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An Interview with Tabitha Olson upon receiving an offer of representation.

Tabitha Olson (tabwriter on QT) has signed with agent Andrea Cascardi of .

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
It's a story about an overweight teenage girl, Rose, who comes from a famously beautiful family. Her ancestors have been the spokesmodels for the most successful cosmetics company in the country, and Rose is supposed to be next.

I wrote this book after witnessing the inadvertant humiliation of an overweight woman at a swimming pool. She was there to swim laps, and a little boy asked his mom "Why is that lady so fat?" The mom replied (quite loudly) "Because she eats too much." I was appalled. This complete stranger summed up a woman's life in a single assumption, at the same time teaching her son that it's okay to be rude to others. Writing this book was my way of doing something about that situation.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing 20 years ago, but didn't start working on craft until about 8 years ago.
How long have you been working on this book?
It took three years to write this book. A year and a half to plan and write the first draft, and another year and a half to revise (with extremely helpful feedback from agents).
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Most definitely. This book was way out of my comfort zone, and there were times when I wasn't sure I had the talent to write it. But I I love this story too much to give up on it, so I kept going. Then, when I'd finally finished it, the rejections from agents piled up pretty high, and I worried that no one would take it on. Again, I kept going simply because of how much I love it. It's too important to me to let go, and I will never give up on it.
Is this your first book?
This is my third book. Well, it might be my fourth...I started a book seven years ago, which I am still writing. I wrote Rose while I was taking a break from this other novel, and now I've come back to it. So I guess Rose is book number three and a half.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Not really. I took creative writng in college, then took a couple courses at the Institute of Children's Literature. Everything else I have learned from reading other authors' works, studying books on craft, attending conferences, and critiquing.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I write when my kids are at school, which is a few hours each morning. I would like to get some part-time child care a couple days a week, though.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I rewrote it once, and revised probably five or six times. Major revisions, that is. I'm not counting the small changes, like word choice. :)
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Most definitely. I would be nowhere without my critique partners!
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I outline everything. I have to have a road map with at least the major plot points to hit along the way. But I will let my characters decide how to get there.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I started full-out querying Rose's story four months before receiving an offer of representation. Before that, I'd sent out another book to publishers, but it never found a home.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I looked at the agent's sales record, to see if the books she sold were similar to my own. I also read all the interviews I could find to see what she was actively looking for. If that information didn't exist, I sent a query because you just never know. :)
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I tailored a query if I had specific information to share. If I didn't, then I just dove right into the story's synopsis.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Read everything you can get your hands on. Make a list of the books you loved, then find out who represented them. Then, in your query letter, show the agent your passion and enthusiasm for your work, as well as your willingness to learn and grow as a writer.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Agent,

Fifteen year old Rose Connolly has been groomed since birth to become the spokes-model for the most successful cosmetics company in America. She will be the fifth girl in her family to inherit this position, and is ready. Well, almost ready. Somehow, she has gained fifty pounds in the past three months – but this is temporary! All she has to do is work hard, exercising and eating right, and she will get her weight back to normal. Plain and simple. So why can’t her parents, the press, and her classmates accept this and leave her alone?

This story, titled Royal Rose, is about an overweight girl who comes from a famously beautiful family, and must deal with judgments and public opinion based on her appearance. She learns to make the best of the cards that life has dealt, even if it means drawing a few from the deck.

I believe this book will appeal to fans of Sara Zarr, Simone Elkeles, and Catherine Murdock, as well as those with thyroid conditions. This story walks the line between literary and commercial.

In 2002, I received an Honorable Mention in the Children’s Fiction area of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. I have graduated from two writing courses at the Institute of Children ’s Literature. I am also a member of SCBWI, and write the “News Roundup” column for the SCBWI-IL newsletter, The Prairie Wind. I have been writing for twenty years, but did not consider publishing my work until eight years ago. Since then, I have sought out ways to hone my craft, and will continue to do so until I’m unable to pick up a pen.

I would be happy to send the entire manuscript, which contains approximately 55,000 words. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Tabitha Olson