Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

BIG SUR: What I Learned Part 2: QUERY LETTERS

 The Big Sur Writer's Retreat with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency is one of my all time favorite  retreats. Not only have I learned a ton about writing first sentences, first chapters and the first 50, but I've made some life long writer friends. 

I suggest that all of you reading this check it out for this year. There is a March and December retreat. Here is the link: | Upcoming workshops are Dec. 6-8, 2013 in Big Sur & March 7-9, 2014 in Seaside, CA – Click on Register page!

Laura Rennert is of course one of my favorite agents at Andrea Brown, not only because I interned for her but because she knows her stuff. She's signed amazing authors and helped launch newbie careers. Oh what I wouldn't give to be the next one in that category!!!

At Big Sur she talked to us about query letters and what should be included in them. Below are my notes on that conversation.

Laura: Query Letters / Reverse Engineer

3 components: you are unknown to us so give a little context

1st Section

  • category & market
  • this book is in the same space as
  • compare to other projects

2nd Section
  • who, what, where & why should I care?
  • character must come through in the query
  • context…world…where the story is unfolding
  • 1-2 sentences to convey the arc & stakes
  • why should I care? what makes this project special?

3rd Section
  • context about yourself
  • social media
  • authenticity
  • why could only you write this story?

So there you have it from the horses mouth to your eyes and hopefully into your query letter. 

Some of you are in the same boat as me --- getting ready to query. I hope you understand that the query letter is your handshake. It should not be moist, or sweaty, not hairy or sticky, not too hard like a gorilla or too light like a butterfly - it should be just right. It should convey that you are a master of your craft, of your story, of yourself. You are marketable and strong, but willing to show your sensitive underbelly in your writing. That you take this seriously and you know it's a business, not just an art form. 

If you can do this, get your handshake down right, you've got the best shot at getting that agent to read your first page.

Good Luck!

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Interview with Author Savannah Hendricks: Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development

 I met Savannah the first time back in May 2013. She gave a great interview then. So of course I had to say yes when she asked about an interview for her newest book, Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development.

At first I wasn't sure early childhood development was something I'd really worry about if I was back in that early infant stage. But after reading this interview, I would definitely buy Savannah's book. She makes some great points and it's not difficult to do. And with all of our busy lives, this book just might slow us down a bit and enjoy learning with out babes.

Below are the questions I asked her:

Describe your book in 5 words:

Simple, fun, easy, quality time

Why should parents worry about early childhood development?

A lot of current issues we see with education are revolving around school teachers having to focus on tests preparation verses actual learning. We also have parents working more and non-typical hours, all while struggling during economically tough times. But what is most important to know about early childhood development is not only the incredible benefit their child’s future but also that it’s incredibly easy to do!

What was the most unique or inspiring information you found about babies and learning?

Not only are infants more intelligent than we give them credit for at their age, but their abilities to learn doesn’t have to be complex. I first realized this with a 3 month old who was able to use baby sign language to tell her mom or I (the nanny) she wanted milk or a bottle.

Why did you write this book?

The idea to expand on what knowonder! had started with Talk Time came when I was working on new topics and kept having to restrain myself from adding more. I then brought my ideas to the publisher and we went from there to develop Child Genius 101.

How long did it take to write this book?

This is a challenging question because some of the parts for the book were already completed when the actual book writing started. But it took roughly three months to make all of the additions before sending the first draft to the publisher for review. Once I got the flow down completing Volume 2 and 3 went much more quickly.

What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I get up at 6:00am because I have a 40 hour work week outside of writing, but my dogs get me up by 7:00am on my days off. I always have Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats. That is my go to cereal for as long as I can remember.

How did you research for this book? Interviews? Online? Books? Other?

I drew a lot from my education and nanny background for the activities. I did use the library, my own book shelf, and internet to search out the resources for each topic.  However the activities were from things I created as a nanny.

There is a picture of a sweet baby on the cover. Did you choose the cover?

No that was chosen by the publisher. But it is a cute baby!

Who is your target audience?

All parents and caregivers, from those having their first child to those with an entire house full of kids.

Where do you go for a great cup of joe or tea in your town?

I rarely drink coffee or tea. But on the special occasion that I do, my kitchen. I love a cup of black coffee.

Who are you reading right now?

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

Has anyone in your past helped to influence your writing for the better?

My wonderful friend David used to review my papers for college and he taught me a lot about editing, because we would sit and go over it together. That has carried over to my writing for sure.

What is your goal for this book in 2014?

To spread the word of what a wonderful and easy resource it can be for even the busiest of parents.

Are you working on anything else?

I am always working on new stories both for adult and children markets. My main focus right now is finalizing a chapter book and adult novel.

You have a blog: The Seashells of Life – What is it about? Why should readers read it?

The Seashells of Life | Author Savannah Hendricks
I blog about everything from my dogs to writing. I like to include a lot of humorous posts such as my reoccurring “3 Things I Learned This Week.”

Who is Phillip J. Chipping?

