Thursday, June 16, 2011

Agent-Author Chat: Mollie Glick and Gennifer Albin

This sophomore installment of “Agent-Author Chat” features Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media and one of her newest clients, Gennifer Albin (whose manuscript also happens to be one of Ms. Glick’s newest sales).

Here’s a quick reminder about how all this will work: Ms. Albin will share her query with us, the actual query she sent to Ms. Glick, and then she’ll chat a bit about how she developed it and what advice she has for fellow writers. Then Ms. Glick will tell us what she liked about the query--and what she liked about the manuscript itself--and share some query-writing tips with us.

Ms. Albin’s query and answers will appear in orange, and Ms. Glick’s will appear in blue.

Ms. Albin’s Query Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her--tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape. Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

Complete at 78,000 words, CREWEL is a YA dystopian novel that follows Adelice's fight for autonomy and redemption in a world of femme fatales, steel looms, and towered compounds.

I hold a Masters in English Literature from the University of Missouri. I also served as a student editor for Pleaides and The Missouri Review and did some time teaching literature to college students.

I have pasted the sample chapters below followed by a synopsis and bio. Thank you for your time and consideration.

KV: Ms. Albin, how did you first come up with the idea for CREWEL?

GA: I think the idea came from a painting by the Spanish surrealist painter, Remedios Varo, which I’d studied in college. In the painting girls are embroidering the world from a large tower, and the world flows out from the windows. I’m not sure exactly how it germinated into the novel, but one day last August, I wrote a one page prologue that’s still the first page of CREWEL. I would have kept working on it, but a few days later I fried my Mac with a whole glass of water, so I picked the idea back up in November and started to build a story around it.

KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process. Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what order to put things in?

GA: I greatly admire the YA writer Scott Tracey, and he outlined his query process on his blog. He advised to start writing the query and perfecting it as soon as possible, so that’s what I did. I wrote my first (horrible) query in December and then many more horrible queries over the next few months. At the end of April, I had the opportunity to participate in a live query critiquing workshop. I wanted to do it, but when I showed my husband my best query, he basically told me it sucked. We then spent about four hours together writing a pretty experimental new one to send in for critique.

First I tried a summary of the book, which was too detailed and too vague at the same time. Next, I tried sticking to the first fifty pages, but even that’s a lot to boil down. It was my husband’s idea to go back and start in the backstory and lead up to the beginning of the novel, and I realized he was on to something.

KV: What was the hardest thing about writing your query? What was the easiest?

GA: Trying to figure out what to include was always the hardest part of the query. I have several plot layers and subplots in CREWEL, and for a long time, I tried to cram them all into the query. It was easier when I decided to stick to the inciting incident and initial stakes. The easiest thing was realizing I had THE query when it was done. I knew as soon as I read it that I was finally happy with it.

KV: Ms. Glick, when you first read Ms. Albin’s query, what caught your attention?

MG: I loved Genn’s query because it immediately drew me into the story and left me wanting to know more. That’s what I look for in a query and also what I look for in a first chapter. And her premise was high concept and intriguing. I was also impressed by her bio. I liked that she’d studied literature at the graduate level and that she already had two successful, well written blogs.

KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about CREWEL?

MG: I know I’m going to take a book on when I find myself setting everything else I’m reading aside and ignoring my husband because I’m so engrossed by it, and when I start making notes as I read it. I started reading CREWEL at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. one evening and didn’t go to bed until I’d finished it.

I loved the originality of the world--her description of the spinning was absolutely mesmerizing. And the characters were great. Nobody writes a villain better than Genn, and I love a good villain!

KV: How quickly did you read Ms. Albin’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

MG: In one night! She submitted it to me over a weekend, then let me know that she had interest that Monday, so I sat down and read it that day. My response times vary, though, depending on how many client manuscripts I have in at a given time and how sure I am that something sounds like a good fit for me.

KV: Ms. Albin, what tips do you have for fellow writers as they work on their queries?

GA: Get help! From people who’ve read the book and those who haven’t. Your critique partners and betas may fill in gaps with their own knowledge, while people who haven’t read it will point out areas that are confusing. And don’t be afraid to ask for criticism. I think you can get too caught up in your own head sometime to get the information out on the page.

KV: Same question to you, Ms. Glick. What query-writing suggestions do you have?

MG: First and foremost, make sure your letter is professional, informative, and grammatically correct. You wouldn’t believe how many inappropriate or poorly worded queries we get! And bonus points for capturing the voice of your novel in your letter and making me laugh or captivating my curiosity.

