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Posts Tagged ‘Tamson Weston’

At last the moment has arrived to announce the winners of Tamson’s pitch contest.  I, of course, have read through her post and I can’t believe how much information she provided on what makes a good pitch, what trips them up and why she selected the ones she did.  She even gave us a few honorable mentions.  Thanks so much Tamson!  I am very envious of the winner, because after reading this post, I know you are going to get a phenomenal critique.  And don’t forget – even if you didn’t win, Tamson is a freelance editor and you can hire her to help you with your manuscripts.  

One last thing.  In this post, Tamson talks about titles, and I feel terrible because I think the reason some of you didn’t submit with a title is because I didn’t specify that you could.  I said to submit your pitch and the first line.  Of course that didn’t mean you couldn’t submit titles, but I wasn’t clear. Mi dispiace (Italian for “my apologies”). Live and learn for the next contest!  Now, onto Tamson!

Congratulations, Pitch Winners!

It’s been a lot of fun working on this contest and seeing all the cool stuff that’s gestating in all of your fertile brains. It’s got me thinking a lot more about what makes a good pitch and what doesn’t, how important the pitch is in terms of introducing your manuscripts, and whether or not a bad pitch can be overcome by a fantastic idea. I’d like to share a few insights here as a prelude to the big announcement.

Titles: Many of you did not submit titles with your entries! Presumably, you have them, and just didn’t think they were a necessary part of the contest. And I didn’t end up holding it against you…much. Seriously though, you should be using every tool at your disposal and a title is one of those tools. You might not think you are good at coming up with titles, but you should try, even if it means soliciting help. In all honesty, you may end up having to change it before it’s published, but you should definitely try to find a title that will grab your readers’ attention.

Length:  Many of the pitches should have been shorter. Try to keep it to one sentence. If the sentences are pretty short, you may be able to get away with two. But don’t make it longer than that. Picture books are short! It drives me crazy when I see flap copy that is half the length of the accompanying book, and I feel the same way about a lengthy pitch.  Fear not! None of you were that far off the mark, but there was some excess verbiage floating around.  One way to help you keep it short is to rewrite your pitch about 20 times until it’s pared down to its essentials, while still retaining a personality.

Questions: What role should questions play in your pitch? Usually none. Here’s why: There’s a tendency that we sometimes have to make our pitch sound like aggressive marketing copy, a la infomercial: Do you like Flies? Do you like soup? Well this picture book is for you! Either that, or it sounds like you’re being coy or are playing out a joke or riddle all by yourself: What’s a fly doing in this man’s soup? Why, the backstroke, of course!  When you could just get to the point: A man is enjoying a delicious bowl of soup when he notices something in it that wasn’t on the menu.

Rhyme:  Rhyming manuscripts, much to my chagrin, are taking a bit of a hit these days. Some agents and editors won’t even look at them. For example, see this post by Mary Kole [link to: http://kidlit.com/2009/09/05/rhyming-picturebooks-a-rhyme-with-reason/] (which, admittedly, is just one agent’s perspective). You have to make sure those first lines really shine. That means, ideally, you show the agent that you are the master of your craft [link to this post: http://tamsonweston.com/blog/rhyming-picture-books-arent-so-scary/]. But at the very least, you should show her that you are a confident and capable versifier. That means that none of those four lines should feel like they’ve been put there merely to accommodate the rhyme scheme. They should flow out eloquently and organically.

Personality: The pitch is a tool to get people to want to read your manuscript and there are guidelines to help your pitch do its job. It helps, though, if there’s a little spark to it as well. Is your character’s voice really engaging? Is your manuscript funny? Is your language lyrical? Then, ideally, your pitch should reflect that. You can, then, bend the “rules” a bit to make this happen. Don’t overwork it though. If you are having trouble getting personality in there without making the pitch very long, then just get to the point. This is a picture book, after all. It’s short. Agents are just going to want to dispense with the introductions and move on to the manuscript.

The Unexpected: Finally, I have to say that sometimes I was almost won over, in spite of myself, by pitches that weren’t ideally executed, but had a great concept behind them. For example, one of the winning pitches contains a question which I thought helped capture the personality of the character. I considered a couple of others that had questions too. Sometimes the idea just wins out, even when the writer doesn’t follow the guidelines to the letter. The best route to a good pitch is to follow the guidelines as closely as possible while capturing the essence of your manuscript.

Here are a few honorable mentions and a little critique of their execution.

