Wednesday, May 31, 2017

New book: Tiffany: A cozy murder mystery, by Rob Kelley

Hi, Brian:

Tiffany, the first of a series of cozy mysteries, is now out in Paperback (Amazon) and Ebook (McMillan). This is small-town sleuthing set in Chelsea, Vermont.

Harry Kavanagh, a wealthy mutual funds manager, is found bludgeoned to death in his living room. Shortly after, his beautiful, pampered, trophy wife, Tiffany, is discovered walking in a daze down by the old Moxley Covered Bridge with no recollection of how she got there, but when the county deputies search her white Mercedes sports car, they find the a bloody fire place poker in the trunk. Murder one, Sherrif Grady decides. It’s a slam dunk.

Luckily for Tiffany, a local doctor with a penchant for helping people in trouble finds traces of an amnesia-causing drug in Tiffany’s blood system. The doctor becomes convinced Tiffany is being railroaded and organizes a dream team to come to Tiffany’s defence – and to find the real killer along the way.

Rob Kelley

Tiffany is available on here, available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon.com here.

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A new racism in our kids' schools


Update May 2017: Teaching "white privilege" is now a standard part of the high school curriculum in Ontario, and it's been in the media recently (see Margaret Wente piece about it in the Globe & Mail here), so I thought I might re-post this piece I originally published in the Jewish Tribune back in 2012. 
Please also join the very active discussion on my Quick Brown Fox Facebook page here (though you'll have to scroll down to find it). ~Brian

On May 5, (2012) an American, Tim Wise, was a keynote speaker at the Toronto District School Board’s  (TDSB’s) Futures Conference on Equity and Inclusive Education.

Wise is a card-carrying member of the American far left who doesn’t believe Israel has any right to exist. Moreover, he frequently writes for the far left magazine Counterpunch. 

This magazine also publishes articles by the Holocaust denier who calls himself Israel Shamir, by Gilad Atzmon who suggests that “maybe Hitler was right,” and by James Petras who believes that the “Zionist power configuration” controls America.

Strange company for a man who calls himself an anti-racist. But in truth, Wise’s mission is to emphasize racial divisions, not bridge them, and on May 5, he lectured Canadian teachers about the evils of “white privilege.”

In his essays, Wise explains white privilege thus: “The concept is rooted in the common-sense observation that there can be no down without an up.” Or if blacks are underprivileged, whites must be “overprivileged.”

To illustrate, Wise gives a laundry list of supposed white privileges, including “not having to worry about triggering negative stereotypes, rarely having to feel out of place, not having to worry about racial profiling, etc.”

Note that these privileges are defined negatively. Obviously, stereotyping is wrong. But how does not being stereotyped amount to a privilege? Or if blacks are deprived of dignity, are we to understand that whites must have too much of it, as if there’s just so much human dignity to go around?

Of course some people do come from a privileged background. I’d say that President Obama’s kids have a leg up on most people – and good for them! Life’s too short to worry about other people’s luck.

But the notion of white privilege is disconnected from any actual privilege. The claim is that ordinary, fair-minded and hardworking Canadians have more than they deserve – but only if they’re white.

A poor white kid with a single mom on welfare may not have breakfast, but theoretically he has a whole knapsack of privileges: male privilege, hetero privilege, ablest privilege – you name it.

Theorists of privilege fall into such absurdities because they discard individuals and see only groups; thus if some whites have been racists, all whites – you, me and our grand kids – are accountable for it.

So, for example, in “Of National Lies and Racial America,” Wise writes: “For most white folks, indignation just doesn’t wear well.”

Why? Because whites are morally compromised by the “genocide of indigenous persons, and the enslavement of Africans.” Obviously, no whites living today committed these crimes but other white people did and so, by the raced-based logic of privilege, whites today bear the responsibility.

Unfortunately, inviting Wise isn’t a one off for the Toronto District School Board. Much worse, the Board incorporates the notion of privilege into the curriculum with learning resources such as the “GLSEN Jump Start Guide: Examining Power, Privilege and Oppression.”

