Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Success Story: Rachel Solomon and Her Path to Landing An Agent

I'm so excited to announce that my friend and writing buddy Rachel Lynn Solomon has recently signed with literary agent Molly Jaffa at Folio Lit!

Rachel and I met at a writing critique group a little over a year ago. Since then, we've met regularly to support and encourage each other as we stare at the dreaded blank page. Rachel is just so smart and dedicated to the craft that I knew it was only a matter of time before she found success as a writer. Here's the scoop on her novel TWITCH and how she landed her agent.

What's your genre and one-sentence pitch?

TWITCH is YA contemporary. It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl with Tourette’s syndrome who gets wrapped up in a small-town political scandal, while trying to balance her politically obsessed family and a romance with a boy with OCD.

What inspired you to write about a character with Tourette's?

One day last year, I got sucked into a YouTube black hole watching videos of teens with Tourette’s talking about their tics. It was so fascinating! Some of the girls were very nonchalant and open about it—“this is me, and if you have a problem with it, I don’t care”—and one burst into tears while explaining how it affected her life. I think my main character, Elliott, is somewhere in the middle. Image is so huge in high school, and growing up with a disorder that affects the way you look and sound is going to complicate things.

There are also a lot of misconceptions about Tourette’s. I think the biggest is that it’s often viewed as a disorder that causes people to involuntarily yell out swear words. This is called coprolalia, and it actually only affects about 10 percent of people with Tourette’s. (My character doesn’t have this.) I talked about Tourette’s a lot with a friend of mine who has it because I wanted to portray it accurately. It was also important to me that, while the book features a protagonist with Tourette’s, it’s not a book about Tourette’s.

How did you initially pitch to Molly (contest, conference, old-fashioned querying)?

I sent my first (and only) batch of 10 queries at the end of February, and Molly was the first to request. She read over a weekend and offered an R&R, along with some amazing, amazing notes. The revisions were major, and we talked on the phone about how to implement them. I reworked the manuscript for a few months and sent it back in April. Last week, she emailed asking if we could talk on the phone again!

How did you feel when you got “the call” from Molly?

Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe it! Afterward, I was chatting with my boyfriend, who was at work, and I was so excited I couldn’t spell anything correctly. Molly and I have the same vision for the book, and I’m just ecstatic to be working with her!

What is your favorite YA contemporary book and why do you love it?

One of the books that affected me the most was SPEECHLESS by Hannah Harrington. I read it in one sitting, and in it, the main character Chelsea takes a vow of silence after blabbing a secret that caused someone to get seriously injured. After I put down the book and started to talk to some friends, my voice was hoarse and I could barely speak because I’d been inside Chelsea’s head for so long. For a book to make you feel exactly what the character is feeling—that’s incredible.

Which authors have influenced you the most?

As far as contemporary YA writers, I admire Courtney Summers, Hannah Harrington, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Colleen Clayton, Stephanie Perkins, Miranda Kenneally. They all write characters and situations that are so real and flawed and beautiful. And Meg Cabot—I lived for Meg Cabot books when I was in junior high and high school.

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Sitting across from you in a coffee shop while we each stare at our computer screens? ☺

In addition to our weekly writing dates, I try to set goals for myself every time I sit down to write. I’ve also recently fallen in love with outlining and writing synopses before I start a new project. I generally draft very quickly, then spend months revising and polishing. I also really love editing on hard copies.

What advice do you have for querying writers?

“Don’t give up” is really cliché, isn’t it? I queried two manuscripts before this one, sending out more than 100 queries total. That translates to a lot of rejection. But the reason I kept at it was because I knew I was improving as a writer. Read absolutely everything you can in your genre, enter contests, meet beta readers and CPs—basically immerse yourself in the writing world as much as possible!

Great advice from Rachel!

If you're interested in learning more about her, you can follow her on twitter @rlynn_solomon
and check out her blog here: http://rlynnsolomon.blogspot.com/