Success Story Interview
An Interview with Leslie C Youngblood upon receiving an offer of representation.
Leslie C. Youngblood (writerlcy on QT) has signed with agent John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
QueryTracker: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Sure. Ten-year-old G-baby and her five-year-old sister, Peaches, are living with their mom, stepdad and standoffish stepsister Tangie. They’ve been uprooted from their friends in the bustling Atlanta neighborhood and stuck in some place called Snellville. The only bright side is G-baby wants a big sister and Tangie, if she could win her over, would be perfect. But, of course, that’s not an easy road. As far as inspiration, I’ve had versions of these characters in adult novels and decided to give them their own story.
QueryTracker: How long have you been writing?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Years and years, but it never seems that long. Whenever I’m writing, or even revising, I still get butterflies.
QueryTracker: How long have you been working on this book?
Leslie C. Youngblood: About a year and a half. Honestly, I started it while taking a breather from another novel. I absolutely love these characters and hope to continue them in a series.
QueryTracker: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Giving up was never an option. Even when our family suffered the loss of a loved one, writing helped me grieve. Still helps, actually.
QueryTracker: Is this your first book?
Leslie C. Youngblood: LOVE LIKE SKY is my fourth completed work. Most people think I’ve only been working on one novel for several years. It’s not their fault. I usually just say, “I’m working on my novel.” The one prior to this, CAN’T GO BACK, deals with a protagonist whose younger brother is murdered. And I have POOR GIRLS’ PLACE, which is about four women dealing with love and loss, and FLYING TOWARD WONDER, an intercontinental love story. My agent is excited about my other novels and wants to help me bring all of them to readers.
QueryTracker: Do you have any formal writing training?
Leslie C. Youngblood: I have an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. My program is still a helpful resource for me. Although I’d highly recommend an MFA, sometimes writers feel “boxed in.” I discovered that I enjoy “genre jumping” and encourage other writers to experience it.
QueryTracker: Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Leslie C. Youngblood: I’m a morning person, so that’s always ideal. But I believe in writing whenever and wherever I can.
QueryTracker: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Leslie C. Youngblood: A few revisions, but I didn’t have to rewrite this one. This past April, I attended the Color of Children’s Literature Conference sponsored by Kweli Journal. It really helped me understand the need for more diverse MG novels. I received excellent feedback from agents and editors (Regina Brooks, Tracey Baptiste). After that conference, I stepped up my revision efforts and three months later—Bingo.
QueryTracker: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Jerilyn, my sister, and a few close friends read opening pages. But after I had a solid draft, I worked with a professional editor, Carol Taylor. Trust me, working with an editor doesn’t guarantee a golden ticket, but it’s never a bad investment when you find a good one.
QueryTracker: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Hip. I do not like outlines. The thought is making me crazy right now. I’ve even purchased some sort of writing software and have never used it. I do want to experiment with outlining and software.
QueryTracker: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Leslie C. Youngblood: For this book, a few months. Other books? Who knows. I’ve lost count. LOL
QueryTracker: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Leslie C. Youngblood: I made sure that they represented Middle Grade as well as other genres. That way, I would have an agent/agency to help manage my career.
QueryTracker: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Leslie C. Youngblood: For the most part, I didn’t tailor. Not wasting agents’ time with work they don’t represent is more important than tailoring. Of course, I checked and double checked to ensure the name was correctly spelled and followed directions as far as including sample pages.
QueryTracker: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Once you’ve completed a couple of drafts, invest in an editor if you can. As far as the queries, there may be tons of rejections. Don’t dwell on those, but celebrate each request. And please do not “babysit” your inbox if you want to stay sane. I used QueryTracker a lot to estimate agent response times. Also, when you don’t receive requests from a round of querying, take a moment, re-group, but keep at it. And you might as well hammer out a synopsis. (Yeah, I know…) It doesn’t hurt to ask established authors for referrals. Tayari Jones and Marita Golden were gracious to me in that regard. While you’re waiting, start the next novel. And always support writers who have been where you are. With that being said, feel free to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter…(That’s so odd for me to say…lol.) In all seriousness, the most important thing is the work, polish the work.
QueryTracker: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Leslie C. Youngblood: Sure. If it helps other writers, that’s what it’s all about. Thanks, QueryTracker!!!
Sample Query Letter:
I hope to interest you in my Middle Grade series LOVE LIKE SKY: G-BABY and PEACHES NOVEL #1. The series would have up to five installments, the next one tentatively titled: MUCH TO DO IN BOGALU!
Ten-year-old G-baby and her five-year-old sister, Peaches, are living with their mom, stepdad and standoffish stepsister Tangie. They’ve been uprooted from their friends in the bustling Atlanta neighborhood and stuck in some place called Snellville. The only bright side is G-baby wants a big sister and Tangie, if she could win her over, would be perfect.
G-baby knows what she has to do: help Peaches get through what the school counselor calls their “adjustments” and somehow win Tangie over. But when Peaches gets sick, G-baby comes up with a plan to make her well that gets everyone involved. Through it all, G-baby must cope with her “blended-up” family, her first crush, and her family’s plans to spend the summer in some place called Bogalusa, Louisiana. She does this all with the help of her colorful friends: Know It All Nikki, Kept Back Kevin Jenkins, and Sugar, her sassy grandmother. Readers of all ages will want to follow these characters to Bogalusa and wherever their adventures take them as they learn to cope with change, growth and life. With their curious and high-spirited friends, they may solve a mystery or two along the way, even if that mystery is learning to cope with life as it changes and changes them.
I received my MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I was awarded Yaddo's Elizabeth Ames 2014 Residency. Also, I’ve been awarded several writing honors, including the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize, a Hurston Wright Scholarship, and the Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2009 Orlando Short Story Prize. I received funding to attend the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony in 2011. My short story, “Poor Girls’ Palace,” was published in the winter 2009 edition of the Indiana Review, as well as Kwelijournal, 2014.
As per the directions on your website, I'm pasting the first ten pages of my novel below.
I sincerely hope to hear from you soon.
Leslie C. Youngblood