Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Interview with Katy Upperman


Hey, everyone!
I found out not long ago that Katy Upperman, one of my awesome Twitter pals, signed with Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency! She graciously agreed to do this interview with me for my blog. I hope you all enjoy Katy's responses as much as I did!
Be sure to stop by Katy's blog, and if you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here.
Congratulations again, Katy!! :)
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What kind of things do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I’m a wife and a mama, and I spend most of my free time with my family. I read A LOT of books, mostly young adult fiction. I love to run, I love to bake, and as a somewhat new transplant to the California coast, I love hanging out at the beach.
What drew you to write young adult fiction?  What is it about contemporary fiction, in particular, that appeals to you?
After my daughter was born I stopped teaching elementary school to stay home with her. While I liked being a stay-at-home mama, I was a little bored, especially since my husband was deployed a lot. I needed something to do to keep my mind busy, and because I’ve always loved to read, I decided to try my hand at writing. That very first (poorly told) story just happened to be narrated by a teenager. Writing for young adults wasn’t a conscious choice -- I didn’t even know what YA was when I started out -- but I’ve never looked back.
Contemporary fiction is where my heart is because I love stories about relatable people with unique struggles. I find complicated characters and complex relationships fascinating, and I love to read and write stories that are character-driven. Twisty plots and tons of action can be lots of fun, but I most like to explore human behavior and I think contemporary stories often do that best.
What would you say are the hardest and easiest aspects of writing?
For me, coming up with a workable plot – particularly conflict – is the hardest part of writing. I struggle with making things as difficult as possible for my characters. I love them too much to torture them! But nobody wants to read about a bunch of people who’ve got it easy, right?
Voice is the aspect of writing that comes most naturally to me. For some reason it’s very easy for me to channel my inner seventeen-year-old. I suppose this is a good thing, because I’ve heard that voice is a hard thing to “learn.”
Can you tell us about the novel that you queried your agent with?
CROSS MY HEART is a contemporary young adult romance about Jillian, a seventeen-year-old aspiring pastry chef, who’s got a messy history with Max, the troubled boy who lives across the street. It’s a story about family dynamics and changing friendships, and it’s full of awesome things like classic country music, decadent baked goods, and steamy kisses.
What made you realize that Victoria was the perfect agent for you and your book?
When Victoria and I spoke on the phone for the first time, her enthusiasm for my story was evident. She got my characters, and it was clear that she loved them as much as I do. She shared some fantastic revision ideas and detailed her plan for getting my story out into the crazy world of submissions. She’s so savvy and passionate about books and publishing, and I totally wanted to be a part of that.
How do you find inspiration for your writing?
I find inspiration almost everywhere: coloring with my daughter, hiking with my husband, reading the latest YA novels. I live in an amazing town and take lots of long runs through it and along the coast; there are story ideas everywhere I look! I also draw from my past. Occurrences from high school that once seemed silly or insignificant have found new life in my stories.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing journey so far? What would you say were the most exciting parts? The scariest?
Is it just me, or is everything about the writing journey scary and exciting? Starting a new story, finishing a first draft, diving into that first revision, sending my work out to CPs… I think that’s why I’ve kept at it so long: Writing is NEVER boring.
That said, this last month has been exceptionally thrilling, with lots of highs and lows. I “won” NaNo for the first time (exciting), I amicably parted ways with my previous agent (scary), I queried new agents (SO scary), and I eventually signed with Victoria (incredibly exciting!).
Since you’ve recently dealt with the situation of having to part with one agent and jump into those query trenches again, do you have any advice for other writers in the same boat?
I’m not going to lie… Jumping into the query trenches a second time was no fun. At first I was very grouchy about the whole thing, but as I perfected my query letter I started to get excited about the possibility of a new agent and a fresh start. I spent a lot of time reading agent bios and blogs online. Because this was my second agent search, I knew exactly what kinds of personality traits and professional experience I was looking for. Though I was eager, I tried not to rush the process. Once I started sending queries and requested materials, I mentally let go. I tried very hard not to stress about what was no longer in my hands.
So, I suppose my advice would be: get lots of feedback on your query letter from trusted writer friends, research agents and agencies thoroughly, take your time because you only get one shot at a first impression, and most importantly, work on something new and keep lots of chocolate on hand while in the query trenches.
For fun:
I know that you love country music. Do you have any favorite songs/artists?
Why, yes I do! I adore Sugarland (especially Already Gone and What I’d Give), Tim McGraw (especially Real Good Man and Something Like That), Kenny Chesney (especially Down the Road and Anything But Mine). I’m also a big fan of Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, and Zac Brown Band. But, let’s be honest… if it’s country, I’ll listen to it. J
What books do you think would make your Top 5 list?
This is so hard… There are so many books I love! If I had to choose, I think my top five YA titles would be (in no particular order): Jellico Road by Melina Marchetta, Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, If I Stay/Where I Went by Gayle Forman, and um… The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling (we’ll just count that as one loooong story, okay?). My favorite non-YA titles are A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Pact by Jodi Picoult, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
If you could eat ice cream with any fictional character, who would it be? What kind of ice cream?
Hermione Granger, for sure. She’s so smart and sassy and compassionate. Love her! And we’d eat Pralines and Cream with hot fudge… Yum!
What is something about you that might surprise readers?
I’m painfully boring! I’m a total introvert. I’d much rather watch a movie with my husband and girlie on the couch at home than be out and about in a crowded social situation. I prefer small towns to cities. I prefer books to parties. I prefer oceans to mountains. I prefer comfy sweats to tight jeans. I am addicted to Jelly Bellies.
Thanks so much for the interview, Kristin! It was so much fun to answer your questions and “visit” your blog! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

