Old Monsters, New World: The Spirit of Mentorship

April 1st, 2014

VandV correct orientation
On January 6th 2014, a nasty, inhospitable morning, we drove up to Millbrook, NY (we meaning myself, Molly Friedrich, with my colleague and daughter, Lucy Carson) to visit with our clients Valerie Martin and Violet Kupersmith. Valerie Martin is, of course, the highly respected author of many novels, including MARY REILLY and the Orange Prize-winning, PROPERTY. Violet, on the other hand, is completely new to the business of being published. It struck us that here we had two fiction writers, each on the eve of their respective publications, both of them writing about ghosts and spirits, although in utterly different ways.  Valerie Martin, who teaches at Mt. Holyoke, had first encountered Violet in her writing class and soon become her steadfast mentor. We were curious about the evolution of this relationship and so we all sat down in Valerie’s light-filled studio to learn more…

MF: Although Lucy and I know the basics, readers need full background here. When did you two first meet?

VM: Violet appeared in my Writing Short Fiction seminar at Mt. Holyoke in 2008.  I hadn’t taught an undergraduate class in many years and I was a little anxious about where to pitch the workshop, how much to expect from my students – or how little.  There were twelve students and as it turned out the range of ability was very wide.  Violet distinguished herself with her first story, which was just four of five pages about a teenage boy in Texas who has a run in with a ghost at the gas station where he works.  A fully realized world right off the bat.  It was early in the semester and I wasn’t sure who was who yet, so I had to look at the roll with the photos attached to figure out which of the students Violet Kupersmith was.  There she was, looking shy and maybe a little sly, peeking out from a wave of her dark hair.  It never occurred to me that this small, elfish person would also be captain of the rugby team!

VK: I’d only ever taken one creative writing course before this one, and was especially nervous to be in Valerie’s class because her career was so celebrated, and the department had been talking about her coming to Mount Holyoke in the way you would of the arrival of a movie star or a mighty wizard. We were so lucky to get to work with an extraordinary and prominent writer who also happened to be an attentive and generous professor. I loved that Valerie could identify, with an acupuncturist’s precision, what line, what exact moment in your story wasn’t working, but she let you figure out which way to fix it. She was always guiding us, but allowed us use our own writing muscles—a teacher, not an instructor.

MF: So Valerie, you’re sitting there and you’re reading these papers and you come across hers. Did you sit up straight and say “there’s some real talent here”?

VM: Yes, but talent isn’t enough.  Many students can turn out competent scenes at an alarming rate and some are good at generating plots.  But what I’m looking for when I’m teaching is not just ability but a temperament.  Being a writer requires patience, the ability to concentrate, insight about the process. I’m looking to see what happens in revision.  Does she just take my advice or solve problems in an original way.  How does she apprehend what she reads?  I worked with a student recently who could write well enough and was good at drawing out a scene, at detail.  But her comments about the assigned reading amounted to “I didn’t (or did), like the character.”  When talking about her own work she revealed that her characters were, in her mind, all examples of popular psycho-babble designations, one was OCD, another was bi-polar, a third was a narcissist. They weren’t characters; they were demonstrations of psychological dysfunction.  I gave up.  Violet is an enormously patient writer, and her characters grow rather than recede as the stories go forward.  She’s also a gifted critic.  I wanted her to apply for a Rhodes scholarship and go to Oxford.  But then she wrote these stories.

MF: Valerie, your latest novel, THE GHOST OF THE MARY CELESTE is, I’m convinced, a masterpiece, how’s that for a becrazed agent endorsement? You’ve published so many different kinds of books, including short stories, and even biography, but in this new book, you return to the so-called historical novel.  I know you hate that description but Mary Reilly IS historical fiction and so is your Orange-Prize Award-winning novel, PROPERTY. I’ll admit it, there is historical fiction and then there is shape-changing, genre-busting fiction set in another period. How would you describe the book?