The literature on white privilege notes that students resist the concept. Sociologists Dan Pence and Arthur Fields write: “White students often react to in-class discussions about white privilege with a continuum of behaviors ranging from outright hostility to a ‘wall of silence.’"

Pence and Fields never consider that the students may correctly perceive themselves to be under racist attack.

The GLSEN guide recommended by the Toronto Board instructs teachers to solicit confessions from students about “the times that they have been oppressive or have used their privilege over someone else.”

Doubtless, our kids find it hard to come up with suitable sins. To help them, the guide gives an example: planning “a trip together without recognizing that one member of the group cannot afford to participate.”

That may not sound like oppression to me and you, but it’s all grist for teaching our kids that they’re part of a system of oppression that has produced every crime from slavery to genocide. The GLSEN guide observes that students may feel guilty. What a surprise!

Things may get worse. Professors at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and the departments of education at York and Ryerson universities are busily lecturing student teachers on the ideology of white privilege.

This hit the news back in 2010 when the media noticed that OISE had granted a student a master’s degree for a thesis denouncing Jews as privileged and racist and Holocaust education as a Zionist plot. (Read the Toronto Star's report on the scandal here, Werner Cohn's essay here, and his follow-ups here.)

It should come as no surprise that theorists who divides people into oppressed and oppressor groups, into good races and bad should put Jews in the bad column, particularly as the further to the left one goes, the more common it is to find people examining race through the lens of oppression and privilege.

As a parent of two kids in a Toronto public school, I'm glad to say that Toronto School Board truly does support equality for all our students, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation – and usually gets things right (though certainly not always). But because it does  support equality, the Board must expel the notion of white privilege.


P.S. If Tim Wise has ever given two minutes thought to Canada, it’s not evident from his writings, but no one should doubt his talents as a speaker. At the TDSB’s Futures Conference, he reportedly compared being a person of colour to a disability, castigated Canadians for pervasive racism, and received a standing ovation. You can read a report on his talk here

Still, you might wonder if teaching anti-racism actually does reduce racism. Not according to a study conducted in the Netherlands. Apparently anti-racism education actually increases animosity to other cultures. And it's easy to see why: You tell one group they're victims and another group they're victimizers, no one's happy. See a report on the study here

A slightly shorter version of this piece was originally published in the Jewish Tribune and on Harry's Place in Britain. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Intensive Creative Writing, Sept 28 – Dec 7, in Georgetown

Intensive Creative Writing
Ten special weeks with a group of special writers
Thursday evenings, 6:45 – 9:00 p.m.
September 28 – December 7, 2017 (10 weeks. No class Nov 30)
St. Alban's Church, 537 Main Street, Georgetown, Ontario (in the village of Glen Williams (Map here.)
This fall, the Intensive course will also be offered Monday mornings in Toronto. See here. See details of all seven weekly course offered this fall here

The Intensive course is for experienced writers; people who have been working on their craft for a while, who have some experience in the art of giving helpful critiques, and who are working on their own projects. 
During course, you’ll be asked to bring in five pieces of your writing for detailed feedback. All your pieces may be from the same work, such as a novel in progress, or they may be stand alone pieces. You bring whatever you want to work on.  
In addition to learning how to critique your own work and receiving constructive suggestions about your writing, you’ll discover that the greatest benefits come from seeing how your classmates approach and critique a piece of writing and how they write and re-write.

Fee: $176.11 + 13% hst = 199
To reserve your spot now, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Instructor Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada's most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John.But his proudest boast is that he’s has helped many of his students get published. 
Read a review of the Intensive course here. Read more reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here


See Brian’s complete current schedule hereincluding writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Book of American of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates, reviewed by Paul Daniel

736 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $30.97 (Canada)

Abortion. Even now, it is still the issue for which reconciliation appears impossible. Both sides, as passionate now as in the past, have only intensified their positions and vilified their opponents. Ironically, it is that passion that links both sides’ humanity.

This is what makes Joyce Carol Oates’ new work of fiction, A Book of American Martyrs, so necessary and worthwhile. Rather than relying on warmed over tropes, Ms Oates chooses a careful and thoughtful examination of the personalities contained in both sides of this never-ending debate.

