Sunday, 24 March 2013

Interview with Agent Michael Bourret


Interview with Agent Michael Bourret

Michael Bourret is Vice President and Literary Agent at
Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Mr. Bourret heads the West Coast office of DGLM in Los Angeles
and represents an impressive list of award-winning and best-selling authors such as: Sara Zarr, Heather Brewer, Nove Ren Suma, Lisa McMann,
James Dashner, Brodi Ashton, A.S. King, among many others

To connect with Mr. Bourret check here:
Query Email: mbourret@dystel.com 

SEE BELOW FOR A SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!

1. Welcome, Michael! Before we jump into music, can you answer that BURNING "work" question all those MG/YA writers out there want to know: what would you love to see in your inbox right now?

I'd love to see anything that's new, original, daring, different, out-of-the-ordinary, that pushes boundaries, that's uncompromising. I'm actively looking for both MG and YA, and I like a challenge. If you've written a book that breaks the mold, that doesn't sound like other things on the market, please be in touch. It can be realistic or fantasy, but it can't be familiar.

2. Now for the big fun. Do you have a musical background? Do you play instruments or sing?

My musical background consists of two weeks of piano lessons and two years of viola in elementary school. I cannot sing to save my life, though those who know me will attest that I still do it, often at the top of my lungs. I can't help but sing along.

3. Do you have specific musicians/bands/albums that have influenced different aspects or chapters of your life?
I tend to add different music and musicians as I go along, and very few have been left behind. I grew up in the 80s, and even in elementary school, I loved music. Honestly, it probably started with Diana Ross's "Diana" album, though I quickly shifted my allegiance to Madonna. Then I had a neighbor/babysitter/family friend who loved Duran Duran, so they were added in, along with New Order, Billy Idol, Blondie, Human League and Pet Shop Boys. I loved New Wave, though I had no idea what it was at the time!

Middle school regrettably brought Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Technotronic and other terrible dance music--freestyle. Oh, did I love freestyle: Lisette Melendez, Cover Girls, Expose, Information Society, Shannon, etc. (I will admit, when the weather is just right, I have a craving for the stuff and will binge on it still!)

By time I got to high school, I was a musical omnivore, and I'd listen to just about anything. The bands and artists I remember liking most then were Soul Coughing (I think I first heard them on NPR), Toad the Wet Sprocket, Annie Lennox, Deee-Lite, Luscious Jackson, Lords of Acid, Sheryl Crow, Garbage, and Ace of Base, not to mention Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, and some other random rap music I'm not remembering at the moment.

In college, I rebelled a bit by listening to the most obnoxious pop music I could find: Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and lots of one-hit wonders whose albums are still hanging out in storage somewhere. But college is also when I really got hooked on David Bowie. Though I had a few of his albums in high school, I wasn't a huge fan. But a reintroduction by a friend had me digging deep, and I bought everything available. I also read everything available. For a while, I think I wanted to be David Bowie. Luckily for all of us, I grew out of that!

Since then, I've become an avid consumer of music. My tastes have a strong pop sensibility, but I'd like to think they're pretty varied. I'm a huge Beach Boys fan--seeing them at the Hollywood Bowl this past summer was a dream come true--and my Bowie obsession continues (there were a few years there were I think I saw him live a couple of times a year). Off the top of my head, I really like: Modest Mouse, Interpol, M83, Daft Punk, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, White Lies, Gossip, Broken Bells, Miike Snow, Hot Chip, Passion Pit, Arcade Fire, Kylie Minogue, and The Killers. And, most recently, I've been listening to Django Django, Foals, Capital Cities, Tegan and Sara, Tanlines, STRFCKR and my new favorite, St. Lucia.

4. When do you listen to music? Does your taste in music change depending on the activity?
Now that I work from home, I listen to music quite a bit. And my taste definitely changes based on what I'm doing. I can't listen to "distracting" music when I'm reading or writing, so I tend to listen to more ambient music like M83, Geographer, Active Child, College, or the xx. For working around the house and cooking, I listen to newer music, things I want to pay a bit more attention to. Spotify indicates that I've been listening to The Tins, Night Moves, STRFKR, The Mowgli's and A Silent Film. When I'm driving, I like to sing along and rock out, so I tend to listen to either classic or cheesy pop, like the Beach Boys or Ke$ha. That's right, I just admitted I listen to Ke$ha.

