The Yellow Hat Syndrome by Dionna L. Mann

THE YELLOW HAT SYNDROME
(Colors have been changed to protect the innocent.)

 

I loved my yellow hat with the little ball on top. When I saw it gleaming in a bin at a thrift shop, it called to me. “Hello! Ain’t I sunshiny!” I picked it up. No doubt, someone’s granny had crochet it. And now it would be mine. MINE!

I tried the hat on. Oh, yeah, baby! Don’t I look fine as sunshine dancing on a dewdrop! I couldn’t stop wearing it.

Then one day, my dear friend (and she’s the kind that will tell you ANYTHING) saw me wearing my bright-as-daylight find.

With eyes focused on my hat, she frowned and said, “Never wear that again. Never.”

“What? Never? You don’t like it?”

“No,” she said.

“But look at the color! And the little ball on top! And the way it slants to the side, like a French beret! You really don’t like it?”

“No. It’s…it’s… Well, it’s…ugly.”

“Ugly!” I said. “I don’t think so!” And I pulled the hat tighter around my head.

I was hurt. Offended. Angry! How dare she call ugly what I love!

I had loved it when a little girl at the grocery store peered over her mamma’s shoulder and said “Hat! Hat! Hat!” and her mother said “Haaaatt.” (Mom liked it so much, she would

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Illustration by Tami Traylor

craft one later. I was sure.) I loved it when at the library folks did double takes. (They liked it so much, they were trying not to stare. I could tell.) I loved it when a workmate said “A new hat, eh?” then belly-laughed. (She liked it so much, she was jealous. I knew.)

I loved it then. And I loved it still! Something was wrong with my friend (and the rest of the world) to think my hat ugly. End of story.

Little did I realize it, but I was inflicted with the YELLOW HAT SYNDROME.

On the way home, I calmed down. (It was, after all, only a hat.) And then I began to reason: Was it possible that, because I loved my hat, my objectivity about its aesthetic value was clouded? Was it possible that my hat was not all sunshine-and-skipping-through-the-meadow? Was it possible that my hat was not all that? I had to admit, it was possible. My friend did have fashion sense, the kind I never had. My friend did care about me. My friend did only try to help.

When I got home, I looked myself over and tried to see my hat through my friend’s eyes.

And it was then, and only then, that I began to rethink the yellow hat.

And you know what? I decided my head-topper needed to be removed from my wardrobe. The hat needed to be history. The hat needed to be deleted.


 

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Dionna L. Mann

I’ve noticed a similar tendency in us writers. Oftentimes, when a critiquer doesn’t join us in loving what we’ve written, we tend to get defensive and dismissive. Sometimes we get fuming mad. Sometimes we hold on to what we’ve written and refuse to reevaluate its place in the manuscript. Objectivity may be obscured by our love—The YELLOW HAT SYNDROME.

Of course, a critiquer’s opinion may simply be proving the truism that one person’s ugly is another person’s beautiful. Who knows? The critiquer may simply have an aversion to the color yellow. And so, after graciously thanking them for sharing their opinion, we may decide not only to keep our yellow hat but wear it loudly. That’s what owning our own voice is all about.

Either way, viewing our work through the lens of a thoughtful critique can increase our objectivity. It can cause us to pause and ask: Is what I’ve written as beautiful as I imagine? Is my yellow hat all that? In that case, we’ll be willing to re-write, revise, re-order, or retire those yellow-hat darlings. After all, don’t we all want our manuscripts to be as sunshiny-beautiful as my yellow hat?


Dionna L. Mann, an SCBWI Mid-Atlantic PAL member since 2005, considers herself more of a re-writer than a writer. Her current work-in-progress is a nonfiction picture-book about a surrogate owl papa that has helped no less than 30 owlets pass mouse school. Dionna can be found celebrating all things kidlit at www.dionnalmann/blog.

 

 

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Blog Tips (hint: relationships rule)

Want to dive into the blogosphere but aren’t sure how to get it right? Or are you already there, but your blog isn’t getting the clicks and views you’d hoped?

Blogger Ti Roberts has six basic tips to get you (and your traffic generation) right where you want them. Good luck!

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Roberts, Ti. (2013, January 6). 6 Simple Action Steps to Create Ridiculously Solid Connections with Influential Bloggers. Retrieved from: http://basicblogtips.com/solid-connections-with-bloggers.html?ViralTag.

#MSWL is #KindOfABigDeal

If you haven’t discovered Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL) yet, now’s the time! The website (and companion hashtag) are designed to answer the classic question: What do agents and editors want in their submission inboxes?

Here’s how it works—editors and agents create listings and profiles (that they update) on the website. And each profile is linked to that particular agent or editor’s #MSWL tweets, so you’ll always know what they’re hoping for.

So, if you see a tweet or a listing asking for a PB about robot-eating chickens that has a ton of heart with timeless appeal, then you (as the author or illustrator) will know that your MG book about chicken-eating robots is, alas, not quite right.

