I was getting too many friend requests from strangers on my personal Facebook, 99.9% of them being writers. I hate saying no to friend requests. It makes my soul feel black. But after a few years of accepting requests from writers I don’t know, it’s starting to turn my personal Facebook profile into a public forum.
So I’ve started a “Like” page for Bree Ogden as a literary agent and journalist (since that’s what I do outside of agenting). I’ll be posting my journalist work as well as news about my clients and other awesome tidbits about the industry and books in general.
Im also more than happy to answer industry questions on my new Facebook page so if you have any, just go ahead and post them straight to the wall.
Come and “like” my page and we’ll have lots of fun together. http://www.facebook.com/litagentbree
After reading an article published by Publishers Weekly titled Children’s Publishers Choose Their 2013 Favorites, I decided I wanted to mimic the article with a few of my literary agent friends. Use this blog post to get to know these agents and their tastes in literature better.
Run out and buy these books immediately! The new year calls for new reading material. What better way to find a great book than picking one already vetted by a publishing pro?
Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
Eleanor & Park is the kind of book that I hated to put down. And then, once going about the rest of my day, I’d have a ticking feeling of unease – have I forgotten to do something? I’d run through a mental list – oven off, yes; did I miss school pick up, no – and realize that it was just my brain, pestering me to return to the book. So much did I love it that I unconsciously set an internal alarm clock, to remind me to get back to reading! My favorite chapters were with Eleanor and Park on the bus. I loved that gradual coming together and the way that Rainbow Rowell makes a series of small moments feel so full of tension and meaning. Bonus? I went to high school in the 80s, so this felt a bit like a snapshot of my own teenage years.
Find Susan on Twitter: @susanhawk
Rena Rossner, The Deborah Harris Agency
On the adult side of things: Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni has everything I look for in a novel: literary writing, a touch of magic and myth, fantastical creatures, and both Jewish and Middle Eastern themes. I loved the desert sands of the Syrian Djinni’s homeland and the warmth of the Syrian community he finds in NYC, contrasted with the cold and dark Eastern European origins of the Golem, (and a female Golem at that – I love traditional myths turned on their heads!) also the immigrant/tenement feel yet the warmth of the bakery she works at. Coupled with the Golem and the Djinni’s unlikely friendship, this is the type of novel I would give anything to represent.
In terms of Kids/YA books, I want to recommend a book I fell head-over heels in love with, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, but I read it in galley form and it’s not technically out until 2014, but it’s a stunning debut. (What I loved about it was the incredibly literary writing and the completely unique take it has on settling the planet Mars.) So I will have to say Starglass by Phoebe North, for similar reasons, beautiful literary writing and unusual world-building, coupled with Jewish themes, it’s also science fiction, part-mystery, LGBQT, and a coming-of-age story.
Find Rena on Twitter: @renarossner
Kristin Miller Vincent, D4EO Literary Agency
Give me a book that emotionally punches me in the gut and I’m all yours. Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm & Strange was just that book in 2013. It’s a beautifully written and psychologically gripping tale masterfully told in the present and the past. At a party at his remote Vermont boarding school, Win is coming to terms with who and what he is, and the tragic events in his family that have scarred his emotions. He will struggle with the violent monster inside his mind as his friends fight to help him cling to his humanity. Kuehn’s Morris nomination for Charm & Strange is well-deserved.
Find Kristin on Twitter: @agentkristin
Connor Goldsmith, Lowenstein Associates
The book with the biggest wow factor for me this year was Ann Leckie’s sci-fi debut Ancillary Justice, which I had to put down and pick up again a few times because it really blew my mind. While weaving the story of Breq, a complex artificial intelligence betrayed and struck low, Leckie first underlines and then shatters the way our culture genders literature. One brilliantly simple quirk of linguistics calls into question the reader’s entire thought process; it’s a challenging and liberating experience, and like nothing I’ve ever read before. My other favorite of the year was The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, which is exactly the kind of SF/F crossover I’d like to see in more thrillers. Beukes’s book is brutal, beautiful, and one of a kind. I was delighted by the way she shook up the traditional serial killer thriller format — not only with her inspired time travel premise, but also by placing the emphasis on the victims and their tragedies, rather than dwelling on and romanticizing the murderer.
Find Connor on Twitter: @dreamoforgonon
Linda Epstein, The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency
I kind of hate reading things when people tell my “Erma-gawd! You have to read this!” because I feel like 9 times out of 10 it turns out it’s not my thing. That being said, this year I finally read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which came out in 2007. I wish I’d listened to all those people who told me I had to read it. The voice is incredible and the story amazing. Of course I promptly pushed it on one of my fellow agents (hi Brooks!) who hadn’t read it yet either. So when word on the street was that “You have to read R.J. Palacio’s Wonder! You just have to!” I pretty much decided that I wouldn’t. Until I bought it and devoured it. Just like the Alexie book, the voice in Wonder just gutted me. I cried (I cried!) at the strangest parts in Wonder. Both of these everyman stories are just brilliant.
