Friday, April 11, 2008

Women's Fiction Honorable Mentions

As I said yesterday, we were really impressed with this group of entries. I want to reiterate (for like the gazillionth time . . .) that you shouldn’t feel discouraged if we didn’t pick your entry. There was a lot of great material to choose from, and we can only pick what happens to strike us with those first 100 words. So if you’re looking for an agent on a project in one of these categories, you should definitely still query us. The query letter, or the 101st word, might just blow us away!

Let’s get to our honorable mentions . . .

Jessica’s picks:

We were only supposed to pick three honorable mentions each, but I had a really, really difficult time narrowing my list, so, since the rules seem to shift from contest to contest, I’m going to list four honorable mentions.

This was not an easy week. I think my short list, usually five titles, was somewhere around eight or nine, and narrowing that further was nearly impossible, but here we go . . .
Rodney —When Hearts Cry Out

Trudy Hale had watched seventy-four-year-old Liz McCall circle the parking lot six times.

“Mornin’ Liz. You doin’ okay?”

“Fair to middlin’.” Liz patted the sides of her sprayed stiff hair, the color of which resembled an uncirculated silver dollar. “I swear . . . some of those fools must’ve gotten their driver’s license out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”

Trudy pointed to an empty parking place only feet away from the salon. “Why didn’t you take that spot?”

“Shit. Do you really think I’d park my Cadillac next to that big old bucket that Vivian’s husband is driving?”

This had the feeling of really great, funny Southern women’s fiction to me. I laughed when I read this and got a very clear picture of everything that was going on. I could see Liz and Trudy and I could see the parking lot and the cars. Mostly though, I loved the thought of where this might be going and I love these characters already. They have great voices and seem fun, the kind of people you want to follow through a day.

Shalanna -- Little Rituals

My life is filled with little rituals. I don't know when or how I invented them; I don't always rationally believe they work.

Everyone knocks on wood and avoids the thirteenth floor. Who doesn't cross her fingers now and then? But the most powerful rite is more abstract: do something selfless, something selfish, then a random, anonymous act of kindness. In that order. Within a span of forty-eight hours.

Since we buried Cheryl three weeks ago, I haven't been controlling myself very well, so I turned to ritual to give me control.

This is the charm that heals, I hope.

I’ll confess I get a lot of books about OCD and I suspect that’s what this is, but the voice was great here and I was definitely interested in finding out more about the protagonist. I like how she talks about her rituals and I like the way we’re left, hoping for healing.

Anonymous 9:50 pm — Stella June

Stella showed up on a Sunday. I remember exactly the time and place she entered my life and for years afterwards would wonder if she had any inkling of the damage she would cause. Tired and worn from one of Granddaddy’s sermons, legendary in our county for their length and fervor, I didn’t know who she was at first. Having never seen my mama, I only knew that this strange woman was the cause of the greatest spectacle Sparta had ever seen since the youngest Hyde child blew up the local bakery with an M-80 and his daddy’s shotgun. But this was different.

The voice, the writing, this is really a great entry. I immediately felt attracted to this protagonist. I felt sorry for her and was fascinated by her. Her voice shines through with a touch of Southern, but not too much that it becomes hard to read. And I really, really want to know more about Stella June and the trouble she’s going to cause.

Jeannie Ruesch — Petals of the Rose

The measured clip of her heels was a familiar sound. The aroma of disinfectant and pumped-in air conditioning filled her lungs. The sterile white walls were as familiar as home --more so, according to Nate. But as Dr. Danielle Stevens strode down the hallway, she sucked in deep breaths to calm sudden nerves. In all the scenarios she’d imagined seeing Melanie again this had never been an option.

Danielle was a pediatric cardiologist. She may have wished a number of things upon her former best friend’s head, but needing her expertise...

No, this was never — never — one of them.

I couldn’t let this entry go. This is the kind of book that grabbed me because of the potential. What a horrible, horrible situation to be in. You’ve tugged at my heartstrings in the first 100 words. That’s really powerful and I’m dying to know where this is going to take us. Is this a story about saving a child? About the relationship of two friends? What’s going to happen next? Well done.

Kim’s picks:

Anonymous 11:01 am — Revealing Gigi

There are many silences.

There is the sort created by standing perfectly still in an uninhabited space under a huge sky. That silence is riveting; a surreal sensation of wishing the moment would not ever end because somehow the lack of sound brings a brief moment of understanding.

Then there is the kind of peace in those small quiet moments. Just pockets void of dissonance that allow my brain to process the day.

Finally, there is the awkward variety. It springs up between two people who have said far too much, for too long, with words that meant nothing at all.

I just found the writing here terrific and insightful. Even though I haven’t officially met any characters yet, I’m wanting to know about the two people who’ve said too much. There’s an implied mystery behind those words that is subtle, yet so intriguing. I’m hungry to see where this is going. . . .

Caren Crane — Tiara Wars

Katie Warren's husband Larry haunted her garden.

With the North Carolina June suffocating her like a magnolia-scented blanket, she could almost see his grass-stained Topsiders and white lawyer's ankles peering at her from behind the hedge as they had the day he died.

Despite the "Southern Living" layout potential around her, the memory of Larry's legs sucked the joy right out of her retreat. Which only fueled her anger at him.

A burst of "Für Elise" sent her pruning shears flying. She fished the phone from her pocket.

"Mom," Callista barked. "Where are you? I've been waiting 15 minutes already."

