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JILLWISOFF.WNBAJill Wisoff is best known for songs and score for Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, a Sundance Film Festival winner. A graduate of Bennington College, she has co-starred in film, performed off and off-off-Broadway and in musical stock, and has had screenplays optioned and in development.  She produced, co-wrote and directed the SAG feature film Creating Karma, which won two best feature comedy awards on the festival circuit before its official theatrical opening in Los Angeles. Her documentary about downtown Manhattan after 9/11, The Day After, is in the permanent archives of Tribute New York and the library of the USS New York, built with the steel from the World Trade Center. She is currently writing novels, lives in Greenwich Village with one cat, and has begun a blog at http://www.jillwisoff.com.

How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How did you get involved with the organization?

I’ve been a member for about a year. I got involved when members of a “sister” organization to which I belong, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), were invited to sign up for the query roulette.

As an aspiring author, how important are organizations like the WNBA to learning about the industry, getting published, making connections, improving your craft, etc.?

WNBA and similar organizations give grounding to aspiring writers. They disseminate information about jobs and writing workshops. They offer dozens of networking opportunities (as well as a directory). Writing is a solitary path. Many of us spend much of our waking lives doing it.  It’s important at times to babble about our process and reciprocate, to step away from our computers, to share our writing lives with others who have the same passion. WNBA is a wonderful support network that cultivates readers, writers, and the professional industries that service both.

At a seminar on children’s literature, the lively discourse between industry heavyweights, successful authors and aspiring writers, was a real-world education on what sells in that genre. Every month, members are invited to do book reviews of new releases for the WNBA newsletter, The Bookwoman; recently, I had such a review accepted for publishing. I call that an opportunity!

Can you tell us more about your writing? Are you working on anything specific at the moment?

I’m working on a novel and its sequel about teenage girls, best friends from the East Village, who struggle to overcome their legacy of neglect when they’re torn away from New York City.

As a musician, I performed with many who came out of the original New York punk scene. The tragic consequence of the “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” lifestyle on the children of some is what moved me to write these stories.

What has the transition been like moving from working on screenplays to writing novels?

I didn’t spring into the world a screenwriter like Athena a warrior, full grown and armed from Zeus’s forehead.  I’d studied play-writing and had experience as a director of playwrights, gently guiding them from first readings through polished Equity showcases. I moved into screenwriting following a stint as a film composer. I’d talked a producer into developing a film based on the story of a Maasai warrior and, unable to secure writing talent with a looming deadline to produce or lose rights, volunteered myself. Six weeks later I’d finished my first full-length script.

I intended to produce my next on a minimal budget with minimal actors, on the cheap. I sat down in front of my laptop and something wasn’t clicking. In an odd twist of logic I decided to write a novel first and adapt that to the screenplay. Soon after, I read Kerouac’s On the Road, embarrassed I’d not earlier as it was a staple of my generation. It reset something in my brain chemistry, sort of zapped my “writing-on” button.  From that day forth I would wake up writing, fall asleep writing. The novel became the thing, not the Franken-screenplay I’d planned to extricate in a manner akin to ripping organs from a healthy body.

Unlike playwriting and screenwriting, literary prose is a much vaster, richer and challenging medium.  I’m extremely humbled at the amount of effort, revising, and sheer sweat-work that goes into creating literary fiction. Grammar isn’t the baby thrown out with the bathwater as it can be in a script. I look forward to waking up every day to write. I love it so much I decided to go back to graduate school for my MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve been accepted into the New School, to begin in the fall of 2013, with a concentration in fiction.

You’ve attended Query Roulette for the past 2 years. What were those experiences like? What was the most valuable thing(s) you learned?

I received one-on-one time with well-respected literary agents. I received advice on my pitch, novel excerpt, and what a publisher looks for as far as genre and “voice”. The most valuable thing I learned is to write a pitch so any moron can understand it – to create a hook that’s short and packs a punch. At both Query Roulettes I received an agent offer to submit my work for consideration.

Can you give us a preview of your Bookwoman book review?

“In Ashen Winter, Mike Mullin’s sequel to Ashfall (his well-received first novel of a YA dystopian trilogy about a neo-ice-age) an explosion of the Yellowstone super-volcano has cooled Earth’s atmosphere…In this niveous landscape, sixteen-year-old Iowan, Alex Halprin, living with sister Rebecca on Uncle Paul’s farm in Illinois, ventures forth to find his parents….”

What’s your favorite word?

Pusillanimous. It’s a word I memorized while cramming for the GREs in my last term of college and it stuck; a word for a haughty dowager that would only appear in a fictional world of flounces and petticoats.

What are you currently reading?

