Willa Burke

Gonna get me a literary agent, damnit. Watch me try.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Spent Some Time with a Blogger

Over the weekend, I spent a good bit of time with a blogger. I talked about my idea of creating a community of generous people who shared ideas of finding agents. The blogger asked how many hits my site got. And I said, if I didn't count my mom: not many. The blogger warned me of the time blogs can steal from writing and the agent search itself, and said that maybe I ought to close shop before I had too many readers pressuring me to continue posting.

I'm sorry if this is a disappointment to anyone. I learned a long time ago to listen to people with more experience. If any of my words or my links has been a help to you, I'm happy for it. And now I'm going to write and search again in private. Maybe I'll run into some of you at a reading or a conference some time. Peace.

Friday, November 12, 2004

MY NEW FOCUS; Site-of-the-Week

I have a new focus. I've researched a lot about the process of finding an agent (the role of the agent, who's good, how to write a synopsis that gets some notice), and I'll continue to post whatever I learn. But the more I look into workshops and forums, it seems the best information is found talking to real people who have made it past where I am. And so my focus will be attending as many readings and conferences as I can, and I'll report back here any helpful tips I learn. If you know of readings in the NYC area, just drop me a note and I will certainly consider attending. (But be careful: I can be an awful gossip, and it might just show up on the internet.)

My Site-of-the-Week is RuPaul RedHot because RuPaul is funny and sexy, and lately, he's been posting some important words from Larry Kramer about human rights in a frightening political age:

"Why can't we look at our bodies and see not just a sexual definition? Why can't we see in the body all that the body represents? Sexuality, yes. But also mortality, humanness, humaneness, innocence, purity, health, sickness, strength, consideration, responsibility, divinity. When did we rob our bodies of all the complexity they possess? Why do we refuse to see all that we are capable of? All the other things that make us full beings." That very beautiful paragraph was written by my friend, Jordan Roth, who is one day going to be a very fine writer if he just keeps at it.

Former President Jimmy Carter also speaks about the human condition, in light of Yasser Arafat's death:

It was very frustrating to deal with Mr. Arafat in seeking a clear position of the Palestinians, because he was very careful to avoid making a final decision that, when revealed, might arouse intense opposition or rebellion from one of the many competing groups that accepted him as its spokesman. At the same time, his sensitive political antennas endowed him with the ability to enunciate a consensus with reasonable accuracy.

I'm writing all day. I'm determined to take the slow-paced chapters from my finished novel and make them page-turners.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Online Fiction and Book Promotion

Two issues have been buzzing around a number of writers' workshops lately: Is online fiction as legit as print? And how much are authors meant to participate in the promotion of their books? I like the discussions I've linked below.

Danforth Review and the Impact of Online Fiction

Book Promotion 101, Publishers discuss marketing (thanks to M.J. Rose for the link)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Online Fiction; Also, Variations on Writer's Block

Editors speak about the impact of online fiction: here

Frankly, it seems like a no-brainer. I buy maybe 20 books a year. I subscribe to 2 literary magazines. But online, I read 5-10 stories a day. Most of the books I buy come from my familiarity with authors via mentions in blogs or via their work online.

Now, back to my novels-in-progress.... What I find frustrating right now is that I thought I knew roughly how the novel would end (I'm talking about novel #2 here--#1 is finished but needs to be raked through). But as I followed the rough outline I had in my head, the characters turned in a completely different direction and I've lost all control. For now, I'm following them around, but as I write, I can feel myself nudging (okay, forcing) them back in the direction that will head to the beautiful ending I've forseen from the start. I'm afraid the last 50 pages I've written will eventually be scrapped and I'm impatient with the story right now. I wonder if I should put this novel away for a while or if I should trust that all this wandering about in the wilderness will lead to something better than I had originally imagined.

Photos regarding this year's election. Take a look, please.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Oh, I Had Just an Awful Writing Day

Do you ever feel like your writing is on fire--and say, it is in terms of speed and volume--but you look at what you've written and it's plain awful? Please tell me this has happened to you.

Do you remember that Charlie Kaufman film, Adaptation? It's a gorgeous movie about a screenwriter--or maybe a novelist?--who is writing this stunning, literary piece. But at some point, he gets stuck and ends up going to a writing seminar to help find the ending to his movie/book and there he is talked into using all the blow-em-up cliches to get the job done. It was painful to watch, and the ending to the movie sucked--it had to, in order to make the point.

There should be a lesson for me in that movie. But honestly, I struggled so much yesterday that I am now Googling "plot 101" just to get some ideas of how to get myself out of this jam. Here's what I found:
Writing Tips and Help
Write 101
10 Tips for Writing Your Mystery Novel
No Plot? No Problem!

Yes, I am feeling desperate.

Monday, November 08, 2004

More Agents I Like

  • Joanna Pulcini, Joanna Pulcini Literary Management

  • Linda Chester, Linda Chester Literary Agency

  • Sarah Chalfant, The Wylie Agency

  • P.J. Mark, Collins McCormick

  • Loretta Barrett, Loretta Barrett Books

  • (and a nice little article about her here)


  • Bye. I'm writing all day. Have lots of ideas.

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Which Literary Magazines are Agents Reading? and Site-of-the-Week

    One of my worries of contacting an agent is that I want them to recognize my name first. Or, if not that, I want them to see my list of publications and know that I'm worth reading. It's all about standing out in the slush pile, guys.

    So... I guess the big question is what are the most effective ways for writers to get noticed in the slush? I've done a little snooping on this and have learned that blogs do help (uh, if anyone reads them, that is). So do writers' workshops and forums like Readerville . The more writers you know, the more someone might have a contact somewhere or someone else could suggest a good match for you, based on their own experience. But I'd like to debunk the myth that knowing other writers and helping them get their footing is sleazy in any way. It can take years and years to find out the tricks of the trade, to learn the best markets and the best ways to approach agents. Why not form a community and share what you know? That's what this blog is all about.

    What about publications--which ones are actually read by the agents? Probably the safest bet is to be prolific and get your stuff out everywhere you can. Strangely, I've heard that online publications can count more than print because then people can Google you or stumble across your work. Some impressive ezines: Vestal Review , 3 a.m. , failbetter , Narrative Magazine , McSweeney's Internet Tendency . I've also heard that some of the hottest magazines right now, as far as agents reading them goes, are The Paris Review , McSweeney's , Zoetrope: All-Story , Other Voices , Tin House , Open City , Night Train , Granta, Ninth Letter , and Swink . This list comes from my confidential contacts at DoubleDay and Random House. Get your work out there and aim high and share what you know.

    As for my Site-of-the-Week, I'd like you to check out MoorishGirl : a smart site featuring book reviews, interviews, virtual book tours and literary news with an emphasis on the Arab perspective.