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An Interview with Elliah Terry upon receiving an offer of representation.

02/27/2016

Elliah Terry (luvnlife_27 on QT) has signed with agent Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
I AM CALLIOPE JUNE is a contemporary middle-grade novel told from the perspectives of Calli (who tries to hide her Tourette syndrome from her new school) and Jinsong (the boy next-door who also happens to be the school's Student Body President).

My own experiences with being diagnosed with Tourette syndrome (as well as my daughter's) inspired me to write this story.

How long have you been writing?
I started at age 10. It's always been my dream.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote and revised CALLIOPE JUNE for two years before signing with my agent, Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Yes! Too many times to count. I've cried in the shower, sobbed on the couch, thrown my manuscripts across the room, etc.

Having a strong group of writer friends who were also in the query trenches is the number one thing that kept me afloat during the hard times. Also, remembering that the act of writing brings me immense joy and no one can take that away from me unless I let them.

Is this your first book?
CALLIOPE JUNE will be my first published book (Spring 2017, F&F/Macmillan), however, it isn't the first thing I've written by a long shot. Prior to getting an agent, I finished forty picture books and five middle-grade novels (as well as five other unfinished novels).
Do you have any formal writing training?
My training has come from attending dozens of conferences and workshops, as well as taking online courses.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I don't have scheduled writing time, but do aim to get two hours in each day, whether that's scribbling in a notebook at the park, or revising on my computer after everyone else has gone to bed.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Oh goodness, there isn't a high enough number for that. I can tell you that I did four very major revisions.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes. I think I had about ten readers during the two years of writing and revising.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Outline. I'm a big fan of Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Nine months for CALLIOPE JUNE.
Eleven years for all of my books combined. (Yes, you read that right.)
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent out 87 queries. But not all at once. I sent out batches of 5-10 at a time.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes. I researched each agent before querying and made sure I had a reason to query them, such as reading an interview or spotting a #mswl on Twitter, etc. and put this information first thing in the query. Also, I made certain to follow their guidelines. Some wanted just a query. Others wanted to see the first 10 or 15 pages as well.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Don't give up. Do plenty of research online (especially through Query Tracker). If you don't get an agent with your first book, don't despair. You may get one with your next. Or the next. Watch Twitter for #mswl (manuscript wish lists). Surround yourself with other writers who "get it". Be patient. Have faith. Don't send out all of your queries at once. Always be professional.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Absolutely!

Dear Mr. Chudney:

Knowing you are a fan of Sharon Creech’s work, I thought you might like to have a look at I AM CALLIOPE JUNE, my 18,000 word contemporary verse novel for the middle grade market.

When twelve-year-old Calliope June starts over—again—at a new school, she’s desperate to keep her Tourette syndrome a secret. After all, she has things bad enough with a butchered haircut, boy’s outdated hand-me-downs, and a mom who can’t be bothered to help her fit in. She doesn’t need to complicate her life by croaking like a frog in the middle of math class. But Tourette syndrome isn’t like the lockets the other girls give each other—small and pretty and easily tucked away beneath this season’s cutest shirt. No, everyone definitely notices when Calli repeats the word ‘precipitation’ a bazillion times or whacks the top of her head with her knuckles.

To make matters worse, fellow outcast Beatriz Lopez has made it her personal mission to draw attention to Calli’s tics. Only Jinsong, Calli’s cute neighbor and popular student body president, seems to see past her quirks (as long as his friends aren’t watching, that is). But even Jinsong can’t help Calli when her mom drags her off to yet another new school—and just when she was finally figuring out that being different has its perks.

Told from the alternating points of view of Calliope and her love-struck neighbor, Jinsong, I AM CALLIOPE JUNE may appeal to fans of COUNTING BY 7’S and WONDER. Please note that I am querying other agents regarding this project.

I am a recipient of the 2014 Nikki Grimes Poetic Techniques Merit Scholarship and enjoy being an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I am also diagnosed with Tourette syndrome.

Thank you for your time and consideration.