5. Who are some of your all time favorite band/musicians?
Is there a limit? Beach Boys, David Bowie, Madonna, The Killers.

6.  Are you a concert goer? If so, do you prefer small, intimate settings or arenas with legions of fans? Have you met any bands/musicians?
I've always liked concerts, but since moving to LA, I've been going to a lot of shows. I saw Youngblood Hawk a couple weeks back, Django Django last night, and I have Capital Cities, Holy Ghost!, Foals, and The Killers coming up in the next couple of months. I prefer smaller venues, definitely, though I do wish everywhere had seats. This standing-room-only thing is a young person's game! I do love a good arena show, though, for artists who know how to do it right.

I haven't really met any bands, no. Though I'm terrified of meeting people I admire because I worry I'll dislike them in person.

7.  Do you have a recommendation for us  - someone maybe lesser known that you wished others knew about because you love this track/group/album so much?
St. Lucia. Their EP is definitely my most-listened to of the past year.

Music Association:
I list the word, you give me the song/band you associate with it.
 Humor - They Might Be Giants
 Steampunk - Nine Inch Nails
 Adventure - Europe
 Teen Angst - My Chemical Romance
 Supernatural - Evanescence
 Science Fiction - The Firm (look that one up!)

An ENORMOUS thank you to Mr. Bourret for answering our interview questions!

In honor of hosting our first agent, I'll be giving away a $10 iTunes gift card.
Please enter below and thank you for stopping by ATWN!


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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Images Du Futur - ATWN Interview with Montreal band Suuns


With their sophomore album, Images Du Futur, released earlier this month, All The Write Notes chatted with Max Henry and Liam O'Neill, one half of Montreal’s alternative psych-rock band Suuns, about reading on the road, their favorite books, and who they're listening to.

                           ***
Favorite book(s) and why?
Max: It's hard to pick a favourite... there are a few books that have stayed with me - Tropic of Cancer comes to mind; it's a proper indulgent fantasy of how most artists like to imagine themselves. I thought of Montreal more than once reading it. I'm big on Camus (The Plague). Heart of Darkness and Lolita both for proving how effortless beautiful language can be. Cancer Ward still jumps out at me every now and then, for the introducing me to Bacon's Four Idols... heavy shit.
Liam:  Call me a generation Y-er, and that's precisely why I love this book, but it's gotta be Infinite Jest.  It is truly the book of our generation - nothing else has touched me so deeply and dealt with problems that I deal with.  I've read a lot of books that I find interesting or stimulating, but nothing that I've had so close to me.  It's a friend, it's a manual, it's hopeful and terribly sad.  I think about that book every day.


What are the members of the band reading at the moment? 
Max: Liam's reading Karamazov. I'm between books, just finished Invitation to a Beheading.

Does what you read have an impact on your songwriting?
Liam:  Definitely, insofar as what you're reading introduces you to different modes of thinking and creating.  When I read David Mitchell's number9dream, it totally changed my perspective on John Lennon's songwriting and got me into that world.

What was the last book any of you couldn’t put down? 
Max: Lucky Jim. Hilarious.
Liam: Breakfast of Champions.  I read it when I was fifteen or sixteen, and it introduced me to a totally new way of thinking.  I remember reading it in the backseat of my parents' car, driving on a vacation somewhere, getting my mind blown, my introduction to critical thinking and philosophy.  Plus it's fucking hilarious and anyone who knows me knows I like a good laugh.

Kindle or hardcover? 
Max: Oy. Kobo - I read 'The Human Stain' on it. Just doesn't cut the grapes. It's kicking around here somewhere under a pile of books.

What other bands/artists do you enjoy?
Max: Valleys from Montreal. Marc got me hip to Wallace Stevens.

Have any of you ever re-read a book? 
Max: The Great Gatsby was totally lost on me in high school. Very glad I re-approached that. Outside of that it's the standard reader's anxiety - too much to read, too little time.

