Hear Our Voices! by Michele LeNoir
Hear Our Voices! shout fascinating, young adult refugee immigrants who struggle, albeit with humor and gratitude, to acclimate to the USA.
You could read Homeland Security’s annual yearbook–pages of statistics–stats per foreign country, for each state’s intakes, for human trafficking victims, and more! But no human faces, no stories. No worries; I gotcha with A-Z chapter “Voices.” Like Voice O: Oo Meh, who wandered her family’s small, dank apartment, confused by no elevator. Don’t all Americans have elevators? And Voice F: Frederic Ndayirukiye, now mentored by a well-known artist, whose father allows him to go to college, as long as he works thirty-six hours in the factory to help pay bills. And Voice Y: EstefannY Hernandez, who tells how she was rescued from human trafficking in Mexico and became a proud legal citizen.
But this born-in-the-USA woman to tell their stories? Well, yes. They first shouted them out to me as their teacher and to one another in a dual-credit speech course in an international high school. Now graduated, they still share their stories, their goals, their needs. And I still teach them–some how to drive, some how to survive college on ZERO family savings. Think of this nonfiction book of 91,500 words as a condensed telling of the many immigrant stories available, like Lauren Markham’s The Brothers Far Away and Abdi Nor Iftin’s Call Me American.
Hear Our Voices! They shout; I shout; you will shout once you know more.
Oh, and yes, there are some pictures.
Vote for your favorite pitch. The pitch that receives the most votes will be named Fan Favorite, and the author will receive a free one-hour consult with us (worth $250).
Untitled by Brianna Bolduc
Rowan Lucas is pretty much like any other sixteen-year-old girl. She lives with her aunt Hannah and cousin April in futuristic New Earth, where space shuttles replace cars, and everyone rushes to buy the newest version of the Holopad. She’s Japanese American and can always be spotted wearing her beloved red Converse high tops with the rubber peeling off the toe and the red color slowly retreating. Rowan has her own teenage problems, trying to live up to her cousin’s expectations, dealing with the aftereffects of a war that happened fifteen years ago, and of course being a teenager, but when her cousin accepts a job from the president himself, Rowan knows something is wrong. With the help of a police-officer-in-training that has his own mysteries and his younger brother that is pretty much a mastermind, Rowan decides to figure out the truth about her cousin’s acceptance of the mysterious job offering while also trying to figure out more about the police guy that she doesn’t really know without being weird about it.
My work does not currently have a title, sorry about that. My name is Brianna and I am fourteen years old. My work was written as part of my first NaNoWriMo, which I took part in this year. It is just under 36,600 words and is a YA sci-fi mystery about sticking up for what you believe in and the true meaning of family, even if that means traveling to a different planet to figure out why exactly your cousin left you for some presidential job. I was inspired by Hank Green’s “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing”, which is also a sci-fi and the characters in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series.
Vote for your favorite pitch. The pitch that receives the most votes will be named Fan Favorite, and the author will receive a free one-hour consult with us (worth $250).
Revenge Prose by Beth Burnett
Revenge is a dish best served published, or so Crystal and Susan find out. Dumped by their significant others, Crystal, a stripper with a heart of, well, not exactly gold but certainly good intentions, and Susan, a happy homemaker and full-time supporter of her perpetual student husband, find themselves newly single and in a bit of a financial pickle. It’s Susan who bubbly suggests to practical Crystal that they start writing revenge prose – stories in which ugly, hairy men are killed in interesting and hilarious ways. Their stories go viral, thanks to the unsolicited help of Crystal’s new acquaintance and potential love interest, and the women find themselves reliving the past as exes try to sabotage their success. If Crystal can learn to trust and Susan can learn the power of saying no and together, they might build the foundation of a promising publishing future.
Vote for your favorite pitch. The pitch that receives the most votes will be named Fan Favorite, and the author will receive a free one-hour consult with us (worth $250).
