Choosing The Crazy – my path to SP – Part #1

Hi all, Often when I’m reading a novel, and come across a mistake, wrong word… whatever, assuming it is traditionally published, I may become annoyed, but I am rarely annoyed at the author – it’s the publisher and their editorial … Continue reading

New Year, New Name, New Objectives

Hello all, I mentioned on my last post that I was looking at changing the name of this blog and after what seems dozens of various options and at least as many variations of each option, I have settled on TheNovelAbode. … Continue reading

#NestPitch2015 – is your manuscript pitch ready? Then… April 1-2-3 Go!

BunnyBlowsEggBubblesFor those who don’t know what Nestpitch is, here’s a quick run-through.

There’s a special Easter tradition throughout central and northern Croatia – making Easter Nests for the Easter Bunny.  On the afternoon or eve of Easter Saturday children go out into the garden and collect leaves, grass, twigs, flowers and then make a “nest” for the Easter Bunny – that’s where he places hisEaster-Egg-Presents. The children go to bed that eve wondering if the Easter Bunny will like or love their nest, because the best nest gets the best and biggest eggs! 

And that’s the basis of Nestpitch, but the ‘nests’ are the author’s pitches and the ‘Easter Bunnies’ are the agents

– get it? Great!

BunnyEatsCarrotHoleHow does Nestpitch work?

This year we have changed things a bit, therefore even if you participated in Nestpitch 2014 you will still need to read the below.

This year we are NOT accepting Picture Books. We are accepting MG, YA, NA and Adult FICTION ONLY. I had someone ask if we are accepting memoirs or similar- the short answer is NO. This is a FICTION ONLY pitch + 1st 300 for manuscript length fiction only. We are accepting all genres within these categories. If your novel is either Erotica or Christian, please state this. For example: Adult Romance (Erotica) or YA Historical Romance (Christian).

RabbitBrownCatchingSnowflakesWe support diversity and strongly encourage authors with GLBT, geographic, cultural and/or social diversity within their manuscripts to submit. Having said this, we DO NOT support sexual violence, violence against children, bigotry and racism, paedophilia and/or animal cruelty. While it is true that violence and cruelty features within some genres, horror for example, or racism in a historical fiction set in the time of slavery, we will not accept manuscripts that support or promote, directly or indirectly, racism, misogyny, rape, sexual, physical or emotional violence.

One submission per author only please.

Teams: This year there are nine Teams made up of one Mentor & two Slushies. The Teams are listed here:https://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/nestpitch-2015-teams-simply-smawesome/

Guidelines: easter-rabbit-eating-vegetables-beautiful-gif-photography-great-atmosphere-funny-pics-233-1

The Pitch window will be open for 48 hours, thereby allowing everyone, regardless of where you live in the world, to prepare and submit a pitch.

The Pitch will be made up of three parts.

(i)                 a 35-word pitch

(ii)               answer to a question (in your main character’s voice)*

(iii)             the first 300-words of their manuscript

*QUESTION: If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?  Keep your answer to NO MORE than 15-words.

happy easter animated gif funny Easter Bunny photo graphics Happy Easter ecards animations eaggs Easter fun hot cross bunny  animations gif e-cardsHow to submit your Pitch:

On April 1st the submission window will open. Please follow the guidelines as set out below. Last year some people put their first 300 words at the top or mixed up the order. Please do not do this. There is a reason for the order and failure to follow the below will likely mean your submission will not pass Round#1 (refer below).

Send the following in your email:

In the Subject line: Nestpitch2015 Sub and your name/author name

In the body of the email type these words: 

By submitting this pitch + first 300 words I agree to allow the Nestpitch blog and/or any other affiliated blogs to post my submission on an open forum for the purposes of critique and feedback.  I understand this can be for the life of the blog(s).

PoohBearBunnyBasketManuscript Title:

Category/ Genre:

Word Count:

35-word Pitch:

QU (in your MC’s voice), if your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?:

*First 300-words of your MS:

*1st 300 = if your MS has a prologue, then your 1st 300 starts from your prologue. Also, finish at the end of a sentence. This is 300-word MAX, so your last word is 300-words. If your sentence finishes on 292-words, submit that. If your sentences run into 30 or more words, then you might want to rethink the length of your sentence(s). Broken sentences do no one favours.

Example of a Submission:

Subject line: Nestpitch2015 Sub – Nikola Vukoja

By submitting this pitch + first 300 words I agree to allow the Nestpitch blog and/or any other affiliated blogs to post my submission on an open forum for the purposes of critique and feedback.  I understand this can be for the life of the blog(s).

zg8w-19L-1

Manuscript Title:      Easter Bunny goes to Vegas

Category/ Genre:      MG/ Fantasy

Word Count:             26,000

35-word Pitch:        After losing all his eggs in a card game to March Hare, the Easter Bunny heads for Las Vegas where he plans to win enough money to buy back the world’s Easter Eggs. 

If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?  I’d be every flavour, colour, shape and size imaginable; I’m the Easter Bunny… geez!

First 300-words of your MS:

Easer Bunny Blah Blah…

Send your submission to: Nestpitch@outlook.com (please note the submission window below, submissions sent prior or post those times/dates will not be accepted)

funny-animal-gifs-just-some-bunniesFormatting: Either Times Roman or Arial (we are aware that there may be issues with some email account regarding font, please do your best to use either Times Roman or Arial, or something as close as possible to these two)

No indentions. Single spacing. One space between each Paragraph.

