Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Querying Writer: Part II

Dear Kim,


Remember that letter I sent you way back in October? (You remember October-- back when all things seemed possible.) 





The letter, COMP TITLES and THE QUERYING WRITER, shared details from our Novel Nuts & Bolts class with Empire Literary Agent Carrie Howland. (I may have referred to her as "agent-extraordinaire" in another post.)

Though today's post will be my third about Carrie, it is titled "Part II" because my querying journey seems sequel worthy.








I started looking for an agent soon after you and I met at the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. I had nice feedback from an agent at a conference and sent him my work. His response was kind (which I've found most responses from agents to be.) But my writing wasn’t ready. The novel he saw was the first I’d ever finished. I wasn't ready.

I swallowed that little voice that said, SEND! SEND! SEND! for two more years until I entered #PitchWars-- Brenda Drake’s crash course in pitching. In the years between the first SEND! SEND! SEND! and #PitchWars I wrote more. I read and read and read. I volunteered for SCBWI. I learned as much as I could from anyone willing to share with me. 


In January 2014, my YA novel did well in the contest scoring many full requests. 

Thanks, Nat!

Just two months after the full request from #PitchWars, I had a great call with one of the agents who wanted a revise and resubmit on the project. The project got a lot of interest, but something about the story wasn’t quite right. The only solution was to keep writing. I had to keep learning. I wrote a lot more. I read a lot more. Took work-for-hire jobs. Started writing book blurbs. Started writing a blog (Hello, Ink Sister!)

When I finally started writing Killer in the fall of 2015 something felt different. Writing Addison, my main character, was the first time I let myself be a part of a story. I gave myself the freedom to write about a character like me. She’s overweight. She's in her head way too much. She wishes she could/would speak up for herself. She wonders what it would take to get someone to love and respect her?

In August 2016 I brought Addison (and Killer) with me to the EPA SCBWI Novel Nuts & Bolts class and Addison's voice spoke to others. At the end of the three part class Carrie Howland asked me to send her the manuscript. I made revisions and sent it to her. 

And then, guess what? I kept writing.



I started my next novel with a main character named Allie. (Yes, I will need to change her name because HELLO...Allie? Could I be more obvious?) Allie is seeking family and love. She is searching for her own identity, apart from the one that has been pushed upon her. Readers drop into Allie’s life the final summer she will travel with her girlfriends on a small carnival. If you really know me, you know exactly how much of me is in the pages of this story.

In all four novels I wrote before Killer, what was missing was me. Not that I am all that interesting, but I think there is a certain level of authenticity that comes from bringing part of yourself to the page. I hadn't let myself go there before and it showed in my stories. No matter how many pretty words I put on the page, none of them landed until I opened myself up a bit more to my readers.

I see you shaking your head and saying, “Well, duh!” All I can say is that it took me a bit longer to pick up that pearl of wisdom, but now that I have it, I won’t let it go.

And now that I’ve accepted an offer of representation from Carrie Howland, I guess she can help remind me if I ever forget. 

Much love,

Alison