The Horned Man by James Lasdun, The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn, and This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman.

by Tqwana Brown

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Advance Writer’s Copy: An Interview with Literary Agent Rita Rosenkranz
by Rachel Weiss-FeldmanRita R. unicorn writers confjpg

The WNBA-NYC’s Query Roulette is one of the chapter’s most anticipated events of the year. Writers will have the opportunity to meet with and get query letter advice from several top literary agents in one night. To get some insight on how participants can prepare for their meetings, I spoke with one of this year’s agents, Rita Rosenkranz. Ms. Rosenkranz has worked in the book publishing industry for over 30 years. Her career began in the editorial department at Random House. In 1990, she crossed over to the agent side, where she’s been working ever since.

Rita has works with many self-published authors, and to date, has resold 13 self-published books to traditional publishers, most recently, Replacement Child by Judy Mandel (recently featured in Parade Magazine), and Back From the Brink by Graeme Cowan. Our members who have self-published may want to take note of this fact!
 

What are some things you DISLIKE in a query letter?

I dislike a lack of clarity. I sometimes get queries where I don’t know what the writer is pitching. I can’t tell what the project is about—or even if it is fiction or non-fiction. That, to me, reflects the author’s insecurity about what they’re writing. Short and powerful is better than long and empty. I would hope that after reading the two paragraphs (generally, that’s how long the query should be), I understand what the intention of the work is, and what the writer brings to it, and I can appreciate that the writer and subject are well paired and that the work has promise.

[Also,] I don’t like when a query letter is addressed to another agency! Presumably everyone knows [not to do] this, except on occasion I get a query letter addressed to another agency and I realize the writer is sending a mass mailing which is out of order.

 

So, a query letter’s first two paragraphs seem the most important?

In two paragraphs, most every author should be able to accomplish an able query. First paragraph: what is the book being pitched? Second: what are the author’s credentials making this an exciting project?

 

You’ve done events similar to Query Roulette, such as “Pitch the Agent” at the 2012 International Women’s Writing Guild conference. Have you signed/found authors through these events?

Definitely. I have a very good track record from attending conferences. I travel fairly energetically around the U.S. in order to meet with authors who perhaps couldn’t travel to New York. It helps me get the sense of the world beyond New York, where I’m based. When I’m at conferences, I am seriously looking for talent I can represent.

 

The memoir Replacement Child by Judy Mandel was initially self-published by the author, and has now been reissued by Seal Press. What advice do you have for self-published authors who wish to get an agent and have their book reissued with a traditional publisher?

This question is more and more relevant today. I look at every book case-by-case, trying to understand its history, and its success and also its promise based on my involvement. That means, “What can I do to make the success the author has had even bigger?” There needs to be some established energy behind the book, which includes good reviews, sales and the author’s promotion to show the author is capturing the market.

replacement childIn the case of Replacement Child, the author Judy Mandel had met me years before at a conference. I had rejected her book initially. She went on to have it professionally edited and then self published a version that was different from the one she initially pitched to me (which might just be an interesting side point). Barnes&Noble.com sold about 10,000 e-book copies in three months.

Not all self-published books are created equal. Authors have come to me with their self-published book thinking their mission is accomplished. Their part is done. And it’s so disappointing to me.  The book might have interesting content, but when the author tells me he has sold only 70 books since publication because he wasn’t able to market it, it’s very hard for me to step in. Maybe if I were excited enough about the promise of that book and willing to overlook the low sales, I could try to help give it a second life, make it happen. But that would require so much more of my time to course correct.

I think that before authors self-publish they have to think like a publisher, which means, is it editorially sound? Is it the best project they can offer to the world? Are you sophisticated in terms of marketing to make it work, so that I’ll have something to run with?

 

What are some of the books you represent?

I had two successful memoirs in 2009: 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker and Roll Around Heaven: An All-true Spiritual Adventure by Jessica Maxwell. 29 Gifts was honored by the MS Foundation’s “Books for a Better Life.” Roll Around Heaven won the 2010 Gold Nautilus Award. Jessica is a fantastic writer whose work is not easily cloned. That is my attraction to her work.

Designer Drafting and Visualizing for the Entertainment World by Patricia Woodbridge has been in print 15 years (with a revised edition with her co-author Hal Tine about to be published). It’s done very well because nothing competes with it. A book can be very niche, but if it’s a rich niche it is completely supportable.

 

What can Query Roulette participants do to prepare for their agent meetings (aside from bringing enough copies of everything)?

You’re [going to be] making an impression within very limited time. One’s pitch shouldn’t necessarily sound overly rehearsed, but it should not meander. It should be clear and precise—a thumbnail delivery as though they were repeating the back cover copy. In each case, especially with non-fiction, there should be some resume revealed—what the author has done to make them well paired to their subject. Remember that the agents who are showing up are looking for talent—and that we are dependent on finding talent. Without authors we are nothing.

