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An Interview with Bethany Crandell upon receiving an offer of representation.

08/14/2011

Bethany Crandell (BethanyMC on QT) has signed with agent Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary Services.

You can read more about Bethany on her blog at rookieriter.blogspot.com/
Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS is a contemporary YA about a seventeen-year-old girl whose self-absorbed world is thrown upside down when she's forced to spend her summer working as a counselor at a camp for disabled teens. It's got the butterflies-in-the-tummy excitement of falling in love for the first time (with the Zac Efron look-a-like) the pain of discovering you're not as fabulous as you thought you were and the insightfulness of realizing that it's our differences that actually make us likeable.

To quote my mother, "It's what happens when people stop being P.C. and start being real."

When I came up with the original concept I didn't realize how much of my own life was woven into the words. Looking back on the finished product, I can see how my role as the parent of a special-needs child has transformed my opinion of differently-abled people, and, more-specifically how the world perceives them. This is not a book on a mission. This is a book about people being real. It's raw, funny, at times uncomfortable, but more than anything it's a genuine look at people—and that's all I ever wanted it to be. If readers get something deeper out of it, that's a bonus.

How long have you been writing?
I've been writing my entire life, though up until two years ago considered it something between a guilty pleasure and a dirty little secret. When I finally figured out that all these twisted little ideas in my head were only clogging up my brain, I figured I should probably try and do something productive with them.
How long have you been working on this book?
Six months—give or take a few weeks.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
At least a dozen times on any given day. I'm not kidding. Writing is fun, but being rejected is brutal and totally ego-crushing. I cannot tell you how many times I cried to my mom about how much easier my life would be if I didn't have this "thing" I needed to do. Turns out it's not really a choice. You either do it, and run the risk of rejection, or you don't, and always wonder what might have been. Quitting's not really an option—I think deep down I always knew that.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't include my family, friends, and writing coach, Jill Badonsky, in this answer. Without them encouraging me, sometimes to their own exhaustion, I don't know if I would have been able to stick with it. And most importantly I did a lot of praying. We're talking knee-bruising, carpet denting prayer!

Is this your first book?
This is my second book. The first was something only a mother could love.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Not a lick. I've attended a few writing classes and workshops, but nothing formal.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I am forever indebted to iCarly and Handy Manny for their babysitting services. To have a formal writing 'routine' is on my wish list.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
No rewrites. I tend to review as I go along which makes for lots of edits. After the advice of one particularly awesome, helpful agent, I did a fairly significant edit which produced the version that landed me my agent.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I did have beta readers, though I refer to them as my guinea pigs. When I think of Betas, I think of those fish at Petco who look like they're dead but are just faking it. It turns out those beautiful, fan-tailed fish are actually really mean and are isolated from other fish because they will attack and kill them. That's not the image I wanted for the kind folks I turned over my 60,000 word baby to. Guinea pigs aren't particularly cute, but they're far less intimidating.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Because I'm a planner by nature, having an outline is imperative for me. With this book I had a basic floor plan of what I was trying to build, and for the most part I stayed true to that original concept. The details, in my opinion, are the fun stuff. And those were totally from the hip.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS for about 3 months before I made the big revision. Then I queried another 2.5 months before I received the offer from Rachael.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
88 total queries. 35 No responses. 12 Requests for the full—4 generated from partial requests.

The first manuscript I sent out over 100 queries which garnered a handful of partials and 5 requests for the full. I finally shelved it after about 8 months of querying when I decided to try something new.

On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
At first I cast my net wide. (Like all of continental Europe wide.) I looked for agents who were interested in YA--period. After the first batch of rejections/comments came through, I refined the query and started looking at agents with an interest in contemporary stories, as well those who included key words like, edgy, off-beat, and unique, on their "want" list.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I had very personalized queries to the agents I'd met at conferences, as well as those I'd established communication with when querying the first book. Beyond that—if I could incorporate a similarity between my book and their tastes, I would definitely include it.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Read as much as you can, write as often as you can, and never, ever quit! The only way to guarantee that you will never get an agent, or get your book on a shelf, is if you give up. The feeling you get when an agent supports you and believes in your work is worth every "Dear Author" email that's clogging your inbox.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Though I've seen many better than mine, here you go...

Dear Super Agent,

Cricket Montgomery was born with a golden spoon in her mouth, though a Tiffany platinum would have been preferred. Thanks to her Trump-like father's hands-off parenting style, she's enjoyed seventeen years of Versace's finest, technology's newest, and the narcissistic notion that the world revolves around her. Unfortunately, she's about to find out the rest of the world doesn't agree.

SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS is the story of a girl whose cashmere-covered comfort zone is torn to shreds when she's forced to work as a counselor at a summer camp for disabled teens. Why on earth her rarely-present father thinks sentencing her to three weeks in handicapped hell will help her appreciate the life she leads is lost on Cricket--that is until she meets Quinn, the Zac Efron lookalike who steals her heart and forces her to take a long, hard look at who she really is.

This clever, sarcastic, and highly amusing Young Adult manuscript is complete at 57,000 words, and I would love to share them all with you.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Sincerely,

Hopeful Writer