Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Hillary Fazzari Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/22/2024
  • Miriam Cortinovis Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/6/2024
  • Jenniea Carter Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/8/2024
  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/24/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re having a fantastic start to July and looking forward to the July 4th holiday. I just got back from our trip late last night. This morning I'll be busy going to the grocery story, getting my puppy from being boarded, and going with Anna Li to her driving test and fingers crossed to get her license. So I'll be stopping by many of your blogs later today. Thanks for your patience.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Tara Dairman here with a guest post on taking the time to get being published right and giveaway of her MG contemporary novel ALL FOUR STARS that releases on July 10th. It sounds like a fantastic book with a blurb by one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Nielsen. I know many of you’d enjoy reading it this summer.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

“A scrumptious gem of a story!”—Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

So here’s Tara!

The time it takes to get it right

Want to publish a novel? Great! It's an easy two-step process:

1) Get a really, really great idea for a book.
2) Execute it as well as humanly possible.

Now, if you've been hanging around the kid-lit-o-sphere for a while, you've probably heard that writers never publish their first novels. Writing your first novel is a chance to...well, learn how to write a novel, but you shouldn't expect that it'll score you an agent. And, if by some fluke, it does score you an agent, you should still get busy writing that second book, because chances are that that first one probably isn't going to sell.

These are wise words, and I often feel a little funny admitting that my debut novel is actually also my first All Four Stars, the debut novel in question, took me more than five years to write (and nine years from inception to publication).
novel. But there are some big caveats that go along with that statement. One is that, for years before I turned to novels, I wrote plays. And another is that

The timeline went something like this:

2005: Get idea to write a book about Gladys Gatsby, an 11-year-old restaurant critic in New York who must keep her age a secret from her employers. Pat self on the back for coming up with such a stellar idea!

2006: Write a first chapter, featuring a snarky narrator and several jokes about prune juice. Learn that writers' group does not find it nearly as hilarious as I do. Rewrite opening, proceeding to load it down with backstory (a classic rookie mistake).

2007: Stop writing for several months to produce a play.

2008: Progress slowly. Finally reach the point where I, and my critique partners, are starting to enjoy the story.

2009: Stop writing for several months to produce another play, plan a wedding, and sell all my belongings so my husband-to-be and I can fulfill our dream of backpacking around the world.

later in 2009: Take off for South America with half-finished manuscript in my backpack. Swear that when I return to the U.S.A., I will have a completed novel.

2010: Finish my draft in a cafe in Tanzania while my husband is off hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Stick finished manuscript back in backpack for eight more months.

2011: Return to U.S.A. Type up manuscript and run it by writers' group. Ignore most of their suggestions and start querying agents anyway. Receive rejections across the board.

Later in 2011: Spend months revising manuscript, ruthlessly cutting backstory and developing character. Start querying again with revised manuscript.

January, 2012: Sign with agent.

April, 2012: Sell book to Putnam.

July, 2014: After plenty more revision, the book is finally published.

As you can see, my book's path to publication was littered with false starts, long hiatuses, and major revisions. In the amount of time I took to produce a single manuscript, many other writers would have written several books.

But let's go back to those two quick and easy steps for getting published. I had step one—the great idea—taken care of from the beginning. It was step two that I needed to work at; I needed to put in the time to develop the writing chops to tell the heck out of the story. Other writers may have the opposite problem: They have the skills right off the bat, but it may take them years (i.e. multiple manuscripts) to find the perfect concept with which to showcase them. Or, perhaps, it's a little both.

The bottom line is that overnight success stories in this business are extremely rare, and that most “debut” authors have been putting in the hours on one or more novels for years before they score a book deal. Nobody just sends the first thing they wrote to a publisher and gets offered a contract the next day. (Okay, well, Gladys Gatsby does, when she sends her sample restaurant review in to the chief Dining editor at The New York Standard. But hey, that's fiction.) :)

Tara Dairman bio:
Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world traveler (2 years, 74 countries!). She grew up in New York, received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and worked for several years as a magazine editor, managing freelance writers that she never met face-to-face. While in that job, Tara realized that she could probably be tricked into publishing an article by a kid if the writing was good enough and the kid sent professional-sounding e-mails. Voilà: the premise for her first novel, All Four Stars, was born.

You can find Tara at:
Website: http://www.taradairman.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraDairman
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13598351-all-four-stars

Where to buy links:

Tara is generously offering a copy of ALL FOUR STARS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 19th. I’ll announce the winner on July 21st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US and Canada residents.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Monday, I’m participating in the Just Couldn’t Put It Down Bloghop. I’ll have lots of great choices of books for you to choose from.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Livia Blackbourne and a giveaway of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF.

The Monday after that I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Manju Howard said...

Tara, Thanks for sharing your writing journey. I love the concept and cover of ALL FOUR STARS.

Jemi Fraser said...

