Thursday, August 9, 2012

MSFV Blog Hop – Meet Emily Kokie!

Welcome to what will hopefully be the first of the Annual Authoress' Success Story blog tours! Those of us who have owed our publishing successes, at least in part, to the Miss Snark's First Victim contests and blog have decided to come together and help cross promote each other's work.  Every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author will be posting an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories, so make sure to tune in to everyone's blogs (there's a list below the questions).

And now, I've got the great pleasure of interviewing Emily Kokie!

And here’s her bio: “My debut YA novel Personal Effects will be published by Candlewick Press September 11, 2012. As a lawyer, I love a good story and a good debate. I like to have the last word.”

1) How did participating with MSFV blog get you where you are now?

It saved me many months of query disappointments, and helped me see
much of what I thought about finding an agent was wrong.

I was in the early stages of querying when I entered a MSFV Secret
Agent contest. During the contest I received a lot of positive
feedback that helped me feel a huge confidence boost. But the Secret
Agent really didn't like my first page. She wrote on my submission,
"Strong voice, certainly, but not for me. Whether it's the profanity,
or the sense that this is yet another book about a boy trying to prove
himself as a man, this didn't work for me personally."

Here's the thing, when the SA's identity was revealed, I was floored
and flummoxed because I had decided before the contest that this agent
was my "dream agent." She was next on my query list and I was *sure*
she was "the one." In retrospect, I thought that for some good reasons
(her demonstrable skills and reputation) and some silly reasons (some
OZMG "it's fate" kind of reasons that had nothing to do with her
skills, tastes and preferences, or what I write).

So, after her response to my first page, I was really thrown for a
loop -- how could I query when I could be so wrong about my "dream
agent?" So, I did what I do when faced with something confusing: I
started researching, and quickly I realized that I was an idiot. One
(objective) look at her client list and blog posts would have shown me
that it was highly unlikely she would be the right agent for my book.
I spent several months researching every aspect of how to look for an
agent, what I needed to know to make an informed decision and how to
find that information. I got a little obsessive, actually, but I
started to see just how much information was out there if you knew
where, and how, to look for it. More than just sales and
qualifications -- those were just a baseline. But likes, style,
personal connections, personality, and even warning signs. Through
that research, I firmly believe, I found an agent who is a really good
fit for what I write and for how I work, and I might not have queried
him if I hadn't had to totally refine my thinking and approach.  The
SA contest really did help me on the path to finding the right agent
for me -- and it was an important lesson to learn, one I might not
have learned, or learned as quickly, without the contest. And after, I
realized how many writers really were flying blind, with no idea of
where or how to look for information on agents beyond sales.  So, now
I do workshops and breakout sessions at SCBWI conferences on
researching agents, with a focus on how and where to look for the
information that can help writers make informed decisions and increase
their chances for connecting with the right agent for them -- all
because the lesson I learned from the SA contest really made an

Could you tell us a bit of how you wrote Personal Effects?(Click on the picture to take a sneak peek on Amazon!) 

I had never finished a book length bit of original fiction before. But
in the summer of 2007 I made a pact with myself to write a novel, and
to see if I could finish it by my birthday the following summer. It
didn't have to be good, and I didn't have to do anything with it, but
I had to finish it. So, I was searching for inspiration, mainly just
free-writing whatever came to mind whenever I sat down to write. In
one of those writing sessions I wrote parts of what is now chapter two
of Personal Effects. And I was hooked. This angry, visceral teen was
really interesting, and trying to find out why he was so angry drove
me to write more. But the thing is, I had no idea how to write a
novel. I found a critique group through SCBWI and I just wrote,
submitting every time it was my turn. I learned so much during that
process, and my critique group really helped me grow as a writer
because I was learning to trust my reader while drafting Personal
Effects.  It took just under ten months to finish that way too long
and in need of serious revision first draft. Then I started revising.
I revised off and on for about a year in between seeking more critique
from trusted readers (including some male readers I could trust to be
blunt about whether I had any glaring errors in my male main
character), attending my first SCBWI conference, and while researching
agents.   Ultimately, I think I ended up sending my agent what was
probably the fourth or fifth revised draft of the book. 

And I am so glad you finished writing Personal Effects, because I am reading it right now and I am absolutely loving it! I am HOOKED!

3) Was it with Personal Effects that you landed your agent?

It was. My agent, Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary, offered
representation after reading Personal Effects. By the fall of 2008 I
was polishing the manuscript for Personal Effects, working on my
query, and finalizing my agents-to-query list. I began querying slowly
in the winter of 2009. And I queried very slowly, in small batches of
queries, until late summer when I felt sure my query and partial were
working. Then I decided to start querying in larger, faster batches
that fall. Ultimately, I ended up querying Chris in the first larger
batch it the late summer/early fall of 2009. All in all, I sent under
20 queries, but I sent them over the course of 9 or 10 months.

     4)  How long did it take to get the book deal since you started
writing seriously?
This is a tough question, because I feel like counting only from when
I got serious about writing ignores all the writing "work" I did in
the years before that time. I had been writing for years, but I had
never finished a project with all original characters before. So, I
guess I got serious about trying to write original fiction in the late
summer of 2007. In the fall of 2009, Chris offered representation and
we went out on submission to editors in the spring of 2010. In the
mid-summer of 2010, I signed the deal with Candlewick Press to publish
Personal Effects.  So, a little under three years, if that's how we
count it. But: (1) I had been writing for years, just not fiction with
totally original characters. And I had let fear of failing keep me
from finishing something original for years. But all those years of
writing -- of thinking about point of view and the mechanics of
writing and plot arcs -- were still practice that had me ahead of the
game once I decided to actually force myself to try to finish
something totally my own; and, (2) Those three years were intense
writing and revising and working on craft years. My writing improved
so much between the summer of 2007 and the summer of 2010 due in large
part to how much I revised and critiqued and worked on my craft during
that time.

