Mónica B.W., Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake, and Krista VanDolzer collaborated to put on a contest called The Writer’s Voice Twitter Pitch Party.
Basically it involved getting on Twitter with some agents who had agreed to participate, and then trying to pitch your book in a message short enough to fit in a tweet. Challenging, eh? ESPECIALLY for someone as wordy as me!
I decided to take the challenge and came up with seven short little tag lines to describe Finding Mulligan. Then I asked my pals on Facebook to vote on them and used the pitch they liked the best. Here were my choices:
- If your two personalities are in love with different guys, does that count as two-timing?
- Falling in love with the guy of your dreams? Awesome. Finding out he lives in your head? Not so awesome.
- Dream guys are the best. Until you wake up. [I don’t like this one because it’s too vague.]
- The world’s strangest love triangle begins when Cassie’s other self meddles in her romantic life. And then it starts to get weird.
- Can’t a gal and her other self have a good old-fashioned reality-crossing romance anymore?
- Love triangle, shmuv triangle. With three guys in two universes chasing one girl with two personalities, this is at LEAST a love pentagon.
- Cassie’s other personality shares her life, her dreams, and all her memories. You’d think she’d be willing to share her boyfriend too, but noooo.
Pitch #1 was elected as the best, so I used it during the pitch party. And got no attention. Boo.
Then I re-read the rules and they’d updated them. Turned out that since the agents would be drifting in and out of the feed all day, we could not only tweet our pitch more than once, but change it if we wanted.
I tried a few times, modified a couple of them and tweeted, but nobody nibbled.
Until finally I was feeling contrary and tweeted #5, the one nobody liked except my friend Joy. Immediately one of the agents asked me to send her a 40-page partial.
So that worked out well for me.
My basic first draft of So You Think You’re Asexual: An Introduction to the Invisible Orientation is complete, though of course there will be lots of updates and changes if I end up finding representation. I’ll be soliciting a test audience if it looks like my book is going to get the kind of interest I want.
My basic query letter (with personalized agent stuff at the beginning, and modified if needed):
What if you weren’t attracted to anyone?
A growing number of people today are identifying as asexual: they aren’t sexually attracted to other people, and they consider it a sexual orientation—like gay, straight, or bisexual. A commonly overlooked and dismissed orientation, asexuality is estimated to affect approximately 1% of the population. However, because of the overt sexuality of society, most asexuals feel isolated and ill-informed; they remain invisible, confused, and think they’re broken because they cannot relate to a central aspect of human life as we know it.
Is it a hormone disorder? Can asexual people have relationships? Should it be cured? This book outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people’s experiences in context as they move through a very sexual world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, and it includes tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.
My qualifications for writing this book include the following:
I’ve been writing about asexuality awareness since 1998. As an asexual person casually writing about my own experience, I posted a Top Ten list outlining the most common misconceptions about asexuality on my own website. This earned me media attention and mainstream magazine interviews (“Asexual and Proud,” Salon, May 2005; “No Sex? No Problem,” The Daily Beast, July 2009; “The Opposite of Sex,” Marie Claire, August 2010). Some years (and several interviews) later, I created two series of asexuality-themed YouTube videos to reach a different demographic. One was a video version of my Top Ten list, and the other was an ongoing series called “Letters to an Asexual.”
These earned me more media attention, many subscribers, and a part in a documentary as a major interviewee ((A)sexual by Arts Engine, premiered at Frameline, the gay and lesbian film festival, in June 2011). I also picked up a spot writing articles on the subject for Good Vibrations, a respected sex-positive magazine (“Asexuality is Not Antisexuality,” January 2011; “Sexual Attraction vs. Romantic Attraction,” February 2011; “Are Asexuals Queer?” March 2011; “How to Be an Asexual Ally,” July 2011; and “Why Should the Sex-Positive Community Promote Asexuality Awareness?” October 2011). I’ve been mentioned on international television and interviewed for various academic and human interest pieces, usually pseudonymously under the name “swankivy” or “Ivy,” but my legal name has also appeared in several of the interviews.
I have a full proposal and sample chapters available if you’re interested. Thank you for your consideration.
Mónica B.W., Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake, and Krista VanDolzer collaborated to put on a contest called The Writer’s Voice. It was a pretty cool contest for writers seeking agents to enter their polished novels and get a chance to have agents bidding on them to see partials and full manuscripts. I figured I had nothing to lose, and I was lucky enough to actually make it into the competitive link pool, but then I had to hope one of the ladies above would choose me for their team. They didn’t.
