From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New posts every Monday and Thursday

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blogging: Have We Heard This All Before?

I've been doing some thinking lately about the best functions and purposes of a blog in current social media trends. I think blogs are just as vital as ever, though perhaps for different reason's than they once were, and I'll get to that. But I can I just complain about it for a second? I could use your guys opinions.

First, blogs just aren't the "thing" anymore. At least that's the impression I'm getting in my web usage. It seems to me that so many users don't have the attention span for even a short blog post anymore, and the new social media sites are reflecting that. We have the quick and visual Instagram over Facebook, and six second Vine videos in addition to YouTube. People don't have the attention for a five paragraph blog essay. (But we do it anyway, right? :)

Mostly though, I'm starting to feel redundant again. I started this blog as a writing blog, and I LOVE talking about writing and hearing about writing and hearing from you guys about your writing projects, and I do want to continue providing as much useful information and tips for you guys about writing that I can. But the thing is, when you've got 600 posts about writing in your archive, you start feeling like you've got nothing new to say. And I know so many of you amazing bloggers have a big chunk even more then that. (Props. Serious props.)

And like I said, I think blogs are still very important. They may not be the go to "thing" anymore, but they still provide one of the best options for what is essentially your internet "home" address. They're the place you can point people. They're your gathering ground.

So now I want to ask you guys. What do you think is the solution? Is this just me being petulant? What other functions do you see for author blogs? 

Sarah Allen

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

What Poetry Does

So I submitted ten pages of poetry to a competition recently and had to include a 200-250 word introduction. So I thought I'd share it with you here, too. Wish me luck!

Introduction:

I have always been jealous of what good actors can do with their faces. I think of the episode of The Office when Jim and Pam are at the hospital. Jim comes out of the hospital room to call a friend at the company picnic to say they’re not coming back. He looks at the camera, wide, shocked eyes starting to tear up, and you know they’ve just figured out that Pam is pregnant. All of this without words. Just faces.

Maybe poetry is just that: language’s facial expression. Maybe poetry is important precisely because there is so much that can’t be put into words.

It is important to dig in to poetry, to put it under the microscope at every angle. This is how you discover poetry’s internal organs. But I think it is also important to skim across the surface of a poem and let it leave you feeling slightly breathless.

My poems are an attempt at leaving the reader with a glimpse of someone’s face, like catching someone looking in at the window. I’ve enjoyed trying this in a variety of forms, including prose poetry. I believe poetry should be, like the best fiction, accessible, and like the best creative non-fiction, vulnerable. Whether based on actual life or an idea of real life, I believe the best poetry leaves you gasping with familiarity.

With this in mind, breathe carefully, but don’t blink.

Sarah Allen

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Monday, April 27, 2015

An Agents Instruction on Query Letters

I learned SO many amazing things at this weekends Las Vegas Writer's Conference. I'll give you guys some of the best stuff I learned over the next few posts.

One workshop, taught by a New York agent, was about what she looks for in query letters. They get dozens a day, guys, and the majority of those they only need about four seconds before they move on. So here's how to get more than those four seconds, according to An Actual Agent.

Make SURE its the right genre. Every agent I've ever talked with says that far and away the number one reason they reject a query is that its for a genre they don't represent. This seems unfortunate to me, because it's such a simple fix. Don't send your YA novel to an agent that doesn't represent YA. Basically, it comes down to doing your homework. A quick trip to the agency website's submission guidelines page can take care of this in a snap. And if you use AgentQuery.com you can even search agents by genre. (Still check their website submission guidelines. Just to be safe.)

Keep it short and clean. Don't have egregious spelling errors in the first sentence. Spell the agent's name right. (And make sure it's addressed to a specific agent. That's an obvious one, right?). And it's best if they can see your entire query on one screen.

Quick particulars right off the bat. An agent has to get through query letters very quickly, and if you give them the right facts in the first paragraph, its easy for them to see that you've done your homework and this is a book that might fit their agency. So in the first paragraph (first sentence even) give them your books title, genre, and word count.

Keep your summary simple. It's almost painful how little information an agent needs about your book in a query. But you're not selling them the book, all you're doing is hooking them. All they need is your books hook, your main character, and the driving action/conflict. This agent suggested avoiding rhetorical questions and instead using a When/Then statement. So for example, "When 15 year old Romeo meets the love of his life at a ball, Then he knows he has to meet her again despite their families generation-long feud." Or, "When 11 year old Harry gets mysterious letters in the mail, then he discovers his odd quirks are actual magical powers that can be trained." Start your pitch that way and then give two to four more sentences about what the main character does and how the conflict resolves, and then sign out. I know it's hard, and I know it means missing out on the incredible sub plot you've written, but seriously. A busy agent will take notice when you respect their crazy schedule.

