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Author Interview: Donna Cooner, Author of the YA Novel SKINNY

Author Katherine Valdez interviewed fellow author Donna Conner, to ask her about the process of getting an agent, her new book SKINNY, and other writing tips.

How did you meet your agent?

I submitted Skinny to my top 10 dream agents. Within a week, three of them called, and all requested the full manuscript. I chose Sarah [Davies of Greenhouse]. She wrote this long email about why she was the agent for me. I was surprised. It’s usually the other way around.

I knew I had hit some kind of chord with this book. It went out on submission very quickly, and then to auction. It was such a whirlwind.


Donna Cooner has been writing for 22 years and is the author of
20 children's books. She wrote two unpublished novels before SKINNY
(Oct. 2012, Scholastic, Inc.). The story of an obese teenager who has
gastric bypass surgery landed on several “best of YA” lists, including that
of the American Booksellers Association. Her second novel, CAN’T LOOK AWAY,
was published Aug. 26. Connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter

What kind of personality did you look for?

Personality is really important in an agent. Do you want your agent to be a rah-rah cheerleader or strictly business? Talk with other writers and ask about agents' personalities.

The agent relationship is the most important relationship. They're going to be your face in the business place.

What is your agent like?

My agent has a lovely British accent, is a former editor in the U.K., has great international connections, and is incredibly professional but also personable. You're pretty fragile when you go out on submission. Sarah's fantastic. She's amazing.


This author interview is conducted by Katherine Valdez, who blogs
about author events and
recently quit her job to write a novel. She
eats a lot of ramen. Please, 
pretty please, subscribe to her blog, like
her Facebook, and 
follow her on Twitter.

What was the difference between Skinny and your unpublished novels? You and the main character both had gastric bypass surgery.

I really think the difference was that personal connection. It was definitely very close to what I was feeling. Skinny got a lot of attention when it came out because body image issues are such a hot topic.

Writers ask me for advice. I tell them, “Start with something real and give it a twist.” You have to, otherwise it's memoir.

How did you persevere?

At one point, I thought, “I'm going to paper my bathroom with rejection letters.” Then it became the living room. Learn from rejection and get better. Do you truly love writing and telling stories? There's the fear, “Am I good enough?” But would you stop? No.

Do you have any other tips for writers?

  • Try writing YA. I consider YA writing the Wild West. You can be so creative in this genre: long, short, futuristic, contemporary. I find it to be very open to new writers.
  • Don't burn bridges. Publishing is a small community.
  • Attend conferences to make connections and possibly meet your future editor or agent.
  • Be kind. Pay it forward. Be as generous and honest as you can be.
  • Write with no expectations. I was just writing Skinny for the beauty of the language and what I wanted to say.


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