MEET THE MEMBERS

Mike Frosolono has been a member of the Writers’ League since September 2014 and is attending the 2015 Agents & Editors Conference. He lives with his beloved wife Andrea in Austin.

Mike Frosolono

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Mike Frosolono: I currently write in the literary fiction genre. I have an extensive record of scientific publications from my time in academic basic biomedical research (20 years) and clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry (20 years). I’ve published two novels Beyond Duty (2010) and Comfort and Affliction (to be published by John Koehler Books in Feb 2015).  I also published Thoroughly Biased Opinions, an edited collection of my newspaper columns for The Franklin County (GA) Citizen. While I don’t consider myself a Christian writer per se, I do like to have Christian, but not fundamentalist, themes in my books.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

MF: I’d like to have Bourbon with David Baldacci, Scotch with Michael Connelly, and a great red wine with Stanley Hauerwas and N. T. Wright.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

MF: The Book of Revelation would be my choice for reading on deserted island.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

MF: I’m still very much learning from my association with the Writers’ League.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

MF: I want to tell great stories embedded in the matrix of important questions for society.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

MF: You can find my books on my website or through Amazon.

MEMBERS REVIEW

MIGRATORY ANIMALS

By Mary Helen Specht

Published in 2015 by Harper Perennial.

Migratory Animals

 Reviewed by K.L. Romo.

What is family? What are family obligations? Where is home? How does love fit into the mix?  These are some of the questions Mary Helen Specht explores in her novel Migratory Animals.

Specht tells the story of six former college roommates, two of whom are sisters. Five have stayed in and around Austin, Texas, but the sixth, Flannery, moved to Nigeria as part of her scientific work regarding climate change. But when funding becomes an issue, Flannery is required to move back to Austin where she is thrust back into the lives of her family and friends. The push-and-pull of different ways of life, and Flannery’s longing to live one while staying with the other, is also a central theme. What plays a part in a person’s answer to the question should I stay or should I go?

In addition to familial obligations, Specht deals with another theme in her book – the effects of debilitating illnesses – Huntington’s disease and depression. Specht reveals the fear of being handed the Huntington’s death sentence, giving us glimpses of the downward spiral caused by the disease in all its ravages. But what truly impressed me was the way Specht forces the reader to experience the hopelessness of depression, in which the character Alyce was immersed. The reader not only experiences the sadness that most people associate with the condition, but the total flat line of one’s spirit. From emptiness and weak emotions, to no emotion at all. The inability to make the body move, and the panic that sets in when someone expects something from you. It was all very, very real.

The six-pack of friends each learn to give and take in their relationships, and each finds his or her own truth to believe in. Each is also forced to ask themselves should I stay or should I go?

I enjoyed Specht’s emotion-filled style of writing. The chapters were written from the point of view of each of the six friends, rotating back and forth between the characters and their perspectives. I enjoyed this book very much, and look forward to another from Mary Helen Specht.

K.L. Romo is a writer who lives with her family in Duncanville, Texas. She is currently querying agents to represent her newly completed novel – From Grace I Fall – about an empty-nester who’s suddenly transported back to 1907 Dallas, seeing the world through her prior incarnation, a reformed prostitute who is determined to seek justice for other women forced to sell their bodies. You can visit her at www.klromo.com.

Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Agent Melissa Flashman

Melissa Flashman represents bestselling and award-winning writers across a broad range of categories. As an English major and former graduate student in literature, Melissa has a strong interest in literary and commercial fiction that engages the time-honored questions of love, loss, and how to live. “I’m always on the lookout for the work that makes you want to take the day off,” says Melissa. In nonfiction, Melissa represents pop culture, memoir, wellness, popular science, business and economics, and technology. Trident’s e-Book Operations group allows Melissa’s clients to publish in a variety of formats, including full-length books, novellas, long-form essays, collections of published articles, and short stories.

mel-flash-sq.agentScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?

Melissa Flashman: It varies project to project and writer to writer. In many cases, the job of an agent is to be part career coach and part therapist, crazy as it may sound.

Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?

MF: In the most general sense it would be to have a healthy sense of when to advocate for yourself, including following up (agents have mile high reading piles and overflowing inboxes, so following up after a reasonable amount of time has passed is perfectly all right). And keeping the agent abreast of notable milestones in your writing. Do you have a piece in The New York Times? Was your novel just named to a “Best of” list? Let me know!

Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.

MF: Work that is not what Oprah might call its “best self.” You get one shot with an agent (or editor, down the road), make the most of it.

Scribe: You often hear that it’s the first ten pages—or even the first page—that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?