Prologues: Your prologue is where your first 300 words begin.

Word Count: Rounded to nearest 1000. For example, 86,000 not 85,798

BunnyPaintsEggsTreeSelection Process: Last year we contacted all submissions that had made a mistake or left something out (listing only category or genre for example). This year we will not be so lenient. Aside from formatting issues, authors will be expected to follow the above. All submissions will be read by me (Nikola) first to ensure each submission has followed the above rules/guidelines.

There will be three rounds before final selection.

a.       Round #1: To get past #1 the authors must be able to follow guidelines.

b.      Round #2: This year each Team will select an initial 5-8 submissions and then request more pages/material. Based on the additional pages/material, each Team will drill their selection down to between 4-5 to go to the next round. Note: authors may receive more than one request from more than one Team.

c.       Round #3: On having picked their final 4-5, each Team will then critique the first 2,500-words and ‘get to know’ the author(s). This is a 3-fold process. Being selected does not necessarily mean being featured. Teams will want to know the author(s) are willing to accept feedback etc.  The Teams will work with their authors for 3 weeks, offering feedback, sharpening pitches, & suggesting improvements. After this, the authors have a full week to re-read their MS in full & make any final changes; before the agent round.

snoopyeasterFrom the Slush-pile Picks. My Team #Team2Beat, will be hunting through the slush-pile and the reserves, looking for gems that have been missed. We will have the option of selecting between 1-5 pitches (at our discretion) to feature. This is basically a bonus-pick so, you may just get an email after the date, but if you do, you’ll be expected to work twice as hard as the other author’s as you’ll have less time – so be ready!

Additional Rules: 

a.       Only manuscripts which HAVE NOT been featured in another online competition are eligible to enter. This DOES NOT include workshops, critique groups or similar. It also DOES NOT include twitter or any other tag-line style pitches either. Please feel free to ask if you’re in any doubt.

                                                              (i)      If you have submitted the same manuscript to #Pitchslam, due to the time-line cross-over, we are accepting these submissions. However, if your submission goes to the final stage of either or both competitions, please advice us and the host of #Pitchslam.

b.      Submissions MUST follow the submission format. We accept that sometimes emails de-format fonts and tabs, what we don’t want is people forgetting to put CATEGORY & GENRE (for example) or not answering the question; that sort of thing.

All pitches that have followed the rules (round#1) will then be forwarded to each Team. After the internal cat-fight, erh discussions will take place and each Team will select their top 4-5 author submissions (round#3). Expect to also see teasers and cryptic clues via Twitter & Facebook (*don’t forget to follow the Mentors and Slushies, lots of fun to be had!)

My Team #Team2Beat will be the Bandit Team. I bet all of you have a brother or sister who always stole your favourite Easter Eggs – well that’s what we’ll be doing – sort of. We will be looking for hidden or missed gems. They could be from the slush-pile or from #round2 & we’ll feature them. #Team2Beatmay have as few as one submission featured or as many as five – it all depends on how many diamonds in the rough we believe have been missed.

This year there will again be an Amazon Gift voucher Prize for the submission with the highest number of requests and another for matching the Agents with their Masks (more on that at agent reveal).

15Dates:

Agent Reveal: 27th March

Submission Window Opens April Fools Day (Wednesday 1st April 2015)

10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time

7am USA New York Time

12 noon London UK Time

Submission Window Closes Good Friday (Friday 3rd April 2015)

10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time

7am USA New York Time

12 noon London UK Time

Secret Agent Bunny Mask Reveal: April 9th

Teams send out requests for 1st 2,500 words Sunday 12th April

Authors reply by Tuesday 14th April

Final Selection Sunday 10th May (Mother’s Day)

Agent Request open Monday 11th May to Tuesday 12th May 2015

Unmask the Agent: Wednesday 13th May 2015 (Amazon Voucher)

Agent Request(s) sent out to authors Wednesday 13th May 2015

Authors to send requested pages to Agents by Friday 15th May 2015

Winner of Most Requests: 20th or 21st May

Stats: 28th or 29st May

Nestpitch2015 Close: 31st May (follow up blog with success stories as they come)

One last thing. Please remember to be respectful and considerate when communicating with out Mentors, Slushies and Agents. Rude, vulgar or insulting comments, tweets or emails will not be tolerated, in other words, please nice folks!

BunnyChocolateTailHelpful Guides: Novel Word Count:

Although we are not going to eliminate anyone who does not match the below, we recommend you try to follow as closely as possible the suggested word-count.  The to – from word-count is a guide only and takes into consideration genre variations (for example fantasy genre novels tend to be on the longer side)

ADULT:                     70,000 – 115,000

NEW ADULT :          60, 000 – 90,000

YOUNG ADULT:       50,000 – 80,000

MIDDLE GRADE:     25,000 – 45,000

Useful Tools/ Things to Avoid:BunnyThumperLooks

Common Punctuation Errors: (selected examples taken from Maeve Maddox’s post, March 20, 2015)

Incorrect: To become fluent readers students must read outside school hours.
Correct: To become fluent readers, students must read outside school hours.

“To become fluent readers” is an introductory infinitive phrase and should be followed by a comma.

Incorrect: If you want to write well you must be prepared to practice the craft.
Correct: If you want to write well, you must be prepared to practice the craft.

“If you want to write well” is an introductory clause and should be followed by a comma.

Incorrect: The boys, who vandalized the public gardens, are in police custody.
Correct: The boys who vandalized the public gardens are in police custody.