This work of fiction focuses on the murder of Dr. Gus Voorhees who is murdered in November 1999 while walking into a women’s clinic that provides abortions. He is murdered by Luther Dunphy, a God-fearing, God-serving believer who is convinced the murder of the doctor is saving lives of the unborn. Oates devotes a significant portion of the book to the effect Voorhees’ work has on his family. In between dodging threats and making due with a father who is often absent, the three children desperately try to retain a facsimile of unity even while divisions rise up between them.

While reading the book, I couldn’t help but think Oates’ story was reminiscent of the October 1998  murder of Barnett Slepian, an abortion provider who was killed by a shotgun blast into his Amherst, New York, home by James Copp.

Oates presents the perspectives of the family members of the victim and the murderer with a great deal of sensitivity. The murder itself takes place on the first page of the book in a sudden and shocking turn.

Joyce Carol Oates
While not condoning the violent action, Oates attempts to show what led Dunphy to this terrible moment. The death of his daughter because of a car accident and his wife’s emotional decline are heaped on the shoulders of Dunphy. Looking for some relief or a resolution to the pain he is enduring, he finds it in church and a particularly fiery priest outraged that abortion is still legal.

The preacher asks his congregation if there is not one among us who will take a stand and save lives. Perhaps not realizing the power of his oratory, the priest is approached by Dunphy about his words, the true meaning and what needs to be done.

The priest, realizing that Dunphy is dealing with an overwhelming sadness, attempts to diminish his growing desire to take a stand. The effect of his counselling is negligible.

The real strength of the book comes from the examination of how the two families are affected by this murder. In some ways, both families share the same fate: all the children in the respective families have no father, the wives are put in the unenviable position of having to bind the emotional wounds, stand by their men and somehow find a way to go on.

It would be understandable to feel compassion for the victim’s family as well as the family of the murderer. They are the unintended victims of this violent action. In a subtle manner, Oates is supportive of Dr. Voorhees but cannot fail to appreciate the sacrifice made, if involuntarily, by the family of the murderer.

In this monumental work that stretches out over 700 pages, Oates writing style is succinct and clear without being devoid of feeling. Readers can’t help but appreciate the emotional price that is paid by innocent bystanders caught in the emotional, political and literal crossfire of an unresolved debate.

Quick Brown Fox welcomes your reviews of books and movies or whatever else catches your eye. Details here. Read how to write a book review (or any kind of review) here.

Paul Daniel is an audio producer at Accessible Media Inc., (AMI) in Toronto, Ontario. Writing and reading have always been his second and third passions following his first passion, his wife, Mary. He’s enjoyed being in Brian’s  creative writing class. “Brian’s class has reminded me the pleasures and challenges of writing,” says Paul. “There’s never a dull moment.” 

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Great markets and contests: $400 for short stories, $200 for poems, $25 for horror; a prize for young people and $25,000 for faith writing

Note: Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio and get each post delivered to your Inbox. Also, if you’re not yet on my newsletter, send me an email, including your locale, to: brianhenry@sympatico.ca ~ Brian

Hi, Brian!
 I'm writing to you today in the hope that you can help our social media campaign for the Quebec Writers’ Federation Literary Prize for Young Writers gain more traction.
Young writers, the #qwf #youthlitprize for emerging writers is open for submissions. The prize will be awarded for the best short story, poem, or work of non-fiction written in English and published in a literary publication in 2015 or 2016 by a writer between 16 and 24 years old.
Submit yourself or pass this on to someone you know who may be.
Deadline June 15, 2017. Full details here.
 And visit the QWF Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
Thanks,
Emily Newson

Alban Lake publishing seeks novels, novellas, and collections; 100-word stories and submissions for horror anthology.
Anthology: The Mad Visions of al-Hazred. “About 730 AD, an Arab named Abdul Al-Hazred wrote the Al-Azif, a grimoire and memorial to the Old Ones. For this crime, he was driven insane and eventually devoured by a vengeful god in full view of horrified onlookers. What drove him to write this loathsome tome? What terrible visions haunted him so badly he felt he had to risk his soul to put them down on paper?” Stories should be 3,000 – 10,000 words. Pays $25. Deadline: June 30, 2017. Full guidelines here.
Also seeks submissions for their current Drabble contests – stories precisely 100 words. Them: Adventures in Plumbing; deadline June 30, 2017; details here. Theme: Alien Bedtime Stories; deadline July 31, 2017; details here.
Finally Alban Lake publishes novels, novellas, and some collections of short stories and poetry. They’re mainly looking for speculative science fiction, though they also publish fantasy and horror. For novels, pays 20% of print sales and 50% of ebook sales. For novellas and collections, pays $15 plus 10% of print sales and 50% of ebook sales
But read their submission guideline first here.

