We interviewed Clare Golding recently, a #WriteMentor mentee from 2018, mentored by A.M. Dassu. Clare has just secured representation and is about to go on submission with her book to publishers.
First we asked her mentor, A.M. Dassu:
– What made you choose to work with Clare’s manuscript?
Clare’s writing stood out, her characters were wonderfully drawn, her ability to evoke empathy and emotion through her words was strong, and I believed with a little help she would get an agent and I absolutely wanted to help her get closer to signing with one. Some of the things that drew me to her manuscript and synopsis were: the clarity of her prose, her willingness to write about a controversial and timely subject, the levels of conflict in her story and her commitment to improve her writing.
– Clare, what made you apply to #WriteMentor 2018?
I had seen and benefited from a lot of positive support from the people involved in #WriteMentor already in the twitterverse. It therefore seemed like a good way to get more focused help on my query. I knew I had a good MS, but I also had a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to get an agent to read my full because of the nature of my book. I think I had about 50 or 60 rejections at that point? Even though I’d made the Mslexia and Bath Children’s Novel Award long lists; I felt I’d lost all objectivity on the query.
– How was the whole experience of the programme for you?
Az’ help on my query was great and her fresh take helped me see things more clearly. She pushed back on a lot things, which was also helpful for me. Our conversations gave me a lot clarity about things I had been soft on before. But honestly the best part is the community of people cheering you on, in particular yourself Stuart and Az just constantly lifting me up and telling me to keep going. Having people who believe in your work is powerful. Thank you.
– Tell us how you came to sign with your agent.
I was shortlisted for the Commonword Prize for Diversity in Young Adult Fiction. One of the judges on the panel was Catherine Pellegrino from Marjaq, who couldn’t make the awards ceremony, and we were all told to query her. Since I didn’t win, I wasn’t sure I should bother, but when I said that to one of the organizers they told me that it had been a very tight vote across the short list and that Catherine had really liked my novel. I sent my query the next day! This was around the Christmas holidays, so it was a while before I heard I back. Her initial response was that my novel was ‘too American’, but she asked to share it with a US colleague, who then really loved it and felt it was a good fit. I didn’t quite understand what was happening until a got an email from Catherine asking to formalize representation. I was shocked! We met and once I understood everything, I realized she had been fighting for the novel already but I didn’t know the business well enough to understand it then. Naturally, I signed! Funnily, when I signed with Catherine, it was to have a UK agent but to sell via a right’s agent in the US only. Subsequently, Catherine read the latest draft and changed her mind. So now it will go out to publishers in the US and the UK.
– Tell us a little more about your book that has secured representation.
The novel is about an undocumented Brazilian teenager who has to bury her grandmother in the backyard to avoid being deported. While she negotiates a life hiding in plain sight, a candidate for governor in the US state she lives promises asylum and education to young people like her. She decides to get involved in the political campaign, even though it risks her getting caught because she sees it as the only way to have a life outside the shadows.
I wrote the novel and consulted with my sister’s childhood best friend, who is undocumented, over two years of drafts and redrafts. We became very close and she has inspired me more than anyone else to keep going, which I needed in particular after the last few rejections based on fulls before I found Catherine. After a lot of conversations and talking to a legal expert, we decided to put her name on the book alongside mine because it wouldn’t be the story that it is without her. It will hopefully read ‘by Clare Golding, with Ana Nunes.’
– Tell us a little more about your writing journey.
I started taking writing seriously about nine years ago when I lost my teaching job due to budget cuts where I lived in America. I began working in teacher training and frustrating found that the resources and reading material had hardly changed in the past twenty years. I wanted to write books that my former students would enjoy reading but that were also about important issues in their lives. By the time I moved to England in 2014 I had a full novel written and wanted to focus on it. My partner fully supported me making writing my new career. I treated it like my job. Since then, I joined a fantastic writing group and wrote two more manuscripts. Five years later, I can say it is really my job!
– What one piece of advice would you give to other writers looking for representation?
Find people who believe in your work that you trust to be honest. In other words, get involved in a community, virtually or in real life. There is this romantic idea that great writing happens in a room alone, but I have not found that to be the case in my journey. Great writing happens in collaboration, through feedback, and with people who run this marathon beside you.
Clare Golding, originally from Athens, Georgia, is an American immigrant living with her family in England. She’s a former Hollywood-ite, furniture salesperson, middle school teacher, support tech, graduate student, and waitress – not necessarily in that order. For the past nine years she’s worked at becoming a professional writer of young-adult fiction after over a decade of storytelling through film, as a history and ESL teacher, and later as a mother. Her writing is inspired by her family, friends, the Hogsback Writers, former students, and people who’ve wronged her. She is incredibly thankful for the support she’s received in the writing community on Twitter, in particular those in the Bath Novel Award and #WriteMentor families.