“Who vandalized the public gardens” is essential information because it identifies which boys are meant. It should not be set off by commas.

Incorrect: Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter, nevertheless they kept up with their studies.
Correct: Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter; nevertheless, they kept up with their studies.

Also correct: Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter. Nevertheless, they kept up with their studies.

A comma splice results when two independent clauses are joined by a comma. The main clauses here are “Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter” and “nevertheless, they kept up with their studies.”

The word nevertheless is a conjunctive adverb. Its function is to provide a transition between two thoughts, but it is not a joining word like and or but. A comma splice can be avoided by placing a semicolon after the first clause or by ending the first clause with a period or other end stop and starting a new sentence with a capital letter.

Incorrect: The spelunkers found, that the caves were closed to protect the bats.
Correct: The spelunkers found that the caves were closed to protect the bats.

The noun clause is “the caves were closed to protect the bats.” The clause functions as the direct object of the verb in the main clause, found.

thHoppingBunnyClauses: Main clauses that are not part of a compound or complex sentence require an end stop. When a period or other end stop is omitted, the result is a “run-on sentence.”

Incorrect: The rushing waves capsized the boat indifferent gulls wheeled overhead.

Correct: The rushing waves capsized the boat. Indifferent gulls wheeled overhead.

The simplest way to correct a run-on sentence is to put a period at the end of the first clause and capitalize the first word of the next one.

Multiple Exclamation Points!!!56

Incorrect: Before my astonished eyes, the house sank into the tarn!!!!
Correct: Before my astonished eyes, the house sank into the tarn!

On the rare occasions that an exclamation mark is needed, one is sufficient. Remember this rule, more than one Kitten… always. More than one exclamation mark… never.

Quotation Marks.

Incorrect: Our staff is required to take three “safety” courses every year.
Correct: Our staff is required to take three safety courses every year.

In most contexts, placing quotation marks around a word suggests that the word is being used with a meaning other than the obvious one. Writers who enclose words in quotation marks merely for emphasis risk annoying their readers. No one likes to waste time trying to discern a hidden meaning where there is none.

There are more examples on Maeve Maddox’s post found here: http://www.prdaily.eu/PRDailyEU/Articles/10_punctuation_essentials_for_every_writer_18319.aspx

Below is a list of words I have selected which are often incorrectly used:

1303815445_bunny-noseAffect vs. effect

Affect is usually a verb, and effect is usually a noun. When you affect something, it produces and effect. To affect something is to change or influence it. An effect is something that happens due to cause.

Affluent vs. effluent

Affluent describes something or someone has having a lot of money. It can also mean something is fluid or flowing in a large quantity, either literally or figuratively. A person who is wealthy is an affluentEffluent is the liquid sewage that is released as waste.

Farther vs. further

Father and Further both mean at a greater distance, and they are used interchangeably in this sense. In the US farther is more often used to refer to physical distances, and further more often refers to figurative and non-physical distances.

Imply vs. infer 

To imply is to express something indirectly. For example, you might imply that it’s time for a guest to leave by saying that you are getting tired. To infer is to surmise or deduce. For example, if you were to tell a guest that you’re getting tired, the guest might infer that it’s time to leave. More broadly, infer means to deduce. For example, when the sky grows dark in the middle of the day, you might infer that it’s probably going to storm. Infer has been used in place of imply so often and for so long that some dictionaries now list it as a synonym of imply in a secondary sense. In edited writing, however, the traditional distinction is usually kept intact.

easter-bunny-cute-gifLightening vs. lightning

Lightening (from the verb – lighten), where to lighten is to make light or lighter. Lightning is the flash of light associated with thunder.

Literally vs. figuratively

Literally means exactly, in a strict sense, or to the letter. For example, “I am literally foaming at the mouth,” this literally means real foam is coming out of his or her mouth. 

Figuratively means in a metaphorical sense—so when someone says, “I am figuratively foaming at the mouth,” we can infer that he or she is using the idiom foaming at the mouth, which means very angry, and that no mouth foam is actually present.

Misinformed vs. uninformed

Something that is misinformed is based on bad information. Something that is uninformed is based on no information or inadequate information.

Oppress, repress, suppress

To oppress is to keep someone down by unjust force or authority. To repress is (1) to hold back, or (2) to put down by force. Suppress, means (1) to put an end to, (2) to inhibit, and (3) to keep from being revealed, such as suppressing evidence.

BunnyBrownBasketSparklePeek, peak & pique

A peek is a glance or a quick look. It can also mean to glance or to peer at. Peak is a topmost point, such as a mountain peak. Finally, pique is to upset or excite someone, such as, to pique interest, you are exciting their interest not taking a quick look at it.

Re-create vs. recreate

Recreate means to amuse oneself with an activity, and is a word in its own right. The verb re-create, meaning to create again, benefits from the hyphen. But because recreate is an exceedingly rare verb, there’s actually little chance of the two being confused, so many publications omit the hyphen and use recreate to mean to create again.

Whiny, whiney, whinny

Whiny is an adjective meaning habitually complaining or like a whine.

Whiney is the same as whiny.

Whinny is the sound horses make & is synonymous with neigh.

Wreath vs. wreathe

The difference between wreath and wreathe is similar to that between breath and breathe. Wreath is a noun and wreathe is its corresponding verb.

