To kick off this winter’s interview series, Absolute Write: Exposed, in which I interview random AW members to discover who they are in the real world and what they have to say about writing, I’ve asked one of my writing buddies to share a few words about the personality behind her AW screen name, JKirbs. She’s an encouraging friend and a talented writer all mixed into one ambitious gal who recently signed with big-name agent Leigh Feldman, who also reps Sarah Dessen. So here’s Jessi Kirby, exposed!
Screen Name: JKirbs
Post Count: 32– I guess I’m more of a reader than a poster…
Favorite Forum: YA SYW. I love seeing what’s out there.
The best lesson she’s learned from AW: That we all need help, input, critique, and that there are wonderful people full of amazing advice on AW.
In real life, I’m an aspiring writer (of course), wife to a lifeguard, mom of two, middle school librarian, who used to be an English teacher. Also an avid sea glass collector, runner, and coffee drinker.
Book title: MOONGLASS
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Your YA novel, MOONGLASS, is already making waves in the publishing industry. Tell us about your recent query-letter successes!
There wouldn’t have been any if I hadn’t posted my first query on AW. Thanks to those on the Query thread and their invaluable critiques, it went through eight drafts before I sent it out and crossed my fingers. I got a fair amount of auto-reject replies, and then a few partials that turned into fulls.
You set MOONGLASS on the beaches of your hometown. Besides giving you a distinct visual advantage, how did living on the set of MOONGLASS influence the book?
The beach here is a constant source of inspiration because it has so many different faces. Some days are full of the things that everyone associates with carefree summer days–crystal water, cute lifeguards, sunscreen drifting on the breeze. Others are tumultous and stormy or more empty and peaceful than you could imagine. I tried to somehow fit all of those into the story.
Most recently, you’ve been working through some revisions with several people who are interested in taking on MOONGLASS. Collaborating is both difficult and exciting: how do you deal with suggestions that you might not initially agree with? How do you see MOONGLASS improving as you rework the story?
As with any critique I’ve gotten in the past, I read, re-read, then go for a run and think about it. Then I ask my friends who’ve read it, take what they say, and think about it some more. The most important thing I do though, is make an outline of what’s already there, then allow myself room to play with the changes and see how it could turn out. (See picture) Honestly, I thought I was going to hate revising, but I’m in the middle of it and so happy with what the end result will be. I’m hoping that it will be much more layered and refined when it’s done.
Just a week ago, you met up with an agent who was really interested in MOONGLASS (and now represents it!). And not only that, you served her lunch in your very own home and gave her a tour of MOONGLASS’s beaches. Spill the details! What was it like to meet your agent face-to-face?
Best New Years’ Eve I’ve ever had, hands down. It was a total coincidence, but she ended up staying just up the road from me for something else and got in touch to see if we could meet for coffee. Instead, I invited her over to my house (no babysitter) and, after I got over the initial nervousness of having her there in the flesh, we got a chance to really talk about my story and revision ideas. She asked a million questions–questions that forced me to think about the core of the story and where I want it to go, and that was invaluable. It felt very surreal, and I rang in the new year with revision points spinning in my head!
MOONGLASS has already been described as both “commercial and literary” by people who know what they’re talking about. Wow. Obviously your novel has big potential — what is your wildest publishing dream?
So far my wildest publishing dream has been to actually be published and be able to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf. Even buy a copy. After that? There’s this little thing called the Bestseller List… You said wild, right?