None of them are agents (as far as I know)—just other writers—but I figured if one of them picked me and I got a chance to get seen by someone who wouldn’t have otherwise seen me, it was worth it. But since they chose other writers, I didn’t get to participate. That said, Krista approached me after the contest, having said that she would let people know if their entries had been one of her favorites despite not being picked. She left the following comment on my entry:
Just wanted to let you know that yours was one of the entries on my short short list. I thought the premise here was really intriguing, and your first page had a lot of mystery. I just worried that the concept would seem too similar to that new TV show Awake. I know you’ve probably been writing this since long before the show premiered, but I worried that people would find it derivative. It stinks when something steals your thunder like that.
Best of luck to you and FINDING MULLIGAN, because this is just the sort of thing I’d like to read.
I don’t actually think this concern is too worrisome, because my book is literally nothing like the premise of that show (except that they both involve falling asleep and having a different perspective), but it was still nice to hear what she had to say. Thanks Krista.
Other nice comments:
Finding Mulligan was cut from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition at the semi-final round. I will not be moving on.
Here is the (again, unflattering) Publishers Weekly review:
Just quirky, or crazy? That seems to be the question at the heart of this overblown, confused romantic fantasy. Cassandra’s life pales in comparison to the extremely realistic dreamland she often visits. There she’s known as “Dia.” Unlike Cassandra, Dia is beautiful, endlessly talented, and beloved by all dreamland’s denizens. When Cassandra, a college freshman, moves into a new apartment, she grows fascinated (some would say obsessed) with the lifelike portrait of a man painted on her bathroom door. She’s convinced this man will appear in dreamland as well, and sure enough, Dia meets the man (named Mulligan) and falls instantly in love. Mulligan must have a real-world counterpart, Cassandra reasons, and so she remakes herself into a version of Dia to make herself recognizable to him. Disturbing flashbacks about Cassandra’s chronically-ill younger sister are meant to explicate her mental state; her consistently kooky behavior, however, itself more than accomplishes that purpose. Cassandra’s ultimate recognition of the “real” Mulligan bears little heft or drama and could certainly have been accomplished in fewer than 381 meandering pages.
Hm, it’s kinda offensive to say a possibly mentally ill person is “kooky” and “crazy” because some of her attempts to figure herself out seem on the extreme side. My character’s “kooky” behavior isn’t disordered and random. It follows directly from the way her reality is. Boo.
There aren’t any traditionally published laymen’s books about asexuality, so I decided I’m just the girl to write one.
After all, I’ve been interviewed in magazines, radio, and visual media. I’ve made helpful videos on YouTube and have nearly 1,500 subscribers. I’m followed by a lot of people on Tumblr and LiveJournal and AVEN regarding asexuality. So, since “who you are” matters more in selling a nonfiction book than what you’ve actually written, I decided if anyone’s qualified to write one it’s me. And I’ve begun to do so.
This one won’t be handled the same way I’ve handled my fiction, though. Nonfiction books are often sold based on the idea/the author, and often get purchased before they’re written. I plan to have a first draft before I query, but I also don’t intend to solicit a test audience until or unless I find representation or a publisher for it. I will be querying agents, though, even though you don’t necessarily need one for nonfiction, because I feel more comfortable doing it that way.
This is going to be FAST because I’ve said all this stuff before and I just have to figure out how to organize it.
Finding Mulligan has been chosen as one of 500 quarter-finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.
My “prize” now is to go on to be judged in the semi-finals. Publishers Weekly will be judging my novel—the full manuscript—and they will decide whether I get to be one of the 100 left in the semi-final round.
Rating me and recommending me were two Amazon Vine Reviewers. Here is what they said about my first chapter:
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
Cassie is an interesting character, and the author does a fine job of letting us get to know her and her parents. She expertly introduces the family dynamics and sets the stage for her story in an authentic and believable manner. With the exception of a couple of the introductory paragraphs, the author’s prose flows smoothly and she handles the dialogue very well. Cassie clearly comes across as a teen about to be on her own, exhibiting all the frustration, nervousness and excitement common to that age.
What aspect needs the most work?
My one problem with this excerpt was the author’s introduction of the chimes in Cassie’s head. She is introducing a very important element here, and it just seemed like a clumsy way to introduce Cassie’s alternative dream world. The story recovers nicely when Cassie begins to talk about the boy in the painting, but getting from regular teenager to girl who has another identity just didn’t fly.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
I think this was a fairly strong excerpt and I liked where the story was going. I didn’t really understand the chimes in Cassie’s head, and wish more explanation was provided. The strength of the excerpt lies in the very strong characterizations. I hope the author is able to maintain Cassie’s strong voice during her dream life sequences. That will surely make for a memorable story.
I enjoyed the author’s prose and felt that it was very readable. I liked the hints of romance to come, and am very curious how the remainder of the story will play out. Nice, original idea that will be sure to hook plenty of YA readers.
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
It’s intriguing, well-written, with believable dialogue, and the pacing is good.
What aspect needs the most work?