MyButtHurts1Variations in British English and US English

As a general rule, the use of the letter ‘u’ in certain words differentiates the two types of English, for example Favorite / Favourite. The first being US English. Another example would be Color / Colour. Also the replacement of the letter ‘S’ with the letter ‘Z’ is a common difference between the two versions. For example Realize / Realise, with the first being US English.

Then there are words where US English has only one ‘L’ when – ed is added, for example Traveled is US English and Travelled is British English.

I found a good source of reference here: http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/words/british_american_english.htm

This site also highlights changes in ‘re’ and ‘er’ for example Centre/Center and other variations.

Sometimes words have a very different spelling as is the case with Jewelry  / Jewellery. The first being US English.

I hope some of these will help you with your grammar and word selection  and of course, if you have any questions about #Nestpitch please feel free to leave a comment or contact me on Twitter using either @nestpitch or @Nik_Vukoja

Come back in a few days to see our truly smawesome list of Agents!

ImageProxy

Adult Contemporary Re-tell – “Artie & the Dodecagon” – Michelle4Laughs QL Blog Hop

Hi all,as many of you will have read, Michelle Hauck (Michelle4laughs – http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com.au/ ) is currently running a query letter critique blog-hop. Even though I posted my first page on my personal blog, I thought, given I posted about the blog-hop here & given I’ve tormented many of you with critiquing your QL’s, I’d return the favour.

A few notes. This is WIP and although I know the main twist plots and the ending, it’s not quite 1/2 through finished so the below is a QL on a WIP for which I have guestimated the final word-count. As Michelle is accepting QLs for WIPS and given the content, I thought I’d brave the QL critique waters. Also, while the QL is careful not to use offensive words – especially out of context, this is a violent & sexually charged story & not for the faint-hearted. If you want to read my draft 1-st page, its on my Nikola Vukoja blog – http://nikvukoja.wordpress.com/ – even the first few lines will make it clear. Just thought I’d mention that 😉

For those 5 above and below me on Michelle’s list, I promise to get to you ASAP – it’s my birthday tomorrow & mum’s on the 6th so the next few days could be a bit hit-and-miss 🙂

QUERY:

Dear Awesome Agent,

When sorceress and Australian crime-boss Morgause’ hit-men fail to take out Artie before he discovers he’s the new ‘once & future king,’ Morgause implements plan-B, kill Artie’s spirit.

She tasks her son to seduce Artie’s best mate and then uses the witless love-struck human to spy on Artie. Then, discovering Artie’s Catholic Priest is struggling with his vows and the woman of his sexual fantasies is Artie’s girlfriend Gwen, Morgause ply’s Gwen and the Priest with a powerful tonic. The potion fevers lust while diluting a mortal’s reason and moral compass. Gwen and the Priest spend a wild night together, but with the clarity of morning, both regret their actions. Ashamed, they agree to tell no one; however, a secret video of their night together quickly goes viral on Youtube.

Feeling betrayed and struggling with the world either vilifying Gwen or laughing at him, Artie is broken. Morgause can finally destroy the man and the legend and also have her revenge on the first King Arthur, and her nemesis, Merlin.

But Artie isn’t alone. With the help of an invisible dragon and the mythical Rainbow Serpent of Koori legend, Merlin casts magic bullets which should vanquish Morgause. But in order for the magic to bond, a final ingredient is needed… forgiveness. If Artie has truly forgiven his best mate, priest, girlfriend, and even his parents for their lies, then the magic will work. The final body-count will determine the power of Artie’s forgiveness by who survives.

Told for dual POV (Morguase’ & Artie’s), ARTIE AND THE DODECAGON is an (estimated) 80,000-word contemporary adult, sexually explicit (straight and gay), dark, Arthurian re-tell set in Scotland and Australia.

I was born in Croatia, raised in Australia and have lived in France. In 2013 I placed in a worldwide short story competition. In 2015 I’ll have a short story published in an anthology with a US publisher. I’m also a painter, a slave to my Feline Overlords and active on social media.

Per submission guidelines …..

Regards,

 

#Nestpitch 2015 & St. Nicholas Day

19991Hi All!

Following on from my last post I wanted to talk a little today about the changes I’m planning for #Nestpitch 2015

The first is the Mentor/Team System.

In 2014 we had some AWESOME submissions however, and this is not the case for all submissions, there were several agents who, on requesting pages and query letters, were left a little disappointed that the quality/voice/lack of grammatical errors (etc.) did not translate beyond page one, two or three. Others failed in the query letter stage. While the pages may have been good, the query did not “grip” and QL’s are (sadly) part of the process. As I say, this was not the case for the majority of submissions, however, there were enough such comments to have me look at how I can improve on the submission process.

So this got me thinking. The basic process WILL remain the same, that is to say, the concept of Easter Nests & Secret Bunny Agents will remain, however the selection process will be MUCH TOUGHER – not because I’m cruel! but to get the very best submissions before agents.

snoopyeasterMentor Teams:

In 2015 there will be MENTOR TEAMS made up of a Team Leader (Mentor) and his/her Slush Bilbies (2-3 readers). Each Team will work separately but will also working with the other Teams, & select their top picks.

Selection Process:

The initial steps will remain. 35-word pitch & first 300 words but instead of the Mentors picking & featuring eight (8) submissions, the Mentors will pick “between 5-8” (plus two alternates) and of those, they will request both the Query Letter & either the first chapter or the first 2500-words. The query WILL NOT be featured but will form part of the Mentor Selection Process. The Teams, who will pick a name (e.g #TeamWinnerWinnerChickenDinner) and then read their picked queries, pitches & first chapter. They will have 3 weeks to read through, request more, send revised notes & request a revised version (the author has 5 days to reply) or reject completely. After 4-weeks each Team will feature their picks on their blogs.