Favorite character from a book?
Max: The lost generation's women stick out to me. Bee? Bess? Bert? Was it Bert? Call me old fashioned.
Liam:  Probably Murray from Don Delilo's White Noise.  Wide eyed and weird. 

On the road, do you get much time to read? 
Max: That's where most of the reading goes down. Down time can easily be very unhealthy for your mind - bands'll sweep through TV series, all kinds of garbage. I guess that can work, but it makes me feel pretty lousy.

What was the inspiration behind the new album, "Images du Futur"?
Liam:  It's hard to talk about a literal inspiration behind the album, but in retrospect, it seems like we were probably inspired by now obsoleted, once futuristic technology and movements.

What is it like touring with fellow Montreal based band The Besnard Lakes?
Liam:  They are the sweetest.  Proper ladies and gentlemen, consummate professionals, and they like a good nip of scotch too.

What does success mean to the band? 
Max: Progress, growth - sincerity? So long as we keep it honest I think we'll be ok. Easier said than done.

Is there an author you would love to have a beer with? 
Max: Robert Pinsky? Fuck it, Leonard Cohen, jesus I'd love to meet that guy. He's around here somewhere.
Liam:  Probably George Saunders.  I think he used to be in a band!

Are there any books you would like to recommend to everyone? 
Max: Borges' Labyrinths! And Palvgrave's Golden Treasury. I carried that mofo around like a bible for while.
Liam:  Just read Infinite Jest. Just read it. I know two types of people: those who haven't finished IJ and don't like it, and those who have and say that it changed their lives. So there it is.

Thanks to Suuns for stopping by, and as a treat to our readers, we're giving away one copy of each of their full length albums. Now, if you aren't one of the lucky ones to win our giveaway, or you just can't wait, you can buy Suuns new album, Images Du Futur, over at iTunes,or from their labels official store. If you would like more info on Suuns, you can check them out on TwitterFacebook, a recent review in the NYT, or better yet, check the tour dates below to see if they are playing at a venue near you.

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Suuns Tour Dates
03/23/13 Toronto, ON - Lee's Place
03/29/13 Joliette, QC - Cabaret Arena w/ We Are Wolves
03/30/13 Terrebonne, QC - Moulin Neuf w/ Plants and Animals
04/04/13 Montreal, QC - Sala Rossa
04/05/13 Quebec City, QC - Le Cercle
04/09/13 London, ON - Call The Office
04/10/13 Windsor, ON - Phog Lounge
04/11/13 Hamilton, ON - Casbah
04/12/13 Kingston, ON - The Grad Club
04/13/13 Ottawa , ON - Ritual
04/15/13 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge
04/16/13 Washington, DC - Black Cat
04/17/13 Pittsburgh, PA - 6119
04/18/13 Cleveland Heights, OH - Grog Shop w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/19/13 Grand Rapids, MI - The Pyramid Scheme w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/20/13 Chicago, IL - Schuba's w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/21/13 DeKalb, IL - Otto's Nightclub w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/22/13 Bloomington, IN - Bishop Bar w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/23/13 St. Louis, MO - Firebird w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/24/13 Fayetteville, AR - J.R.'s Lightbulb Co w/ The Besnard Lakes
04/25/13 Dallas, TX - Club DaDa w/ The Besnard Lakes & Black Mountain
04/26/13 Austin, TX - Austin Psych Fest
04/29/13 Rome, IT - Lanificio 159
04/30/13 Modena, IT - Mattatoio
05/02/13 Zagreb, HR - Culture Factory Club
05/03/13 Krems, AT - Donau Festival BUY TICKETS
05/04/13 Munich, DE - Atomic Cafe
05/05/13 Berlin, DE - Comet
05/06/13 Cologne, DE - Studio 672
05/07/13 Metz, FR - Les Trinitaires
05/08/13 Zurich, CH - Rote Fabrik
05/09/13 Paris, FR - Trabendo
05/10/13 Lille, FR - Le Grand Mix
05/11/13 Brussels, BE - La Nuit de Botanique
05/12/13 Amsterdam, NL - Melkweg
05/13/13 Brighton, UK - The Haunt
05/14/13 London, UK - XOYO
05/15/13 Leeds, UK - Brudenell Social Club
05/16/13 Dublin, IE - The Grand Social
05/17/13 Liverpool, UK - Kazimier
05/18/13 Bristol, UK - The Exchange
05/22/13 Victoria, BC - Lucky Bar
05/23/13 Vancouver, BC - Media Club
05/25/13 George, WA - Sasquatch Music Festival
05/26/13 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge BUY TICKETS

Monday, 18 March 2013

ONE: An Interview with YA author, Leigh Ann Kopans

For our readers who aren't familiar with ONE can you give them the movie-trailer version of things.  A little something to bring them up to speed.