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

GA: I’ve heard the terms “whirlwind,” “fairytale,” and “Cinderella story” a lot lately. I think reading a story like mine can be both inspiring and super frustrating. So while I think it’s important to dream REALLY BIG, remember all our journeys are unique and joyful and bittersweet. Not a single moment will happen like you think it will--but it will be better because it’s happening! My agenting journey was short, but there was a lot failure and heartache in other areas of my life before I got serious about writing.

One day I realized there was no other option but to just freaking do it. I was tired of sitting on the sidelines of my life--wiping noses, couponing, and doing laundry--so I jumped in the game, which meant demanding time for me (often in the form of handing off the kids to my husband at the door). There are going to be a million reasons not to write, but none of them are as good as the reasons you should write. So keep dreaming and write on!

MG: The market is tough right now, but great books rise to the top like cream… If you’ve got a great premise and a great query letter you WILL get noticed. I’m always looking for the next novel that’s going to sweep me off my feet!

Thank you, ladies, for these informative, inspiring thoughts. And for those of you who might have missed the announcement on PM, CREWEL just sold to Farrar, Straus Children's in a three-book deal, so we'll all be able to check out Ms. Albin's debut next year!


Ben Spendlove said...

Inspiring. Thank you!

Jennifer Prescott said...

I love that the initial concept came from a painting. Great story!

Elle Wright said...

Wonderful post. I'm looking forward to reading Crewel.

Unknown said...

Thank you for hosting us Krista!

Jenny, this is the painting. I meant to include a link:

Jodi R. said...

That is so cool! I can see how you got inspired by that...

Thank you again Ms. G. (teehee) for an informative and entertaining post, as per usual. And thank you Ms. Albin and Ms. Glick for sharing!

I am assuming (but you know what they say about assuming) that Ms. Glick and her crew will take attachments, given the amount of material they look for in submissions... Does anyone know for sure?

Jodi R.

Unknown said...

Hi Jodi,

I believe Mollie does not want attachments in the initial query. I can tell you that I copied everything into the body of my email, sent, and then discovered to my horror that gmail had caught it off and she had only received a few pages of the initial chapter not the full amount or synopsis. I thought that meant I was out, but Mollie was intrigued enough to call and ask for the full based on what came through.

That said, I learned the trick is to paste it in without formatting, so gmail doesn't cut it off. You can also just paste it in, highlight it and choose to send plain text in the menu bar.

Best of luck!

Jolene Perry said...

I've been following your journey - and there are a LOT of people waiting for this book to come out!!

AWESOME premise.

Jodi R. said...

Thanks Gennifer, that's very helpful! I've been having some query formatting challenges too - there's so much to fuss with!

Love your website and blog, by the way!


Jodi R. said...

Oops - sorry Krista - that should have been "Thank you Ms. V." not Ms. G.!
Way to deflate my already-weak joke!


Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great story, huh, Ben (both Genn's and her character's)? :)

I love that the initial concept came from a painting, too, Jenny!

Thanks for stopping by, Lady Lex!

Thanks for the link, Genn! That painting is certainly evocative. I'll add it to the interview...

Jodi, Genn already gave you a great answer to your question, so I'll just say that "Ms. G." actually works, as my married name starts with a G... (Hmm, lots of ellipses today...)

Glad I'm not the only one, Jolene!

Myrna Foster said...

I loved this interview. I don't usually mention publishing deals to my husband, but I did tell him about this one. Everything about it went quickly, which means we'll get to read it sooner. :o)

I struggle with writing queries, and reading about Genn's process helped. At least I hope it did. Thanks!

Melissa said...

I never get tired of hearing Gennifer's success story! So inspiring for writer moms who finally decide to stop dreaming about it and make time to WRITE. And I cannot wait to read Crewel!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Myrna, I told Honey Bear about this deal, too. When everything in this industry tends to happen at a snail's pace, a fast-action thriller like Genn's success story is something to share!

Ditto everything you said, Melissa:)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. I loved hearing Gennifer's writing/querying process and then what drew Mollie Glick to her query and manuscript. I'm so excited for Genn. I can't wait to read her book.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

This sounds like a really cool book. I love how she was inspired to write it from a painting.

Thanks for another great interview, Krista!


Leslie S. Rose said...

Great interview. I read it twice and took notes. I felt myself being pulled into your query, Gennifer. I see why it was a magnet for Mollie. Thank you both for sharing. I can't wait to read CREWEL.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for all your wonderful comments, Natalie, Amy, and Leslie! I have limited Internet access at the moment (and for the next little while), but I love hearing your thoughts.