MF: It sounds so basic, but I need to get pulled in, whether it is the writing or something like suspense. I want to want to keep reading.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

MF: You have to write what you are passionate about. I don’t care if that is international finance or the minutia of a couple’s psychodynamic—that’s where the magic happens.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.

MF: One of my writers, a young woman named Astra Taylor, wrote a phenomenal book on power and culture in the digital age (if you wonder how important journalism will become or how artists and musicians will get paid in the internet/iPhone age, The People’s Platform is the book for you). She was just named by the LA Times as one of the next generation’s civil rights leaders for her work (all volunteer) on behalf of victims of the financial industry, including holders of medical and student debt. Along with a team of unsung volunteers, she has taken on an arcane and intensely complex industry and has both helped erase millions of dollars on debt while, more importantly, raising awareness. She did this both through her writing and interviews in outlets like The New York Times, The New Yorker and n + 1, but also through innovative activist campaigns and actions.

Click here for a full list of our 2015 A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2015 A&E Conference.

Click here to register for the Keynote Luncheon.

Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Agent Jessica Papin

Jessica Papin is an agent at Dystel and Goderich in New York. Prior to that, she was the Director of International Rights at the American University in Cairo Press in Egypt, and an editor at Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing) in New York. With a background on both sides of the desk, Papin loves working collaboratively with clients to shape and refine their work.

She is interested in literary and smart commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, history, medicine, science, economics and women’s issues. In every case, she looks for passion, erudition, and storytelling skill. A wry sense of humor doesn’t hurt.

staff_jessica

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?

Jessica Papin: I take a very hands-on approach to my clients’ work. Indeed, writers uninterested in a rigorous edit would be wise to seek other representation. For nonfiction projects, once a client has a complete, polished draft of a proposal and sample chapters, I usually do a comprehensive mark-up, making queries and suggestions. The client will revise and then send it back to me for another round. We’ll repeat as necessary, editing, polishing and tightening with each iteration. With fiction, I generally begin by sending along an editorial letter that addresses global issues of plot, characterization, inconsistencies and pace. Once those big picture concerns are addressed, we can drill down into particular scenes as necessary. During the submission process, I keep my client as looped into events as he or she wishes—preferences vary widely. After the book is sold, I continue to be an active partner, providing advice, advocacy and structure (as needed) on everything from contract and cover design to career trajectory. I see the author-agent relationship as a long-term partnership, and a strategic union of art and commerce.

Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?

JP: It’s always useful for aspiring authors to have a baseline understanding of how the book business works—that getting a book published is fraught with challenge, frustration, and is a very bad get-rich-quick scheme. Patience, resilience and a sense of humor are handy. A day job you don’t hate is also helpful, and not only for financial reasons. Cultivating a life outside of writing not only complements and feeds your craft, it can keep you sane. Building friendships within the writing community will give you a sympathetic and like-minded audience when your loved ones grow tired of shop talk.

Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.

JP: I fear my answers here won’t be very original, but nevertheless: rookie mistakes, like writing a “fictional novel;” purple prose; improper diction; misplaced modifiers; mistaking my interest in editing for an invitation for half-baked projects. Deliberately provocative letters that attempt to insult me into evincing interest in a project. “Dear Agent, In the unlikely event that you’re not so much a brainless lemming that you can recognize true originality, keep reading…” Perhaps I’m a lemming, but I just can’t imagine this ever works.

If I had a nickel for the frequency with which “I’ve always wanted to be a writer” appears in queries, I’d be a wealthier woman than I am today. I’m not churlish enough to say it’s a pet peeve, but most agents and editors believe that this fire in the belly is a given, and we’re probably less interested in a third grade epiphany than what a writer has since done to realize it.

And I’m less irritated than amused when I encounter lines like “correctly marketed, this book will be a blockbuster!”  I, and the rest of the publishing industry, would love to know the secret of “correct marketing.” Connecting a book with its audience is a considerable challenge (whoever said if you build it they will come was not talking about the book business) and for the most part, traditional publishers are neither willing nor able to manage it alone. Hence, particularly in the case of nonfiction, most houses are looking for authors who have pre-existing platforms, who can call upon their own networks and partner with their publisher to spread the word.

Scribe: You often hear that it’s the first ten pages—or even the first page—that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?

JP: I don’t think that the first ten pages can sell a story. They can buy a book more time—Scheherazade-style. That’s not to say a great opening is not a powerful invitation. It’s also a writer’s best insurance against being passed over. So it’s probably not a bad idea to forgo the slow burn in favor of beginning with a bang. (In medias res may be an old concept, but it’s a good one.)

