DESERT GIRL, MONSOON BOY publishes today!

Cover of Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana SreenivasanToday is the day that Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, illustrated magnificently by Archana Sreenivasan and written by me, releases into the world. It is intended for readers aged 4-8 (but, of course, readers older and younger than that are very welcome).

It is the first picture book I’ve written, and the best-reviewed book yet of my career, with two starred reviews so far and a glowing in-depth write-up by top children’s librarian Elizabeth Bird.

To me this only proves the great value (and joy!) of collaborating artistically with others. I’ve been so lucky to work on this book with so many talented, caring, and detail-oriented people over the past three years: the vastly gifted Archana, the team at Putnam/Penguin Random House–including editor Susan Kochan, designers Eileen Savage and Nicole Rheingans, and Executive Art Director Cecilia Yung–and the team at LPPS (read more about them below) that provided expert feedback on the book. Thank you all! And thank you also to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and Archana’s agent, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, for your behind-the-scenes work in bringing us all together for this project.

Interior illustration 1 from Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana Sreenivasan

illustration by Archana Sreenivasan

To have a book come out during this strange and unprecedented era of global pandemic, is, of course, something none of us anticipated. There will be no bookstore launch parties, book signings, or in-person library story hours. But this is a book about people facing challenges—facing disaster, even—and coming out on the other side. If it finds its way into your home, I hope that it opens the door for discussion and reflection on the many trials we humans face, no matter where we live or what traditions or lifestyles we embrace.

Here is some more info about Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy:

Extreme weather affects two children’s lives in very different ways and shows how the power of nature can bring us together.

One girl. One boy. Their lives couldn’t be more different. While she turns her shoulder to sandstorms and blistering winds, he cuffs his pants when heavy rains begin to fall. As the weather becomes more severe, their families and animals must flee to safety–and their destination shows that they might be more alike than they seem. The journeys of these two children experiencing weather extremes in India highlight the power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.

Buy your copy from…

Your local independent bookstore: find one here (which supports independent bookstores)

Or your favorite national or online retailer:

Penguin Random House * Powell’s * BAM * B&N * Amazon *  Indigo (Canada) * Book Depository (International)

illustration 2 from Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana Sreenivasan

illustration by Archana Sreenivasan

To celebrate release day, I am making a donation to Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), an organization that supports pastoralists in India like those featured in Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy. And I plan to continue to donate an ongoing portion of my royalties to organizations that do similar work in terms of both environmental and cultural sustainability worldwide. You can learn more about organizations that do this kind of work at

Thank you, friends, as always, for your support. I hope you will keep staying home if your work allows, keep reading, and be well.




So you want to get your children’s book published?

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Cover

My first published children’s book. Only a nine-year process!

With some regularity, I get e-mails from people who have written a book for children and would like advice on how to get it published. The first thing I always tell them is “Congratulations! Writing a book is a huge accomplishment!” (Seriously. It took me seven years to write my own first children’s novel, All Four Stars, and then a few more years of revising, agent-seeking, publisher-seeking, and editing before it hit the shelves.)

In any case, since I recently wrote out a long response to one of these e-mails, I thought that I would share here what I would currently know and advise for those who seek traditional publication for a middle-grade, YA, or picture book. (And who, I assume, actually have a finished manuscript, not just an idea for one or a half-finished draft.)

Join SCBWI and attend a conference: One of the best things a newbie to the kidlit world can do is join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), if you’re not already a member. There are branches all over the world. This is a great way to start learning about the children’s book industry, and if you attend a conference (either a regional or national one–highly recommended) not only can you take workshops with published children’s authors, but you can also interface with agents and editors and sometimes have a chance to pay for a critique from an agent, editor, or published author. Some branches have mentorship programs available as well. And if your branch has monthly meetings, that’s a great way to meet some other childrens’ writers in your area, form a critique group, network, and learn. Membership costs around $80 a year, and attending conferences costs more, but remember, it’s all tax-deductible. 🙂

Get critiqued: Join/form a critique group with other writers (preferably other people writing for the same age group you are, whether middle grade, young adult, or picture books) if you haven’t already. Having your work critiqued by other serious writers, whether aspiring or published, is an important way to get feedback and improve your work.

(And going back for a moment…Step 0? Hopefully you are already doing this, but read widely in the genre/age group you are attempting to be published in. Have you read at least 50-100 books for that age group that have been published in the last 5 years? If not, do this before anything else, so you can see if and where your work may fit in the market and come up with some current “comp” titles that you can later use in your query letter.)