VM: A ghost ship appears in the mist. That’s the lead line of the book jacket copy and I love how that brief description causes a visual image to leap into the mind.  In a way it describes how I came to this book.  The Mary Celeste was an American ship found adrift off the coast of the Azores in 1872, in good condition and with no one aboard.  I’d read about it as a child and got interested in it again when I learned the captain had his wife and child aboard; that they were part of the crew that disappeared.  In a way my novel is about stories spinning off from other stories, which is what happened with the Mary Celeste – as time passed the story of the ship accumulated details.  Another writer drawn to the ship was Arthur Conan Doyle, pre-Sherlock Holmes.  I couldn’t resist tracking down this great master tracking down such a mystery.  I describe my novel as historical fiction mystery post modern love story with ghosts.

MF: Violet, it’s your turn.

VK: I also like to think of THE FRANGIPANI HOTEL as stories spun off of other stories. I took the spirits and demons from old Vietnamese folktales that my grandmother told me and brought them into a post-war, post-1975 diaspora setting. Old monsters, new world, same havoc. And many of the pieces within the book itself use narrative frames, stories within stories, uncoiling as you go deeper. I think the idea central to the collection is that of inheritance—ghosts, like stories, like trauma from the war, are all passed down from earlier generations. They are all things you can’t escape.

LC: Both of these novels are filled with ghosts and spirits and the afterlife in some way. Let me just come right out and ask each of you: do you believe in ghosts?

VM: I don’t believe in ghosts.

MF: Even though you’re a New Orleans woman?

VM: Good point.  It would be more correct to say there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe in ghosts. And that’s the part I trust. But I do believe that ghost stories have been important to people forever.

MF: But why do we have ghost stories, what’s the purpose of a ghost story?

VM: I think the human imagination just falters in the face of death, of its irreversibility.  Nature is so full of rebirth and renewal against amazing odds.  Even forests burnt to the ground come back if you wait long enough and don’t pave them over.  A lot of stuff seems to come back.  It’s impossible to accept that something as vital as a loved one can just go out of existence. We want to believe in ghosts for the same reason we want to believe in souls. Ghosts are, in a fact, souls adrift.

MF: I have a feeling that you, Violet, have a very different answer.

VK: Look, in my family we differentiate old houses by which one was haunted by what. I do believe in ghosts and I believe that they tend to be mostly malevolent.

MF: Right, your ghosts are not Casper!

VK: No, I didn’t really get Casper when I was a kid—the concept of a friendly ghost seemed like a paradox. I see it like this: when a person dies, if they’re ready and at peace and have everything in order, there’s no reason for them to linger on here. A spirit returns because it has unfinished business to take care of or something is displeasing it. If it’s coming back, it’s because it’s not happy.

LC: Maybe they never were.

VK: In the collection, the ghosts who do the most damage to others are the ones who were already damaged themselves. They come back and perpetuate it. They’re settling the score.

MF: Have you ever had a direct experience or encounter with a ghost?

VK: Only once, when I was seven. I was in bed and saw a smoky apparition of an old woman wearing a beret. In retrospect that doesn’t sound particularly horrific, but it was the most terrifying moment in my life. My heart froze. And I didn’t talk about it to anyone for years—I think I was scared that she would come back if I did—but when I eventually shared this with my grandmother she just nodded and told me, “Ghosts don’t come to the people who aren’t capable of handling it.” This makes perfect sense to me; if a spirit frightens to death the person it appears to, then it isn’t getting any of its business done, right? My grandmother is made of tougher stuff than I am—back in Vietnam ghosts came to her at night all the time.

MF: Is this when she’s dreaming or the twilight area between…

VK: She saw them in her sleep, but they were much clearer, sharper than real dreams—in the morning when she recalled the conversations with the ghosts it would be like remembering an actual event. But the way she talks about them makes it seem like the ghost visits were annoyances—they were always asking her to pass on messages for them or run errands.

LC: So many of the ghosts in Violet’s stories are strangers to the characters who encounter them. It seems more about the ghost’s connection to a place rather than to a person…

VK: I like to think it’s the will of the ghost that brings it back, and not of the living. The people who have the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The ghosts have no qualms about using them.

MF: Why are ghosts so appealing to writers and readers?

