Today, as a part of Teens Can Write TOO! Week, I would like to introduce you to Amy Zhang, she’s an agented writer & a lit agent intern who’s 16! She also has a great sense of humor 🙂
Hi! I’m Amy, sixteen, represented by Emily Keyes of
the L. Perkins Agency Foreword Literary.
My YA fantasy on subs, WILDFLOWER, is about a girl who isn’t sure why she’s still alive, a boy who believes that love is a weakness, and the pointless annual Wars that bring them together. There’s some blood and some dying and some kissing and some backstabbing. I’m also revising a very different kind of fantasy, tentatively titled BENEATH DISQUIET STARS, about a girl who lost her name and was given a promise: that very soon she would lose her life as well, or her first love would lose his.
How did you find a literary agent?
Haha. Well, I queried and was rejected and had basically no idea what I was doing, at first. I queried about forty agents and got around seven requests, and then I stopped for a while to do revisions on my manuscript. The second time, I actually did my homework—I researched, I made a list of agents who I thought best fit my manuscript, and I personalized each query. I sent out nine queries, got four requests, and had an offer within a week.
I actually saw the email with the offer during school, while I should have been doing research for a history project. Being the suave, collected person I was, I read the email and promptly fell out of my chair. And then, when everybody turned to look at me, I had to say that I’d found a particularly interesting piece of information on Haiti’s government.
And I had, um, kind of neglected to tell my agent that I was technically a minor until she called. Which was….awkward. And I learned that on top of being suave and collected, I was also an excellent conversationalist.
Agent: “So, do you mind if I ask how old you are?”
Me: “Oh…um…hey, yeah, about that…I mean, I meant to mention it earlier…uh…erm…I’m like, kind of in high school? A little bit?
When and why did you start writing?
I started writing in eighth grade, when I moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to some teensy, cow-surrounded town in Wisconsin. The culture shock kind of killed my soul a little bit. There were only 7,000 people in the town (who had all known each other since the moment they’d left the womb), only one movie theater, and only one mall which was really too pitiful to be called a mall at all. Also, my transcripts had gotten messed up when I changed schools, so I ended up taking Algebra twice, an eighth-grade science class instead of Biology, and none of the honors classes I was supposed to take. So, I had a lot of time and nowhere to spend it.
I was also in kind of a dark place at the time. I disliked my new friends because they weren’t my old ones, and I was angry with my parents for making us move. To Wisconsin, of all places (have I mentioned that I hate milk? Detest it. Not a bit fan of cows, either). I started writing because I was bored, kept writing because I needed to escape, and am still writing because somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the words.
Have you had any challenges directly related to being a teen writer?
Gosh, yes. I guess the biggest one is trying to find the time to write. I try to write at least ten hours a week, but the problem is that I’m fairly involved at school and in my community. It was manageable until this year. Frankly, I was too ambitious. I thought I could take all of my APs and maintain my grades keep my leadership positions in all of my clubs and be the editor-in-chief of our newspaper and the captain of our Forensics team and play sports and piano and violin and be a literary intern and study for SATs and ACTs and blog and kind of keep up my social life and still write. But to do that, I usually have to get up around 4:00 to get in two hours of writing before school. Unfortunately, I rarely get home from school before six, and usually get to bed around twelve.
Yeah. So I have sleeping marathons on weekends and chug caffeine like there’s no tomorrow. Carpe diem, right?
Another thing is that I try very, very hard to keep my writing life and um, the rest of my life separate. I can honestly count the number of people who know me personally and are also aware that I write on my fingers. Writing is something I love so much that I’m honestly terrified to talk about it with people I know.
Why do you wish to be a traditional author?
Honestly, I guess my main reason is that I don’t want to be marginalized by my age. I didn’t mention my age in any step of the querying process because I wanted to get signed for my work. I don’t want the fact that I’m sixteen to matter.
How do you overcome “writer’s block”?
Ha. I don’t.
Sometimes I write music for my manuscripts, or draw maps, or illustrate scenes. I try to submerge myself in the world I’ve built in my head, and that usually gets me back on track. Or I just sit and twiddle my thumbs.
What is your favorite childhood book and/or author?
Charlotte’s Web, the first book that made me cry. The Magic Tree House Series, which first showed me that words could be teleporters and time machines and spells. Harry Potter, the first series I fell in love with. The Series of Unfortunate Events, which broke my heart. Anne of Green Gables, which mended it. The Little Princess, The Little House on the Prairie, The Secret Garden…and I could go on, but I just realized that the question asked for ONE book/author, and I totally just listed like, ten. Oops.
Fun fact about yourself most people don’t know?
English wasn’t my first language. I know, weird, right? I was born in China, and moved to America with my parents when I was three.
If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you eat?
I’d like to have breakfast with Alan Menken and Herman Ashman, the two guys that wrote music and lyrics for Disney. We’d eat chocolate-covered bacon and muffins.
Imagine you are writing a memoir…what is its title?
Coffee or Tea?
It really depends on the day. I usually go with tea, but if I’m legitimately three seconds away from collapsing into an unconscious, drooling heap (and let’s face it, that’s about every other morning), then I’d probably get coffee, which seems to wake me up faster.
Advice to teen writers who wish to be published?
Never give up. A lot of people are going to tell you that you can’t. A lot of people are going to say “no.” But it only takes one yes.
Thanks for stopping by Amy! Best of luck in your writing endevours…Readers: keep an eye out for this teen writer on bestseller lists in the near future 🙂