The Threepenny Review: "There are vanishingly few magazines left in this country which seem pitched at the general literary reader and which consistently publish such interesting, high-quality criticism, reflection, argument, fiction, and poetry… Threepenny is thankfully still out there." ~ Jonathan Franzen. 
Threepenny Review seeks reviews and critical articles, poetry, short memoir, and fiction. Critical articles should be about 1,200 to 2,500 words, Table Talk items 1,000 words or less, stories and memoirs 4,000 words or less, and poetry 100 lines or less.  Pays $200/poem, $400/story. 
Deadline: June 30, 2017. Submission guidelines here

Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize for Faith and Writing ~ $25,000 in prizes
George Elliott Clarke,
one of the poetry judges
In A Secular Age, Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor writes that many modern people have imagined the gods away and so live in a disenchanted world. Yet despite this, they continue to be haunted by moments of wonder (or fear) that tempt them towards belief. Could there be something more to the world than meets the eye?
Of course, many Canadians have an idea about what this something might be. And they live their lives within communities that have sought to understand it, share it, live according to it, and pass it on to their children and grandchildren. These are the thousands of Canadians of faith communities, Canadians who participate in the myriad of religions that make up the social landscape of Canada.
Yet it’s sometimes easy to forget about all these individuals and communities of faith, and to imagine Canada as one increasingly "secular" - by which we often mean irreligious - nation. The Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize for Faith and Writing is designed to help give voice to these individuals and communities and to help re-awaken Canadians to the powerful truth, goodness, and beauty that belief brings into our shared lives. 
There will be $25,000 of Prize money awarded.
    1. 1st place for short story: $10,000
    2. 1st place for suite of poems: $10,000
    3. 2nd place for short story: $2,500
    4. 2nd place for suite of poems: $2,500
Randy Boyagoda, president PEN Canada
and one of the short story judges
Also: All the shortlisted nominees will have their work published in an anthology to be published in 2018.
There is a $10 submission fee.
Submissions for the poetry prize must come in the form of a suite of poems connected to the prize theme (see “Purpose of Prize”) ranging between 300 and 500 lines. (NB: Poetry prizes are for the entire suite, NOT the best poem within the suite.)
Submissions for the short story prize must be connected to the prize theme (see “Purpose of Prize”) and be within the 6,000-word limit.
Deadline: June 30, 2017. Full contest details here.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


Navigating tip:
 For more paying markets, go to the Labels for this posting listed below and click on Paying Markets, or Best Paying Markets. In the list of Labels, you’ll also find a links to various other collections of postings. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Writing for Children & for Young Adults in 2 locales: May 27, in St. Catharines with Anne Shone, senior editor, Scholastic Books, and Aug 12, in Collingwood with literary agent Monica Pacheco, Plus weekly Kid Lit class in the fall

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong,
a New York Times #1 bestselling author
and one of Brian's students
Canadian Authors Association, Niagara, presents…
Writing for Children & for Young Adults ~ the world’s hottest market
Saturday, May 27, 2017
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
St. Catharines Central Library, Mills Room, 54 Church Street, St. Catharines,  Ontario (Map here)

Note: The Writing for Children & for Young Adults workshop is also offered Saturday, August 12, in Collingwood, with literary agent Monica Pacheco (see here), and a weekly Writing Kid Lit course will be offered Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov in Oakville (see here).

If you want to write the next best-selling children’s books or just want to create stories for your own kids, this workshop is for you. Learn how to write stories kids and young adults will love and find out what you need to know to sell your book.