Seek an agent: When your manuscript is revised, polished, and absolutely as good as you and your critique partners can make it, then it’s time to look for an agent.

You will need an agent if you seek to be traditionally published by one of the large or medium-sized US children’s publishers (the “Big 5” are Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Macmillan, and HarperCollins, and other well-established companies like Scholastic, Candlewick, Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Sourcebooks are also in this category), as they don’t accept unsolicited submissions. (The one exception to that is that sometimes editors who are presenting at an SCBWI or other writing conference open their submissions to attendees for a certain period after the conference.)

Good places to start to research agents are, and the Absolute Write forums. What are you looking for? An agent who is with a reputable agency; who ideally has at least some sales record in the genre/age group you are writing in (or, if they’re new, are at an agency with a strong record); and who, in interviews/on social media etc. expresses something that makes you think they might be a good fit for your work.

You should also check out, and there are sometimes other opportunities/hashtags on Twitter for pitching your work to agents, such as #DVPit, which focuses on amplifying diverse and underrepresented voices. (Twitter is a good place to be in general if you’re seeking an agent, as many are active on there and might tweet about what they’re looking for.)

Finally, to really dig into an agent’s history of sales, you can buy a membership to Publisher’s Marketplace and study the deal histories there. In addition, you should probably subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf, a biweekly (and free!) e-mail that not only covers news in the kidlit industry, but also announces most of the higher-profile book deals being made and can give you a sense of what’s selling for publication in the industry. As it includes the deal-making agent’s name and the publisher, this is another place for you to do a little agent research.

You generally pitch agents by sending them a one-page query e-mail that includes a brief pitch of your story and a brief bio. If you don’t know about proper query format, definitely research the “success stories” on querytracker to familiarize yourself with good queries. Mine is in there at Stick closely to the one-page limit and hone your pitch to really grab an agent’s attention. Use your critique group to help with this! (Also, this is an area where, if you know a published author, you may be able to ask for a favor in the form of feedback. While I wouldn’t have time to read and critique someone’s manuscript for them–at least, not for free–I’m often willing to look over a one-page query letter and share a few pointers for someone who is serious about trying to pitch themselves to the industry.)

Please note that many people query 50 or more agents before finding representation. I advise sending your query out in small batches (5-7 or so) so that if it’s not getting the results you want you can go back and revise it before sending out to more agents.

If you snag an agent’s attention, they will request some (a “partial”) or all (a “full”) of your manuscript. It may take them months to get back to you after that, though–unfortunately, that’s normal, as agents are extremely busy with their current clients. The best thing to do during that time is to work on your next book!

And/or seek a publisher directly: There are a few smaller but reputable children’s publishers that accept unsolicited, unagented manuscripts, and you could query them directly as well. Off the top of my head, here are a few I believe are still open to submissions, but definitely check their websites to confirm, and carefully follow all submissions guidelines.

-Holiday House
-Albert Whitman
-Boyds Mills
-Carolrhoda/Lerner (periodic open calls)
-Page Street
-Shadow Mountain

I’m sure you can find more in the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (published yearly and available at the library if you don’t want to purchase).

That’s all I’ve got for now. Surely I’ve missed things–if there’s information that you know and think I should include here, please leave a comment and I’ll update when I can. If you have questions, please leave a comment and I’ll answer when I can! And good luck on your publishing journey.

Last stop on the MSFV Success Story Blog Tour: Meet David Kazzie and win his e-book!

Well, what was hopefully only the first Annual Authoress’s Success Story blog tour is winding down with today’s post, the last in the series. But last is certainly not least, and I am thrilled to be interviewing author David Kazzie! David is also generously offering commenters a chance to win a copy of his Kindle e-book, The Jackpot (details below).

The Blog Tour
Those of us who have owed our publishing successes, at least in part, to the Miss Snark’s First Victim (MSFV) contests and blog have decided to come together and help cross-promote each other’s work. Every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author has posted an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories. You can find a list with links to all the previous interviews at the bottom of this post.

The Author
David Kazzie is a novelist and lawyer in Richmond, where he lives with his family. His self-published debut novel, The Jackpot, has sold more than 11,000 copies since January and spent nine days on Amazon’s Top 100 Kindle Bestseller List, peaking at No. 34. He is the author of several short animated videos, including “So You Want to Write a Novel,” which have more than 2 million YouTube hits. He is represented by the Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency.

The Interview

1) How did the MSFV blog help you get to where you are now?

