I’m not sure today’s featured author needs much of an introduction. Not only is she an amazing writer, but Brenda Drake has also made a name for herself in publishing circles by connecting writers, literary agents, and publishers through her Pitch Madness and PitMad contests (via Twitter). Besides being the “Queen of Contests,” Brenda is an accomplished writer whose Young Adult novel, LIBRARY JUMPERS, will be published in the near future. What struck me most about Brenda’s journey was her focused pursuit of reaching her goal of publication. I love her fighting spirit and her comment about “using rejection to make her story and writing better.”
Many thanks to Brenda for sharing her writing journey today…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Brenda: I don’t have an exact moment where it clicked and knew I wanted to be a writer. I think I’ve always wanted to tell stories. But the moment I got serious about writing is very vivid in my mind. I was newly married, and obviously being a little too clingy, when my husband asked if I had any hobbies. I told him I liked writing. He said I should do that. So I did. And I’m so happy I did. Whenever I’m bored or alone, I can get lost in writing a story, or rather, edit these days.
Amy: You are a well-known writing figure in social media circles due to your Pitch Madness and #PitMad contests. What inspired you to create these writing opportunities and how have they enriched your writing life?
Brenda: When I started blogging, I joined blog hops to get to know other writers. I decided I wanted to throw a contest to get more traffic to my blog. I started with small, one agent contests with a blog hop theme like Show Me the Voice. I enjoyed contests with a theme, so I decided to branch out and include more agents. I wanted the agents to have fun with each other and thought playing a game would be a great way to accomplish it. And Pitch Madness was born. To my surprise it took off.
I think that the contests are successful because of the community it builds. The writers who help with the contests are such amazing individuals. They really give a lot of their time. Their passion and dedication to the contests is why the contests are so successful. And it’s the community and the desire to see writers fulfill their dreams that enrich my writing life. There’s so many battles we go through on the journey to publication. I’ve had many setbacks, but because of my friends and our writers’ community, which I’m so proud to be a part of, I’ve soldiered on.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to LIBRARY JUMPERS?
Brenda: There have been five novels before LIBRARY JUMPERS. I considered them “practice” manuscripts. I’ve tried writing in different categories and genres before I found my fit writing middle grade and young adult. No one will ever see those manuscripts, thankfully.
Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?
Brenda: You learn a lot going through the query process. Rejection toughens you up, sometimes gives you to clues to what it isn’t working, and puts you out there. If you never put yourself out there, you’ll never find out what you’re capable of doing. Whenever I got feedback in rejections, I used them to make the story and my writing better. Rejections may sting, but they mean you’re in the game, and before long you’ll hit that home run. If you love writing and dream of being published, keep going after every rejection. It helps that I’m too stubborn to quit anything.
Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for LIBRARY JUMPERS? Did it go through many drafts?
Brenda: Query writing comes easy for me. I wrote it in a few hours, and edited a few times before sending out. I’d enter contests, received feedback, and kept tweaking the query. My query was generating requests, so I knew it was hooking agents.
Amy: How many agents did you query for LIBRARY JUMPERS?
Brenda: A million? It was A LOT. Like I said, I’m too stubborn to quit.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
Brenda: Sometimes I would get instantaneous responses and sometimes it was a wait to get a response. I was getting many requests for partials and fulls, so I knew I had a good premise. I just had to find out what was wrong with the manuscript.
Amy: What can you tell us about your “call” with your agent, Peter Knapp? How did you know he was the right fit for you?
Brenda: I had an agent prior to Pete and decided not to renew my contract with her because I felt I needed a career agent who specialized in middle grade and young adult, who got my writing, and who could guide my career. I spotted Pete on #PitMad making requests. I liked what he was requesting, and I asked him to be a part of my next Pitch Madness contest, and he agreed. I then warned him that I might be sending him a query. He told me he looked forward to it. So I queried him with The Britanika Journals, my middle grade manuscript. I had only queried six agents in the first round of queries. Pete emailed me and said he would like to schedule a call, and the rest is history. He’s an amazing agent!
Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?
Brenda: Read. A LOT. And don’t let anyone but your close friends see you whine or cry. Suck it up and put on a happy face. No one wants someone bringing everyone else down. And celebrate others’ successes! One day, they’ll be celebrating yours.
Amy: If you were at a book signing, and an aspiring writer told you they were on the cusp of giving up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them?
Brenda: I would tell them that I have felt the same way many times. That the hard times will pass. That every setback is a learning experience. And that, if they truly love it, there’s no quitting.
More on Brenda’s LIBRARY JUMPERS:
~The gateways between the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor dangers.~
Sixteen-year-old Gia Kearns would rather spar with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather-clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, busts her staring at him while she’s with her friends researching for their summer essays.
When he suddenly disappears, Gia swipes the book he abandoned and unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a gateway book linking the world’s libraries, where hidden behind bookcases lies a magical world and a rising evil that will alter both the Mystik and human realms, returning them to a time when frightening creatures openly roamed the earth and fed on humans.
Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t struggling to fit into her new life as a Sentinel—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—or busy resisting forbidden love. But as the threat from an exiled wizard seeking revenge rises, Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before they’re both destroyed.
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her fondest memory growing up is that of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tall tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting bookstores and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappoint). She’s represented by Peter Knapp of Park Literary. Look for LIBRARY JUMPERS coming out soon. For more on Brenda, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.