Phillip is the founder/publisher of knowonder! (for both books and the online content), he is also the co-author of Child Genius 101. knowonder! has been growing extensively in their content to increase childhood development through literacy.

What words of advice do you have for newbie writers?

Have someone else edit and read your work, someone that does not sugar coat it.

How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Share! Share! Share! Word of mouth is incredibly important in a world full of newly released books. New names are most often lost among the well known authors. Even if the book is not a good fit for you, it’s possible that it is for a friend, so spread the word.

What one word best describes you?


Where can my readers go to buy your book?

Amazon is probably the easiest for most, but they can purchase it from many other venues such as links on Goodreads.

Any big news?

Unfortunately nothing I can openly speak of at this exact moment. But once I can “speak up” I will let others know via my blog, Instagram, and Facebook.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

PALEO Magazine: What I'll be doing in 2014

A year gone by and boy I learned a lot! As many of you know I interned under Laura Rennert for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency throughout 2013. It was one of my all time favorite jobs!

I learned so much about query letters, writing and agents in general. I learned why I want to be traditionally published because I got to see how much an agent does for a writer. 

I also learned that I love writing, and interning took a lot of my writing time away. So I said a sad farewell to team Brown and said hello to PALEO Magazine.

I love interviewing people. And if you've read my blog you know that's true. At PALEO Magazine I will get to interview some very interesting people….

My first interview will be out in the June issue…so I can't say who it is yet….but he's in everyones corner, big into helping kids and healthy lifestyles, and I believe many of you will know him. I'm very excited about his interview. If you have kids you'll definitely want to check out this interview.

My second interview is going to be with a big NFL player. He's gone totally PALEO and will share his story with me. I'm totally siked about this one! I can't wait to meet him and talk food. If you are an athlete or you have a young athlete in your family, this interview will be the one for you.

So as you can see I'm going to be busy writing in 2014! Not only am I in the middle of revising my third novel - ANIMALIA - and getting it ready to send to agents, I will be meeting some fun and interesting and influential people in our cool world.
(I found this creepy photo -- just a teazur for you to wonder what my book might be about.)

By the way….PALEO Magazine loves writers. They are looking for new articles on healthy lifestyles and Paleo eating in general.

Check them out on Facebook Paleo Magazine

Maybe we'll be writing together!

Oh and if you are in the SF area on Jan. 25-26 - come to the PALEO booth. I'll be there.

Wish me luck!
And as always,

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Interview with Paul Collins: Author of Mack Dunstan's Inferno

I met Paul in a writer's group on Facebook. I offered to interview the next writers who posted and he wrote back. Awesome! I absolutely love meeting people in the muse. 

And I especially love meeting funny writers! This interview made me snicker and smile. Paul has a natural way with comedy. I'm excited to read Mack Dunstan's Inferno!

Below are the questions I asked him:

Explain your book in 5 words:

Satirizing society through Divine Comedy!

Why did you write this novel?
When I first saw Bowling for Columbine in spring of 2004, I was stunned at Charlton Heston's response from being challenged by Michael Moore. At that time, I knew nothing about Heston's involvement with the NRA, or gun rights activists. With that in mind, I began, by chance, to read the Divine Comedy. It did not take me long to see an update coming from such a work.

Which character is most like you? Least like you?

Someone once told me to never call my character a bad name. Why? We should like our character that we create. 

I always saw Charlton Heston as an everyman type of character in the movies. In the 1930's and 40's James Cagney, Bogart, Gregory Peck, Carry Grant, and James Stewart were all that everyman type of characters- actors who represented the everyman, or person, in that an era of film.  

That being said, I put myself in Mack Dunstan's character. I gave him obstacles and I used my hunch on how I would feel, or react, in those very circumstances.

Where do you get a great cup of joe or tea in your town?

I love that Starbucks at 675 Yonge Street. It is not a typical Starbucks cafĂ© either.  That very store was there one hundred years ago, as is. There are pictures on the wall to prove it too. As a matter of fact, according to some Internet sources, it used to be meeting place for many thinkers and professionals in the past. And I am talking about professors, judges, eminent counsel, leading ministers, and some politicians. 

At one time, regular customers were Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and Ontario premier Oliver Mowat, including some famous writers.  This is a picture of the place at .  Old books fill the shelves and are free to those who are wise to it! In fact, some customers donate books, leaving them on the shelves.  

Anybody visiting Toronto should come visit this location, see the old pictures on the wall, and feel the vibrations of history.  

In 2007, I worked as a stagehand, helped set up Canadian Idol. During work, I was told pop star Rihanna was going to be a guest mentor on the show. The next day, I went to Starbucks at Britnell Books, spent hours revising a future book called Mystery of Everyman's Way. When I looked up Rihanna walked in, walked the entire stretch of the store, not once, but thrice! She walked it like it was a runway in Milan, or Paris. She then came right up to me, bent over me, stared at her reflection in the window behind me, adjusted her makeup, and then stood up, looking down at the man revising that Mystery of Everyman's Way thingy! LOL! 

