QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, January 24, 2011

Interview with a Winning Winner!

Writers love writing contests. That’s obvious by the number who flock to the Query Tracker blog contests. But have you ever wondered what happens to the winners after the agent picks their entry for a prize? Most of the time, the agent ends up passing on the project. Not so for one of the winners in the April 2010 contest with Jason Yarn. Out of the five winners, Amy Sue Nathan went onto become one of his clients.
We decided it would only be fitting to interview Amy and share her great news. Here’s the winner entry with Jason’s comments, followed by the interview with her. Enjoy!

THE GLASS HOUSE by Amy Sue Nathan: Ms. Nathan’s pitch was solid, but didn’t totally grab me. What did grab me, and what I thought should have been her pitch, was the first line in her excerpt. It’s a great contrasting image. That line made me very curious about the rest of the book and the subsequent paragraph was a nice layout to what’s to come for Evie Glass.
Amy Sue's pitch:
Amidst a torrent of grief, betrayal and bake sales, Evie Glass convinces herself, and a town full of nosy neighbors, to redefine the meaning of family.

Amy Sue's excerpt:
Evie never expected to get divorced, let alone sit Shiva for her ex-husband in a house with a Christmas tree. Yet there she was.

The imitation pine tree was dressed in tinsel and shiny red balls. Hallmark ornaments masquerading as heirlooms dangled from its branches. Stockings hung from the mantel above a card table topped with a green velveteen runner, holly-stamped paper plates and a Lucite platter heaped with lox, cream cheese balls and a mountain of seeded bagels. Richard had mocked Christmas folderol until he married Nicole a year before. Now he was being mourned in the company of a motorized Santa. Evie shook her head, unsure which was more shocking – the attempt for cultural balance or Richard’s sudden death.

How far into the querying process were you when you heard about the contest on the QTblog?
I started querying right after New Year’s Day 2010, and the contest was at the end of March. 

Had you entered any other contest for your book?
I entered another online contest for the first chapter and won – the recognition was great but it wasn’t an agent contest. 

You were awarded with a query and first ten page critique. How was the experience?
It was exciting and very encouraging because Jason was so enthusiastic. It was a slow process, because agents are so busy, so I kept querying other agents, following up with Jason, and moving forward.

Jason ended up offering representation. How did that come about?
Jason asked if he could read the full and after that happened, we talked on the phone.  Jason suggested some places and ways to tweak the novel.  I agreed with his ideas and to make those changes and resubmit the full to him.  He emailed me his extensive notes, I revised the novel and emailed it back. All that happened over the summer.

How long did the whole process take from the time you found out you were one of the winners until the moment the offer for representation came?
A long time but was it was worth the wait!  The contest was at the end of March 2010 and I signed with Jason in October 2010.  I think the most important thing for querying authors to have (besides a great book) is patience.  I started querying in January and signed in October. The whole process took more time than having a baby!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Good feedback may really change something about your book, but if it’s still within your vision for the story, and makes the book better, it’s smart to go with it.  Don’t be so possessive of the story and your writer’s ego that you’re unwilling to see where it isn’t perfect.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?
I never considered giving up.  I used QueryTracker to send over 125 queries in ten months.  I received my share of no replies and form rejections, but I also received gems – very helpful notes that helped me revise, and a few nice notes to send revisions or the next project, and up to the end, I was communicating with a few agents who were interested.  Had I not signed with any agent, I’d have started writing the query for my second novel. 

What happened next?
My novel went out on submission!

Anything you’d like to say to aspiring authors everywhere?
Don’t let the publishing gremlins get you down. 
Amy Sue Nathan is a published freelance writer and editor, and the editor of STET! The Backspace Blog and the Backspace monthly newsletter.  You can read Amy's writing and find more information on editing and critique services on her blog.  You can also follow her on Twitter @AmySueNathan. 

For those of you itching to enter a contest, please stay tuned. We have more planned for this year. Hopefully this will be one of many success stories in 2011.

Stina Lindenblatt writes romantic suspense and young adults novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative. 


Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Congratulations, Amy. Fantastic interview. Thanks.

Danyelle L. said...

Great interview and congrats, Amy! :) I especially love the part about not letting the publishing gremlins get you down. :D

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

"Don't let the publishing gremlins get you down." Awesome! Thanks for the great interview and sharing the uplifting news! :)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

Thanks for reading the interview and commenting...it means a lot to me to talk about the journey (which is on-going)! :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats Amy! Thanks for sharing the great tips.