Special option: You may, but don't have to, bring 2 or 3 copies of the opening couple pages (first 500 words) of your children’s book or young adult novel (or 1,000 words if that will get you to the end of your picture book or to the end of your first chapter.) If you’re not currently working on a children’s story, don’t worry, we’ll get you started on the spot!

Workshop leader 
Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He teaches at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers and is the author of a children’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Tribute Publishing Inc). But his proudest boast is that he’s has helped many of his students get published. 

Guest speaker Anne Shone is a Senior Editor at Scholastic Canada, where she acquires books for publication. Scholastic Canada does not usually accept un-agented manuscripts, unless you’ve heard Anne speak at a workshop, so for anyone considering submitting to Scholastic, this workshop is a great opportunity. 

Anne has worked in book publishing for close to twenty years, concentrating on children’s books for the last fifteen. In that time, she has worked with many of Canada’s top children’s book authors and illustrators.

Recent highlights include: picture books (Scribble by Ruth Ohi, What Is Peace? by Wallace Edwards and Mittens to Share by Emil Sher, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher); novels (Speechless by Jennifer Mook-Sang, Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher and Bounced by Ted Staunton); and nonfiction (Colossal Canada: 100 Epic Facts and Feats by Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky and The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Brian Deines), to name just a few.

Fee: 43.36 + 13% hst = 49 paid in advance by mail or Interac
or 46.90 + 13% hst = 53 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve a spot now, email: 
brianhenry@sympatico.ca


See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Interview with literary agent Alec Shane of Writers House

Note: Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio, and get each post delivered to your Inbox. ~ Brian

Alec Shane is a literary agent with Writers House. One of the largest literary agencies in the world, Writers House prides itself on providing an extraordinary amount of individual client attention, combined with the full service benefits of foreign and sub rights departments, as well as a full accounting and royalty staff.
“I began my career at Writers House as an intern in September of 2008 and simply refused to leave,” says Alec. “So I was given the wonderful job of Assistant to Jodi Reamer {who represents Stephenie Meyer and John Green, among others}. I’m now also in the process of actively building my own list and currently represent a fairly eclectic mix of Children's and Adult fiction and nonfiction. I'm eagerly looking for both.
“Prior to working at Writers House, I held a number of different jobs, including a brief stint out in Los Angeles as a professional stuntman. And if you don't think knowing how to take a punch and getting thrown through a glass window are both essential tools in the book business, then you clearly don't know publishing.”

Genres and Specialties
Fiction: General fiction, Mystery, Suspense/thriller, Children's books, Juvenile fiction, Middle-Grade, Horror, Historical Fiction
Nonfiction: Biography, History, Sports, Humor, Military History
Best known projects: SHARK WARS, EJ Altbacker, THE LAST PUNISHER, Kevin Lacz, NIGHT ON FIRE, Ronald Kidd, THE BOOK OF BLOOD, HP Newquist, HOW THE STATES GOT THEIR SHAPES, Mark Stein, YOU MIGHT REMEMBER ME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PHIL HARTMAN, Mike Thomas

The interview…
Quick Brown Fox (QBF): Do you have suggestions about getting manuscripts in shape before writers start the submission process?
Alec: This is incredibly important, as once a manuscript is out, it’s out. One of my biggest pet peeves as an agent is when an author who queried me recently emails me to ask if I can swap out the original query with a new, revised one; definitely don’t that. Workshop it, edit it, edit it again, get second, third, and fourth reads, and when you think to yourself “if I have to look at this manuscript one more time I’m going to break something,” then it’s time to send out.

QBF: Should writers have their manuscripts reviewed by a professional editor before submitting?
Alec: It’s never a bad thing to have a professional editor take a look at a manuscript, as a lot of editors also offer advice on who to best submit to and will also work on getting your query letter into shape and all other aspects of the process. That said, by no means is it necessary; as long as you have a good critique partner or a strong editorial eye, you can save yourself the money. Professional editors can definitely help, but not using one isn’t going to doom your manuscript.

QBF: Are there any books about writing or editing that you especially recommend?
Alec: It kind of starts and stops with On Writing by Stephen King, in my opinion. It’s probably the best “how to” book on writing out there. Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Al Zuckerman is also a good resource.

