Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Querying Writer: Part II

Dear Kim,

Remember that letter I sent you way back in October? (You remember October-- back when all things seemed possible.) 

The letter, COMP TITLES and THE QUERYING WRITER, shared details from our Novel Nuts & Bolts class with Empire Literary Agent Carrie Howland. (I may have referred to her as "agent-extraordinaire" in another post.)

Though today's post will be my third about Carrie, it is titled "Part II" because my querying journey seems sequel worthy.

I started looking for an agent soon after you and I met at the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. I had nice feedback from an agent at a conference and sent him my work. His response was kind (which I've found most responses from agents to be.) But my writing wasn’t ready. The novel he saw was the first I’d ever finished. I wasn't ready.

I swallowed that little voice that said, SEND! SEND! SEND! for two more years until I entered #PitchWars-- Brenda Drake’s crash course in pitching. In the years between the first SEND! SEND! SEND! and #PitchWars I wrote more. I read and read and read. I volunteered for SCBWI. I learned as much as I could from anyone willing to share with me. 

In January 2014, my YA novel did well in the contest scoring many full requests. 

Thanks, Nat!

Just two months after the full request from #PitchWars, I had a great call with one of the agents who wanted a revise and resubmit on the project. The project got a lot of interest, but something about the story wasn’t quite right. The only solution was to keep writing. I had to keep learning. I wrote a lot more. I read a lot more. Took work-for-hire jobs. Started writing book blurbs. Started writing a blog (Hello, Ink Sister!)

When I finally started writing Killer in the fall of 2015 something felt different. Writing Addison, my main character, was the first time I let myself be a part of a story. I gave myself the freedom to write about a character like me. She’s overweight. She's in her head way too much. She wishes she could/would speak up for herself. She wonders what it would take to get someone to love and respect her?

In August 2016 I brought Addison (and Killer) with me to the EPA SCBWI Novel Nuts & Bolts class and Addison's voice spoke to others. At the end of the three part class Carrie Howland asked me to send her the manuscript. I made revisions and sent it to her. 

And then, guess what? I kept writing.

I started my next novel with a main character named Allie. (Yes, I will need to change her name because HELLO...Allie? Could I be more obvious?) Allie is seeking family and love. She is searching for her own identity, apart from the one that has been pushed upon her. Readers drop into Allie’s life the final summer she will travel with her girlfriends on a small carnival. If you really know me, you know exactly how much of me is in the pages of this story.

In all four novels I wrote before Killer, what was missing was me. Not that I am all that interesting, but I think there is a certain level of authenticity that comes from bringing part of yourself to the page. I hadn't let myself go there before and it showed in my stories. No matter how many pretty words I put on the page, none of them landed until I opened myself up a bit more to my readers.

I see you shaking your head and saying, “Well, duh!” All I can say is that it took me a bit longer to pick up that pearl of wisdom, but now that I have it, I won’t let it go.

And now that I’ve accepted an offer of representation from Carrie Howland, I guess she can help remind me if I ever forget. 

Much love,


Monday, February 13, 2017

NY17SCBWI: Healing Hearts

Dear Alison,

The paradigm shift that began the beginning of November and culminated January 20th knocked our country on our ass. We leaned on each other to stand up and prepare for battle. Over the weeks that followed, we wrote letters. We sent tweets. We made phone calls. We marched. We fought for our friends, our families, our children. We fought for our land, our arts, our very souls. 

We will continue to fight every injustice, every threat to the rights of both present and future generations. We will do this. We are compelled to do this, but it is not without cost.

We pretend our skin is thick. For many of us, especially those in the Arts—it is a fiction, a layer of ink and paint to protect our hearts from bleeding out onto the floor. As Tahereh Mafi said during her Saturday afternoon keynote at the New York SCBWI conference, “My thin skin helps me to be emotional.”

SCBWI gave us a gift this past weekend, a gift of spirit, of hope, of possibility, a gift of healing. Saturday morning, Bryan Collier embraced us with a warm, gentle hug. He cradled us while he murmured his keynote: “Let’s Just Feel.”

As SCBWI gave us the gifts of Bryan Collier, Tahereh Mafi, Tomie dePaola, and Sara Pennypacker, I wanted to give their keynotes as quotes that can be printed and posted on the wall, cut and pasted on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, anywhere and everywhere words of hope and inspiration and collective good are needed. The list is my gift to you as SCBWI and Bryan, Tahereh, Tomie, and Sara gifted us.  

