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An Interview with Denise Pattiz Bogard upon receiving an offer of representation.

Denise Pattiz Bogard (dpbogard on QT) has signed with agent Holly Root of Root Literary.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since sixth grade. I remember creating a Poetry/song lyrics book (about boys!) when I was 12. I went on to work on the high school, and later college, newspaper, and to major in journalism.

I've been writing professionally for 30 years in journalism and P.R.; I've been a fiction writer for 10 years.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Periodically I think my life would be happier if I didn't feel the need to write fiction. When I'm not writing, or when I hit a wall with my writing, I wish I could give up. But within a short time I'm always back at it. I've never forgotten what my first fiction teacher said: We write because we can't not write. I guess that's me too.
Is this your first book?
Yes, "After Elise" is my first book. Though by now it's more like my fifth or sixth book!
How long have you been working on this book?
I have worked on this book--off and on--for about seven years. I actually put it completely aside for two years, wrote two full drafts of a second novel, and then came back to this book last summer. Because of the time lapse, I was finally able to see what needed to be done to make this book work.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Yes, i have a B.A. in journalism and an MFA in creative writing. I worked for a small newspaper for two years, owned my own P.R./marketing communications company for nearly 20 years, and have taught writing for 10 years.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I am taking off work this summer, for the second summer in a row, and plan to write daily. During the school year, I write in spurts, when I can. I tend to write a lot for a while, and then not at all for a while. I wouldn't recommend this--it's just how I integrate novel writing with real life.
How many times did you re-write/edit your novel?
Too many to remember or count.
Did you have beta readers for your novel?
I had the wonderful fortune of working with "New York Times" notable book author David Carkeet on the first several drafts of my book. He was my MFA adviser and novel mentor. I've also shared the book with a few friends, my dad, and colleagues in various stages. And my sister in-law has been an invaluable critic, as has my husband. Having said this, I have mostly been very private and protective of the drafts. I'm only able to truly "hear" critiques at certain stages.
Did you outline your novel, or do you write from the hip?
Unlike with the second novel I'm working on, I did not outline "After Elise." I wrote the entire first draft only knowing a chapter or two ahead. Since then, each draft has been about deepening the characters and sharpening the plot lines.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I was quite fortunate. I had the name of an agent (through our MFA head) who was open to looking at new novelists. He read the book, and though he turned it down, he referred me to two agents, who agreed to read the whole manuscript. I spent about five months reworking the novel, based on the original agent's feedback. I then sent it to the two referrals. When a month passed without word, I asked both for permission to send it wide. I then used agentquery and querytracker and sent a query, some partials, even a novel synopsis, to about a dozen agents. Two weeks later, Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency--one of the two original referrals--called and offered representation!
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
As I said above, the first three were referrals. The ones I contacted via querytracker (such a great service, thank you!) were selected by pinpointing those agents who take email queries and are interested in literary fiction and women's fiction. Mostly, I looked at their web sites to determine what kinds of books they represent.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I usually changed the opening paragraph to be specific, while keeping the guts of the query (book description, my bio paragraph) the same.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Wait to query until you have made your book rock solid. Then use agentquery and querytracker web sites. They're great. Write a strong query letter that highlights the guts of your book. Send it wide. And don't lose hope. Meantime, keep writing. It's much less discouraging to get bad news if you're excited about a new project.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Hello, XXXX.

According to www.querytracker.net, you have a special interest in literary and women's fiction. I also see that you are "looking for up-market commercial and literary fiction with a strong emotional core." With that in mind, I hope that you will consider my literary fiction manuscript, AFTER ELISE.

AFTER ELISE opens with a middle-aged woman whose car skids in the rain and she kills a twenty-year-old hitchhiker, Elise. The novel traces the impact of this accident on the lives of the driver, her family and the mother of the victim. It is told in alternating point of view chapters from the driver and three family members as they undergo the widening ripple of conflict that pre-dates, and is exacerbated by, the skid that changes all of their lives. Further complicating the situation, the driver and the victim knew each other from before, when Elise served as an occasional babysitter for the driver’s children. Ultimately, this novel is a mother-daughter story, tracing three such relationships: the driver and her mother, the driver and her teen daughter, the victim and her mother. While the story line is at times quite sorrowful, sparks of humor are woven throughout.

My novel adviser David Carkeet (author of the New York Times Notable Book ERROR OF OUR WAYS and former head of our MFA program) wrote this about AFTER ELISE: "I think the book is hugely promising. You've got an original idea, a solid story, interesting complications, and many scenes that work very, very well. It's a fast, engaging read."

I have sent the manuscript to two other agents, both of whom were referrals from an original agent, who wrote of AFTER ELISE: "You have crafted a very solid novel here." Prior to his own reading, the agent said he "got an absolute rave response to your manuscript from one of my most trusted readers."

I have informed the two agents they do not have an exclusive submission, and I await their response to my manuscript.

By way of background, I am founder and coordinator of the St. Louis Writers Workshop (http://www.stlww.com) and have been writing professionally for 30 years. I've published fiction and non-fiction, in Oklahoma Review, Lady's Circle, St. Louis Magazine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, P-D Magazine, an essay in the forthcoming anthology, "Are We Feeling Better Yet?" and most recently, Teacher Magazine. I teach writing in St. Louis, Missouri. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (‘03), and am the recipient of a number of writing and professional development awards. Before turning to teaching and creative writing, I was a founding partner of the public relations agency, Bogard & Finkel Communications, for 20 years. I am currently at work on my second novel.

Thank you for your consideration. If interested, I would be pleased to send my manuscript (or any portion) to you.

Best regards,

Denise Bogard

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