I look for voice, I look for evidence of a compelling conflict, I look for a superb and subtle command of the English language. I look for that rare project that prompts me to push aside all other work, ignore my inbox, abandon my to-do list, and just keep reading.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

JP: Keep at it. Pay attention to the ubiquitous accounts of writers who encountered rejection and disappointment but succeeded anyway. Take with a grain of salt the Cinderella stories of authors who went from unknown to the top of the bestseller lists. Publishing is chock full of overnight successes that were years in the making. Expect that it will be hard, but don’t let that deter you.

Click here for a full list of our 2015 A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2015 A&E Conference.

Click here to register for the Keynote Luncheon.

Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Agent Kim Perel

Kim Perel joined Wendy Sherman Associates in 2009 and has since conceptualized, sold, and even ghost-written numerous books for major publishers. She is passionate about discovering fresh voices and championing debut writers. She holds an MFA degree in Creative Writing from The New School and an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Though Kim specializes in illustrated platform-driven lifestyle books in the areas of home décor, wellness and food, she also loves unique memoir that reads like fiction, in-depth journalistic non-fiction, business, “big idea” books about why we think and live the way we do, and fiction that straddles literary and commercial with a strong story and beautifully-crafted prose.

Kim Perel - Wendy ShermanScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?

Kim Perel: WSA is super small, and we like it that way because it allows us to be very hands-on with our clients. We forge genuine relationships, which is really the most important aspect of agenting. The publishing process is long, winding, and can be very confusing (even scary), so it’s imperative that you have an agent by your side who understands you, your work, and makes you feel comfortable.

Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?

KP: I think it would be to trust us. We do this every single day and I like to think we know what we’re doing! Please believe we’re doing everything we possibly can for you and your book and exploring every channel of possibility. We only win if you do, and we want this to work as much (or sometimes more) than you do!

Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.

KP: This is tough, because it begs for negativity, but I guess I would say what bothers me most is a lack of polish. We’re not a sounding board for a first draft, and if an aspiring writer doesn’t understand that our time is precious, it shows us that he/she doesn’t understand publishing. That said, we carefully consider every query, so we expect you to put the hard work in too. You don’t get another shot at this, so you better think it’s perfect.

Scribe: You often hear that it’s the first ten pages—or even the first page that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?

KP: That’s such a good question, with a really simple answer: keep us interested. If I want to stop reading, I will. Think about the entire world of entertainment you’re competing with now—social media, hundreds of on-demand movies, really great television, games on your phone—it’s dizzying. That’s why your story must be utterly gripping and the voice truly unique to hold someone’s attention. I call the first few pages “prime real estate” so put all your money into that beachfront property on page 1.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

KP: 1. Read. Everything. The more voraciously, the more you learn. 2. If you’re writing fiction, pay close attention to craft. I get way too many meandering plots, under-developed characters, and vague world-building. Writing is about art and storytelling, but it’s also about architecture. Your book should be beautiful, but also technical. Your characters should feel as if we know them and your world so rich we get lost in it. 3. Target the agents to which you send. Make your letters personal. Show us that you picked us because we’re the right fit, not because you papered the town with your work.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.

KP: This is a tough one. Well, the first novel I ever took on was 40,000 words, which is insane. Please don’t send me anything with that word count because I know better now and won’t look at it. But at the time, I was so hooked on the language and her pitch hit every perfect note, that I couldn’t resist. We ended up publishing The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow with a brave and talented editor called Maya Ziv at Harper and it was one of the best stupid decisions I ever made because the end result (after about a million drafts) was so gorgeous, and the author so lovely, it felt like a triumph and reminded me why we do this.

Click here for a full list of our 2015 A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2015 A&E Conference.

Click here to register for the Keynote Luncheon.

Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Agent Chelsea Lindman

Before becoming a full-time agent, Chelsea Lindman was an editor at Europa editions and Director of Foreign Rights for The Nicholas Ellison Agency. Her primary interests include playful literary fiction, upmarket crime fiction, and forward thinking or boundary-pushing non-fiction.

Chelsea’s fiction clients include Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award Winner Kristopher Jansma (The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards), LA Times Book Prize Finalist Ariel S. Winter (The Twenty-Year Death), Richard Bausch Fiction Prize Winner Jesse Goolsby (I’d Walk With My Friends If I Could Find Them). Her non-fiction clients include web phenom Cole Stryker (Epic Win for Anonymous, Overlook Press), and Harvard PhD candidate Jason Silverstein (How To Care Better, forthcoming with Simon & Schuster). Most importantly, Chelsea is interested in working with clients that are looking to build lasting relationships.

Chelsea will be one of our Featured Agents at the Writers’ League of Texas’ 2015 Agents and Editors Conference.