Well,  I guess my official blurb is movie-trailer ish! 
When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.

It makes you a One.

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover.

If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.
Merrin's mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub's internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it's more important to fly solo, or to save everything - and everyone - she loves.

I'm not giving anything away when I mention that Merrin plays the drums.  How did you go about deciding to make that part of who she is?  What drew you into the idea of her instrument of choice being the drums?

Well, I guess because Merrin is the kind of girl who is very angry and frustrated, but knows that having a temper tantrum won't get her anywhere. She needs an outlet, an acceptable way she can hit stuff and make lots of noise. That's playing the drums.
Merrin's also a petite girl, and I noticed when I was searching for drumming videos that the vast majority of drummer girls are also small-framed. I think it must be something about wanting to make yourself bigger than  you actually are, which is also a big part of Mer's character.

Check out Ilana: to me, she looks just like Merrin:



You also mention early on that Merrin is drawn to listening to a little heavy metal when she needs to vent.  In an age dominated by Taylor Swift and Hip-Hop, what led you to choose metal?

Well, music like Taylor's put angst and emotions into words. For people who want to voice their feelings in an emo way, that works, but Merrin just wants to drown them out. Metal is loud  and a little wild, so it works for that.

So, lets drag Merrin out of the future for a second.  I'm riding in her car.  She throws a CD into the stereo. Who am I going to be listening to?

My Chemical Romance, Danger Days. No hesitation.  She might even listen to it in 2139 - she's into vintage stuff. ;)

You also chose (or many would say your characters chose for you) to have Merrin's love interest be a musician as well.  I'm sensing a theme here?

Oh! I just needed a way for him to really prove to her that he understood her without telling her. Merrin doesn't trust words too much, but when Elias picks up a guitar and starts playing along with her, he's speaking her (emotional) language. Really, he doesn't like playing guitar too much. ;) 
BUT if you want to see what he looks like playing guitar?



We here at ATWN are also really interested in the writing process and how it lines up with people's love of music.  Do you listen to music while you write or are you a "shhhh, I'm writing over here" kind of person?

Oh, music was a HUGE part of writing ONE. Especially for mood. Kravitz's  "Fly Away" and Aerosmith's "Fly Away From Here" are pretty much anthems for Merrin at the beginning of the story. "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer is great for some of the midsection moments, and "Meteor Shower" by Owl City and "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire framed my writing of the end.


If we were to take a peek into your record collection, what would we find there?  What do you think people would be most surprised to find in that same collection?

Hmmm...well I pretty much only listen to Spotify. *Hides* I do love Dashboard Confessional (emo! emo!), Cake, MCR, any male acoustic guitar, a guy named Johnny Stimson who describes his music as "musical sunshine," (true!) and a healthy amount of Taylor, like any self-respecting YA author. 
What might surprise you is that Taylor is one of the few women in my music rotation - I tend to like listening to the male voice more. No clue why.

First concert?

Barenaked Ladies! In an ampitheater, with lots of pot in the air (not mine!)

ONE gets a ridiculously fantastic movie deal and you get to collaborate with the production of the soundtrack, hit me with ten songs that would have to be on it.

From your mouth to God's ears! LOL. Um, The five i mentioned up above,  "Up Up Up" by the Givers, "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons, "Never Say Never" by the Fray, "Us Against the World" by Coldplay, and "Belief (stripped)" by Gavin DeGraw.


Thanks Leigh Ann!

Thank YOU! I'm so very honored and excited to have been asked. You guys are incredible.

You can pre-order a copy of Leigh Ann's "ONE" by clicky-clickin' this little link right HERE


As a quick thank you to all of Leigh Ann's fans and for the fans of ATWN, leave a comment below and you'll be signed up to win a copy of all of the songs that Leigh Ann mentioned above. You can give her ONE soundtrack a listen below via Spotify.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pacing Perfection in 4:20 Minutes Flat

Plot.

Pacing.

They go together like cookies and milk. Good pacing reflects a well-plotted novel, and poor pacing? Well, it's a plot (and novel) killer.

Now, in writing circles, there's heaps of talk about pantsers versus plotters. About whether you write the story as it comes to you, needing that creative freedom, or whether you write better with structure, using an outline, a beat sheet, or an entire wall filled with post-it notes with your key plot points. Either way, it's all good, as long as it works for you. (Me, I'm a panster, but I use an editorial road map during revisions.)

This post isn't about your method, or any method, good or bad. It's about feel. As I've said before, I believe good writing is like good music--that good writing is effortless for the reader, and that prose should have a rhythm that lets the story flow and keeps the reader engaged.

Pacing is the same.

You can graph and chart and plot your novel all day, but you will know you've hit the pacing sweet spot when it feels right. When it flows and keeps the reader engaged at every moment.

The best example I can give is the cover of Taylor Swift's song "I Knew You Were Trouble"  by the amazing group Walk Off The Earth. Their a capella-beatbox version blows me away every time I watch it. Why? Because their pacing is genius. Yes, they have T. Swift's brilliant storytelling and melody to work with, which deserves top credit. But WOTE's arrangement is pacing perfection in 4:20 flat.

The clip opens with one pure and distinctive voice to start...perfect for hooking the listener and setting the tone. Then, one at a time, members join, adding their vocal talents, letting the melody rise and fall and each addition and sound is perfectly timed.

It feels right.

Take a look and judge for yourself. :)


Amazing right?

This video has 9, 972, 747 views. Um, yeah. So I think it's pretty fair to say it hits the pacing sweet spot.:) And now Walk Off The Earth has their own record deal, which I think is pretty cool too.

So, how's your novel coming along? How does it feel? Have you hit the pacing sweet spot yet?:)






Monday, 11 March 2013

Wonderin'


When I was assigned March 11 for my next contribution to All The Write Notes, I couldn't imagine writing anything that didn't acknowledge the sad fact that my mother died four years ago today. I worked for weeks, and started many drafts, only to realize I couldn't write anything new. 

My mother's name was Susan and I think you would have loved her because, well, so many loved her. She was a creative soul with a soft spot for outcasts, treating everyone who came into her home like they were her own family. When she passed away, it was like dozens of people lost their mom, too. 

Mom's influence on me musically is immense: From afternoons sprawled on the living room rug listening to opera records, to sitting next to her at the piano singing showtunes, to discovering she knew how to adjust the bass on her car stereo the moment she heard a Sly & The Family Stone song; the way I've learned to love and appreciate music is largely thanks to her.

When I wrote the piece below last year, I couldn't help but think about how funny it was that it was a musician that Mom hatedand whom didn't like at the timewho helped me through her long illness and eventual passing.

***


"I am of the theory that all of our transcendental connections, anything we’re drawn to, be it a person, a song, a painting on the wall – they’re magnetic. The art is the alloy, so to speak. And our souls are equipped with whatever properties are required to attract that alloy. I’m no scientist so I don’t really know what the hell these properties are, but my point is we’re drawn to stuff we've already got a connection to. Part of the thing is already inside of us.”
— from God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo

***

Mom was too tired to brush her teeth, and red Jell-O was all she wanted anymore. She slept with her mouth slightly agape, her teeth pink, her face white, her fingers blue.

In a Tijuana hospital, nobody spoke English well. I got her M&Ms from the corner store once, but she was frightened when I wasn't there. I changed her bedpan, and then her diapers. The nurses and I salved her bedsores, turning her, trying not to hurt her broken hip.

Ella tiene dolor en la cadera.

It, too, was dissolved, like her ribs, her breast, her lung. She cried at night, she shit herself. I held her hand when they poked and prodded. I smoothed her hair and she smiled sometimes. She had big, brown eyes like a calf. Like a Black-Eyed Susan.

Por que los dedos azul?