VM: Ghosts, in themselves, aren’t very interesting. They’re not complex characters; they’re so transparent! But a ghost in the room is sure to provoke a response, so it moves the action.  Also, ghosts represent both a wish and a fear that death might not be final.   There’s something very touching about that.

VK: I think ghosts are so alluring because they’re breaking the rules—they came back! They didn’t stay dead like they were supposed to. They are inherently aberrant. And so often they also get to bend the laws of physics and completely chuck the moral code that those still living are supposed to follow. It allows a writer so much narrative freedom.

MF: Valerie, you’ve been published many times, does it get old or are you still filled with the fresh hope that hardcover publication still offers?

VM: It doesn’t get old – especially the part where the box of finished books arrives; that’s always a good day – but, much to my surprise, I’ve actually gotten a bit old myself.  I’ve always enjoyed writing and dreaded publishing and that hasn’t changed. The actual day-to-day business of composition is more difficult than ever.  I don’t lack confidence – I know I can write a novel – but I don’t have the energy a young writer has, the constant flow of ideas and subjects leaping to mind, that eager feeling  -what’s next, what’s next – at the end of each project.  Writing is a lonely business, though I’ve found my closest friends through my writing.  When I get messages from readers who have been strongly affected by my books, I feel rejuvenated.   And very rarely I run across a student like Violet, who reminds me that teaching has rewards as well.  I plan to press on, though at a leisurely pace. I’d like to spend a year just reading in a random way, whatever comes to hand – that would be divine.

LC: Part of what Molly & I wanted to hear about during this interview is the emphasis on mentoring in the writing community. Violet, now that you’re slated for a hardcover publication with a major house, do you find yourself fielding requests from your peers about how they can improve their writing and find a way into this industry?

VK: It definitely happens with more frequency now. Even though I tend to be no help at all—I am new and fumbling in this world and a long, long way from being a Valerie and a mentor myself—I do try and support other young writers if I can. My book became a reality because of the generosity of others; it only seems fair that I pay it forward.

Make Us A Proposal We Can’t Refuse…

November 7th, 2013

*****Final Contest Update*****

Congratulations to First Prize Winner Melissa Burch! Though “mini” in length, her proposal had volumes of depth and intrigue.

Sincere congrats to Second Prize: Kase Johnstun and Third: James Stolen!

Given the range of both sub-genres and subject matter, this installment was especially difficult to judge. Non-fiction is deeply personal, so we thank all who entered. Best of luck in developing your mini proposals into the full versions you’ll eventually send out into the world.

When it’s warm again, check back here for the next installment of the Vivid Voices Contest.

***

As many of you know, The Friedrich Agency hosts a bi-annual contest series called Vivid Voices, which focuses on a different genre for each installment. With NaNoWriMo well underway, all you Non-Fiction writers must feel left out! We’re excited to announce the first ever call for non-fiction proposals.

For each fiction contest, we ask for the first 500 words of the novel and a brief synopsis placing it in larger context. BUT now that we are shifting focus for this round, the guidelines must shift accordingly. We ask all contest participants to submit a “micro-proposal” (our term!) that answers the following 5 questions, keeping each answer to one paragraph (and manageable paragraphs please, not giant lumps under the guise of paragraphs!).

Micro-Proposal:

1.) Describe the concept of your book–covering central topic, argument, or narrative where applicable.

2.) Present the marketing analysis for such a book– competitive titles, and a persuasive discussion of the hunger for your particular angle.

3.) Tell us why you, specifically, are uniquely qualified or necessary to the project.

4.) Elaborate on any relevant experience you have, promotional connections, or previous writing credits.

5.) Please share the first paragraph of actual writing as a sample of your style to be expected in the book itself.

Submissions are due on Monday, December 2nd, 2013, and should be sent via email to vividvoicescontest@gmail.com no later than 5pm EST. Winners will be announced Friday, December 6th. One first prize winner will receive a detailed critique of their entire complete proposal. Second prize will have a choice of any two hardcover or paperback books from our list, and third prize will be offered a thorough critique of their official query letter.

