Friday, February 26, 2010


Part Two of my Skype  interview with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh.  If you missed part, one follow the link and get caught up on Mark’s views on queries.

Part Two of my interview with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh focuses on the market.

Me: “I’ve written a couple folktales and was wondering how marketable they are.”

Mark: “I’m assuming you’re referring to folktales in picture book format. Picture books, in general, are a hard sell right now, and folktales are not as sellable as they were in the 90’s. You might query a small house. Schools still buy folktales, but the major houses aren’t selling to school like they were fifteen years ago. If the current administration pumps money into schools and libraries as they are promising, like they did in the 60’s under Lyndon Johnson, it would affect the publishing industry. But right now the consumers are kids and they don’t have as much disposable income as they did five years ago.”

Me: “What do you think about EBooks?”

Mark: “EBooks are going to revolutionize the industry, and I do think do for publishing what ITunes did for the music industry. Anyone interested in being a writer needs to follow the digital revolution closely.”

Me: “Do agents look at small market publishers?”

Mark: “It depends on the material. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.”

Me: “Do agents try to maintain contacts with editors at all houses or do they cultivate relationships at specific houses?”

Mark: “A smart agent tries to get to know every major publishing house. I’ve worked many publishing houses. I’ve been in the business for over 10 years, and I’ve lived in New York for almost twenty. You get to know people. New York is a big city that works like a small town and publishing is like a gated community in that small town. It’s not so hard to get to know people.”

Me: “As a former teacher and Golden Books editor, do you gravitate to picture books or pull back from them because of the current market?”

Mark: “I’m very selective about picture books. There will be resurgence, but right now I have to be selective when bringing picture book writers on board.”

Me: (All doom and gloom) “So I’ve written a historical fiction picture book, should I just hang it up?”

Mark: “No, not at all. Just do your homework. First, make sure the topic hasn’t been covered too extensively. For example, MARTIN’S BIG WORDS is a gorgeous picture book and in many ways the go-to book when classrooms are studying Martin Luther King, Jr. The house that published MARTIN’S BIG WORDS probably wouldn’t publish another Martin Luther King, Jr. book because it would detract from the sales of this gorgeous book that continues to do well. You have to give publishers something new and of interest.”

Me: (Big smile) “If God or Heaven are mentioned in a picture book, does that make it only marketable in the Christian market?”

Mark: “It depends on the taste and interest of the editor and much those topics are discussed. There are so many picture books of prayers for children that are perfectly marketable.”

Me: (Huge smile!  I had a great vidoe chat with Mark.  I truly learned a lot about queries and about the current market.)

I truly appreciated the opportunity to talk with Mark. Often, as writers we get the sense that agents are sitting on pedestals looking down on us. My Skype chat with Mark helped me see that agents are people too. They are not just their jobs…Just like we are not just writers. What we do plays a part in who we are, but hopefully we are more than just what we put on paper. If you missed out on Mark’s Fifteen Minutes Contest , he’ll be having another one during the first week in April, so make sure you keep an eye on his blog.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Literary Agent, Mark McVeigh sat down with me via Skype  and answered my extensive list of questions. Mark gave me permission to share our discussion with you, my blog friends. (A word of advice…Practice using Skype several times before you talk to an agent. I got into a bit of a tizzy when I could see and hear Mark, but he couldn’t hear me. I do have to smile when I think of him holding up a sign that said “Volume.”)

Mark taught elementary school, in Brooklyn, from 1993-1997. He then went to work for Golden Books as an editorial assistant. Mark has written many books for young reader, almost all under pen names. He worked in editorial positions for eleven years before he switched roles and opened his own literary agency. The McVeigh Agency  is a boutique literary agency handling writers, illustrators, photographers, and graphic novelists for both the adult and children’s markets. Mark recently joined the blogging community. If you haven’t had the opportunity to hop over there and become a follower, now is as good of time as any…but be sure to come back and read my Skype interview with Mark.

In Part One of my interview with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh I’m going to address the issue of query letters…

Me: “Mark, do funny query letters work?”