His grandmother’s handmade quilts were silent gifts, seeds that were planted and took root in his art.—Bryan Collier

“Everything you’re awkward about is what makes you so special. Those are your gifts.”—Bryan Collier

“All the awkward stuff—get it out. We want you to make us feel something.”—Bryan Collier

“Your mind and spirit must be open to the fact you might need more time. Be open.” –Bryan Collier

“No matter how much you wipe it off—you’re still an artist. It is who you are.”—Bryan Collier

“That one word changes everything. Those kids—they’re waiting for you. That’s what’s at stake.” –Bryan Collier

“Your dream should be so big it should scare you.”—Bryan Collier

Talking about Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty Illustrated by Bryan Collier but applies to life:

“The invisible hole in boy’s soul that nobody sees—loss.”  --Bryan Collier

“To an eight year old, gone is gone.”—Bryan Collier

“It doesn’t matter if it’s death, divorce, incarceration, military commitments. It’s all just GONE.”—Bryan Collier

“Knock down the doors to your dreams.”—Bryan Collier

After Bryan’s keynote, two breakout sessions, and lunch, we returned to the ballroom—our hearts lighter, fuller, but still in need of healing. Tahereh Mafi addressed the moments between the dreaming: the heartache, the rejection, the battle.

“Lean into your rejections.” –Tahereh Mafi

“100s of rejections, 5 manuscripts until one took.” –Tahereh Mafi

“You battle only 2 opponents. 1st yourself, 2nd is time.” –Tahereh Mafi

“Be gentle to yourself.” –Tahereh Mafi

“If you are here, you are brave.” –Tahereh Mafi

Her gentle, soft words nurtured our souls. By Saturday evening, amongst cupcakes, laughter and conversation with kindred spirits our hearts mended.

But SCBWI wasn’t finished with us. They wanted to give us more. Sunday morning, Tomie dePaola presented the Tomie dePaola Illustrator award for the last time, but he wanted to impart a heart of emotion to us as well.

He reminded us that we are not alone in our daily struggles.

In regards to art and writing:
“When you decide it’s your path, be brave and stick to it.” –Tomie dePaola

“Read, read, read.”—Tomie dePaola

“Don’t be afraid to be a spiritual mindful person.” –Tomie dePaola

“Ask yourself honestly why do you want to write for young children.” –Tomie dePaola

“I wish you the courage to do it in the first place, and the courage to do it again and again and again.” –Tomie dePaola

He made us laugh too… “Publishers, why the hell haven’t you given Lisa Cinelli a book?” –Tomie dePaola

By Sara Pennypacker’s closing keynote we were ready to slip back into our fictional thick skins and prepare for the outside world. She was the only speaker who directly addressed the current political state of affairs, but we were ready for it.

Image result for sara  pennypackers

“If we write books for children, we need to know the state of our children’s world.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Do not allow anyone to block the river of your creativity.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Anyone who is passionate about what they do is compelled to do it.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Good stories are about things that matter.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Information, friendship, community, inspiration, and contacts—that’s what SCBWI does for us.” –Sara Pennypacker

“Sharpen your pens and brushes and go subtract a measurable drop of evil from the world.”—Sara Pennypacker

So my friends, it is time to say Goodbye. My pencil is sharpened and poised to subtract a measurable drop of evil from the world.

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Plus Activity: ARE WE THERE YET? by Dan Santat

Dear Kim,

A 💗Valentine💗 to Dan Santat's ARE WE THERE YET?


How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways:

1. Your endpapers. Ah the rare beauty of endpapers so divine that I want to frame them for my walls. And the way that they gift my readers with an understanding of the beginning and end of the book is that of a love song.

2. Your surprises. Thank you for letting us unwrap your jacket for a surprise. Thank you for giving us the ability to read into your pictures, allowing for surprises with every page turn. Thank you for the movement of the book that caused movement with my readers. (The students moving was not a surprise, but the book's interactive and playful movement was a surprise for them, and that delight is worth savoring.)

Flip. Flip. Turn. 💞

3. Your type. The sound of "The text was set in Dantat and the display type was hand-lettered" had the sweet melody of magic. Hand-lettering is beloved by our readers.