I HAVE AN AGENT!! YES, IT'S TRUE!


*Warning: The following post contains a lot of capital letters and frequent overuse of the exclamation point.

Guys, after days of holding this secret inside until I literally thought I was going to explode, I finally get to tell you my MOST AMAZING NEWS!!!

I am so completely honored and beyond happy to say that I am now represented by the brilliant Louise Fury of L. Perkins Literary Agency!!!

After my first phone call with Louise (when she offered representation), I seriously thought I had fallen into some alternate dimension or some sort of too-good-to-be-true dream.

Yet…I had HER cell phone number in MY cell phone.

HER CELL PHONE NUMBER!!

But, even with her voice and words still in my head, I couldn’t believe it was true. I was seriously doubting my sanity. When I told my parents that she had offered representation, I kept thinking I was telling them a lie.

It wasn’t until she sent me a few direct messages later that night that it actually sank in.

It WAS real. The phone call, the offer,…EVERYTHING!! It actually happened!

I HAD IT IN PRINT!!

And now, I am free to tell all of you that Louise is officially my agent! And I am indescribably happy. :)

I would like to say a special thank you to all of you who have been such an incredible support system throughout this journey. I wish I could give you all a huge, squeeze-the-breath-out-of-you hug.

These last days have been completely unforgettable, and I’m looking forward to what the future will bring.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNo Self-Challenge Update


Hi, all!

I'm posting this to give you a little update on my sort-of-NaNo self-challenge. If you remember from the last post, I challenged myself to write 30,000 new words while also getting through as many revisions as possible. Since I've been adding new words to both projects and doing revisions in both projects, this is a combined tally. The first part of December, I'll try to break the numbers down a bit more.

Word count so far:

16,127/30,000

Yes, I will be really pushing my word count over the next several days.

*eyes calendar*

I think I can still make it!

On the revising side, I have made it through about 50,000 words. So, I’m pretty pleased with that. :)

Now, back to the writing cave! *puts on game face*

Good luck to the rest of you with your writing this month. You can do it!

P.S. Stay tuned for more NAWS interviews!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Day I Decided to Unofficially NaNo in a Sort-of-NaNo Kind of Way


Hi, everyone!

Sorry I’ve been so absent lately. I’ve sure been missing all of you, and I'm excited to be back!

So, up until midnight on November 1st, I was undecided on whether or not to sign up for NaNoWriMo*. The only thing holding me back was Opal Story (no, that isn’t its title, but that’s what I’ll call it online). Opal Story is demanding a lot of my attention right now because it is in the midst of that whole polishing-the-rock-into-a-diamond stage (otherwise known as revisions). Since I am hard at work revising Opal Story, I knew I might not be able to commit to the full NaNoWriMo.

Then I started thinking…

There might still be a way to sort-of-NaNo and engage just a bit in all the fun that is National Novel Writing Month. Thinking along that vein, I decided to set a smaller personal goal for myself this month. Instead of 50,000 words, I will challenge myself to write at least 30,000 new words in Onyx Story (my WIP). This way, I will still be able to spend plenty of much needed time with Opal Story. *smile*

I will post occasional updates on my blog, so that you all can hold me accountable. Get those whips ready (but please, try not to be too heavy-handed with the lash *winces*)!

