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Leonicka Valcius

Leonicka Valcius: May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

I first heard about Half-Blood Blues the week before the Scotiabank Giller Prize. After reading the synopsis I knew it would be the winner. Not to toot my own horn but I know how to call 'em!

There is no denying that the prize was well deserved. Esi Edugyan's use of dialect is instrumental in composing the tone of the story and the relationship between the members of the jazz band. Her characters leap off the page; I fell in love with Chip even though I cringed at every other thing he said. But it is the structure of the book that captured me. Edugyan's novel is, at its core, a beautifully crafted tale of friendship. By shifting the action back and forth between 1940 and 1992, Edugyan lets the reader get to know Sid and his friends at two very different periods of their lives. Over the course of the retrospective narrative I learned so much about Sid's motivations and insecurities that when the final twist was revealed I was shocked but forgiving.

Half-Blood Blues was an excellent read. Through the experiences of young black musicians, Edugyan reveals an aspect of history that I never considered: the lives of blacks in WWII-era Europe. Hiero's statelessness broke my heart especially since this is an issue that many people still face. The commentary on race is woven in delicately but it cannot be ignored. This book is an eye-opener that will easily stand the test of time.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems

My favorite kinds of children’s books are those that incorporate the physical book into the storytelling. It’s no surprise then, that when I picked up We Are in a Book!  by Mo Willems I could not put it down.

My youngest brother is eleven and no one in my immediate circle has small children. But I bought it anyway. And why not? The text is hilarious and Gerald and Piggie are adorable. I read it twice in the bookstore and once on the subway ride to work. I collapsed into a fit of giggles every time.

This is a great read-aloud book and I recommend it to everyone. Even if you are not between ages 4 – 8. ;)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another Networking Trick

In my previous post about networking I failed to mention the final trick up my sleeve. Honestly, I was trying to deny the power of my  secret weapon but it has served me well for 2 months and I’m sure it will for a few more years.

That’s right. My $16 Mockingjay pin has been the best icebreaker ever. Because it is a statement piece, everyone does a double-take when they see it. Those who have read The Hunger Games trilogy and recognize it give me a knowing smile and the awkwardness melts away. Those who don’t recognize it are fascinated by my “beautiful brooch.” “Is it an antique?” one woman asked me yesterday. My boss laughed when I recounted the story. “You should have told her it’s from the future!”

Anyone can use this trick to their advantage. Simply find a piece that suits your industry and personality.  If I were in gaming I’d probably wear Mario Kart Golden Mushroom earrings. If I were in animation maybe I would have a cool tote bag made of stills from Disney/Pixar films. Do you have any pieces that you use as icebreakers? Share in the comments!

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Networking for Beginners

The first piece of advice anyone gave me when I entered the publishing industry was to network. Go to all the events, schmooze with all the people, and make a name for yourself.  I think I’ve gotten pretty good at one-on-one meetings with industry pros but disaster strikes when I try to “work a room.” The following are tips I repeat to myself in hopes I’ll be able to apply them.
 Prepare a 30-second introduction
Too often I rely on co-workers or friends to introduce me. When I go to an event alone I tend to freeze, unsure how to approach all those intimidating people. Having a little speech ready calms my nerves and gives me a pre-packaged ice-breaker. Here’s the basic template I use: “Hi! My name is ____.  What is your name? Nice to meet you! I am/was/will be ____. I am here because ____.  What brings you here?” From there I listen and learn as much as I can, hoping the conversation picks up on its own. 
Give out business cards
When I was 18, I ordered a pack of 250 business cards. Nearly 5 years later, I have about 200 left. Fail. My new goal is to give out at least 1 card for every 15 minutes I spend at an event. The trick, an HR manager shared, is to ask for the person’s card first. Then you can give them yours without feeling presumptuous (or in my case, silly).

Follow up
This step is so easy! A quick email saying “pleasure to meet you” reminds the person of who you are and gives you the opportunity to ask for a coffee meeting or informational interview. I love informational interviews; I use them to learn more about the industry, get insight on different career paths, and get job hunting advice.

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Writer Asks: Should I re-submit my manuscript?

I recently submit my manuscript to you but have since edited it. Is it okay to send the updated version for consideration instead?

I would want to know why there have been changes in such a short amount of time. Are they small changes (like a spelling variant)?  If so, they are unlikely to sway the reader one way or another—no need to re-send the manuscript. If changes are major, I’ll begin to think the manuscript wasn’t ready when you queried the agency. Does that mean it’s also not ready for the agency to sell?

I am of the opinion that a novelist should not seek representation until the book is done.  By done I mean thoroughly edited, completely polished, and in the best shape you think you can make it. Of course you might get feedback from agents and editors that will make you want to revise and that’s great. But don’t start the submission process until you are confident you are submitting your best work. After all you wouldn’t want the agent or editor to pass on the manuscript based on something you were planning to fix anyway.

So, to answer the question, I’d say no. You have no idea how far into the agency’s process your manuscript is, or what they currently think of it—they might give you feedback that will help you revise. Bide your time, make all the revisions you need to make, then (if the agency policy allows it) re-submit the new manuscript.

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