4. Your story. What human hasn't heard (or uttered) the words "Are we there yet?" And yet Dan Santat's approach was completely fresh. We travel back in time and forward too. We are reminded how time does, in fact, fly and that we should appreciate the present. Layers and laughter combine to make this a favorite read aloud.


Maybe I've made one too many Valentine's this week causing an abundance of GUSH over this book? Yet it really is brilliant. Not just brilliant on the message end, which we teachers tend to like, but also on the interaction between reader and design. The kids LOVED this book and loved making their own "game board" style writing.

→The kids drew pictures of a trip on index cards with parts of the journey written at the bottom of each card.
↳Each kid then received a piece of poster board to lay the cards in any and all directions they wished.
↝Once glued down the kids drew (or glued) arrows from one illustration to the next.

Some looked like mazes with part one of the story in the upper left hand corner, and the end of the story in the dead center of the poster board. Others looked like an explosion of arrows that took great skill to follow from beginning to end. I will snag some finished products and get them posted ASAP.

Happy early Valentine's Day!
Find a book you love and write a Valentine for it too (or a review.) A review is like a Valentine for the author!!!

Much love,

Thursday, February 2, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Starr Fall & BOOK RELEASE: Once & Forever

Dear Alison,

Goodbye January, Hello February! Last week, I let everyone peak in my drawers.  Today, I'm opening my inbox. Well, not literally. You DO NOT want to see my inbox--though I do try to keep all the accounts very tidy--sometimes the emails get a bit, what's the word I'm looking for? Expansive. My favorite emails are from fans. I LOVE them. They make me all warm and fuzzy. Seriously, touch my arm...

See? Warm and Fuzzy. Oh, wait those are my doggies;)

While, I ADORE the fan mail (I DO, I REALLY DO) I would LOVE them even more if they were added as a review to AMAZON and GOODREADS. For instance, look at some of these reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read!!!January 31, 2017

This review is from: Starr Fall: Book One of the Starr Fall Series (Kindle Edition)
Purchased this book for my 14 year old daughter who is NOT a fan of reading for pleasure or at all for that matter. Well, the book immediately grabbed her attention. In her words..."I can't put this book down. I need to know what happens. Her writing is so good that I can picture Starr and Christian in my mind. Her words create a story in my head. I felt like I was watching a movie in my head as I read." My daughter finished the book very quickly. "What a cliff hanger" were her words when she finished the book. She wanted to know if there was a second book because she said she needs to know what happens to Starr and Christian. If your teeenager complains about reading, buy this book. I'm so glad I did. Now that she is done, I can finally read it. Can't wait for her to start the second book in the series, Starr Lost.

Don't you ADORE this review? I mean, my heart still feels like: 
Can I share one more? 

5.0 out of 5 stars Starr Fall Kim Briggs delivers a fast paced love story that left me dying to know what happens ...January 30, 2017
Verified Purchase
This review is from: Starr Fall: Book One of the Starr Fall Series (Kindle Edition)
Starr Fall
Kim Briggs delivers a fast paced love story that left me dying to know what happens next! Can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!

The second one is short, sweet, and to the point. Reviews don't need to be long, but they are the lifeblood of an author, especially an Indie Author. I don't pay for reviews, nor does my publisher, Inkspell Publishing, but most major publishers do. I don't have the funding to put in that kind of leg work, so I send out Starr Fall Book Review Grovels. It takes more time, but in the end, the reviews I get are very rewarding. I earned every single one of them through hard work.  

So, if you would like to review, I've made it super easy: 

And if you're feeling especially generous with your reviews, you can click on Starr Lost, And Then He, and even Valentine Kisses on any of those sites. 

FYI: I LOVEEEEE giving shout outs, so tweet me or message me or leave a comment below, and I will SHOUT OUT some #writerlove for you! 

