The Hopefuls Day 3: Deep, Dark Fears

Hi, guys. It’s me again. Big thanks to our guest blogger yesterday who was very helpful and awesomely candid. Today, is day three, and in the spirit of true Support Groupage, I’m airing all my deepest, darkest agented-authorly fears. So, try not to laugh. I’m taking a breath. Okay…here I go:

  1. After I signed with my super agent, I felt like it’d be good to come clean with friends and family about what I was doing with my time—writing. I wanted people to celebrate my big achievement with, I wanted people to appreciate when that big deal did come in and not think that this was something that was so easy it all happened overnight. More importantly, it was sort of weird when people asked what I was doing and I was like, “Oh, just watching TV” or something. Yeah, I’m not that big a couch potato. So, I mean, I was pumped when I signed with Writers House. I mean, how awesome are they? That’s when I told people that I wrote…a lot. Now, having retired book one, I worry that people will think that I’m a failure. Or that they’ll think I’m just some weird girl writing poetry on myspace. Or that I actually can’t write at all. Sure, it’s a little vain.  It’s a little silly. But I think deep down, we all worry about what people think sometimes. Our friends in the writing biz and publishing industry know and understand this is a process, a career, and a commitment, but to the folks in our outside lives? It’s sometimes hard for them to understand.
  2. I worry about disappointing my agent. Agents don’t get paid until we get paid and unless they sell something, they’re working for free. I know that my agent has been wonderful about returning all my emails, usually within 24 hours, and I am just so grateful for how hard he worked subbing my graphic novel. I am so ready to give him something he can sell, which I absolutely plan to do this summer. The only thing that gives me consolation over this deep, dark fear is that I know that I’m at home working hard, too.
  3. Missing seeing my books in bookstores. Okay, I KNOW this one is silly, but we’re sharing, right? Everywhere I look I see more and more about the changing industry. The focus of bookstores on blockbuster hits. The rise of the e-book format. And I keep worrying that I’ll just miss the whole see-your-book-on-shelves thing. Which thrusts me into the whole what-if thing. What if I’d started writing a few years earlier? What if I’d used this free time or that free time in college to write? What if I’m not writing fast enough? Luckily, I’ve had some great writer friends talk me off that ledge. I do think the whole industry/economy will pick back up and someday, that’s a joy and an accomplishment I will experience.
  4. When you sign with a reputable agent, you can kind of get this feeling of Okay, I can write. But, there is also this sense of so-close-yet-so-far. It’s hard to feel day after day how badly you want something and wondering how much longer you’ll feel like that. But, as I’ve said before, you’ve also got to embrace that feeling because when it goes away, so might your passion for the craft and for the industry. It’s a love/hate relationship, I guess. With the anticipation, the obsessive attachment to the cell phone. But, I have a fear that I’m going to be a prime candidate for an early heart attack!

So, what are your biggest writing-related fears?

**Be sure to check out The Hopefuls prizes.

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The Hopefuls Day 2: False Start (Guest Post)

Chandler asked me to write briefly on my sordid tale of finding an agent and then needing another one. So, I’ll do that. Write, briefly, I mean. Because it’s not the most uplifting story, but I do think it’s one worth telling and worth hearing. I apologize for not taking my figurative clothes off and telling you who I am, but as I believe Chandler has pointed out, some of these topics are a bit taboo in the industry. Writers are afraid of being blacklisted, blackballed, what have you. That’s probably a bit dramatic and wouldn’t really happen, but hey, we’re writers! We have a flare for that sort of thing. Truthfully, though, I’m still on sub, so don’t want to shout my tale of woe from the mountaintops—or Fumbling with Fiction.

Anyway, getting an agent was easy. Wait! Don’t hit me! It was too easy. All my bruises and scars have come post-signing with an agent and it’s nothing to be jealous of, I promise.

