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An Interview with Emily Deibert upon receiving an offer of representation.

04/30/2022

Emily Deibert (ekdwrites on QT) has signed with agent Kurestin Armada of Root Literary.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
My novel (BEA MULLINS TAKES A SHOT) is a middle grade contemporary about a twelve-year-old girl who isn't very sporty, but winds up joining her school's underdog girls ice hockey team—and developing a crush on one of her teammates. One of the big themes of the story is this idea that "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take", and that's really what inspired me to write it in the first place: I was just getting back into writing after a long break, and I was nervous about putting myself and my writing out there, so I wanted to write a story about taking shots and overcoming this fear of "missing". I'm also a (not very good!) hockey player myself, so a lot of my protagonist's antics were inspired by my own ice hockey experiences.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing for pretty much as long as I can remember, although there have been periods of a few months or even a few years where I took breaks from writing for one reason or another. I attempted my first novel when I was 12 years old and have written more over the years, but this was the first one that I seriously edited and queried.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started writing this book in January of 2021, and worked on it on and off over the next year. I was fortunate enough to get into a writing mentorship program (Pitch Wars) which meant that I spent three months at the end of 2021 doing particularly intensive work on the manuscript before querying it.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Yes, definitely! I applied to a few writing mentorship programs in the spring of 2021, and after not getting into them I felt pretty discouraged. But rather than giving up, I decided to push myself and join a critique group that I found through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). The feedback, encouragement, and camaraderie I got from my critique group helped me stay motivated through revising and querying this book. I couldn't have done it without them!
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
This book went through two full re-writes after the first draft, and three more substantial revisions (one of which involved cutting out 10,000 words!). I'm now about to embark on another round of revisions with my agent before we start sending the book out on submission. I don't think I fully realized how much re-writing and revising go into a book before I decided to query this one!
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I had critique partners who read the book chapter-by-chapter as I was revising, as well as a wonderful mentor who read through various drafts of the book in its full form. I would definitely recommend seeking out critique partners and beta readers, even though it can be scary to put yourself and your writing out there. I've learned a lot about writing from being a critique partner or beta reader for other writers as well!
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I didn't really outline the first draft of this book (and you can definitely tell when you read that version of it!). After writing that first draft, I decided to go back and create an outline based on what I'd come up with while writing from the hip (in other words, I created a "reverse outline"). The story changed quite a bit during that process but the premise and themes at the very heart of it stayed the same.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I'm very fortunate that this was the first book I seriously queried, and I was only querying for about a month and a half before I got my first offer of representation. Querying and publishing seem to be unusually slow right now, though, so I was definitely very lucky in getting a quicker-than-average response.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
In total, I sent out 32 query letters for this book. My strategy was to go in batches, so I did have more on my list that I would have eventually queried if I hadn't found representation from the first few queries.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Yes, I tried to add one sentence of personalization for each of the agents I queried. For most of them, this was a reference to their manuscript wishlist (#MSWL) — so, for example, if I saw that an agent had tweeted about wanting sports stories, I would mention that at the beginning of the query letter.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Like I mentioned before, querying seems to be unusually slow right now, and it's easy to get discouraged (I actually got a particularly gutting rejection that made me feel like giving up the day before I got my first offer!). My advice is to connect with other writers who are also querying so you can commiserate, celebrate, and share intel with one another. Even just reading through other writers' comments on QueryTracker helped me feel less alone through this journey.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
For sure! I've removed the personalization and biography, but each of those sections was only a few sentences long.

Dear [Agent],

[Personalization].

When pushed to join a girls' hockey team, twelve-year-old Bea doesn't know what's worse: falling on the ice or falling for her teammate. BEA MULLINS TAKES A SHOT is a 50,000-word LGBTQ+ MG novel for fans of Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher and Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow.

After a string of bad experiences with team sports in the past, Bea vows to get through middle school by sticking to the sidelines. But when her school's gym floods, and her parents push her to join an extracurricular sport to make up for it, she finds herself wobbling across the rink on an underdog ice hockey team instead.

To Bea's surprise, she not only starts caring about the team, but also falls for the star player, Gabi. When the team comes up short on league fees, Bea wants to help—but after her #HockeyFails are made into an embarrassing viral video, she feels like she's let her teammates and her crush down. Now, if Bea is to stand any chance at saving her team before it gets disbanded, she'll have to face her insecurities on the ice—and her crush on Gabi.

[Biography].

Thank you for your time and consideration.