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How to find the right freelance editor for your book or novel

By Mayra Cuevas

This weekend, while attending the Atlanta Writers Conference, several writers asked me about my experience working with a freelance manuscript editor. Many told me they had considered this approach but were uncertain about the process. They also questioned whether the financial investment would yield any real benefit.

In August I sent my contemporary YA manuscript to freelance editor Deborah Halverson, the award-winning author of Writing YoungAdult Fiction for Dummies, founder of DearEditor.com and former books editor with Harcourt Children’s Books. Her services for substantive editing included providing feedback on overall voice, plot, pacing, characterization, setting, etc.

Before hiring Deborah, I had written two full manuscripts. I had worked on my YA contemporary manuscript for 18 months and had done multiple revisions. I had sought feedback from my critique group and beta readers. I had also pitched the manuscript to a small group of agents and while I received several requests for a full manuscript the overall response was that the story still needed work.
I reached that point: I had no idea how to fix my own story. I knew then, it was time to hire a freelance editor. Read more

An afternoon with four awesome YA authors at the Decatur Book Festival

Last weekend, I attended the Decatur Book Festival’s Teen Stage panel “Thicker Than Water.” It was a discussion on the family bonds that make up YA novels. The panelist were authors Una LaMarche (Don’t Fail Me Now), Elizabeth Lenhard (Our Song), Marie Marquardt (Dream Things True) and Katie M. Stout (Hello, I Love You).

Family loyalty was one of the first topics to be addressed, one of the main themes in Marquardt’s novel.

“Alma’s family is primarily an undocumented immigrant family from Mexico,” she said speaking about the protagonist in Dream Things True. “Evan’s family is a politically complicated family. They are so different but in fact they share a lot in common, they feel a pull to live up to what their families want them to be.”

Stout’s treatment of family bonds in Hello, I Love You prompts her protagonist Grace to hide from her family in a boarding school in Korea.

“You don’t get to choose them,” Stout said, speaking of one’s family. “And you might not always like them, but they are still people that you need to love as human beings. We might not be best friends and disagree but I choose to love and respect you.”
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Tami Cowden’s The Men We Love, the Women We Want to Be: Using Hero and Heroine Archetypes to Create Dynamic Characters

Tami Cowden, writer of The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Literary Archetypes, was in Atlanta recently teaching the workshop The Men We Love, the Women We Want to Be: Using Hero and Heroine Archetypes to Create Dynamic Characters. The day course was organized by the Georgia Romance Writers group.  

Cowden provided great insight on how to use different men and women archetypes to build our characters.
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Writing from your life and other things I learned in a one-day intensive with author Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass won the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass won the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award.

Last Friday, I attended a writer’s intensive workshop with the amazing Latina author Meg Medina. The workshop was part of the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle 2015 Conference.

The best way to describe it: like group therapy for writers – we laughed, we cried, we wrote. It was by far the best writing workshop I have ever participated in.
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Second Annual Winter Writers Retreat

In January 2014, my critique partner Marie and I held our first winter writers retreat with the idea that it would become a yearly tradition. And it did!

Last weekend we held our second annual winter writers retreat with double the attendance! Yes, we went from two to four! Ha!

We were happy to welcomed Peggy and Lee into our little writing getaway. Peggy, a published author, is writing a literary biography, while Lee is working on her first manuscript, a contemporary romance. Marie and I are both working on contemporary YA manuscripts.
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2015 Contests for Young Adult Writers

In less than 2 months 2014 will be gone. Forever.

For my part I will spend last days of this year finishing a new manuscript (a YA summer camp themed romantic comedy). I will also be contemplating whether or not to enter said manuscript in a writing contest. 

To get warmed up I compiled a list of writing competitions that caught my eye. 

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Amazon.com’s yearly manuscript competition which includes a YA category.

In 2014 Amazon received about 10,000 entries. They chose a finalist from each of the five fiction categories, all of which received an Amazon publishing contract and a $15,000 advance. Of the five finalists, they select a Grand Prize winner who received a $50,000 advance.

2015 Deadline: TBA – usually February 
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Diversity in YA Novels, a Decatur Book Festival Panel

This weekend I attended the Decatur Book Festival for the first time. And I LOVED it!

Diversity Panel
Diversity Panel

Great selection of authors, interesting discussion panels and you can’t beat the location. Downtown Decatur is a fabulous mix of trendy shops and yummy restaurants. I will be going back to Cafe Alsace for the eggs Benedict and the ridiculously delicious honey-lavender ice cream.

Saturday morning I sat in the Diversity in YA panel with authors Cece Bell, Carmen Agra Deedy, Varian Johnson, Andrew Smith. Becky Albertalli and Soniah Kamal moderated.

Enjoy the notes!
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The (real) Query Process… and how not to go insane while refreshing your inbox

Here I am, my second visit to Queryland, just a little wiser than the first. Once again I find myself experiencing the nausea inducing compulsive “inbox refresh.” So in order to share my misery with the world, I thought I would write a list of how this query process goes… for all of you who haven’t had the pleasure of the experience.

Here it is in 10 easy steps:

1) Pour your heart into a manuscript for months or years. This is key to heightening the query experience.

2) Decide that you are ready to query! Now is when the crazy starts.


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Agent and Editor Query Links: Obsession, Misery and Laughs

Back in October I wrote about starting my agent / editor query process. And… I’m still at it. Perseverance is the word you are thinking of.

During the query process I have discovered some great websites worth sharing. If you are in your query process like I am, you can obsess over them in between repeatedly refreshing your email to make sure you didn’t miss any messages from your to-be agent/editor.

I have divided the sites into helpful categories.

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My very happy beginning to a new year: a writers retreat!

On Tuesday I will be embarking on my first writers retreat and I am very excited!!! Yes, triple exclamation mark.

I have attended many meditation retreats in the past but never a retreat where I set out to write for a week in a place other than my house.

The idea came when my writing critique partner, Marie, and I talked about doing something to mark a great start to 2014. We decided to head for the mountains for a few days with the only goal to begin writing a new book.

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