Okay, stepping off my review soapbox to shout out some love to fellow Inkspell Publisher author, M.S.Kaye, and the release of her book, 

Once & Forever
book 3
by M.S. Kaye

Who is the mysterious Santa who leaves toys on the convent steps?
After a twelve-year separation, Eden is finally reunited with her brother, Thomas, but why hadn’t she reached out to him in all those years? Eden, a nun, is constantly struggling against her dark past of living on the streets, and her attraction to Trace, an ex-convict farm worker. As Eden and Trace confess their pasts to each other and grow closer, will they be able to resist getting too close?
Amazon  |  Kobo  |  iBooks  |  Goodreads

Author Bio:
M.S. Kaye has several published books under her black belt. A transplant from Ohio, she resides with her husband Corey in Jacksonville, Florida, where she tries not to melt in the sun. Find suspense and the unusual at www.BooksByMSK.com.
To receive news on upcoming releases, sign up for email updates on her website.
Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Google+  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  TSU  |  Pinterest  |  LinkedIn
Once, book 1
Her first and also her once.
Jonathan and Rebecca’s paths cross at exactly the right moment, when each most needs to hear what the other has to say.
But Jonathan is three days from entering the priesthood, and Rebecca leaves him to his peace. But he is unable to find peace.
Without each other’s comfort and strength, they must each struggle to forge a new path, with only memories of the one day that changed everything.
But are they able to forget and let go?
Amazon  |  Kobo  |  iBooks  |  B&N  |  ARe  |  Goodreads
Once & Again, book 2
She was once his secret desire… Will she be again?
Father Aiden, an ex-marine and new priest, falls in love with Maylynn, but he struggles to stay away from her. He’s successful for many years, though he can’t keep her out of his dreams.
Then one day she shows up for a pre-marital counselling session with her fiancé, Davis. Aiden soon realizes Davis isn’t who he says he is, but what does that mean for Maylynn, and for himself?
Amazon  |  B&N  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  ARe  |  Goodreads
Excerpt book 3:
“You know what he did to git sent to prison?” one of the convenience store clerks murmured to the other.
Trace could just hear them over the horrible rendition of “Jingle Bells” playin’ through the speakers. He ignored them, like he always did. He tried to come into town late in the evening to avoid people as much as possible, but that also meant it was quiet enough that he could often hear what people murmured about him. Once he’d grabbed some protein bars and a can of beer, he headed up to the counter to pay.
The clerk with a buzz-cut told him the total, and Trace handed him some cash.
Neither of the clerks made eye contact with him, but they both hovered over the cash register as if he might snatch it and run.
Buzz-cut closed the cash drawer right quick and handed Trace’s change back.
“Thank you.” Trace stuffed the change in his pocket, took the bag of protein bars in one hand and his beer in the other, and walked out of the store.
He headed for the back lot toward the alley. He could get through most of downtown by way of the alley. This late at night it was almost too dark to see where he was goin’, but that was part of what he liked about it.
“Bitch,” someone growled. And then the sound of something—or someone—smacking into the brick wall of the back of the convenience store.
Trace moved more quickly and turned the corner, and he caught sight of a skinny, young woman punching a man in the face. His head snapped back. But then another man slammed his fist across her jaw. She looked so frail that the punch seemed like shooting a cannon ball at a piece of notebook paper.
“Hey!” Trace roared and ran at them. “Git away from her.”

I haven't read this series but I've read other books by M.S. Kaye, and I can tell you, she does not disappoint. In fact since I'm talking about book reviews, here's mine: 

Strong as Death by M.S. Kaye
Illona knew she was different, but her mom kept her from the rest of the world. Illona assumed her mom was just overprotective. She couldn’t be more wrong. When she goes out for some fresh air, she finds herself in a world she didn’t know existed, a world where people want to kill you, a world where boys become men with one gun shot, a world where pretty girls need protection, but Illona is not just a pretty girl. Archer, a boy who became a man, ignites a fire in her she didn’t know she possessed, a fire brought on by her own abilities and a kiss that prompts her to realize her imaginary friends from childhood are very real indeed. You want a ghost tale? You got it. Put it on your TBR pile. You won’t be disappointed.

So with that review, I will bring this post to a close. Next week, I'll be talking about Valentine Kisses: A Kiss to Last A Lifetime. If you want to find out more ahead of time, check out my Valentine Kisses cover reveal post--because it's STILL ONLY $.99 but for a limited time. I'll talk more about Starr Fall and Starr Lost, plus I WILL babble about the #NY17SCBWI conference and our FIFTH YEAR anniversary!! Can you believe we've been together for FIVE YEARS???? Well, until next time... 

Thanks for stopping by!

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,