Tag Archives: Vanessa Di Gregorio

What Sales Reps Do

23 Jun

or

What It Means To Work in Other Aspects of Publishing that Isn’t Editorial

by Vanessa Di Gregorio

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Note: an updated version of this post is now up on our new blog, Pub(lishing) Crawl! Click here.

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Disclaimer: I may or may not be tooting my own horn here (just a little). I’m also not going to talk about writing – I’m going to be talking about my career and the publishing biz for those of you who are interested.

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Ah, publishing. The glamorous life of schmoozing with authors, publishing great books, spending extensive amounts of time reading, and a whole lot of talking (or so people like to think). When people think of the publishing industry, people think of  writers and editors. When writers think of the publishing industry, they think of agents and editors and bookstores and that damn slush pile. But people don’t really think about all the other aspects of publishing – all the marketing and the publicity and the sales people that lead to the things an author truly wants; for their books to be on the shelves in stores and do well.

When I first started out in this industry, my dream job was first editorial – but I didn’t even know what type. Then I realized that I loved substantive editing – looking at the big picture of a manuscript such as plot, characters, etc. And then I interned at a literary agency and thought, “this is what I’d love to do”. But ultimately, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought that I would probably not make any money for a year as a literary agent (props to all of you lit agents out there!) – especially since the hubster self employed. I wanted one of us to have a stable salary. And so I looked for other things I wanted to do; other areas of publishing where I could fit in.

During high school and part of university, I had worked at a book wholesaler, selling to schools and libraries. I took English Literature in University, went to school for Publishing, and figured my experience would get me places fast. But it wasn’t easy – publishing is VERY competitive (especially here in Canada). The only way to get an editorial gig in-house is to go freelance for years and then hope some editor somewhere kicks the bucket (sad, but true). And I wasn’t willing to be that patient (especially since the majority of publishing peeps are healthy, unlike me). So I looked into publicity. And marketing. And sales.

I was already familiar with sales from that wholesale job, and familiar with online marketing thanks to this blog; but when I began working at this sales agency I realized that I didn’t know a lot. Marketing, publicity, and sales are all major aspects of publishing, and all as important as editorial. I didn’t realize that publishers had sales reps who went to accounts (bookstores, wholesalers, gift stores, etc) and sold them their list. I don’t know what I thought – maybe that if a book was published, people just magically carried it. I didn’t realize you had to SELL to the sellers.

I’m lucky to be working for an agency repping some of the best publishers out there. Over 30 of them. And my job is to pick out what works for stores, which books deserve to be highlighted.

Selling is fantastic. Selling means talking to people about great books. It means getting excited about a new list every season, and making an impact on the people who, in turn, impact your average reader just by shelving a book in their store. It means grabbing a coffee, chatting, going through catalogues and samples, and learning what some book and gift stores have preferences for. It means going to book fairs and gift shows and finding new homes for books. I put the books out there – I can give the little guys a chance. And I think that’s pretty amazing. Will everyone listen to me, or have the same taste as me? Probably not. But I can try my damn hardest to get a book on the shelves if I really believe in it.

And you know what’s even more awesome? That I can actually do that now. Because I’ve been promoted to Sales Representative for Central Ontario and Inside Sales (told you I was going to toot my own horn, haha!). I’m going to be able to drive around with catalogues and samples in hand and I’m going to get to geek out over gorgeous covers, brilliant authors, and fantastic books with other people who love them as much as I do.

So those editors who sit in a chair for hours and hours, working on an author’s manuscript? I might not be that person, but I am one of those people convincing stores to stock and sell your books. And to all you published and soon-to-be published authors out there – on behalf of sales reps everywhere, I’d like to say, “You’re welcome”.