I had a friend who in the writing biz; he seemed to do okay. I got most of my info from him and can’t claim that I did a ton of research beyond that. But I trusted him. He gave me a referral to his agent who will remain, of course, nameless. Nameless Agent (let’s call her NA) got back to me quickly. At the time, I had queried other agents and had received some positive responses, but when NA called to offer representation, I jumped at the chance. This was great! I barely had to do any work. Sure, I checked to make sure she wasn’t on any of the “Bad Agents” lists (see, Agents can get blacklisted, too, and those lists are a lot easier to find). She wasn’t. She charged nothing upfront. There might have been a few complaints about her online, but nothing major.

I wrote the few agents who were reading and told them I was off the market, a married man. A polite response from an *extremely* reputable agent still haunts me to this day: “[Redacted], I wish I’d gotten back to you sooner. I would have loved to snatch this up.”

Damn.

But, at that point, I wasn’t concerned in the least. I went through some revisions with NA. She sent me the list of houses we’d sub to. A lot of big name houses and some smaller ones. We went to acquisitions at a smaller one. That’s when things started to go downhill…fast! I had actually talked to the editor interested in my book on the phone. He was really excited about it, so naturally I was excited, too. Unfortunately, that’s when I stopped hearing from my agent. Nothing, nadda, zip.

Eventually, I tried to get in touch with the editor on my own. I couldn’t. I figured this was common practice. Now, I realize that it is totally not. I went 5 months without hearing from my agent.

FIVE MONTHS! And I kept wanting it to work out. I spoke to writer friends who told me things like “No agent is better than this agent.” But, nobody wants to hear that. Not when you are surrounded by message boards and blogs that detail the heartache tied to finding an agent. You want to believe that this agent is your soul mate, your true champion. And that maybe, she’s got some sort of terminal illness? Or going through a messy divorce? Geez, you know you’ve hit a low when you are wishing major life crises on a fellow human being.

Finally, after six months of radio silence, someone got stern with me. They said: Look, this isn’t going to work out and even if it does, do you want it to? But, more importantly, every minute you waste with this person, is a minute you won’t have a book deal.

True.

I tried to get in touch with NA, couldn’t, and then figured that would have to be good enough. We were broken up.

Then, I had to query the good old fashion way. I went through Query Hell. I found an agent by being one of many in a pile of slush. This agent I checked on. She seemed to have a more realistic vision for my book, more expertise in the field. I love her. But you know what? It had already been sent out to 15 houses. And while I so appreciate my new agent taking me on. She’s not a miracle worker and, likely, I’ll have to start a new book.

So, I hope there are several things I hope you can glean from my story:

  1. You can’t always predict—no matter how much research, no matter how much digging– how an agent-author relationship is going to go. That said, I could have done a lot better job trying to figure it out.
  2. It’s not all a bed of roses. Sometimes, your first book isn’t going to sell. And you know what? I still think I’m a darn good writer. And I’m glad, that after all this, I can still feel like that.
  3. Shoot, this isn’t brief at all!

Happy Writing!

Hi! Bye!

 

Ok, fastest blog update ever. I’ve missed blogging the last few days. Really, I have! But I’m in the home stretch. My first law school final is Friday. *eek!* So I’m trying to focus.

Honestly, I can’t tell you how excited I am for this summer due to the fact that I’ll be able to get in a ton of much needed and much desired writing (slash-reading). 

There is still a lot I want to share about Agent/Editor Day and I plan to. But, as I realized, those posts require (a) brain power and (b) time, both of which are in short supply. 

The one break I did take this weekend, I filled not blogging, but doing something I think y’all can all appreciate–meeting Melissa Marr. 

The author of Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange and now Fragile Eternity was signing  books and doing a Q&A session at Book People this weekend in Austin. How cool is that? I bought Fragile Eternity and had it signed and now have it waiting for me as a reward for when I finish with school. 

In addition to continuing to share Agent and Editor insights I’ll blog a bit about what I learned at the Q&A session regarding the writing process. 

In 2 weekends I’ve met the coolest writing-related people and I’m discovering just listening opens up whole new worlds of thought for me. I know these experiences will help me develop as a writer and I’m glad I’ve been able to seek them out offline now as well. 

