Thursday, 13 May 2010

Big News! Agent!

This week I signed with Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents! Victoria will be representing my second novel, Bulfinch, and future works of fiction to editors at publishing houses. I'm absolutely thrilled; Victoria already has a list of pretty classy editors to start submitting to, and I'm looking forward to hearing soon about how the first round goes! GSLA is a respected agency, and they're represented some big works, like Girl with a Pearl Earring.

So, for those who don't know, a literary agent represents an author's work to acquiring editors at publishing houses. This is a vital service to the author since most major publishers don't accept "unsolicited" manuscripts - in other words, manuscripts submitted directly by authors. Agents basically select out promising writers from the immense pool of hopeful authors, which is why editors prefer to look at submissions from them - the sheer volume of unsolicited manuscripts makes the agent's role in selection just as important to editors as it is to the authors they represent.

Getting an agent is a huge first step for any hopeful author after she's learned to actually finish a manuscript. Writers find agents by querying them: sending letters (or, more typically, emails) with a synopsis of the work, a brief bio of the writer, and some basics on the manuscript: length, stage of completion, genre. And boy do we query in droves: my mom and several of her writer friends asked one another about it once, and determined they'd each queried about 100 agents before signing with their first ones. I think I got off pretty easy with about 40 queries before Victoria came along.

The process doesn't end with the query, either; if an agent likes the query, she might ask for a partial, or excerpt, of the manuscript, of anywhere from five to fifty pages; if the first partial is short, the agent may even ask for a second, longer partial before finally requesting the full manuscript. And even then, some agents - like mine - may ask for revisions before considering representation: they want to know you're willing to work with them, and there might be issues in the manuscript that make it unmarketable in its current state, but they want to be certain that revision will address those problems satisfactorily before agreeing to represent.

After an agent agrees to represent your work, she'll begin submitting it to editors. A lot of agencies also handle subsidiary rights if the author retains a portion of them after an initial sale: electronic rights, film rights, foreign rights, reprint rights. Agents work on commission and typically subtract 15% from the sale of most rights as their fee.

And that's how publishing goes 'round. Please ascribe any glaring errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation to a dangerous concoction of cold medication, sinus congestion and David Foster Wallace.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Check it out - as I've mentioned here before, my mom is a writer too, and the best writing teacher I've ever had. She was invited to write a post for the MamaWriters blog, and instead of writing about being a mom and a writer, she wrote about being the mom of a writer. It's really sweet, and you can read it here. Don't forget to visit her website too, Love you, mom!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

This week I received revisions for Queens of All the Earth from Harrison Demchick, my editor at Bancroft Press. Getting accepted is only half the battle - there's still a lot of work to do, but I'm hoping that with some focus I can get through the edits in a month and a half, working on evenings and weekends. Whew! Even with all this work ahead of me, it's still exciting to think that this will end up as a book on a shelf.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

wants to be lawyer, filmmaker, novelist

It's done! The second major revision of my second novel, Bulfinch, is done, and I think this is its final state, barring minor adjustments. It was hard to put it down - after two years, the characters have begun to feel very real to me, and almost like a family, and it's a little strange and alienating to realize that from an outsider's perspective, it might seem sad to be so attached to creatures who only live in my imagination. I just hope that when other people read it, they can feel the same connection, and the magic of seeing these characters come alive. I don't look back at the two years I spent writing and revising Bulfinch as a process of creating something; by the end, it felt like a weird combination of playing God and experiencing something, as if I were there with my characters, just recording what they did and said, and though I dictated to them what would occur, they sometimes shot back with unexpected quirks. If it ever gets published, I'll have to return to it again to satisfy editors' suggestions, but I have a feeling that this is the end, for this project, of that supernaturally intense phase of absorption. I'll miss it.