In addition, certain days are designated as #MSWL DAY. You can find out exactly when that is by following #MSWL on twitter, by checking ManuscriptWishList regularly, or by following our region’s SCBWI tweets, just to name a few.

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SCBWI NorthCal on Twitter, keeping us all in the loop, 6/30

 

It’s all pretty exciting, I know. But remember, there are RULES. Familiarize yourself with them. A biggie, quoted from the website, reads: “Writers should NOT post on the hashtag. It’s mostly read by writers…and if agents do happen to see your tweet, they’ll be annoyed that you broke the rules, and this will reflect poorly on you as a potential client.” EEK!

The website is run by various folks now, but was started by Jessica Sinsheimer, now an Associate Agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. So do yourself a favor. Take an hour and explore Manuscript Wish List, then check out #MSWL. They’re both full of valuable information. And who knows? Maybe an agent or editor just tweeted that they’re dreaming of your MG book about chicken-eating robots. ;p

Break Free From Submission Paralysis: Building an Agent Database by Allison Aubin

Even after the writing is finished—after your characters have done amazing things (or ordinary things in amazing ways) and you’ve told the story in a great voice that will connect with readers—the hard work has just begun. Seriously? Yup.

If you’re going the traditional route, now it’s time to get your masterpiece in front of the right agent. But this can seem overwhelming—how do you choose who to query, and how do you keep track of it all? Member Allison Aubin offered to share her system, hoping it might work for others. Thanks, Allison!


As creators of soon to be great works—if only we could get them into the right hands—we are told we must search for the one agent. This one agent will connect us with the one editor, the one publisher, that will treat our work with the care of a beloved child and raise it into the NY Times Bestseller list and beyond!

The problem with finding that one single perfect agent in a sea of thousands is a paralyzing one. But you aren’t looking for one single perfect agent. To get over this paralysis, rephrase the situation.

You only have until December to get 50 rejections.

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Author Allison Aubin

Somewhere in those rejections, you just might find that one YES. However, the real question remains. How do you find 50 agents to query?

Once I rephrased the situation to aim for multitudes of rejections, and therefore, submissions, I developed a database of agents for my one manuscript that was ready for the market and began submitting in earnest. Sure, I’d submitted here and there with heartfelt queries and not even one request for a full, but with my database of specially targeted agents, the very first one asked for a full manuscript. This wasn’t the end of the road YES, but it was a far sight better than what I had been doing, which was wildly querying people I liked at conferences.

To create your own agent database, you will need excel or Google Sheets, The Book put out by SCBWI, and access to agent information online. This information includes further research on the agents listed in The Book and other agents seeking new clients. They often give interviews to Writer’s Digest and other writing organizations and businesses to boost submissions.

With your very own database, you will identify agents looking for your work in particular, and track what kind of response you’ve gotten. Never be afraid to add or subtract from your database, and always track to whom you’ve submitted. I created my database with headers for contact information, query package requirements, whether they accept multiple submissions, a few brief notes on what they’re looking for, or previous works they’ve handled that are similar to mine but not the same. You can add categories like comparable titles or authors in their portfolio, whether you’ve met them, and even interests that you have in common that you have perhaps gleaned from Twitter or blogs.

I spent two hours creating the first list for my agent database. This was an entry-by-entry reading of The Book. It will go by faster than you think. I needed someone who wanted a YA adventure fantasy with a male protagonist and a humorous voice. Anyone who represented only illustrators did not get an entry into my database. Likewise anyone not open to YA.

I started with a list of 46. Then I began searching my emails. I subscribed to the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents newsletter years ago. I went back six months and copied over any YA agents. I also went to the WD agents newsletter online and looked for links to other agent notices and searched for blogs that listed interviews with agents. From that first list of 60, I began to cut.

CUT? More is not always better. In this case, I didn’t need everyone who would read only YA, I needed someone interested in a new client with a specific work. You know, my work.

I researched every agent in my database and cut anyone who was not open to my protagonist or not open to fantasy. From there, I sorted people by query package. Everyone looking for a 5-page sample went in one tier, 10-pages another tier, 3 chapters a third tier. These tiers don’t have to make sense to you, because it’s my database. The way my tiers are set up, I can submit multiple submissions to multiple agents and get to one YES even faster.

Creating your own agent database is a time investment in targeting your work to the people who want to help you get your work into readers’ hands. Periodically, set aside time to go over your database and ensure future agents are still open to new clients and still eager for work like yours.

While I’m still waiting to hear back on my current submission, I’m not worried. If I get rejected, I can just move down the list and submit to the next lucky agent or agent group. You have better things to do with your time than worrying about the next agent—like starting your next project!

The links below have information on even more agents to add to your database:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents

http://www.leewind.org/

http://www.agentquery.com/


Allison Aubin has written for regional magazines and newspapers and has been a member of SCBWI for four years. She loves reading and writing YA fantasy. When she isn’t writing, she works in the food industry and gets to read federal regulations and legislation. Like any normal person, she would rather be writing. Visit Allison at aaubin.com.