Writer Interview: Sarah L. Blair

Dear writer friends and blog enthusiasts—it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to the uber-fabulous Sarah L. Blair.  We met at Writer’s Digest Conference 2012 and she is just a delight.  Follow her on twitter @sarahlblair, peruse her witty and adorable blog at, and enjoy this interview.

AG:  Tell us about your current project.

SLB: I’m currently working on an Urban Fantasy called THE SHIFTING DARKNESS. I officially got to the end of it in August of last year, and now I’m shopping it around for an agent. I’ve also got the sequel started (even though that’s a big no-no since the first one hasn’t sold, but the story will claw me to death if it doesn’t get out!)

AG:   Is it your first book?

SLB:  This definitely isn’t my first attempt at a book, but it’s the first thing that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Y’all know what I’m talking about. I have a pile of “first chapters” and loads of ideas that I want to work on. . . one day!

AG:  How did you tackle the revision process before you queried?  Did you use CP’s?
SLB: I finished it. I cried. Then I went to my best friend’s house and we ate McDonald’s and drank champagne. Then we cried together. And ate more fries. It was pretty awesome.
After that I gave myself a week to tinker with it and I printed out copies for a few of my friends to read. While they were busy with it, I resisted temptation and put it away for a month. I don’t know if it was more difficult to finish it, or to put it away and not mess with it. You have to do that though. It’s the only way to come back to it with some kind of a clear mind and that’s really important after spending years with a project. I probably should have waited even longer, but my self-control isn’t THAT good.

AG:  What was the querying process like for you?  Any tips?
SLB: I’d like to say it was blissful and wonderful and that I landed an agent on my first try and there were fireworks and unicorn farts, but alas, I’m still searching. My only advice is to do loads of drafts of your query. I did six. Check out Query Shark and follow agents on Twitter for awhile to find out what NOT to do. I wish there was more out there about what a good query is like, but the truth is, every project is different and every query has to be different. It’s kind of like American Idol or The X Factor. A good query is magical and you can’t really explain how it’s done, you just have to keep at it until it feels right. You’re also perfectly allowed to send a few out and re-write if you don’t get the responses you need.
    Definitely DON’T query until you have a manuscript that’s the best it can be. I was lucky enough to write a query that was decent enough to earn some requests for partials and a couple fulls and I got good feedback from a handful of awesome agents. At the moment I’m taking a break to fix some of the things in my manuscript that they pointed out.
     Take your time with the process! Don’t get too impatient because that will only make you frustrated and angry and send mean emails to agents who are actually nice people.
    That’s another thing I have taken away from this experience. I was totally terrified to click ‘send’ that very first time. I wanted to crawl under the desk and hide for a week. My query was OUT THERE. A REAL agent was going to READ IT. But you know what? Out of the 10 or so agents I’ve sent to so far, they have all been very nice and professional, even when telling me things I didn’t want to hear. Agents are people too. Despite what we’d like to think (that they kick puppies and drink martinis made with baby tears on their lunch hour), the truth is this:  they don’t ENJOY letting anyone down.   
Once you’re ready to start the query process, your writing is going from a place that is extremely personal and being transformed into a business. If you really want to be a professional writer, that’s how you have to treat the process, as a business. And we all know the ‘ol phrase, “It’s not personal. It’s business.” So you have to separate yourself from the process a little bit and make sure that you don’t take it too personally. If that’s something you feel like you can’t handle, or aren’t ready to handle, then it’s perfectly fine to write what’s in your heart and share it with your friends and go on with your life. If a career as a published writer is something you know you want, then you have to totally GO FOR IT and keep trying until you get there, because the biggest advocate you’ll ever have for your work is yourself. And your mom! But don’t let your mom call agents.

AG:  Do you blog?  Where can we find you on Twitter and the internet?

SLB: I blog sporadically over at I need to get better at updating it. I’m really bad about that. My Twitter is @sarahlblair and I’m over on Facebook at I feel completely ridiculous asking anyone to come ‘like’ me though. It feels so desperate. Do it if you want, by all means! I’d be happy to see you, but know that you’re doing it of your own free will and not because I begged.

AG:  What online resources have you used to help your writing and querying and revision process?
SLB:  The most useful online resources that I’ve found would have to be Query Shark, Writer’s Digest, and Twitter. It was really tough for me to find a writing community in real life, but SURPRISE! I’ve found some pretty awesome peeps on Twitter. It’s been really useful and everyone is very kind about sharing information over there.
Thanks again for coming, Sarah!  Seriously, though, some of my favorite tweets of all time come from this girl.  FOLLOW!  ;)

Writer Interview: Tara Dairman

Writer friends, please read this interview with the amazing Tara Dairman.  The advice she gives is absolutely invaluable!  She is a wealth of information and tells us a fantastic story of how she went through her journey of writing all the way through getting her book deal.