The plan for now, though, will be an updated blog–but with shorter blog posts. I’ll have some interesting discussion questions that I’ve been pondering and hopefully y’all will keep stopping in.

The Pre-Owned Story Dealership: “Better than new”

Today some words of wisdom courtesy of SCBWI Dallas Agent/Editor Day. This was a bit of insight from Editor Molly O’Neill. Although I’m sure she put it much more eloquently, Molly touched on the fact that it’s not about finding a unique idea, it’s about finding an new perspective for an old one. 

People have been telling stories for thousands of years. Let’s face it, most the good ideas have been snatched up, re-hauled, and told all over again. But that’s ok. See, there’s a reason those stories have been told and re-told throughout countless generations. It’s because they’re good. 

If you’re telling some bizarre story about giant squids on vacation in Denver and you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’m super original. Go me!” Take a second. Think. Now, why has that story never been written? Oh right, because there about three people that will want to buy that book–and that’s being generous! Publishers don’t really want to invest in a book that has an audience of three. That’s not good business. 

So the trick isn’t coming up with something that’s never-ever been done. The trick is finding a new perspective. A new spin.

The trick is to write a zombie book in a literary voice or a Holocaust book narrated by Death or a social lottery book couched in reality TV. 

Isn’t that what being an artist is all about?

A good book is relatable to lots of people, but forces people to look at the world in a new way or to see an old standby from a different standpoint. 

 

Now, for a visual aid that I thought was on point. This is from photographer Kerry Skarbakka who was recently featured on the Today Show. This guy takes pictures of himself falling. His photographs have touched a nerve with folks because why? You guessed it. Relatable feeling: Falling/Helplessness/Discomfort. Viewed from: A new angle. 

guyfalling

Agent/Editor Day: Reasons for Optimism?

First a disclaimer: These tidbits I’m about to share from SCBWI Dallas Agent/Editor Day are not intended replicate verbatim what Molly or Jennifer said. Rather I’m sharing the kernels followed by my thoughts for discussion. Sound good? Great. 

 

I’m beginning on the Agent side of things today with insight from Jennifer Rofe, literary agent at Andrea Brown. 

Interesting Fact #1: Jennifer said recently she’s finding more new clients through conferences than other means. This perked my ears up a bit because I think most writers have heard cautionary words about not expecting much from conferences other than meeting fellow writers (which is, of course, still a fantastic reason to go!) But it’s nice to know that agents are actively looking to meet new clients at those type of gatherings. However, it made me wonder why conference meetings might becoming a more attractive way of adding to the client list. Is it because with the economy only those “serious” about their craft are willing to fork over the cash to attend? Is it because those that go to conferences are interested on working on their craft period and are therefore more likely to sign with an agent whether it be through slush, conferences, or referrals? Or do personal connections play a valuable part?

Interesting Fact #2: Jennifer talked about taking on a certain client whom she’d met at a conference. This particular author had written a book with lovely writing and characters that leapt off the page, but a sort of mushy, not-enough-there plot. To me, mushy plot sounds like a pretty big deal, right? But Jennifer asked for a revision and this author was able to turn around a quick overhaul of the plot that impressed Jennifer. She took the author on as a client and after a couple more rounds of revisions, sent the book out to editors and had an offer within three hours. I found this story encouraging for a number of reasons. First, agents are willing to work on a book they love, on a writer whom they know has a special talent. The book boils down to more than a sum of its parts (voice, character development, plot). A book lover can see the diamond in the rough, knows there is the X factor, even if it might need a bit of excavation. Second, I think we hear so often how agents are looking for reasons to say no. That might be true. But here is a concrete example of an agent who looked for what needed to be fixed in order to find a way to say yes. Finally, I love that the author’s quick turnaround with the edits didn’t go unnoticed. I think it’s easy to wonder whether an agent ever notices the fact that a writer drops everything to get those revisions done promptly. It’s nice to hear that it can be appreciated. 