Whether or not your concept and presentation resonates with us, we believe that this exercise of boiling your project down to its essential components WILL be useful to you as you plow ahead with these ambitious projects! November is yours, too Truth Tellers! Good luck to all.

Announcing the new Vivid Voices Contest: PREPARE TO SCARE!

August 2nd, 2013

Following the tremendous talent that we witnessed in our last Vivid Voices Contest (The NaNoWriMoCo in December) we couldn’t be more excited to call forth new submissions for a brand new installment of this contest series. Since ThrillerFest is freshly concluded, we’re hoping you’ve been polishing those suspense manuscripts to perfection, because this time we’re in the mood to be scared!

The guidelines, for the most part, are similar to the past two contests: an entry consists of the first 500 words of your novel (yes, we are asking for fiction only) OR short story (if and only if that story is part of a suspense-themed collection which is complete), along with your full name, working title of the submission, and confirmation that the project is not under consideration at another agency at this time.

In this installment, we are adding an additional guideline. After your first 500 words, please include 2-3 paragraphs describing the complete project. We know you’re thinking, “But isn’t this whole contest concept really about focusing on JUST the voice and writing?” Yes, this remains our goal. However, since the 1st prize winner will receive a full manuscript evaluation, we’ll be taking a closer look at the finalists to determine not only who has a strong and compelling voice, but also a concept that we can be just as excited about. We will always read the 500 words FIRST.

These materials, when compiled, should be emailed to vividvoicescontest (at) gmail (dot) com, no later than 5pm Eastern Standard Time on August 12th. We will announce winners on Friday August 16th at noon. Prizes are as follows:

1st Place: Full manuscript evaluation by agent Lucy Carson

2nd Place: Query evaluation and a complimentary hardcover copy of the agency title of your choice.

3rd Place: Query evaluation (and our congrats!)

A helpful tip: Many suspense writers like to incorporate a prologue into their narrative. If you chose to include a prologue, you are eligible to use the first 500 words of your narrative (meaning AFTER that prologue) instead, if you wish. We encourage you to think about whether the prologue is indicative of the novel’s essence before you include it. Some prologues are narrated by the killer, or have an outside perspective that might not be the ideal sample of your novel. Please use your best judgment!

We welcome suspense of any kind, including novels that bend the genre, or overlap with other distinct genres (i.e. romantic suspense, YA suspense, psychological suspense, etc). We won’t be strict about our definitions, but we want to be on the edge of our reading seats! Best of luck, and please use the comment space below to ask any questions beforehand.

*****Final Contest Update******

Congratulations to First Prize Winner Karen Catalona, with an enthralling excerpt of her novel THE WATCHERS!!!

And another heart-felt congratulations to both Runners-Up
Steven Axelrod
and Catherine Lawrence!!

We were thrilled (pun, always intended) by the immense range of sub-genres and styles in this installment of Vivid Voices. It’s truly impressive how many of you kept us on the edge of our seats, in only 500 words! Thank you to all who entered and please look out for the next installment of the Vivid Voices Contest.

Hit The Write Note: NaNoWriMoCo

November 6th, 2012

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Wait, what is this “Co”? Are we incorporating the month of November? Perhaps it makes more sense this way: NaNoWriMoCo(ntest). Join us!


We didn’t just add a syllable…we’ve added an extra incentive!

The Friedrich Agency is excited to announce our very own NaNoWriMoCo(ntest), an off-shoot of our Vivid Voices Contest series, which launched its first installment last June. We love NaNoWriMo’s seat-of-your-pants enthusiasm and want to offer every courageous writer even more motivation to get to 50,000 words.

Once you’ve “won” NaNoWriMo (i.e. achieved your goal), send your opening 3 paragraphs or 500 words to vividvoicescontest (at) gmail (dot) com, along with your full name, the working title of your manuscript, and a confirmation that it is not currently represented or being read by other agents.

The deadline to submit is Monday, December 3rd and this contest is open to any FICTION genre, as long as the author is a NaNoWriMo winner. We love non-fiction too, but for the purposes of this contest, we’re sticking by NaNoWriMo’s definition of a “novel as a lengthy work of fiction.”