But I already have plenty of other things to look forward to - such as the Washington, DC 48 Hour Film Project, in which I'll be joining a team to create a short film in 48 hours using a prompt that will only be revealed to us at the start of the contest. I'll be the primary writer and rough cut editor for my team, and I'm thrilled - it will be quite an adventure, creatively and logistically. Franny, my little DVX, will be sitting this one out, sadly - she's been one-upped by another team-member's P2 camera. Franny will come out soon, though, once I finally convince her that not all filmmakers are section men.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Chatterton Screening at JHU Film Fest

Hello hello! Sorry I've been neglecting the blog...when I only have time to do one thing, either write here or work on the projects I'd write about, I have to work on the projects! And the day job has been especially demanding.

But for everyone in the Baltimore/DC area, this weekend you should visit the JHU Film Fest! It's organized by a great bunch of undergrads and professors, featuring international submissions mixed in with local works and classic film. Tonight they're screening La Dolce Vita, and on Sunday they're hosting the festival premiere of Chatterton! Go to their website (link above) for more information, and if you're in the area, make sure to stop by. I've done it a couple of times and helped organize it last year, and it's a really fun event.

If you're not in the Baltimore/DC area, remember you can still watch Chatterton online!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Death Is the Cool Night

My mom's latest mystery novel has just been released on Amazon's Kindle! Death Is the Cool Night is a winding murder mystery set in the drama and intrigue of Peabody Conservatory's opera program during the tumultuous 1940s, as war looms over the country. It's an atmospheric tale that will haunt you like the lied that provided its title. Check it out here.

Also, you can visit my mom's website here! Check out her acclaimed comedic women's fiction and young adult mystery series, and stand by for info about her upcoming historical drama!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

I now own a lovely little Panasonic DVX100A, sold to me, with all sorts of excellent accessories and a case, by Richard Chisolm, friend of my old professor John Mann.

I'm naming it Franny.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Poor little blog, so lonely without me. What's new? Traipsing up to Baltimore this weekend to buy a camera. It's a beautiful day. Chatterton is making its merry way to two festivals this week; two more going out next week. I have a fresh story to work on and fresh places to take the old ones. And outside, it smells like spring.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Article on Chatterton!

Check it out: my old college newspaper interviewed me about Chatterton and Bedford Square! Read the article here.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

not dead yet

It's been a while since a post here, mostly because my Life as a Day Job has been pretty hectic, and partially because a lot of my projects are either done or in the boring preparing-to-start or wrapping-up phases. Not boring for me, but boring for anyone who has to sit and listen to it. So what's going on?

+researching festivals for Chatterton
+revising my second novel, Bulfinch, for a potentially interested agent
+waiting for edits to come in on The Queens of All the Earth
+figuring out once and for all the correct way to capitalize The Queens of All the Earth
+collecting my thoughts on my next film projects: writing illegible notes to myself in the middle of the night, daydreaming while the progress bars of innumerable video transcodes inch along on my work computer, enjoying sudden weird visions of a scene while listening to the perfect song, walking into walls with increasing frequency because my head really isn't here

Stay posted. Things will get interesting soon.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Chatterton premiere!

My friend and former professor Meredith has offered to "premiere" Chatterton at the JHU student screenings this Friday, February 12. I'm excited to see it on a big screen, in Baltimore, with all the friends who worked on it and supported me while I traveled into the realm of Crazy-Exhausted Artist to get it done. Partytime! In a totally school-appropriate way.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


It's done. Enjoy!

Chatterton from Hannah Sternberg on Vimeo.

(Keep your eyes peeled for crew member cameos in the final scene: Aljosa, Carlos, Steph, Emma, Charles and me.)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

It's been over a week since I wrote here, so I present to you now, dear readers, a list of Causes That May Prevent One from Finishing One's Short Film During the Week in which One Intended To*:

a) getting a bad cold
B) getting a good job
6) saying good-bye to old job
xxi) saying hello to liquor
e) only with the best of friends
&) needing very seriously to spend one night simply lying in the dark, listening to the rain tink against the windows
...) needing very seriously to see the people who make me smile
5) seeing them, and smiling
!) taking a rest, drinking the air, tasting the rain, so I can
91) finish the film next week, and do it well.

