Thursday, April 15, 2010

Debut Author Caroline Starr Rose with May B.

I'm really excited about this particular interview because Caroline is one of my first supporters and one of the first blogs I started following. Not only is she incredibly talented, but she's sweet and supportive! You can check out her blog, Caroline by Line. I love that she teaches you how to pronounce her name with a clever rhyming blog title. :0) 

MAY B. is a mid-grade historical novel-in-verse:

May wants nothing more than to one day become a teacher. Though she understands everything she reads quietly, she struggles with reading aloud. Against her wishes, her family pulls her from school to help a newly-married couple settle into their Kansas frontier home.

Just weeks after May’s arrival at the Oblingers’, the new bride abruptly leaves. When Mr. Oblinger attempts to find her, May is left to fend for herself, facing her shortcomings head-on in her solitary struggle to survive.

How long have you been writing?

Twelve years.

Who is your agent and tell me about her?

My agent is Michelle Humphrey of the Martha Kaplan Agency. I found her on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. She responded to my query immediately. I signed with her two weeks later. Lest you think this was easy, I gathered seventy-five agent rejections before approaching Michelle.

Michelle loves books, first of all. She is super committed to her authors and their work. She’s professional, bright, positive, and fun. I’m so glad we’re a team.

How long were you working on May B before querying? 

I started research for MAY roughly three years ago and had just started writing when I unexpectedly returned to the classroom (a teacher at my sons’ school -- in my exact area of certification -- had abruptly left right before Thanksgiving).

Jumping back into teaching after six years away was wonderful, but it was also exhausting. My work on MAY dwindled to fits and starts. I focused mainly on revising older works. By the spring, I had found my stride; the next fall I took a personal day to wrap up MAY, the day before I was to attend a conference with an editor one-on-one. I kept telling myself I wanted to be able to honestly say it was done if the editor asked.

This was October 2008. The editor requested the full manuscript. I’ve never heard from her again.

That spring, I entered MAY B. in a contest at the Jambalaya Jubilee (a local writing conference) and won first place. Part of the prize was a one-on-one with an editor. She took one look at my work, asked me if I’d written other things, and said, “Why don’t you have an agent yet?”

I started querying in earnest shortly after.

Did you query other books? Or have a first attempt stuck in a drawer somewhere?

My first manuscript sits in a file now. I queried publishers directly with it in the late 90s. I’m embarrassed to say one asked for three chapters and guess what I did? I sent the three chapters I thought were best, plucked from here and there. Needless to say, I got a hasty form rejection.

After that mess, I started other novels and picture books, finishing one, revising, submitting directly to editors (which is still possible in the children’s market), starting something new. I kept the cycle going over the years, producing four novels and seven picture books and pulling in over two hundred rejections. That fourth novel was MAY B.

Tell us about the 3 publishers vying for your attention!?

I can’t be too specific, but I will say all three tend to publish books meant primarily for the school and library market. All three could have done something wonderful with the story. Tricycle, though, felt like the right place for me. 

Do you feel your blog or other networking helped you land your agent? Do you think it will be a good promoting spot for you?

My blog didn’t help me to land an agent, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Michelle stopped by right before we talked for the first time (isn’t Sitemeter great?). All three editors have been by, too. I think it’s crucial to remember to keep a professional face on all you’re doing. When you’re aggressively pursuing publication, anyone might stop by.

I had my first phone meeting with my editor, Nicole Geiger, yesterday. She told me she’d described me to marketing as a “dream author” since I have established a web presence and have read enough to know a bit about publishing. Very flattering, I have to say! 

If you could meet and have tea with any famous classic author (Shakespeare, Jane Austen and the like) who would it be?

It would have to be Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books. I’ve read everything she’s ever written, including her journals. I’m not sure if she’d enjoy my company, though! She was very exacting. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have impressed her much.

Advice for new writers?

I feel like I was fortunate to start writing well before the blogging era. As much as I love the blogosphere, the overload of information and the pressure to be out there and visible -- I think I wouldn’t have spent as much time writing as I ultimately did. I made the point to start blogging only after getting several partial and full requests and after reading several books about web presence and promotion in relation to the publication process. I’m not saying everyone needs to do this, but starting later than sooner worked for me. I realize this might contradict what I’ve said above. It is important to get out there on the Internet, just be cautious about doing it too early. I read blogs for a year before I started my own. Be intentional in your approach.

Focus on writing, read widely (beyond your genre, too), and join an organization such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI -- which was instrumental in helping me feel like a professional).

If you, as a writer, can remember that you have something unique to say, and your work can only improve if you keep at it, your potential for publication will rise exponentially.

Thank you Caroline so much! I thoroughly enjoy your blog every time you post and this interview was such an honor for me to do. :0) I can't wait for May B. to come out, I know my princess Rhiannon will love it!!


  1. Great interview and great post. Thanks. I'm going over to check out her blog now. :)

  2. Awesome interview! I had to do a double take when I saw Caroline on your blog but she was well worth a guest spot!!! She's amazing and I love hearing success stories!!

  3. Great interview! I love hearing success stories . . . especially ones in which the writer had lots of rejections before getting The Call.

    I have an award for you on my blog.

  4. Kristi, You are a dear. Thank you for all your kind words and the opportunity to tell my story.

    Thanks for also following me from the start.

  5. What a great interview Kristi! Caroline is a class act. I love that she's had all this success after so many years of hard work.

  6. Fantastic Interview Kristi! Are you sure you're in the right line of work?

    Thanks Caroline, great job, thanks for sharing your story. And congrats on landing an agent.

  7. Wonderful interview! This was so fun, Caroline. Thanks, Kristi! :-)

  8. Great interview, Kristi! You manage to ask such good questions!

    Caroline - I'm so excited for you, and so glad you've found a great home for yourself and for May B. It sounds like a wonderful book! I still have kids in elementary school, so I'll make sure I push to have the library get a copy, and we'll spread the word around too!


Your spotlight on R.A.W. :0) I strive to respond if you have your email address attached!