Library Hell by Kristina Cooper
“Monica and Becky are gluing sparkles onto paper ducks,” writes Anne Hayes in an email to a coworker. “Just another day in the lunatic asylum.” Anne wants to catalog her journals in peace, but the university library where she works attracts crazy employees the way a black hole sucks in light. The serials librarian squeaks and sighs and hoards campus mail in numbered boxes. Her husband, the cataloging librarian, wears his jeans pulled up to his neck and knocks over library carts when enraged. Monica Sharpe, a recent hire, is obsessed with organizing “Fantastic Flock Fridays” and winning the Dynamic Duck contest. This contest, named after the university’s mascot, was created by the PR department in an effort to rally employee morale at the financially struggling Lakeville University.
As the academic year trudges on, unhappy library staff vent their hostilities at meetings while the director hides in his office and composes desperate emails calling for staff harmony. When Anne mocks a Fantastic Flock Friday event, she becomes the target of Monica’s increasingly unhinged attempts to win the Dynamic Duck contest and gain campus-wide fame as a Team Leader Who Solves Problems—Anne being the Problem. To keep her job (and her sanity), Anne will have to get a little crazy to fight crazy.
A series of emails exchanged between coworkers reveals the story of a library staff striving to stay relevant in a paperless world that is redefining what “higher education” means—and to do so without killing each other.
More Than Meets the Eye by Tonya Preece
Seventeen-year-old Cordelia never lets anything get her down, but when the anniversary of the explosion that killed her dad triggers nightmares and panic attacks, her mom insists on counseling. The diagnosis: PTSD. Treatment: eye movement therapy. Cordelia’s opinion: absurd. Therapy does have a bright side, though—a hot guy named Gino she meets in the waiting room. Gino’s pop-punk style and sense of humor grab her attention.
As they bond over music, the discovery of why he’s in therapy softens her tough exterior but sharing her own tragedy with him raises questions surrounding her dad’s death. While she isn’t entirely sure she wants to find answers, eye movement therapy begins to defy her expectations. Repressed memories surface that could hold the key to what’s causing her pyrophobia and nightmares.
Cordelia’s recovery hinges on allowing certain walls and pedestals to crumble. First, she must face painful truths, not only about herself, but also the father she idolized. If she isn’t careful, her avoidance habits may push everyone away, including Gino, the musical soulmate she’s always hoped for.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE is contemporary YA fiction and was selected as a finalist for the Joan Lowery Nixon Memorial Award at the 2018 Houston SCBWI conference. It will appeal to fans of Carolyn Mackler and Emery Lord and delivers a surprising twist like Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word. I consulted a therapist trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and drew on my own experience with the treatment as well.
All The Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan
Vincent Van Gogh was an incurable artist. He couldn’t help eating yellow paint. Fifteen-year-old Maya Kaimal is an incurable idealist. She couldn’t help falling for Juneau Zale the day she immigrated to the United States.
A human tidal wave and Renaissance masterpiece combined, Juneau is the de facto leader of the Pugilists: a merry band of highschool mischief-makers who right the wrongs of the world each Friday. Immediately, Maya finds herself drawn to Juneau and her boundless way of living. They forge a friendship over trips to the Metropolitan Museum, crusades for social justice, and life-or-death escapades in the colorful inner-city neighborhood of Columbia Heights.
But as their bond grows stronger, Maya begins to suspect that there’s a whole different person beneath Juneau’s painted-on facade. The harder she looks, the farther she finds herself from the girl she once idealized. Because without meaning to, she’s allowed Juneau Zale to steal a piece of her heart. Now, she will never be the same.
All The Yellow Suns is written by an Indian-American teenage activist, exploring Gen-Z themes of race, womanhood, and justice with refreshing candor and depth. Told through poignant and philosophical vignettes, it follows Maya’s journey to Find The Truth in Juneau’s mysterious, mixed-up world. The girl she loves is counting on her.