The final number per Team is yet to be decided but will not be less than five or more than eight per Team. Every member of the Team will feature the selected submissions. For example #TeamWinnerWinnerChickenDinner will feature their author’s pitches + first 300-words on each Team Members Blog(although the Agent bidding will only happen on the Team Leaders Blog)

This way each author benefits 3 ways:

(i)                 More exposure

(ii)               Feedback which will benefit them in their pitch, the query letter & page requests.

(iii)             Enough time (after sending any revised pages back) to work through any repeating issues in their MS before agent requests come through.

tumblr_mfnljv4qMl1qiwqjeo2_400From The Slush-Pile:

Additional to the above, I will select my own “saved from the slush-pile” submissions. This could be as few as one or as many as five or six and is utterly at my own discretion. Basically, if I feel very strongly about certain submissions that were not picked by the Mentors, I will give these a second chance. The process will be the same. For example, if there are three I feel should be featured, all three will need to send their query letters & first chapter at which point I will read, revise, reject and request… and then make my selection.

Regardless of if there is one or more, these will form part of the Agent Round also. Essentially I’ll be looking for hidden gems that need a little bit more polishing.

Cuteness overloaded#PitchBootCamp:

In 2014 I ran a short bootcamp for 35-word pitches with the awesome Rhiann Wynn-Nolet. It was an opportunity to sharpen your pitches with feedback from Rhiann & myself as well as an open forum for others to comment & participate. I can tell you that many who were involved considered this an excellent way to prefect their pitches, not just for #Nestpitch but for other pitches.

Assuming Rhiann is available, I do intend to run this again; stay tuned.

Feedback:

As with #Nestpitch2014, I will be offering feedback to those who just missed out as I think it’s important for people who were “just about there” to know this. Sometimes the reasoning can be as simple as what else has been selected, or Agent Wish-Lists or Mentor preferences, other times it might be issues with grammar or a poor query letter that lets down the submission. This is what (I feel) author’s need to know.

cuddle bunnie kitten 1PictureBooks:

I adore Picture Books and that is why I featured them in #Nestpitch2014 however, sadly, although we had a lot submitted, very few were submission ready and none got requests. For this reason, I am unsure if we will be accepting PB’s for #Nestpitch 2015. My heart says yes so I’ll let you know in 2015.

However, all is not lost for PB’s.

Although I don’t have the time this year (too many things on before the end of 2014), I intend to run an online workshop December 6th 2015 for PB’s. Why this date? Simple, its St. Nicholas day & for those of you who know me, know I just LOVE LOVE LOVE traditions. (in fact it’s actually where the more modern tradition of Christmas Stocking filling comes from).1092157-Clipart-St-Nicholas-Day-Greeting-Over-A-Shoe-With-Goodies-Royalty-Free-Vector-Illustration

In the area of Croatia I come from there still remains the tradition of gifts for children on St. Nicholas day. In fact, for a very long time, right up until the 1950s or 1960s, that was the day children got presents while Christmas day was for family, feasts, religion etc.

On December 5th eve, children take their best pair of shoes and polish and polish and polish them. When the shoes are shiny clean they are left on the front porch, or covered stoop (remembering this is winter and where I come from if its not snowing in December it is surely raining!) Then St. Nicholas comes along and leaves something in each shoe depending on the quality of the polish and the behaviour of the child in the past year.

(i)                 Super good children, basically angels, get something special, chocolate

(ii)               really good children get a toy

(iii)             good children get fruit (oranges in winter were considered a treat)

(iv)             Naughty children get a lump of coal

(v)               Very naughty children get either onions or garlic shoved into their shoes. For many months after, each time they go to wear the shoes, the smell reminds them to be better next year.

2369d799254b142e6f62b73033ca79e8FYI traditionally St. Nicholas travelled with the Devil. St. Nicholas gave the gifts & the Devil left the coal & onions!

While we’ll ignore the coal and the garlic, in 2015 I’ll b running a PB workshop. Sometime in November 2015 I’ll be asking for PB submissions. Then, from December 6th to Christmas Eve, each day I feature the pitch plus first 100-words of various PB’s. Clearly I can only accept 18 submissions so it will be first come first serve I’m afraid.

From December 6th people will come along and leave a “gift” along with a short sentence as to why they chose an orange rather than chocolate. The 18 PB authors featured will be required to each leave a comment on at least 3 submissions between Dec 6th & 24th, & will also need to help “spread the word” for others to come along and “play St. Nicholas” thereby ensuring everyone gets feedback.

On Dec 25th the top 3-5 (PB’s that got the best presents) will be re-featured on the #Nestpitch blog. There is more to it, but basically that’s it. The idea is to help PB writers sharpen their own work while also getting feedback from the general public. Unlike a #pitchcomp this is not about agents asking for requests (although if an agent does contact me I promise to pass on the requests!), it’s about a forum for PB authors.

I’ve posted this early as I’d very much like feedback from you’all on the planned changes

and of course any suggestions would also be very welcome.

Drafy Nest Pich Logo last stage

Is the ability to create great Art in our Genes or our Perseverance?

Antlers_WiFi_2011_5_13Hello All,

This is a long-ish post so apologies to those who like short ones! I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. And I have my own thoughts on this but I’ll share those further down, first how I came to thinking about this topic. A while ago I read on a Blog post about the 10,000-hour rule.