          5) Is there a random and funny fact that we probably don’t know
about you that you want to share with us today?

I was in the drum section in my high school band, but I rarely played
a drum - I played cymbals, cow bells, woodblocks, triangles, chimes...
One season I "played" a garbage can by beating out a rhythm on
different parts of the can and lid. And I even "played" a police siren
once (I think mainly because I was the only one the band director
trusted to flip the Jerry-rigged switch. I was terrified I would get
electrocuted but I flipped the switch when the time came).

LOL...that's hilarious!!

Thanks so much for your time, Emily!
But guys, that’s not all! Emily will be giving away a set of her swag dog tags, like the ones below, to a lucky commenter! So leave a comment below, and be sure to add your email to contact you in case you win! :) (The winner will be chosen by on the 8/12/12)

UPDATE: The winner of the swag dog tags is Stephsco! Thanks for stopping by!

AND!!! If you want to win a copy of PERSONAL EFFECTS (and I'm telling you--you WANT to read this!) Goodreads is having a giveaway of two copies here

Tomorrow's post is at Emily Kokie’s blog. See you there!

Oh, and remember that I'm giving away a QUERY CRITIQUE on Leah Petersen's blog!!!
Visit the whole crew:

Posting Date
@angelaackerman & @writerthesaurus


  1. its such a nice blog to provides info about hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you’re talking about. Can’t wait to read more from you!
    for more plz visit
    debt management Plan debt management Plan

  2. Love your story to agent-hood. WE all make mistakes on the path, so i think everyone can relate to this. The main thing is it led to a very happy ending!

    Congrats on your book! Love the cover--I'll check it out! :)


    1. Thanks Angela! We all definitely make mistakes - the key is to learn from them :) And thanks for the cover love. I can agree, since I had very little to do with it - Candlewick did an amazing job on the cover and design of the book. :)

  3. This was so interesting to read. I think you're right that so much information exists out there on agents and publishing, it really is the best option for us writers to do a lot of homework to make sure we're submitting to the right people.

    1. Yup. So many rush into querying without any idea of the differences among agents/agenting styles. There's a lot more to the process than weeding out the scams. It was a good lesson for me to learn. :)

  4. I truly enjoyed reading this post. What caught my eye was the eye-opening-favorite-agent episode. This happened to me, too. Rejection from an agent you have always wanted to be represented by is such a blow to the heart! It happened through a contest I won, but when asked for the partial, I never received an answer.

    I would love to sit in on one of those workshops you do. Your post here was great. I could only imagine what hearing you in person would be like!

    1. Thanks! I love doing the workshop - and hope to take it on the road beyond my area of the mid west. It's such a great experience to be able to really dig deep into the research process and help other writers on their journey to publication.

  5. Great post, guys! It's always interesting to get a peak at another writer's process. And huge congratulations, Emily, on selling the first book you ever finished writing!

    1. Thanks, Tara! It's been a crazy, exciting, fantastic ride so far. :)

  6. Awesome interview! And I love this blog hop - a wonderful opportunity to showcase and give back to MSFV. Wonderful idea!

    1. I agree - a great way to spread the MSFV love. :)

  7. Hee hee I did percussion in high school, too. Played all those kinds of things--chimes bigger than my head, the xylophone, that creepy thing that makes a weird sound in movies, triangles, cymbals--my favorite was the vibrophone. SO BEAUTIFUL and so mysterious sounding. Hee hee you brought back good times.

    1. Wasn't it a blast? I think back on all the weird things I "played" as part of the percussion section - so glad I had that experience. (And given how lazy I was at practicing, I can hardly believe I was able to be part of the band!).

  8. Hey, this is a great interview, both for how *not* to find an agent and how to avoid electrocution! :D j/k It's been so fun learning about our fellow MSFV'ers. PERSONAL EFFECTS sounds very cool. Best of luck to you, Emily! :o) <3

    1. Thanks, Leigh! And I agree, this has been a great way to get to know each other, too, while celebrating MSFV & Authoress!

  9. Replies
    1. Woops Didn't know there were more comments! Sorry for the late reply.

      And thanks! :)

  10. Congrats on your book, Emily. It's such fun to hear stories with happy endings.

  11. What a great interview! I love how you said that your original dream agent was partially based on intuition and a gut feeling. Amazing how those feelings can suck us in, yet can be so misleading sometimes - though it all worked out for the best, so maybe fate really did have a hand in it? Good luck with your book!

    1. Yeah, I think there is a place for gut instinct and intuition (it had a lot to do with why I queried my agent - something about his bio/what I want posts at his agency site spoke to me). But I think we have to be careful to make it informed intuition and instincts, by doing a lot of research and analysis to feed it in the right direction. ;)

    2. Oh, and thanks! Personal Effects launches in just over 3 weeks - super exciting.

  12. Excellent advice about agent hunting. I know that my 'dream agent' wasn't the one I ended up with either because, well, I was wrong. The more research we can do on agents, the closer we can get to subbing to the right one in the first place. A lesson often hard learned. Congrats on Personal Effects!

    1. Thanks! And yes, I totally agree, research is key. I've found that once I'm about an hour into the workshops I do on researching agents, things really start to click for some attending. I can see them start making connections about what to look for and where and what it means. :)