*I will not be held responsible for any capitalization errors in the list title above, due to the items contained in the list, technically making it a list of Causes That May Prevent One from Finishing One's Short Film During the Week in which One Intended To, and May Also Incite Random Capitalization Errors which One Has Neither the Energy nor the Desire to Correct Despite One's Usually Freakish Fascination with Grammar.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

New Year, New Book, New Film!

I'm very happy to announce that I've sold my first book to Bancroft Press of Baltimore, Maryland.

The Queens of All the Earth is a young adult novel about two neurotic sisters who escape their iceberg mother one Thanksgiving by traveling to Barcelona to find a little peace. But they stumble into the opposite, as the eccentric travelers they meet in their hostel show them what they're really running from. The Queens of All the Earth is a gentle coming-of-age inspired by E. M. Forster's A Room with a View, a story of young love and awakening.

Bancroft Press has also purchased the cover I'd designed for the novel. You can see it below; I hope to post more tidbits about the book, and give away some free copies, as its release approaches. Right now, it's scheduled to come out this fall.

In other exciting news, I'll finish post-production on the Bedford Square short film Chatterton within two weeks. Once that's wrapped up, I'll be focusing on festival submissions and internet promotion - meaning I'll finally have time to compress and post bits of it here, and soon I'll even make the whole film available online.

So what else is coming up in this new year? Well, after a little break, I'm doing another revision of Bulfinch; I'm hoping to start working on an album-length lost-and-found film borrowing some music from the band Menomena; writing a few film columns for Historical Novels Review; and working on some new fiction. Oh, also, holding a job and trying to be a normal person.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Chatterton is almost complete!

In the last week Jay has sent me first cuts of the sound mix and animation sequence for Chatterton, officially earning him Batman status for working on my film, surviving finals and the holidays, and applying to grad school all at the same time. I'm hoping to visit Baltimore next weekend to wrap everything up. Some of the film festivals I'm sending it to have ambiguous warnings against submissions with "internet distribution," but I say, screw it, they can't stop me. I'm posting the film online because so many people have helped and supported me throughout the entire process that I want every one of them to be able to enjoy it and share it with their friends.

Last May, a few weeks after graduation, I felt a little lost, wondering what to do with all the passion I felt for art, when I had to get a job, pay my bills, and be a responsible person. So I started writing a story about four kids caught in that decision - four artists who aren't quite put together. As soon as I finished, I knew I absolutely had to create this film, so for the next two months I did everything I could to gather all the pieces I needed - I wheedled friends into acting and crewing for me; I borrowed equipment from my old school, from a professor and from former classmates; I bought a month of weekends in my friends' apartment with a few six-packs and a smile. I thought of everyone I knew who could do something special, and asked them to help - help make costumes, take pictures, decorate sets, manage production, light scenes, run lines, animate, record sound, become the world's only Human Steadicam, drink beer and stand around charmingly in a party scene, keep my head from exploding.

Then, in September, to my overwhelming wonder, I succeeded in shooting an entirely independent short film - on time, on budget, and directly within my vision for it. Up until the last hour before I left for Baltimore on the evening before the first shoot, I was still unconvinced that it would actually happen. But each day we worked, I grew more confident. Each day convinced me that this - filmmaking - was the thing that I am strangely built for.

It was hard - we started shooting only a few weeks after I began my new full-time job. For three weekends, I ran myself down until I was sick with exhaustion, then came to the office on Monday. And then for three months after that, I juggled my new life in DC with visits to Baltimore to edit the film - weekends that were always too short to do all the work and see all the friends I wanted to see. I invariably caught a train several hours later than I had planned on returning home on Sunday, and nourished a tidy little caffeine addiction.

But my friends worked just as hard, giving up days and weekends during a busy semester, generating their own creative work to contribute, and giving me a more objective eye on my own work. Every effort they contributed was a vote of confidence in me and my vision, and it inspired me to work even harder. It's been half a year now - ending in a new year - and I can barely believe it's almost over, something like the feeling of unreality when we finally started shooting. I'm incredibly proud of us. And I can't wait to start the next one.