😉

~~~

Vanessa is a newly promoted (!) Sales Representative for Central Ontario and Inside Sales at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also geeks out over stuff at Something Geeky.

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Why We’re Not As Cool As You Originally Thought: Vanessa Di Gregorio

26 May

by Vanessa Di Gregorio

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You might recall that Sarah and Sammy kicked off the Why We’re Not As Cool As You Originally Thought series. Well, today I thought I’d share with you a bit about myself and my day-to day life.

But what you first need to understand is that I have a problem.

I’m super busy (or at least I feel like I am). And when I’m not, I procrastinate. A lot*.

*Not to be confused with the Alot

From the moment I wake up (at 6:00 am), to the moment I go to bed (10-10:30 pm, cause I ain’t no youngin anymore), I am busy. My commute, my work, and subsequent commute back home leaves me feeling a tad bit tired. Then there’s dinner, catching up on TV shows I adore (Glee, The Office, Fringe, Modern Family, and Game of Thrones to name a few), perhaps a bit of reading here and there, and a husband I like to spend time with. And that’s not including the times when awesome games like Portal 2 come out (which then occupies even more of that spare time, if not all of it).

Then there are the work events, where I try to network with as many fellow publishing peeps as possible (despite my bouts of social awkwardness). Or there are the times I go out to catch up with friends after work for a couple of hours.

Does this make me any more busy than the average person? Probably not. Which brings me back to my problem: I procrastinate.

For all that I claim to be perpetually busy, I still somehow end up spending at least 35-50% of my time on my laptop. I might be reading my fave blogs, checking my email, or scanning my Facebook or Twitter pages. I might even be writing up book reviews, browsing through Etsy or Tumblr, and peeking at my Goodreads account.

So where do I find the time to squeeze in some writing?

Here’s the thing: I don’t.

That’s a scary thing to admit to people I admire and respect; that’s a ridiculously frightening thing to tell all of you. I mean, here I am offering you advice; here I am telling you that you should write and read as much as possible.

Easier said than done, right?

I know, I know. I should be better. I should be more disciplined. I should be at the very least trying to meet a daily, or weekly, or even monthly word count as a means of motivating myself. I have wonderful CP’s who constantly beg me for the next chapter. And my response?

Soon, soon.”

I struggle with finding time to write. And even when I do convince myself that I should work on RIFT – even when I finally have that document open, staring at me, I get distracted. I procrastinate.

I’m surrounded by people who write so much more than I do; by people who go through the day looking forward to the chance they get to sit down and write. People who are so much more dedicated than myself; who schedule time to write. I did that once. I was good at finding the time. But now I seem to doubt myself a lot more. Now I think, “I’m not a real writer”. I don’t devote nearly as much time as I once did to writing. I worry that just because people liked some of RIFT, it doesn’t mean they’ll like the rest.

Yet I want to write. I want to finish RIFT. I have moments where all I want to do is sit down and write. But those moments, it seems, don’t come often enough anymore; or if they do, they get pushed aside. And it’s not that I’m not in love with the story; I am. But I think, “Well, I can get to that tomorrow. I need to do this first”.

Am I the only person who does this? If being a part of LTWF has shown me one thing, it’s how absolutely devoted every other contributor is. They all seem to write daily. They all put my writing pace to shame. They all write. I sit and think about writing.

I struggle with this on a daily basis. I know I should write. I want to write. I think about doing it;sometimes at work, or while I’m watching a show or reading a book.  But every day it’s the same thing; I put it off and do all the other things because they’re easier. Because sometimes, nothing else makes me doubt myself as much as writing.

But I love writing. I can’t imagine not writing, even if (lately) I haven’t found the time to write. I just need to make the time. I need to get my act together and actually become someone worth listening to.

Which I’ve started. With the help of a couple of CP’s, I write. We get together on the weekends and have writing sessions. And it works. Now I just need to learn how to write by myself again; I need to re-learn how to schedule time to write, to get away from everyone else and just put everything else on mute while I get into the zone and write – even if all I get down is a couple of paragraphs.

So, that’s basically what my day-to-day life is like. It’s not glamorous, and it’s not awe-inspiring or remarkable. But my goal is to make it a life where writing occurs more frequently, with more fervor and inspiration.

~

A/N: My 12 year old brother came by as I was typing this up and said, “Why must you be so hard on yourself? And why are you writing THIS and complaining when you could be writing your book right now?”
To this I say, “Touché little man. Touché.” (He’s absolutely right, you know.)

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also geeks out over stuff at Something Geeky.

Style Sheets: An Editorial Tool

24 Mar

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

When I talk to other writers, I sometimes feel embarrassed; they seem to know EVERY little detail about their story, right down to what colour shoes a secondary character is wearing. And me? Well, I keep forgetting what’s-his-name from the first 3 Chapters, and what his relation is to everything and everyone.

But my MS is still a WIP – I haven’t finished writing it yet. I’ve even recently added a whole other layer to the story. So I shouldn’t be getting down that I don’t know every little detail inside and out yet. My MS is full of different cultures, political intricacies, and a bit of magic – which means I do a whole lot of world-building.

When you start writing a novel, your mind is spilling with ideas. And as you write, you’re giving everyone and everything characteristics, from people to places to things. And depending on what type of novel you’re writing, you’re probably world-building to some extent.  So how do you remember what that secondary character’s name is? Was it Tera? Or was it Tara? Do your characters have particular greetings or sayings? What do you do with all that information, especially when you’re still writing a first draft?

While taking my Fiction Editing class, I was introduced to a tool that many editors use: the style sheet. Editors and agents go through your manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb, looking for anything and everything that doesn’t quite work (or isn’t grammatically sound). They also check for continuity issues, which can be pretty major in a manuscript. So, in order to help further polish your writing (and to help you hone editorial skills, in case any of you are aspiring editors), here’s what you do!

Keep a list of character names, city names, hyphenated vs. non-hyphenated terms, dates and times, and any details you might have researched. Style sheets are also great for different spellings you might be using.

The most useful aspect of a style sheet is how everything is kept alphabetically. Style sheets are often used to document all kinds of decisions, such as:

  • How a person’s name should be spelled – do they use a full name or nickname? Do they go by an alias? Does a specific character use a pet name for that character?
  • Abbreviations and acronyms for terms, names, countries, etc – is it U.S., U.S.A., America, the United States? A.M. and P.M. or a.m. and p.m.? Be consistent.
  • The preferred spelling of words (eg. zeros or zeroes?)
  • Whether you spell out dates (ie. 1988) or write it out (nineteen eighty eight).
  • Whether thoughts are italicized or in single quotation marks
  • Punctuation – serial commas, or no serial commas?

As a writer, though, use a style sheet for things you would find most useful. Keep a list of things that you would want to know when writing/revising.

Things I like using a style sheet for:

  • Remembering character names and physical descriptions
  • Keeping track of names for different places, such as “The Outlands” and “The Great Rock”
  • Cultural jargon and slang, such as the Ane’an goodbye: “May the moon light your path”
  • Political alliances

You get the idea. It’s basically a handy alphabetical list with all the little details from your MS. Any characters, places, or cultural terms starting with the letter “a” would go under a header for “A”. The same thing goes for every other letter – that way, even if you print it out to keep beside your keyboard (or wherever you want), you can find things easily.

So what do you think? Do you already create lists with all the little details from your MS? Do you think this would be a useful tool as a writer? Or do you see it more as an editorial tool? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also blogs about all things geeky at Something Geeky.

Book Recommendation: Blue Fire

18 Mar

by Vanessa Di Gregorio

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“Responsibility was overrated.”

Sequels have the ability to both scare and excite me. I suppose on the one hand, I worry that I won’t love the sequel as much as the first book. But on the other hand, I’m always excited; because the world and the characters and the story I love is continuing. I’m able to be transported back to that place; and when I enjoy a book, it’s always a pleasure to find myself immersed in its world once more.

Blue Fire, the second book in Janice Hardy’s middle-grade The Healing Wars trilogy, is a great sequel. If you haven’t yet read The Shifter, the first book in the series, I suggest you check out my review of it (and then go and pick it up if it sounds like your kind of story). This is a great high-fantasy for readers young and old.

Want to know more? Here’s a summary from HarperCollins:


Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

