Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Got my contract in my inbox today! I now feel legitimate! If I can only decipher the gobbledy gook!! This is where agents come in handy. But I've had contradictory advise on that front.


  1. They can handle all contract negotiations, taking on the "bad guy" role and getting you a better contract while you, the writer, can be the "good guy" and play nicey-nicey with the editor while you both happily revise your masterpiece.
  2. They can represent you on future projects, making submissions and contacting publishing houses on your behalf, thus saving you countless amount of time researching markets.
  3. They can bypass the slush pile.
  4. They probably get faster responses.
  5. Many publishers are closing their doors to unsolicited submissions.

  1. They take 15% of what is usually not a whole lot of pay to begin with.
  2. In children's books, an agent is not a requirement to getting published.
  3. According to Harold Underdown, in Five Reasons Why You Don't Need to get an Agent , not many agents specialize in picture books.
However, just because my first published book and this current one are picture books, and I'm working on a picture book project for Goosebottom Books, doesn't mean I specialize in them either. I have a multicultural Young Adult novel in progress and a couple of middle-grade fiction ideas/manuscripts sitting on the back burner. I'm definitely looking towards completing longer works. Which makes getting an agent more worthwhile.

The question is this: should I get one now? Would having an offer on the table make it easier for me to interest an agent? Agent Kristin Nelson said on her blog that she doesn't just accept a writer because he/she has an offer; she has to love that author's work. So, this reasoning is no guarantee I'll land an agent. At least not in time to negotiate this contract.

Should I go it alone? An editor friend of mine suggested that since I've waited so long and done all the work in getting the contract, I should keep the commission and try to negotiate this myself.

I have been waffling on this issue the past couple of days, doing all the research I can on publishing contract negotiations. Incidentally, anyone in this position MUST check out Kriston Nelson's Agenting 101 series on her blog where she breaks down the terms and terminology, what they mean, what to watch out for, danger signals, and tips for negotiations. It is great! Informative, helpful, and puts the legalese in words you can understand.

I've already spent two whole days on trying to figure out all this contract language and what terms they are actually offering me instead of finishing up the research on my Last Empress of China book. Which is making me lean towards the side of seeking an agent.

However, since I already have a contract, should I save the agent for my YA?

Anyone with comments or suggestions on this can contact me.

In the meantime, I should make a decision by Monday. Will let y'all know.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Woo Hoo! Just got back from vacation and got a voice mail message from Joanne Taylor. She's making me an offer on my picture book! Words cannot describe how jazzed I am. After three and a half years, three editors, multiple story transformations, and a gazillion revisions, I finally have an offer. For all you writers out there, this is a good example of persistence, hard work, and never giving up—it really does pay off.

When I was driving to Sacramento airport (about three hours from my town) at 3 am., on my way to Montana, I was relishing the quiet and solitude while my husband and kids were snoozing in the car when a flash of light streaked across the night sky. A shooting star!, I thought. I'll have to make a wish.

And I did.

Guess what it was?

Yes!!! That Goldy Luck and the Three Chans will be published.

A happy coincidence? Or maybe there's some truth to this old superstition ...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Got an email from Joanne Taylor of Tricycle Press today. Her boss has finally given her the green light to move forward with my picture book. Yay! But because Random House bought out Tricycle's parent company Ten Speed Press last year, they have the final say. So, she's sending an acquisitions package to the New York Director.

Phew! No wonder this business is so slow—there are so many hoops to jump through. 

Thank God, I'm on vacation with my family in Montana and visiting Yellowstone National Park—so much to see and do—so no time to wait by the phone with bated breath!

This huge guy can certainly make you forget about writing for awhile...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I just finished reading Sterling Seagrave's book, Dragon Lady, the Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China. I really enjoyed it. I have to say it's one of the best biographies I've read with clearly drawn characters and visual descriptions of the time period and the traditions and etiquettes of the Manchu court. He makes a convincing case of why Cixi, the last Empress of China, has been unjustly villified over the years.

For anyone interested in the history of China and biographies, I highly recommend this book. It's quite a tome at 560+ pages, but a fascinating read.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


There are still some openings at the SCBWI Kitteridge Retreat at Green  Gulch Farm in Marin County, north of San Francisco.

Space is still available!

Kittridge Retreat 
Green Gulch Farm
Sept. 17 to 19
Optional SUNDAY night stay on Sept. 20

Creative Get-away Retreat

Green Gulch Farm, Sept. 17  to Sept. 19 (Friday and Saturday nights, departing on Sunday Sept. 20, 2010)
Optional SUNDAY night stay, Sept. 20

The April 2010 retreat sold out, so please register early!

No speakers, no programs, just time to write or draw surrounded by the beautiful scenery of West Marin, plus informal evening readings and critiques. 

Green Gulch Farm is part of the San Francisco Zen Center. The farm is located off of Highway 1 north of the Golden Gate Bridge, in a valley that opens out onto the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations for the retreat are at the Lindisfarne Guest House.
The Guest House is a distinctive octagonal building with twelve rooms on two floors surrounding a 30-foot skylit atrium. The atrium provides a relaxing skylit sitting area where guests often gather to read or sit with a cup of tea by the fire. The building is constructed in a traditional Japanese style and heated with a central wood-burning stove and passive solar system.

The guest rooms are simply, yet comfortably furnished, with large windows opening onto landscaped grounds. Each pair of rooms shares a bathroom and there is a centrally located shower.

Snacks are always available in the guest house kitchen. Vegetarian meals are included in the price of the retreat.
Single rooms, including meals, are $279.  Optional Sunday night, Sept. 20, is $100. There is limited availability for this night. Please check with Margaret before you sign up for it.

Refunds will only be made if a substitute can be found. This retreat is available only to SCBWI members.

Note: The retreat begins at 3 PM Friday, and ends at 1 PM Sunday. The optional Sunday night ends after lunch on Monday.

Directions to Green Gulch Farm: Take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/Stinson Beach exit. Turn left at the Arco station onto Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway). Follow the green signs for Highway 1/Stinson Beach. After 2.5 miles the road forks - bear left towards Muir Beach. Go 2 more miles and you'll see a eucalyptus grove and large sign on the left indicating the driveway, "Zen Center/Green Gulch Farm/Wheelwright Center." 
Questions? E-mail Margaret Speaker Yuan at books4women(at)yahoo.com (replace (at) with @)
 Be sure to check with Margaret before you register for the Optional Sunday night. Availability is limited.