Here you will find stories, facts, folklore, and a sneak peek at the writing tips you may expect to encounter on Ireland Writer Tours . . .

This week author, Julie Dao, shares her perspective on the challenging road to finding representation. 

Why Subjective Passes Stink… And Also Make Sense
One of the toughest rejections a writer can get, in my opinion, is: “I didn’t connect to the story.”

I don’t know a single person who has queried and hasn’t heard this at least once. Just for fun, I searched for “didn’t connect” in the Gmail folder where I keep my old query responses (yes, I still hang on to them, and no, you don’t want to know how many there are!). The phrase showed up in roughly 30% of the emails.

Here’s another fun one: “I didn’t fall in love.” That popped up in twice as many emails as “didn’t connect” did.
Numerous responses included the agent telling me how much they enjoyed X, Y, and Z, and how I did A, B, and C well. A compliment sandwich, if you will, but two slices of kindness on either side of “no” is still a “no.”

And man, did it hurt. I came up with all kinds of explanations for what “didn’t connect” and “didn’t fall in love” REALLY meant. There didn’t seem to be a good reason for why someone would say that. Surely they hated my characters, or thought the plot was weak, or couldn’t take on my manuscript because they already had a client writing about such-and-such. Those would be solid reasons, and at least I’d know what was wrong. I could even work on the first two.

But what could I do about “connecting” and “falling in love”?

Julie & Corinne being wacky at the Cliffs 9f Moher during IWT 2015
And then I got the opportunity to jump on the “other side,” so to speak, when I volunteered to mentor in the Pitch Wars contest this year and last.

As the queries and chapters began rolling in, I finally understood what it meant to not connect... to not fall in love. I began to see how someone with hundreds (maybe thousands) of queries and very little time could possibly pass on a good story.

I read entire manuscripts where the writers clearly had raw talent and an excellent premise, but something just didn’t click for me. There were good stories, but I didn’t feel the need to read them over and over again. I saw solid characters, but I didn’t stay up all night thinking about them. I noticed writing that had a lot of potential, but I had no idea how to help the writer improve it, with my particular skills and experience.

And then a certain manuscript appeared – one I wanted to read again, with a main character I thought about even while waiting for my car inspection, and whose weaknesses I felt sure I could help because I’d struggled with the same things in the past. So I chose it.

Look, there are a lot of things a writer can control. You can write the best book you can. You can revise it as best you can. You can send it to people you think might be a good fit.

But, similar to real life, you can’t make someone fall in love. You can’t make someone connect to your story. Think about the books you’ve read this year. You may have enjoyed some of them, but did you love every single one the way you love your favorite books? Of course not. Look up a popular book on Goodreads; look up your favorite book of all time. I guarantee they have one-star ratings. Not everyone in the world is going to love any one book. 
Julie signs with an agent!
This is why it’s magical when you find someone who does connect and fall in love with your story. Don’t give up just because you haven’t found them yet. And don’t stop writing until you do! 
Next summer, you could enjoy a wonderful summer holiday while getting excellent instruction and personal feedback from two of your favourite authors, Amanda Flower and Vannetta Chapman. Both ladies make their living doing what they love - writing - and they will be teaching Ireland Writer Tour participants the secrets to how they've achieved their successes. This week, Amanda shares a wee bit of her story in:

The Malice Domestic Convention, which awards the Agatha Awards for best traditional mysteries, is at the end of this month in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2011, to my utter shock and delight, my debut mystery novel, MAID OF MURDER, was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and so began a chain of events that changed my life.
Of the nominees, I was the only one without a literary agent. With the nomination in my pocket, I knew it was time for me to ramp up my search for the right one. Like any creative professional, authors have to make strategic moves when they are in the news. There was one particular literary agent, Nicole Resciniti from the Seymour Agency, who I wanted to represent me. I had heard wonderful things about her and the agency from author friends who I trusted implicitly. Also she sold to inspirational and mainstream houses, and I wanted to be a crossover writer. Most agents I spoke to said I had to pick one or the other. They insisted I couldn't do both. I didn't believe them, which is one of the reasons it took me so long to find the right agent.

I queried Nicole, and she requested a partial of my novel to read. A few weeks later, I was supposed to go on a cruise somewhere in the Caribbean, but due to an illness in my family, I decided I needed to stay in the country. I changed my plans just a few days before flying out. The boat was scheduled to leave from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and I wasn't able to refund my plane tickets—note to self, buy travel insurance—so I decided to just go to Florida for the week. It would be easy to return home if need be. The night before I left, I realized Nicole was in Florida at the same time. Now, I chewed on my lip. Do I contact her to tell her I'm in Florida for a week or not? Is that pushy? The worst thing she could do was say "no," right?

I emailed Nicole, and again to my shock—are you getting I'm surprised a lot—she emailed me back within the hour saying that she would be happy to meet up with me while I was in Florida.

We met for lunch, and I have no idea what I ordered because I was way too nervous to eat. I learned within a few seconds that all the good reports I had heard about her were true. She's one of the most encouraging and charming people I've ever met. I told her I wanted to write mysteries for both inspirational and mainstream publishers. She was unfazed by this and didn't seem to think it was a bad idea like so many others had. We chatted for a bit more, and she said, "You know I'm going to sign you."
I believe my heart actually stopped when she said that. I think I lost my hearing too because sounds echoed for the next hour or so. After I more or less regained my composure, we discussed series ideas, and I mentioned that I used to live in Ohio's Amish Country. That got her attention, and she told me I needed to write a mystery about that. She could sell that. I said I would try, thinking, “I hope I pull this off, or she's going to regret signing me!”

When I got home from Florida, I wrote a fifty page Amish mystery proposal for Nicole, and she sent it off to the publishing houses within days. A few short months later, Nicole told me that she sold not one but two Amish mystery series for me. The Appleseed Creek Mystery Series to B&H, an inspirational house, and the Amish Quilt Mystery Series to Penguin, a mainstream house, which I would write as Isabella Alan. Since then, Nicole has done over a dozen of deals for me, and I have traditionally published over twenty-five mysteries, some of which have hit the USA Today bestsellers’ list. I can honestly say we are the perfect team. Finding an agent is hard and finding that perfect fit can be even harder, but when you do, your career will soar!

Learn more from Amanda and Vannetta in Ireland this summer to help make your writing career soar. 

“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

― G.K. Chesterton

Two centuries ago, Celtic tribes dominated Europe from the Black Sea to the British Isles, from Galicia in northwest Spain to Galatia in modern-day Turkey.

Eventually, three main Celtic groups were dominant: The Gauls lived in what is now France, Britons lived in Great Britain, and Gaels lived in Ireland.

Naturally, these different groups of Celts had different dialects and practices, which probably made for some pretty confusing conversations.

One thing that united all these different tribes of Celts was their belief in life after death. In ancient Ireland, you were born, you lived, you died, and you came back. Then you repeated the whole process over and over and over again. So strong was this belief that you could take out a loan and promise to pay it back in your next lifetime. People spoke to the dead just as they did to the living. And if you died in the middle of an argument, well . . . It wasn’t over ‘til it was over.
If you join us for an Ireland Writer Tour next summer, you’ll likely encounter some interesting aspects of the Irish language. Since both tours are based in the west of the country, you’ll see road signs in Irish: Go Mall - slow down. An Gaeltacht – a region where Irish is spoken. And if you’re looking for a public toilet (NOT called a restroom), it will likely be labelled Mná for Women or Fir for Men.

Even more fun than the road signs will be the people you meet. At least some of them will have names that either frustrate you or make you laugh. Lee Mack explains it far better than I can: