Friday, September 21, 2012

J.R. Johansson Takes the Truth!

Since you just saw me act out a scene using the contents of my pantry as the characters in a vlog from last week. I have officially reached my monthly vlog embarrassment ratio and thus... *drumroll please*

I am taking a truth!

The truth I chose was given by the awesome Robin Weeks. She asked me, "What was the most embarrassing newbie mistake you made (we all make them) back when you were first starting out and didn't know anything?"

Sadly, this was a hard question for me because the possible answers are many. After much debate, I settled on my very first query.

And when I say query, I use the term VERY loosely. I'll just post it here and you can see for yourself the numerous mistakes I made. I'll post my color commentary in red so you can see just how mortified I am about this now.


Dear Kristin Nelson, (<--undoubtedly the best part of the email, unless your name is Kristin Nelson)

Hello! (*sigh* at least I was enthusiastic) My name is Jenn and I'm considering writing a book. (Yep. You read that right -- considering) I've never done much writing, but I'm a fast learner and I have faith that I can figure it out. (OH! I have faith! Well, I should've led with that. It's a game changer) I'm sure you hear this kind of thing all the time because from your website, I see that you're a literary agent. (...apparently I just read her title and quickly closed the browser. Otherwise I would've learned that SENDING THIS WAS A BAD IDEA) You seem like you might be the perfect person to help me with this! (Please, kill me now)

Is there any particular place you'd recommend starting when learning to write? (*head desk*) How does the publishing industry work exactly? Do I hire an agent and then start writing? Or is that backward? (There's really nothing to do but shake my head and laugh at this point)

Anyway, as you can see, I have many questions! Let me know if you'd prefer talking on the phone and we can schedule a call. (Yes! And then we shall have tea with the Mad Hatter, but bring a jacket because HELL has frozen over!)

Thanks so much!
Jenn (<--second best part, unless your name is Jenn, in which case you may weep a little)

Seriously. Reading this now, I want to grab newbie-writer-me and shake some sense into her. Good thing more-experienced-writer-me has a sense of humor or there would be some kind of time-travel violence going on. 

Now that we've all had a good laugh at my expense, here is my point. Did I make mistakes here? I think we can all agree - YES! Did it ruin my chances in the future? No. In fact, I think writing queries and pitches has become a strength of mine. 

I think there's really only one thing left to say:

I'm so sorry, Kristin Nelson. :)

Edit per requests in comments: Kristin did actually respond. Recommended a few writing technique books and gave me the links on how (and when) to query from her blog. Seriously...the woman is a saint. 


____________________________________

J.R. Johansson loves reading, playing board games and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She is a YA thriller author represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Her debut novel, INSOMNIA, is due to be released in Spring 2013 with Flux. You can find her on twittergoodreads, her website, or her personal blog.  

49 comments:

  1. OH MY GOD. I applaud you sharing this.

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  2. It would have been icing on the cake had you sent this exact email with salutation to some random agent who WASN'T Kristin Nelson. ;)

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    1. Oh yes...that would really complete it, wouldn't it? :) Thanks for stopping by to comment!

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  3. Wow. I lost it at "if you'd prefer talking on the phone"! Seriously though, it took some guts to share this, and don't fret. We have ALL done newbie-somewhat-insane things. And best of all, you were right: you *did* figure it out. :D

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    1. Haha, yes...isn't that classic? Thanks for focusing on the good part.

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  4. Wow! I commend you. Seriously. At least there's a sweetness to it, and it is so adorably innocent. Kudos.

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    1. :-) Thanks! I'm not sure when I was last commended. It's a good feeling.

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  5. My favorite part is "Do I hire an agent first?" Ouch! We've all been that naive. You're just braver than most for owning up to it!

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    1. Oh yes...it's so ridiculously naive. I remember thinking that if you want to be an actor you don't just go make a movie...you hire an agent. Surely publishing is the same...

