Monday, August 13, 2012

Fashion – Titanic Style!

Since I’m currently at work on a novel set in 1912, I thought I’d give a brief overview of the ending years of Edwardian ladies couture, which are some of the most gorgeous ever in the history of fashion, at least in my opinion. The styles took on an almost Regency feel, with high waistlines, narrow skirts, and Grecian hairstyles. This compiled with the amazing picture hats, makes this era a fashion lover’s dream.

1910-1913 was an era of transition between the heavier lacier look of the early 1900’s to the boyish attire of the 1920’s. Beginning in 1908, Paul Poiret constructed a new design, which consisted of narrow bodices, slim skirts, and raised waistlines. Other designers soon followed suit, including Paquin, Lucile, Doucet, Fortuny, Lanvin, and Callot Soers. One of these designers, Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon was actually on the Titanic on her way to present her spring collection of gowns in New York. She survived and still presented her spring collection.

Dressing to dine at a fashionable restaurant, or on the Titanic, an Edwardian lady would begin with her undergarments, which although not as elaborate as they had been fifty years before, were still quite ornate. They consisted of a chemise, corset, corset cover, drawers, and petticoat. Sometimes combinations were worn, such as a combination chemise and drawers. The Edwardian era was the first where a high emphasis was put on undergarments. Silks and hand embroidered lace were all used in greater quantities than in eras past.

After donning all those layers (assisted, of course by her lady’s maid), it was time for her gown. The fabrics of the era were very filmy and almost cloudlike, unlike the heavy velvets and satins of the 1870’s and 1880’s. Organdy, chiffon, crepe, tulle, silk, crepe de chine, and lightweight versions of velvet, satin, and brocade, were all popular and sometimes several could be used on one gown, a crepe overskirt and a silk underskirt. The colors favored were pastel, pale blue, lemon yellow, cream, pink, white. Stronger colors were worn by the more daring, such as black, royal blue, and emerald green. Necklines were open and often V necked, with large V’s in the back. Often a filmy shorter layer was worn over a more substantial underlayer.

Long white kid gloves were a must for every evening as were fans. Jewels were plentiful, diamond tiaras, teardrop necklaces, long strings of pearls, and bracelets were common. Feathers and elaborate headpieces were favored as well as bandeaus, which were headbands worn across the forehead and decorated with rhinestones, spangles, and feathers.

Although hats were not a part of evening dress, one cannot mention the Edwardian era without making note of the hats, huge feather and ribbon bedecked creations. The Merry Widow hat was so large it became difficult to pass through doorways wearing it, and picture hats were only slightly smaller.

Nothing can describe fashion, like fashion itself, so below are some of my favorite fashion images from the Titanic era. I’d love to see some of these in person!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Fashion Avenue! As always if there are any topics you’d like me to cover on either writing or history, post a comment and I’ll do my best!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Your Best Pitch

The ACFW conference is less than two months away. Scary, because I haven’t done even half of all I have to do to get ready.

But today I’m going to talk about pitching, which might rank among one of the most nerve wracking experiences ever. There can either be one of two outcomes. Either the editor/agent really likes your story…or she really…well, doesn’t. I usually have nightmares about the latter. :) It’s one thing to write the book. It’s another to walk into a room where (insert dream editor’s name) is sitting and have to tell them what the book is about. What if they think it’s the most inane idea they’ve ever heard? What if another star author already wrote a book just like it?
Thankfully, there are a few things that can help in creating and giving the perfect pitch.

1 – Keep it succinct – You want to have something that can be said in less than three minutes, which means it has to be under 100 words. You can’t outline every plot point or go into deep character analysis. It has to be short. For a long-winded writer this is not easy. J I generally aim for under 100 words but others say to keep it to three or four sentences. I’ve never been able to pare mine down to that length, but do try and keep the word count in your pitch down. The editor/agent will have questions for you too, and you’ll want to give them time to ask them.

2 – Do your research – Perhaps this should be number one, because your perfect pitch for a historical romance will be wasted on an editor who only publishes young adult. Definitely check out the editor/agent’s website and guidelines and if they publish a blog read that too. If you’re going to the ACFW conference this September, ACFW has a brief bio for each professional, along with what they want to see during an appointment. Read it!

3 – Practice – Don’t let the first time you pitch be to your dream agent. Find some guinea pigs first. It could be your family, another writer friend, the mirror, even your dog (although he isn’t likely to give you much feedback J). I practiced several times before I actually pitched, even having several role playing scenarios.

4 – Be professional – Yes, you may be terrified and barely able to remember your name, let alone the title of your book, but when it comes time to give your pitch, professionalism is a must. Have your one sheet and business card ready when you walk in but don’t shove it at them! Also, say a polite hello when you walk in don’t just launch into your pitch. Think of it as a job interview where there is naturally give and take involved in the communication. Calm your nerves by remembering that agents and editors are interested in what you and your book have to say or else they wouldn’t be there.

5 – Be prepared – Along with your pitch, you’ll want to have included on your one sheet or have the answers to some questions such as: What’s the word count? What’s the audience of your book? They also might ask you some follow-up questions about your story and plot so be prepared to give those as well without too much rambling.

6- Follow up- It’s very likely that after they look at your one sheet they’ll hand it back. This doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, it just means they don’t have room in their briefcases for a ton of loose paper. If they request further info they will give you a business card telling you to contact them and what they want you to send after the conference is over. Directly after leaving the appointment it’s a good idea to write down exactly what they requested on the back of their card. I didn’t do this last year and had to wrack my brain to remember who wanted what. Don’t make this same mistake!

Following these steps should make pitching a less stressful procedure. After all who doesn’t enjoy talking about their book to someone who actually wants to listen? Remember the agents and editors are there because they are looking for writers and you wouldn’t be there pitching if you weren’t one.

As always, happy writing!

Let’s talk pitches. Any pitching horror stories? How did your first pitch go?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Winner of Below Stairs

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Cara, the winner of Below Stairs by Margaret Powell. She has been contacted and her book will be mailed to her shortly.

Thanks so much to all who entered!
Happy Writing,