About the author
Malavika Kannan is an 18-year-old Indian-American student activist, writer, and speaker. She’s written about topics like race and feminism for the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Broadly, and VICE, among other places. Her writing has also been recognized by organizations including the National YoungArts Foundation, Scholastic Art & Writing, Library of Congress, and the J.F.K. Library. Malavika is passionate about progressive politics, serving on the national Women’s March Youth Cohort and March For Our Lives to amplify youth power in politics. She is also founder and executive director of the Homegirl Project.
Roxanna Elden is one of our favorite authors. We met her in a class at Miami Dade College where we were teaching. From the very first time she raised her hand and opened her mouth, we knew she was something special. One of the consistent things we’ve found in our years of teaching and doing Pitchapaloozas is that teachers make the best public speakers. Anybody who can wrangle a class full of kids and live to tell the tale is prepared for anything. With the publication of her debut novel, Adequate Yearly Progress, we thought we’d check in with Roxana and see what it was like to go from nonfiction to novel, from novice to fighting-sophomore-slump author, from wide-eyed debutante to grizzled veteran.
The Book Doctors: Congratulations on your debut novel. Tell us about Adequate Yearly Progress.
Roxanna Elden: Adequate Yearly Progress is a workplace novel that captures teaching with humor, insight, and heart. It switches perspectives among a diverse group of educators as their professional lives impact their personal lives and vice versa. As an elevator pitch, I often describe it as being, “like the TV show The Office, but set in an urban high school.”
TBD: Your first book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, was non-fiction. Is it different taking your experience as a teacher and writing fiction instead of nonfiction?
RE: I started writing See Me After Class during my sister’s first year as a teacher. The specific goal of that book was to help teachers make it through their first years with a mix of humor, honesty, and practical advice. As an unexpected side effect of trying to spread the word about the book, I ended up in situations I might not otherwise have seen as a classroom teacher: Silicon Valley ed-entrepreneur conferences, television panels, and schools around the country where I got to talk to thousands of fellow educators. During all this, I was still spending most of my time doing daily high school teacher things, like grading essays and watching students play with their phones underneath their desks. It felt like there had to be a way to capture this panoramic view of the education world, with all its colliding ideas and interest groups, and how all of this played out at the school level. A novel told from many different points of view turned out to be my best answer.
TBD: Tell us how you used the Miami Writers Institute to find an agent and start your publishing career.
RE: The idea for my first book hit me in 2005. This also happened to be the first year of the Miami Writers Institute, which brings well-known authors and publishing industry people to Miami. The first class I ever took was The Book Doctors’ course on the process of getting a book published. That class provided a roadmap through the whole process of finding an agent and publisher for the book that became See Me After Class. Over the following years, I went on to write a children’s book and, most recently, a novel. I also continued to take classes at the Miami Writers Institute every year, and found that each year’s class corresponded to specific events in my writing life. Recently, I distilled the notes from the classes and the lessons learned from twelve years as an author into a twelve-day email series. The result is part creative writing crash course, part mobile-friendly memoir of what it takes to build a writing career.
TBD: What did you learn as a teacher that helped you in your publishing career?
RE: Teaching builds the type of thick skin that helps in the writing world. Agents and editors might not return your emails, but at least they don’t fall asleep on their desks right in front of you. As an English teacher, I also taught a lot of the skills that improve writing at any level. Constantly discussing the qualities of good writing helped in writing the book. And writing the book made me feel like the advice I’d been repeating to students actually worked outside of the classroom.
TBD: Do you approach promoting and marketing fiction differently then nonfiction?
RE: The common wisdom about marketing nonfiction books is that they should have a specific target audience. Literary fiction is expected to have a wider appeal, with authors that seemingly rise from the ether as debut talent. Adequate Yearly Progress, however, always felt like it was somewhere in between. My goal was to write a page-turning story that anyone would enjoy, but it was especially important to me that all the details rang true to teachers. The audience for my first book also included many teachers frustrated by Hollywood versions of the profession, which made it a natural fit to spread the word to teachers first. Their enthusiasm has helped spread the word about the book to a wider audience.