Find Linda on Twitter: @lindaepstein
Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
The deliciously creepy cover of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters put this book on my radar long before I was able to read it. I purchased this book at Powell’s in Portland and read the whole thing on my flight back to San Diego—an uncanny coincidence since the book takes place in those two cities in 1918. There is much to savor here: Winters combines elements of a psychological thriller, romance, and mystery set amidst WW1, the Spanish influenza, and the rise of spiritualism. Winters has crafted a page-turner based on the delicate balance between the occult frauds who used chaos to their advantage and the possibility that there really is something (or someone) lurking in the shadows.
The voice in Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian blew me away. This is no small feat considering it’s an incredibly authentic male POV written be a female author. Mesrobian nailed it. Sex & Violence is powerful. It pushes the boundaries of YA, which I admire. Mesrobian tackles tough subjects and unapologetically narrates them from the perspective of a flawed and unbelievably real character that I grew to love and won’t soon forget.
Find Kathleen on Twitter: @katrushall
Mandy Hubbard, D4EO Literary Agency
I had the chance, in July 2011 to read an early draft of Fault Line by Christa Desir. It actually came to me by way of referral from someone who knew my tastes, and knew it would be up my alley. I ended up reading the first several chapters that same day and sending Christa some notes. I closed my email with, “I see great potential, and I wish you luck!”
This Literary Life is lucky enough to have a wonderful guest post by Prime Books’ Senior Editor Paula Guran. Paula has been nominated twice for the World Fantasy Award, won two Bram Stoker awards, and two International Horror Guild Awards.
Today, she is going to talk to us about why we read scary stories. One of my favorite philosophical questions! (READ TO THE END, BECAUSE THERE IS A BOOK GIVEAWAY!)
Why Do People Read Scary Stories?
By Paula Guran
Despite the question posed by the title, the truth is that not everyone enjoys frightening fiction or movies or anything else scary. Some folks are just not “wired” either emotionally or physiologically to enjoy taking a walk on the dark side.
A number of scientific theories for not wanting to explore such fictional realms exist, but there are also simply people whose personal experiences take any enjoyment out of dark fantasy and horror. (I met, for instance, an elderly woman who had survived a concentration camp and lost almost all of her family in the Holocaust. It doesn’t take a great deal of deep thought to understand that she did not enjoy dark fiction.)
But for those who do savor the scary—why? Aren’t normal humans supposed to prefer pleasure over pain, the positive rather than the negative? Investigating just a few of the many scientific sources I found before beginning this little article, I quickly became overwhelmed with information. Evidently a lot of folks with academic and medical abbreviations after their names have spent considerable time and effort researching why we like being scared. They don’t always agree.
So, instead of providing a laundry list of scientific rationales (a lot of which focus on film more than fiction), I thought I’d offer my own unsubstantiated, unscientific, and personal theory. At least my theory for today, I may change my mind tomorrow.
One thing I did notice about a lot of these learned studies is they often seem not to differentiate between between the reaction “shock” and the emotion of “terror.” To quote something Stephen King wrote over three decades ago: “I recognize terror as the finest emotion… and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out.”
Maybe it works for you, but going for the gross-out doesn’t work for me. Just trying to shock me evokes no reaction other than disgust—if even that. Fictional “shock” is like a roller coaster: an artificial stimulation that releases adrenalin and results in other physiological changes that linger for a while. I don’t like roller coasters either.
That’s not what I consider experiencing the emotion of fear. You enjoy reading a scary story (or the experience of a truly good dark film, but, for the sake of this article, we will stick with literature) because there’s an interaction between the writer’s words and you, the reader. You experience an emotional reaction: fear—“the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind” according to the founding father of modern horror, H. P. Lovecraft. That feeling of fear can be simply atmospheric, an eerie or weird sensation. (In fact, Lovecraft used the term, “atmosphere” to describe what creates the sensation of horror.)
A scary story can deal with the most fantastic of the supernatural or the terrors of the mundane—either way, it reaches for and pulls out that dark emotional response.
And like any emotion—it is an individual reaction. What chills you to the marrow of your bones and stays with you (sometimes) forever may not elicit the same feeling for me. What scares any of us also changes with age, personal experience, perhaps even brain chemistry.