~~~

The story starts right where the last book left off; but with everyone in hiding now as a result of what occurred at the end of The Shifter. Nya knows that she and all the other healers will never be safe unless they find a way to stop the Duke; but the first step in stopping someone is figuring out what exactly they’re trying to do. With trackers on her tail, Nya realizes that she must flee Geveg and ends up in the last place she wants to be: Baseer.

The things I loved from the fist book carry over to this one as well. Hardy has once again written a well-paced and action-filled story, full of difficult choices that push against moral issues. While I did feel at times that Nya’s thoughts were too repetitive and heavy-handed at times, Hardy doesn’t over do it. Nya’s loyalty is put to the test when it comes to the choices of the good of one over the good of many. And she is still the strong, determined, and likable heroine from the first book. But this time, death and killing become something she must consider more and more.

I really loved the descriptions and culture Hardy put into Baseer – it is full of life and colour and energy, and fills Nya with a sense of disgust as well as wonder. The fine line between the hatred of your oppressors and the realization that even the oppressors are oppressed was one of my favourite aspects of Blue Fire.

Nya isn’t alone on this journey. She is accompanied by many, and befriends many more along the way. And while Nya’s friendships are believable, the romantic relationship between her and Danello wasn’t. It was lacking the spark and chemistry I was hoping for, but fortunately their romance isn’t a focal point of the story. With so much else going on, it was easy to get swept back up in the story.

One of my favourite surprises in the book centers around Nya and Onderaan, a man leading an underground rebellion force – a relationship that is revealed to be a major plot development. Unfortunately, their relationship fell a little flat – it wasn’t as dynamic or as fleshed out as it could’ve been. My only hope is that their relationship will be worked on in more depth in the third book.