TITLE: MARCUS AND THE FUNTASTIC BROBOT — by Angela Padron

PITCH: Marcus wants a brother. So he builds his own “brobot”, only to find that having a little brother – especially a robotic one – isn’t easy.

FIRST LINE: Marcus wanted a brother to play with, but his mom wouldn’t give him one, and he didn’t have enough money to buy one.

This is just a great idea for a book. The proof is in the pudding, of course, but it’s a good concept. The pitch, however, is unnecessarily wordy. This is pretty easily fixed: “Marcus wants a brother—so he builds one!” I wouldn’t use “Funtastic,” either. It’s feels like too much of a marketing buzz word at this point, much like Spooktacular. Marcus and the Brobot is solid on its own. Brobot is a good, evocative invented noun.

PITCH: Are you ready for a French nickname? To get fluffy? To save a flower? A charming dandelion enlists the your help in NAPOLEON BLOWN APART.  — by Julie Falatko

FIRST LINE: Bonjour. I am Napoleon. Yes, yes, I know, I am very beautiful. My lovely yellow petals shine like the golden sun.

This one cracked me up. Unfortunately, it’s not a great use of questions—this falls into the category of infomercial-type language.  Just the last sentence of the pitch would have been fine, but it probably be shouldn’t be in second person. This can put off some agents. I would also recommend cutting the third sentence in the opening of the manuscript.

TITLE: SECRETS OF THE NOT SO DEEP — by Sue Heavenrich

PITCH: After a week Maya’s mud puddle is teeming with life. What are those fast swimmy things, and how did they get there? Nonfiction/ecology.

FIRST LINE: After yesterday’s rain I am ready for puddle stomping.

Great title. I like playful approaches on nonfiction, so this appealed to me. However, this is a case where the question is not helping the copy. Just the first sentence in the pitch is enough. The  “nonfiction” tag is also not necessary.   The first line of the manuscript is good. Quite solid.

AND THE WINNERS ARE…

Second place, winner of the book Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom is…

ABIGAIL RAYNOR!!!

PITCH: Arabella is desperate to keep Penweezle, an ex-witch’s cat, but convincing her family is not easy, especially when the cat tries to help.

FIRST LINE: It was just before teatime when the doorbell rang and Arabella found a cat on the doorstep.

This pitch has a funny deadpan quality to it. It sounds like a conventional pitch, but that clause on the end really gives a little punch. I immediately was imagining the kind of havoc this cat could wreak. The repetition of “door” (in doorbell and doorstep) in the first line is a little unfortunate and easily fixed. It needs a title, of course.

First place, winner of the book, Writing with Pictures, by Uri Schulevitz is…

HEATHER NEWMAN!!! 

PITCH: Esther is a fashionista sheep trying to bring a little style to her flock, but finding the perfect accessories on a ranch isn’t easy at all.

FIRST LINE: Nothing made Esther happier than trying on different outfits.

A really concise, well-worded pitch with a little personality. I would change “fashionista” to “fashionable” however. “Fashionista” is too new a phenomenon. This may be just me. I would also delete “at all” but that’s a pretty minor quibble.

Grand Prize, winner of the manuscript critique is…

MELISSA KELLEY!!! ***confetti toss***

PITCH: Elly is wild to save her favorite endangered zoo animal – but big brother claims there’s no such thing as Unicorns! Then what are those?

FIRST LINE: I am the luckiest girl in the world.

This is a case where the question really worked for me, and it adds a little element of surprise to the pitch, which is nice. I wonder why there’s not a “her” before “big brother,” though, since, presumably, it’s not his name.  The first line of the story is great. Gives us a sense of this exuberant girl right away and you don’t even resort to using an exclamation mark. Amazing. But, no title! (Save the Unicorns! Unicorns at the Zoo!  The Finest Unicorn at the Zoo). Well done. I look forward to reading the rest.

Let’s all give a big thanks to Tamson for hosting this contest for 12 x 12 participants.  Congratulations to all the winners and to everyone who participated.  I learned loads in the process of running the contest, and I hope you all did too.  

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Thank you to everyone who submitted their pitches for this contest.  Pitching is HARD, and it takes guts to put one out there for all to see.

We had 91 qualifying entries for the contest, so it was stiff competition.  The only entries that were disqualified were those whose pitches went over 140 characters.

I want to say how difficult it was to judge this contest.  I know judges always say that, but it’s TRUE.  There were three of us, and in our first cuts, we had lists with lots of variation – more than I expected.  We had to make many compromises, and each one of us had entries that we LOVED that got left on the cutting room floor.  It was a huge eye-opener for me.  I finally realize just exactly how subjective this business is.