Why THIS agent? Sign off by giving one or two sentences about why you think THIS specific agent is a good fit. Maybe they represented a similar book you really enjoyed? Or maybe you read a Writers Digest interview about how they really like fairy-tale retellings, and you've got just that? Whatever it is, make it personal.

Minimal bio. Especially with fiction. Basically ALL you need are two things: previous publishing experience and writing awards. Seriously, that's it. Especially if you're writing fiction. The query isn't about you, it's about your book. If you're writing about a circus and you went to clown school, then you can quickly mention that, but the agent REALLY doesn't need to know that your best friend, or even your college creative writing professor, really liked your book.

See how efficiency and simplicity are the keys here? That was my take-away from this particular session. The agent doesn't need to know every aspect of your book, and especially not your life story, all they need is to know is that this is a book they represent, and a story that they might like. Then the book itself does the rest.

Sarah Allen

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

All That Jazz

So our trip was amazing. Seriously amazing. We drove up through the redwoods and got donuts in Portland and went to the Chihuly art museum in Seattle. I still feel like we got away with something.

So now we're back home, and there are a lot of things I'm working on.

I'm moving back to Utah soon for graduate school, but this next month or so is going to be interesting. It's going to give me a chance to work full-time on getting freelance gigs. So I'm working. If I can make this work enough to put me through school...well I just can't think of anything better.

I'm also working on going to the gym every day. Now that I've got so much time of my own.

I'm working on getting ready for this move. If you know how many books I have stuffed in every corner of my bedroom you know how chaotic this is going to be...

I'm getting ready for the Las Vegas Writers Conference this weekend. I am so excited! Anybody gonna be there? Wanna do lunch? I'll let you guys know what I learn at the conference. I went last year and it was so completely worth it.

Anyway, that's me. And all that jazz. I'll leave you with something awesome.


Enjoy!

Sarah

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

When Sourdough Bread Bowls Make You Cry: a Tale of San Francisco

Today was the San Francisco part of our road trip. We were at Disneyland on Tuesday (AMAZING. Like really it's hard for me to even talk about about how much that place means to me, even though I've attempted it multiple times on this blog already) and then we drove north yesterday and spent today exploring San Francisco.

Let me just say, driving around San Francisco is an interesting experience, to put it ridiculously mildly. Especially when there's construction. The hills in this city are absolutely insane. And the architecture and unique color of every different building makes you want to do the obnoxious tourist photo thing with like...every building.

We finally made it to Fisherman's Warf, and then things started easing up. I love Fisherman's Warf. This is also an important place for me and my family, and it was interesting to do all these things here that I haven't done for a decade. By interesting I mean amazing and wonderful and incredibly painful. We passed the puppet shop where my sister and I got into a huge argument, and the weird saddle statues where my seven year old brother took a splits pic, (that one up there is mine in honor of him) and we saw the sea lions, and we went to the crepe place we always go to, and I snapchatted my brothers a picture of Bubba Gump to make them jealous. (I did that with Inoventions at Disneyland too, obviously.)

We also went to some new places, and both felt very adventurous and like we were going off the beaten path. It felt like we were in true San Francisco, and not just touristy San Francisco. We went to the amazing Pirate Shop/Writing Tutor Non-Profit started by Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia. If you are ever in the Bay Area, make sure to go to this place. It's truly hilariously amazing. We walked down Valencia street and found not one, but TWO used book stores that we stopped at, and a really cool chocolate shop called Dandelion Chocolate that had been recommended to us by a Tumblr friend. This is where a bunch of people were on their laptops, writing, and I thought, I want to be a starving artist in San Francisco, living the true bohemian life. Okay not really, but its a romantic idea.


Then of course, we ended the day with sourdough bread bowls and Ghiradelli Square. The sourdough bread bowls really got to me, for some reason. It's one of those things my mom absolutely loves, and I have to not think too much about that or about getting funnel cake at Disneyland or my brothers dancing as we walk past Fantasmic or I could make myself cry on that bench on Pier 39 looking out at the ships. Our bodies are strange things that can be absolutely completely filled with wonder and enthusiasm and excitement and adventure and at the same time, also completely filled with nostalgia and homesickness and just missing your mom so much your stomach hurts. It's just so much muchness in one body, but maybe that's what makes us human.
(Yep, I took a picture of the bread bowl to send to my mom. I am not ashamed.)

Because those sourdough bread bowls definitely weren't making the seagulls teary.

Love you, San Francisco. Mom I wish you were here. I'll see you soon.

Sarah

For more frequent updates, writing tips, and funnies, follow on FacebookTwitterGoogle+
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