Interesting Fact #3: Simple but true, agents are people. I know, I know. I’m as shocked as you are! But seriously, Jen Rofe was about my height, funny, and had really cute hair. I’m just sayin’. She didn’t seem like a femme bot to me. Apparently the author I mentioned in the story above didn’t get the memo, though, because Jen said that the author spent an entire conference avoiding her because the author was so nervous! Good thing they did eventually meet, though. Don’t let nerves get in the way of opportunities. It might not lead to an agent-author relationship, but you can ask questions and learn things, right? Again, regular folks.

 

Ok, that’s all for today. More tomorrow…Editor side.

*In other news: It’s CINDY PON’S RELEASE DAY!!! Founder of AW’s Purgatory, she is an inspiration to many of us. Support her and her debut novel, Silver Phoenix.

 

Agents and Editors Crave Fabulosity

So I wanted to give y’all a heads up that I’ll be talking about what I learned at SCBWI Agent/Editor Day in Dallas all week. I went this past Saturday and got a ton of great information that I hope you will find helpful. The two speakers were Agent Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown an Editor Molly O’Neill of HarperCollins. I’ll try to alternate between information pertinent to those seeking agents and those in the agented submission process, but there is a fair bit of info that I think everyone will find useful. I want to try to focus each discussion to one or two points rather than listing a bunch of bulleted tidbits, so who knows, this might take us beyond a week. 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it, though, I thought I’d do a quick introduction. See, I was thinking on my ride home whether it was ok to share what I’d learned at the conference. I figured, of course, that it was. I see agents and writers often sharing insider information from conferences. But to reassure myself I recalled something Jennifer Rofe kept saying. She would say “tell your friends.” As in “tell your friends” so they won’t make this mistake. Then Molly reaffirmed this sentiment by saying something to the effect of “Hopefully this will lead to something fabulous crossing my desk.”

So, in response to much, much internet ranting about editors or agents or whoever trying to keep great works out of the industry or about agentfail, I have to say that it seems agents and editors crave fabulosity. 

They’re not rooting against you. Agents and editors do these type of conferences to attract great projects for themselves! They want you to win. I think nothing would make an agent or editor happier than finding a standout project waiting in their inboxes. 

It’s not an us v. them scenario. No matter where in the publishing process you might find yourself. Whether you’re a newbie writer, a published author, an agent, an editor, or a bookstore buyer, everyone is just wanting good books. 

I hope we can at least all agree on that.

One Agent. Hold the Angst

I think most writers emerge into the world angsty. We just do. Can’t help it. Maybe there is just so much rejection in this biz that the angst and uncertainty is embedded in our DNA somewhere. I don’t know, but someday the Authors Guild should pay a scientist to figure it out, so that we can get rid of it. 

Here’s the deal. I frequent a couple message boards and talk to a bunch of writers and one thing is pervasive. Writers everywhere are asking what’s ok to put in a query, how long to wait before following up (“four weeks and a day or is just four weeks alright?”), and exactly how many lines in a query should be personalized. We are hardwired to never ever not in a bazillion years call an agent prior to signing. And the idea of asking a clarification question during the querying process is simply blocked from our minds.

For the most part, that’s all good stuff. Writers should certainly want to come across professionally and adhere to the etiquette expected by their chosen industry. 

Great. But, after that is said and done, and the writer is signed, sealed, and delivered to his or her newfound agent, guess what? I still hear the same sorts of questions.

“I want to know who we’ll be subbing to, is it ok to ask?”

“I emailed last week to ask a question, do you think it’s alright to ask another question?”

“Is it ok to nudge?”

“I don’t want to take up the agent’s time, but ….”

You get the picture. And how many writers are guilty of that? *raises hand sheepishly* Yeah, and I know that I’m not the only one. 

The reason I mention this is because last night I was being EXTRA angsty over what I should do about a particular issue my agent and I had been emailing back and forth on. I wasn’t sure what he meant and it was hard to read his tone regarding my concerns. I was chatting with a fellow writer about this and then it dawned on me. I could call him. 