Mark: “What makes a good query letters is very subjective. I like them to read as if the author is writing to a lawyer, very direct and clear; only including materials relevant to the manuscript you are submitting. The first paragraph should be brief and about yourself. Are you a librarian, a teacher, or something that relates to the manuscript? Do you work with kids? The second paragraph is your pitch. Imagine you have six seconds to tell me about your book, and write your pitch that way. NO RAMBLING! Mention the setting, the main character, the conflict, and the resolution. If you can fit it in, make a comparison to something currently popular in the media. For example, I think Modern Family is hilarious, say I got a query that said the main character had a similar voice to the oldest daughter in Modern Family, I’ll want to see it. The third paragraph should be 75-100 word synopsis of your manuscript. That’s about it. Anything else isn’t really necessary. People often describe their motivations for writing the manuscript. I don’t think that’s helpful.”

Me: “Should you include National Reading Standards if you know they fit your manuscript.”

Mark: “You can, but be brief.”

Me: “Should you send a thank you to an agent after a response to your query or is it just more mail in their inbox?”

Mark: “I prefer it when people close their business correspondence with ‘Thank You’ in advance. A follow up email or letter uses up time I could be spending with manuscripts.”

Me: “One agent I queried suggested I submit a manuscript to a specific editor at a specific publishing house. Should I send him a thank you for that suggestion?”

Mark: “I don’t think so. Only send him a thank you if the editor expresses an interest in that manuscript. Then email the agent, specifically thanking him for pointing you in the right direction and letting him know that the editor requested to see your manuscript. The agent will store this information, in his mind, for future contact he might have with you.”

Me: “When you receive a query, do you Google the potential client?”

Mark: “I don’t Google them, but if they say they are a published author I look on Amazon for their book, and then Publisher’s Marketplace to look up the publishing house, if I haven’t heard of it.”

Me: “Do contests and magazine articles listed in a query impress agents?”

Mark: “Unless you won a big contest, run by a publishing house, I wouldn’t necessarily put it in a query. Don’t put anything in the query unless it relates to what you are submitting, or your platform.”

Me: “That leads right to my next question. What is a platform?”

Mark: “A platform is any media based entity you have that puts you out there for people to read or experience in some way. It could be a blog, a local radio chat, contacts you have with the media, even Twitter. You should be tweeting.”

Me: “I’m glad I caught your Tweet. It landed me this opportunity to visit with you. But Twitter is something I have to get better at.”

Me: “How do you pitch yourself to an agent verses pitching a project?”

Mark: “You don’t pitch yourself, you pitch your manuscript. An agent chooses clients based on the book they are presenting. That said, I do look for clients who have ideas for more than one book in them.”

Cynthia Smith  interviewed Mark in 2009. She asked him who would be a dream client. Mark said, “Someone who has both a voice and a message, is willing to work at both their craft and the business of publishing, and knows it takes time to build a career.”

Mark is a genuinely nice guy.  Hop over to his blog , become a follower, then hop over to his website and read his submission guidelines .

I hope you'll come back tomorrow when I’ll be posting the rest of my interview with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


HMMMM...Isn't that what we all want to know?

What’s Bill going to do about his pregnant ex-girlfriend? Can Jon and Elizabeth’s marriage survive this scandal? Will Katelyn win American Idol? Who is going to the NCAA tournament this year? When will the war be over? Is all the relief money getting to the people of Haiti? We’re all waiting to see what is going to happen next.

Why do you read other people’s blogs? Is it so you can find out what is going to happen next in the blog writer’s life? Do you read blogs to find out about people’s daily lives? I’m sure you don’t care if the dishes are done or not. (done) Or do you read them to see what a writer’s life is truly like? Mine is full of highs and lows. Almosts and not quites… Do the not quites make me doubt myself, no not really. They make me push a little harder. Read a little more. Research more. Write a lot more.

Do you read to try and figure out whether the blog writer is kind, snarky, an introvert, an extrovert, funny, or demure? I wonder what you think of me…I know what I think of my readers. My readers are genuinely caring people. They put thought and effort into their comments, which lets me know something about their character. When they come back again and again it says something else about their character.

MY NEWS: Today was my Fifteen Minutes with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh! I’ll be posting our chat in two segments later this week. Mark is going to email me some photographs to post. He is such a nice guy. If you haven’t joined his blog, please hop over and give it a whirl.

