Friday, March 8, 2013

Blank Slate Press at the MWG Conference

Blank Slate Press will be at the Missouri Writers Guild conference in April (2013) taking pitches from authors. We were lucky enough to get Kristina Blank Makansi, publisher, to answer some questions about BSP. Kristina will not be able to attend the conference due to a conflict in scheduling, but at the conference will actually be editor Jennifer Dunn Stewart and Kristina's daughter, Amira Makansi.

Jennifer has taught creative writing at the university level and has worked as a reading and writing instructor, tutor and editor at various community-based organizations and privately. Her work appears in Night Train Magazine and The Los Angeles Review; she has been honored in the Million Writers Award, storySouth’s Best of the Net, is the recipient of The Jefferson Fellowship from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and was invited to attend both the 2012 Tin House Writer’s Workshop and the 2012 Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Currently, she is at work on her second novel, Predicting Gravity, and is in the process of securing a publisher for her first novel, What If It’s Empty.

Amira  has served as an assistant editor and has read and evaluated Blank Slate Press submissions since the press was founded. She has also worked at various wineries in Oregon, has lived and worked in the wine industry in France and is approaching fluency in French. She currently works part-time for a wine distributorship in St. Louis.

MWG: Hi Kristina! Welcome to the conference blog. Please share with us a bit about Blank Slate Press.

Kristina: Blank Slate Press was founded in 2010 to discover, nurture, publish and promote new voices from the greater St. Louis region and beyond. We’ve published six books—five fiction and one memoir. Out of those, we’ve had two award winners and one “runner up” to a major award. We currently have four more books we’ve committed to that are in the pipeline, three that are part of a crime series based in St. Louis and one that is a sequel to one of our earlier books.

MWG: It sounds like you've had GREAT success! Are you currently looking for submissions? Will you be taking pitches at the MWG conference?

Kristina: Officially, we are closed to submissions, but we love hearing pitches at MWG and will, of course, take submissions from those authors whose stories engage us at the conference. One of our authors, Steve Wiegenstein, first pitched to us at an MWG conference, so we are definitely looking forward to discovering something wonderful.

MWG: I've personally read Steve's book, and it is wonderful! What really wows you about a manuscript submission or a pitch?

Kristina: To be frank, I get excited about a lot of story ideas because I enjoy many different genres, but there are two things that wow me—a concise, powerful pitch and a first chapter that immediately draws me in and makes me want to keep reading. Authors should pay an inordinate amount of attention to their first paragraph, even their first sentence.

MWG: Yes, that is so true, and sometimes, that first sentence/paragraph seems harder than writing the whole book! Anything that turns you off almost immediately?

Kristina: An author who doesn’t do his homework and who has no idea how publishing works. The industry is changing and I’m still learning—but if a writer wants to be treated like a professional in the industry, she must act like a professional and that means doing the necessary homework, so she understands the basics of how a book goes from an idea in the author’s head to a book in the reader’s hands.

MWG: Oh, so true! That's one of the reasons why we are doing these blog posts--to make homework for the conference attendees a little bit easier! What are you most looking forward to at the MWG conference?

Kristina: Our editors are looking forward to meeting authors, and we’re always looking forward to learning something new.

MWG: Tell us a little about yourself in closing--how long have you been in publishing and share anything else you'd like us to know!

Kristina: I’ve been writing forever and was a copywriter and freelance editor for many years before I started BSP in 2010. I feel very strongly about book covers, have a soft spot for dog noses, and love to play tennis. I’m struggling to find time to revise my historical fiction manuscript, ORACLES OF DELPHI, and have co-written the first of a YA/sci-fi trilogy, tentatively titled SEEDS, with my two daughters. In an effort to fill the needs of the many authors who have approached me for publishing assistance, I, along with three other amazing editors, just started a separate business called Treehouse Publishing Group that offers author services to those who want individualized support preparing their manuscripts for querying or self-publishing, or in select instances, to hybrid publish through our Treehouse imprint.

MWG: Thank you for your time, Kristina! That all sounds amazing, and we will miss you at the MWG conference, but look forward to visiting with Jennifer and Amira! 

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg.

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