For a second, I was like: Whoah, hold the phone. I can DO that?

Then, I thought: Why, yes, yes I can. In fact, Why not?

So I did. And you wanna know what? I felt about a zillion times better. I came up with the specific questions I wanted answered. We talked for about 10 minutes and, in that short time, I got way more information than I had in the several emails we’d passed between us. 

I’m embarrassed to say, though, that I was almost nervous to call. I had to gulp down the urge to apologize for taking up some of his time. And believe me, he wasn’t making me feel like I was wasting his time or bugging him. It all came from the inside. 

So, this leads me to my next point. There is a tricky time between being agented and the first sale. A time where almost all the scarring of the querying process are still visible. You aren’t entirely sure where you belong. 

But look, as people, it’s not attractive to say “I don’t want to waste your time” or act undeserving. If you are the sort of person that worries about being considerate of other’s time and energy, you are probably not the sort of person putting unnecessary drains on others. 

Many, many writers are naturally introverted and being assertive feels against their nature. But, once your agented, it’s time to start thinking toward the next step. Time to start thinking about a sale and, hopefully, life as an author. That means learning to be an advocate for yourself and starting to really believe that the dream is attainable. 

Probably the best place to start putting this into practice is with your agent. So, here are ways that you can get what you need and deserve without worrying about being obnoxious:

1. If you are actively working on a project with your agent, try to put all of your thoughts and questions into one or two emails a week and send that. Put it in an easy to read format (i.e. not long paragraphs) so your agent can respond accurately, completely, and efficiently. 

2. If you need to have a back and forth with your agent, consider setting up a phone call. Although the default these days seems to be email, often issues can be sorted through much more quickly in a live conversation. 

3. If you do decide on a phone call, email with several times that would work for you and allow your agent to choose. Then, think about what you need to accomplish in that conversation. It can be easy to forget certain issues or questions you wanted raised, so consider jotting down your questions in a notebook. A lot can get done in a 5-10 minute conversation, so don’t be afraid to squeeze a few of your burning questions in as well. Obviously, you don’t want to call too often, so make it count when you do have your agent on the phone. 

4. Be considerate, but don’t forget to consider your sanity. If asking a question will help you stop obsessing, then ask. In other words, if you want to know why you aren’t subbing to such-and-such imprint ask. 

5. Be receptive, not defensive. But don’t be afraid to have your own brain. When you sign on the dotted line, you aren’t signing away any individual thought. It’s so easy to want to be the perfect client. But saying, “Would you mind going to this house with this?” shouldn’t ruin that. Of course, if the agent says “No, that editor isn’t a good fit” then listen to that. Your agent is paid to know the industry. But, if you are following the rules of communication above, I don’t think you need to be concerned.

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: C. Lee McKenzie

It’s not a heart-grabbing noise like when somebody jiggles the doorknob to see if it’s locked. It’s not a bitter smell like the electrical short we had last month, when all the breakers popped. No. It’s something in the air, something like a ghost making its way through the room. And it can’t be Monster, not after last night.

sliding_cover_small1

C. Lee McKenzie’s here! She has her debut novel, Sliding on the Edge, coming out from WestSide Books in April and she was kind enough to answer all the questions I had about her road to publication. Thanks, C. Lee!

Sliding on the Edge is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, years?
I had to dig into my archives to answer this one. I’ve written two Middle Grade stories that are gathering moss on my C drive. Sliding is my first YA and I think I sent queries and sample chapters to about six publishers who either didn’t think it suited their mix or didn’t respond. As to how long this book has been in the pre-birthing phase: I started thinking about it in 2006. I wrote some of the ideas down in my notebook (something I consider an additional appendage) through the first part of 2007; then I started actually putting those ideas into scenes and chapters. I hauled what I now refer to as the first draft to a conference and was asked, “What made you write about something like this?” It wasn’t a nice question, BTW, and I was thoroughly discouraged for about half an hour. I finally sold the book in January of 2008. So . . . three books, seven rejections, two years to sale, three years and three months to publication.
Seven rejections! That’s it? Pretty amazing! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal?
Wish I had a comparison to offer, but I don’t have an agent. I’m flying solo without any pre-flight instruction. But talking to my editor is an all-time high, so as life moments go, I’d rank our discussions right up there at the top. The first time we spoke the conversation was pretty one-sided with her doing most of the talking. I was working on breathing while I searched for the part of my brain that knew words. I guess you’d describe the moment as “exciting,” but that’s such an inadequate word.