QBF: What sort of books are you especially looking for?
Alec: I’d love to find the next Goosebumps or any kind of MG or YA horror. I’d also love to find a mystery or thriller with a female serial killer. The villain always seems to be a guy; women can be just as disturbed, twisted, and evil as men, so let’s get a female Hannibal Lecter out into the world.
On the nonfiction side, I’m looking for a book about the history of the American barbershop, as well as a book about the men who were commissioned as flamethrowers in WWII.

QBF: Is there anything you see too much of or that seems overdone these days?
Alec: I see a lot of submissions that mirror what’s currently on the shelves, as if authors see what’s trending and then try to write to that trend. The problem with this strategy is that by the time the book actually hits the shelves, the trend is already over; remember, the time that elapses between when a book sells to a publisher and when it’s released is at least a year, sometimes more.
That said, here are some opening scenes in novels that I see way too much. If your book opens with any of the following, know that there are a ton of other novels doing the exact same thing:
- Just waking up in the morning
- On a train/plane/automobile on the way to your new school/job/home/life
- At a funeral
- Out for a morning run
- Getting chased through the woods
- Getting yelled at by mom to come downstairs and eat breakfast/get to school

QBF: On the children’s fiction side, do you represent the whole range: Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult?
Alec: The bulk of my children’s list is Middle Grade; I have a few YA projects, but as my kids list is skewed primarily towards boys, there’s more demand for that kind of book in the MG sphere. Teenage boys tend to jump straight to adult books, so finding a strong boy-centric YA is difficult (not that I’m not looking!). I wish I understood picture books, but I just don’t have an eye for them.

QBF: Are you interested in adventure fantasy?
Alec: Absolutely! Although I will say that sword and sorcery fantasy isn’t really my thing. Not a big Lord of the Rings guy, so no elves and wizards and fairies and the like. But amazing new worlds and ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances is right up my alley.

QBF: On the adult side, are you interested in women’s fiction?
Alec: Not particularly.

QBF: The terminology in the publishing world doesn’t seem terribly consistent. How do you define upmarket or upscale fiction and are you looking for it?
Alec: Upmarket fiction is usually defined as fiction that straddles the line between commercial and literary. Literary fiction is very heavy on beautiful prose, whereas commercial fiction is primarily plot-driven and doesn’t rely as much on the writing.
There’s also “high concept” fiction, which is usually defined as a book in which the plot is easily accessible and you understand the concept right away. “Cloned dinosaurs run amok at a futuristic theme park” (Jurassic Park) or “sleazy lawyer finds himself incapable of lying for 24 straight hours” (Liar Liar) are good examples of high concept ideas.
I’m just looking for good books. I don’t care about upmarket or literary or speculative or whatever other term you want to throw in. Just write something awesome and send it my way.

QBF: Can you tell us about your process when you’re considering a project...
Alec: I usually read a manuscript several times before deciding to take it on. When you acquire a book, you’re working for free until it sells, so you have to really believe in it in order to pull the trigger. I’ve read manuscripts that I have absolutely loved, but decided not to take on because I knew I’d have a hard time selling it, so it also isn’t simply about books that I really enjoy. The project has to hit that sweet spot between “I want to work on this book for the next several years” and “there is room for this book on the shelf.” So I take a lot of things into account before signing a new client.

QBF: What grabs your attention when you’re reading a query letter?     
Alec: The thing I look for more than anything else when reading a query is whether or not the author did his/her homework and is querying me for a reason. Even something as simple as “I noticed on your Publisher Marketplace page that you’re looking for horror novels” or “I saw from a recent Twitter post that you’d like to see a book that features a big dog” will go an incredibly long way in making your query stand out. All too often, authors write one extremely generic, form query, and then just blast it out to every agent email address they can find. Doing your research and making sure you personalize your query is going to work wonders.

