Success Story Interview - Adrienne Kisner

An Interview with Adrienne Kisner (alkisner on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Adrienne Kisner:
My book is called "Dear Rachel Maddow." It is a YA epistolary inspired by Beverly Cleary's brilliant Dear Mr. Henshaw. In 2008 (when TRMS first began on MSNBC) I had a very screamy baby who would only be soothed by endless bouncing on a yoga ball. Rachel Maddow's show repeated, like, three times at night, so I watched it a lot. I considered Rachel my very well-informed friend whom I had never actually met. That show kept me sane. (Still does.) I kept thinking how someone should write a Dear Mr. Henshaw, to her. Since no one did it in all those years, I decided to.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Adrienne Kisner:
The earliest of my manuscripts I recently found was from first grade. It was one page and about Frosty the Snowman's girlfriend.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Adrienne Kisner:
From beginning to query, I'd say about seven months.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Adrienne Kisner:
All the time. I have a brilliant community of writer friends who keep me going.
QT: Is this your first book?
Adrienne Kisner:
This is my fourth, the third queried in earnest.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Adrienne Kisner:
I am a semester away from an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Adrienne Kisner:
I don't. I can never keep one. When I am inspired I go into beast mode and churn out words and revisions. Then my brain gets tired and I take months off. I feel a lot of guilt in those times off. It's not the best system.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Adrienne Kisner:
I'd say draft five was the one that I queried.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Adrienne Kisner:
I have several trusted friends and a critique group. Also, two of my brilliant advisors from my MFA worked on this book with me.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Adrienne Kisner:
Pantser all the way right here.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Adrienne Kisner:
I started querying my first book late in 2013. I'm still proud of the novels that didn't ultimately land an agent, too.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Adrienne Kisner:
35; I had ten full requests and five offers of rep over the course of three weeks. Those were atypical times, right there.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Adrienne Kisner:
They represented authors I respected.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Adrienne Kisner:
Beyond trying very hard to spell their name correctly, no.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Adrienne Kisner:
Keep at it! It took me a long time and many, many rejections. The only thing you can control in publishing is whether or not you keep writing. Your words are worth it, no matter what.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Adrienne Kisner:
Note: My friend helped me with this, because she is a query genius.

Query Letter:

Dear Ms. Drayton,

Seventeen-year-old Brynn Harper’s life has one steadying force—Rachel Maddow. She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project—and actually getting a response!—Brynn starts drafting emails to Rachel . . . but never sending them. It’s an outlet; Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with Sarah, Brynn’s first serious girlfriend, about her beloved brother Nick’s death, about how she’s stuck in a special education class and is considering dropping out.

But then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. She learns that one student representative will be allowed to have a voice amongst teachers and administrators in the selection of a new school superintendent. Sarah, along with Brynn’s arch-nemesis John, believe only honors students worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn knows John and Sarah only want to hold the seat and positions of student-elected power for personal perks. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. Brynn takes on John in an election for the selection committee seat, and then later for student body president. Brynn’s reputation and home life are threatened, her brother’s memory attacked, and her new crush Michaela shamed, all because Brynn confronted a corrupt system that would rather she stay quiet. This pushes Brynn to the edge of despair. She asks herself: what would Rachel Maddow do? Brynn finds out when she accidentally emails her journal to her entire contacts list, including Rachel Maddow herself.

DEAR RACHEL MADDOW is an epistolary YA novel that is ELECTION meets Beverly Cleary’s DEAR MR. HENSHAW. It is complete at 51,000 words. It was recently selected as one of the 2016 winners of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award.

I have a master’s and doctorate degree in Theology from Boston University, and was inspired to write DEAR RACHEL MADDOW by my work with high school and college students. I am also currently beginning my third semester of my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Adrienne Kisner