On Friday, December 7th we will announce one first prize winner of the complete manuscript evaluation as well as one runner-up to receive a free copy of a current frontlist hardcover (of your choice!). Oh, and we also often request manuscripts that didn’t win, but DID intrigue! **Edit: The winner may submit his or her manuscript for the prize of full evaluation once it’s complete, whenever that may be.**

Now, get off the internet and go write! The clock is ticking, and we can’t wait to see what December 3rd shall bring of your heroic efforts! Happy writing.

*****Final Contest Update******

Congratulations to First Prize Winner Ashley Laster, with an astounding excerpt of her novel SHADES AND SHADOWS!!!

And another heart-felt congratulations to Runner-Up
Mary Rath for PRINCE OF DUSK!

We could not have been more impressed by the range and polish of these excerpts, written in just one month. It’s truly incredible what can happen when talented writers sit down with a goal! Thank you to all who entered and keep an eye out for the next installment of the Vivid Voices Contest.

Road Trip!

October 5th, 2012

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Remember back in 2010, when we announced the wonderful George Dawes Green’s latest literary adventure, The Unchained Tour? We’re beyond proud to tell you that this has certainly proved to be The-Little-Bus-that-Could! In the past couple of years, The Unchained Tour has become one of the most beloved and celebrated storytelling programs in the United States, specifically down South wherein this brilliant idea took root. To remind: The Unchained Tour is an offshoot of the 2010 Peabody Award winning storytelling organization, The Moth, which George founded back in 1997. The Unchained Tour is an effort to take these stories on the road; it exists to remind cities that it’s their local bookstores, nights of storytelling, and support of all things local, that contribute to the true heart of their communities. Perhaps this is why the most recent Unchained Tour route was heart-shaped!!

This past September, the ‘72 Bluebird school bus embarked on its THIRD triumphant tour. This year’s troupe of amazing raconteurs included the world-renowned, prize-winning author of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK and CORALINE, Neil Gaiman, Savannah-born playwright and native favorite to The Moth, Edgar Oliver, and of course our very own George Dawes Green.

American journalist and former editor-in-chief of French Vogue, Joan Juliet Buck, was among the raconteurs for the tour back in 2011. She writes about this life-altering experience in her wonderfully vivid piece, “A Bus Called Wanda”, which just ran this past September in The New York Times. Thanks to Ms. Buck, the word about this terrific endeavor is now reaching beyond Southern state borders.

We could not dream of a more worthwhile pursuit and simply cannot WAIT until that beautiful blue bus comes a-sputtering down our city streets!

Check out The Unchained Tour’s heartfelt promotional video here!

(This Unchained Update brought to you by Molly Schulman)

Announcing: The Vivid Voices Contest!

June 5th, 2012

The Friedrich Agency has decided to periodically call for submissions to a new kind of contest that we’re dubbing “Vivid Voices.” With a few months’ interval between each installment, Vivid Voices will focus on a specific genre of literature, and invite all participants to send the opening 3 paragraphs (OR the opening 500 words, whichever is more substantial) of their project for the chance to “win” a full length evaluation of the complete manuscript. Only submissions in the genre specified will be considered, and no manuscript currently on submission will be eligible.

For our inaugural contest, which begins TODAY and ends MONDAY JUNE 11th, our genre for submissions is Young Adult.

Here’s how to enter!

Send your opening 3 paragraphs (or 500 words) to vividvoicescontest (at) gmail dot com, along with your full name, the working title of your manuscript, and a confirmation that it is not currently represented or being read by other agents.

One winner will be selected by FRIDAY June 15th for the complete manuscript submission and evaluation, and one runner up will be selected to receive a free copy of one of our current frontlist hardcovers (we’ll give you the choice!).

Nota Bene: your submission will not be considered if you send more than the specified length, email us at a different address, or ignore the guidelines above.

We welcome your Vivid Voices!

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

December 22nd, 2011

Don’t worry, we’re not about to shout-out to our authors via reindeer naming, as St. Nick does in this classic rhyme. On the other hand, the past two weeks have brought us various bits of wonderful news that bears announcing– what better time than on the night we bid a (professional) farewell to 2011?