I’m so impressed by authors who can go it alone. Congrats on making that sale. I know you also write Middle Grade fiction. How do you switch gears when writing between two different age groups? Are there certain things you need to keep in mind for each?
I guess my head just goes into another place when I’m writing and if I’m into MG, I sort of nestle into my pre-teen self. It’s still in there, waiting to be noticed and enjoyed again. My angsty YA is pretty demanding. It has a lot to say, so when I’m there things kind of pour out, like sweat after a run. I’m not really “in” my usual mind when I write. I can’t explain it very well, except to say that I kind of slip into my character(s) and they tell me stuff. So I guess my answer is I don’t have any problems about keeping the two genres separate.

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
Only one? I hope I’m allowed more than that because I’m way over my quota if I’m not. My biggest oops is probably sending a query addressed to one publisher to another. That was super embarrassing, but the publisher was kind and returned the letter to me with something like “oops!” (and not dodo bird) written across the top. She also included a short note saying she liked my idea, but it wouldn’t work for her house. Sigh.
Hey, we’ve all been there. Or at least I have! You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?
I’d be very happy to see another book of mine on the shelves and in the hands of readers. I’ve completed (loosely speaking) another YA novel and am working on a third, so I guess I’m thinking continued publication would please me greatly.

Tell us a little about receiving your first rejection. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

My first one? Oh not that! It was horrible. They actually rejected my book (one of my Middle Grades). How could they? That book was positively brilliant. It was the next Harry Potter of the publishing world. Of course, after a few years I came to recognize that the brilliance was more in my head than on the page.

Well, hopefully your upcoming book will be the next Harry Potter, right? Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
This is not only the last, but also the most difficult question, Chandler. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Only one? I seem to be asking that question a lot in this interview. Well, I’ve been re-reading S.E. Hinton lately, and I really love the way she captures the young male adults in her books. So I guess I’d choose my favorite among her publications and say I wish I could have written Rumble Fish.

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Erin Dionne

Thirteen-year-old Celeste Harris is no string bean, but comfy sweatpants and a daily chocolate cookie suit her just fine. Her under-the-radar lifestyle could have continued too, if her aunt hadn’t entered her in the HuskyPeach Modeling Challenge. To get out of it, she’s forced to launch Operation Skinny Celeste—because, after all, a thin girl can’t be a fat model! What Celeste never imagined was that losing weight would help her gain a backbone . . . or that all she needed to shine was a spotlight.

modelsdonteatcookies

 

Our next 2009 Debutante was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event).  Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now–he manuscript Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies was awarded the 2006 PEN/New England Children’s Book Caucus Susan P. Bloom Discovery Night Award, and the book will be as a 2009 Featured Title for Scholastic Book Fairs.

This week’s interview is with author Erin Dionne. I’m excited to share it with you partly because I’m so tickled by her blurb (HuskyPeach modeling!), but also because she has some great insights to share! So, without further delay…

 

Congrats on your debut novel, Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies. Can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

Thank you! And thanks for hosting me.

MODELS is my second middle grade novel, but I worked on my first one for seven years…and hopefully it’ll never see the light of day! It took me about a year and a half to write and revise MODELS multiple times. After it was complete, I queried 37 agents, received 35 rejections, and was also rejected by two publishers before signing with my agent.