I’ve been reading Authoress’s blog for a few years now (long before I signed with my agent) and participated in a couple of her contests and critique sessions. Although I never won a Secret Agent contest, I found the feedback to be super helpful, and I think it helped strengthen my writing. It’s also great to be part of such a supportive community of writers, especially since writing can be such a lonely slog. All writers should be reading her blog and participating in the contests. (Plus, I want to be there the day she reveals her true identity! I’m pretty sure I’ve narrowed down her location to somewhere east of the Mississippi River!)

2) Your first novel, The Jackpot, is a legal thriller that has been a top 100 Amazon Kindle bestseller. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The Jackpot is the story of a young lawyer whose new client has won a gigantic lottery jackpot, and her quest to return the winning ticket to its rightful owner after her financially desperate boss steals the ticket for himself. I thought it was a really cool premise, and I liked watching the characters struggle with the temptation of such a big fortune in front of them, right there for the taking. The story was also conducive to a lot of mayhem, which was very fun to write.

3) I know that self-publishing has been a wild ride for you. For anyone who is thinking about trying it, what’s your most important piece of advice?

Is it OK if I give several? First, work hard to put out your very best product. That means don’t half-ass the cover or the editing or the formatting (for E-book editions). Readers do notice bad covers, bad writing, bad editing, and they (rightfully) punish authors for it. You don’t want to get a sudden burst of sales and then find reviewers slamming you with low ratings on Amazon (I see it happen all the time) because your book is riddled with typos or weak writing or what have you.

Second, don’t expect instant riches or sales just because you saw Amanda Hocking or J.A. Konrath get rich self-publishing. For the first eight months my book was for sale, I sold less than 300 copies. I’ve been to the badlands of the super-low Kindle rankings, and it’s not a fun place to be, but it’s almost certain that you will spend time there. It wasn’t until January 2012 that my book really took off. Also, be prepared to write several books before you see a lot of sales (I’m told that my experience of hitting the Top 100 with a first book was a bit of an anomaly – this sort of worries me in that I may never duplicate its success).

Third, be willing to take chances and try new things to market your book. You’ll quickly discover what works and doesn’t work (hint: spamming people on Twitter DOES NOT work, ever). My book took off because I took a chance with Amazon’s KDP Select program fairly early on. Don’t wait to see if something works for someone else first, because invariably, if you wait, everyone else will be trying it too, and that hot new marketing tool will be yesterday’s news.

Fourth, understand that there is a portion of the writing community that still looks down on self-publishing. Some people care about this. I did not (although I still do hope to see a book I wrote on a bookstore shelf somewhere. Old dreams die hard).

4) In addition to being a novelist, you’re the creator of the hilarious viral video “So you want to write a novel” (as well as several others). Have you always been something of a humor writer? And does this humor tend to show up in your fiction?

I didn’t start out looking to write humor, but I found that I was probably better at it than some other forms of writing. It’s quite a bit harder to keep it up for a full-length manuscript than in the short script format of the videos, but I do try to include some humorous elements in all my work. Also, I think writing humor taught me not to hold anything back in any form when writing. That’s probably been the most valuable takeaway – it helped me deepen characters, expand plots, and really get into the guts of a story. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

5) According to your blog, you’re working on a new book. Can you tell us anything about it? And when it’s done, do you plan to self-publish again, or will you and your agent try pitching it to traditional publishers this time around?

A boy has to have some secrets, so I will keep the details of the book under wraps for now. As for the traditional/self-publishing route, I will say I am open to all options. I’d love the chance to work with a publisher, if the right opportunity came along. If I self-published, there’s no guarantee that my second book would do anywhere near as well as my first. Also, it was a heck of a lot of work to self-publish The Jackpot. It would be great to get professional assistance with cover design, editing, and marketing. But if no publisher wants to buy the book, then I’m happy that self-publishing will be there as an option.

Thanks so much, David!

The Giveaway
If you’d like to enter to win a copy of David’s novel The Jackpot for Kindle, all you have to do is leave a comment below! (And if you don’t have a Kindle, fear not–you can still read it using a free Kindle ap on your computer, phone, or tablet.) I’ll draw a random winner at midnight EST on Friday, August 17.

The Rest of Us
Missed part of the blog tour? You can find all of the previous interviews at these blogs.

