Agent Monday: Writers Should Learn from Liars

 

Gregory Frost 1Happy Agent Monday, everyone! Writers are liars! And I mean that in the nicest way possible. Writers are pretenders, and are in the business of making things up for a living. Not coincidentally, I met today’s poster, our client Gregory Frost, through a group we both belong to called The Liars Club. Greg is not only a phenomenal author, but also a top fiction professor at Swarthmore. So he’s obviously one heck of a liar himself.  Now he’s sharing with us what we writers can gain by studying the art of the lie.

 

Good Writers are Consummate Liars

by Gregory Frost

Lately, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot in preparation for leading the upcoming spring semester Fiction Workshop at Swarthmore College. I almost always spend the months leading up to it reading a new crop of short stories across the spectrum, and thinking about how I might approach the Workshop this time that would be different from the last time I led it. Such questions have made me, among other things, a collector of books on writing, which includes everything from Stephen King’s down-to-earth and often-cited On Writing to Samuel R. Delany’s terrific and sometimes head-spinning essays collected in his About Writing.

One thing the plethora of “how to” books reveals is that you can pretty much unpack the act of writing any way you like, teach the elements in whatever order you prefer, and still at the end have delivered a comprehensive overview of writing fiction. Because nobody writes the way fiction writing is broken out for a series of successive lectures or for chapters in most writing texts. We don’t write once through focused solely on Character, and then once focused Narrative Structure, and then once focused on Voice. (Okay, we’re all different in our approaches, so maybe there is someone who does that, but I can’t imagine it working.) What I do find, and believe, is that those “how to” books are most useful to us at the point of revising and editing our work. We do potentially read through our 2nd or 3rd draft just for voice, just for character portrayal, and so on. We read it once out loud to ensure we don’t have any hidden rhyme schemes that have inadvertently turned us into Dr. Seuss. In effect, then, the rules and recommendations laid out in many writing books are helpful to you once you have written a draft, but less so during the first-time-through conjuring.

There’s one out-of-print book by Michael Kardos, called The Art and Craft of Fiction, that I like in particular for his approach to tackling this very issue. Kardos’s emphasis on fiction writing (before you get to all those rules and observations of the modular aspects) is on detail. He says “When we lie, we know instinctively to supply details because the details lend credibility to our story.” Right. Good liars, con artists, and teenagers caught sneaking in late from the party they definitely did not go to, know that detail is everything.

The first day of class, Kardos tells his students that if they are to learn “just one thing” about writing during the semester, it should be “Relevant Detail.” If they learn only two things, the second thing should be “Relevant Detail.” The third thing . . . and down the line.

As he puts it, if he says “animal,” you might think “giraffe” while he meant “dog.” And while “dog is better than “animal,” it’s not half as good as “golden retriever” for lighting an image in the reader’s head, which he pushes further with a “golden retriever with a dry nose and a meek bark like it was asking for a raise it knew it didn’t deserve.” (Yes, you can get carried away with this.)

However, the more specific and solid the details in most instances, the better.

33590_2694Good writers have taught themselves this because they want you to believe their lies. We are after all liars. We lie for a living.

The late John O’Hara is quoted as saying: “Detail has to be handled with care. For instance when you are describing a man’s clothing, you must get everything right, especially the wrong thing.”

If, as can be said, the beginning of every story is in effect that “Things are not as they seem,” then that piece of advice seems to me absolutely critical. The wrong thing can tell you volumes about a character while simultaneously eliminating a full page of cold expository oatmeal.

So if there’s one thing you should learn from this post, it’s . . . yeah, you already know.

***

Gregory Frost’s latest books are TAIN and REMSCELA, comprising a retelling of the Ulster Cycle of Irish Mythology. And his newly completed gothic historical, Dark House, is an engrossing tale about a cursed and haunted White House, and about the brave slaves who risk all to battle a mysterious evil. Frost’s many titles have received starred reviews, and he has been nominated for top prizes including the Stoker, the World Fantasy Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the Nebula. His duology Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet (Ballantine-Del Rey) was a finalist for the James Tiptree Award, was named one of the four best fantasies of the year by the American Library Association, and received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, the latter dubbing Shadowbridge “… a sparkling gem of mythic invention and wonder.” Currently, Frost is director of the Fiction Writing Workshop at Swarthmore College.