QBF: Besides a great book, what else you look for in a client? Do you require your clients to have a strong social media presence?
Alec: One element that often flies under the radar when this question gets asked is including whether or not we’re going to get along. I always speak with an author on the phone before officially offering representation, as I want to make sure we have a good dynamic and share the same vision for a book and a career. Signing with an agent is a lot like a marriage; you don’t marry someone who isn’t a good fit for you, and the same applies to the author/agent relationship.
In terms of social media presence, it’s never a bad thing to be active, but I have never read a book, loved it, and not taken it on because the author didn’t have enough Twitter followers. I worry that authors spend too much time getting Facebook likes and not enough time honing their craft.
Nonfiction is a different story, however. When it comes to nonfiction, platform is extremely important, so I’ll put much more weight into online presence when considering a nonfiction project.

QBF: In general, what is the outlook for new and aspiring writers?
Alec: What I think makes it most difficult for aspiring writers right now is the combination of how impatient we have become as a society and how many outlets for publishing your book currently exist. Publishing a book is a long and sometimes glacially slow process.
With very few exceptions, if I were to sell a book tomorrow, it wouldn’t be coming out until next year at the very earliest. And that doesn’t take into account how long it takes to write the book, revise it, revise it again, revise it a third, fourth, and fifth time, find an agent, revise with the agent, revise with the agent again, submit to editors, find the right buyer, negotiate the contract, sign the contract, revise with the editor, and revise with the editor again. That whole process can take years.
OR, you can write it, go to Amazon, click that little “Publish” button, and your book is up for the world to read – along with the 15,000 other books that came out that day. You have to be patient and willing to do the work if you want to make it as an author – and a lot of folks have a lot of trouble doing that these days.

QBF: Can you tell us something about how you work with authors....
Alec: I’m very hands-on as an agent, especially editorially. The market is extremely tight right now, so it’s important to have the strongest manuscript possible when sending out to editors, and I work with my authors to ensure that everything that can be done gets done. I also like to try and custom-tailor my agenting style to fit an author’s specific needs; some authors like to get more attention than others, and so it’s hard to describe my style in broad-strokes terms.

QBF: What writing advice do you give most to your clients?
Alec: Don’t worry about trends or what’s hot right now or anything like that. Just write what you want to write and what you’re excited about. I can list all the rules and dos and don’ts and clich├ęs and everything else about publishing – but all of that just vanishes in the face of a great book.

Query Alec at: ashane@writershouse.com
The subject heading should read: "Query for Alec Shane: TITLE"
Include the first 10 pages of your manuscript. No attachments.


Brian Henry will lead Writing for Children & for Young Adult workshops on Saturday, May 27, in St. Catharines with Anne Shone, senior editor at Scholastic Books (see here), and on Saturday, Aug 12, in Collingwood with literary agent Monica Pacheco (see here). 
In the fall, Brian will lead a weekly Writing Kid Lit class, Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov 30, in Oakville (see here).
Note: For updated listings of Writing for Children & for Young adult workshops and for weekly Kid lit classes, see here (and scroll down).

And don't miss joining us for a weekend writing retreat at Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin Park. There are two retreats scheduled for 2017: June in Algonquin Writing Retreat, Friday, June 2 – Sunday, June 4 – or extend your retreat to Monday, June 5 (see here) and the Fall Colours Writing Retreat, Friday, Sept 15 – Sunday, Sept 17 (see here).
To reserve a spot or for more information, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Other upcoming workshops include: “You can write great dialogue,” Saturday, June 10 in Guelph, with author Hannah McKinnon, (see here), Saturday, July 15, in Mississauga (see here), and Saturday, July 22, in London (see here), and “How to Write Great Characters,” Saturday, June 17 in Burlington (see here).

This summer Brian will be leading three creative writing courses, introductory to advanced:
Exploring Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, July 4 – August 22, in Burlington. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington. See here.
Intensive Creative WritingWednesday afternoons, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington. See here.
      Details of all three courses  here.  

In the fall, for the first time, Brian will be leading a creative writing course in Toronto:
Intensive Creative Writing, Monday mornings, Sept 25 – Dec 4. See here.

For more information or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca
Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Navigation tips: Always check out the labels underneath a post; they’ll lead you to various distinct collections of postings. Also, if you're searching for a literary agent who represents a particular type of book, check out this post.