Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meet the Agent: Kathleen Ortiz, Lowenstein Associates

"Which agents and editors are going to be there?"  I've probably been asked this questiion 500 times already, and the MWG Conference is still more than six months away!  It never hurts to get your homework done early, particularly when pitches are first-come, first-served and we have NINE agents and editors scheduled to hear five-minute pitches, so we'd thought we'd help you out a little if you're planning to pitch in April.  Over the next few weeks, we'll post information about each of the editors and agents who will be attending the 2011 MWG "Just Write!" Conference to help you prepare your strongest and best pitch presentation.

We'll get things started with Kathleen Ortiz, Associate Agent and Foreign Rights Manager for Lowenstein Associates in New York. Kathleen began her career in publishing at Ballinger Publishing as an editorial assistant, writing and editing for their young adult section, and as an interactive media designer, working to boost the magazine’s online presence through social networking. She then moved on to UWire as an online editor for the features, art & entertainment sections. She has also taught high school classes as a visual media instructor.

With the continued demand for online marketing in publishing, a strong online platform is essential for today's authors. Kathleen uses her background in interactive media design to assist Lowenstein Associates’ clients with branding themselves. 

Here's what Agent Kathleen Ortiz has to say about what kind of writing catches her attention.

I'm currently looking for children's books, specifically young adult, middle grade and chapter books. I'm open to both fiction and non-fiction. While I enjoy a variety of genres, I'd especially love for one of the following to cross my desk:

  • Young adult: I tend to skew toward darker/edgy YA. I'd love to see a romance from a male POV. I'm all about voice and an authentic teen voice. I'd pretty much do a happy dance if an awesome thriller were to come by - especially if it's creepy enough to keep me up at night, afraid to turn out the lights. 
  • Middle grade / Chapter books: I'm a sucker for light-hearted, funny or adventure. Family/sibling relationships (think RAMONA) or slightly serious (think MANIAC MAGEE).
  • Non-fiction: Something different than what's already out there. I'm not really into "how to find the perfect guy" or "how to apply makeup" or "100 awesome things of being a teen." Anything with technology thrown in is a bonus. You must have a strong platform or be considered an expert in your field for me to consider a non-fiction project.
In addition to hearing pitches on Saturday at the conference, Kathleen will be leading a Master's Class on Sunday morning.  Who's Listening to You?  Effective Online Marketing will cover a variety of online marketing topics so writers can analyze their current online presence, uncover who their current audience is, who their target audience should be, and what things will help to make their presence more effective.  Please note, however, that this workshop is geared for the experienced or advanced online user.

You can find out more about the agency at The Lowenstein Associates.  To read a fantastic interview with Kathleen Ortiz, visit Ya Highway.  You can also follow Kathleen on her blog Neverending Page Turner to read pointers, keep up with the latest YA releases and enter contests.  Or you can just wait until April and meet her in person in St. Louis!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Awardwinner Jeannie Lin and "Butterfly Swords" Coming to 2011 Conference

Awardwinning romance author Jeannie Lin will be a speaker at the 2011 "Just Write!" Conference in April, leading a breakout session on Saturday, April 9th and a Masters' Class on Sunday, April 10th.  She will launch her debut novel, Butterfly Swords, with a launch at Rose's Bookhouse in O'Fallon on October 9th.  Jeannie recently answered a few questions about herself and her writing career as a preview to her conference appearance and her upcoming book launch.

Let's begin by telling us a little about yourself.

I’m a former high school teacher and now a technical consultant. Romance writing is something I started while teaching science to find some balance and do something for myself.

I’m a self-proclaimed science nerd and I spend entirely too much time in front of the computer. I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I’m a fan of romance, women’s fiction, and big, meaty epic novels like Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. My “dream” job would be to travel the world and write, but I’d have to talk my husband into it first. He’s a homebody, but he’s also my broodingly handsome, alpha male hero and he’s been so supportive of this whole journey.

How did your writing career progress?

For the first two years, I was part of a very close knit critique group. Step by step, I learned how to write and put a book together. I queried agents with my first book and quickly realized it was not ready for prime time. I kicked it under my desk and started another.

The second book was Butterfly Swords, written in the same world as the first. I had a feeling it was a stronger book and more accessible than the first, so I started querying agents with it.

At first I only got form rejections, so I started entering it in writing contests to try to get some feedback. The two processes fed on each other for me. I’d query, get some requests, some rejections. Then I’d enter contests to figure out if my revisions were working. Then back to another round of queries. As I started making it to the finals in writing contests, I started getting more requests.

The final breakthrough happened when I was nominated for an RWA Golden Heart® award. From that, agents started noticing and reading and one of them, Gail Fortune, offered representation. Then a judge from the Golden Heart contest requested the full manuscript and offered a contract. Three days later I was awarded the 2009 Golden Heart for historical romance—it all seems very fast, but in truth the process took four years from when I started that first manuscript.