 AG:  Tell us about your current project.

TD: I recently sold my debut middle-grade novel, The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby, to Putnam/Penguin (hooray!) for publication in 2014. Gladys is an 11-year-old foodie who dreams of writing restaurant reviews for The New York Times (rather than just scathing journal entries about whatever awfulness her parents have microwaved up for dinner). When her entry into an essay contest goes awry, she suddenly finds herself with a freelance assignment for the paper’s Dining Editor…who, of course, thinks that Gladys is a real, adult writer. Determined to meet her deadline—without letting her parents know what she’s up to or letting her editor find out she’s only in sixth grade—Gladys embarks on a series of adventures that take her all over New York City.
AG:  Is it your first book?

TD: It is! I attempted to write a novel in college, but only got a couple of chapters in, so I don’t think that one counts. =) I’ve been working on Gladys on and off since 2005, so I’m hoping that I can significantly speed up the process for novel #2.

AG: How did you tackle the revision process before you queried? Did you use CP’s?

TD: I’ve belonged to a New York-based writers’ group for the last 10 years, and they saw pages from the book just about every month as I worked on it. When the first draft was finally done, they were first to read the whole thing and give me feedback. But I also found it really important to get feedback from a few readers who had never seen the book before—who weren’t tied to certain elements just because they’d been there from the beginning.

So, I did a light revision based on CP feedback before querying, but getting rejected across the board in my first round of queries is what really forced me to take a hard look at the manuscript (especially the opening pages) and realize that certain elements just weren’t working. That happened last August. I did a major revision, ran the new version by several betas, and started querying again in October, with much better results.

AG:  What was the querying process like for you? Any tips?

TD: I have to say, getting that first round of rejection after rejection was pretty demoralizing at the time. Looking back now, I can see SO many things I did wrong—my query was too long, my first pages were slow and loaded with backstory, and I had only targeted superstar agents who (I would later find out) had really low request rates. I thought that a superficial revision of my first draft and a couple of days of research about how to write a query letter was all I needed to snag an agent’s attention. Um, wrong!

Thankfully, I had only queried seven agents, so there were plenty more out there to target once I had an actually revised manuscript and a tighter query. During the time I was revising, I got to know all the great sites for researching agents (like Literary Rambles and QueryTracker); I read tons of interviews, made A, B, and C lists of agents to query, and noted which blogs had contests I might like to enter.

AG:  Tell us how you endedup with your agent.
TD: In October, I entered the first page of my manuscript into the Secret Agent contest at Miss Snark’s First Victim. After the contest closed, I got an e-mail from Authoress saying that Ammi-Joan Paquette (who is usually closed to submissions, but “lurks” at MSFV) had noticed my entry and invited me to query her with five pages. I sent it off around midnight, and the next morning woke up to my first full request!

I continued querying and got a few more requests; then in December, my first page was back up on MSFV in the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction. I ended up with multiple requests and, ultimately, multiple offers of representation from agents who participated in that auction. I notified Joan as soon as I got my first offer, and when she offered as well about a week later, I realized in short order that she was the perfect agent for me.

AG:  What is that relationship like? What is doing agent revisions like?

 TD: I didn’t do a whole lot of revision before we went on submission, but when an editor (the one who ended up buying the book) asked for revisions during the process and I wrote a bunch of new material, Joan was an awesome extra set of eyes. I’m so glad she was there to give me feedback (and suggest some strategic cuts) on the new stuff before we sent it back in to the editor. It probably doesn’t hurt that Joan is an author herself (her own middle-grade debut, Nowhere Girl, is spectacular), so she really understands the process.

One of the nicest things about having an agent is feeling like there’s someone in my corner who really believes that my writing is worthy of being published. It certainly helps soften the blow when rejections come in from editors!

AG:  Tell us about the editor submission process from your experience.
TD: You know, some people find submission really hellish, and some think it’s not nearly as bad as querying. I actually surveyed a bunch of writers about this before I went on sub and did a blog post featuring their experiences called “What’s so bad about going on submission?” ( For me, the process wasn’t too traumatizing, since we knew within a couple of days that the editor at Putnam was really interested in the book. (This is very fast—it’s usually a few weeks before you start to hear back from editors.) However, the editorial team decided to ask for a few revisions before they decided whether or not to make an offer; I guess that they gave me an R&R, which I didn’t even know was a possible submission outcome! I had a phone call and traded e-mails with the editor and I really connected with her ideas, so I decided to give the revision a shot, even though the book was still out with other editors. Doing those revisions was the only truly nerve-wracking part of the process, since I felt like so much was riding on them. Well, OK, waiting to hear back from Putnam after I had turned in the revision was pretty nerve-wracking, too! This time I had to wait a few weeks for news (the Bologna book fair and the release of The Hunger Games movie probably had something to do with that).