      Yeah, not so much. :)

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  6. Oh, Jenn. You are so, so, soooo brave to share. The entire letter is hilarious, if not terrifying. It seems obvious, but I still have to ask: Kristin didn't respond...right?

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    1. Ha. We were typing at the same time. I wrote an answer to your question in my comment. :)

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    2. Thanks, Erin. :) Yes, she did respond. I added it to my post.

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  7. LOL This makes me laugh every time! My favorite part was you asking her if she wanted to have a phone call with you. Ah, we were all so naive at one point. Nostalgia. :) Also, you should've shared how awesome Kristen was in the fact that she actually wrote you back with some advice! What an awesome person Kristen is.

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  8. OMG this is hilarious! You are a brave woman to share, but it's nice to see that mistakes happen. We learn and move on. (And hey, it's also sorta a PSA. DO NOT DO THIS PEOPLE)

    *scrolls up to read again*

    *giggles*

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    1. YES! That's why I posted it! It was totally a PSA. See how giving I am? To sacrifice my own pride for others?

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  9. Ahhhh my sister from another mother! I actually remember doing something like this when I was applying for jobs. I vaguely remember it but the details have been blocked out and no evidence to remind me of it! You are awesome to share!!

    We are so alike that I think my hair is now starting to curl and turn red. I might even get blue contacts....


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    1. You most definitely should get the blue contacts! Although...then people might not be able to tell us apart. ;-)

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  10. Oh my gosh, I was laughing so much. The thing is . . . I totally would have sent out a letter like this when I first started writing if I hadn't been so shy about emailing agents. Thanks for having the courage to share this!

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    1. I'm happy to entertain. Thanks for commenting. :)

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  11. Jenn, you are a stunning truth-teller. That was so gosh darn brave of you. And Kristin answered! Wow. That is seriously cool.

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    1. Yeah, it was really sweet of her to answer. She took pity on my innocence.

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  12. Best. Ever! Seriously made me laugh. You are so brave. And Past You is so endearingly clueless.

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  13. You are so beyond awesome for sharing this. I think this query belongs in a query hall of fame (yes, fame--Kristin did respond).

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    1. Fame is too kind...but it should definitely be remembered as anexample of what NOT to do. :-)

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  14. I cringed at least ten times for you! Amazingly brave of you to share this! I may have also laughed a little. And wow, Kristen is a saint.

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  15. One redeeming facet of the letter is that you were polite and used a quasi-professional tone. It comes across as a business letter, albeit written by someone totally clueless, not as crazed ramblings. It's not a mess in form, just content :)

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    1. Yep, clueless but polite. That's me in a nutshell. ;-)

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  16. Love it. Kristin is such a sweetheart to respond. <3 Did you requery her when you were older and somewhat wiser?

    ~Riv Re
    Riv Reads

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  17. A brave woman, indeed. Thanks for sharing, Jenn! You are far from the only one of us to make a mistake while querying.

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  18. Jenn, I love you even more for posting this. We all make mistakes, and it's how we learn. Thanks for being so brave!

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  19. That's so awful it crosses over to awesome--now that you know better. ;-)

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  20. Oh, man, what makes this a comedy rather than a tragedy is how far you've come since then. I hope Kristen Nelson sees this post so you guys can have a good laugh over it.

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  21. Thanks, Jeanne! Yeah, I'm happy I can look back on this and laugh now...hopefully Kristin can, too. If she should stumble upon this post.

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  22. LOL. You're awesome, Jenn! We all started out there, or somewhere similar, even if not many of us have the guts to share. Re: Kristin, I've met her a couple of times at MWG conferences, and she is unfailingly kind and encouraging to new writers. At least you picked a good person to approach! :)

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    1. I'm not at all surprised to hear she is just as kind in person. Thanks for the comment, Ruth! :-)

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  23. Oh gosh. Wow. You are a braze woman to post that here. LOL! So good to know I'm not alone with my crazy mistakes!

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    1. Haha, you are definitely NOT alone, Janet. :) Thanks for the comment!

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