But I think you enjoy the type of fear fiction that does affect you (at whatever point in your life) because it provides you with a chance to (at least subconsciously) explore those feelings. Perhaps, on some level, it helps us understand or help manage the true terrors in our lives. Through dark fiction we encounter the unknowable—just as we do in real life—and can safely consider and confront it, even learn from it or control it—something we can’t always do with reality. As for the ultimately unknowable, the glimpse of the truly ineffable—that fascinates us. Maybe there’s pleasure—or comfort—to be found in knowing we cannot possibly know, let alone understand, everything.
* * *
Paula Guran edits the annual anthology series The Year’s Best Dark Fiction and Horror and is the senior editor for Prime Books (prime-books.com). Her most recent anthologies are HALLOWEEN: MAGIC, MYSTERY & THE MACABRE and ONCE UPON A TIME: NEW FAIRY TALES. She’s currently celebrating the 31 Days of Halloween herself on her website: paulaguran.com.
So why do YOU read scary stories?
Answer in the comments section, and my favorite answer will win Prime Books’ anthology HALLOWEEN: MAGIC, MYSTERY & THE MACABRE!
Loved these!!!! Everyone should take a moment to read through these. They are way too fun!
But alas, I must choose three winners. And here they are!
1.) The Cutest Haiku
Congratulations to DONNA WELCH EARNHARDT!
Creatures of the night
Boogie ‘til the break of dawn
2.) The Scariest Haiku
Congratulations to CARA REINARD!
Blood drips from her knife
Even good girls can break bad
On Halloween night
3.) Most Creative Haiku
Congratulations to LYRA APPLEBAUM!
Skip the dentist’s house
Beware not the toothbrushes
But the razor blades
EMAIL ME YOUR ADDRESSES FOR YOUR PRIZE! (Bree@d4eo.com)
Thank you to all who participated! You ghouls are positively nightmarish!
Write a Hallowe’en Haiku!
shrieks of laughter fill the air
There will be three winners:
1.) The Cutest Haiku
2.) The Scariest Haiku
3.) Most Creative Haiku
Post your Haikus in the comments section of this post. Due date is Friday Oct. 18, Midnight PST
*One entry per person please.
Cutest Haiku will win Silly Skeleton: A Not So Spooky Pop Up Book!
Scariest Haiku will win Zombelina!
Most Creative Haiku will win Little Ghost Party!
Congratulations to Bevin Thomas!
Read the delicious entry below and you’ll know why this one stood out as the winner. There are so many unique and crazy ideas here, I absolutely fell in love with Bevin’s creation!
The true bringer of life seeks not to simply create a single being but a whole ecology. As even a single creature is so expensive and time-consuming to produce, many pioneering scientists have sought to develop a creature that propagates quickly and easily, perhaps even asexually. Hence the creation of something colorfully titled “Mater Monstrum” (“Mother Monster”). This hermaphroditic being is a woman and man fused back-to-back and whose legs and pelvises have been so melded and entwined together that they resemble a single huge serpent’s tail. Not surprisingly, this being was the inspiration for Echidne of Grecian mythology, a fecund serpentine being who birthed a whole pantheon of monsters.
Reduced to utter savagery, the mater monstrum is only concerned with the most basic of drives: eat, give birth, protect and feed its young. It is ravenous for meat, especially human flesh, and is constantly pregnant, automatically giving birth every six months. Each spawn is a new monstrosity, different from its kin. Various mater monstrum have produced three-headed humans, six-legged wolves, piranhas with wings and baboon feet, crocodiles with the heads of fanged goats and the tails of scorpions, and anything else that could be imagined in nightmares.
Creating a Mater Monstrum
1. Unearth the corpses of a man and a woman.
2. Drain the corpses of all blood.
3. Carefully open up their backs to connect their brains and spinal cords, then sew the two beings together. For details, refer to my treatise “The Joining of Two Selves.”
4. Apply the diluted alchemical solvent described in my treatise “Flesh to Clay” to the pelvises and legs of both corpses to make those body parts temporarily malleable.
5. Gently meld the lower parts of both beings together to produce a single serpentine mass with a single hermaphroditic reproductive system. Remember, make sure to leave enough room for the birth canal. As before, please refer to my “Joining of Two Selves” for details.
6. Now that the mater monstrum’s physical body has been constructed, pump in its new blood: a mixture of mercury, salt, and sulfur along with the blood and venom extracted from five vipers.
7. The whole body must be galvanized by intense electrical force.
8. If you’re lucky, the creature will shriek and come alive; you’ll have your own personal monster factory! If not, all you have is a charred corpse. Well, perseverance is the soul of science!
*Bevin please email me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can mail you your book!
You should all be very proud of your entries! What a delight for me to read.