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An Interview with Janet Johnson upon receiving an offer of representation.


Janet Johnson (MsVerbose on QT) has signed with agent Victoria Marini of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Friendship was partly inspired by my own childhood, and partly inspired by the housing market crash. It's about how two friends deal with the prospect of one of them losing their house to foreclosure and having to move away. It sounds so serious that way, but the story has a lot of humor in it, too.
How long have you been writing?
Though I've enjoyed writing since I was little, I've been writing with the idea of getting published for about 10 years now. Unfortunately, my writing has not always been consistent. :)
How long have you been working on this book?
I began this version in Feb. 2010, and worked on it until Jan. 2011. After querying unsuccessfully most of that year, I did a major revision from Nov. 2011 to Feb. 2012 based on agent and editor feedback.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Giving up on writing? No. Because when I thought about the idea of NOT writing, well, that just wasn't an option. I began writing because I love it, so I saw no reason to let my failure to get an agent deprive me of something I loved doing.

But giving up on this book? Pretty much after every rejection. As the rejections mounted, I was just certain my book was no good, and that I should just move on and consider this a practice run. The thing that kept me going was reading others' success stories, and reminding myself that 1) You never know what will happen with each agent. Just because one rejects, doesn't mean another will. 2) It only takes one yes. And 3) What do I have to lose? Really you only lose by not trying.

Is this your first book?
Yes and no. It's a refabrication of the first book I ever wrote, but I really consider it to be my 3rd complete book.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I was an English major way back when, but funny enough, I never took any creative writing classes.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
It's really hard to answer this question because I might go through a chapter several times during one re-write, so it's hard to keep track. I would say five overall rounds of revision, but within each round, I might have had six revisions of one chapter, four of another, etc.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes! So essential.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I outlined this version of the book. The first version (which is VERY different) I pantsed. Um yeah. Pantsing just doesn't work for me. J
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
This is the first book I queried which I actively did for about 9 months, but that was spread out over a period of a year-and-a-half.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent out 56 query letters.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Obviously if they repped Middle Grade, their tastes in books when I could find it, and most importantly their reputation. For those with an online presence, I tried to get a feel for personality, too.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I mostly did. I read up on each agent before querying and tried to include a sentence about why I chose them. Sometimes there wasn't much more to say than that I knew they repped Middle Grade.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
First, to keep going. You never know when your book will connect with an agent. You just don't. Second, connect with other writers. It makes the journey so much more enjoyable. Yes, it does take time from writing, but it's worth it!
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure! Although, for the record, it was my one-sentence pitch and 1st page that earned the full request from Victoria.

When her best friend's house is threatened with foreclosure, ten-year-old Annie Jenkins is full of ideas to save it: selling her appendix on eBay, winning the lottery, facing down the bankers . . . anything to keep Jason from moving.

Problem is, Jason's out-of-work dad blows up at the smallest things. One little trip to the ER, and they're grounded from each other for two weeks. Still, Annie is determined.

So when she tracks a lost treasure to Jason's backyard (smack dab in their turkey pen), she's certain it's the answer to all their problems. Now all she has to do is convince Jason to ignore his father's short fuse and overcome her own paralyzing fear of turkeys. It should be a snap. But when her plan goes terribly wrong, Annie discovers there are worse things than your best friend moving away.

THE PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY FRIENDSHIP is a 50,000-word contemporary middle grade novel about the stickiness of friendship.