Writer Interview: Valerie Lawson

Today’s writer interview is with YA author Valerie Lawson, who advocates playing Halo to eating Haagen Daas after a rejection.  I like her already.  So will you!  Check out her great advice and follow her!

AG: Tell us about your current project.

VL: INSTITUTIONALIZED is a YA novel that takes place behind the walls of a private psychiatric hospital and follows Sara Peterson, a 16 year-old girl who’s been admitted under false pretenses to protect someone else’s secret. As she tries to navigate the unfamiliar and often violent world of true deviants and sociopaths, she soon realizes that straight talk and honesty are getting her nowhere; she’ll have to pretend to be one of her psychologically challenged peers in order to escape this nightmare. She has other worries as well; she left her sister on the outside with no one to protect her from the real psycho in the family.

AG:  Is it your first book?

VL: No, this is my second completed novel manuscript. I’ve written a middle grade mystery as well.

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

VL: I have a critique group I meet with once a month. They are a tremendous help with the chapter by chapter edits and with questions I may have about the overall arc of the story while I’m writing it. Once it was finished and I’d gone through a few revisions on my own, I had about four other people read the entire manuscript and give me feedback. Each reader had a unique viewpoint that gave me helpful advice for my final revision. Getting your work critiqued is so important; I can’t see how anyone could improve without it.

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

VL: I am at the beginning of my querying process, two months in, and right now it feels like a test by fire. It’s utterly painful, but absolutely necessary for me to move on and keep growing. You will never get published if you don’t submit...and get rejected a few times. Maybe a few hundred times. (God, I hope it doesn’t get to be THAT many times!)

One tip I would give other writers is to make friends with the query. If you can’t write a decent query, you’re not going to get much farther than the slush pile and form rejections. I know ‘query’ can feel like a dirty word. It took a long, long time for me to embrace it, but once you realize that it is a tool to help others understand what your story is about and not just some torture device for writers, then it makes the process a little easier. I had to really work hard at writing passable queries. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert by any means, but I’m finally getting feedback on mine that tell me they no longer suck. I can’t tell you what a great feeling that is.

One other tip is to keep busy. Work on the next project and STOP checking your inbox. That is something I find very hard to do.

When the rejections come, and they will come, have a routine for that. Maybe something as simple as moving that one agent to the ‘no’ pile or playing an intense round of slayer on Halo. DON’T eat a pint of ice cream for every rejection - bad idea. Just take a moment and let yourself feel it, then move on. You’re one step closer to the agent who’s going to say ‘yes’.

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

VL: I do have a blog Barbies on Fire at http://valerierlawson.wordpress.com/ . You can also follow me on Twitter @litbeing.

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

VL: Nathan Bransford has an excellent online resource as far as figuring out the querying process. http://nathanbransford.com/ I know there are many others that were recommended to me as well like Query Shark where you can actually get your query critiqued http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
but, Nathan Bransford’s made the most sense to me in a language I needed to hear.

I also interacted with other bloggers, and on Twitter, especially my #writemotivation community. Through this interaction, I was able to participate in several online contests where I received feedback from other writers, agents, and editors about my writing - especially my first pages and query letters - before I actively started approaching the agents on my wishlist.

AG: Any extra info you’d like to add or discuss?.

VL: Thanks for the questions! This was great fun!

It was fun having you!  I love your blog’s name and your MS sounds fascinating!  Best of luck and keep us posted!


  1. Awesome interview! But DON'T eat a pint of ice cream after every rejection? That's got to be a typo, right?

  2. no, that's only after the really bad ones...or when i get three rejections in one day.