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Success Story Interview - Shannon Carpenter

An Interview with Shannon Carpenter (hossman on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Chris Kepner of The Kepner Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Shannon Carpenter:
I have been an at-home dad for nine years so I took those experiences and wrote the book that I wanted to read as a father. It’s that simple. The book is a snapshot of my time being the primary caregiver to my two children; being in a world that is more accustomed to mothers being the full-time caregiver. Hopefully, people think I am as funny as I do inside my own head. My voices laugh a lot in there, they might be drinking.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Shannon Carpenter:
Since I was at least a teenager. The first story I ever wrote was to impress a girl. She had the big poofy hair of the early 90’s, a smile that went on forever, and remembering her laugh even now melts me a little bit. She loved my story but sadly, not the freshman that I was. But I kept on writing, humor comes naturally to me, and eventually, I landed a different girl.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Shannon Carpenter:
Let’s call it a year. Yeah, a year sounds about right. Three months outlining, another four writing, and then the rest of the time editing. So much editing, cutting, and cussing at the writing gods for cursing me with fat fingers and poor grammar.
QT: Is this your first book?
Shannon Carpenter:
Yes, it is although I have had my stories published in three anthologies on fatherhood.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Shannon Carpenter:
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Shannon Carpenter:
Like everyone else says, routine is the most important and hands down the best habit I ever got into. I write an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening, and then usually at whatever kids sports practice I am at. I do that six days a week, taking Sunday to refresh myself and eat a lot of donuts.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Shannon Carpenter:
I have honestly lost count. I know I went through at least five different drafts. But the book kept getting better until I was satisfied enough with it to send it out.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Shannon Carpenter:
Outline with changes happening often.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Shannon Carpenter:
I sent out around twenty letters before finally getting “the call.”
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Shannon Carpenter:
Lots of different things. I wanted an agent who was a parent, had some experience and seemed to like to laugh. This meant trolling a lot of twitter feeds, MSWLs and reading a lot of background.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Shannon Carpenter:
Don’t stop, even when you feel low. The rejections always hurt, even the ones that are nice and tailored. It’s just part of the process. I have my first ever rejection letter taped to my desk because at least it meant I was active. I have a problem with being passive. Keep going, keep writing, don’t give up.

Query Letter:

Dear Agent:

The minute that my daughter threw up in my face and I tripped over my son, I knew that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Being an at-home dad seemed simple in the planning stages. But like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face. Also, using a Mike Tyson joke there seems way questionable. This could be going better.

This is my origin story, when I was filled with Adamantium. Wait, that’s the wrong origin story. That’s Wolverine. Sorry about that. I investigated elder abuse (I am not Wolverine) for 8 years and then I had my daughter. When my son was born, I knew it was time to make a change. I quit my job, not realizing that one day I would think going into meth labs was easier than parenting full time.

What I walked into was a world built for Moms, those heroes of the full-time parenting. However, I was a square peg in a round hole. I was ignored, sat on (totally true) or just plan shunned. You should be crying here. This is totally heartbreaking conflict. I didn’t fit in and neither did my children.

I could give up the thought of being the father that I wanted to be, or I could decide that there are no rules. The haunted psychiatric museum, killer mosquitos, accidentally walking into a woman’s restroom. Only a few examples of our new normal, with a band of merry men picked up along the way. Then, a TV pilot for TLC.

No Changing Tables In The Men’s room is a narrative-driven nonfiction book. Currently, the manuscript is at 87,000 words. It’s a humorous look at what happens when dad is the primary caregiver. There are very few comps for a book like this. Sugar Milk and Daddy, Where’s Your Vagina among them. However, the comps that it more closely resembles is Scary Mommy and I Just Want To Pee Alone by Jen Mann. None capture the voice of an at home dad.