I begged invited Kate to guest post a gazillion years while ago. She is funny, talented, and an amazing friend. We are proof that a “virtual” friendship can work, and I have approximately 900 Twitter DMs to her in case you doubt me. Aside from my sister, she was the first person I told when I got an agent, and she jumped up and down with me. I can’t wait until it’s my turn to do the same with her, and I am biting my nails to the quick as she embarks on this terrifying illuminating journey. Read on to see her thoughts on querying.
Cory is my first “writing friend,” and among the many things cementing the friendship is the fact that between the two of us, we have probably applied to school more times than half the eastern seaboard. I’ve tried and disliked three separate graduate programs (turns out I really want to write– who knew?); I’ll let Cory fill in her own educational history below.*
My fickle obsession with higher education has an upside, though. It was good preparation for querying. In many ways, the processes are the same:
- You must sum up your entire novel/being in a short letter/essay and submit to the judgment of strangers.
- An obscene amount of research will serve you well.
- Connections in the biz/on the board of directors can help you out– but aren’t necessary.
- That said, having an alum/a published writer for a parent doesn’t hurt.
- Your extra-curricular activities really can help– or hinder, depending on what you’ve been doing outside of school/saying online.
- There will be lots of hurdles to jump through. (Synopsis or no? Sample pages or no? Personal statement or no? Times or Courier?) These are designed to test your dedication. You have to prove you want it. And that you can follow directions.
- It will be tempting to apply/query the same places as your friends.
- You will spend a LOT of time checking your mail/inbox.
- You will probably panic. A lot.
- You’ll have to accept that the decision is out of your hands.
- Rejection will hurt. It will be disheartening, even embarrassing. It will not be the end of the world.
- You will be jealous when others succeed before you.
- You might have to choose between several good offers. You can only choose one.
- A good match is essential. If you choose wrong, you can probably change later, but it won’t be pleasant.
- Once you get in/get agented, you have a whole new challenge ahead of you.
- In grad school as well as writing, it’s publish or perish.
The good news is that unlike school applications, you don’t have to pay to query (and if you do, RUN THE OTHER WAY). You don’t have to take a standardized test… but you also don’t get the luxury of a safety school. Few people will question your decision to go to school; few people will believe you actually think you can get published.
You can query from anywhere and don’t have to worry about a campus visit, but there’s no promise of keg parties in the future to keep you motivated. There is, however, the dream of hitting it big and making a gazillion dollars. And if you’re really lucky, both in school and writing, you might make some new best friends– and you don’t have to share a small dorm room or eat cafeteria food in the meantime.
*Note from Cory: I’ve been to so many colleges, I frequently lose count. I think I’m at 11 now, and I’m working on my second Master’s. Even between degrees, I’ve taken classes for fun, like Poli Sci and French. Admissions departments fear me and my boatload of transcripts. 🙂