The book sounds awesome! Definitely something my students and I would enjoy!! Love that your idea stuck with you! :)

jpetroroy said...

This sounds adorable!

Andrea Mack said...

So interesting to hear about how this novel evolved! I'm looking forward to reading it soon.

Jessica Lawson said...

Love this post~ yay for Tara and Gladys!

Oh and Natalie, my stepson took his driver's license test yesterday and failed because he was so stressed and busy thinking about all the things he was supposed to be thinking about that he missed a stop sign. Yep, it happens. He's taking it again tomorrow :)

Unknown said...

Love the concept! Putting it on the to-read list.

Anonymous said...

I loved your book and now want to read it all over again! Already looking forward to your next one!

Natalie...good luck to your girl. Here is to her getting her drivers!

Anonymous said...

I still remember this from a Secret Agent Contest years ago and am dying to read it! Congrats, Tara!

Vivien said...

This sounds adorable!!
GFC: Vivien

kellis_amberlee at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

What an awesome guest post! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tara, for making me feel that being slow isn't the death knell of a writing career and that quality takes time. I really needed to hear this today. Wishing you stellar success with your adorable book! :)

Brenda said...

I loved this book and so excited to hear that there is another book in the works about a summer camp how cool! I also enjoyed hearing about Tara's road to publication, very inspiring. I'm participating in a book review for this next week so please don't enter me. Good luck to Anna Li on her drivers test.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was quite a journey.
I spent time writing, but my debut novel was the first one I ever wrote. Of course, I completely rewrote it after it sat in a drawer for thirty years. But it was still the first full length story I ever wrote.
A narrator with snark - I like that!

Beth said...

This sounds like a charming book. Congratulations to Tara!

Angela said...

Congrats Tara. I'm looking forward to reading your book.

Tara Dairman said...

Thank you so much to everyone who's commented, and to Natalie for having me here! What a lovely way to enter the home stretch of this long journey. :)

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Tara! Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

It definitely takes years to learn to write a book. Even coming up with a good idea can take time ;)

Heather Villa said...

I like how the path to publication is described like a recipe. :) I'll mention this post on Twitter!

Jenni said...

I just have to read this book--love, love, love this premise! Thanks for sharing your journey with us and showing how there's no overnight success in writing. I loved how you did so many interesting things while writing this. Congrats!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Tara, thanks for sharing your writing/publication journey with us. I love the sound of your book. I am looking forward to reading it.

Anonymous said...

Book sounds awesome . . . and what a lovely cover!

Danielle H. said...

Wow! I can tell you have a fun sense of humor from this post. Thanks for sharing your journey--incredible! I have shared on Facebook. I can't wait to read your book!

Rosi said...

Very fun post with lots of good info. The book sounds terrific and the cover is great. Thanks for a chance to win.

Carl Scott said...

The whole idea of this book just makes me grin. I'd love to win a copy. Thanks
I also tweeted a link: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/484850162582302720

J Lenni Dorner said...

Sounds like a really adorable book.

Shared the link on Twitter, Facebook, and G+

May you have MANY sales. You certainly worked hard and long to earn it!

Jessie Humphries said...

Very cool story, Tara! I love how your a playwright! No one is a playwright! It's like being an astronaut...everyone wants to be one, but isn't. I was a theater major undergrad so I have special appreciation. I'd really like to write a play one day...and travel around the world...and be cool like you! ;) Congrats on everything.

Lydia Kang said...

So great to hear another author's timeline and story of publication! Thanks Tara!

Tyrean Martinson said...

It was fun to read the backstory of your novel - finished while your husband was hiking Kilimanjaro - wow! Although my first novel didn't quite travel with me that far, it definitely spent some time in an unfinished state inside my backpack.
Writing is something we need to be in for the long journey - because every author has a long backstory. :)

J.L. Campbell said...

It is true to say that overnight success is usually a myth. I can relate to taking ages to get a book from idea to publication. Wishing you success with All Four Stars

cleemckenzie said...

I loved following your path. What a great way to look back and feel good about the choice you made along the way.

Rea said...

This sounds like such a charming idea. I also appreciate hearing about the journey it took to get your book written and published.

Heather said...

Fingers crossed that Anna got her license! A big thank you to Tara for sharing her story. Best of luck to her with All Four Stars. I hope it does fantastic.

Anonymous said...

It is rare to hear about a first novel being published, but you were already writing in different formats and obviously worked hard on an amazing idea.

Jocelyn Rish said...

The description of All Four Stars sounds beyond adorable! And it was great hearing about Tara's journey. Now I don't feel so bad about the years I've spent trying to get my novel just right.

Natasha said...

Sounds like a great read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Rosalyn said...

I remember reading bits of this in some kind of first pages contest (Miss Snark's?). So excited to see it's finally out--and I love stories like this. They make me more hopeful that I'll eventually get there.