TBD: How did you get such great blurbs?
RE: I was thrilled to have a front cover blurb from Steve Almond for Adequate Yearly Progress, and from Dave Barry for See Me After Class. Additionally, there have been some great recent write-ups for Adequate Yearly Progress, including in The Washington Post and Forbes. The most helpful takeaway from all of these experiences is less of a specific trick and more of a general mindset: most authors are our own publicists most of the time. We might as well take the job seriously. If you were paying a professional publicist upwards of $5K a month to represent you, you’d want them to at least try to approach some of your favorite authors and publications. If you do this yourself over time, you’ll get better at the job. And hopefully, you’ll get a few lucky breaks along the way.
TBD: Tell us about the comedian you’ve been following who interviews behavioral scientists wherever he goes.
RE: About halfway through writing the novel, I stumbled on a podcast called Here We Are, in which stand-up comic Shane Mauss interviews behavioral scientists in each of the cities on his comedy tours. One of my biggest goals while writing AYP was to make sure the characters rang true as people, and the scientists on Here We Are provided a constant stream of insight into why humans do what we do. Many of these insights found their way into the novel. Naturally, I was pretty thrilled to have a chance to do an episode of the Here We Are podcast about Adequate Yearly Progress. This ended up being one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever had about teacher movies. It also reinforced my theory that teachers and stand-up comics have a lot in common.
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers? And teachers for that matter?
RE: As a writer, you try 100 things and only two of them work. It’s tempting to wish you could go back and skip the other 98 attempts. But the truth is, it’s notjust the two things that worked. It’s the fact that you tried 100 things, learning along the way, laying the tracks as you drove the train. That’s probably good advice for teachers, too. Your trial-and-error efforts add up over time.
Roxanna Elden combines eleven years of experience as a public school teacher with a decade of speaking to audiences around the country about education issues. Her first book, See Me After Class, is a staple in school districts and educator training programs, and her work has been featured on NPR as well as in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Education Week, and many other outlets. You can learn more about her work at www.roxannaelden.com.
You wrote your 50,000 words (or got pretty close!). You’re a winner. You felt the high. Now what are you going to do with your precious manuscript? That’s where we, The Book Doctors, come in.
For those of you not familiar with Pitchapalooza, here’s the skinny: You get 250 words to pitch your book. Twenty pitches will be randomly selected from all submissions. We will then critique the pitches during a live webinar on March 16, 2019 at 12PM PT / 3PM ET, so you get to see what makes a great pitch. At the end of the webinar, we will choose one winner from the group.
The winner will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her manuscript.
Beginning February 1, 2019, you can email your pitch to email@example.com. PLEASE DO NOT ATTACH YOUR PITCH, JUST EMBED IT IN THE EMAIL. Include your title and your name at the top of your pitch. All pitches must be received by 11:59PM PST on February 28, 2019.
We will also crown a fan favorite who will receive a free one-hour consult with us (worth $250). On March 17, 2019, the 20 random pitches will be posted on our website, www.thebookdoctors.com. Anyone can vote for a fan favorite, so get your social media engine running as soon as the pitches go up! Connecting with your future readers is a vital part of being a successfully published author today. And this is a great way to get some practice. Voting closes at 11:59PM PST on April 1, 2019. The fan favorite will be announced on April 2, 2019.
If you purchase a copy of our book, The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published, by April 2, 2019, we’re offering an exclusive one-hour webinar where you’ll get the chance to pitch your book. Just attach a copy of your sales receipt to your email and we’ll send the link to the webinar dates.
Important NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza dates
Friday, February 1, 2019–Pitch submission opens
Thursday, February 28, 2019–Final day to submit pitches
Saturday, March 16, 2019–NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza live on YouTube
Sunday, March 17, 2019–Voting for fan favorite begins
Monday, April 1, 2019–Final day to vote for fan favorite
Tuesday, April 2, 2019–Fan favorite announced
NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza success stories
It’s been a great year for past NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza winners. Gloria Chao’s novel American Panda (Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster) released to multiple starred reviews. Read Gloria’s winning NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza pitch.
