I have announcement to make…

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the thing that I did yesterday!

signing

Yesterday I signed with my agent Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency! I’m thrilled beyond belief to be represented by such an amazing agent. I have such respect for Becca and her clients, and I’m honored to join the team.

At the suggestion of several of my wonderful friends, I have been informed that it’s time to write the “obligatory how-I-got-my-agent post.” I’ll have to start way back in middle school, and hopefully I won’t repeat too much of what I’ve already mentioned in previous blog posts.

I started writing “seriously” when I was in sixth-grade. I had a teacher who enjoyed assigning us to write stories using our spelling words, and I got the great idea to join all of my stories into a continuous work. After awhile, I got tired of waiting for our next batch of words, and just wrote the story that was evolving in my brain. When I finished, I asked my teacher to read it, and she liked it. She encouraged me to write and to read more widely, and she was one of my favorite people in the world.

The next year, I met a new friend who loved writing as much as I did, and we started talking about our stories. We eventually started swapping chapters as we finished them, and over the next several years we wrote together, edited each others’ work, and became critique partners, even though we didn’t know that was a thing. We both wanted to be published. We talked about our favorite publishing houses, but we didn’t have a clue how to make that happen.

As happens, we moved apart toward the end of high school and college. I majored in creative writing and psychology, but no one in my program was as encouraging as my best friend had been. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was writing YA in all of my creative writing classes, and no one else in our department really understood what I was doing. I wasn’t working to be the next Graham Green or John Cheever, who seemed to be the role-models of many of my classmates.

Because I didn’t realize YA was a real thing, I decided my stories really were “schmaltzy,” so I focused on writing non-fiction, newspaper articles, and literature reviews. I went on to grad school for English literature, but I wasn’t happy with the academic articles and essays. I secretly wrote stories that I would never admit to anyone because I wasn’t in the MFA program, and I still had no idea how one would go about publishing anything.

In 2013, I reconnected with my high school critique partner, and she asked me how my writing was going. She still remembered all my projects from middle school and high school, and she said that she had been looking for my name on book lists ever since we lost touch. (I had been looking for hers too.) She encouraged me to start fresh and jump back in, and by this point I knew what YA was and that where my heart went when I wrote.

Meanwhile, I joined writer communities – SCBWI, Absolute Write, and Twitter – and I finished my first manuscript. After I had several people beta read it, I sent out queries far and wide. I really had no idea what I was doing, but at least I knew the basic principle of finding an agent. In retrospect, my manuscript was rough, and my query letter was even worse, but I got a few requests. Nothing panned out, but I was already working on my next story, and I had high hopes for it.

After I put finished my second manuscript, I put the first back on the shelf. I asked my critique partners to take a look before Pitch Wars 2016, and I made a list of my top 10 mentors. When I went into Pitch Wars in August, I felt pretty good about my manuscript. During the week that entries were due, I went to a Madcap Workshop in Pigeon Forge, TN, and I found out that several members of our group were entering as well. We even talked another friend into submitting, and then we waited.

Since coincidences are always fun, the week of the Pitch Wars announcement, Sarah, my high school friend and CP, happened to be in town for the first time since our freshman year of college. The night the mentees were announced, we had dinner together and watched Twitter for the results. When the list of YA mentees went up, I didn’t see my name at first, and I tried not to feel sad. I mean, Sarah was there, I was further along with my writing than I ever had been, and it was just another step on the way.

Then suddenly my mentions and texts started blowing up. I had overlooked my own name, and I had been chosen by one of my top choice mentors!

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn and I worked together on my manuscript until November. She helped me polish and perfect my story, and on Nov. 10, I sent out my submission to my four Pitch Wars requests and to other agents who had expressed an interest. I had a few additional fulls requested, a few rejections, more rejections, a lot of crickets, and on Dec. 18, an agent emailed that she would like to talk to me on the phone. We set up a call for the next day, and she offered. When I sent my “Offer of Representation” emails out to the agents who had my queries and fulls, I got a few more nibbles.

Rebecca Podos wasn’t in my first batch of queries. I had tried not to exhaust all my top agents in one huge swoop. If something wasn’t working with my query or the sample pages, I would hate to know I had no more awesome agents to send to, so I sent a pre-holiday query flurry out in mid-December. The funny thing is that I queried her the very day my first offer came in.

I ended up with three offers and several close calls all from fabulous agents, but Becca presented a vision for my work that I really appreciated. She has amazing clients, and everyone I spoke to adored her and said that her edit letters were insightful and even “gems.”

After she offered, all my second guessing and worries subsided. I knew she had a record of sales and a list that is small but breathtaking. Our personalities clicked, and I sent my friends messages shouting, “I think she’s the one!” I thought about it over the weekend, and on Monday, I couldn’t wait any longer. I emailed her that I was accepting her offer.

The one thing that people don’t tell you when you’re querying is that if you happen to get more than one offer, even when you know you’re making the best decision, it’s hard to send the letter to the agents you didn’t choose. They are both amazing in their own ways, and I know they will have great successes. But Becca was everything I had been hoping for in an agent, and when I knew, I was confident I was choosing correctly.

So forgive me if I squee and flail more than normal. I still can’t believe this has actually happened and I have an agent who believes in my writing and my book and that I’m going to start edits and go on submission sometime soon.

2017 is definitely off to a good start for my writing!

Advertisements

A weird place in my mind

I’ve been in a weird place mentally lately. I haven’t been able to write. My anxiety has been over the top, and I just haven’t been able to come up with words – for my WIP, for my blog, barely even for work. I don’t understand it, but it’s the kind of anxiety that leaves me staring my screen, holding my breath, chewing on my tongue and the inside of my cheeks so hard that they are sore. The thought of writing makes my hands shake and my heart pound. The thought of not writing makes me want to retreat to a dark corner and sleep until this feeling passes.

I hate it.

But slowly, maybe, my head is clearing again. I might be finding my words again. I hope I am. I feel like such a fake when I can’t get words and plot to come together. I worry I’ll never write another story. It’s all so frustrating.

In the meantime, I’m just trying to manage what I can control. I’ve queried dozens of agents since Pitch Wars ended in November – and I received full requests! My first manuscript only received a couple of requests, and the querying process was spread out over nearly a year. Soon, I will have some exciting news to announce regarding my queries.

I have a tentative plan for a new WIP. It isn’t fleshed out very well yet, but I’m excited about it. I also want to go back and visit my very first manuscript. I think it might need another rewrite, but I’m okay with that. When I let one of my critique partners read the first few chapters of my new WIP, she said that my writing seemed fiercer now. I know that manuscript had its good points, but it was also my first. It was rough around the edges. It didn’t gleam the way it could.

First though, the new WIP. I need to bring it together so I can quit fixating on my lack of progress. I know there’s something awesome there. I just have to find it, and it’s hard for me to let go of the gnarled pieces and the pages that don’t work. After finishing a manuscript and putting it through Pitch Wars, I feel silly having so many false starts and plot bunnies that go nowhere. I need to put the perfectionism behind and focus on getting a story on the page. That’s where it starts.

I can’t remember how many chapters I deleted from my previous manuscripts. And let’s not even start on scenes that needed stripped and rewritten. Finishing a manuscript and starting from scratch again makes me feel lost.

Somewhere in this jumble of images is part of my story trying to emerge.

picmonkey-collage

Hopefully, I’ll be in a better frame of mind for writing and I can post again soon. It’s therapeutic to type through my thoughts, even if no one else reads them. And if someone does, I hope my words help you somehow.