellness as a species. Our needs, our values, and our histories all matter. The planet will probably be here long after we’re gone, let’s make sure we don’t force ourselves out before our time.

Conclusion

Matter and energy in a finite system are neither created or destroyed. This is something we’ve been taught in about every physical science class since our latter elementary school days. We’ve heard it so many times, we probably don’t even consider its power and its importance in the field of conservation. Perhaps, it’s time for the Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy to step outside the classroom and into the minds of every action we take.

In a finite system, we only have so much of a resource so we need responsible and system-sensitive solutions to conserve and/or replenish these resources. We need a STEAM generation that understands the systems and can develop solutions to improve conservation with the entire system in mind.

The goal is to develop a STEM/STEAM generation that pays attention and understands their maps and their footprints.

 

Indosylvirana urbis, the Urban Golden-backed Frog resting in the pink colored boat-shaped bract of the Curcuma angustifolia (East Indian Arrowroot) flower.

 


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at conservation from several different angles, including systems, space, art, failures, and the laws of conservation.


 By MIKE HAYS

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports-related topics at coachhays.com and writer stuff at mikehaysbooks.com. He can often be found roaming the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

STEM Tuesday Field Work — Writing Craft and Resources

This month we’ve focused on books about scientific field work. What about the field work of a writer? Whether their subject matter is fact or fiction, frogs or fractals, writers have important research to do out in the field.

We all know that sensory details help to create a more engaging read, but how do you craft those sensory details? Research in the field!

 

 

 

 

Here is an exercise to help you with auditory information. It will train you to become more aware of the ever-present sounds around you, will help you gather specific sounds on site, and will strengthen your descriptions of sound qualities.

Creating a Sound Map

The set-up:

  1. Place yourself “in the field.”
  2. On a plain piece of paper draw the largest circle that will fit.
  3. Put a dot in the middle of the circle. The dot represents you. The circle represents the furthest edge of your hearing.

Listen:

  1. When you hear a sound, record it on the map in relationship to the dot and the edge of your hearing.
  2. Record the sound as a word, color, shape or symbol – whatever represents it best.
  3. Try to indicate qualities of the sound: is it loud? moving? staccato? raspy? repeated?

Keep going:

  1. Continue listening until your map is full.
  2. Do you notice any trends in what you have recorded? Are there more human or natural sounds?  Are there more sounds on one side? Why? Were their sounds that surprised you?
  3. Try writing about the sounds of this place in a descriptive paragraph.

Sound maps have become one of my favorite tools for collecting sensory data. Try them in a variety of places and you will grow your ability to enrich your writing about scientific field work.

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are WILD about animals. She reads and writes while high in a tree, standing in a stream, or perched on a mountaintop boulder. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at field work options for young people.

Want science you can do while fishing? Or at the beach? Or in a sports stadium? SciGirl has got you covered!

http://pbskids.org/scigirls/citizen-science

From tracking the seasons through tulips to tracking hummingbird migration, students can get busy collecting data with Journey North.

https://www.learner.org/jnorth/

If you prefer to do field work from the comfort of your living room – or classroom – Zooniverse is for you. Tons of opportunities to help scientists spy on cheetahs, count cute seals, or train an algorithm to detect plastic on beaches.

https://www.zooniverse.org/