Good luck to all my fellow writers who are fully jumping into that 50,000-word goal! You can do it!!


*For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. During November, hundreds of thousands of writers commit to writing 50,000 words by the deadline at the end of the month. If you would like more information, the official website is here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NAWS: Interview with Erica M. Chapman


Today, I am excited to have the fantastic Erica M. Chapman with us for another Newly Agented Writers Series interview! Erica is a YA writer represented by the lovely Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency. Be sure to stop by Erica’s awesome website and blog. If you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here.

Q and A:

First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?
Let’s see. I live in Michigan. I’m married. I love to watch University of Michigan and the Lions play football. If you follow me on twitter you can see my frustration every Saturday and Sunday with my boys on both teams. I have 2 fantasy football teams. I play the guitar and I LOVE alternative rock. The Foo Fighters are my favorite band (which a lot of people already know – including you!) I also golf and watch too much TV for someone who’s supposed to be writing. My favorites are: Dexter, Vampire Diaries and any singing reality competition ;o) I also read a lot, of course.
What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream, or did a certain event get you going?
I was inspired to write after my dad passed away when I was 16. I needed an outlet for all the built up emotion, so I started writing bad poetry. Apparently, at age 11, I told my mom's friend I would write a book someday. But I also said I wanted to be a lawyer/astronaut, so I'm glad I got at least one of the three accomplished ;o)
Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
I write every night, or I try to, but I end up on twitter most nights. It can be a major time-suck. A good time-suck, but I need to curb it sometimes to get something done. I mostly write in batches because I write so quickly. NaNo is the perfect thing for someone like me. I thrive on deadlines.
What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing? The easiest?
The hardest part of the story for me is the beginning. I really think I have it nailed and then someone tells me something that completely changes my mind.  Also, I think that first revision after you write the first draft. That’s always the hardest revision for me. The easiest? Getting the ideas. Ideas come to me all the time, I have no problem with that part!
You’re currently an intern for Louise Fury of L. Perkins Agency. Do you think this experience has brought a deeper level to your own writing? Do you have aspirations of someday becoming a literary agent yourself?
I’ve learned so much from Louise. She’s amazing and knows the business, so I can’t help but gain knowledge just working with her. My writing has definitely improved. Her clients are seriously talented, so I see what it takes to be extraordinary. I’m not there yet, but I hope someday! I’m not really sure what I want in the future. I’d love to be an editor. I’m not sure I want to take on agenting. It’s a tough job, and with the job I have during the day, it would be pretty hard to go that route. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. I never say never ;o)
So, I was super excited to learn that you are a fellow musician (*high five*)! How big a part does music play in your writing?
*high five* It plays a huge part. Music for me is so organic. Certain songs bring out different emotions in the story. In my current WIP, I have a totally different music selection than my previous one. Music has always been a big part of who I am, from singing in high school and college, to playing the guitar. I love it as much as writing!
What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?
Hmm unique? Well, my agent, Judith Engracia, emailed me to ask for The Call before she’d even read the whole manuscript. We didn’t talk until she was done, but she said she knew right away that my story was different. I also had an agent reject me (after she learned I had an offer of rep), and say I was welcome to bounce ideas off her for future projects. That was a little unexpected. It was the kindest rejection I’ve ever had.
Would you be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes? 
Of course! Quick note, I had some excellent people help me shape this puppy into shape. Always have others read it before sending out ;o) Also, through the process Jude decided to pitch it as a YA Thriller, so sometimes what you think is the correct genre isn't.
Dear Ms. Engracia,

Sloan's not a killer.

She brakes for squirrels and helps old ladies across the magnetic tracks. So when she’s the next seventeen-year-old to get her brain scanned for the government initiative, Project Reform, she never expects to end up in the Desolate, an island full of teens marked as future murderers.

In the Desolate, hover cameras follow Sloan’s every move, and sadistic wardens use any means necessary to keep the inmates in check. But death is part of everyday life, and trusting the wrong person is the fastest and only way off Killer Island—in a body bag. Convinced she doesn’t belong—she can’t be a real killer—Sloan makes a reluctant friend in her roommate who has a general dislike for every human except her arrogant boyfriend, Lane.