By then, I had completed three manuscripts set in Tang Dynasty China. Butterfly Swords was the second manuscript, but will be released as my debut book.

How did you choose an agent?

I researched through blogs and I highly suggest any writer on the query hunt go there. There’s a great supportive community and it’s a very user friendly portal for researching and tracking your progress.

I chose Gail because she was so excited about the book. She compared it to James Clavell’s Shogun, which happened to be a huge inspiration for me. I felt a connection with her immediately and her excitement was and is still infectious.

Why did you choose the Tang Dynasty?

The Tang Dynasty is often called the Golden Age of China. It has it all: wealth, sensuality, drama. However, I was most attracted to the Tang Dynasty from watching movies about Empress Wu and her daughter, Princess Taiping. These were powerful and independent women. I wanted to create characters that were just as intelligent and fiery.

How did you do your research?

I researched through the library and bought up as many Tang Dynasty books from Amazon as I could afford. Then on top of that, I researched on the internet, lurking on the Chinese History forum, and other historical sites. I also started collecting other reference materials: books on Chinese locations, folklore, weapons, horses. I also studied the ancient world in general, making cross references between the West and East. I always found it fascinating that the “Dark Ages” of Europe, corresponded to the Golden Age of China.

Swordfighting women do not seem like they would fit in a romance novel. What made you decide to incorporate this element?

This comes from a lifelong love of fantasy adventure stories and martial arts stories. I think the prototype of the sword woman is such a strong figure and seemed more believable given the Chinese setting. Princess Pingyang was a remarkable woman who led her father’s armies to help found the Tang Dynasty. The ballad of Mulan tells the legend of another woman who posed as a man to take her father’s place in battle.

And something about swords and the honor culture behind them seemed to fit the romance genre so perfectly.

Define "warrior women."

I think a warrior woman is someone who finds a special strength within herself. She walks in the world of men, but retains a unique femininity. Strength wears itself differently on a woman than a man.

As a writer, do you consider yourself a warrior woman?

I can’t take on that moniker as I feel I’ve done nothing to earn it.

I consider myself the living legacy of several warrior women: my grandmothers and my mother. I channel my strength from their experiences. The women of my family survived war and were uprooted from their homeland. Yet they were able to take it all in with sense of reflection, but not tragedy.

My sister and I talk of writing a historical fiction work inspired by our family stories. We have yet to write a single word, because we’re still afraid. Maybe one day, after I’ve completed more stories, I won’t be so afraid anymore.

Jeannie Lin writes historical romantic adventures set in Tang Dynasty China. Her short story, The Taming of Mei Lin from Harlequin Historical Undone is now available.  Her Golden Heart award-winning novel, Butterfly Swords, will be released October 1 from Harlequin Historical and received 4-stars from Romantic Times Reviews—“The action never stops, the love story is strong and the historical backdrop is fascinating.”

You can join the launch celebration at for giveaways and special features. Visit Jeannie online at:

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Interview with Poet Kelli Allen

Kelli Allen is a poet and, as part of the MFA program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, she is Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, a journal of contemporary literature.  She will be a panelist on the literary fiction panel at the 2011 MWG "Just Write!" Conference in April.  Kelli will also lead a poetry session during Saturday's breakouts at the April conference.  We took the opportunity to learn more about Kelli, her poetry and Natural Bridge in a recent interview.

Thanks for joining us, Kelli.  Let's begin by telling us what led you to the MFA program at UMSL.

After years of studying literature critically in pursuit of a degree in literary theory, I found that my passion for writing had become more focused towards the creative instinct, leading me to switch to the MFA program in poetry.  I have also found enrichment through participating in community development at UMSL.

Kelli Allen reading at a recent open
mic at the Northern Arts Council, in
conjunction with the Graduate
Writers Association.
You've been a driving force in allowing young artists to be heard in the St. Louis community, as well as helping to sponsor some well-known artists.

While working closely with other non-profit arts organizations in the St. Louis metro area, I have extended great efforts to improve our Graduate Writers Association.  We continue to welcome and host authors from around the country in our newly-established  reading series.

So tell us a little bit about yourself and your poetry.

I've been reading and writing poetry all of my adult life.  While my literary tastes expand a much wider field than poetry alone, verse has always held the strongest pull for me.  There is a vitality and necessity in poetry as an art, as a craft, that I have not experienced in fiction and other written arts.  My own work utilizes the vertical image and relies heavily on myth.  It is easier to explain what my poetry is not than what it is.  I am not a confessional or narrative poet.  I attempt to incorporate deep image and interconnectedness in my lines without delving into the hyper-autobiographical or domestic realms.

