Saturday, July 26, 2008

Word Clouds

Today I found an awesome site for us writers.

It's called Wordle and it generates word clouds like this:

The above picture is derived from the entire text of my fifth book, Go Look There, which is a magical realism novel about strange things happening among the children of a particular Southern town.

Here's another, taken from the combined text of all of my favorite poems I've written:

Mostly what I found from this is that I'm a big fan of similes, which I knew, but when the word 'like' was twelve feet tall it really hit home. So I did a Find & Replace command in Microsoft Word (Which you can do by pressing control+F or apple key+f) and replaced 'like' with a space so I could REALLY find out what my most commonly used words are.

Anyway, this was really cool and I'd be eager to see your pictures of what words you use most commonly.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Today I received a request for a partial. He asked for the first two chapters, which isn't much, but hey, it means I'm on the right track.

And, just so this doesn't turn into my boring personal updates, here's something I've been working on. Kind of in the style of, these are the [mostly] true adventures of my life. They're all made from pictures I took, anyway:*

Pictures taken at the Botanical Gardens in Huntsville, Alabama during their dinosaur display.

*Right click on the image and then click on 'view image'; or if you're using a Mac or laptop press ctrl+click and then click on 'view image' to see the image full size until I post again and it moves down past the side menu.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Confession: Taking the Plunge

Confession: I finally did it.

I finally started submitting to agents.

I had my query letter approved by Jaden the Wonder-Troll, and began emailing agents today.

<---Jaden in real life.

Using, I sent out 65 queries. So far today I have received 9 standard rejection forms and 1 personal rejection.

And now, available only here, are details and examples of my rejection exploits. Read and learn:

Attn Ms. Agent,

I read on that you represent Young Adult fiction, and are particularly interested in __________. I believe you will be interested in my 60,000 word gender-struggle YA novel Woman's World, book one of a completed trilogy.

In a female-dominated society where men are kept as domestic slaves, one young woman must overcome cultural barriers as she grows closer to her new, abused slave -a romance that uncovers the secret history behind women's rise to power in our world and leads to an exciting, apocalyptic revolution to restore gender equality.

When the famous and reclusive writer known only as the Poetess selects for her first slave a young man whose muteness makes him worthless in society's eyes despite his great beauty, their journey towards trust and compassion in her isolated home sparks a powerful and forbidden romance. Torn with feelings deviating from strict religious and social dogma, and possibly dying from a cancerous illness that makes her shamefully barren, the Poetess struggles to come to terms with the love she feels for the slave she named Shaedyn, and her new, heretic belief that men deserve to be equal with women. Whispers of an underground equalist movement, and their tentative plan to use the Poetess as a political tool to sway the hearts of the nation, excite and terrify the Poetess until a near-deadly failing of health forces her to leave Shaedyn behind and travel to the East Hall, a technological metropolis and secret heart of the revolution itself.

At age 19, Woman's World is one of five novels I have written. Originally posted online at, garnishing 61,000 hits, near 1,000 favorable reviews, and hundreds of registered fans, Woman's World takes the female-dominant society stereotype to an intelligent and realistic place with a romance and characters proven to capture the heart of any reader. My other writing credits include a personal narrative in the literary magazine TeenInk, and an award from the Journalistic Education Association for Feature Writing. I would be happy to send you a complete copy of the manuscript for your review. I appreciate your time, and look forward to hearing from you.



Now, this is not the best query letter in the entire world, and I know that. But I was too impatient to wait much longer, having wasted so much time already. It's a mistake I encourage you not to make.

Within the next three hours I had six standard rejection letters, reaching a pinnacle of ten rejection letters at the end of the day, including one personal rejection letter.

Example of a standard rejection letter:

Dear Savannah:
Many thanks for thinking of me, but I am afraid I do not feel that I am the right agent for your work.

All my best,



I’m afraid I don’t represent YA and wouldn’t be the right agent for this.

I wish you luck


(Apparently agentquery lied to me in this particular case; learn from this -always double-check your results)


Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the _______ Agency your query.

We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.

Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" to find the right match.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.




The Personal Rejection Letter:

Dear Savannah,

Thank you for submitting your query to the ________ Agency. Unfortunately this doesn't look right for us.

While I like the gender role switch, I'm afraid it's a pretty familiar trope and not different enough to stand out in the current market. It looks like you have a good grasp of storytelling, though, so I want to encourage you to keep writing and trying new things. Though this wasn't for me, perhaps another agent will decide to take a look.

As a side note, I was uncertain about the mention of YA and historical romance. This certainly looks like romance, but I didn't catch a lot of YA or historical with it.

Best of luck in your writing career,



Now, I've only gotten 10 rejections over 24 hours, and I'm sure I have many more coming in the next few weeks. Plus, since I submitted only (I thought) to agents representing YA, my next battle tactic is to submit to Romance agents, as apparently I'm a Nora Roberts sinner with a corset-opener sitting as blatantly on my desk as a Magic 8 Ball (which should be mandatory for every writer, by the way, as they are incredibly useful).

But already the panic is setting in. What if it doesn't happen? What if I can't do it?

This post by Seth Godin and this post from some dude are particularly terrifying.

Should this happen to me, I've decided I shall become a publishing rebel, self-publishing and distributing to my few Internet friends as their weekly allowance...well...allows.

Caption: I shall become a Publishing Pirate. You hear that term here first, kiddos.

Paolini, your route is not looking so bad. Perhaps I was deeply, terribly wrong about you.

BUT Paolini did self-publish first (As far as I'm aware). At least I've tried to play fair. :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Advice and My Own Work (Finally!)

Check out these awesome bookcases:

Billy Collins, my poetry idol and unwitting mentor, spoke once in a poem of his, 'Books', about building bookshelves while in college.

This struck me as a very spiritual thing for a writer to do, and I found myself stumped as to why I had not paused to consider The Bookshelf more often. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard any other writer speak lovingly of bookshelves, when they are in fact tremendously important to our line of work.

I proposed then, in a poem, taking up bookshelf-making as an exercise in meditation, patience, and love of your craft.

In an effort to include more of my own work on this site and debate my own worth against Paolini, here is that poem, free-styled in modern poetry. And if you're not a big poetry fan (I can't stand any formats or classic work; it's modern for me or not at all, and not experimental modern, just... honest) then consider it colorful prose with hyperbole:


My advice to you, young writer
is this:

(As if I could say anything
not already coded into the sequence of your DNA.
But perhaps the instructions there are pleated in your milk tongue,
as familiar and distant as the brainwave patterns of childhood.
While you speak the bland, foreign language of mediocrity now,
let me translate what I have discovered of the wending script
into words whose scientific meanings you will understand,
and allude to the musical impressions
you once breathed and swam in,
swishing your embryonic tail
through the fluid of your deepest nature)

to build bookshelves–
rooms and hallways of bookshelves.
Prepare the cradles of your children;
the cabinets and displays of your colleagues;
the frames around which books shall live and die.

Take steps, like a midwife of catalysts,
to usher life from non-worlds into this.

Hammer out rectangles and shells
to clothe and house your creations.
Meditate on your existence as you do this,
and accept a chance of death before the souls of your words
stop speaking.