The climax of this book was by far one of the most exciting and interesting parts of the book – with so much build-up to an epic fight, I was delighted. And the end of the book was so dark, and intense, that it left me wishing I could have book 3 in my hands already. This is a middle grade series that is definitely a great read. If you liked the first book, or enjoy high fantasy and lots of fast-paced action, then this book is for you.

~

ARC received from publisher

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Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also geeks out over stuff at Something Geeky.

Book Recommendation: Finnikin of the Rock

13 Mar

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

“A long time ago, in the spring before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreamed that he was to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere.”

Before I begin, let me preface this by saying that I’m about to gush. A lot.

Melina Marchetta is a writing goddess; that is what I think now that I’ve finished this book. Her first foray into fantasy is not a light one; it is deep, and dark, and hauntingly beautiful. And I honestly think that the book I’ve just put down is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

You won’t often hear me saying that. The majority of books I read (and I tend to read one book a week) leave me feeling disappointed; they were either too light and airy and fluffy, or had characters I couldn’t connect with, or had a plot with too many inconsistencies, or was too predictable – really, the list goes on and on. And then I tend to find a book that surpasses my expectations, or completely surprises me – and I jump at the chance to let everyone know how much I loved it. But Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock has made even some of the books I love pale in comparison.

Simply put, it was pure brilliance.

I don’t even know where to start – but I guess the best place is with a summary from Goodreads:

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.

And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince’s cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the ‘five days of the unspeakable’, when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.

And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light…

~

This is a story about one young man’s quest to save his homeland; the story about a people – a country torn apart – coming together to unite once again; a love-story so dark and intense and confusing that it will, at times, leave you with an aching heart. Finnikin’s quest leads him on a road that will eventually take him back to the place he belongs in; the place taken away by invasion and dark magic. But his path isn’t easy – it is grim and dire, and yet he is able to find hope through Evanjalin – hope in the belief that Prince Balthazar is alive and that they will be able to return home. What is so brilliant about this novel is how it looks at humanity and suffering, and how Finnikin comes across people who have faced oppression and cruelty. Some of these people are broken already; but others still have hope, even though their world is crumbling at their feet. There is the belief that they will be led back to the place that belongs to them; that they will once again have a home, and be among those they unwillingly left behind. There is the belief that the false king will be dethroned, and that the true King of Lumatere will be crowned once again; that the curse will be lifted. But nothing is quite as it seems, and Evanjalin will test and manipulate Finnikin. And Finnikin, in return, will end up finding himself struggling to accept his destiny.

For an author who has never written in the fantasy genre before, she is great at it. Her world-building is fantastic – it is full of depth and history and culture and religion and political intrigue. And magic! This is a world with substance – a place that feels so extraordinarily real in its fantastical way. Coupled with her beautiful prose, you’ll find yourself relishing her every sentence.

But Marchetta’s greatest strength lies in her characters. This is a writer who understands the complexities of human nature and relationships; of heartache and doubt and uncertainty. She is able to make her characters live and breathe. Her characters are not easy to understand; and they are not always likable. There are times when they are so infuriating, when you find them lying and harming one another to the point of disgust; and yet somehow, their realness will creep into your hearts. They are some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. These are characters willing to risk everything for what they believe in, even if their beliefs are not always the same. And you will want to root for them; you will genuinely want them to prevail, to find happiness. And Evanjalin? She is brilliance. If there ever was a character whose motivations and actions are dubious, and whose thoughts are complex and confusing, she is it. She, like Finnikin, is not weak. While they both have moments of weakness and unease, they are not by any means powerless. She is strong-willed and capable, resourceful and manipulative, and very much determined; moreso than any other character. And it is her determination, and her strength, that propels everyone forward towards their destinies. She is the key to Prince Balthazar; the catalyst to Finnikin and the role he plays in bringing their people together.

There may not be huge epic battles or constant sword-fighting occurring throughout, but that isn’t to say that there aren’t any great fight scenes: there are. And when they happen, they are satisfying. But the book focuses more on the internal battles the characters face, and the obstacles they find in their lack of trust in one another.

As for the romance, I adored every minute of it. The connection was real, as was their chemistry. But if you’re looking for a romance with lots kissing and love triangles and fluffy sweetness, you won’t find it here. This is a romance of the epic kind – a romance between two people meant to be together, and who struggle not only with themselves, but with each other.

