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UPDATED: Writers on the Rise: Introducing C.L. Polk


C. L. Polk has accepted an offer of representation from literary agent Caitlin McDonald of Donald Maas Literary Agency.

Congratulations Chelsea!

Universal truth: writers are AWESOME, whether they have agents, book deals, contest wins coming out their ears, or are in the query trenches. Yes, trenches. You know, the period of time when an aspiring writer leaves behind anonymity and braves the rejection-heavy world in their attempt to obtain representation by a literary agency.

It’s a mouthful, ain’t it? Yeah, so is doing it. But when I was querying and entering every contest available, I found myself surrounded by amazing people who were querying right alongside me. Not only did my other “Trenchers” keep me going, but these were also the people who taught me the most about how to do this crazy thing we’re trying to do, and what kind of cheese goes best with red wine. (It’s Tillamook cheese, btw.)

It’s for that reason I reached out to writers who are either actively participating in contests or are querying agents, and I asked them about who they are, what they’ve learned and would like to share, and how we can support them in their journey.

I hope you join me in welcoming

C.L. Polk

K: Hi, Chelsea! It’s so great to get to talk to you! Just to get us started, what genre and age category do you write?

C: I am torn between writing romance and fantasy. The novel I'm currently querying is an adult fantasy, but my current project is an adult contemporary romance…and the plot bunny who came to distract me at the most difficult part of drafting the romance is an idea for another fantasy novel. I don't know how long I'm going to get away with this back-and-forth, so I'm enjoying it while I can.

K: Wow, that is amazing! I love the idea of exploring so many different styles and genre conventions. It sounds like you’ve written quite a bit—how long have you been writing?

C: I wrote in school for assignments, but I didn't take it seriously until much later. I didn't write anything novel length until 2014, and then I went a little wild – I'm currently in the first draft of my fifth novel. My inspiration was loving novels. I read voraciously and now read avidly, and for years I'd read books I enjoyed and think, "I want to do that too."

K: Five novels in two years? Holy cow, girl, you’re on fire! So I have to ask, with having this much experience, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing/querying/contests while in “The Trenches” that you’d like to share with other authors?

C: The biggest, most important thing is having a plan for how you're going to let your manuscript go. I find detaching myself from a story to be very difficult—I've spent months living and breathing the characters and the world, but once I'm querying I have to move on because the waiting and the inevitable rejection will demoralize me. So far the best way to let go of Book A is to fall into an obsession with Book B.

K: I could not agree more—I have that same issue and falling in love with new characters is nearly fail proof when I’m grieving over an MS. Great advice! Do you have any other tips for querying authors?

C: I use QueryTracker as my go-to query recording system. The extra data is worth the 25 dollars a year. I also coughed up 25 dollars for a month's access to Publisher's Weekly. This is a great site for investigating likely agents and agencies, by learning what deals have been made by those agents in the past. I built my initial querying list with these two resources, plus googling "Agent Name Interview," "Agent Name Clients" and "Agent Name Absolute Write."

K: Sounds like you’ve got a really thorough system, which is so important at the querying stage. So it sounds like you’ve had some experience not only with writing multiple novels, but also with the full range of the querying world. This industry can be tough over the long-haul (nothing in publishing moves fast), so how do you stay inspired and keep going in the face of a rejection-heavy industry?

C: It goes back to what I was saying earlier about letting go. I've done everything I can for Book A and in writing it I've learned so much about the craft of writing, storytelling, and my process. The best use of that learning is to apply it to Book B. I'm fortunate to know writers much farther along on the path than I am and they keep telling me the most important thing to do is to write more books. "Write more books" is my answer to everything in publishing. I have to write more books, no matter what happens, so I might as well start now.