Also, I can’t tell you how cool Skype is. If you have a webcam, download Skype for free and have video phone calls for free. I’m going to harass The WAD until they are all on Skype. It is wonderful to see their faces when you are talking; it makes the miles not seem like it's so many.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Twitter, blog, fb, and Skype (Yes, I’m using it as a verb.)

QUESTION OF THE DAY? What causes you click on a commenter’s name, read their profile, link over to their blog and join then join it?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I was about half way through BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE by Katie Alender when I went to bed last night. I thought I would read a chapter or two and then fall asleep. Well, let me tell you… when I finished the book at 3:30a.m. I was freaked out! I went to sleep, but woke up three times in my three hours sleep. That was one scary book. (I almost wrote movie.)

Do you read scary YA? What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Did it give you nightmares?

Do you write scary YA? I tried writing a scary story once…I had to stop…it was freaking me out.

Life tip of the day: Don’t read really scary stories late at night!

Writing tip of the day: Keep a sticky note and a pen handy when you are reading. Study the books you read. Take notes…

My blog friends over at Shooting Star are two people away from being able to celebrate their 500th follower, so if you are so inclinded, hop over and join their blog.  They are having a great contest!


I’d like to give a “shout out” to ten of my special blog friends and the marvelous Mark McVeigh.

Thursday night Agent Mark McVeigh announced a contest on Twitter. If you joined his (new) blog and convinced ten friends to become followers he would grant you a fifteen minute Skype chat or a phone call. After the first seven commenters (which included five of my blog friends and me), Mark granted eight of us fifteen minutes with him. I would like to thank: Kelly, Shelley, Susan, Just Joany, Old Kitty, DL Hammons, Amy, Suzette, Jackee and Judith. I’d also like to thank Mark for this opportunity. He was pushing Skype (pretty hard), so I did it…I got a webcam and joined the 21st Century.

Skype is actually pretty fun. Tonight, after I ironed out the kinks, I chatted via Skype with writing buddy Susan Fields. Thanks to Mark, I know of six new Skype customers. Skype is FREE and EASY to use! If you don’t have a webcam, I just bought a middle-of-the-line one at an unnamed large electronics store for about $35.

If you missed Mark’s contest, never fear…He will be holding another one during the first week of April. So go, follow him, read his wise and often humorous words and wait for the next opportunity to visit with him.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Try new social networks and technology…You never know when they might lead YOU to something marvelous.

QUESTION FOR THE DAY: What social networks do you use and which ones do you use the most?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

15 Minutes With Mark McVeigh...

Okay, my friends...I need ten of you to follow the McVeigh Agencies blog in my name....

If ten people become followers because of me, I'll get a 15 minute phone call about anything publishing.  Oh you know what...You can ask ten people to follow him too and then you'll get a call.  :)  I don't know what I'd ask him if I had the chance, but I'm sure I'll think of something. 

Thanks in advance.  :)  Will you let me know if you become a follower because of me, please?

PART TWO...I'M BACK...(Have you noticed I love using...s?)

Half Moon Cay was the best part of our trip to the Bahamas!  The sand was white and had the consistency of powdered sugar.  It did not get hot and we were barefoot on the island for most of the day.  This island is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines.  We took a boat from the ship over to the island.  Katherine and I walked the length of the beach.  It was drop dead gorgeous!  We walked until we came to a sign that prohibited us from climbing on the rocks at the end of the beach.  On our way back we saw lots of little white fish swimming in the surf.  We were served a lovely lunch, they even had veggie burgers for Katherine and I.  Lots of fresh fruit garnished the table and lovely cakes to top off the meal.  Walt and Katherine then played volleyball for about two hours.  It really didn't matter that the seas were too rough for our excursion.  This island paradise was the best part of our trip!

Now I have some awards to present...
This Sweet Friend Award goes to Susan Fields.  She's fairly new to blogging, but not to writing.  She has completed two awesome novels, a beginning chapter book mystery and several shorter stories.  I hope you will check out Susan's blog.  She is a dear friend and a talented writer.