So yes, I loved this book. There is so much more I could say, but I’m not sure it would actually be helpful, as it would only involve me gushing adoringly over all the other characters and plot twists in this book. But I do hope you decide to pick this up. In fact, I think you should definitely pick it up. Is this the type of book for someone who isn’t into dark fantasy? Maybe not. But if you like fantasy, this is a must-read. If you love beautiful prose, this is a must-read. If you love dark, complicated stories, this is a must-read. If you like characters who are the most complex, infuriating, flawed, brave, and interesting, then this book is a must-read. If you are looking for a love story full of passionate embraces and constant physical contact, you will not find that here; but what you will find is a romance that blossoms from more than just the physical; a romance that is deep and satisfying and true. If you are looking for an epic story that is thought-provoking, this is it. Marchetta’s book is up there for me with the works of Philip Pullman, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, Margaret Atwood, and William Nicholson – all favourite authors of mine.

So if you listen to me and decide to only pick up one book I recommended, this is the one. You will not be disappointed.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also geeks out over at Something Geeky.

Book Recommendation: StarCrossed

24 Feb

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

“I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place.”

Thieves are awesome. If you’ve read Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (which you really should read), or loved Aladdin, or adored “Flynn Rider” from Disney’s Tangled (which you really should watch), or are charmed by the prince in The Prince of Persia games (which you really should play) or enjoyed books by Tamora Pierce (there are a few thieves in her worlds, like George Cooper from the Alanna series), then you probably know what I’m talking about.

I love thieves. Somehow, when they end up in a story (be it in a book, or a movie, or a video game), they end up stealing my heart (ahaha, sorry… I couldn’t help myself).

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s new YA novel, StarCrossed, doesn’t have a title that sounds like a story centered around a thief; it sounds more like a Romeo & Juliet type of story, with star-crossed lovers and tragic endings. But Bunce’s novel is full of courtly politics, intrigue, deception, rebellion, forbidden magic, and quite a bit of stealing and sneaking.

Want to know more? (Of course you want to know more!) Here’s the summary I swiped from Goodreads:

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so. Accepted as a lady’s maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold–as well as plenty of jewels for the taking. But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren’t as apolitical as she thought… that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

~~~

See? Rebellion! Spys! Dead lovers! How can you not want to read that? But as exciting as that is, there is so much more to this novel.

First, the world-building is phenomenal. Set in a land full of political intrigue and danger, Digger’s world is rife with numerous gods, multiple moons, religious wars, a frighteningly powerful Inquisition, and castles with secret passageways. And the magic! It adds to the secrecy surrounding Digger and the others.

Unfortunately, the story begins with a few too many characters (some of whom never make another appearance, though I imagine they might play a larger role in the sequel) and a few too many coincidences that just don’t feel right. The way Digger is able to escape the city with a group of nobs (nobles), or the way she easily becomes a lady’s maid – even though the nobles around her know nothing about her – comes off a bit heavy handed. But if you can look past the awkwardly contrived beginning, the story really fills out into an epic adventure with compelling characters. I, for one, am incredibly glad I was able to look past it and just get swept up in the rest of the story.

Bunce is wonderfully talented at creating multi-dimensional characters- and Digger is a wonderful protagonist. Though truth be told, there were times where I felt her character fell flat in comparison to other characters, but midway through the novel, Digger really starts to shine.  What I really enjoyed was how unreliable a narrator she is – how she keeps things from even us, the reader. It makes for some great twists and delightful surprises. She is talented, resourceful, and wonderfully independent. Her curiosity gets the better of her, as does her greed – which makes her a wonderfully flawed character. Digger is definitely not perfect. And though at times I felt frustrated and a bit confused by her wavering loyalties, by the end I was completely endeared to her. And her lack of loyalty is justified – being a thief, she knows firsthand just how devious people can be.

Merista is another well-written character. The daughter of the wealthy noble family who has taken Digger in at Bryn Shaer has one of the most gratifying coming-of-age arcs. Beginning as a girl who doesn’t even seem comfortable around herself let alone around her estranged (but loving) parents, Merista blossoms into a strong women capable of taking things into her own hands. From a meek little girl she becomes a proud young woman.

I could probably go on about all of Bunce’s characters. One of my favourites appears halfway through the novel – but to avoid spoilers, I won’t start naming names! Suffice it to say, he’s a character worth the wait. And he brings out a side of Digger that makes her even more compelling.

The plot is intricate and full of twists and turns. And while the first half of the book doesn’t have much action (and instead focuses on building the tension and suspense, and developing the characters), the second half truly delivers all the action you could want. The buildup is definitely worth the wait.

The first in a trilogy, StarCrossed is a wonderful read. From the wonderfully detailed settings and lush descriptions, to the bright characters and suspenseful plot, it is definitely a must-read. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Liar’s Moon! Fans of Tamora Pierce and Megan Whalen Turner won’t be able to put this magical book down.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also blogs about all things geeky at Something Geeky.

Book Recommendation: The Goose Girl

12 Dec

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

“She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.”

I am a huge fan of fairytales; and an even bigger fan of fairytale retellings. And though I know I’m late to the party with Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl (which was originally published in 2003), I’m only sad that it took me so long to finally pick up this book. I absolutely adored this book; I loved every page of it! And I’ve already picked up the other books in The Books of Bayern series.

Based on the German fairytale of the same name, the story follows a young princess who is sent off by her mother to be married to a prince in another land, with her talking horse Falada and a waiting-maid accompanying her. The waiting-maid steals the identity of the Princess when they arrive in the new kingdom, and the real Princess is forced to become a Goose girl.

For those who aren’t familiar with the fairytale and don’t want the rest of the story spoiled, I’ll stop there. I actually started reading this book without knowing the actual fairytale it was based off of, and so I read it not knowing exactly how it would play out (which, of course, made certain key elements shocking and exciting). But even if you do know the fairytale, you’ll still be wonderfully surprised.

Want to know more about Shannon Hale’s retelling? Here’s a summary from Goodreads:

She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste.

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt’s guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.

From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original, and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.