I rode in the ambulance with her. Federalis in full SWAT gear patrolled the streets in pickup trucks. I signed forms, I reminded the EMTs in high school Spanish to be gentle, that her hip was broken. I promised I’d be there when she got out from radiation. There were piles of hair around her bed, but she never went bald. She asked me if she was going to die.

Tengo miedo.

Whispering, too weak to speak, so tired. She slept at night, but I didn't. I watched movies, I used music. I was delirious from isolation, from tending a frightened child who happened to be my mother. And I had to be strong.

***

Many years before all this, my best friend got the first re-writable CD-ROM drive of anyone I knew. It took me all morning to rip and compile the first CD mixtape I ever made. It took the rest of the day to burn it.

Even though I didn't like him, my day-long labor included one Neil Young song. It was like… I had to.

Two years later, my brother and I drove six hours to St. Louis to see CSN&Y. I was happy that Neil played that one song. I felt like I’d seen something important, even though I still didn't like him. Stupid whiny voice, shitty guitar playing.

***

A decade later in a hospital room, I was despairing and I was alone with my thoughts. I wasn't sure how much longer I could take it. One day I noticed that nothing that I used to love made me happy anymore.

Nobody quite knew what to say. So I corresponded with a friend of mine, an Iraq combat vet, who understood the depths of isolation and weariness and futility and the unfair demands to muster strength and comfort in an impossible situation. He said I was the only civilian he could talk to.

When Mom went to bed, the TV was on all night. It was comforting for her. I couldn't sleep anymore anyhow; there were always sheets and diapers and a body to be cleaned. The nurses were gone.

One night, she wanted the TV off. It was too dark, and so I gathered in my laptop. I don’t remember how I found it, or why I was looking for his music, but I watched this video of Neil Young—who I didn't like, who had a stupid whiny voice and played shitty guitar—over and over:



It made me happy.

***

I suppose there was a latent connection that was always inside of me, a Neil-shaped hole in my heart. And I suppose it just took the right switch to turn it on, to make me love more than one song, to magnetize the rest of me to his music. I couldn't tell you why it happened, and I don’t think I’m supposed to anyhow; it would sound stupid and weird.

But it was just what I needed when I needed it.

***

When Mom died, she returned to the ocean, her ashes became foam. She loved the water. My two best friends were going to dress as Captain & Tenille for her funeral because my mother would have loved that, too. She was so funny. There will never be a headstone, because that’s how she wanted it. She promised to haunt me, and she does in a way.

When I breathe the salt air, I am with her. I am half of her anyhow, maybe more. And now Neil Young is part of it all, somehow, in a non-creepy way. It’s hard to explain.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

And Entertainer of the Year Goes To

Every November the CMA Awards come to Nashville and the whole city loses its mind over it. For good reason, it's a pretty awesome event. And while every artist nominated would be happy and honored to receive one of the show's awards, what everyone really wants is the award to end all awards: Entertainer of the Year.

Current reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year is Blake Shelton, who won it back in November 2012. He was nominated alongside Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean.

Entertainer of the Year isn't about having the best voice or the best album that year. According to the CMA, Entertainer is about, "displaying the greatest competence in all aspects of the entertainment field. Voter should give consideration not only to recorded performance, but also to the in-person performance, staging, public acceptance, attitude, leadership, and overall contribution to the Country Music image. Award to artist."

So, sure, the Entertainer probably has a great album. But it's so much more than that. They know how to promote it, they understand their audience, they conduct themselves as a leader and as someone who the public can approach. They just WOW you.

To be honest with you, I wish authors thought of themselves more as entertainers, because that's what we are, you know? We're storytellers, just like musicians. We want our stories to be great! But writing, just like singing, isn't always about having the prettiest sentences or the catchiest hook. All of that is important, to be sure. No one wants to listen to something off-key or hear cliche rhymes. But you have to be able to do more than tell a nice, fresh story. If you're a writer, you're in charge of your brand, so to speak. People are watching you along with your stories, whether you're aware of it or not; and most successful writers seem to figure this out.