Stacy McAnulty is now the award-winning author of 19 books for young readers. She launched her middle grade novel The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl with multiple starred reviews and a spot on the Indie Next List. Read Stacy’s winning pitch.
“Winning Pitchapalooza gave me confidence and the courage to keep fighting. It also helped bring my manuscript to the next level.”
Are you feeling a little unsure about exactly how to craft your pitch?
10 tips for pitching your novel
- A great pitch is like a poem. Every word counts.
- Make us fall in love with your hero. Whether you’re writing a novel or memoir, you have to make us root for your flawed but lovable hero.
- Make us hate your villain. Show us someone unique and dastardly whom we can’t wait to hiss at.
- Just because your kids love to hear your story at bedtime doesn’t mean you’re automatically qualified to get a publishing deal. So make sure not to include this information in your pitch.
- If you have any particular expertise that relates to your novel, tell us. Establishing your credentials will help us trust you.
- Your pitch is your audition to show us what a brilliant writer you are, so it has to be the very best of your writing.
- Don’t make your pitch a book report. Make it sing and soar and amaze.
- A pitch is like a movie trailer. You start with an incredibly exciting/funny/sexy/romantic/etc. close-up with intense specificity, then you pull back to show the big picture and tell us the themes and broad strokes that build to a climax.
- Leave us with a cliffhanger. The ideal reaction to a pitch is, “Oh my God, what happens next?”
- Show us what’s unique, exciting, valuable, awesome, unexpected, about your project, and why it’s comfortable, familiar and proven.
NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza FAQs
Q: May I submit more than one pitch?
A: Yes, you may submit multiple pitches. Please include your book’s title and your name at the top of each pitch.
Q: How long is a pitch?
A: You get 250 words to pitch your book.
Q: How are the 20 pitches selected?
A: The 20 pitches are randomly selected; however, we read all the pitches.
Q: Are the choices for fan favorite also randomly selected?
A: Yes. They are the same 20 pitches that we read during the webinar.
Q: If I buy a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, how does the one-hour webinar work?
A: We limit each webinar to 20 people, which gives everyone the chance to pitch and get feedback.
Q: Where can I learn more about writing my pitch?
A: We offer resources on our YouTube channel. We recommend that you watch “The Art of the Book Pitch”, last year’s NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza, and our Pitch Tips playlist. Hungry for more examples? Check out our Pitchapalooza playlist.
The Book Doctors first met May Cobb at the 2011 Texas Book Festival in a town that is one of our all-time favorites: Austin. For those of you who haven’t been, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. It’s one of the great book festivals, in one of the great cities in America. May was one of the brave souls who pitched her book to us in front of a packed house at our Pitchapalooza . Think American Idol for books … only kinder and gentler. She dazzled us with her idea for a book about the great jazz musician, Rashaan Roland Kirk. We could tell from the moment she stepped up to the microphone that she had the nerve, skills, talent, and that indefinable je ne sais quoi that makes one think: Yes, this woman knows how to get things done. In fact, we liked her pitch so much that she won! As often happens, this idea was not the one that became her debut book. In fact, as she honed and refined the book she pitched us, she wrote a novel, Big Woods and got it published. One of the things that we love about being book doctors is helping a talented writer become a published author. So now that her debut novel is finally out in the world, we thought we’d pick her brain about writing, rejection, and how she navigated the stormy seas of the publishing world to get successfully published.
The Book Doctors: Congratulations on publishing your first novel. Tell us about Big Woods.
May Cobb: Thank you so much! BIG WOODS is a thriller set against the backdrop of 1980s small-town Texas and delves into the paranoia surrounding satanic cults. It revolves around the disappearance of a young girl, whom everyone presumes is dead except her older sister who begins having dreams about her, insisting she is still alive.