What are your concerns as you practice your craft?

I feel strongly that poetry must have purpose beyond authorial gratification.  For me, the work ceases to function for its author as soon as it falls under the eyes or into the ears of a reader or listener.  The responsibility for experiencing a poem therefore lies with its consumer.  I am also concerned with sound in my poetry and always attempt to pay close attention to cadence, musicality, and auditory experience when crafting my lines.  When holding workshops, I stress to the participants involved that the primary goals of the writer should always be the expression of longing, loss, and reverence for experience.  While that may border as esoteric for some, I firmly believe that it is our obligation as artists to illustrate the importance of questioning.

What poets influence your work?

My influences span globally and historically from Hafiz, to Stafford and Bishop, to Rilke and Bly.

Congratulations for attaining the status of Managing Editor of Natural Bridge.  What's happening with the literary journal?

Thank you.  Upon accepting the position, I knew there were many challenges ahead for the publication and its readership.  Natural Bridge is entering an exciting and tumultuous time for small press publications.  With the increasing diversity of material on the web and the reliance, and in some cases, laziness, associated with online publishing, we find ourselves having to ask some difficult questions regarding where we would like to see Natural Bridge.  Our journal has a marvelous history of publishing some of the most exciting new poets and translators of poetry in the country.  Notably our fiction has been vibrant, engaging, and unique.  All of this has occurred on the literal page.  We do not accept electronic submissions nor do we publish the journal online.

So we won't expect to see Natural Bridge online anytime soon?

I would like to see Natural Bridge's integrity remain intact while other journals may choose to go entirely online.  There is much to be said for holding a book in one's hands and for having the luxury to turn pages and see print upon paper.  I would like to see Natural Bridge beautifully archived online while maintaining a strong, consistent presence in print.

Are there any changes you would like to see?

It would be beneficial to include even more translations to broaden awareness of international literary achievements.  Natural Bridge is still fairly young compared to some of the giants of the literary journal community and we have room to grow, but I am extremely proud of our reputation as a journal of excellence.

What happens for Kelli Allen after she completes her MFA?

I hope to teach at the college level and would welcome the opportunity to explore both craft and criticism in the classroom.

Thank you and good luck, Kelli.  We look forward to having you with us at the 2011 "Just Write!" Conference in April.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MWG Spotlight: Judy Young

Fasten your seatbelts!

When you ask Springfield author Judy Young what she's working on, you're in for quite a ride!  She's busy working on two books to be released next spring and two others are up for a handful of awards.  In addition to writing, Judy has nearly three dozen school visits planned for this school year!

With her dedication to writing and contagious enthusiasm, it's no wonder Judy ended up in this week's Spotlight.  Please take a few moments to get to know Judy Young in her own words.  You'll be glad you did.

Last week when I was asked to be in the Missouri Writer’s Guild Blog Spotlight for this Monday, I was honored and excited, and then came “what do I say?” I was told that the MWG spotlights are a “getting to know you” type thing, so here we go!

Meet Me, Judy Young!

I’m an author of children’s fiction, nonfiction and poetry picture books. I live in the country, outside Springfield, Missouri with my husband,
Ross B. Young, a professional artist who mostly paints fine art oil paintings for galleries and private commissions and is well known for his bird dog and fly fishing paintings. But, Ross also illustrated two of my books. We have two grown children. Our daughter, Brett (name came from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises) is working on her PhD in English Literature at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Our son, Reid (named because I wanted a red-headed kid – didn’t work) is working on his Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering at Auburn University in Alabama. I also have a handful of dogs.

Like many authors, I’ve liked to write all my life. One of my earliest memories regarding writing is, at the age of ten, letting my grandmother read a poem I’d written. She encouraged me to keep writing. Always listen to your elders! When I reached college level, however, my father insisted that I have a college degree with a job attached to the degree’s name. “You can be an “educator, an accountant, a nurse…” he said, “but you can’t be an ‘English Literature.’” Being a writer never entered my mind, even though I wrote. I became a Speech and Language Pathologist, and worked as such for twenty-four years, all the while, writing. In the mid-1990s, I started submitting poetry for publication, and had several accepted in magazines and literary journals (all for adults, none for children). I also joined the Missouri Writer’s Guild in 1998.

I didn’t know it then, but both my grandmother and my father’s advice led me eventually to becoming a children’s author. And in 2000, I got lucky! (I have my husband to thank for that!) Ross was contracted by Sleeping Bear Press to illustrate a children’s book about Missouri, part of their Discover America series. When they discussed the project, Sleeping Bear did not yet have an author lined up for the Missouri book. So, I submitted samples of my writing and landed the assignment. I was told they picked me for three reasons: I’d been published before (thanks to my grandmother who told me not to quit), I had experience in the schools (thanks to my father) and they liked the idea of a husband/wife team (always pick your husband with the future in mind!) So, in 2001, when S is for Show Me, A Missouri Alphabet released, I became a genuine published children’s author!