Chelsea Lindman - Sanford J GreenburgerScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?

Chelsea Lindman: I’m interested in building a lasting relationship with each client. I work with each client to develop his/her work so that it’s in the best shape possible for submission, which can include editorial feedback, brainstorming, recommending outside readers and editors, etc. Once the book sells to a publisher, I remain active with each client, though the focus moves from working to sell their work to branding them as an author. There’s a lot of up-front investment in each client, so a lasting and fruitful relationship is important to me.

Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?

CL: Do the leg work. This shows me that you’re interested in being a professional writer. As much as I enjoy being at the start of a writer’s book-publishing path, I shouldn’t be the writer’s first introduction to the literary world. I’m not saying each potential client needs to be a professional writer before we start working together—that’s what I’m there to help with! But if a potential client is plugged into a literary community— such as a writers group, aware of other writers in their field, has been to readings, read a literary journal, or even been published in one—it will set them apart as someone who is serious about his or her craft.

Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?

CL: It’s unfortunate when I receive a submission, start reading, and then receive a follow up from the writer telling me, “Sorry, I went back and re-worked some things. Please trash my previous draft and read this one.” That’s not a good foot for a writer to start out on.

Scribe: You often hear that it’s the first ten pagesor even the first pagethat sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?

CL: If the first page has me nodding in agreement, or makes me laugh, I’ll definitely read on. If I find myself wanting to share a phrase or sentence from within those first ten pages with a friend, I’ll usually pursue the writer.

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

CL: Keep in mind that agents need authors. We work for you.

Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.

CL: I remember the first time I finished reading the manuscript for Kristopher Jansma’s The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (Viking). I was sort of dazed after I finished the last page, but I gathered up the full printed manuscript and walked around our floor looking for someone to share it with. It was late on a Friday, so the building was pretty empty. I swear, I walked in circles for a half hour looking for someone to tell this book about. I finally came across a colleague, who was on her way out for the weekend, and started gushing (I’m sure the poor girl missed her train because of me). A good book does that to you, makes you want to connect with someone about it. It was then that I knew I had to work with this book and author.

–Thanks, Chelsea!

Click here for a full list of our 2015 A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2015 A&E Conference.

Click here to register for the Keynote Luncheon.

MEET THE MEMBERS

Retha Fielding has been a member of the Writers’ League for one year and is attending the 2015 Agents & Editors Conference in June. She lives in Austin.
Retha Fielding

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Retha Fielding: I write true stories. For part of my career, I was newspaper reporter and editor. Then, I worked in public relations, mostly for higher education. So, I wrote about issues that affected the reader immediately. I also wrote feature stories. For the freelance clients that I have had, writing true stories is also how I would describe what I do. I want to help the reader understand an issue or an event or even a person. So, I need to write in a voice that helps them match up all of the dots. I have written one book, now called The Echo of Secrets. It is a memoir. I am currently seeking representation for the book. I have thought about writing first-person fiction, but I have not started that, and honestly if another true story lands in my path, I would pick that.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

RF: Sadly, many of them are dead. As I thought about this question, I thought of Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew series, of the hours of pleasure she gave young women for decades. I think we would have tea. I’d like to talk to her about the timelessness of her stories and whether she thought about that when she began to write. Also, there is an innocence to the books for a character who is pretty sharp. I don’t follow youth writers, so I don’t know if this generation has another Carolyn Keene or if her books continue to be popular. I would also love to have wine with Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have read most of her books and loved them. Our meeting would be long and much wine would be consumed.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

RF: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I love William Shirer and this book never ends. You just keep reading and reading. It is very dense, so reading it several times would still give you good material. My father has macular degeneration and can barely see to read. I gave him my first Kindle and we made the type huge. He has been reading it for more than a year!

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

RF: I am very impressed with the annual conference that the Writers’ League puts on. I know it must be a tremendous amount of work, but it is very professional and has a great reputation outside of Texas. It is such an amazing opportunity for writers to attend. I have also attended several workshops. It is great to have these opportunities here in Austin.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

RF: I have known since I was seven years old that I would be a writer and I write every day. I would like to publish my first book, some magazine pieces and then find another book-length story that I can love and make the readers fall in love with as well. I feel that my writing has already given me so much in my lifetime.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

RF: Here’s a few funny ones. First of all, I am an identical twin. Her name is Letha which was our grandmother’s name. In mother’s family, everyone has odd names. My son is named Kevin! Also, early on I ended up working in law enforcement, one of the first women to attend Police Academy. I worked in law enforcement for about five years, but it wasn’t going to take me where I wanted to go. I was going to school at night and I finished my education and became a reporter.