~~~

Hale’s prose is wonderfully lyrical, which is hinted at in the summary from Goodreads above. Reading The Goose Girl, I couldn’t help but notice just how beautiful the words flowed together; and how smooth her dialogue and prose were. This is Hale’s greatest display of her craft – the easy way in which it seems she has placed perfectly-chosen words for the page. She is brilliant at it.

But that isn’t the only thing Hale does remarkably well. The story in The Goose Girl is also well-crafted, and thoroughly captivating. I didn’t want to put this book down – and every time I did, I couldn’t help but think of the world and the characters Hale had created. The world building in the first of the Books of Bayern series is fully realized. Full of lushly detailed settings, wonderfully different cultures, and a touch of magic, Shannon Hale has created a world that has quickly become one of my favourites.

Princess Ani is one of the most likeable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The meek young woman you meet at the beginning of the story (though a Crown Princess by title) doesn’t have the strength of one. But once a goose girl, Ani grows by leaps and bounds into a strong heroine. And it isn’t only Ani who is compelling – Geric is loveable, Selia is incredibly devious, and even Falada, Ani’s horse, will find a way to your heart.

And the magic! Absolutely wonderful; it is woven into the story perfectly. Hale has crafted a world of magical speech; of people-speaking, animal-speaking, and nature-speaking. And though she doesn’t posses the persuasive gift of people-speaking that her mother the Queen does, Ani’s own gifts will truly shine through in their own right.

If you love fantastic adventures in Medieval worlds with a strong heroine, you’ll love this book. Full of deception, intrigue, treason, and redemption (and a little bit of romance), this book was a wonderful read in so many ways. So pick it up; it’s definitely found its way to my favourites shelf, and I’m sure it’ll find it’s way onto yours.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Book Recommendation: Room

5 Dec

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

“Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.”

Room is all that 5-year old Jack has ever known. His entire world measures 11×11 feet. But to Jack, that is all he needs.

I can’t stress enough just how much I loved this book. Emma Donoghue has written something that is all at once haunting, dark, beautiful, and hopeful. And long before I turned the last page, I was completely blown away. Told entirely from the P.O.V. of little Jack, this novel has one of the most endearing, lovable narrators ever. I was worried that it might be gimmicky; that a dark story told from the P.O.V. of a child would sound contrived, but Jack’s voice is completely believable – and wonderfully compelling.

Here’s a longer summary about what Room is about:

 

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

[Description from Goodreads]

~

Think it sounds dark? It is an incredibly chilling story. And told from the P.O.V. of innocent Jack, it can be at times even creepier – especially when we learn of the dismal and horrifying things from Jack’s innocent perspective. His innocence highlights the ugly, and made me cringe in disgust even more. But somehow this book ends up being one of the most uplifting books – the love between Jack and his Ma is one of the most profound relationships I’ve ever come across. And one of the most genuine.

Inspired by horrifying cases of imprisonment like that of the Josef Fritzl case, the story centers around a very dark theme. And yet somehow this book manages to highlight the wonderful relationship between Jack and his Ma – and their extraordinary love – despite all the disturbing threads underlying the story. Their love is what redeems the story – what keeps it from being melodramatic and miserable.

Emma Donoghue’s characters are wonderfully flawed; even little Jack throws ugly tantrums, and his Ma has a number of dark moments. I don’t want to spoil the story by saying too much, but I guarantee that once you start reading, you won’t be able to put the book down. Though at times I found it to be a bit on the slower side, Jack’s voice kept me turning the pages. All the little details make his narration so utterly irresistible; his unawareness of the outside world, his inability to understand that things like grass and ice cream and other people are real, and his lack of social interaction with anyone else but his mother is what makes the book an absolute wonder to read. And halfway through, you’ll find your heart pounding as the suspense builds. There are also some moments that are incredibly terrifying.

