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!

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So, I’ve been doing Pitch Wars

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much lately. I’ve been so tied up with day job work and family things that I’ve barely had to time to think, much less blog, and on top of that, I got into Pitch Wars in August! That was one of my biggest goals for this year, and I was selected by the lovely and amazing Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, who wrote Firsts.

pitchwars-logo I entered Pitch Wars in 2015 with a different manuscript and a lot less experience in the publishing world. It was the first manuscript I’d completed since (maybe) grad school if I’m generous with the term “completed,” but I had been working on it for two years. I thought it was good – edgy, sharp – and I thought it was the story I was supposed to write. It had been with me since high school, and I loved my characters, so that meant it had to be the story that was going to get me an agent and published and begin my career, right? Wrong!

While I still love last year’s submission, Fall to Pieces isn’t a bad book, it isn’t my best work. I didn’t push the boundaries and explore like I have with my manuscript that got me into Pitch Wars. I attacked my latest manuscript with a passion, and it made me uncomfortable in ways that FTP never did. Yeah, FTP is gritty and dark, but I’m proud of my newest manuscript in every way possible.

Formerly titled Still Breathing, my tentative title is The Wreckage of Us. As with everything in publishing, that’s subject to change at any time. Once upon a time, it started out as a contemporary friendship story, and it has blossomed into an LGBTQ contemporary with paranormal elements that explores mental illness, disability, friendship, loss, and accepting yourself. Even though half the time I’m kicking myself and wondering why in the world Laurie decided to spend two months working with me on a book that I can barely find a genre to describe, I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished.

In two weeks the agent round arrives, and we get to put our pitches and first 250 words in front of agents who can choose to request more. I’ve been talking with friends about the fact that it’s a public selection process, and while it’s daunting to consider that some of us might not get any requests, I’m to the point (today at least) that whatever happens happens. I’ve done the best I know how to do with my revisions, and I wrote the best book I could.

I’m so excited about this manuscript. I never honestly thought I’d get into Pitch Wars, but here I am. When the announcement went up in August, I was having dinner with a writer friend that I haven’t seen in years. I completely overlooked my name, but I saw several of my friends’ names and I was excited for them. I told Sarah that I didn’t get in, and about that time, I started getting emails, texts, and DMs. Sooooooo, I looked again. I still couldn’t believe it. Sometimes, almost two months later, I still feel like it’s a dream, even after two full edits of my manuscript, writing a pitch, and changing the title. It’s funny how things happen.

I’ll try to post more regularly from now on. Hopefully things are settling down a little as far as all of my big deadlines hitting all at once. I’ve got some fun posts lined up that I’m working on, so check back soon!

#Pitchwars2016 – Mentee bio – #PimpMyBio – Or I’m really, really excited to meet all of you!

#Pitchwars2016 – Mentee bio – #PimpMyBio – Or I’m really, really excited to meet all of you!

Hi guys! Welcome to my blog, Pitch Wars mentors, mentees, and random people interested in who I am.

 

HELLO

My name is Mary, and this is my second time entering #Pitchwars. By day, I write for a teeny, tiny small town weekly newspaper, and in my spare time, I wrangle cats and a Standard Poodle, chase an adorable 2-year old, and try to spend time with my husband in addition to writing YA contemporary stories. One of my writer friends described my WIPs as “sports boys with issues,” and that’s kind of close to what I do.

 

LAUGH

 

FLIP

I’m currently reading THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner and THE SUMMER OF YOU AND ME by Robin Constantine. Next up is Tim Federle’s THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER. I love, love, love contemporary, but I’m big fan of good writing, so I’ll read almost anything as long as it’s a great story.

My favorite books of the moment include:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’m sure there are many more, but I forget to update my Goodreads shelf  and lose track of what I’ve read and what I want to read. Lately, I’ve been roaming the local library trying to figure out how to convince them to add more diverse YA to their shelves, and since there’s a shortage of books I’m excited about there, I tend to grab the ones that stand out to me whenever I go to the bookstore.

READ

Because I have a 2-year old, I read a lot of picture books as well. I love instilling a love of books in my kid. I call him #babybookworm, and my favorite part of the day is when he grabs a book and tells me to sit on the floor in his room so we can read. This is an old picture, but you can see how he gets his nickname.

Caelan reading

This is a normal night’s book stack for us:

Books

Well, anyway … back to my WIP and why I’m entering #Pitchwars2016! 🙂

Last year my 2015 #Pitchwars manuscript was like this:

I’m entering with a new manuscript this time, and it’s more like this:

I’m working on finalizing my pitch, but here’s a portion of my query:

STILL BREATHING is an LGBT+ YA contemporary, complete at 82,000 words. It brings together the literary style of Rainbow Rowell’s CARRY ON and the haunting suspense and twists of E. Lockhart’s WE WERE LIARS.

Nine months ago, seventeen-year-old Jordan Erickson killed his best friend Taylor in a car crash. Returning to school, he longs for a chance to start over, but learning to navigate life as a quadriplegic is exhausting, especially while dealing with panic attacks, memory loss, awkward friends, and an overbearing girlfriend.

Strange events follow Jordan as he tries to readjust. From an apparition in the mirror to a disembodied voice in the hall, Jordan can’t shake the feeling that the uncanny incidents are reminders that things weren’t exactly right between him and Taylor before the wreck. Or maybe Taylor isn’t entirely gone.

I tend to focus a lot on mental illness in my writing. It’s an issue that’s close to my heart, and my MC struggles with anxiety, depression, and hallucinations throughout the WIP. I majored in psychology in college, and while I didn’t make it my career, I’ve always wanted to help others have the representation and resources I never found for myself growing up with anxiety and depression.

ANXIETY

A little more about me:

I write to music. Each of my WIPs has an unofficial play list that I add to frequently as I work.

I’m a cat person.

I’m not super into TV or movies. I’m currently working through the most recent Game of Thrones season, but I’d rather have a book or my computer to write.

I love to travel and don’t get to do that nearly enough.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and publish books. I started writing novels in sixth grade, but I quit in college because I let people in my creative writing program convince me that YA wasn’t a serious category to write.

FACE PALM

It took years and my high school best friend/writing buddy to start questioning me about why I hadn’t published anything or kept up with my stories in any way, shape, or form for me to get serious about pursuing my writing dreams again. I’ve been back at it for about three years, and I want to make up for lost time.

I’m entering #Pitchwars because I want to make my manuscript the best it can be. I want to share my stories with other people, and I want to prove to myself and my family that I am a serious writer.

I’m anxious to take on the task of revising and preparing my story for agents to look at. It has been read (or is still being read) by several betas and CPs, and by the time the entry day for #Pitchwars arrives, it will be polished and shiny and ready for mentors to show me what I need to do to have the best manuscript possible!

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” (Random fact: Yes, I love Shakespeare. I was a graduate assistant for the Shakespeare professor in grad school, and those were my favorite classes to teach.)

EXCITED

Thanks to Lana Pattinson for hosting #PimpMyBio this year! Go check out all the other #Pitchwars hopefuls on her blog hop.

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