Name Website Twitter Posting Date
David Kazzie @davidkazzie 1-Aug
Leigh Talbert Moore @leightmoore 2-Aug
J.Anderson Coats @jandersoncoats 3-Aug
J.M. Frey @scifrey 4-Aug
Elissa Cruz @elissacruz 5-Aug
Amanda Sun @Amanda_Sun 6-Aug
Kristi Helvig @KristiHelvig 7-Aug
Leah Petersen @Leahpetersen 8-Aug
Monica Bustamante Wagner  @Monica_BW 9-Aug
E.M. Kokie @emkokie 10-Aug
Monica Goulet @MonicaGoulet 11-Aug
Peter Salomon @petersalomon 12-Aug
Sarah Brand @sarahbbrand 13-Aug
Angela Ackerman @angelaackerman &
Tara Dairman  @TaraDairman 15-Aug

Announcing a Success Story Blog Hop!

Hello, readers!

As you may remember, a couple of contests at the blog Miss Snark’s First Victim directly resulted in me signing with my wonderful literary agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and selling my first novel (currently titled The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby, set for release in 2014). So now, to celebrate, I’m taking part what will hopefully be the first of the Annual Authoress’s Success Story blog tours!

Authoress Anonymous has built a strong and supportive community at Miss Snark’s First Victim (aka MSFV). There, writers can participate in contests designed to help them practice giving and receiving critiques, polish their hooks, shine up query letters, and gain exposure to literary agents…and, in the case of some writers, get offered representation or publishing deals!

Over 20 professional authors now owe some part of their successes to Authoress, the incredibly generous people who participate in her contests, and her blog. Some of us in this group have decided to come together to celebrate MSFV and Authoress, and to help cross-promote each other’s work.

So every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author will be posting an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories. There might even be some giveaways, so don’t miss a single blog post! Make sure to tune in to everyone’s blogs from August 1st to the 15th, and to follow the hashtag #MSFVSuccessStory on Twitter for more details, tidbits, and info. See you there!

Name Website Twitter Posting Date
David Kazzie @davidkazzie 1-Aug
Leigh Talbert Moore @leightmoore 2-Aug
J.Anderson Coats @jandersoncoats 3-Aug
J.M. Frey @scifrey 4-Aug
Elissa Cruz @elissacruz 5-Aug
Amanda Sun @Amanda_Sun 6-Aug
Kristi Helvig @KristiHelvig 7-Aug
Leah Petersen @Leahpetersen 8-Aug
Monica Bustamante Wagner  @Monica_BW 9-Aug
E.M. Kokie @emkokie 10-Aug
Monica Goulet @MonicaGoulet 11-Aug
Peter Salomon @petersalomon 12-Aug
Sarah Brand @sarahbbrand 13-Aug
Angela Ackerman @angelaackerman &
Tara Dairman  @TaraDairman 15-Aug

I can’t wait to share my interview of David Kazzie, author of The Jackpotright here on August 15, and I’ll put up a link when Angela Ackerman’s interview of me is live! See you in August!

A very literary (and tasty!) east coast trip

Oh, my–almost two weeks have passed since my trip ended. I’d better get this post up, huh? 🙂

I left Colorado just in time to escape 98-degree, bone-dry days and the worst of the wildfires, and flew into NYC just in time to catch 98-degree, 100%-humidity days that made me feel like I was back in the rainforest. A really loud, crowded rainforest that smelled like rotting garbage.

My first literary destination was KGB Bar, where my good friend E.C. Myers packed the house for his reading from Fair Coin. Standing room only! If I ever do a public reading, I can only hope to be half as funny and engaging as he was.

The next day, I headed down to Soho for a get-to-know-you-in-person lunch with Gladys Gatsby‘s lovely editor, Shauna Fay Rossano. We had e-mailed and talked on the phone several times, but this would be our first face-to-face meeting. She gave me a choice of restaurants, each with a more fabulous-sounding menu than the next, and I was having quite a time choosing, but I finally went with this one……because the NY Times hinted that they might just have the best pie in the city. Total scale-tipper. Also, when I asked Shauna if she wanted to split a slice and she immediately proposed we get the peanut butter pie, I knew I was working with the smartest editor in town. 🙂

Yes, I remembered to take a picture of the pie, but somehow forgot to get a picture of me and Shauna at lunch. D’oh! But there would be a chance to remedy that later. In the meantime, we parted ways, and I took a wander through Soho. Here’s a sign I enjoyed in the window of the McNally Jackson bookstore.

A weekend went by. I spent time with family, visited friends, went to a wedding.