Like Jessica, I’m a sucker for a strong Southern women’s fiction voice. The imagery of the first few sentences is terrific. I’ll admit that I wish I hadn’t been jolted away from it so quickly, but I’d still want to find out more about the husband’s death and hear what else this narrator has to share.

Robb — Hannah's Voice


With that one word, I broke my silence of a dozen years.

“I said I want the goddamn pancakes.”

Finally, I got what I really wanted. Not the pancakes, but some silence. Everyone else shut up. Finally.

I didn’t decide to stop talking forever, or even for twelve years. I just chose not to speak at a moment in time. Sometimes decisions have a way of forging your future, setting a path before you that you must travel, even if you’re only six years old when you make the choice.


“Hannah, did you clean your room?”

It just occurred to me that I chose two entries that talk about silence. Maybe I was having a particularly loud day? No. These entries resonated with me for different reasons. I like that I’m being brought into the story at a pivotal moment. And that this momentous occasion—finally speaking after twelve years—is marked by such an everyday word: “pancakes.” The narrator is just brilliant, and complicated and somebody I’d love to learn more about.

Great work, everybody! You blew us away! And to think there’s just one more contest to judge. . . .


R.J. Keller said...

Lots of great stuff here. I particularly liked Little Rituals and Revealing Gigi. I'd buy these based on 'voice' alone.

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Keri Ford said...

Congrats to everybody and good luck to those in the suspense category!

I can’t imagine how full both of your inboxes have been getting and how much great material you each have been requesting. I can’t be alone out there in wondering if maybe I should give you more than 15 or so weeks before sending a ‘did my query get lost’ email if I haven’t heard back. I don’t suppose ya’ll could do a query status up-date sometime soon? You know we LOVE those!

Kate Douglas said...

What I find really fascinating about Kim and Jessica's choices for winning entries and honorable mention is how different they are--different voices entirely. That tells me a lot about BookEnds, that you're not going to be at all narrow in the selections of stories you choose to represent.

Anonymous said...

Congrat's...Well deserved indeed!


Karen Duvall said...

Well, at least 2 of my favorites made it to the honorable mentions: When Hearts Cry Out and Hannah's Voice. I'm a big fan of Fannie Flagg and Billie Letts, but I also like the dark psychological stuff.

More than a couple of the Bookends choices left me seriously scratching my head.

I sincerely hope all the great entries continue their greatness through to the end of the books. Cuz I want to read 'em!!!! 8^)

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Anonymous said...

Lots of great picks in the honorable mentions. Congrats to all!

I am especially intrigued by "When Hearts Cry Out" so I'll have to ride with Jessica on this one. Hurry up and bring this to publication so we can see where it leads. Please!

And congrats to you hardworking women at BookEnds for all you do. Thanks.

Jeannie Ruesch said...

Thank you so much, Jessica. I'm honored by your pick and your comments. And I've loved the choices by both you and Kim - some of them I'm excited to read.

And to answer your question, it's about friendship and choices, how even the smallest choice can change your life (or the life of a child.)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations everyone!

Only one more to go!

Sookie said...

Congratulations everyone. Winner, runner ups and honorable mentions.

Special kudos to Jeannie. Way to go, girl! Is there any genre you can't write well?

It's been fun to read everyones work. There are some great writing voices out there in the unpublished world. The future should be full of wonderful books.

Thanks to Jessica and Kim for their time and advice. We won't soon forget it.

Good luck to all the Romantic Suspense contestants. Great writing there as well.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for the mention and the kind words for Hannah's Voice. You really made my day. You know us struggling writers -- a nice comment and we can leave the meds alone until the next rejection or critical comment. Seriously, I am honored to be mentioned among some great entries.


Anonymous said...

Yes... Kim... Total gratitude for kind words about Revealing Gigi. I celebrated and had an extra big latte... Now. Back to wearing off the letters of my keyboard. Thanks for the time you take on this blog.

Julie Weathers said...

Congratulations to all the winners and runners up.

This really was enlightening to see all the talent displayed.

Another special thanks to Jessica and Kim for taking the time and energy to do this.


Shalanna said...

*Little Rituals* finally hits the button!

OMG! *I am SO glad I didn't send in my novel about the insurance adjuster who is secretly a clone of . . . never mind, anyway, LR is a book of my heart.*

You get a lot of books about OCD? Wow. That is hard to believe, but over the years (I wrote the original version of this several years ago) this book has been more and more accepted as "salable" (though never sold YET). At first people said they couldn't possibly relate to a neurotic nut like Daphne (my main character) and told me to "make her likable and not weird." I had the idea before all those people, I swear (and way before Monk, on TV), because I have been sending this one (in various iterations) around for years now. *GRIN* However, this book is not ABOUT her OCD, and she says she doesn't HAVE it, and some of her little magic rituals seem to be working, so readers will have to decide whether that's really paranormal, just in her head, or something in between. It's really about Daphne's journey from being someone who blames fate for all her mistakes and missteps to someone who takes responsibility for her own life.

Does this mean I should send some paper to Jessica *squee* as a query/partial or something? Even though I was only honorably and not winningly mentioned? The book is sitting with another of my dream agents at the moment, as well. Maybe I finally found the magic, at last. *GRIN*

Thank you so much. R. J., for saying you liked my voice in this one. I have had doubts, thinking that I should get rid of my strong voice in most of my novels, as some beta readers say I should go for a no-style transparent style (and that just doesn't work with me.)