Ultimately, this is a book about recovery – about pulling through the hard times, no matter how terrible they are – and how love and compassion can keep you going. This book isn’t typically about good triumphing over evil and justice prevailing, but about conquering your fears, and moving on, and loving so fiercely that you can overcome unimaginable pain and sorrow.

And now that you’ve read that, I need you to watch this book trailer. It is quite possibly one of the best book trailers I’ve ever seen – as soon as I saw it, I ran out to buy the book. So watch it. And then read it. It is absolutely wonderful.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Vanessa is Married!!!

26 Nov

Here at LTWF, we’re so happy to announce that Vanessa got married last weekend to Jamie Campbell! 😀

Vanessa has been amazing, running the twitter account, taking care of the Saturday Grab bags, and getting us books to review. We never even realized how much she did until she needed to take a little break to plan for her wedding. So LOTS of love for Vanessa, and a big CONGRATULATIONS!!

Have a wonderful honeymoon, V!

❤ ❤ ❤

LTWF Anniversary…What A Year It’s Been!

7 Oct

By

 

Sarah J. Maas

 

~

Looking back to last year, it’s hard to believe how far this blog has come in just twelve months.

When I got the idea for Let The Words Flow, I had very few writing friends—fewer still from FictionPress. The FP friends I did have didn’t know each other—didn’t know that there were others out there, struggling to make the leap between FP and publication.

The only proof I had that you could make the jump was embodied in Mandy Hubbard, our resident rock star, who supported this group from Day 1. I knew that if Mandy was on board, we’d have a degree of credibility—Mandy, with her multiple book deals and oodles of success, was our poster child for all that we could accomplish.

But there had to be more of us out there—there had to be other FP people with book deals, or agents, or querying agents. So I looked. I looked and looked, browsing through the profiles of other FictionPress “Greats.” And I found a few—enough to start a blog, if they would only join Mandy and me.

I still remember the terror and anticipation of sending out those initial emails to potential contributors—I remember praying that any of them would respond to me.

After all, very few of us were friends—in fact, most of us had been fierce rivals on FictionPress. We never talked, and if we ever came across each other, it was in fan-run contests that did nothing but increase the tension between us. We were all islands surrounded by a sea of adoring fans.

You can’t imagine my surprise when all of them not only replied to me—but they all accepted my offer to join LTWF.

The biggest surprise came from Savannah J. Foley not only accepting the offer, but being absolutely thrilled to join the group. She’d been one of my biggest rivals on FP—QUEEN OF GLASS and WOMAN’S WORLD were always matched up against each other in contests. But it was our similarities, not our past differences, that bonded us: we both had agents, and had both started submissions to editors. Though she had a ton of potential, I had no idea—none—that she would become not only a close friend, but also the solid foundation upon which LTWF would be built.

I will admit, initially, I was swamped. I managed a lot of features on the site, and would often bolt upright in the middle of the night to realize something needed fixing. We only posted three days a week, but it was enough to keep us all busy. We survived the initial few months, and our readership grew more and more every day—we actually had readers! We had people who were interested in our journeys, people who were having journeys of their own—people who were interesting and brilliant and oh so lovely.

One of those people was Biljana Likic. A long-time friend of mine from FP, Billy is a bit of a child prodigy—though she was only 17 at the time, her writing was  (and is!) incredible. At the risk of sounding like an old person, Billy showed a tremendous amount of potential. She’s also wonderful person—funny, kind, and clever, and she brought a much-needed burst of humor and fun to the group dynamic when she joined in January of 2010.

With Billy on board, we had enough members—and enough readers—to start posting more frequently. We dared ourselves to start posting five days a week. I fretted over that (when am I NOT worrying?), wondering if we could possibly keep it up, and how we could keep our readers interested. I also wondered if we had enough diversity in the group—there were plenty of aspiring writers in LTWF, but what about the other side of the desk? What about aspiring agents and editors?

That answer came in early March, in the form of Vanessa Di Gregorio, an aspiring writer attending a publishing course, but also an intern at a literary agency with dreams of working in publishing. The other side of the desk didn’t look so empty anymore. Of course, we had no idea that being on the other side of the desk would later be the way we got hooked up with prizes for all of our giveaways, or that she’d become the Grand Dame of our Saturday Grab Bag posts and book reviews. Or that she’d be the one to revamp our site and become the ghost behind our twitter account, taking it from 50 or so followers to over 450 followers (and counting)!