I'm also presenting this award to my dear virtual friend Buffy.  Buffy is a full time newspaper writer and a novelist on the side.  Her mg novel ELLA'S DANCE is a wonderful tear jerker.  She is definitely worth checking out.

The third Sweet Friends Award goes to Kelly. Kelly has to be one of the happiest bloggers around.  She is always positive and has the best smile on the web!  So for a good dose of happiness check out Kelly's blog.

This next award goes to a new blog friend.  It's hard to find picture book writers in blog land.  Shelley Moore Thomas has numerous picture books on the market and got them there without an agent.  Her blog is wonderful and she has a great marketing technique.  I hope you will check out her Kingdom. 

I'd also like to present this award to Judith Coughlin.  Judith is a multi-cultural writer and has a great blog.  She shares her thoughts and occasionally a good recipe.  Judith has a very cheery blog and I hope you will hop over and see why I read it.

Lastly, I present Jill Kemerer this Creative Writer Award.  Jill is a romance writer with a sweet blog.  She's a lovely person and you will be a better person for reading her blog.

Susan, Buffy, Kelly, Shelley, Judith and Jill I charge you with telling me ten things that make you happy.  You can do it in my comments or on your blog (or you can totally ignore my charge).

I think this is a really fun award, because the recipient has to list ten honest things about themselves, so I chose Suzette over at Shoot Stars and Sharon at Bookish Blonde.  I think both of them are great characters and I hope you will check them out.  (FYI...Sharon writes for grown ups.)  Ladies, you can tell us ten truths about yourselves either in my comments or on your blog (or you can totally ignore my plea to get to know you better).

I do hope all of you will hop over and check out some of my favorite (and new favorite in the case of Shelley) blogs.  I will back to "normal" or as close as I get to it tomorrow.  Have a great evening!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


...still trying to get my land legs under me… Something about a week at sea in the Bahamas made me a little too relaxed. I’m having trouble getting back into the swing of things. I’ve been busy reading blogs, hoping to find my muse, but I’m still searching…

While I’ve been away some wonderful people gave me some awards…I feel honored that these talented people took time out of their day to give me a pat on the back. That’s what blog awards are aren’t they…Awards are our little of way saying we like each other’s words, thoughts, sentiments, sense of humor, or the way they inspire us to be better writers or better people.

Shannon at Book Dreaming is an amazing person. She is so good at encouraging all of us in the blog world. If you haven’t been to visit Shannon yet, hop over! She is celebrating having over 200 followers with an awesome contest.

Karen at I’m Always Write is such a sweetie. I met her when she entered and won a contest I ran. Then I entered her contest and won. Today I read her post and discovered the snow in Maryland is deeper than she is tall. Hop over to her blog and help her hit the 100 mark. Karen has 99 followers as of 7:50 CST today.

Shannon and Karen both said I have to share ten things that make me happy…

1. My daughter

2. My husband

3. Reading

4. Traveling

5. The rest of my family (the ones I don’t live with)

6. Our pets

7. Having an office to write in

8. Wonderful friends

9. An awesome critique group

10. Having the opportunity to stay home and pursue my dreams of being a size seven again and writing a book.

D.L. over at Cruising Altitude is one awesome writer. I had no idea how good until I read an excerpt of his novel SLOW DANCER. I hope you will visit his blog and read his male POV YA post….Good stuff! Now I’m supposed to tell ten honest things about myself….YIKES!

1. I sneak coffee with caffeine in it, daily.

2. I dance when no one is looking.

3. When I was 10, I stole a box of chocolate covered cherries from my Mum (one at a time). Yes, I got caught. I’ve never been that devious.

4. I am English. I’ve been in the States since I was 8, but am not a citizen.

5. Eating cold pizza is one of my favorite breakfast foods.

6. I am a reality TV junky.

7. I love Tom Cruise movies.

8. I want to win a Caldecott…(I know...who doesn’t?)

9. The first thing I’m going to do when I sell a book is to hire a housekeeper.

10. I wish that pizza was calorie free, so I could eat it every day.

Tracy over at Crossing Chalk honored me with the Silver Lining Award. Sadly, I couldn’t copy and paste it. Tracy is one serious dude! He’s a teacher, a husband, a father (and soon to be a dad for a second time), a coach, and a writer. I’m amazed he has time to blog let alone write novels. I hope you’ll hop over and read a bit of his work.