*Marie is an Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: Springing Forward with Writer’s Resources

Snow March 1 2015Happy Agent Monday, everyone! I was SO happy to flip the calendar to March. But joke’s on me, since, yeah, a lion-like snow and ice storm has swept through. The picture here is what I’m seeing out my window this morning. But let’s be optimistic, shall we? Today I’d like to highlight a few of my favorite writer’s resources that’ll help your writing career take root and grow. So, ready to spring ahead?

1. The SCBWI Blue Boards

You don’t have to be a member of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators to participate in this online message board…but definitely consider joining this organization if you are writing for children through YA — it’s an awesome resource. The Blue Boards is where it’s at if you want to connect with other writer’s for youth, plus literary agents (like me!) and editors sometimes chime in there too. You’ll find camaraderie, answers to questions about craft and the market, and solid advice and true experiences that writers in your field are having right now. Definitely get involved by going here.

2. Publisher’s Marketplace

If you are serious about writing for the top commercial publishers and about getting an agent, then you need to do some serious research. Which deals have recently been made in your genre? Has a deal been made in the past year that is exactly like the book you are about to write? Which agents represent authors in your subject matter? Has the agent you were considering been active with sales? And what’s the latest business news? The inside scoop is all at Publishersmarketplace.com, the site that agents and editors and others in the business all rely on. Yes, there is a cost, but it’s a monthly subscription. That means you can get it for a month or two, do all the research you like and then stop it if you’d like. Or keep it year round and share the subscription cost between several writer friends so you all benefit. It’s smart. Find out more by clicking here.

3. Indiebound.org

Did you know that you could buy books online with discounts and all at an independent bookstore, even if you don’t live right next to one? It’s true!  Nothing is more important to writers than reading reading reading. Well, except for having vibrant bookstores. When you are published, you’ll need there to actually be places where your audience can stumble upon you while browsing, even if they hadn’t heard of you already, right? So, writers, do your thing and support indie bookstores. From the home page you can put in the book you are searching for in that upper right hand search field with the spyglass thingee next to it and click enter. Then you’ll be prompted to enter your zip code so you can shop at the indie nearest you, or pick whichever one you wish. Shop online there and you’ll find discounts, free shipping over certain amounts (within easy reach), plus the option to pick up your order at the store for no charge on orders of any size. There’s even a link on the site for stores that sell ebooks. Make it your first stop when buying books, by clicking here.

4. The Liars Club Facebook Page

Started by a group of authors who, basically, lie for a living, The Liars Club is all about sharing info and building community among authors. I’m a proud Liars Club member, and the group has been supporting writers, promoting literacy and bookstores and libraries, plus sharing kick-ass info for years.  So I highly recommend you like The Liars Club Facebook page by clicking here. The group also hosts a series of free Writer’s Coffeehouses in the Philly area and one is starting up on the West Coast as well. Now’s a good time to like the page, wherever you live, since the group will soon be hosting on this page a series of online virtual Writer’s Coffeehouses featuring interaction with a number of published authors.

5. Agent Monday

Okay, you knew I had to add this one in. If you see this post, you’ve either found it on a search, or perhaps you already do subscribe. If you do subscribe, you’ll see Agent Monday info hot off the presses. And if you check back into the archives on my site, you’ll see I cover a wide range of topics from querying, to marketing, to the inner workings of publishing from an agent and author point of view. So don’t just pop in, subscribe!

I hope these resources will help you and your writing to spring forward! Time for me to chip away the ice and snow and emerge into the world.

Warm wishes!

*Marie is an Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Liar Liar Audiobook…and an embarassing trailer to go with!

“They’re real, and they’re spectacular,” lies author Kelly Simmons.  Click on the video link below and you’ll see members of the Liars Club, including myself, tell a range of shocking whoppers.  And you’ll find out why I won the award for “best facial expressions.” Yikes!

The video is our bizarre version of a book trailer for our new audio version of our short story anthology LIAR LIAR (Blackstone Audio), which has just been released TODAY. Yeah, fitting to have a LIAR LIAR book release on April Fool’s Day, no?

In the anthology is my story “What I Did…,” along with stories by Simmons, Merry Jones, Jon McGoran, Jonathan Maberry, Don Lafferty, Gregory Frost, Keith Strunk, Solomon Jones, Keith DeCandido, Dennis Tafoya, Stephen Susco, Chuck Wendig, Ed Pettit and William Lashner. If you love audio and you lie, then you need this…honest!