But then Monday found me and Andy venturing out to Flushing, where we had somehow convinced Shauna and her husband to meet us at Fu Run, a restaurant specializing in the “Dongbei” cuisine of northeast China. We chowed down on dishes like the “Muslim lamb chop” (not a chop, but actually an amazing rack cumin-crusted lamb ribs) and “green bean sheet jelly” (actually a spicy cold noodle dish). Of course, I needed to get a glamour shot of the lamb ribs…and luckily remembered to pose with Shauna in the same picture!A few days later, I spent the day at Coney Island with my sister. We rode the Wonder Wheel and got hot dogs from the original Nathans and spent hours watching walruses play at the aquarium. I took lots of atmospheric pictures, since I’m planning to set a scene at Coney Island if I ever write a Gladys sequel!

Brooke and I also took some fittingly old-timey self portraits, thanks to the magic of Instagram.

At the end of the day, we wandered over to Brighton Beach to eat delicious potato/mushroom- and meat-stuffed vareniki (Ukranian dumplings) at Cafe Glechik. I had read somewhere online that a $7 order came with more than 20 vareniki, but I didn’t believe it until they were right in front of me. SO. GOOD.Fast forward a few days and a Megabus ride, and I found myself in Boston, ready to have my second literary power lunch of the trip–with my awesome agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette! Stupidly, I had so much fun hanging out with Joan that I forgot to get a picture either of the food (a delicious date-and-mascarpone “pizza”) or of the people. All I’ve got is this exterior shot of the restaurant in Harvard Square (in fact, the only photo I took the entire three days I spent in Boston, despite seeing many old friends and engaging in fun activities like kayaking on the Charles.).But I made up for that by taking plenty of pictures during the next part of my trip, a swing through New Hampshire and Vermont. The sole purpose of this leg was to finally meet my critique partner extraordinaire, Ann Bedichek, in person! Here we are with an order of garlic knots at Ramuntos in Hanover, NH–which make a greasy, delicious cameo in Ann’s middle-grade manuscript Scientastic Supergirls.The fact that Ann and I were only just meeting in person that day was kind of ridiculous if you know our history, which includes graduating the same year from the same college, where we apparently had a slew of mutual friends and Ann did the same three-month foreign study program as my future husband. Three years ago, Andy and I got married a few miles from where Ann and her husband live, and last summer we were all at our 10-year college reunion…and yet Ann and I still managed not to cross paths in life until we entered the same pitch contest last fall and ended up connecting online as writers.

Lo and behold, now she’s my number-one beta reader and we’re agency-sisters…so it seems that we finally got the memo that the universe want us to be friends. 🙂

Anyway, I was lucky enough to spend my final weekend on the east coast hanging out at Ann and Dan’s house, picking herbs at the local farm with their adorable son Ethan, drinking chocolate frappes at LA Burdick, and taking a dip at my favorite wedding venue, Alyson’s Orchard.

How can you not be happy when you’re sitting on a dock, listening to the frogs sing, on a beautiful pond in New Hampshire?Let’s leave it there. Sure, there was a long train ride, and a few more days spent in New York, but I think I’ve shared most of the important parts. I was happy to go back east, to reunite with family and friends and meet some amazing new people. But I’m happy to be home now, too, where the mountains tower outside my window, I pass deer and prairie dogs on my bike ride to work, and most days I have the time and calm to get some writing done.

(I do wish we had better vareniki here, though.)


Hooray for Ann!

Just a quick post to say CONGRATULATIONS to my good friend, fellow Dartmouth alum (yeah, class of ’01!), and awesome critique partner Ann Bedichek, who is now officially my agency-sibling, too! Hurrah!!

I knew from the moment I read Ann’s fabulous middle-grade novel, Scientastic SuperGirls, that she would not be unagented for long. It’s always nice to be proved right, especially when the agent snapping your friend up is the wonderful Tricia Lawrence at your very own beloved Erin Murphy Literary Agency. 😀

So pop on over to Ann’s blog to read her success story and congratulate her yourself! And here’s to seeing the SuperGirls on a shelf soon!

Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway!

Yep, I’m still finding ways to celebrate the fact that my debut middle-grade novel, The Delicious Double life of Gladys Gatsby, is getting published. (When you have a two-year wait for publication, you need to stretch the fun out as long as you can!)

This past weekend, my husband and I threw a little “Tara has a book deal!” party. It was to be our first party in our not-so-new-anymore abode, and when I mentioned our plans to my mom on the phone she said “Do you know enough people in Colorado to have a party?” Funny, I was wondering the same thing myself.

Luckily, several guests did show up (including my wonderful agency-siblings Jean Reidy, Laura Resau, and Jeannie Mobley!) and we had quite a nice time. I probably should have taken some pictures with them or something (you know, as proof for Mom), but of course I only remembered to take pictures of the food.