Thank you guys so much! Tomorrow, I’ll be back with some life management tips and I'll be passing these awards on to worthy bloggers.  (Put on sun screen when you are in the Bahamas, even if you never take your cover up off.)

Friday, February 5, 2010


This is the third installment of my Life Management series. If you missed session one or two, follow the links to catch up.

What is important to you? What must be done immediately? What can wait? What can you skip? If you set up a regular daily schedule you will be more productive. Make time each day to determine what must be done and what items are not as important. Your scheduling time could be done before bed or first thing in the morning. (I do mine in the morning.)

1. Write out your daily schedule.

2. List all the things you must do.

3. List all the things you would like to do.

4. Rank each item. (I rank mine in groups. Example A-urgent, B- important but not mandatory to complete today, C-like to do, but no big deal if it doesn’t get done.)

5. As you go through the day, go back to your list and put a check by each item as you complete it.

You’ll be more productive and have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Obviously, you are not going to get to all of your B’s or C’s. So you transfer them to the next day’s schedule and re-rank them.

Assume you’ve been following your schedule and your life is now more organized. Your self-esteem and productivity are riding high. But then…

A friend calls and asks you to join a committee. What do you do? She’s your friend. It’s for her favorite cause.

First, is the cause important to you? What are you willing to stop doing in order to put this new activity in your schedule? Every time you insert something new into your schedule, you must eliminate something else…otherwise you will become overloaded and in turn be unable to do what’s already on your schedule.

The last tip of the day…Only do things once.

Little things that add up to wasted time. I get the mail and read the envelopes as I walk in. I open what is urgent, and then put it on the counter. The next day, I sort it into junk, bills, financial stuff or letters that need responses. I then put it in the bill pile, the banking pile, the trash/recycling, or on my schedule for me to deal with in the future. I have now touched the mail three times and haven’t dealt with anything except the junk mail. A better plan is to bring in the mail, sort immediately and get rid of the junk, file the banking information, put bills in the bill pile and deal with any other mail immediately.

Other example of wasted time are: bringing in the shopping and not putting it away immediately, not putting laundry away as soon as it is folded and ironed, reading emails and not deleting or dealing with them immediately.

In review:

1. Create a daily schedule and stick to it.

2. When you add something in your schedule, delete something else.

3. Don’t waste time by doing things more than once.

Now that I’m on a formal (written) schedule, I’m getting more accomplished, both in writing and homemaking.

Are you willing to try any of my tips? Do you have an organizational tip to share? (I’ll be unplugged for the next 8 days.) Have a great weekend and week.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


THE NEW BABY NAME SURVEY by Bruce Lansky is one of my favorite resource books. It has approximately 2,000 names in it. It gives you the name’s origin, meaning, famous people with that name, and what people think when they hear that name.

Example: Sharon (Hebrew) desert plain. Image: It’s hard to put your finger on Sharon’s personality. People aren’t sure if she’s a crabby arrogant perfectionist, a fun-loving and outgoing adventurer, or a sweet and soft-spoken introvert. People tend to agree, however, that Sharon is a middle-aged woman who’s busty, homely, and dowdy. (I take great offense to this last sentence…)

Famous Namesakes: Actress Sharon Stone; actress Sharon Tate; personality Sharon Osbourne, actress Sharon Case.

The RHYMING DICTIONARY contains over 40,000 words. You look up a word ending sound and this wonderful little book gives you lots of options.

Example: look up the word fun in the index, it tells you to go to reference number 259 –un

259 –un bun, dun, done, fun, gun, Hun, none, nun, pun, spun, run, son, sun, sunn (East Indian plant), shun, ton, tonne, tun, stun, one, won

Undone, outdone, begun, handgun, popgun, shotgun, outgun, Falun (Swedish city), Cholon (South Vietnamese city), homespun, finespun, rerun, forerun, millrun, outrun, godson, grandson, stepson, Fushun (Chinese city), someone.

The CHILDREN’S WRITER’S WORD BOOK is jam-packed full of lists grouped by grade levels. Another fun feature is the thesaurus of listed words, along with reading level synonyms, and advice on word usage.

