Monday, March 21, 2011

Querying Elana J's Way

The word Query has been known to bring writers to their knees. It's natural. Taking a story with all its twists, turns, and gosh-only-knows word count, and compressing it into a single paragraph all while wowing the already hungry agent/editor/publisher is no easy task. 

But there are those who've found success through the process. It's all about weeding out the basic plot of our stories. And this lady is a gem in the realm of the query. 
The Graffiti Wall is thrilled to welcome back Elana Johnson, Author of POSSESSIONS, due out this summer. During PART I of her interview, we chatted about her personal journey to seeing her manuscript reach publishing light. Today, she's giving us a few pointers in the querying ring, info on a fab online conference, and her secret first kiss.

FROM QUERY TO THE CALL is an online writer's guide to writing a dynamic query letter, and it's written by you. What compelled you to write it?

I started writing for the QT blog (Query Tracker), and wrote a few posts on how to write a query letter. I felt like I knew what I was doing in that department, and I realized that very few people feel like that. So I embraced it. I went whole hog (like I usually do) and compiled all the information I’d spent two years learning into the ebook. It’s really the one-stop place to find everything you need to write a killer query, research agents, submit to them, and field “the call.”

Do you have any theories why some writers struggle desperately to hammer out a solid query while others breeze through?

If you’re struggling, it’s because you don’t know ~ 

A) the purpose of the query letter
B) you’re trying to cram too much into the query letter
C) you need solid examples and structure to craft a query letter.
{any one or all of these may be the problematic area}

That was my problem: the structure. So I studied query letters that worked, and found the structure. After that? No problemo.

Elana has more simple notes to writing a successful query on her blog under Writing a Query Letter. She also is now offering her ebook Query to the Call for FREE download off her website. Hurry over NOW! I'll wait.

Glad you've returned...back to Elana....

I'd like to mention a site you're a part of where authors can utilize your advice on queries and their work. WriteOnCon - an online writing conference. The first conference was launched in August of 2010. It was an amazing success. 

WriteOnCon is the most amazing opportunity out there for aspiring authors – and published or soon-to-be published authors! It’s basically a writer’s conference just online – and it’s free! Every writer, no matter the genre/age you write for. So come join!

Last summer, some of the top names in literary agents, editors, and authors wrote blog posts and recorded vlogs, which were posted on the main WriteOnCon site. There were critique forums, chats, panels, and live workshops, where writers could connect. 

This year's free WriteOnCon Conference is scheduled for August 16th-18th. It be a great place to hammer out a fantastic query letter and participate in critiques.

You belong to the book reviewers, The Bookanistas. This is a great way to support and promote other authors. How did you all decide on doing it, and what about the title? How did you decide on that?

Okay, this started as me being incredibly selfish, so I’m afraid to spill those inner details lest the blogosphere thinks less of me afterward… Just know that I’m incredibly selfish, surrounded myself with people way smarter than me, and got what I wanted.

Hah...sounds pretty wish to me. LOL

The name came from Lisa and Laura Roecker. Shelli Wells designed the badges we have. We sent mass emails and brainstormed until everything was worked out. Now we have a spreadsheet and a mailing list. It’s much cleaner. (Again, all due to people smarter than me.)

And as always, here's my silly question: On your site, your About Me page mentions a secret wish of yours: experiencing your first kiss again. What elements do you think it takes to correctly portray a first kiss in today's YA world?

Ah, the first kiss. I think the reason I put that on my site is because my first kiss was less than memorable. So in today’s YA world, I want to make that kiss magical, even if sometimes they’re not. I want it to be that way in my books. So I think to do that, you just have to be authentic to the situation and characters. That’s it.

So, what's with your first kiss?? Telly, telly...

Ha! Well, there’s nothing remarkable about getting kissed—for the first time—during a lame game. 

Thanks, Elana, for stopping by again! Want more E or her soon-to-be-coveted-book POSSESSIONS? Stop by her blog, website, or heck, join the RESISTANCE and help Elana spread the word about POSSESSIONS. 

Share your thoughts with Elana about your querying experience. Even better, what was your first kiss??


  1. I'm looking forward to Possession (although I still love her original title Control Issues and wonder why it was changed). I wish it was coming out a couple months earlier so I could take it on Spring Break with me!

    I don't remember my first kiss at all. That's how memorable it was.

