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An Interview with Lindsey Leavitt upon receiving an offer of representation.

Lindsey Leavitt (lindsey on QT) has signed with agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency.

UPDATE! June 16, 2008. Lindsey just announced that her agent has sold her book in a three book deal to Hyperion. Her first book, PRINCESS FOR HIRE, should hit the shelves in 2010. Congratulations Lindsey. Read about it on her blog http://lindsey-leavitt.livejournal.com/77192.html

UPDATE! March 17, 2010. Lindsey's first book, PRINCESS FOR HIRE has been released and is now available at Amazon.com

How long have you been writing?
Writing or writing well? About three and a half years. I talked about it forever (kind of like a celebrity says, “I’m thinking about writing a talking animal picture book!”), but it took some time and courage before I got my butt in the chair. And by the size of it now, you’d think my butt never got out.
Is this your first book?
I wrote a Practice Novel, but burned it in a bonfire. You’d be surprised how much smoke overused clichés produce.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started it about a year and a half ago, but took time out to bare a child and move across the country. Not at the same time, mind you.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Mrs. Mullaly, my seventh grade English teacher, gave me a free homework pass for original simile usage. I still hear her voice when I write.

Oh, sorry, you wanted an answer. No. Just reading every YA/PB/MG/writing book I could get my hands on. Even if it meant prying a book out of the hands of the kid reading it.

Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Routine. Ha! *dries eyes* I write during Dora, play groups, nap time, and at night when everyone else is in bed. I can spend a whole night writing, then not write a word for a week. It all depends on my family and/or muse.
How many times did you re-write/edit your novel?
About six, one of which I did based on some thoughtful full rejections. I also had an editor who I’d met forever ago at a conference offer detailed revision notes, which I was working on when I signed with the agent. I sent my agent the latest draft as well as the revision notes so she could see where it was headed.
Did you have beta readers for your novel?
I have a great online critique group, as well as writing buddies I hound kindly ask to read. Every critique helped me kick it up a notch.
Did you outline your novel, or do you write from the hip?
I don’t outline. I start with an idea and where I want the novel to end, but I love discovering what’s going to happen as I write.
How long have you been querying for this book?
I started querying in small batches in September, revising when I got good input. I had some kind rejections, revision requests, and even two phone calls. In all, about 6 months. It was a long process, despite the fact that the agent I signed with offered representation quickly.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I researched all the agents I queried online—read blogs, checked writers’ boards, looked up past interviews, and read their clients’ books. Big gold star next to agents who specialized in children’s books. My writing is younger YA or tween, so I looked for agents with sales beyond YA and adult. Also, experience in the industry, whether that be as an agent or as an editor.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I usually had a blurb at the end about that agent—why I queried them, books they’d represented that I like. If I didn’t have anything to say, I ended it quickly and politely.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I echo the advice I found most useful along the way. Query widely, but query smartly. Make a list of agents who you think would be a good fit, then query in small, researched batches. And while you are angsting over the response times (Querytracker says Agent B got back to Writer A last week! Did she get my email? Should I resend? Ugh!), WRITE YOUR NEXT NOVEL. Although my agent loved my first novel, my second novel was the one that got universal buzz.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure thing. But be gentle--it’s already been through so much. I don’t think its little query heart can handle any more pain.

Dear Super Agent:

After discovering her father's big Multiple Sclerosis secret, Payton Gritas's structured life crumbles. So begins her excruciating "chats" with Ms. Callahan, a school counselor aiming to save Payton from drowning in denial by encouraging her to write Focus Exercises on any random object. Payton chooses Sean Griswold, her alphabetical connection since kindergarten. More specifically, she chooses his overly sized head.

In SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD, my 60,000 word contemporary young adult novel, Payton's head-centric research spawns more and more questions about Sean and his dome, like what's with the scar? Why does Mr. Prep hang out in the Goth hallway? And why is a fifteen-year-old training to be the next Lance Armstrong? She finds answers to these questions by getting inside Sean's huge head, while Sean somehow finds a way into her guarded heart. But when Payton realizes her Sean obsession won't ultimately mend her battered father/daughter relationship, Payton must shift her focus to the one person who can get her through the drama—herself.

I am a recipient of the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Scholarship and my YA short story "In and Out" earned an Honorable Mention in the 2005 Smartwriters W.I.N contest. I am currently working on a tween novel, Princess 4 Hire, which follows Desi as she substitutes for princesses in kingdoms around the world.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this multiple submission. I've included the first three chapters and a full manuscript is available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Here is your chance to plug your book. Tell us a little about it.
Well, I actually was offered representation based on two books. The one in my query, as well as PRINCESS 4 HIRE. So here’s the blurb for that one...

After a humiliating encounter involving her long time crush, an ex-best friend, and a groundhog costume, Desi Bascomb finds herself in the back room of the pet store where she works, staring into a fish tank. Her boss has always claimed it's a magical fish tank, and right now, Desi could use some magic. Feeling silly but hopeful, she makes a wish.

That night, as Desi soaks in the bath, trying to wash off the stench of the groundhog costume, Meredith Poofinski, a no-nonsense agent scouting substitutes for vacationing princesses, pops out of a bubble. Is Desi ready to learn first-hand what it feels like to be royalty, or is she going to continue to stare at Meredith in disbelief?

In my 45,000 word tween novel, PRINCESS 4 HIRE, Desi learns that the lives of princesses are just as packed with drama as that of a lowly pet store employee. Soon Desi is peeling off a piggish prince, dancing in an Amazon tribal festival, and dodging a pre-arranged marriage. But nothing can prepare her for the magic of falling for a real prince … a prince who has no idea she's just a groundhog dressed in sheep's clothing.

**You can also read more about me and my journey at http://lindsey-leavitt.livejournal.com. Thanks to Pat for running such a helpful sight. It made getting an agent that much sweeter when the sunglasses smiley popped up next to my agent’s name.

Query on!