Example: fun

Fun (K): cheer (3rd), delight (3rd), jest (4th), mirth (5th), play (K), pleasure (2nd), recreation (5th), sport (1st)

Do you have a favorite resource book?  Do you have any of my favorite books?  Did you notice all the boldfaced words?  What do you think they mean?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Establishing your character’s voice and carrying it through your entire manuscript can be tricky… How old is your main character? Where does he/she live? What is his/her socio-economic background? Does your character use complete sentences? What about correct grammar? Does he/she have a favorite word or phrase? Yesterday, I posted about my new favorite phrase: DON’T BE A SOUR CRACKER. Would your MC say that? I’m posting a short chapter from a beginning chapter book I’m working on…

Based on this chapter, what can you tell about David (the main character)? If you have a suggestion for a better name for my mc, I’m open to suggestions…

Chapter 3
Going in Debt

On the first day of summer vacation David asked, “Mom, can I borrow two dollars? I wanna go swimming with Tyler and I need snack money.”

“What happened to your allowance?” Mom asked.

“I took it to school yesterday. It must’ve fallen out of my pocket, cause when I got home it wasn’t there,” David said. “I promise I’ll do two dollars worth of chores when I get back from the pool.”

“Well, I guess it is the first day of summer vacation. I’ll expect you to do some chores when you get home, okay?”

“Sure, Mom, I promise I will.” David put his right hand over his heart.

David got his pool pass, a towel and two dollars and then left to meet Tyler.

The sun was bright, the sky was blue and the temperature was just perfect for swimming. David and Tyler swam and hung out at the pool all afternoon. David had a hot dog, chips and an orange soda for lunch. It was exactly two dollars. Tyler brought his lunch from home.

At 3:00 Tyler said, “I’m going to get a snack, what about you David?”

“I don’t have any money left.” David shrugged his shoulders, pulled out his empty pockets and looked at the ground.

“I’ll lend you some. I have three dollars.”

“That’s why you are my BFF. I’ll pay you back as soon as I do chores for Mom and get paid.”

Tyler got a fifty cent Kit Kat bar. David got nachos for a dollar fifty.

Tyler and David stayed at the pool until the life guards made them leave at closing time.

On the way home David said, “Let’s go swimming tomorrow, Tyler.”

“I can’t,” said Tyler. “I don’t have enough money left.”

David smiled and patted Tyler on the back., “Don’t worry, I’ll be able to pay back at least part of the money tomorrow.”

“Well, maybe I can go.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010






Isn't it beautiful!

My favorite new phrase is:


Do you have a favorite phrase?  If not, use mine in a sentence...

Sunday, January 31, 2010


This is a segment TWO in my Life Management tips….

Have you thought about what you want people to say about you when you are gone? I’m not talking about vacation…I’m talking about your obituary.

There are probably three groups of people who will miss you: your family, your friends, and your co-workers. What would you like each group to say about you? I’ve been thinking about this. It might mean I need to do something different so these people will feel the way I want them to feel about me…It might mean working on myself...


Family: Sharon loved us. She was a devoted Mom. She helped her husband advance his career and loved him until the day she died. She tried to live her life in a manner that would make God proud.  She could be serious or silly, whatever the occassion required.  She was strong when our family went through hard times. She was a supportive sister and was good to her parents.

Friends: Sharon was fun to be around. She knew how to put on an event. I always left her parties feeling like I was the guest of honor. She was a great listener. She knew when to listen and  when to give advice.   She always remembered to say thank you and she always did favors without expecting anything in return.

Co-workers (including blogging friends) and former students: She inspired me be more than I thought I could be. She always was happy for other people’s successes. She never stopped being my friend, even when she moved away. She was always thinking of me…Out of the blue I’d get an email with a suggestion related to what I was writing, studying or doing in my classroom.

Cats: Who’s Sharon and where's my dinner?

Dog: Who’s gonna take a nap with me in the afternoon?

(Yep, I’ve got room to work.)

Don’t rush into posting a comment. This maybe something you just want to think about it and keep to yourself. The point of the post isLIVE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE REMEMERED. If I haven’t been there for you, yet, I’ll do better…Life is too short to have regrets.