By that point, it seemed only natural to add Jenn Fitzgerald to our ranks in late March. Another aspiring author, Jenn spends her days living out one of everyone’s childhood dreams: working as an archaeologist. Her adorable MG novel brought a bit of a change from our usual YA fare, and her determination to keep querying and writing, despite digging all day long, made her an inspiration.

At this point, we found new members left and right. We had people applying to be in the group. That absolutely blew my mind.

In the group itself, the number of emails back and forth skyrocketed. Communicating with my contributors was no longer a daily thing, but an hourly one. Girls who I had once seen as my enemies were my confidantes and cheerleaders. I’ll never forget the joy of sending an email to them, announcing my book deal with Bloomsbury—and I’ll never forget crying in my car as their replies showed up on my blackberry. Sharing that moment with them was one of the best moments of my publishing journey thus far.

In the wake of getting a book deal, one of the congratulatory wishes I received was from a FP writer named Julie Eshbaugh—who sent me a message to say that LTWF had inspired her to keep querying, and that she now had an agent. She was so passionate about the group (and had received multiple offers of representation!) that we knew she had to join us. So, in early April of 2010, she did. And she meshed perfectly.

With so many members, we no longer had to worry about filling out the calendar. In fact, we were all so eager to post that we added another day of posting, and in May, we kicked off our Saturday posts.

Swamped with pre-wedding preparations, I had to step back a bit from my LTWF duties. I wondered if this group—which I had once managed all on my own—could function without me for a few weeks. Well, to my delight, it could—and it did. The site that I had struggled to maintain months ago was suddenly a well-oiled machine—people had assumed responsibilities without even my asking. Realizing that it had become a community-run blog was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.

One of the members who would later become a huge help was Kat Zhang. She submitted an application that blew us all away—not only was she querying agents with a wonderful manuscript, but she was also an amazingly talented spoken word poet. We had tentatively discussed not taking on any more un-agented new members, but Kat’s humor, kindness, and brilliance won us over. We knew it was only a matter of time before she landed an agent. And this September, she did. Kat claims she didn’t cry the day she got the call, but I think a few of us cried enough on her behalf to compensate.

After Kat joined, we had a dilemma: did we have too many members? Were our readers getting detached from the warm, cozy atmosphere of the site? It would take a truly incredible member to get us to change our mind. We found two.

Sammy Bina originally joined us as a month-long guest contributor, though by the end of week 1, it was pretty apparent that we had to have her forever. An intern at a literary agency, Sammy brought invaluable advice to our readers regarding all aspects of the querying process—and as an aspiring, querying writer, she was also a contributor our readers could connect with. More than that, Sammy was also a part of the wildly-popular Plagiarism Haven group, and many of her readers became LTWF regulars. If you attended our latest livechat, you’ll know that she’s a firecracker, and provides us with endless hours of entertainment (which is obviously the most important thing she could do!).

The last member to join our ranks was Vahini Naidoo—who came to us just days after accepting an offer of representation from an agent (after receiving multiple offers)! Not to mention, she’s still in high school (way to make us all feel bad, Vee!). Hailing from Australia, Vee took LTWF from a North American group to a truly international one, and her dry sense of humor melded beautifully with our group dynamic.

Had you asked me a year ago if I knew that the group would become so large, and so diverse, I would have laughed. When I started the blog, I had high hopes, but I never thought farther down the road than a few months. Now we think in years.

One of the exciting new features that we’ll be adding is our free online creative writing course, which will begin in February of 2011 (details soon to come)! We’re also planning tons of livechats (next month: querying!), adding some new members, and we have a few more surprises up our collective sleeve.

But we wanted to do one more thing—just to say thank you to the readers who have helped make this blog such a success.

In honor of our one-year anniversary, we’re going to be giving away nine gift baskets customized by each LTWF member! On Saturday, we’ll post the official contest announcement/sign-up, but gift baskets will include contributors’ favorite books, moleskine notebooks, and much, much more!

Because we owe it all to YOU. We never could have added new members—we never would have met each other—if we didn’t have readers coming back every day, asking us QOTWs, entering our contests, and turning this blog from a dream into a reality.

A year ago, that’s all this blog was—a dream. A dream that we weren’t the only FictionPress people trying to get published. And if there’s any moral to this post—to this blog in all its entirety—it’s that you are not alone.

I think that’s what took us all by surprise: despite years of rivalry on FictionPress, we are more similar than any of us realized. We are not alone. We are no longer islands.

Thank you all for proving that.

~~~

Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.