You may have seen the press releases for “World Book Night”– an exciting event which will take place next year on Shakespeare’s birthday: April 23rd. On this day alone, made possible by the collaborative efforts of publishers, authors, and 50,000 volunteers…ONE MILLION BOOKS WILL BE GIVEN AWAY. A panel of bookseller and librarians have chosen only 30 titles– each of which will be printed in a special edition for this particular purpose. The goal of this day is to reach out to readers who may need a free book to get their reading muscle back in shape. It was a massive success in the UK, and we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that PEACE LIKE A RIVER (by Leif Enger) and Q IS FOR QUARRY (by Sue Grafton) are among the 30 chosen!

In other news:

Judy Blundell, whose latest book is written under her frequent penname “Jude Watson” has landed on the Indie Bestseller List with her contribution to the 39 Clues series, A KING’S RANSOM! Originally reported by our friends over at GalleyCat. Congrats, Judy!

Bo Caldwell’s second novel, THE CITY OF TRANQUIL LIGHT, has won the INSPY award for literature that grapples with expressions of Christian faith. Congrats to Bo! And you can read further here.

Alison Espach made two Best of 2011 lists for her debut novel, published last March, THE ADULTS! Wall Street Journal included it in their Top Ten Fiction and Library Journal chose the audiobook version of it for their list! Hooray!

Sheri Holman has a double-whammy of lists as well– her latest novel WITCHES ON THE ROAD TONIGHT was honored by both the Boston Globe and the Toronto Globe and Mail for their round-ups of best fiction from this year. Some fierce competitors this year!

And the folks over at Bookpage (who, let it be said, really do know their stuff) honored two of this year’s debut authors from our stable. David Rowell, for his novel THE TRAIN OF SMALL MERCIES, is included in a phenomenal group of selected “Best Titles” and…

Haley Tanner, the author of VACLAV & LENA, shares visual real estate with the colorful array of “Best Book Jackets”. Bookpage, we like your style!

To all of those reading, we here at The Friedrich Agency send you our warmest wishes for a happy, healthy and literary holiday season!

(And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap…)

We Double-Dog DARE You…

July 1st, 2011

To buy these suspenseful summer sequels! Whoever said Book #2 in a series paled in comparison to the first hasn’t had the good fortune to read John Verdon and Joseph Finder. What better way to ring in Summertime than with a decapitated bride (SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT) and a teenage girl who’s been buried alive (BURIED SECRETS)?? Whether you prefer your suspense in the form of an intricate and mind-bending puzzle OR in twisting, deftly-plotted adventure– we’ve got your Summer order here.

John Verdon, whose debut novel THINK OF A NUMBER (currently a finalist for the 2011 Nero Award), returns with retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney at the helm in his forthcoming thriller (out July 12th!), SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT. Gurney is lured into yet another wildly gripping case, this time being faced with the severed head of a blushing young bride, newly wed to an eminent psychiatrist in their very own back yard, at their very own wedding. Gurney is reluctantly, though irresistibly, drawn in, quickly being buffeted by a series of revelations that transform the bizarrely monstrous into the monstrously bizarre.  Open Letters Monthly canonizes Verdon along with classic thriller authors Robert Ludlum and Jack Higgins, calling Verdon “as good as it gets”. And Library Journal bestows SHUT with a big red star, calling it [a book with] “absorbing complications, perfect pacing… a must-read for thriller fans who enjoy tales that are not only gripping but believable.”

Also back on the job is Nick Heller, the tough-as-nails, high-powered intelligence investigator Finder introduced us to in his 2009 New York Times bestselling  VANISHED. Another second-in-the-series stunner, Finder’s BURIED SECRETS begins when a teenage girl meets a handsome stranger in a bar…He offers her a lift home, and she ends up buried alive in a coffin 10 feet underground. In a tremendous high-wire act, Heller attempts to crack the double mysteries of the daughter’s whereabouts and of what the girl’s father may be hiding. Jeff Ayers of The Associated Press calls BURIED SECRETS a “page-turning suspense” and another well-earned star from Library Journal, “Finder’s outstanding writing and engrossing plot twists embellish a captivating summer read.” (We told you!) See the gripping book trailer HERE!