Problem is, Lane attacked Sloan on the day she arrived, and he seems to know a lot more about the Desolate than he’s saying. When Sloan's roommate starts acting strange, and transforms into a programmed assassin, Sloan discovers there’s a whole lot more to being marked a future killer in Project Reform than she was told. As more dead bodies appear around the island, Sloan will have to do anything to get out. Now the only thing she has to hold on to is the knowledge that she’s not a killer.

Not yet.

ANOMALY is a 70,000-word YA science fiction novel that explores the critical moments on one island in the year 2059. I believe it will appeal to those who enjoy the isolation and mystery of VARIANT by Robison Wells, and the futuristic aspects of the movie Minority Report. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Central Michigan University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

What were your reactions when you received The Call?
Well, it was the email first. My husband walked into the bedroom as I was checking my phone. I thought my heart would beat out of my chest. It went something like this...
Me: “Dude. She wants to talk. OMG this could be it. No, it might not be. Maybe she just wants to talk.”
Husband: *gives me that, Really? expression*
Me: "Well, you never know."
When Jude called, I answered on the second ring, cause, you don’t want to seem that eager. I could barely speak. I was kind of on auto-pilot. I tried to write down what she was saying and read it the next day. It was as if a five-year-old took over my body. Yeah, I would suggest actually writing full sentences or words. Luckily, I remembered most of it, and everything else she told me later ;o)
When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
Have paper and a pen handy. Be prepared to ask them about their communication style, if they have previous sales, if they already have any editors in mind for your book. Also, what they liked about it. Ask about the submission process, if they have any revisions to the story, and what they are, timeline. A big one is if they are a book-by-book agent or career agent. That could help with your decision too.
How did you know beyond a doubt that Judith was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
She loved my story. Also, when I told her about my other ideas, she loved those too. She’s been incredibly supportive. And I really love how she communicates. The agency as a whole knows the business well, and they are a collaborative team. I feel confident in Jude's ability to sell my book. She’s someone I can DM on twitter, but also can email or call with pretty much anything regarding my ideas and stories. She’s also a good editor and always finds stuff I miss. 
Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers?
There’s a lot of extra stuff that goes into making writing a career, social media, networking, conferences, querying. It can get overwhelming, but always remember that your writing is the thing that matters. All that other stuff is good, but you can have 15,000 twitter followers and if your writing is sub-par, it won’t make any difference. Also, always be thinking of something new to write, don’t keep revising over and over the same stuff. Multiple revisions are great. I go through at least 6-7, but I also know when to stop and let it be and move on to something new.
Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book or series?
You can’t ask for just one!! That’s crazy talk.
Infernal Devices/Mortal Instruments series by Cassie Clare
GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson, Also CROWN OF EMBERS
There are so many more, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, DIVERGENT, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL. Anything by Jennifer Echols.
I already know that your favorite band is the Foo Fighters, so let’s take it one step further. What is your favorite song?
Ha! I love it. For fun we’ll list some non-Foo tunes since I love pretty much anything the Foos produce. Black, by Pearl Jam (I could listen to this one on repeat for hours), Mad World, by Gary Jules, Nutshell, by Alice in Chains, Virgin by Manchester Orchestra.
Favorite dessert?
Pumpkin cheesecake or Tres Leches cake, or malts
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
Oh man, I think Clary from the Mortal Instruments, she gets to fight demons AND make-out with Jace ;o)
Are you a day writer or a night writer?
NIGHT. Very much night. Sometimes until early morning.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. I would love to change that and become more of a planner. I had to write a synopsis recently for a book I haven’t written yet. It was good practice!
First draft or revisions?
Gah, both? I love the thrill of a first draft, but I also love seeing the sentences come together in a revision. I’m cheating I know. I cheated up there too and named like a grazillion books when you asked for one! Sorry, I don’t usually follow the rules ;o)
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
Some people know this, but some may not. I’ve had 2 open-heart surgeries, one when I was born and one in 2008. I also have at least one more to go in my lifetime. I have a valve that needs replacing every 10-15 years. All is well, I’ve had this one for 4 years and it’s doing really well!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Erica!! <3 I wish you the best of luck with your writing and with your internship. :)

This was SO much fun!! 
Thanks so much for having me on here, Kristin! Love the blog ;o)