 

Good for you and so glad you made it! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

The call where my agent told me she’d sold the book, hands down. I was thrilled to sign with my agent, don’t get me wrong, but when I found out that my book was going to find an audience–become REAL–that was amazing. I went into total shock after I hung up from my agent (after giggling through the whole call and struggling to sound as professional as possible), and when I called my husband to tell him the news I couldn’t speak! All I could whisper was “aw-FUR! We got an aw-FUR!” It took him a minute or two to figure out what I was saying.  : )

 

Haha! “aw-FUR”–Love it! Well, This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

Oh, so many! How about not finishing a manuscript before sending a query letter? That happened with MODELS. Of course, the agent requested the first 50 pages, then asked for the rest of the manuscript 24 hours after that. I’d only written about 100 pages! I scrambled to write some more, then did a chapter-by-chapter synopsis for the rest of the book. Needless to say, I wasn’t offered representation. *hangs head in shame*  But I like to think of that as a “teachable moment”–so learn from my mistake: FINISH YOUR BOOK BEFORE YOU QUERY!

Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

Working with my editor has been the best experience. I was very lucky in that I had a choice in where MODELS went, and what convinced me were the quality of revision suggestions that my now-editor, Alisha Niehaus, had asked me to do on the first chapter before she took it to Acquisitions. She really *got* my book and characters, and her suggestions make me a better writer.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with her.

As for the most surprising…I would have to say that my level of involvement with things like catalog copy, back cover and flap copy has been more than what I expected. My editor has run everything by me and encourages me to make tweaks and changes to follow the voice of the book. I thought I’d have zero input on anything outside of the text. So it’s been fun to be part of all aspects of the process.

Wow! So cool. I had no idea that authors got to do that much in the process. Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

It was good, actually! It was about 6 pages long, and focused mainly on expanding scenes and developing themes. I didn’t have to change any plot points in MODELS, so most of the editorial process was focused on augmenting things that were already there. I love revision (I revised MODELS 7 times on my own before it was sold), and was very excited to see what my editor thought and what areas she felt could be improved. Her insights were spot-on, and I agreed with 99.9% of what she said–so it made doing the work fun. I could see the book becoming stronger thanks to her guidance.

I understand your husband is a writer, too. What’s it like living with another writer? Helpful or does it drive you crazy?

He is! He’s a freelance copywriter and writes nonfiction articles. He used to write fiction, and I’m hoping he’ll go back to it someday.

It’s wonderful being married to another writer. Not only does he understand my weird neuroses or obsessions when it comes to revision, but he’s incredibly supportive. I wrote the majority of the first draft of MODELS at our dining room table, in 4 marathon writing sessions, and he never once complained about the number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pizza we ate during that time! He’s always encouraged me to put other things aside to write, and now that we have a baby he is really good about taking her and shooing me out the door to my critique group or to write in the library or a cafe. He told me that MODELS would sell…I dedicated the book to him for that reason.

Aww, that’s so sweet! But, 4 writing session!? Those MUST have been marathons.

Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. She confronts some major life and family issues in a direct, head-on way, and does so beautifully. Plus the setting is just horrifying to me (in a good way!). There’s so much in that book that I use it in my college English classes quite often!

Thanks so much, Chandler! This was fun!

 

Congratulations again, Erin. And best of luck on your big debut!!

2009 Debuntante Author Interview Series: Cindy Pon

While this is the 2009 Debutante Interview Series, I’m pretty sure this week’s deb would get kicked out of the ball on account of her incessant bootay shakin’. Yes, it’s Cindy Pon (aka Xiaotien) and she’s here to chat with us about her journey from waging query warfare to her three book deal with Greenwillow. Her first book, SILVER PHOENIX, hit shelves in ’09.

silver_phoenix_hc_c

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the
dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed, free, and
not some stranger’s subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she
cannot comprehend. And as the pieces of the puzzle start to fit
together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace
of Fragrant Dreams in search of her beloved father—missing these many
months—is so much more than that. Bravery, intelligence, the will to
fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as
she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She
will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at
the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying
to drag her under. On a quest of his own Chen Yong offers that
help…and perhaps more.

