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Success Story Interview - Tracy Holczer

An Interview with Tracy Holczer (ScoutF on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Tracy Holczer:
It’s a contemporary middle grade about losing everything and then finding it again. The inspiration came from my own childhood where I made a decision that I very much regret, so I wrote a story where the main character chooses differently. Don’t worry, I didn’t rob a bank or forge checks or anything. It was just one of those immature decisions that all kids make at some point, and I’m hopeful the story will reach children in that way.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Tracy Holczer:
A long time. I just pulled out some rather fabulously horrible poems I wrote as a teen the other day. A few short stories here and there. I started writing novels about ten years ago.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Tracy Holczer:
I believe it’s been six years, but it could have been seven. The first three chapters came in a matter of hours and after reading, my husband said he thought I might have something. It took me the rest of those years to figure out what in the heck that something was. All while running a business, volunteering, raising three daughters, two dogs, two bionic carnival fish and a rat.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Tracy Holczer:
Somewhere in there I gave up writing for about seven months, deciding the timing just wasn’t right. It was the best thing I ever did. Brought my focus back to the writing, not the publication. That’s when I was able to come back and stay on course.
QT: Is this your first book?
Tracy Holczer:
It’s my second.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Tracy Holczer:
Writing was my writing training. Although I did attend many conferences and workshops, a couple of classes through UCLA extension, and read hundreds of middle grade and young adult novels.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Tracy Holczer:
I write a couple of hours a day wherever I can fit it in.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Tracy Holczer:
I edit as I go so it’s hard to keep track. I’ve completely re-written the entire book at least seven times where the entire story changed. Characters were added and deleted, scenes also added and deleted. They were gut jobs. This was because I didn’t know what I was doing and instead of starting a new story with different characters, I’d just start over again with the same characters. I got to know many characters and settings in the town (several of which didn’t make the final cut – but might be enough for another story down the line!).
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Tracy Holczer:
I swear a hundred people have read this book.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Tracy Holczer:
From the hip. I am trying to outline my new story, but it isn’t working. I am rather mad at my modular brain at the moment.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Tracy Holczer:
This is the first book I felt was ready for submission. I sent out one query back in March of 2011, was rejected and realized the story still wasn’t ready. So I worked until December and started querying again. I signed with my agent in February.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Tracy Holczer:
I sent out two query letters in December. But I also got four requests from having been in the MSFV’s Baker’s Dozen auction.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Tracy Holczer:
I researched each agent and found they not only represented my genre, but really liked it and were actively looking for it.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Tracy Holczer:
I did. I spent hours reading every interview I could find and looked at each interview as a conversation. It helped me keep the query somewhat conversational which helped me to not sound like a stalker in those first few sentences.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Tracy Holczer:
Save yourself the agony of rejection and wait until you are absolutely sure your book is ready – that you can’t take it any further on your own. Wait at least three weeks after your last draft is finished to begin the query process. Practice waiting.

I highly recommend tailoring each query. I did hours of research on each agent. I probably read every single interview online. And thank goodness I did. Because I found this one sentence where my agent commented on having a soft spot for the very book I’d written. Because she is more known for commercial YA, if I hadn’t read that interview, I might never have contacted her.

Also, read their titles. You will know you are a good match if you do.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Tracy Holczer:

Query Letter:

Dear Ms. Stimola,

Your interview on Cynsations, as well as several of your titles, inspired me to contact you. Sparrow Road completely knocked my socks off, one of my favorites this year. You stated that you'd never walk away from a character-driven middle grade with the right blend of humor and pathos, so I thought my 40,000 word middle grade novel, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, might be a good fit.

When thirteen-year old Grace finds an origami crane at her new school, she believes it's a sign from Mama who used to make junk-art cranes. Strange things don't usually happen to Grace who is confronting her mother's sudden death, and the secrets she left behind. But as more signs follow, Grace is convinced Mama is trying to tell her something from the Great Beyond. Obsessed with finding the answers, Grace resists her new life in a close-knit small town, and refuses to see her Grandmother as anything more than an unwelcome stranger. But the real stranger Grace has to get to know is herself. She and Mama had spent years moving from one place to the next. Now that Grace is forced to stay put, she wonders if she'll ever learn to trust people, and as she stumbles onto more answers than she bargained for, if she'll be able to see beyond Mama's past, and more importantly, her own.

Not just about the loss of a parent, this story is about acceptance and the importance of community (not to mention the importance of mail-order butts, sarchophagi, and a good bowl of soup).

The Secret Hum of a Daisy won the Sue Alexander Award for most promising new work, first place in the SCBWI Los Angeles Writer's Day, and was a finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize (under different titles - Title Queen, I am not). Additionally, I have attended the Highlights Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua on scholarship and two Highlights Founder's Workshops in Honesdale with Patti Gauch. I am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.