Now, how to extend the party even farther? Much as I wish I could bake strawberry cupcakes for the entire world (hm, remember this fiasco?), I think I’ll go a different way and give away…books! Books from my new publisher, Putnam!

And, actually, I meant to do one of these giveaways to celebrate signing with my agent in January, but I never quite got around to it. So I’m going to make this a double giveaway, and also give away books written by fellow clients of the fabulous Erin Murphy Literary Agency!

I’m calling it the Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway, because TWO lucky winners will get to choose which recently-released or forthcoming book they want from one of these lists.

Putnam books:

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (MG)
Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958.

Legend by Marie Lu (YA)
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect.

Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg, Book 1) by Geoff Rodkey (MG, releases 5/29)
Egg’s running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he’s been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.

The Vindico by Wesley King (YA, releases 6/14)
The Vindico are a group of supervillains who have been fighting the League of Heroes for as long as anyone can remember. Realizing they’re not as young as they used to be, they devise a plan to kidnap a group of teenagers to take over for them when they retire–after all, how hard can it be to teach a bunch of angsty teens to be evil?


EMLA books:

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats (YA)
1293. Caernarvon, north Wales. Ten years into English rule. Life is good. If you’re English.

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson  (nonfiction)
The little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alabama, between May 2 and May 11, 1963.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Triology, Book 1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen (YA)
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (MG, releases 5/10)
Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided.



To enter, just leave a comment on this post. But you can also earn up to six extra entries by doing the following:

1)  “Liking” the Tara Dairman Author page on Facebook
2)  Adding The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby to your to-read list on Goodreads
3)  Following @TaraDairman on Twitter
4)  Signing up to follow this blog by e-mail (use the button in the top right corner of this page)
5)  Tweeting and/or posting on Facebook about this giveaway.

Sample Tweet:
Win free YA and MG books at @TaraDairman’s Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway!

Sample FB status update:
Win free YA and MG books at Tara Dairman’s Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway!

Just let me know in the comments which of these extra things you’ve done, and assuming it checks out, I’ll give you credit! (Clarification: And if you already liked/followed/subscribed/etc. before this contest, you still get the extra entries! Just mention them in your comment. Thanks!)

The contest is open until midnight EST on May 1, and I’ll announce the winners the next day. International entries are welcome. Good luck, and thanks for playing!

Gettin’ my nerd on.

Whoa, two posts in one week? Does this signal the beginning of a new, more rigorous blogging schedule?

Nah. I’ve been too busy drafting a new WIP (that’s “Work In Progress” for the un-writerly-acronym-initiated), so posting here will probably remain somewhat sporadic for a while–though I am hoping to do a nice celebratory book giveaway pretty soon, and definitely have a big interview (with wonderful novelist Ernest Hebert) planned for May.

Speaking of interviews, the excellent Amanda Gardner has graciously featured me in an interview over at her blog, Nerd Couture. Not only does Amanda write great questions, but she’s also the author of one of the funniest first pages I’ve EVER come across in a writing contest–page 1 of her urban fantasy novel Wicked Spirits. I pretty much started stalking her on Twitter as soon as I read that page. 🙂 Anyway, she’s been doing a series of interviews of writers in various stages of the agent-seeking and publishing processes, so if that sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably want to check out her blog.

That’s all from me for this week, but I’ll leave you with some Harry Potter humor, which I stole from Melodie Wright.

Happy Friday!

What’s so bad about going on submission?

So, as I mentioned in my last entry, Agent Joan and I are gearing up to “go on submission” soon, which is just a fancy of way of saying that she’s going to send my novel out to some editors and see if anyone likes it enough to publish it.

I’ve actually been feeling more excited than nervous as I anticipate this part of the process…which apparently shows how naïve I am, because from what I’ve read out there on the Internet, most writers seem to consider “being on sub” the equivalent of being roasted slowly over an open fire, or microwaved to the point of explosion, or [insert your own favorite cooking/torture metaphor here].

The thing is, I haven’t quite been able to figure out why.

Maybe it’s because I just came off a few months of near-constant anxiety as I submitted to literary agents and waited, waited, waited for their responses, but I just can’t believe that submitting to editors will really be worse than that. After all, now that I have an agent, I have a partner who not only vouches for the quality of my writing, but will take over all the most nerve-wracking parts of the selling-a-book process—writing the pitches, figuring out who’s the best fit for my work, and, if a deal happens, negotiating the terms. Now I get to sit back and write while she takes over doing all the businessy parts. I mean, that’s why I wanted an agent in the first place, isn’t it? 🙂

But it’s possible that I’ve been missing something big—some secret, known-only-to-those-who’ve-been-there reason why I should be dreading submission. So in true Tara fashion, I did some research. On a couple of different forums, I reached out to authors and asked them to explain to me what, exactly, is so gut-wrenching about being on sub—and whether they found it to be more or less stressful than querying agents.