Check out more details about the audio book by clicking here. So happy to say that a portion of all proceeds from sales of LIAR LIAR are donated by my group the Liars Club to literacy causes.

Hope you enjoy the trailer below…

Publishing Revolution: Liars Club Authors Telling Some Truths

LIAR LIAR Book Launch

(Cross-posted at the Liars Club Philly site.)

It’s the truth. The Liars Club is launching their new short story anthology Liar Liar at Between Books, 2703 Philadelphia Pike in Claymont, DE, on Saturday, October 29th from 2-4 p.m. Visitors to the launch, which is free and open to the public, will be able to grab one of the first copies of Liar Liar and have it signed by the many authors featured in this book. Best of all, part of all proceeds from this book go directly toward causes advancing literacy. No lie.

Liar Liar features a bold collection of stories, each centered on a lie. Included in the collection is my own short story “What I Did…”  With an introduction by blockbuster novelist Sandra Brown, and stories that range in tone from the hilarious to the bizarre and even the frightening, Liar Liar is the perfect book to entertain you during those long fall and winter evenings.

At the Between Books event, I’ll be there along with many other Liars including award-winning fantasy author Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet )thriller novelist Jon McGoran (aka D.H. Dublin, Freezer Burn, Body Trace), urban novelist Solomon Jones (The Gravedigger’s Ball, The Last Confession), fantasy/scifi and media tie-in author Keith DeCandido (his many titles include Dragon Precinct and Unicorn Precinct), crime novelist Dennis Tafoya (Dope ThiefWolves of Fairmount Park), historical author Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton), novelist Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, The Bird House), mystery author Merry Jones (Summer Session, The Borrowed and Blue Murders) and short story author and social media marketing expert Don Lafferty.

“We’re thrilled to be holding our launch at Between Books,” says author Gregory Frost. “This is a premiere bookstore that not only offers general books, but also specializes in sci fi, fantasy and horror. Plus the store holds incredible events. It’s a book-lover’s paradise.”

For more information, or to reserve a copy of Liar Liar before the event, call Between Books at 302-798-3378.

On the Radio!

Me? Not!

When I was a teen I’d dreamed of this moment. The moment I’d be on the radio with people actually listening…

Well, okay, the dream was a bit different, and it went like this: I was just some ordinary kid hidden away in some ordinary suburban basement belting out songs I was listening to on my record player (yes, vinyl records…).  But wait! Someone walking by hears me. Thinks, yes, this is the unusual voice everyone’s been looking for. That someone, of course, is a famous producer, and I, of course, am discovered.

Dream come true?

Well, maybe not. But I WAS on the radio last night, and, lucky for you, I wasn’t singing. And I was contacted by a producer. That happened on Tuesday. See? My Magic 8 Ball was right all along.

Here’s what happened. Over at the Liars Club blog I had done a post about the Collingswood Book Festival in NJ (which is tomorrow, and is free…come visit!), and NPR radio station WHYY was interested in talking about the fest and the panel my group the Liars Club was doing there on the revolutionary changes in today’s publishing.

So, presto! By Wednesday I was on a train into Philly to do the interview.  Then sitting at the WHYY studios across from the very kind Newsworks Tonight host Dave Heller, who did not make me feel in the least bit nervous.  And, I’m happy to report, I did not knock over that overly full styrofoam cup of water they’d set out in front of me.  (I’m convinced they put it there as a test of some sort. I immediately slid the cup far far away from me, averting certain radio disaster, short-circuited wires, shooting flames, things like that.)

We talked about what it’s like to get published these days, about the growth of independent publishing, about the Liars Club, about how I write and why I do what I do. I also chatted a little about my books, including a bit about my newest upcoming novel DRAWN.

It was such a fun experience, and last night the show aired, and THAT’S when I got nervous. Seriously nervous. What if I’d misspoke? What if I sounded like a tool? Well, you can judge for yourself, and let me know what you think.

*To listen to the interview, just click here.

Thanks for having me, Newsworks Tonight. And thanks (from everyone) for not asking me to sing.

Psst! Secrets…Pass it on!

It's a secret...so tell everyone!

Hey gang, just wanted to let you in on a few secrets…

First of all, I’ll soon be revealing the cover for my new young adult novel OVER MY HEAD.   Look for this, and for the book to be coming out in June!  Very excited.