Remember, if your pitch did not get selected for the final round, that does not mean there is something wrong with your story.  It might mean that your pitch needs more work.  So keep practicing!

Entry #1

PITCH: Marcus wants a brother. So he builds his own “brobot”, only to find that having a little brother – especially a robotic one – isn’t easy.

FIRST LINE: Marcus wanted a brother to play with, but his mom wouldn’t give him one, and he didn’t have enough money to buy one.

Entry #2

PITCH: Frenella magics up a baseball gown, a spaceship, and bunny slippers, and discovers there’s more than one way to make a dream come true.

FIRST LINE: “I’ll be the only fairy there without grey hair,” moaned Frenella.

Entry #3

PITCH: Louella LONGS to holler. A loud parade rallies to help find her voice, including a squeaky otter, a loyal hummingbird, and a bump on a log.

FIRST LINE: Louella McGuffey wanted to holler, but all she could do was hum.

Entry #4

PITCH: After a week Maya’s mud puddle is teeming with life. What are those fast swimmy things, and how did they get there? Nonfiction/ecology.

FIRST LINE: After yesterday’s rain I am ready for puddle stomping.

Entry #5

PITCH: Emily is tugging on heartstrings, and trusting her Grammy in the Moon to guide her as she faces the joys and pains of becoming a big sister.

FIRST LINE: At night, when the sun has gone to bed and the stars twinkle, Emily leans into the moonlight.

Entry #6

PITCH: Paige, a dedicated reader, strives to save the library from an ending-eating wallop.

FIRST LINE: Sitting in the front row at storyhour, Paige leaned forward, eager to hear the ending of the story.

Entry #7

PITCH: Brianna’s parents won’t buy her a new doll so she creates businesses to earn money to buy one herself but she buys something she needs more.

FIRST LINE: Brianna stared at the doll.

Entry #8

PITCH: Lucy, feel-good guru at The Treetop Spa, invites used, worn-down stuffed animals to come to her clubhouse to re-ignite their fluffiness.

FIRST LINE: Do you or a stuffed one need a little TLS (tender-loving stuff)?

Entry #9

PITCH: Penny doesn’t like to travel, explore or buy things. How can she find happiness if she doesn’t like doing what pennies are suppose to do?

FIRST LINE: Penny looked like all the other cents.

Entry #10

PITCH: Paula McHale must deliver valentines, but her wagon’s busted and her horse is lame. A devoted hound brings suitor Sean the answer he seeks.

FIRST FOUR LINES (rhyming):

Paula McHale delivers the mail
From Tillinocket to Blarneyvale,
From Dingle Bay to Barkley-on-Fen,
To Ballybunion and back again.

Entry #11

PITCH: A pair of peas want to go on a pirate adventure, but it’s bedtime, and Momma Pea has other plans.

FIRST FOUR LINES (rhyming):

Penelopea One and Penelopea Two

Had something very important to do:

Maps to read, seas to sail,

Treasure to find. They would not fail.

Entry #12

PITHC: When the sun sinks in the sky, the stars start waking one by one. And what do stars do all night? They bake moon cake!

FIRST FOUR LINES (rhyming):
When blushing billows wave goodbye
To Old-man Sun in westward sky,
The diamond studded bears awake (Ursa Major and Minor)
And mix a batch of full moon cake.

Entry #13

PITCH: A little girl overcomes all her fears in order to find her stolen cat. A big surprise is waiting for her at the end!

FIRST LINE: Last night a witch stole my best friend, Misty

Entry #14

PITCH: Space is a place of opposites. Burning stars and icy comets. Roaring rockets and silent stillness. An ancient universe and newborn planets.

FIRST LINE: Space is a place of opposites.

Entry #15

PITCH: In a world where libraries lend out storybook characters, Eliza settles for a fairy godmother when the library runs out of princesses.

FIRST LINE: Eliza and her mother waited in a line that wound around the library parking lot.

Entry #16

PITCH: Though an unlikely couple, a hippo and a lion dance their way around the world. They return home, exhausted… yet full of love.

FIRST FOUR LINES (rhyming):
Our friends said we’re a silly pair,
with my big, round butt and your poufy hair.
But, we found the rhythm and together we twirled,
as we began our dance around the world.

Entry #17

PITCH: Elly is wild to save her favorite endangered zoo animal – but big brother claims there’s no such thing as Unicorns! Then what are those?