And boy, did I get responses! (It seems that writers like to, um, write a lot about stuff when you ask them questions.) So now, without further ado, I present some expert insight into the question “What’s so bad about going on submission?”

1. The lack of control.

“I’d say that being on submission in some ways felt more stressful to me than querying agents, and that is primarily because I had less control over the process on a day to day basis. … [W]hen I went out on submission, there really was nothing I could do but wait. (And arguably work on something else, but I found that nearly impossible).  I couldn’t send more submissions or research a long list of editors. And the list of potential homes for my book was significantly shorter than that list of agents I might have queried. That loss of control felt really scary to me.” – E. M. Kokie, author of PERSONAL EFFECTS (Candlewick Press, Fall 2012)

2. Other people’s expectations.

“Another aspect of the stress of being on submission is interacting with people, writers as well as non-writers. When you share the good news–that your query paid off and landed you an agent–they expect a sale announcement right around the corner. But, sometimes you can be on submission for quite a while before getting an offer, and sometimes an offer never comes. It can be awkward answering the well-intentioned requests for good news when there isn’t any to report.” – Laurie Thompson

3. You’re sooo close…

“Often I describe it as climbing to the top of a huge rock wall, and the submission process is when you have the top joint of your index finger just barely snagging the highest rock–and you realize your feet are sweaty, and you’re not wearing socks, but you are almost there (insert profanity here).” – Graham Bradley

“When you get a ‘no’ from a submission, it’s pretty much the end of the line–at least for that particular manuscript with that particular editor (and maybe that imprint, and maybe that publisher, depending on how they do things). So, ‘sub’ rejections can be way more depressing.” – Laurie Thompson 

4. The waiting.

Being out on submission is rough because of the waiting. You know answers are going to be filing in, but you don’t know WHEN and you don’t know what they’ll say.”


Now, as for the subbing vs. querying question…to my surprise, most people who responded seemed to think either that they were very similar, or that querying was worse (which was a big relief to me!). Here are some more details:

1. It’s all the same.

“I think….they are exactly the same. You are asking someone to judge your book. Submitting to agents or editors is just the first step down a path that will bring both joy and pain.”

“Queries, magazine articles, books…the submission process seems similar to me, at least as far as stress and anticipation. You send something out and wait for good news. And it comes, or it doesn’t. In the meantime, you keep trying, and keep writing.”

2. Being on sub is better, since I know that my agent has confidence in my project.

“It makes all the difference having someone you trust on your side. That’s HUGE. Throughout the years of subbing, [my agent’s] faith in my writing and her cheerleading helped me believe that my work was good enough to be published.”

“I whole-heartedly prefer going on submission to querying for an agent or an editor. When [my agent] sends my work out into the world, it’s this amazing feeling like: Whoa! I am not alone on this. It’s not just me telling myself, ‘… I think the writing is okay–I mean, maybe not exceptional, but possibly-good-enough-to-possibly-maybe-get-a-contract.’ When [my agent] sends it out, I can tell myself, ‘… Dude. SHE thought it was good enough as well!’”

“I would have to say I much prefer being on submission to querying! Being part of an amazing agency and having a fantastic agent in my corner, who loves my work enough to represent it, does wonders for my writerly self-confidence. That alone makes it so much easier to bounce back from rejection, or simply to sit back and wait for replies. I have ultimate faith in [my agent], and she likes my work, so I guess I’m okay.” – Laurie Thompson 

“Submission means that [my agent] doesn’t like, she loves. And that alone is so unbelievably affirming.” – Jean Reidy


Well, there you have it: a slightly scientific survey of the “going on sub” experience. It seems that submission does have some unique stress factors, but overall I’m heartened to know that a good number of folks found it to be similarly or less stressful than the querying process. (And I’d like to extend many thanks to all the writers who responded to my plea for information, whether or not they chose to be named here.)

But, of course, there’s still plenty of room for opinions in this discussion. If you’re currently subbing or have been through the submissions process, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How did being on sub compare to querying for you?

How I Wrote a Novel and Got An Agent, Part 2

(Part 1 can be found here.)

So, where were we? Oh, yes—a coffee shop in Tanzania. After six years, I had just written “The End” on a piece of paper containing the last page of the first draft of my novel.