Meet with Rita Rosenkranz at WNBA-NYC’s Query Roulette, Thursday, March 21. Visit her website at www.ritarosenkranzagency.com.  

Rachel Weiss-Feldman is the WNBA-NYC Membership Chair.

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New Banner

Join us for WNBA-NYC Chapter 

 Query Roulette 2013

Register Now!

This event is nearly sold out!

Ten minutes with a literary agent who will review your query letter.
No pitching required.

Renew your membership here

When :
Thursday, March 21, 2013
6:30 PM to 8:45 PM EDT


Where :

Assoc. of American Publishers
71 Fifth Avenue, 2nd Floor, NY, NY


 

Questions on Query Roulette:
query@wnba-nyc.org

Questions on Membership: membership@wnba-nyc.org

 

Participating Agents
Download this pdf for information about individual agents; click on the links below to see the agency websites.
Julie Barer 

Leigh Huffine
Regal Literary Agency

Eric Myers
The Spiegler Agency

Kirsten Neuhaus
Kirsten Neuhas Literary Agency

Mitchell Waters Curtis Brown, LTD

 

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WNBA-NYC member Lorraine Abramson has been successfully promoting her memoir, My Race: A Jewish Girl Growing Up Under Apartheid in South Africa (DBM Press, 2010), for over a year. Here are some of her thoughts on successful self-promotion.

After being told how difficult it will be for a first time, unknown author to find an agent, I decided to go in a different direction and seek out a smaller independent press. I attended the New York Center for Independent Publishing’s annual Book Expo because I knew that I’d be able to meet publishers face to face. I printed up a few copies of the first chapter of my manuscript and handed it to them personally, rather than sending it in the mail. One of the publishers from DBM Press loved my story, asked for the rest of the manuscript, and after reading it, he offered to publish my book!

My memoir has been out for just over a year now and we’re in the second printing. I’ve done over 80 speaking engagements with about 7 more booked so far. I did this on my own without an agent or a publicist.

Here are a few of my tips:

  1. Decide on your target audience. Because my book has a Jewish interest, I called many synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Philanthropic organizations, book clubs, etc. Anyone who runs events and programs and need speakers.
  2. Never miss an opportunity to talk about your book to people you meet and have business cards in your pocket at all times.
  3. Always accept a speaking engagement no matter how small the group might be. One blustery snowy day I was due to talk to a senior group and only six people showed up! One of them was a member of Hadassah and through her I was invited to be the guest speaker of their Fall Luncheon with 150 people. From that event, 3 other invitations followed. So you never know who is in the audience!
  4. Attend all the WNBA events. It’s a perfect opportunity to network and learn. There are many editors, publicists, writers and published authors present. I’ve learned so much from talking to everyone and asking questions. Hand out your business cards.
  5. Create a “hook.” I needed to be able to tell what my book is about in one minute or less, in a way that would make the reader want to hear more.
  6. I attended the Query Roulette session that WNBA runs and that gave me a chance to talk to many publishers and agents. They helped me create a hook for my story.
  7. Be willing to travel for a speaking engagement. Each talk is an opportunity for exposure and one leads to the next.
  8. After my talks, when someone comes up to me, expressing an interest in recommending me as a speaker at a future event, I take their name and phone number, and I follow up with a call as a reminder. Don’t wait for them to call you. Be proactive.
  9. Get your family to help promote you! My husband, children, cousins, etc. all have my business cards and post my upcoming book talks on their Facebook pages. It reaches a very wide audience.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the book journey!

To learn more about Lorraine Abramson, visit her website at www.lorrainesbook.com.

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Tuesday night’s Query Roulette event was a great success for the agents, writers, and those of us behind the scenes.  As volunteers for the event, we had a hectic but enjoyable experience, doing everything from sign-in to timekeeping to photography.  More importantly, we had the chance to meet an amazing group of writers and agents, not to mention some of the fabulous ladies of the WNBA.

Below, we take you through the night with a series of photos.  For those of you who weren’t able to join us, here is a snapshot of the night’s events.

Blog Intern Hannah Bennett packaging the gift boxes for our wonderful agents.

Blog Intern Erica Misoshnik running the sign-in station.

The calm before the storm of transitioning between agents!

Agents Brooks Sherman and Meg Thompson working with writers.

Agent Regina Brooks gives advice to a captivated writer.

Agent Jessica Salky provides feedback to an aspiring author.

Agent Anna Olswanger and WNBA-NYC Treasurer Elaine Whitehouse engage in a discussion.

Linda Epstein (Agent and WNBA-NYC Blog Editor) and Lily Barrish (WNBA-NYC VP Programming) pose with representatives of the Serendipity Literary Agency for a photo after the event.

A quick snap of Hannah and Erica mid clean-up.

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