In fact, I've got a few writers who I think deserve an Entertainer of the Year nomination:

JK Rowling. Rowling shows up, she's involved in her career, as all entertainers should be. When it comes to her work, you feel like she gives 110%. She is not passive about what happens with her stories. She was involved with all the Harry Potter films, developing personal relationships with the actors. She oversaw how her work was interpreted through media and did her best to make sure it stayed true to her pages. She was the leader, she had the vision. Her readers trust her because of it.

John Green. Green not only writes amazing YA, but he has cultivated his fans in this unbelievably cool way. Green and his brother Hank, started something years ago called Vlog Brothers, which has become something of a internet phenomenon. Look it up on YouTube. Green takes questions from fans, offers writing advice, life advice, sometimes dating advice. He's not afraid to give faces to his readers and let readers see his face in return. He's invested in them. Talk about understanding your target audience! I'm sure most of his fans feel like they know him, not just his books. Even if you've never met him, he feels totally accessible and approachable, which I think is a key element for an Entertainer of the Year.

Nicholas Sparks and Stephenie Meyer. Even though they're two totally different writers, I put these two in the same category because I think they have the same trait that makes them so great. They're polarizing. You either love Sparks or you hate him. You either love Meyer or you hate her. They don't typically have lukewarm fans. Their work almost always sparks a conversation whenever it's mentioned–even if it involves two opposing view points. But this never seems to rattle either one. These two illustrate that not everyone is going to like what you do and that's okay. What's more important is knowing your strengths and capitalizing on them. Are you really great at building love stories and then breaking everyone's hearts right before the final buzzer? Awesome, write it. Are you fantastic at crafting the ideal sparkly boyfriend that somehow makes girls from 9 to 99 swoon? Rock on. Know what you're good at and run with it, don't worry about becoming polarizing. It means that people care enough to have an opinion about what you do.

And that brings me to how this applies to you. What? You're not published yet? That's okay. I'm not either. But guess what? You can still work on being Entertainer of the Year! Here's how:

Show up and lead. Have a presence outside of your desk and your word documents. Talk about your work with others, talk with others about their work! Pick a few people that you trust and let them read your MS. Listen to them and improve what you've written. Do things that are outside of your comfort zone. Never designed a website for yourself/your books? Try it out! Never started a blog? Try it out! Never found beta readers? Do it. Get involved in the writing scene whether it's online or at conferences. Half the battle of being an Entertainer is being willing to work for what you love. If you have a go-getter attitude, you're on the right path.

Know your audience.
Think about what they want and how you're communicating with them. Do they use Twitter? Tumblr? Wordpress? Do they like to interact with you? Do they know what you're working on? How accessible are you or do you want to be? JK Rowling has twitter, but hardly ever tweets, while John Green tweets and RTs daily. Whatever you do, whatever your working on, think about how you're building a reader's trust.

Be conscious of what you put on social media. Make it personable to you, but be mindful of how you're branding yourself. For example, Blake Shelton can pretty much swear all he wants, his audience expects it, they don't mind. He runs his mouth every chance he gets. But I don't think Taylor Swift would have quite the warm response from her fan-base if she followed those Shelton guidelines. What works for one person on social media, doesn't necessarily work for everyone. So make sure that what you're doing works for you. Every tweet you post, every blog you write, builds your image so make it count.

See your work in new inventive ways. Think outside of the box with it. John Green did when he started Vlog Brothers and founded Nerdfighteria. Need another example? Think about it this way, singers think about their lyrics and their melodies, but they also have to think about what those songs would like on tour. Will it be theatrical? Stripped down? One crazy light show? Is there a massive dance party before intermission? They have to think about how their staging and cheoreography will interpret their songs. Think about your work. What if you made a cool interactive map for your readers? What if you just made it for yourself? Character-sketches! Websites! Photography! Use Pinterest to make storyboards! Your work is only constrained to the page, if you let it be.

Don't try to please everyone. It's impossible and if you start trying to do that, you'll please no one. Write want you want to write because you have to because you love the story you're telling. Be mindful of the advice of beta readers, agents and editors but don't let negativity from others bog you down–whether its family members, friends or strangers. If people take sides, know that you were able to hit a big enough of a nerve to get a conversation started.

You don't have to win Entertainer of the Year to be great, but it'd sure be cool if you did.