Jul 31, 2011

Interview with the Query Goblin

Today I'm visiting with the incredibly intellectual and talented Jen DeBenedictis, aka The Query Goblin. I found her web site a few months back and was totally jazzed to a find fast, detailed and coherent critiquer that took on every single query sent. After lurking and prepping my own Q, I sent it to her and got wonderful feedback.

But I had to wonder...who is this Superhero of Query Crits? What makes her tick? Is there a sinister reason behind her generousness? Or is she simply building karma that'll bless her later on?

1. Why in the world do you want to regularly critique queries?
One of my reasons is generous; the other is diabolical and crafty.
The first is just that writing is hard, figuring out how to write an entire book of publishable quality is harder, and sorting out those infuriating, unnatural beasties known as query letters and synopses is hardest of all. I really empathize with people who struggle to learn these skills because hey--I did too. And if I can make the journey easier for a few people, then it makes me happy to do so.
My second reason is a bit more fiendish. I work in education, and the realization that startled me most in my first year of teaching was that if you want to learn a subject really well, teaching it to someone else is incredibly effective. So by critiquing the query letters of others, I'm learning to write a better query myself. Helping others will hopefully pay off in my own writing career.

2. What credentials do you bring to your editing?
Um, this is embarrassing. I wrote a novel, and on its strengths I got an agent, and she found an editor who wanted to make an offer on the book, and then the economy tanked. The deal was nixed, so I was omg-this-close to being able to call myself a professional writer, but I'm not. I do, however, have another book I'm doing final edits on and I'm hoping it will be The One.
But that's my only writing credential. You're definitely getting a garden variety critiquer in the Query Goblin. I do my best.

Whoa, I think we are career-twins separated by 10 years or so. The exact same thing happened to me...in 2001 right after 9/11. Sigh. Someday our bad timing genes will evolve to good. *taps foot* Still waiting...

3. Have you had any queries that were so bad, you didn't know where to start?
Not on my own site, but on other sites, yes. It's totally okay for a person to be at square one. If a piece I'm critiquing is kinda dreadful, I ask myself what one piece of advice I can give the person that will improve what's there the most. It's often something simple like, "get rid of all those adjectives and use strong nouns and verbs instead," or "start at the moment when the protagonist's life changes."
Also, I advocate using the "sandwich" method for critiques. A little praise, the meat of your criticism, then more praise. Always make sure the person knows they did something right. A de-moralized student can't learn because they're too depressed to try anymore; praise is as important as the feedback that allows a person to correct their mistakes.

4. Have any queries you've edited that went on to land an agent?
I wouldn't know unless someone told me, but I do know that the query for "Eyes of Stone" by Beckahrah got two requests for pages right away (which doesn't surprise me at all, because it was a rockin' query before I ever got to it.)

5. Essential ingredients for a rockin' query?
I've got two posts on query craft here:
Query Writing Craft, Part 1
Query Writing Craft, Part 2

And now, a madly maniacal meme from the awesome Anita Grace Howard:

When was the last time you ate lion meat? (or any other kind of oddball meat. Or if you're a vegetarian, a really weird veggie.)
Oh, wow--I've had ostrich meat, but I'm not sure that counts as oddball. I'm afraid it might even be trendy. When I was in grade three, my family went to Disneyland and I had swordfish. To be honest, it tasted just like tuna and I was much more impressed by the deep-fried ice cream I had at the same meal.

Upload a heartwarming picture of something that makes you smile.
This one's a bit poignant now, for a science geek such as myself:

I just wiped away a tear. Last...space flight...for...space shuttle. I am so OLD!

If you could go back in time and kick the crap out of someone, who would it be?
Probably myself.

Seriously? My answer to that one is always Hitler.

What song would you play while you kick the crap out of that someone?
"The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston

This song definitely wouldn't go with Hitler kicking.

Name one habit that makes people plot your demise.

My blithe lack of awareness of the fact that I'm annoying them.

Thanks, Jen!


Emily R. King said...

Great interview. I'd never heard of the Query Monster until now. I'll check out her site. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Yay I'm famous! lol! :D Query Goblin is awesome!!!

Sarf's Travels. said...

OMG my sister is famous now :) She has been interviewed... And to think i knew where when she was just annoying little sister :)

jjdebenedictis said...

I'm still an annoying little sister. Some things in life, you CAN count on, Sarf. :)