Meanwhile, rejections came in from other editors, but the nice thing was that they always gave a reason (and usually said something nice about the book, too). So, at least I wasn’t left wondering what hadn’t worked for them like you do when you get a form R on a full when you’re querying. Or maybe I didn’t mind the rejections so much because I knew that there was potential with Putnam.

AG:  Do you blog? Where can we find you on Twitter and the internet?

TD: I do blog about writing at, and I’ve got some giveaways and interviews planned for the near future. Also, from 2009 to 2011, my husband and I blogged about our round-the-world trip at, which is probably much more compelling reading!

You can find me on Twitter at @TaraDairman, and at GoodReads at If you’d like to plan ahead for 2014, you can even add Gladys to your to-read list!

AG:  What online resources have you used to help your writing and querying and revision process?

TD: Oh, tons. There are so many great writing blogs out there, and I have trouble keeping up—my Google Reader’s constantly in triple digits for unread posts!

For writing and revising: Agent Mary Kole’s blog at is full of great advice and exercises to improve your writing, and Elana Johnson’s blog post “Editing Your MS in 30 Days or Less” ( is fantastic.

For querying: Using QueryTracker is a must, both for researching agents and keeping track of your own queries. is handy, too, and Literary Rambles is an amazing trove of information on individual kidlit agents.

And as Leigh Ann mentioned in her interview, contests at blogs like Miss Snark’s First Victim and Mother.Write.Repeat. are invaluable—not only as a way to get your own work out there, but to research what kinds of queries and first pages caught agents’ eyes in past contests. Operation Awesome has monthly pitch contests, and Falling Leaflets ( often has the dirt on upcoming contests as well as roundups of agents’ Tweets (excellent if you’re not on Twitter). It’s been on hiatus for a bit, but will be back in May.

AG: Thanks again, Tara, for this FANTASTIC look into your journey.  I am looking forward to checking out all the great resources you talked about!


Writer Interview: Jess Negron

This week’s interview is with my tweep, Jess.  I think everyone will want to start following her, because her current project sounds AMAZING and I just know she’ll land an agent soon.  ;)  

AG:   Tell us about your current project.

JN: My current project is Coalition of Women Against Forced Motherhood (a VERY working title):

The United States has passed a bill redefining the meaning of life and made all forms of birth control and abortion illegal. When Leah Farris finds out she is pregnant, she decides to fight against the institution forcing her into an ill-prepared motherhood by reaching out to women in her situation all over the country and organizing an act of protest that cannot be ignored: mass abandonment of their newborn children. Bogged down with the stresses of pregnancy, social rejection, and the law breathing down her neck, she realizes that choosing NOT to be a mother comes with its own set of consequences.

AG:  Is it your first book?

JN: I’ve written one before, a science fiction piece entitled Number Blue.  Coalition is how I’ve kept myself busy during the query process for Number Blue.  It’s been a great project for passing the time, as the issue at the heart of the story is one I hold dear.

So, no, it isn’t my first book, but it is the first I’ve started on purpose!  Number Blue just sort of...happened.

AG:  How did you tackle the revision process before you queried?  Did you use CP’s?
JN: It was so stressful!  Nowadays I try my hardest to be one of those “write first, revise later” writers.  It was not so with Number Blue, which is why it took me half a decade to finish.  I had the support of very close friends, some of which are writers, who stood by my side chapter by chapter and tore my writing to pieces.  After the book was completed, we worked together to tear it apart again.  I’m still tearing it to pieces, even though I’ve begun the querying process.  I’m a firm believer in that quote by Paul Valery (I think):  “Poems are never finished - just abandoned.”  Just replace “poems” with “novels!”

AG:   What was the querying process like for you?  Any tips?

JN: It’s less stressful than I thought it would be.  The process takes forever; agents are very busy and might take months to get back to me.  These long stretches of time are actually soothing.  I’m not constantly checking my e-mail because a response might come ANY MINUTE.  I know it will take a while, so I focus my energies on other things--like writing more!

AG:   Do you blog?  Where can we find you on Twitter and the internet?

JN: Everyone is welcome to read my ramblings at and connect with me on Twitter @loladeee
AG:   What online resources have you used to help your writing and querying and revision process?