FIRST LINE: I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Entry #18

PITCH: Arabella is desperate to keep Penweezle, an ex-witch’s cat, but convincing her family is not easy, especially when the cat tries to help.

FIRST LINE: It was just before teatime when the doorbell rang and Arabella found a cat on the doorstep.

Entry #19

PITCH: When Ichabinda Switch, apprentice witch, decides to “make” a cat she lacks the required ingredients and improvises with disastrous results.

FIRST LINE: Ichabinda Switch was waiting for the Witch’s Council to arrive.

Entry #20

PITCH: Peter Potato is an average spud growing in the garden till he is uprooted. With much at stake, the garden veggies try to solve a who-dug-it.

FIRST LINE: Peter Potato woke up to the cool, crisp air and shivered.

Entry #21

PITCH: A little girl’s spunky ingenuity transforms a cardboard box into much more, when going to Grandpa’s for “Think-Up Day” becomes an adventure.

FIRST LINE: “Finally…it’s Think-Up Day” Joey sang as she hopped down the stairs.

Entry #22

PITCH: Esther is a fashionista sheep trying to bring a little style to her flock, but finding the perfect accessories on a ranch isn’t easy at all.

FIRST LINE: Nothing made Esther happier than trying on different outfits.

Entry #23

PITCH: Are you ready for a French nickname? To get fluffy? To save a flower? A charming dandelion enlists the your help in NAPOLEON BLOWN APART.

FIRST LINE: Bonjour. I am Napoleon. Yes, yes, I know, I am very beautiful. My lovely yellow petals shine like the golden sun.

Entry #24

PITCH: An adventurous kitty traveling the world in her hot air balloon lands in Rome for pasta and helps a scaredy cat become a courageous kitty.

FIRST LINE: I’d like 16 orders of fusilli with extra cat nip, half anchovies, half sardines and 10 cartons of milk. Grazie, Thank you, Luigi! See you soon!

Entry #25 

PITCH: Quinn wants to sleep in his parents’ bed. His mom wants him to sleep by himself. Will anyone get a good night’s sleep tonight?

FIRST LINE: I’ll be a bigger boy tomorrow. I’ll sleep in my Big Boy Bed then.

Congratulations to all the finalists!  Tamson will guest blog and announce the winners on Thursday, March 8.

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If you plan to participate in freelance editor Tamson Weston’s pitch contest, you need to leave a comment with your pitch and first line (or lines if it’s in verse) on the original post no later than 7:00 p.m. EST today.  DO NOT COMMENT WITH YOUR PITCHES ON THIS POST!!!  You must be an official participant in the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge to participate in the pitch contest.

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CONGRATULATIONS to all who entered. Comments are now CLOSED.  Finalists will be posted on the blog on February 25.  Good luck!!

Okay 12 x 12 in 2012 participants, I hope you have your pitches polished and ready to go, because today is the day that freelance editor Tamson Weston’s pitch contest goes live.

Tamson is published children’s book author and editor with over 15 years experience at several prestigious publishing houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Disney Hyperion.  Adam Rex, Mac Barnett, Robert Weinstock, Adam Gopnik, Jane Leslie Conly, Anne Rockwell, Deborah Hopkinson, Jen Violi, Alexander Stadler, and Dan Santat are just a few of the authors/illustrators she’s worked with.  You can follow Tamson on her Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

THIS is your opportunity to win a manuscript critique from Tamson, a $300 value!!!

THE RULES

  1. You must be a 12 x 12 participant to enter.
  2. You may choose ONE of your Picture Books to enter.  If you enter more than once, all entries will be disqualified.
  3. To enter, you must leave the required information (as follows) as a comment to this post.
  4. Prepare a 140 character pitch for your story.  This is the same as the maximum Twitter message (so you can check it on Twitter).  If your pitch is more than 140 characters, it will be disqualified
  5. In addition to the pitch, you may submit the FIRST line and the FIRST line ONLY of your manuscript.  The only exception to this rule is if your story is written in rhyming verse.  In that case, you may submit the first four lines.  Once again, any entries that exceed the eligible number of lines will be disqualified.
  6. You must include your full name at the end of your entry.  No name = you guessed it — disqualified.
  7. You must pitch the story you want Tamson to critique.
  8. You must be ready to send your manuscript to Tamson within a few days after the contest results are announced on March 8th.
  9. The DEADLINE to enter is 7:00 EST on Sunday, February 19th.  Comments will be closed at that time.
THE PROCESS
  1. I will work with my volunteer elves judges to select the top 25 entries.
  2. The finalists will be announced on the blog on Saturday, February 25th.
  3. Finalists’ entries will be sent to Tamson, also on the 25th.
  4. Tamson will select winners and blog about the results on Thursday, March 8th.

