Success Story Interview - Monica Clark-Robinson

An Interview with Monica Clark-Robinson (gregmonica on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Natalie Lakosil of Looking Glass Literary & Media.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
The book is a picture book called LET THE CHILDREN MARCH, about the Children's Crusade march in Birmingham in 1963. It was a major turning point and catalyst in the Civil Rights movement that was led by the children and teens in the town. I wrote it because I was afraid the story was being forgotten, and because it shows how kids can make a difference.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
There are probably several answers to that! Second grade, or maybe high school--but probably the answer you're looking for is for about the last seven years. I only got serious in the last two, though.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Oh, boy, that's almost embarrassing. I think I started working on it in 2011, and I began half-hearted querying in 2012. I got serious sometime in late 2013.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Sure I did! What kept me going was remembering how many rejections lots of famous authors received. Also, just knowing how important I believed the story was kept me motivated to work toward publication.
QT: Is this your first book?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
It's not my first to write, but it's my first to be published.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Just a few college classes here and there, along with workshops and conferences.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Not a routine; more of a process. It involves lots of procrastination and day-dreaming, along with sudden bursts of writing and occasional intense periods of high productivity.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Monica Clark-Robinson: went through a couple passes in my critique group first, then I revised it several times based on responses from agents and editors. I sent Natalie (my agent) a revision while she was reading materials after a full request from her. I told her that I really liked the revision another agent had requested and asked that she use the new version as my submission. A few weeks later she offered representation and cited my revision as a key reason. We revised it again before sending it to editors. Now, I'm revising the back matter with my editor!
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
My awesome critique group and my husband and daughter!
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
It's a picture book, but I do a combination when I write longer forms.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Several years, but I didn't get smart and serious until about six months before it was accepted.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Hmm...maybe a dozen or so?
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
If they accepted my genres (I write in several), if they were reputable and had proven sales, and if I liked what I read on their blogs and websites.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Definitely! I read interviews and blogs, anything I could find about each agent. I used that info to tailor my letters. I think the agents can tell when you're being serious and doing your homework.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Monica Clark-Robinson:
Query smarter, not necessarily more. Research the agents. Look at what they represent, what they say they like. Make sure your manuscript and your query letter are the best they can be before you query. And use QueryTracker! It really helped me identify good agents to query and see their process in real time on the comments thread.