This novel picks up two years after WHAT I MEANT… finishes, and you’ll get to hang out with Sang, Megan, Dalton, Gary, Doodles and some new characters the summer before senior year as Sang falls big time for the one guy everybody thinks is wrong for her.

And for the many of you who have read WHAT I MEANT… and have asked me, “What happened to Gina? Why did she act like that?”…well, I’m putting the finishing touches right now on a short story that will soon appear in an anthology including stories written by the wonderful authors of The Liars Club.  I can tell you the anthology will be called LIAR, LIAR!  I can tell you that Gina is running from something, and hasn’t been entirely honest with Sang. And I can tell you the story will be called, “What I Did…”  And I can tell you that I can’t tell you much more just yet.  But I will. Soon. Honest.

Look for details, including when and how to purchase LIAR, LIAR! as well as OVER MY HEAD on this site. Soon. Cross my heart.

In the meantime, like all good secrets…Shhh! (And be sure to pass it on.)

Got Books?

How many books do you have on your night table? On your bookshelf? Chances are pretty good that the total is more than 20.  Did you know that in the middle ages people used to travel for days to a library with a major holding of 20 books?

It’s crazy to think of that, but back when the monks did the “publishing” it took one monk 20 years to create one Bible.  If you think about each book taking that long, well, you can understand how exciting 20 different books in one location could be.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting yet another one of my girl scout  “So What’s the Story?” workshops to a group of teens.  This time our group met in Hellertown, PA and had 79 participants. I shared the history of the book, my massive pile of rejection letters, and read from my novel WHAT I MEANT… And at the end of it all I signed copies of my novel for each girl that was there.  But, most importantly, each girl there also donated books from their own collections and together we designed inspirational bookmarks that would go in those volumes.

And the really great thing about all this is that now I get to give those books to my local shelters!  Through these workshops over the past 2 years, the teens I’ve met with and I have probably put more than 2,000 books in the hands of children who are homeless.  The gratitude I’ve gotten from the shelters is phenomenal, and I’ve been told that for many of these kids, these books have been the only ones they have ever owned.

I can’t think of a more simple way to help someone, and I’m so touched that our book drives have continued to make such a difference to children and teens throughout our area.  So I’m putting out this challenge to everyone in cyberspace.  Got books, whether for adults or kids?  Ones you’ve outgrown or that you don’t plan on rereading?  Then why not donate them to your own local shelters?  Google the shelters in your area and find out what their hours are for donations, and then you too can pass on the knowledge and joy and hope that every book can represent.

Next week I’m looking forward to visiting Frankford High School in Philadelphia with fellow authors Jonathan Maberry, Solomon Jones, Don Lafferty and Keith Strunk.  We’ll be chatting with students and also bringing the school district a tremendous stash of donated books from ourselves and from our fellow authors in The Liars Club. It’s a part of the school district’s Read for your Life literacy drive, and it creates yet another opportunity for you…if you live in the Philadelphia area, you too can donate books to these needy classrooms.  Check out this link for what they’re looking for and where to send your books.

Right now I’m looking at boxes and boxes of donated books filling my family room. Picture books and early readers and novels and non-fiction. Beautiful titles. And I know that by the end of this week, scores of kids who really need them will have these books in their own hands to treasure.

I can’t imagine having a library with only 20 books.  And I certainly never want to think of what it’d be like to never own a book of my own.  So spread the joy, folks, donate your books, and because of YOU  many other people will be proud book owners too.

How Authors can “Join Forces”: my article in Writer’s Digest!

Interested in working with other authors to get some publicity for your books?  On newsstands right now, in the January issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, you’ll find my article “Joining Forces,” which covers this very same subject. What a coincidence!

The piece highlights the Liars Club, an innovative author’s collective I’m so proud to be a part of.  We’re made up of 13 authors (who basically lie for a living), and together we do special events, signings, workshops, and good deeds, including helping out charities, championing independent bookstores, and speaking up for libraries in need. Plus we really help each other out.

Any group of writers can band together to make more of a splash in the world. So check out the piece if you’re interested. You’ll see how we do it, find some useful guidelines, and also find some links to other groups of authors who also run interesting marketing collectives.