I can’t think of anything. It’s not clear what Haley’s issue is, but perhaps that’s clarified later.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
Dude, #2 was just phoning it in like mad.
Finding Mulligan advanced to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. I am one of the 2,000 left of the original 10,000 entrants.
Now my first chapter goes on to be read by two Amazon judges. I’ll get rated and reviewed. If I pass, I will be one of 500 left to be named quarter-finalists.
I was more nervous this year for some reason. Last year I’d forgotten about the contest until I got notified by e-mail that I’d passed.
Finished a new short story called “On the Inside.” It is, again, actually not very short (shocker!). It weighed in at about 15,000 words. Speculative fiction, coming of age.
It’s about Lihill, a transgender girl assigned male at birth, born to a polytheistic culture that strongly segregates its males and its females.
Lihill feels that she’s a girl from the moment she’s old enough to express it, but it’s undeniable that she has what’s interpreted as a boy’s body. In her sex-segregated culture, she’s treated as a boy and made to get a boy’s education, most notably focused around embracing gods instead of the community’s goddess and adopting an elemental alignment consistent with male identity.
She’d love to attend the girls’ troop and form a bond with the element Water, but as a boy she has to settle for studying Air. Though her best friend and her sister seem sympathetic and treat Lihill kindly—even including her in traditionally feminine activities sometimes—they don’t truly understand her situation, and her parents won’t accept that she isn’t a boy in her head.
After repeatedly failing to do what’s expected of her as a boy, the family finally consults a wise woman who’s the first to recognize that Lihill must be a girl on the inside. But she’s still faced with many misconceptions about her gender in a world that’s never heard of someone like her, and is consistently bothered by the fact that saying who she is has never been enough.
I actually plan to try rewriting this in third person (maybe with a different angle, too) because a couple spots of feedback I got suggested that my attempt to have a less cerebral character has resulted in Lihill seeming a bit “emblematic.” I’m not sure if I can sell the story to anyone since it’s a bit long, but we’ll see if I ever do anything with it.
I decided to enter Finding Mulligan in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition (again). I’ve done some significant editing since last year’s contest; everything’s tighter, better dialogue, slightly shorter. Anyway, this contest gives me a chance to win a publishing contract with Penguin. The international Amazon contest stops taking entrants once it hits 10,000 people. Each of us has to send in a pitch statement, a bio, a first chapter, and a full manuscript.
The second round will involve the 10,000 entrants being cut down to 2,000 Second Round competitors based entirely on our pitch.
This is my pitch statement:
What if you fell in love with someone who might not exist?
Cassandra Howard leads a double life. A smart, sarcastic student by day, Cassie is a different person in her dreams—literally. In dreamland, her alternate reality, Cassie becomes a happy-go-lucky, charismatic girl named Dia, and she prefers to keep her two lives separate. That changes when she falls in love.
Mulligan is the perfect dream guy, and in her nighttime paradise Dia has him all to herself, but in Cassie’s world Mulligan only exists as a mysterious painting. Feeling left out, Cassie begins to obsess over finding the waking-world version of Mulligan. Soon enough, Cassie tracks down two people with connections to the painting, leaving her confused as to which one of them is the man she’s looking for. What if her two selves are in love with two different guys?
Unwilling to live in the shadow of her other life forever, Cassie tries to remake her waking-world self in the image of Dia to attract the “real” Mulligan, but her actions blur the lines between dreamland and the waking world until neither girl is sure who she is. For Cassie, finding Mulligan—and figuring out whether he exists—might require finding herself first.
Finding Mulligan combines magical realism, identity issues, and a complicated love triangle (or is it a pentagon?), plus a dash of psychological weirdness. While the concept is unique enough to seem fresh, the struggle for self-definition will be comfortingly familiar to teens. It will resonate with young adults who appreciate self-aware, realistic characters, and will be enjoyed by those who like their romance without a side of fluff. Because of its gifted but fractured protagonist, early readers have compared Finding Mulligan to stories like Life of Pi, A Beautiful Mind, and Fight Club.
I only just started querying for Bad Fairy in November of 2011, so this isn’t going to be a big update, but this is how I’m doing on queries so far:
Agents queried: 9.
- Query rejections: 6
- Non-responses (so far): 3
One of the guys I queried had actually represented a fairy tale retelling I particularly enjoyed, so I mentioned it in my query. He said this to me:
I appreciate your thinking of me, but I actually don’t normally care for fairy tales, or for works with the basis feel of a fairy tell, or retellings. Mercedes Lackey is an exception because I just have an affinity for her work and I’d be happy to read her grocery lists, but otherwise, this book is probably not a good match for my tastes.
Heh, “happy to read her grocery lists.” Maybe someday someone will say that about me?
Planning to continue the querying streak in 2012!