She looked like she walked right off a magazine cover. She had a nice outfit, nice legs, and yes, I was star struck but I had revisions to do! At 675 Yonge Street Starbucks, one will still see famous faces come in and you won't even notice unless you are wise!

I also like that Starbucks at Yonge and King in Toronto's financial district too. It is an all night Starbucks too, which has business people in it by day and club goers by night.

Who are you reading right now?

This year I read at least seven books by Sinclair Lewis and am almost finished with Charles Dickens.

Why write?

When I left full time high school, I stumbled into creative writing courses. When I dropped out of York University in 1993, I took non credit courses which would come to me to be therapeutic.

What words of advice do you have for newbie writers?

Read the classics of literature. The Masters of Literature have it, are age old, and will strengthen you as a writer in time.

Do you belong to any writer's associations? If so, which ones and why?

From 2005 to the end of 2008, I belonged to the Writers and Editors Network. It was an older crowd where I had no luck, leaving me to depart that scene.

Where did the name Mack Dunstan's Inferno come from?

At first, I called the book Charlton Heston's Inferno. It was about Charlton Heston dying, descending into hell, and meeting victims of his pro gun policy. While I pitched Charlton Heston's Inferno to Canadian editors, publishers, and agents, they squirmed at the mention of Charlton Heston. Everyone feared a lawsuit. 

When 2009 came, I gave up. In 2011, I approached Iuniverse, they read it, asked me to get permission to use Charton Heston from the Heston Estate in the book. So I went to  and contacted the Heston estate for permission to write about Charlton Heston. You can read the email exchange, all at

Well, the Heston Estate did forbid the use of Heston in the work, but iUniverse has published it because I changed Charlton Heston into Mack Dunstan and the paperback is called Mack Dunstan’s Inferno.  It is about a Charlton Heston type character who succumbed to Alzheimer’s, descended into hell and met victims of his pro-gun policy.  

Yes, as he descended into Hades, he met oodles of Hollywood celebrities, both part of the living and the dead. It is a modern day Divine Comedy! 

Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My parents encourage me to write. It is just very hard to make a living out of being a novel writer. I just do it as a hobby, hoping it will pay me a wage someday.

What is the main plot of your story?

It is about a Charlton Heston type character who succumbed to Alzheimer's, descended into hell and met victims of his pro-gun policy.  

Yes, as he descended into hades, he met oodles of Hollywood celebrities, including Kelsey Grammar, Sally Struthers, JK Rowlings, Hugh Hefner, Joan Rivers, her daughter, Barbara Streisand,  Larry Flynt, and even a comical scene with Woody Allen too.  

In such a circumstance, look out for all the American televangelists, including Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and Jimmy Swaggart. It is a modern day Divine Comedy!

Who did the cover for you book? Did you have a hand in choosing it?

Iuniverse has a database of book covers, where I selected the very artwork that would adorn the book.

What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I get up early like everyone else.

What does your family think about your writing?

They encourage it.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does it work? If no, why not?

In the past, I used to take creative writer courses but I never liked listening to those around me. I find some people are too critical about their work. If you are too critical, nothing creative will happen!

What do you think about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing in Canada is a minefield. Everyone with political connections gets grants from the government. You get a grant, you get published. I find traditional publishing is filled with nepotism and cronyism, and I find the online route is less restrictive.

If your book were turned into a movie – what actors would play the roles?

The Canadian market is way too restrictive for me to even entertain such thoughts. If it happens, it happens. I live in the moment.

Who in your past has had a positive influence on your writing?

One teacher got that ball rolling and a former publisher helped too. When I took a creative writing course at Ryerson University, my instructor had a system that I still follow. “For the first assignment, describe a room. . One page.” I did just that. 

That led to this article at . And found my classmates giving me encouragement. 

“For the second assignment,” continued the instructor on another day, “I want you to describe a situation.” That being said, I wrote about my sister who rebelled against the folks, running away to England on a moments notice. 

When I wrote Mystery of Everyman's Way, my then publisher of Etreasures Publishing, Vicky Kennedy, mentored me on how to write a proper paperback. She told me after every ten pages, end each chapter on a mystery, like a knock, or a phone call. Why? So readers will find the book interesting. Crazy stuff they never teach anywhere! 

How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Wow! I don't know. I did enter my latest book Mack Dunstan's Inferno into a contest at . Click like and share and let's see if it has a chance!

What one word best describes you?

I am just a silly daydreamer who stumbled his way into online publishing and into the online media.

Any big news?

I have directed TV commercials in past and wrote about it at

al-production-directing-documentaries/My latest commercial that I directed was a PSA for No More Deportations to Iran which can be found at this link . I even directed a wacky sci fi spec at wacky specs can be found at . So I am looking to get hired as a freelance commercial director...but I did forget to tell you that the Oprah Winfrey Network contacted me about one of my recent articles. Read about it at . Perhaps the Oprah Winfrey Network will connect with me in 2014. I AM SO AVAILABLE FOR THAT! 

Thanks for the interview! All the best!