So, everyone it’s time to slip on those flip flops and sun hats. Kick back, enjoy those fireworks…and brace yourself.

Oh, and use sunscreen!

Summer Debuts in Blue!

June 3rd, 2011

Summer is almost upon us, but why stock up on James Patterson for your beach trip when you could DISCOVER two fresh new voices?? Whether you’re in the mood for an entrancing, poignant love story or a hilarious and inspiring memoir, we’ve got the skinny on what’s happening in the exciting world of debut summer lit!

This week has seen lots of well-deserved coverage for the debut novel VACLAV & LENA, by Haley Tanner, and for the debut memoir MY YEAR WITH ELEANOR, by Noelle Hancock. Coincidentally, both of these women are far too young to be the accomplished storytellers that they are, and their fresh perspectives will startle you into laughter, or stun you into contemplative silence (depending on the page).

But the books are distinctly different. VACLAV & LENA, published to a rave New York Times Review earlier this week, follows two Russian immigrants as they navigate ESL and a planned career in magic, growing up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. A sudden separation wrenches the young lovebirds apart, until they are reunited as teens many years later. In dazzling, captivating prose, Haley Tanner delivers the love story into which we’d all want to insert ourselves.

In MY YEAR WITH ELEANOR, Noelle Hancock invites us to spend a year (the one prior to her 30th birthday) with her as she confronts a different fear each day, following her immediate, guttural response to an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This isn’t just shark cage diving and fighter piloting (although delightfully, we DO get those vicarious thrills as well), it’s also interviewing her ex-boyfriends about what went wrong, subjecting herself to Stand-Up comedy (the fear she says was the most daunting by far), and even working for a week in a funeral home. A former blogger and columnist, Noelle intersperses hilarious quips with breathtaking insight in the prose of this fresh debut. Check her out on The Today Show!

…And go buy both of these terrific books (hardcover please)!

Advice for a Young Author

March 9th, 2011

One of our clients forwarded us an email from a fan of hers– a 13 year-old boy who had just discovered her literature, and wanted to ask her advice about how he could get started on becoming a writer himself. Unable to hold herself back from chiming in, Molly Friedrich instantly compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts for this young writer, and although I’ve shared an abbreviated form of this list already on Twitter (#mollyslist) , I wanted to post the unabridged list here for anyone interested. Keep in mind, this advice is directed at a 13 year-old! But I think there’s something here for everyone.

Molly’s List:

l. Hang onto your name, it’s already perhaps a best-selling name.

2. Keep reading.  Then pick your favorite book and actually study it.  Outline it.  Figure out why it’s so compelling and terrific.

3. Read all the prize-winners of the last five years, two per month, from the Booker and the Pulitzer in Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

4. Then read the four most commercial writers of fiction on the Times Best-seller List.  Try to figure out how on earth they got there.  If you can’t stand James Patterson, then go to his very first book, ALONG CAME A SPIDER, and figure out what must have happened to launch him into the stratosphere of sales.

5. Do three things each day which have nothing to do with literature or any sort of book.  Don’t forget to have a life, so that you’ll be able to pull upon something to write about, even if radically altered.

6. Read Michael Greenberg’s collection about the life of the free-lance writer, BEG, BORROW, STEAL.  Brace yourself.

7. Stay away from social networking, Facebook, twittering, blogging, all of this.  Your brain is still too young for such distractions and your neural paths will go haywire.

8. Grow up.  Most prodigies who publish at age eighteen or so, fail to recover sufficiently to get it right in their ripe old twenties.  Pay no attention to the Justin Bieber world that is inspiring an entire generation of nubile singers.  You belong to a different nation.

9.  Good luck to you, you’ll need it.  At the end of the day, the decade, a good deal of success–after all the hard work–comes down to luck.

Too bad about the social networking caveat– she’s obviously not the one blogging this list! But perhaps we can all appreciate the irony. What do you think, folks– is there any advice you might add?