Friday, March 19, 2010
Spotlight on Writer & Publishing Intern Weronika Janczuk
On August 3, 2010, Weronika became an associate agent with D4EO Literary Agency. Read her announcement here, and her submission guidelines here.
If you've never read the blog of Weronika Janczuk before, you should. Trust me, this girl is going places.
When she was in sixth grade, she self-published her novel AND recouped all the costs. (You can read her post about the experience here.)
Last year, she interned with Flux for three months and wrote detailed blog entries about what she learned there. This year she is interning for a New York literary agent.
All this from a Minnesota teen who just celebrated her 18th birthday. Impressive, wouldn't you say?
Weronika travels with her debate team, critiques queries on her blog, is working on her own novel, and, you know, goes to school. She plans to be a literary agent when she graduates from college. I talked to Weronika about her publishing experiences and what she's learned so far.
How did you get your internship at Flux?
I had the chance to earn school credit for what we call a “mentorship”—the chance to work with a professional mentor in a particular field of study. It was tougher to find a place for myself because the publishing world in the Twin Cities is small and, as a result, more competitive to break into, but I spoke with two different editors, one at Flux, the other at a non-profit publisher, and found that I easily clicked with those at Flux and chose to pursue the internship there.
How long did you work there?
I was at Flux for just over three months, but I continue to stay in touch. I’m going back at the end of March to observe a “Vision” meeting—where the editors introduce projects they want to take on, something I didn’t get to do while I was there.
You wrote in a lot of detail what you did while you were at Flux. What was most surprising to you about the internship?
I was surprised by some of the behind-the-scenes information about authors, agents, and other editors. I won’t share anything specifically, but agents, just like authors, have very important reputations to uphold and they develop their own brands in a way. Editors will know how much editorial work has been done on a manuscript from agent X, for example, and they will expect tough negotiations from agent Y.
How did it change your perspective on publishing?
I don’t think it necessarily changed my perspective on publishing—I went in with a pretty developed knowledge of publishing and I had clear expectations for what I wanted to learn. I did take away two things. The first is that I love, love, love book publishing—the creative process, the business, everything. I’m glad that most editors will strive to be advocates of literature—it’s why editors “must have ‘that book.’” Good literature is always appreciated, and I want to work in a business with that ideology. The second thing I realized is that, if I ever work full-time in a publishing house, I will want it to be a smaller one. The environment at Flux was incredibly friendly and down-to-earth, and I would love to do what Brian Farrey does there now—edit an entire imprint of great YA literature, one that has helped propel some authors to the bestseller lists. Each author really gets individual attention.
How was the experience at Flux different from your current internship with a literary agent?
The most obvious is that, while I interned at Flux, I was in the building. I had my own cubicle, email, phone, etc. The agent that I’m interning with is in NYC, as is to be expected, so all the work I do occurs over email and by phone. It makes everything harder because I can’t just walk a few cubicles over to ask questions. As for the work, I’m still reading both slush submissions and full manuscripts, sending reader reports, and fulfilling traditional internship responsibilities (secretarial). I miss working with authors directly and the hands-on editing I got to do, but I make up for that with contests and critiques I offer on the blog.
How did you get the agent internship?
I emailed the agent I’m working with if she needed anyone, then I took a ‘test’ by sending her some reactions to queries, and started in December.
How does that work since you're in Minnesota and the agent is in NY?
Like I said, communication occurs over the phone and by email. It requires me to keep very up-to-date with everything that’s happening with the agent and the agency.
I’m guessing these experiences have made your internal editor even louder than mine. How have the internships changed your approach to writing? To reading?
It hasn’t affected my writing overall. I work with too few excellent writers to pick up any lessons, so I pick up a lot of “don’t-dos,” which I guess is helpful in its own right. The one thing I can write better now is a query letter for my own book. As for reading, I read with a far more critical eye; my book reviews tend to be harsh and I pick up fewer books by word-of-mouth and look more to award-winning titles and bestsellers.
You were able to recoup all your expenses from self-publishing your first book as a 12-year-old. Do you think self-publishing will ever earn respect in the literary world?
I didn’t realize self-publishing had such a negative stigma associated with it back then. I did research and query agents—yes, as a twelve-year-old—and then chose to self-publish, which turned out okay. As for respect, I don’t know. Probably not. Personally, I have a hard time with self-published works because, even in those rare circumstances when a good writer just doesn’t find a home in the traditional sphere, self-published books tend to be of poorer quality—they lack professional editing, design, and distribution in most cases. In general it’s hard to approach self-published titles.
On your blog you have that little meter keeping track of how many words you've written in your lifetime. Do you really think you’ll have to write one million words before you’re published?
I can’t remember who said it, but the saying goes that one million is the number of words any writer “should” write before seeking publication, and by now I think I’m nearly halfway there. (I have done a poor job of keeping the counter on my blog up to date.) I don’t know if I’ll have to write a million, but I do know that I won’t ever query an agent until I have a project that is as best as I can make it—and that might not be for years, and thousands of words, to come.
Thanks for the insight, Weronika! It was nice to get a little peek into your internships and experiences.
You can read more about Weronika on her blog: http://www.weronikajanczuk.com
Posted by Sherrie Petersen