Workshop: Become Your Own Book Publicist

Learn Low-Cost and No Cost Techniques that’ll get you Noticed
A Liars Club Class

Registration now open!

Whether you are working on a manuscript, are self-publishing, or have a book deal with a major publisher, these days you are expected to know how to promote yourself and your book. Are you ready? Author/actor Keith Strunk and I are offering a 3-session class to help you get the skills you need.  We’re both members of The Liars Club, a group of authors who basically lie for a living and who work together to promote literacy and our love for literature.  This’ll be a great workshop…no lie!

Instructors: Marie Lamba and Keith Strunk (bios below)
Date:
3 Classes, Mondays, November 1, 8 and 15
Time:
7-9 p.m.
Location:
Lower conference room at Saxby’s Coffee, 22 N. Main St, Doylestown, PA
Cost:
$95, payable at start of first class by cash, or by check made out to The Liars Club. *Do not mail payment.
Pre-registration required:
Class size limited to first 20 registrants. To register, send an email to marielamba@hotmail.com with “Publicity Workshop” in subject line.  Please include your name, address and phone/cell in your email. We will email you your enrollment confirmation.

Class Details:

This 3-session workshop will show you how to become your own best publicist.  We’ll explore the skills you need to present yourself professionally and effectively to publishers, the media and your readers.  We’ll also share public relations and publicity techniques, combined with out of the box ideas that can have you connecting with local, national and even international audiences…all without breaking the bank.

This interactive program will address the unique needs of workshop participants and how they can best publicize themselves and their works. Class size limited.

Subjects to be Covered:

Creating a compelling author image based on who you really are:
Identifying and reaching your true market
Building your online identity
Blog and website content essentials
Sales techniques you need to know
Unusual/effective marketing through public relations, publicity, Internet/social media
Getting free press online, in newspapers and in magazines
Approaching booksellers, setting up your own book tour, and growing relationships
Face to face interactions with readers
Public reading skills
Interviewing skills/media coaching for print, radio and TV

Your Instructors:

Marie Lamba: Marie is author of What I Meant…(Random House), and has an essay in the anthology Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishers). A full-time freelancer, her work has been published in over 100 magazines including the national publications of Garden Design, Writer’s Digest, Gardens & Landscapes and Sports International. Marie has also worked in publishing as an editor and as a promotions manager, and is an award winning public relations writer.  She has used her P.R. and marketing skills to garner attention for her novel, snagging coverage online, in newspapers, and in magazines. Some of her most effective out of the box marketing ideas include extensive reading workshops for more than 1000 teen scouts, and the Truth Tour parties her group the Liars Club has thrown for independent bookstores (featured in indiebound.com, in Shelfawareness, and on the American Booksellers Association’s online site). Her article “Priceless Promotion” appeared in the August issue of Romance Writer’s of America’s national magazine RWR, and her piece “Beyond the Bookmarks: Marketing Partnerships that’ll get you Noticed” is scheduled for the January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest. Marie has also done book promotion coaching for a number of authors, including Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), C.G. Bauer (Scars on the Face of God, Drollerie Press), and Jeanne Denault (Sucking Up Yellow Jackets, O Books).

Keith Strunk: Keith is an actor, teacher, and author.  He is a partner in Interlude Group LLC, specializing in interpersonal communication training and development.  With a business perspective developed through a career that spans the corporate, non-profit, and academic sectors, his work experience includes teaching at Rutgers University and Ursinus College, film and video production in NY and regional markets, freelance writing, and corporate training and development.  He is co-founder and Managing Director of River Union Stage, a professional Equity Theater based in Frenchtown, NJ in its ninth year of operation (www.riverunionstage.org).  He attended Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts Professional Training Program in Acting where he earned his MFA. An award winning scriptwriter, Keith has written scripts for both corporate and artistic venues, including a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol that has been seen on various stages in New Jersey.  He is the author of Prallsville Mills and Stockton from Arcadia Publishing and has written brochures, workbooks, scripts, marketing materials, and multi-media for corporate clients including Chase Automotive Finance, King Pharmaceuticals, Medco Health Solutions, PNC Global Investment Servicing, Princeton University, and Sika Corporation.  Keith has led workshops and presented at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education National Conference, the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Garden State Council, SHRM Central NJ Chapter, and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) Conference.  He’s scheduled to lead a workshop at 2011 The Write Stuff Conference for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.