JN: is an amazing resource for getting started in the query process.  I’ve also used QueryTracker, which is very helpful.  I’ve tried to join a few online writing communities, but none ever panned out for me.  I’m pretty new to this whole process so this question is one I’m asking OTHER people, because I certainly don’t have good answers yet!

I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s interview!  If you have any followup questions for Jess, please leave them in the comments section.  Also, don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and her blog!  J

Writer Interview: Leigh Ann Kopans

I can't think of a better person to be my first official Writer Interview than the fabulous Leigh Ann Kopans. We met through Twitter and I can safely say she's definitely made a presence for herself in the community of aspiring writers on the net. Whether she's blogging at or tweeting (@leighannkopans), she's keeping all of us in the loop regarding querying, contests and the like.

I hope you all enjoy this interview about Leigh Ann, and follow her blog and Twitter.

AG: Tell us about your current project.

LAK: I’m currently querying a Young Adult Sci-Fi Lite novel, ONE, about kids with only half a superpower - Ones. My main character meets a boy who, if she touches him, can combine his power with hers to make the two of them fly. Everything’s peachy until they realize that the Superhero Biotech Hub is targeting them and other Ones for dangerous experiments that could rob them of their Ones, or worse, kill them.

My Work-in-Progress, CHROME, is a futuristic science-fiction retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. I turned Moses into a 16-year-old girl and the Egyptian kingdom into a biodome that shields its citizens from a nuclear-war scorched atmosphere. There are robots and holotrees and chrome lions. All the plagues are tech-related. I’m about a third of the way through the first draft, and it’s all kinds of fun.

AG: Is it your first book?

LAK: Nope! ONE is my second and CHROME is my third. My first MS got a decent number of contest wins and full and partial reads, and finally racked up over 100 rejections before I retired the poor sweet thing to the drawer.

AG: How did you tackle the revision process before you queried? Did you use CP’s?

LAK: Yep! I had an absolutely AMAZING team of critique partners in three rounds. My first round had two in-line commenters and one reader for general feedback, then I went back and revised according to their (sometimes quite empassioned) suggestions. The second round, with one in-line commenter and two readers for feedback, read the MS after I completed that first revision. They suggested their own changes, I revised again, and passed it off to a good handful of betas, who read for wider-ranging stuff. Revisions after that weren’t too sweeping, but they did help me tweak some things, address some voice issues, and catch stupid mistakes (like a paper permission slip randomly popping up in a paperless society. Oops.)

AG: What was the querying process like for you? Any tips?

LAK: Let’s just say this - They don’t call them “The Query Trenches” for nothing. The feelings while you’re down here range from hope that it’ll end soon to complete and total despair. With downpours, smelly mud, and, of course, trench rats. And, just like real trenches, the best way to get through is by having a great group of buddies right there along with you, telling you jokes, helping you pass the time, and keeping your spirits up.

And, you know, eventually getting out. Which I’m still looking forward to.

I could say all sorts of things about the toughness of querying, llike, “It’s all subjective!” and “It just takes one agent to fall in love with your work!” Now, I don’t know about y’all, but at the end of my second querying run, that stuff just kind of makes me roll my eyes. Except on a very good day.

So I’ll just say this - keep writing, if that’s what you love, and keep querying, if you believe in your work. You never know what lies around the corner.

AG: Do you blog? Where can we find you on Twitter and the internet?

LAK: Yes! I blog about the writing process and my path toward publication at

And I’m pretty obsessed with Twitter - handle @LeighAnnKopans

AG: What online resources have you used to help your writing and querying and revision process?

LAK: I follow so many wonderful blogs, I can’t see straight! My favorite ones are those written by writers going through the same things I am, or the newly agented - people who are in the same place as I, or going through the stuff I’d like to be going through soon. I like to be able to peek just around the corner.

Also, following agent and agency blogs is VERY useful for a bit of a peek into the industry.

Lastly, contest blogs like MSFV, Mother, Write, Repeat, and Cupid’s Literary Connection are great places to learn about what catches agents’ attention and maybe even snag some requests! Highly recommended.

The biggest reason to follow the blogs of fellow writers and contest blogs, in my experience, is to find like-minded writers. I have found every single one of my beloved CPs by stalking them on blogs and contest sites, seeing what I would love to read (because I really do believe that CPs should have a certain love for one another’s work,) and proposing a CP test run. I didn’t know it would work out this way then, but those ladies have become very near and dear to me. I literally couldn’t do this without them. is where all my query lists live. The only thing I hate about it is the little red smiley face that pops up when you record a rejection. Like, does it have to be so RED? And FROWNY? Ugh.

Thanks so much, Leigh Ann! Keep us posted on all your projects!