Monday, October 14, 2019

Analyzing the Successes of the Past and Present for Creating Unique Stories of the Future: Intensive Workshop with Vicki Selvaggio

Congratulations to Carrie Schmidt and Becky Scharnhorst who each won a copy of When We Were Alone from last weeks blog. 


Two weeks ago I attended the fall SCBWI-Carolinas conference. In the next few posts I'll share some of my highlights with you.

First up was the writing intensive with Vicki Selvaggio on Friday morning.

Vicki is a knowledgable, passionate, and accessible agent with Storm Literacy Agency. She poured herself into her presentation! Here are some of the points she made:

  • She loves seeing potential in other people’s writing and encouraging writers not to give up.
  • At the same time, writers need to delve deeper to make their stories stand out from other books in the marketplace. Additionally, writers must add layers so that children [and teens] emotionally connect with every aspect of a story.
  • If you have an idea for a series, remember your book has to be able to stand alone. If you are a debut author, a publisher might want to base a series on how the first book is received.  Or, sometimes the publisher loves the series premise and an offer is made. Word it as “Series potential" in your query and be prepared to pitch other books. Those other ideas don't necessarily need to be completed, but the writer should have an idea of how to pitch what the next (or next two) book(s) will cover. (Realize that these practices vary from agent to agent.)
  • Your manuscript must appeal to the Eye: How does it look? Is there creativity in opening paragraphs? Is there adequate white space?  Sentences that are the same length sometimes have the tendency to sound the same. Make sure there are variations in the length of  your sentences. It's not good if something looks the same and sounds the same. To the Ear: How something sounds makes a difference. To the Hand: How does the manuscript make someone feel? A book must emotionally connect with the reader. 
  • A manuscript must have 3 C’s: clarity, consistency, and a cohesive feeling. 


The opening page must include a sense of frustration
and what the character wants.


  • Think of transitions like the reader is moving through a house freely. If transitions aren’t smooth, the reader will have to stop and open doors. Consider too, how you're ending your chapters. Are you transitioning your readers into the next chapter in a smooth way, while keeping them engaged? 


The story has ended, but the journey for your character has just begun.
What will happen next?


  • What is not said can have greater impact than what is said. The same goes for purposeful miscommunication.
  • Dialogue should move the story forward. If there’s no change after the dialogue, it isn’t doing its job.
  • Incorporate dialogue with subtext. Possibly characters disagree about one thing, but really are talking about something else.


  • In life, nothing comes easy. Without the battle, the win isn’t as gratifying. The same is true in stories. If you give your main character what s/he wants before s/he struggled for it, the story won’t be gratifying for your readers. 
  • ASK YOURSELF: Why am I writing this? Who cares? 
  • Your job is to make your reader care. 
  • Consider rejections as the fuel to success. 

Remember in the beginning of this post I mentioned that Vicki was accessible? When I told her that I wanted to pitch HALF-TRUTHS to her, she made sure to fit me into her busy schedule. She listened, asked questions, and encouraged me to submit to her. 

No doubt about it. Vicki Selvaggio is on my top 10 list of agents!

Next Up: Tips on Non-Fiction. 


Cathy Ogren said...

Great post, Carol! Thanks so much for sharing.

Carol Baldwin said...

YOu're welcome, Cathy. Thanks for stopping by!

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