Andy was still up on Kilimanjaro somewhere, so I went out for Indian food with a Norwegian girl I’d met that day. I had a celebratory beer. The next morning, Andy came down off the mountain, and the morning after that, I packed my manuscript back in my backpack and we got on a bus for points west. I didn’t take it out again for eight months.

Finally, in June of 2011, our travels ended and we found ourselves back in New York. I typed up my novel and sent it out to my writers’ group (and also finally let Andy read it). Everyone gave me excellent feedback, most of which I proceeded to ignore. I had already spent so much time working on the project, I just wanted it to be done.

(I had also spent so much time working on it that BOTH of the agents I had met in the years before—the ones who had said they’d be happy to look at my book when it was finished—had left agenting. Oops!)

So if I wanted to find an agent, I was going to have to start from scratch. I’d have to send out query letters (one-page letters pitching the book to prospective agents) and hope that an agent requested to read some pages…and loved them so much that she requested to read the whole book…and loved the book so much that she requested to represent me forever and ever, amen.

While there was plenty of information out there (thank goodness for writer and agent blogs!) about the querying process, the numbers seemed to be stacked against me. For every kindhearted post I found on how to write a great query letter, I found another about how agents receive 100+ queries a day and are looking for any reason they can find to reject you.

Luckily, that’s when my friend Julie introduced me to the wonderful Eugene Myers, who had been through the whole querying process and come out the other side with an agent and a book deal. He gave me tons of querying advice and the most spot-on critiques a person could hope for on my query and synopsis. (He could tell just from my synopsis that the beginning of my book was too heavy on backstory—an important issue that I, in my hurry to get querying, once again chose to ignore.)

In August, I e-mailed my query and first 5-10 pages to seven agents. Some took only days to respond and others took several weeks, but the results were all the same:

I won’t lie—it felt like crap. Tears were shed. I felt like I had made my book as good as I could on my own, and that even if it wasn’t quite perfect, it needed that professional feedback that only an agent or editor could give to take it to the next level.

But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that wasn’t true. I already had plenty of feedback to work with—all the stuff my writers’ group, and my husband, and Eugene had told me. My book wasn’t as good as I could make it yet. I could do better.

So I fired up the computer in my parents’ basement and got to work on the hardest part of the whole process: major revisions. I cut my first two chapters. I wrote three different new beginnings for my book, scrapping days of work each time I decided one wasn’t working. I took the metaphorical hatchet to my trademark long, comma-ridden sentences. (And cut them down. Into shorter sentences.)

I also discovered Miss Snark’s First Victim. Every month, that blog hosts a “Secret Agent” contest in which an agent critiques the first pages of entrants’ novels and picks winners. I read through months’ worth of contests, learning what kinds of entries appealed to agents, and what appealed to me. I learned how to write a first page that grabs the reader. And when I finally finished my big revision in October, I entered that month’s contest…and ended up with my first partial request.

Then, a few days later, I got a request for a query and five pages from another agent who had seen my first page in the contest. I sent it to her, and the next morning I had an e-mail saying that she wanted to read the whole book. Hooray! That agent was Ammi-Joan Paquette.

With renewed confidence, I started querying again. I got more requests for pages. I still got rejections—more rejections than requests—but they began to hurt less. I entered more contests, including the annual Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction at Miss Snark’s First Victim, in which agents “bid” on how many pages of your book they’d like to read. Three agents ended up bidding for my full manuscript within seconds of each other…and a week later, I had two offers of representation. A week after that, I had two more.

In the end, five wonderful agents offered me representation, which is kind of a ridiculous dream situation for a querying writer. They all brought different and compelling skills to the table, and I found myself faced with a difficult choice. But the agent who was the best fit for me turned out to be the first one who ever requested to read my whole book: Joan.

So, I signed the contract…

…and am now an agented writer! 😀

Phew—story complete! However, if for some reason you have a hankering for EVEN MORE details about the writing of Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake or the querying process, you’re welcome to check out this interview I did at QueryTracker, which also includes my query letter for Gladys.

Also, without the support of my friends and family, Gladys and I never would have made it to this point, and there are a few more people who deserve extra thanks for their help during this process: Katie, Jessica, Evelyn, and Miriam (the brilliant ladies of the Breadbasket Writers’ Group); Hoi Ning, Aunt Judy, Brooke, Christine, Nomi, and Cath (my beta readers); and Ann (the very best companion a girl could ask for in query hell).

Much shorter entries to come in the near future, I promise.