In 2008 Little Brown & Co published Malcolm Galwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success which, in a nutshell says that if anyone spends 10,000 hours on their preferred art-form, they will become proficient and successful at it. The book uses studies (namely the study of children learning to play the violin) to“prove” that if you practice your art, you will become something akin to a savant/genius at your chosen art.

Domonoks_7This got me thinking, is it really that easy and that hard?

Now, let me start by staying I am a FIRM believer in practice makes perfect. Whether you are a dancer, a musician, a writer, a painter (etc.) the more time you spend practising your art-form, the better you’ll become. However, I couldn’t help but question the logic.  After all, some people simply open their mouths and beautiful music comes out. Other’s put pen to paper and write amazing stories or brilliant symphonies, did they all spend 10,000 hours unbeknown to the rest of us?

Outliers doesn’t just touch on art-forms, it refers to pretty much every sort of profession, be that science, or business or web-design-genius’ such as Steve Jobs (etc.) So, given I love facts and figures as much as I love art (those that know me well will know I thrive on stats and graphs and all kinds of mathematical equations), I started looking into this. And it would appear many in the arts, sciences and business are questioning Malcolm Galwell’s “rule” as a, well… RULE.

2579886_5567648625_incon_by_ninjakato-d7r3bu2So what’s the truth? Is it a matter of clocking up the hours or is it raw talent or simply damn good timing?

Additional to reading the blog post, a few days ago I read a post on LinkedIn. The topic was the cost of hiring an editor. An author wanted to know what he should be paying and what he should be asking/looking for when hiring an editor. Most of the replies were a mix of other people’s experiences and freelance editors taking the opportunity to advertise their business. But there was one reply that had me re-visiting this TALENT vs HARD WORKquestion. Since adding their reply, they have deleted it so I can’t give you their word-for-word answer but it was along the lines of this:

…some people have natural talent, others don’t and no amount of work will change that, and people without talent should give up trying…

I found this reply really disheartening and also concerning. I don’t think the answer is to “give up” I think the answer is to work out what your motivation is and whether the drive comes from a deep passion. If it is passion then DO NOT GIVE UP.

Now I’d like to share my personal thoughts. I do not agree with that stand one little bit. However, I also do not agree with the 10,000-hour rule. I happen to think that the truth is somewhere in the middle. I also happen to think determination and perseverance play a MASSIVE part in an artist’s future, as does luck.

I’m going to ask you all to indulge me a little while I share my own life experiences as I believe this demonstrates my point.

let-me-love-you-sheldonI have been always been a duplicitous person. By that I mean, I’m constantly split between the Arts & the Maths/Sciences. And it runs in my family. My father writes poetry and sonnets (published) and paints a little. He is also a brilliant mathematician and worked as an Industrial Engineer. My mother is a wonderful artist and skilled at many hand-crafts. She won a full Fine Arts university scholarship and then went on to major in chemistry. My grandfather was a musician and singer, as well as having gone to university majoring in applied maths and physics. He worked for the government in the finance sector for a time and then (as he loved open spaces) became a forest ranger… but never stopped singing, playing and performing. There are many more examples in my family, (cousins/uncles/aunts), however you get the picture.

As for me, I have primarily worked in the finance and/or accounting sector’s but have also been writing and drawing/painting all my life. I was also interested in performing, having studied drama.

I had my first written works published when I was 13 years old (short story, local newspaper) and since then have had the odd additional thing published. I have never studied any formal writing or publishing subjects, I simply wrote what appealed to me (however, I have recently started a new BA in professional writing).

With regard to painting, although I studied the “greats” I have not had any formal art classes. This did not stop me from enjoying in indulging in sporadic bursts of painting energy.

Psychadelic-animated-gif-coloursIn 2004 I started taking my writing more seriously and began writing poetry, again, for my own benefit and without any real plan to have others read it.

In 2006 I began painting more often and in 2007 & 2008 I held exhibitions in Melbourne. In 2009, after sending jpeg’s of my artwork to several galleries in Paris & London, I was asked to exhibit in Paris – and I did, in October 2009…

The timing could not have been worse. The Global Financial Crisis had just hit, the European economy was flushing down the toilet and there was pretty much no hope my exhibition would be a success. However, I’d already booked my flight, paid for my accommodation, left my job and sent my artwork on its way to the gallery. So I was stuck with having the show and consoled myself with the fact that I’d be in Paris.

Here’s the thing. I DID sell pieces. In fact I sold enough to allow me to stay in Paris for almost 6-months. It’s also the place I started writing my first manuscript (but that’s another story).

Did I spend 10,000 hours on my artistic skills throughout my life? My best estimate 4,000-hours. Am I the most wonderful artist on the planet with an awesome talent? Hardly! Am I gifted with genes that have blessed me with a raw talent? Who knows? Personally I think my gift was the encouragement of my parents and these sage words by my father:

Remember, no one is better than you, but remember also no one is worse than you.

If you remember that you are as good as anyone but no better than anyone, you can achieve what your passion and perseverance drives you to achieve.

So how did I sell works of art, enough works of art (remembering galleries take between 40-50% from each sale) to allow me to live in Paris, without finding any other work, for six months, and also pay the rent on my place back in Melbourne?

Again, honestly, I’m not 100% sure. But I will share with you what I did, perhaps differently, to others and also what those who bought my pieces said.

