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An Interview with Wendy Cebula upon receiving an offer of representation.

Wendy Cebula (WendyCinNYC on QT) has signed with agent Rebecca Strauss of DeFiore and Company.

How long have you been writing?
For fun, ever since I could hold a crayon. For possible publication, only for the last 18 months or so. My youngest daughter went off to kindergarten and I wanted to give writing a real go before I went back to work. I admire people who can write seriously while they work full time, or have young kids at home. Or both!
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Yes, I'm very hard on myself. Rejections from others don't seem to bother me as much as my own internal doubts. I get through it by switching things up--I'll write a few flash fiction pieces or maybe try some poetry (terrible poetry that I will never share with anyone.) Typically if I try something different I can get back into the bigger project at hand within a few days. I do like to keep in the habit of writing something--anything!--and playing with words or concepts.
Is this your first book?
Yes, although I've written many short stories.
How long have you been working on this book?
I finished it in about 10 months.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I was an English major with a concentration in creative writing. I took a few classes at the Gotham Writer's Workshop in New York to brush up my dusty old skills. I also attended the Southampton Writer's Conference last summer, which was fantastic, by the way.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I try to write a little in the morning, just after the kids are off to school and the husband is kissed goodbye. Then I do my errands and drudgery stuff, then write some more in the afternoon. If possible, I do 2 hours on, 1 hour off, repeat until pick up time.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I can't even begin to count. I'm sure I'll have a few more passes before it's all over, too. I don't mind the editing process.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
The first few chapters were critiqued by friends and also in a writing workshop at the SWC. Meg Wolitzer was my workshop leader and I was thrilled to get her insightful comments, as well as those of my lovely and talented classmates.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I started out writing from the hip, very free-form, and about 30 pages into it I thought, "Okay, now something actually has to happen." That version was scrapped, but it was a good exercise to develop the idea of the book. So I went back and outlined each chapter in detail. After that, the story felt more controlled.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Four months. But there was a pretty major rewrite in there and I didn't query during that time.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I'm a research freak. I checked just about every source I could find--QueryTracker, Agent Query, the Jeff Herman book, Publisher's Marketplace, Absolute Write, Google, whatever! It was important to find a reputable agent with sales in my genre.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Not unless I had a good reason to do so. Most of the time, I just got right into it.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Do your research and then query as widely as possible. Don't overlook the agents who only accept snail mail.
Would you be willing to share your query with us? (If willing, please include a sample of your query letter)
Sure:

Perfect, type-A Amanda Adams strives to be everything her own mother was not: a faithful wife, a mentally stable mother, and, perhaps most importantly, a social success.

Those efforts appear to be paying off. Her tasteful Upper East Side apartment, her corporate lawyer husband, and a child enrolled in an elite private school are evidence she's shaking off her unhappy middle class upbringing in suburban Chicago and gaining acceptance in New York .

When her twelve-year-old daughter posts a drunken internet striptease to impress a boy, the fa├žade Amanda has worked so hard to build begins to implode. "Unchaste at Chatsworth School !" the gossip columns and blogs declare. Expulsion follows, leaving Amanda wondering if she's overcompensated in her quest to be nothing like her mother.

Now, her once straight-A daughter is more difficult than ever, her husband of fifteen years is cheating, and Amanda's trying her best to hold the family together. The last thing she needs is to be forced to move back to Chicago with her unreliable mother who doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks. But maybe each woman has something to learn from the other.

In the style of THE TEN YEAR NAP by Meg Wolitzer and LITTLE CHILDREN by Tom Perotta, UP FROM DROWNING explores the mother / daughter dynamic and idea of accepting the imperfections of the people we love.

My short stories have been published in Literary Mama and Boston Literary Magazine. A chapter from UP FROM DROWNING was adapted into a short story and was a finalist in Glimmer Train's 2007 Short Story Award for New Writers. The story was also recently nominated for this year's Best of the Net anthology. I graduated from the University of Missouri 's English and creative writing program in 1993 and attended the Southampton Writer's Conference in Southampton, New York .

Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.