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Success Story Interview - Corabel Shofner

An Interview with Corabel Shofner (corabean on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Maria Carvainis of Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc..


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Corabel Shofner:
I began this book when I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I think I needed to channel a very strong character to face that in my life. I remember lying in bed and trying to decide whether I would try Yoga or write a book. I did both.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Corabel Shofner:
Most of my life in one form or another. Some years more seriously than others. I was not naturally a good writer, but I have learned slowly. I wrote monster stories when I was a child. When I went to Columbia University I had a panic attack about where to put commas; Comma rules never made sense to me. I was a big copy cat in much of my early writing, but I got there eventually.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Corabel Shofner:
I began the book over 10 years ago, then it ended up in my drawer for many reasons. I took it out again a little over two years ago, because I really really loved it. And I’m so glad I did.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Corabel Shofner:
I felt like giving up, I gave up, and then I got up again. That’s my pattern. It feels good. I do it often.
QT: Is this your first book?
Corabel Shofner:
I have a boat load of writing in my drawer. Books, pieces of books, short stories, non-fiction, plays. No poetry, sadly. I am not a poet. Poets are goddesses.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Corabel Shofner:
I took some writing classes at Columbia University, but I majored in English Lit and Arabic studies. But those creative writing classes hooked me. I have formal legal writing training. I attended the Sewanee Writers Conference twice and other things here and there. I always wanted to go to a big formal writing program but I had spent my money on law school and I couldn’t face the GRE anyway. No more standardized tests for me.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Corabel Shofner:
I try to write every day because otherwise I get rustier than the tin man and it is so hard to get going again. I don’t have a time or place, but I’m good at finding times and places, like right now, this instant, I’m in Oregon watching my daughter fold clothes.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Corabel Shofner:
You would NOT BELIEVE how many times I have reworked this book. I edited with my writers’ groups, my beta readers and an independent editor before submitting to an agent. I then reworked it with my insightful agent Elizabeth Copps and the entire team at the Maria Carvainis Agency. Then I got a nibble from editors at FSG and we talked at length about changes. We hit a road block at acquisitions, then I re-wrote in massive ways I could have never imagined, and thankfully, it passed acquisitions. Now I will rewrite it for publication. Maybe if I learn to outline, it won’t be so difficult.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Corabel Shofner:
Sure, everybody needs them. Get feedback. Writers’ groups, friends, independent editors. Unless you are a genius or something.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Corabel Shofner:
I can’t outline fiction, but I would like to learn how.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Corabel Shofner:
Over the years I have dabbled with submissions of short stories and various bad novels. But when I got serious about this book, I had to learn the new digital world. I joined Query Tracker. I actually do not think I could have face submissions without their organizational and research tools. My independent editor told me, flat out, to be prepared to submit to 100 agents. That helped me be realistic and not emotional. I had some interest along the way but I’m no homecoming queen. A few excellent agents talked to me but Elizabeth Copps was so RIGHT. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. She got me, she got the book, and she knew it wouldn’t be an easy sale. We weren’t even sure of the genre. I knew I needed somebody with tenacity.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Corabel Shofner:
Prepared to send out 100 in batches of ten and re-write according to feedback. Don’t remember how many I got through before finding Elizabeth. (all various responses and requests for fulls, and no responses) A bunch. Try not to count. It can be depressing. I think it was November to January to connect with Elizabeth and another month or so to sign.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Corabel Shofner:
I wasn’t sure of the genre so I tried some adult, some YA, some MG. All NYC.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Corabel Shofner:
Not unless I had a really good reason to say something personal. I made sure to get their names right but other than that, I just put my book info up front and easy.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Corabel Shofner:
100 agents. Batches of 10. Listen and adjust along the way. Don’t worry about the writers who get stampeded with offers right out of the gate. It happens sometimes, but in reality there are a bunch of letters in front of a bunch of faces everyday and you have to trust that you will find the right people for your book. I know, I know, it is easy for me to say that NOW but it is true.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Corabel Shofner:
Okay sure, I liked stalking around here and reading other people’s letters. It actually helped me edit mine. I used many many letters but this one led me to Elizabeth. By the way, I really cringe at the first line now. Kind of pretentious. "An upper MG blah blah complete at ..." Oh and the story has changed too.

Query Letter:

An upper MG contemporary novel, darkly comic, that explores survival, trust and second chances, RUBY CLYDE is complete at 82,000 words and would appeal to fans of ‘child-alone-in-the-world’ books such as James and the Giant Peach and Huck Finn. RUBY CLYDE also has some of the verve and Humor of Carl Hiaasen.

Ten-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson has just watched the Catfish die during a failed robbery attempt and her mother get arrested for felony murder. What’s Ruby—a self-proclaimed liar, healer and hypnotist—to do?

Alone after the fatal robbery at the Okay Corral Gas & Food Mart, and afraid of ending up in an orphanage, Ruby Clyde dodges the cops and escapes the crime scene with a hitchhiker. She needs to make her way to Austin, Texas, to find her estranged Aunt Eleanor—a cantankerous nun and her mother’s identical twin. Along the way Ruby Clyde encounters a range of characters—from cult members to other lost children, journalists to lawyers—that challenge her identity to its core. Soon, her life becomes the center of national attention as she takes a stand against injustice. While Ruby Clyde endeavors to save her mother from execution and to find a home to call her own, she learns the true meaning of love and sacrifice from an unlikely source.


Corabel Shofner is equal parts wife, mother, attorney, and author. She graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University with a degree in English literature, and was on the Law Review at Vanderbilt University School of Law. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Habersham Review, Hawai’i Review, Sou’wester, South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, and Xavier Review.

I am a member of the Nashville Writer’s Alliance, the Nashville Writer’s Meet-up, the Knoxville Writer’s Guild, and SCBWI. My website is

Thank you. I’d be happy to supply the full manuscript.