Congrats on your debut novel, Cindy. The cover art is beautiful and I can’t wait to see it on shelves! But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?
It took me about three to four months to write the rough draft. Then I spent a year revising it with comments from my two critique groups to help me. SILVER PHOENIX was the first novel I’ve ever written.

I queried 121 agents and i’m sure was rejected by at least 90 of them. I started agent querying at the end of january 2008, and landed agent bill in early april. He sent an email on sunday afternoon saying he loved my novel and I literally jumped up and down in the kitchen.

My bubs thought mommy had gone nutso. =)

The book went to auction in my fifth week of submission to publishers.

 

That’s fantastic and couldn’t have happened to a nicer person! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?
Oh, such different emotions there.

I approached querying for an agent like all out warfare. and i would “revenge query” each time i got a rejection. if i had nothing in my query email box for a few days, i’d zap out a few more. It’s a strange thing to say, but many times, seeing a rejection was better than seeing NOTHING at all. (that’s the worst!!)

As I said, I was truly ecstatic when Agent Bill sent me an email to arrange THE CALL for monday morning.
It had been such a roller coaster ride. and all along, I never really knew if what i had was good enough. I only knew that i loved it–and i had to try. try hard!

Going on submission to editors was entirely different. It was utterly and completely out of my
hands. There was no more revising a query, or fiddling with your first pages of prose. Your novel was OUT THERE. and the only thing you could do was try to stay sane and wait.

I think I was in a state of disbelief when my novel went to auction. it was a very high stress and emotional time for me. Here i was, scheduling talks with editors from major publishing houses (what?!) in between picking up the bubs from preschool and their nap times. It was all very surreal.

When I said yes to Virginia and Greenwillow books, I was spent. and still in utter disbelief. It’s very strange
to want something so long and call it a dream, then to actually get it. i was thrilled and terrified. The whole experience was incredible.

 

Ahhh! I love stories like that. So inspiring, but staying sane while waiting? I’m working on that one…  This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
I sent out partial requests too soon. I think many writers make that mistake. We’ve been fiddling with the story for so long, we’re just itching to get it out there already. But you have to learn from your mistakes. That’s why you should send out in batches–so if you get a lot of rejections, you know it’s time to regroup and revise.

 

I think you are right. That’s a problem a lot of writers run into. I know that was one of my problems as well, so great advice!

Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?
My favorite moment would be getting my first editorial letter from virginia, my editor! It was just such a sense of achievement for me. I had fumbled very long by myself over this story. Labor of love is exactly what it is. And i knew i was at a point where I had nothing more to offer to the prose or the story.

I had done as best as I could as a writer, with what little resources I had. To get that first editorial letter and see how my novel could be improved–and improved in such great ways–I just loved it!

Seeing my book jacket comes in as a close second. That was very emotional for me. They did such a fantastic job on it. I was floored.

 

You and Agent Bill seem to have such a collegial relationship. What do you think the secret to sucess has been of your extremely functional agent-author relationship?
I don’t think it’s a secret. Open communication is so key. I frequent the writing forums and I know the prevailing feeling of “not wanting to be a bother” walking on eggshells because it was so hard to find an agent. No one wants to lose an agent!

Communication is important. And so is trust. And respect. If you have a question or concern, ASK YOUR AGENT. That’s what s/he is there for!!

 

A valuable reminder for those, like me, who are newly agented. I hear you got an offer for a picture book thrown in your deal as a result of your editor reading your blog. What new challenges come with shifting to writing for much younger readers?
It’s a different mind set. And it’s going to be a great challenge. I’m very intimidated! I need to submit a dummy (which is a mock up of the picture book) and I’ve seen some fantastic dummies–that look like an
actual picture book.

So I’m trying not to panic. I don’t want to send Virginia a few pages stapled together and have her think, what the heck did I get myself into? =X

I have a lot to learn. But if anyone is going to guide me well, it would be Virginia.

 

Your brushwork is beautiful and I know you’ll do a wonderful job.

Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’dell.

 

HUGE Congrats again and I look forward to hearing all of your future success. Keep us updated!!