It’s based on a true, eerie story my mom told me while growing up in East Texas, where Big Woods is set. For two years, my mother, a nurse, worked in the psychiatric unit of our small town’s hospital. It was located in the basement and she worked the graveyard shift. One night, a young woman in ripped clothing appeared at the unit and begged to be taken into hiding. She kept saying, over and over again, “You have to hide me. They are going to find me and they are going to kill me.” I don’t want to say much more for fear of giving away the plot, but that story was the genesis for BIG WOODS.
TBD: How was the process of trying to find the right agent for your book, then finding a publisher of your own? Did it help that you found a publisher who does books that match up so well with Big Woods?
MC: Arielle helped me a great deal with my agent search (in addition to everything else!) After approaching a handful of agents who passed — some whom I’d met at conferences, others, referrals — Arielle had me write up a list of thirty agents I’d like to approach. She carefully reviewed this list and dropped a few names and suggested a few others. Next, Arielle helped fine-tune my query letter so that it was in tip-top shape and within 48 hours, I had an offer! Within a week of that initial offer, I had two additional offers and then had a very big decision to make!
My agents, Ellen Levine and Alexa Stark, found a warm and welcoming home for Big Woods. While the novel was out on submission, I was as cool as a cucumber and so much fun to be around! And I was wildly productive writing-wise. I’m kidding, of course, I was a bundle of nerves, developed insomnia, and couldn’t write a lick. But my pot at the end of the rainbow came in the form of getting the “yes” from Midnight Ink. I knew the minute I spoke with Terri Bischoff, my editor, over the phone that Big Woods had found the home it was meant to find.
TBD: What was it like getting published by a wonderful independent publisher, Midnight Ink?
MC: It’s been absolutely incredible, ever since that first phone call with Terri. Terri had fantastic notes for the novel and is so warm and brilliant — just a delight to work with, as is the entire Midnight Ink Team (waving at you Jake and Anna), as well as my publicist Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity. Everyone is so talented and dedicated and collaborative!
TBD: How did you know about getting your Book Launch Party at one of the greatest bookstores in America: Book People in Austin, Texas?
MC: I’ve lived in Austin for the past twenty years and Book People is hands-down one of my favorite places in Austin as well as my favorite bookstore ever. Of course I’ve gone to tons of readings and signings there, and it has been a long-held dream of mine to have a book party there, so I was thrilled when they gave me the green light. And the literary community in Austin on the whole is so wonderfully supportive, I feel damn lucky to be living here.
TBD: Tell us about your relationship with National Novel Writing Month. How do writers benefit from NaNoWriMo?
MC: I shadow NaNoWriMo every November! I wrote a big chunk of Big Woods during a NaNoWriMo and while it sounds daunting to try and complete a novel in one month, I think the time crunch really helps silence the inner critic that is always, always lurking. It does for me anyway.
TBD: How did you go about winning the online Nanowrimo Pitchapalooza?
MC: I was aware of the contest from having the absolute privilege of working with you guys on my nonfiction project and was excited by the challenge of crafting a pitch to enter the contest. But I could not believe that my pitch actually won, and it gave me such a boost during a time I needed it most. Not to mention, your feedback was exquisite!
TBD: What did you get to start writing for the Washington Post?
MC: This literally came out of the blue. One day, while my husband, mother, and I took our young son to a park in Austin, the police were called on us because (gasp!) my son’s hair was a bit messy and his pants were a bit short. He is six and autistic, and the responding officers were so gracious when they arrived and questioned us because they could instantly tell that nothing was amiss, and that our son has special needs. I came home and immediately reached out to the editor of that particular column and she responded that she was very interested, but suggested that I sit with the story for a while. She didn’t want a vent piece and could tell that I was still upset by the incident.
