Visit Jenny Murray at www.jennymurray.net
What type of writing do you do and how long have you been writing?
I write novels for middle grade readers. I have been writing all of my life, though it’s only been since 2003 that I’ve been seriously working toward a goal of publication.
How long had you worked on the manuscript that landed your agent?
I started this project almost four years ago, and I worked on it exclusively for about a year and a half. Then I thought it was ready to go out into the world, and I started the submission process while beginning another project. It wasn’t ready, though. After receiving mixed feedback, I pulled it back out for another full revision. This latest revision took about six months.
How many revisions?
Nineteen and counting!
When did you seek an agent for the first time, and how/why did you know it was time to look for one?
I have to admit that I submitted this book too early. It wasn’t ready. I think I thought it was done because I wasn’t sure what else to do with it or where to get more feedback. Then I received a few personal rejections. They were gifts because they helped me see the hard work that still needed to be done. They gave me direction.
How did you find your agent and then come to the conclusion that she was the one?
My final path to representation did not follow the normal querying process. The first time I queried agents, I received several comments about the characters and setting of the novel. They both needed to be strengthened. I listened and took the comments to heart, working for a solid six months to bring the novel to its current form. I felt good about my work, but didn’t want to make the mistake of querying agents too soon again.
Luckily, the Carolinas SCBWI conference was just around the corner. I signed up for a critique, hoping to get some positive feedback, but also hoping to know if my changes were working. I was assigned an editor from a major publishing house for my individual critique session. She was wonderful, saying that she loved the pages and that I could say she was interested in the project in my queries to agents.
I talked with a few authors at the conference. They were tremendously helpful, and when I returned home I began my query process. While I was researching agents, Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary contacted me. One of her clients, whom I had met at the conference, told her about my project. Danielle queried me asking to see my manuscript. Completely flattered, I sent it to her.
Within two weeks, I had two offers for representation. I spoke with both agents on the phone, and I was immediately drawn to Danielle’s professionalism and enthusiasm. I finalized my contract with Danielle one week later.
What encouragement given to you did you hold on to while you were searching for an agent?
I remember reading that even in this tough economic climate, there is, and always will be, a place for great books. This comment stuck with me as I worked on my book. I listened to feedback even when I wanted to ignore it and say I was done. It was a struggle and sometimes discouraging, but I always knew that I had to work to write the very best book I can write.
What encouragement or advice would you give others who are searching for an agent?
Keep writing. Revise, revise, and revise and then revise again. It’ll happen.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m still revising! I’m working on Danielle’s editorial letter (seven, single spaced pages) and I am thrilled because her comments are spot-on and making me ask hard questions about my book. I still struggle with impatience, but I know, in the end, my book will be better for the work. And that’s the goal. I want to write the best book I can because what we do is too important to rush. We’re building the reading lives of young people. They deserve the very best books we can write.
Thank you for joining us and sharing your journey to representation, Jenny.