THE PRIZES

In selecting prizes, I asked Tamson which were her favorite resources on writing picture books.  She selected Writing With Pictures, by Uri Schulevitz, for craft and Dear Genius, the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom as the best glimpse into the editorial process.  As such, these will be additional prizes.

  • The GRAND PRIZE winner will receive a manuscript critique from Tamson.
  • The FIRST PLACE winner will receive Writing With Pictures.
  • The SECOND PLACE winner will receive Dear Genius.
But, as we all know, everyone who enters is a winner for getting practice writing those oh-so-killer pitches.

Ready, Set, PITCH!

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REMINDER: The deadline to sign up for the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge is 10:00 p.m. MST on Sunday, January 29th.  Don’t miss this chance to connect and work with 350+ picture book authors and illustrators who’ve committed to writing one picture book draft every month in 2012.  Still not sure?  Consider these benefits:

  1. The chance to win craft-related giveaways such as critiques, books, consultations, etc. from our monthly featured authors.  This month’s prize is a critique from Tara Lazar.
  2. Access to the 12 x 12 Facebook Group, where an active and supportive group of writers are cheering each other on and helping each other out.  Seriously, these people are already moving mountains for each other – forming critique groups, sharing resources, giving advice.
  3. Spontaneous opportunities such as the one being offered in February – a chance to win a critique with freelance editor Tamson Weston.
  4. The biggest benefit?  You could end the year with 12 shiny PB drafts.  What could be better than that?

If you are ready to take the plunge, you can sign on the digital line here.  

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Two exciting 12 x 12 in 2012 announcements!

Announcement #1

Beginning February 7th, a pre-published participant of the 12 x 12 challenge will guest post on the blog for the new Tuesday 12 x 12 series.  Each participating author and/or illustrator will write a post on a topic of their choice related to the challenge – why they joined, what they’ve learned, connections they’ve made, books they’ve written, etc.

I am so excited about this series because it will give you a chance to get to know some of the talented and courageous writers who have taken the plunge with me into this challenge.  Many of these writers, you will discover, have fabulous blogs of their own where they generously share their knowledge, successes, and bumps along the road.

You may be wondering why this series is focused on pre-published authors specifically.  For one thing, I guess I have a soft spot for pre-pubbies (my newly minted term), since I am one myself. Second, I already have plans to feature many published authors and illustrators throughout the challenge, so I wanted to shine the light on the great folks putting in the hours and the hard work it takes to get published today.  Finally, I have learned so much from reading their blogs already, and I know you will too.  After all, you don’t have to be traditionally published in order to have knowledge and experience worth sharing.  If so, my own blog would be out of business! 🙂  So I hope you’ll come by on Tuesdays and give these brave souls the support and encouragement they deserve.

Announcement #2

I was thrilled to welcome freelance editor Tamson Weston into the 12 x 12 challenge as a participant.  Tamson has very generously offered to give participants a FANTASTIC opportunity to practice writing pitches for the chance to win a manuscript critique from her.  More details will be provided on February 16th when the contest goes live, but because you will only have FOUR DAYS to submit your pitches, I wanted to give you some advance warning so you can start working on them in your “spare” time.

You may choose ONE of your WIPs and submit a pitch that is no more than 140 characters (same as a maximum Twitter message), along with THE FIRST line of your book.  The only exception is if your book is in verse, in which case you can submit the first four lines.  So get ready, because this is a HUGE opportunity.  The grand prize winner will receive a manuscript critique from Tamson.  Again, more information on how to submit, how the entries will be judged, etc. will be posted on February 16th.

Tamson is published children’s book author and editor with over 15 years experience at several prestigious publishing houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Disney Hyperion.  Adam Rex, Mac Barnett, Robert Weinstock, Adam Gopnik, Jane Leslie Conly, Anne Rockwell, Deborah Hopkinson, Jen Violi, Alexander Stadler, and Dan Santat are just a few of the authors/illustrators she’s worked with.

Are you excited yet??

Now, I suggest you go follow Tamson everywhere she lives!

Tamson’s Blog

Tamson’s Facebook Page

Tamson on Twitter

Still need to sign up for the 12 x 12?  Go here

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