So I did as she suggested and mulled it over for several weeks. Then one evening, the essay came together rather quickly and she accepted it. I did not anticipate the flurry of responses we would receive (both negative and positive) — the piece generated over 2k comments and the Post ran it on their homepage the following Sunday. Ana Navarro of CNN tweeted in solidarity of the essay, which, in turn, made my twitter feed explode, mostly with other parents in our same situation reaching out, which was so gratifying and I’m grateful for Ana for tweeting about it.
TBD: How did you get this great blurb?
“Stephen King’s Stand by Me collides with Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects in this exceptional thriller. Gutsy, gripping―and pitch-perfect in its resurrection of an era long gone.”
―A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
MC: I approached authors whose work I deeply admired and had been inspired by. In the case of A.J. Finn, I reached out to Finn before THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW was published. I was aware of it, namely because it had been such a spectacular deal with the film rights selling instantly to Fox, and also, I absolutely loved the premise of a woman who is shut in her apartment but believes she’s witnessed a murder across the street. Also, the title reminded me so much of one of my favorite novels from my graduate studies, Wilkie Collin’s famed, Victorian-era detective novel, THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
While I was waiting to hear if Finn would indeed blurb BIG WOODS, I read (devoured) THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW the day it was published and was completely gobsmacked by it. His prose is just astonishing — just so gorgeous and lyrical — and his gift of suspense and propulsion is unparalleled. And also, there’s this great wit in the novel. It’s one of my top favorite novels of all time. So, while I was reading THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, I was inwardly wincing, thinking, “He’s going to be so bored if he gets around to reading BIG WOODS.” And when I followed up with him and heard back that he was blurbing BIG WOODS (and comparing it to King and Flynn) my head spun! I had to read the email three times before I could believe it and I cried, I was so happy and so moved.
TBD: How did you get to be a finalist in the 2015 Writers League of Texas Manuscript? Did it help your career?
MC: As you guys know, BIG WOODS interrupted a twenty year nonfiction project which I’m currently finishing up. It’s the story of the late, jazz great, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and in 2015, I submitted a portion of the book to the Writers League of Texas Manuscript Contest. I was so thrilled to find it was named a finalist. I do feel it helped me get my query noticed by agents and editors and, also, the Writers League of Texas has just been instrumental all the way around with nurturing my writing path — such a fantastic organization.
And in 2016, BIG WOODS was chosen as the Winner in the same contest and I feel like that was very instrumental in my having the confidence to finish the novel!
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?
MC: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and shut out the chorus of voices that tell you writing is an impossible career choice. Also, keep your overhead low and find a good mechanic! And more than anything, realize that you can write in 15-minute bursts of time. Even if it’s a sentence or a single paragraph. It all adds up. Most of BIG WOODS was written in stolen moments — while my husband was bathing our son, while I could’ve checked into Facebook but didn’t — and I was able to hammer out the first draft in a year. And finally, it must be said: if you’re able to, work with the Book Doctors! I would not still be writing today if it weren’t for you guys.
May Cobb grew up in the piney woods of East Texas where her debut thriller, Big Woods, is set. After college, she moved to San Francisco, where she studied Victorian Literature for her Master’s, and then lived in Los Angeles for a few years where she worked for filmmaker/writer Ron Shelton and his wife, the actress Lolita Davidovich. For the past twenty years, she’s been working on a nonfiction book about the late, great, jazz artist, Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, Austin Monthly, and Edible Austin. Cobb now lives in Austin with her husband and son.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Get publishing tips delivered to your inbox every month.
We first met Jane Friedman online, which is where she is a lot. And quite brilliantly, she’s carved out a very cool corner of the publishing world by taking deep dives into analytics and numbers revolving around the Internet and books. We subsequently got to hang out with her in person recently at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference — which is, in fact, one of the great writers’ conferences in America! She was a panelist on our event, Pitchapalooza, and as always, was a font of wisdom. Yet another reason to go to great writers’ conferences: You meet the most amazing people. So we thought now that her new book The Business of Being a Writer is out, we’d pick her brain about writing, publishing, and what it takes to flourish in the brave new world of books.