In 2002, I queried Sleeping Bear with a book idea about children’s games. Never heard back from them. In 2003, I queried an idea about a poetry book. I got a phone call in three weeks. Not really knowing about the long waits in the publishing world, I didn’t even realize how fast that was! They told me they wanted the poetry book, and then, to my surprise, said, they wanted the games book, too. Two queried ideas accepted on the same day! I was still working in the schools, but I went into my principal’s office and resigned (but I was nice and finished out the school year!) I had written one book while still working in the schools, but I now had two books to write, and I knew if I really wanted to write, I needed time to do it well. It was a scary decision, but, for me, it was well made and I haven’t regretted it. In 2006, R is for Rhyme, A Poetry Alphabet was released. And I wasn’t really ready for what came with that book! My first book had done well across Missouri, and I had had plenty of speaking engagements at schools and conferences in the Show Me state, but R is for Rhyme put me in a national market almost overnight!

Thirteen days after the release of R is for Rhyme, (and on my 50th birthday!) it received a starred review in the Kirkus Review – my publisher’s first starred review, too! And then the phone started ringing. For the next three months, I spoke at schools and conferences in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, and all around Missouri. R is for Rhyme, A Poetry Alphabet went on to win the 2006 National Parenting Publications Honor Award, 2006 Best Juvenile Book Award from our own organization, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, 2008 Mom’s Choice Gold Award and 2008 Educator’s Choice Award. It was also choreographed by the Tanner Creative Dance Program and Children’s Dance Theatre of the University of Utah for their 58th annual performance (the most awesome experience I have ever had)!

So, that’s how I got started, and it hasn’t let up. I now have nine books published, all with Sleeping Bear Press, with two more releasing this spring, and have had several more awards attached to my titles:

Lazy Days of Summer, 2007 (the games book that I spoke about above)

Show Me the Number, A Missouri Number Book, 2007 (the other book Ross illustrated)

The Lucky Star, 2008 (2009 Storytelling World Honor Award, 2010/2011 MO Show Me Readers Award Nominee)

H is for Hook, A Fishing Alphabet, 2008
Minnow and Rose, 2009 (2010 Storytelling World Award, 2010/2011 Nominee for three state awards: PA Keystone to Reading Award, DE Diamond Book Award and AL Camillia Book Award)

• The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious and (maybe even) Magical Creatures, 2009

The Missouri Reader, 2010

A Book for Black-Eyed Susan, releases March 2011

A Pet for Miss Wright, releases May 2011 (I just found out yesterday this has moved from a fall to a spring release, and will be used for the Sleeping Bear Press catalog cover!)

Needless to say, it has been fun, but it's also a lot of work! Not only is there the writing, but a bigger percentage of time goes toward marketing. Publishers do some, getting the books into distributors and bookstores, but the author does a lot through publicity and speaking engagements. I spend probably 70% of my time in promotion and 30% writing. Promotion includes things like writing this blog and having other interviews, having book signings (some set up through my publisher, some set up myself), school visits (almost all set up myself), speaking at educational conferences (some set up through my publisher, most set up myself), speaking at professional writers conferences (all set up myself), maintaining a website… the list goes on and on. The best advice I can give is to consider writing, and all that goes with it, a job, even if you have another full time job. Be professional and remember Edison’s quote, “Success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.”

So, now that I am moving into quotes, I will close with one of my favorite quotes about writing and I hope all of you are successful with your “damn hard” work.

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

You can read more about Judy Young and her books at

Friday, September 3, 2010

And the winner is....

No, wait. That's her line.

I am pleased to announce the judge of MWG's Flash Fiction Contest-- Phyllis Miranda.

If you haven't submitted your entry, you still have a couple of weeks, so crank up your computer and get cracking. It's only 500 words. How long can that take? And Phyliss is waiting to read your story.

Award-winning, multi-published author and freelance writer, Phyliss Miranda, a native Texan, lives in the Texas Panhandle with her husband Bob. With plans to write a cookbook, she took her first creative writing class in 2001. One of her favorite parts of being an author is teaching the craft and mentoring beginner writers. She enjoys sharing her love for the new frontier, the Civil War, quilting, and antiques; and still believes in the Code of the Old West.

A Filly with Petticoats and Pistols ... romancing the West website, she blogs regularly on topics of interest to the historical romance readers. Her newest novella series with co-authors Jodi Thomas, Linda Broday, and DeWanna Pace, "Give Me a Texas Ranger", can be found on bookshelves everywhere.

Visit Phyliss at and