First what I did to make the exhibition a success, (FYI I knew no one in Paris and my French was pretty much no existent)6af0d44337bd206bb42bfc8c47bb2636576da5f66679533e1b9329a498113b7c

(i)                 Almost 12-months prior to leaving I started forming contacts with other Aussie’s living in Paris.

(ii)               Prior to arriving I printed flyers of my artwork and my exhibition date.

(iii)             As soon as I arrived I met-up with as many people as I could from my contacts.

(iv)             Every free or super cheap event that was on in Paris, I attended. I didn’t care if they all spoke French or not, I needed to get my face and name out there.

(v)               Every single café and restaurant I visited more than three times I told the waiters about myself and my exhibition.

(vi)             At every art supplies, or workshop that would allow me to, I left flyers.

(vii)           I attended the opening nights of all three exhibitions prior to mine at the gallery. I got to know the artists and mingled with potential buyers and whoever was interested, I offered them a flyer. It was in the same gallery so there was no conflict of interest.

(viii)         A week before my gallery opening, I walked into every single shop, café, business on The Avenue des ChampsÉlysées and offered any of their staff a 15% discount on any artwork they wanted to buy, all they needed to do was bring in their special flyer (I signed them) and offer it at the time of purchase.

(ix)             And this one was a bit sneaky I left random numbers of flyers at bank and post office counters all over Paris.

Wh9jLIn other words I worked my butt off getting word out. It’s called marketing. And it’s vital, no matter if you are launching your novel, your play, your bands gig or your exhibition.

As for why I sold artwork, a relative unknown in a city full of artists? Aside from literarily flooding the city with my flyers, it was my artistic style. It didn’t “fit” any label. It was uniquely me. I wasn’t trying to paint like anyone else, though naturally I was influenced by many wonderful artists. So, my work was unique in a city that was filled with hungry artists trying to recreate the masters.

So what’s my point? My point is, don’t believe everything your read and only half of what you see. The world is made up of magic and illusion. Do your own thing. Make it unique to you. Don’t try to copy or emulate others, you’ll never succeed unless you are you.

Art doesn’t lie. Sure it fakes and misleads but it does so openly, whether it’s fiction-writing or an artistic interpretation of a seascape. Be it a photo-shopped image of the Grand Canyon, manipulated for the sake of art, it openly fakes the truth and therefore it is not a lie. Don’t dishonour this concept by trying to be someone other than who you are.

As for 10,000-hours make you a success, in my opinion its a load of CRAP. There is no FORMULA written in stone for success. There are things you can do to help achieve, but they vary in style and aptitude and attitude for every single individual. What works for me will not work for the next person.anigif_enhanced-buzz-14927-1382223438-15

Yes hone your craft. Practice your art. Get involved with groups and mentors and fellow artists and learn from them, but don’t think… “OK, so I’ve worked it out, I have done 7,892-hours, I’m almost there…” because if you do get to 10,000-hours and have not achieved what you call success, you’ll feel a failure. And you are NOT. As much as it would be great to believe there is a magic number, there is not. Timing, luck, persistence, patience, positive attitude, respecting others and hard work is all part of the equation. Some people write their first novel and it’s brilliant and becomes a best seller and is made into a movie and they live happily ever after. Others may write ten novels before they break through. And still other’s many never reach the best seller list.

anigif_enhanced-26837-1398300220-21As for natural (born) talent, I’m still of two minds on this one. I truly believe everyone can draw and paint however we become conditioned to believe we cannot because when we were eight, or ten, or twelve someone was better at it than us and we began to believe we were not good at drawing or painting. Having said that, great singers, in my opinion, are born. You can improve your voice with 10,000-hours, but I don’t think you can be truly great (and I’m not talking famous, I’m talking brilliant voice) if you were not born with the right vocal cords.

I started this post asking if the ability to create great Art in our Genes or our Perseverance? The truth is, I believe, it’s both, but it is the part in our genes that doesn’t allow us to give up that makes the difference not our skill with a quill or brush or ebony & ivory keys. And it is the willingness to go the extra work, the marketing, self-promotion, mingling, learning, studying the greats while maintaining our individuality that will make us stand out, not the number of hours clocked.

Devil-wears-Prada-gifs-Miranda-Priestly-Emily-Blunt9_zpsb87dd4b3Yes do the hours. But no don’t do them as you would a class, something to “over-and-done-with” but rather as an avenue to achieving your personal objectives.

And do not let ANYONE tell you to GIVE UP because frankly, they are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Failure and rejection is part of success. I’m serious. The more times you fail, the more likely you are to know what success is. And while we are on the subject of genius and 10,000, I’ll leave you with this quote by Thomas Edison regarding inventing the light bulb:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Friendly-Fire-Feedback no3. YA Contemporary – Comments Welcome

First Page Workshop – no.3Twin_Scythes___Fire_Circle_by_MattTheSamurai

Today we have the last of our three blog posts under the Friendly-fire-feedback banner. Please note, I am in Australia so we are (currently) 14-hours ahead of the USA EST, so, depending on where you’re located, you may see this on the evening before.  Below you’ll see the fist page without my notes and then with my suggestions beneath that. This way you can read the 1st page without my notes interrupting your rhythm.

And of course, comments are most welcome, in fact I insist! (lol) – please note, comments will be moderated, so play nice! 

