Today’s featured writer is Taryn Albright. Now I have to fess up that I came across Taryn in my search for an editor for my Young Adult manuscript. I’d seen her name bandied about all over Twitter and when I checked out her website, and saw all the glowing references, I knew Taryn was the right one to read my pages. Besides being an extremely talented editor, she is a college student and a writer as well. Her journey is quite unique for someone so young and shows a true commitment to the craft. I hope you’ll enjoy Taryn’s writing odyssey, and if you’re ever looking for an editor with a keen eye for voice and pacing, Taryn is your girl!
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Taryn: I’d always written (rambling dramas based on my swim team, epic fantasies ripped off of whatever series I read at the time), but it wasn’t until the end of my senior year of high school that I realized publishing was a business. I researched frantically all summer, and that November (2010) I wrote my first “serious” novel.
Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?
Taryn: Technically in 2007. But I didn’t know the market then, so I was just writing what I wanted. The first time I was aware of what I was writing was November 2010. The book with which I signed my agent was novel #10.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish BEGGING TO BREATHE? If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?
Taryn: I do have a critique group–they’re fantastic, and I would be miserable without them. We all met at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (http://wifyr.com/) in 2011. However, BEGGING TO BREATHE was a really weird book for me. The first draft was written for fun, and it was really clean. I read through it once and sent it to agents and my CPs at the same time. They’re critical to my writing moral and to most of my books, but this one didn’t really benefit from their fantastic brilliance.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Taryn: I love love love querying! I wish I could do it again! I queried one manuscript before BEGGING TO BREATHE. It had about a 50% request rate, and 50% of the rejections were R+Rs. Deep down, I knew the MS wasn’t anywhere near ready, so I didn’t get hung up on the rejections. It was just exciting to actually be doing something toward my dream. I regret a lot of things about BEGGING TO BREATHE’s querying process, but it wasn’t laborious/frustrating at all.
Amy: How many agents did you query for BEGGING TO BREATHE?
Taryn: 16? I had a very unorthodox querying method for this MS because it was my “fun” book, and I didn’t intend to query it. But a couple agents had asked to see my next MS, so I thought okay, fine, and sent them queries. Once they started requesting, I decided I may as well query for real, and randomly sent stuff out. My list had 40 agents on it, but because I didn’t have a method, I only got to like 16 before stopping because of the offers.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
Taryn: The agents at the top of my list were the “fast responder” types because I am impatient I started querying 1/26 and had an offer by 2/3, so whoever hadn’t replied by then (most had, except the queries I’d sent like 2/1) got a nudge.
Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Taryn: It’s all about the writing. I’ve interned for 3 different agencies now, and there is nothing you can do to get an agent without a good book, just like there’s very little you can do to not get an offer if the agent falls for your book. I do think it helped that I had a pretty strong online presence, though. My agent usually calls clients and then offered, but she offered via email because she already had an idea of my personality from twitter and my blog.
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Vickie Motter? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Taryn: She liked my book, she liked the ideas I had, I liked that she was west-coast based, I liked that she was younger and newer and would have time to focus on me. I personally hate talking on the phone, so the call wasn’t super comfortable, but none of the calls were. The call with Vickie was about 15 minutes, and I just asked all the questions you’d expect (why’d you like my book, what revisions, communication, etc).
Amy: I love the fact that you have your own editorial service specializing in MG, YA and NA manuscripts. In your work I’m sure you’ve read a lot of very good manuscripts and others that still needed a lot of polishing. What do you think an aspiring author needs to do to stand out in the current marketplace?
Taryn: Thanks! I *love* helping other authors. I think I like editing more than writing, actually. The manuscripts I love have (1) good writing (2) a strong, fun voice and (3) something unique. I know (3) is really vague, but that’s the cool thing about books–there isn’t a formula for success except creativity. OH! And outside of the book, perseverance is key. I know I got an agent at 18, but the truth is, that was my TENTH book. Write and write and write and write and eventually, your MS will stand out.
Taryn Albright is a nineteen-year-old Creative Writing major represented by Vickie Motter. In addition to her personal writing, she founded the freelance editing service, The Girl with the Green Pen, which gives a thorough critique of middle grade, young adult, and new adult manuscripts from the perspective of a teen. Nine of her clients have secured representation, and five have signed book deals, four with major houses. Since summer 2011, she has been an intern with various literary agencies. Basically, name a book-related job, and she probably does it.