  2. First kiss? Does being kissed on the cheeks by your two boyfriends when you were eight count?

    I love Elana's ebook. My issue was not telling the info I needed to. Once I mentioned serial killer (which I had wanted to avoid), then the requests started coming. Go figure!

    Can't wait for Possession. Not much longer. :D

  3. That's such a cute interview! Elana is a trip, and I agree that the first kisses in YA should be spectacular even though they were far from it for most of us.

    I wish writing a query letter for myself came as easily as it does helping my friends back out theirs. Grrr.

  4. Possession is one of the Must Haves this year. I'm dying to get my hands on it and devour it. With Elana's query being so awesome I can only imagine how awesome the book is!!!

    That being said I just used Elana's Query to the Call to help with my query! I'd love for you to stop by tomorrow on Matthew Rush's blog and see if there is anything you can fix!!!!

  5. Thanks to Elana for all that she does for writers and for offering From the Query to the Call for free!

    My first kiss wasn't memorable either, but at least I remember my first kiss from my husband. That's enough for me.

    I can't wait to read Possessions!

    Thanks, Sheri!

  6. Thanks Sheri, this is awesome insight. The Query is my downfall for all reasons Elana stated. I am on my way to look at the ebook...

    First kiss, I think I blocked it out years ago!

  7. Great interview! I remember my first kiss. It was on my front porch after a date. Nothing all that special, but I ended up dating the guy for a long time--only it was two years after that kiss!

  8. Great interview. So psyched about Elana's book. I need to review my query soon...Elana's book will come in handy for that (FTQTTC)

  9. Awesome interview!!! I'm really looking forward to Possession.

    My first kiss was kind of lame, though at the time I thought it was amazing. :)

  10. I'd redo my first kiss if I could!! I was in middle school, in a movie theater, with a boy who'd rather be dating my cousin, and a complete absence of kissing knowledge. Yeah, it sucked and our inevitable "break up" revolved around how bad that kiss was. YUCK!

  11. Elana's such a sweetheart! Always full of good advice, supportive, and encouraging. I've got such a girl crush on her.

    I'd also love to experience my first kiss again. Mine was, okay, quite tragic. I'd rather not relieve THAT particular kiss, but redo it. With someone else who smells better.

  12. I know mine was in seventh grade. He was an eighth grader. It was a definite seven minutes in heaven type scenario.

  13. I always love interviews with Elana :) My first kiss, my 5th birthday party I kissed a boy named Scott and he threatened to have his mother wash my mouth out with soap. Needless to say, our relationship stalled as a result!

  14. Elana is soooo awesome. Excellent post, Sheri!

  15. Elana is coolness at its finest! Blog buddies don't come any better that her. Great interview, Sheri! :-)

  16. I just met Elana J Way through this interview along with her website. Great post. I loved it, and I will definitely look up her books and blogs.

  17. Excellent advice Elana, thank you so much! Great interview Salarsen!

  18. I've downloaded Elana's book but haven't read it yet. Plan on using it to wipe my queries into shape after I finish this round of revisions!

  19. Three cheers for Elana. She's a wonderful person and great bloggy buddy and really helped me out with both of my queries (genius!)!

  20. Thank you Elena and Sheri - some much needed advice!

  21. Sharing the story of my first kiss is easy (behind the gym, hunky guy whose name I can't remember, but whose biceps were awesome), but I'll never share my first query letter. It sucked.

  22. Loved the interview! Elana's so cool and yet so sweet. I can't wait to read Possession.

    And there's no way I'd want to relive my first kiss. Not even close to a YA book kiss.

  23. Thanks, Sheri! And everyone for stopping by. :) :) :)

  24. Aw! Awesome interview! Can't wait for Elana's book! =D

  25. Great interview. I'm sorry I got here late. I loved From the Query to the Call. It and Elana helped me so much with my query.

    Can't wait to read her book.

  26. oh, yay! Thanks, Sher! Elana's such a cool chick. I'm very glad I got to meet her out here in this bloggy world, and I can't wait to get her book...

    I had a post about first kisses a while back. Mine wasn't so magical, but since I'm friends w/the guy, now it's HILARIOUS. We were preteens...

    I like the idea of making it magical. Good stuff~ <3

  27. Still trying to forget my first kiss...but loved this interview! Many thanks for sharing~

  28. What an awesome interview Sheri and Elana! I'm so counting down the days until WriteOnCon 2011, cause 2010 was awesome!!!




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