28th July

Category/Genre:  YA Contemporarytumblr_mzsnmcm69L1sner72o3_400

Word Count: 60,000

Last night, someone accused Gabbie Vanhout of having sex with Mr. Stevenson.  It allegedly happened backstage after the drama club meeting on Thursday. It’s all over Trumbullconfessional.com.   It’s an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back
when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s just bullshit, people looking to score drugs, find the latest party, or just spread lies.  But sometimes you hit confessional gold.  Gabbie always has hair that looks like she stuck her finger in an electrical socket before coming to first period.  She wears steel-toed combat boots, all black clothes, and barely speaks to anyone.  There are rumors she drank bleach after taking finals last year.

The gossip is intriguing is because she likes to flirt with Mr. Stevenson.  You can only catch it if you’re paying attention.  She’ll stay at his desk a little too long—sometimes she’ll drop a piece of paper, a pencil, and fumble to grab it in a short black skater dress.  Of course online, the conversation quickly veered towards the obscene, but the fact that someone else noticed what I had known for a while was interesting.

I brush foundation on my face, sweep blush over my cheeks and bronzer in the hollows of my neck and on my forehead.  Sometimes I am so pale I worry people will think I’m albino.  My vanity lights don’t help anything either.  Gold eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and black mascara make me look somewhat more presentable, and concealer covers the dark circles under my eyes.  I skip drying my hair and braid it into a fish thing I read in one of my sister Steph’s old magazines.  I shimmy into jeans, a fitted tank top, and grab a granola bar- I never really was a breakfast person. GYBeiUq

I pour myself the last bit of coffee from the pot my mom made probably two hours ago, and nuke it in the microwave.  My shiny white phone bleeps.

Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my real name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s always good to have a little birdie tell you secrets.

Just Gabbie Vanhout drama I answer.  Pouring milk into my coffee I quickly scroll through morning status updates. “Ugh Halzer’s comp sci test.” is the only one I identify with.

Debrief at lunch? Jack asks and I roll my eyes.  Sometimes I think he thinks we’re like detectives or something, trying our hardest to find the juiciest school dirt.  And in a way we are.  Jack likes to be in the know on everything, even though he doesn’t run with “the core” the popular crowd’s self-imposed nickname.  Jack’s a Junior too.

I answer Jack: kk.  I swallow my last sip of coffee before I hear Delilah laying on the horn.  I grab my backpack from the front door and race down the sidewalk. She has a cute boxy Jeep to go with her small frame and big personality.

 hunger-games-katnissWith my Notes:

Last night, someone accused Gabbie Vanhout of having sex with Mr. Stevenson.  It allegedly happened backstage after the drama club meeting on Thursday. It’s all over Trumbullconfessional.com.   It’s an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s just bullshit, people looking to score drugs, find the latest party, or just spread lies.  But sometimes you hit confessional gold (love this line!).  Gabbie always has hair that looks like she stuck her finger in an electrical socket before coming to first period.  She wears steel-toed combat boots, all black clothes, and barely speaks to anyone.  There are rumors she drank bleach after taking finals last year.

The gossip is intriguing is because she likes to flirt with Mr. Stevenson.  You can only catch it if you’re paying attention.  She’ll stay at his desk a little too long—sometimes she’ll drop a piece of paper, a pencil, and fumble to grab it in a short black skater dress.  Of course online, the conversation quickly veered towards the obscene, but the fact that someone else noticed what I had known for a while was interesting. (have you noticed I’m not making many comments? That’s because this is working for me. It has voice and cheekiness and it has a direction; I already trust the author)

I brush foundation on my face, sweep blush over my cheeks and bronzer in the hollows of my neck and on my forehead.  Sometimes I muttationsam so pale I worry people will think I’m albino.  My vanity lights don’t help anything either.  Gold eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and black mascara make me look somewhat more presentable, and concealer covers the dark circles under my eyes.  I skip drying my hair and braid it into a fish thing (again, this is great, I can totally imagine this – great showing!) I read in one of my sister Steph’s old magazines.  I shimmy into jeans, a fitted tank top, and grab a granola bar- I never really was a breakfast person.

I pour myself the last bit of coffee from the pot my mom made probably two hours ago, and nuke it in the microwave.  My shiny white phone bleeps.

Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my real name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s always good to have a little birdie tell you secrets. (again, I’m convinced that Birdie is a great nickname, given
what I already know)

Just Gabbie Vanhout drama,” (don’t forget this is Dialogue) I answer.  Pouring milk into my coffee I quickly scroll through morning status updates. “Ugh Halzer’s comp sci test.” is the only one I identify with.tumblr_m37r81Cvbu1qbojrlo1_400b

Debrief at lunch? Jack asks and I roll my eyes.  Sometimes I think he thinks we’re like detectives or something, trying our hardest to find the juiciest school dirt.  And in a way we are (I’d remove this, it’s telling, and it’s kind of obvious & it’s not needed).  Jack likes to be in the know on everything, even though he doesn’t run with “the core” the popular crowd’s self-imposed nickname.  Jack’s a Junior too.

I answer Jack: kk.  I swallow my last sip of coffee before I hear Delilah laying on the horn.  I (comma) grab my backpack from the front door and race down the sidewalk.  (consider removing the extra “I” – you’re going to have a lot of “I’s” because of the present tense, remove wherever you can. Plus this becomes a more active image) She has a cute boxy Jeep to go with her small frame and big personality.

B0nJldxNOTES:

Well, I don’t know about others, but I’d pick this up and keep reading in a heartbeat! Yes there are changes I’d make and the author will likely do more work after feedback, but, if this turned up in #Nestpitch, I’d be voting for it!