I teach English, so I'm always reading and writing. I started taking writing classes through UCLA Extension about twelve years ago, but I've been focused on YA fiction for about four years. I've taught middle and high school, and now community college, so I feel at home when I read and write YA fiction.
I wrote a previous novel that I briefly queried and then shelved. I started brainstorming my ideas for THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS, which is a YA contemporary, about a year ago. I worked on the synopsis and the first two chapters in a Litreactor class with Mandy Hubbard, where I received good responses from both Mandy and my awesome classmates that boosted my confidence to finish the manuscript. I wrote about 20K words in February and March, and then I completed a mini-NaNoWriMo in May to finish the book.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
YES! Of course! Just about every day! Especially when those rejections came in.
What helped? I can't not write! At first I was worried that writing might be an addiction, but then I remembered Natalie Goldberg who was worried about this same thing. In her book Wild Mind, Goldberg shares a conversation with Geneen Roth, an expert on compulsive eating, who said to her: "No, Natalie, an addiction diminishes you. You have not been diminished by writing. It is your passion."
That's what helps me to stay on course. It's my passion. I love to write. Period.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
With my first book that took nearly three years to finish, I totally pants-ed it (which also explains a lot, I think, about why I had to shelve it.) I did plot this one out, but then I tried to give the characters freedom to find their way through each scene, and I changed the plot as needed.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started querying this book prematurely in June. I did get a few requests rather quickly, but then I stopped sending out more letters because I knew it needed work, and I went back to revise (both the manuscript and the letter) during July and August. I continued querying in August, received four offers of representation, and very happily signed with Courtney Miller-Callihan of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates in November.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Take classes. Go to conferences. Meet people who want to read your work and whose work you want to read.
As I tell my students:
READ. Read books about craft. Read blog posts about the publishing process. Read new writers and re-read your favorite writers.
WRITE. Write in journals, on your phone, on your computer, on the back of receipts. And then, write more. Keep writing words.
And most importantly, SAY this aloud, to yourself, to your friends, and to strangers: I AM A WRITER. (It took me a long time to do this.)
Keep going. It took me twelve years to get to this point. And I'm still not fully there yet (wherever there is.) Just keep going. And have as much fun as possible along the way.