You’re in for a treat today. My lovely, talented, and supremely hysterical Critique Partner, Melyssa Mercado is in the house today!!
Cue the applause!
A little louder, please…
Okay, now stop.
I am so thrilled to welcome Mel to the site as my first ever guest blogger. How cool is that?? I only wish her visit was in person- like at a chic NYC cafe or an Upstate, NY eatery with lots of wine and pasta or coffee and snickerdoodles instead, but we have to start somewhere right, so a little storytelling right here on the blog will have to do. 🙂
Mel writes middle grade fiction (and some YA too) and recently got the call with her dream literary agent. Here’s how it all happened in her own words:
I’m SO excited to be hanging out on my CP’s blog-couch today! Thanks for having me, my friend!! xo
*hands out cookies*
Okay, I have to start off by saying that without Jackie and my other incredibly talented CPs, I wouldn’t be here with a call-story to tell. CP friends are a writer’s truest treasure! ❤
*picks gold dust out of Jackie’s hair*
So I posted an agent call story on my blog here like two minutes after I accepted my agent’s offer—Needless to say, my adrenaline might have been a weensy bit…accelerated. But now that I’ve had a few months to settle into the story, and Jackie has so kindly asked me to share it here on her beautiful blog, I’d love to give it another go…
This is why I can’t be invited to places.
But until security is called…
My writing road travels back as far as I can remember. Coming up with scripts for a camp play, begging my friends to give me random topics, so I could turn them into short stories, and then there was my diary…well, let’s just say we don’t have enough time. Words have always been a part of my personal footprint—along with my dream of writing a book. Over the years, I’ve accumulated my weight in unfinished stories, ideas, and maybe-one-days. Then, about three years ago—when I could no longer zip up my dream-pants—I decided to go full steam ahead on the publication trail.
Little did I know how much there was to learn. Just because I’d been writing my whole life, didn’t mean I was ready my whole life. You guys know what I’m talking about—show don’t tell, info dumps, prologues…yeah, good times.
I joined Twitter so I could participate in Brenda Drake’s #PitchWars (social media always gave me the willies, so this was a really big deal for me).
Best decision ever.
My marble notebook was soon packed with tips and workshop links, generously offered by our incredible online writing community.
Then, like many of my writing buddies, I entered a bunch of online contests. I reached out and found CPs who all had the same dream. We traded stories, revisions, pitches, and queries back and forth. I can’t say enough about the Critique Partner process. These guys helped me shine up my stories and were, basically, the most supportive people on the planet. Who knew I wasn’t alone in this big bold writing world?
I wrote, and revised, and wrote, and revised…Fantasy to contemporary. 3rd person to 1st. Present tense to past. YA to MG. Some pitches made it into contests. Some didn’t. Some entries got requests. Some got none. Some queries got partials and fulls, and others got form-rejections all the way home (Dueling Dragons has nothing on this emotional ride, y’all).
All throughout, I devoured every single success story I could get my eyes on. I read them not only for the positive pick-me-ups, and to support my friends who’d been in the query trenches with me, but for any hint, or clue to their success.
Maybe I could follow their lead.
Maybe I could do the same thing they did.
Maybe. Maybe. Stick my head in gravy.
But then one day, it happened. After a vigorous round of queries for my latest MG Contemporary story, I received an offer of representation.
From a real agent. (I checked)
Excited doesn’t even begin to cover this feeling. I blinked for several days afterward, still not convinced it happened. Did an agent really just offer to represent me? And not only for this new story, but for a second story I’d written, too?
*blinks and blinks and blinks*
But it was true. She offered! All of our communication was done through email. And thanks to the ga-zillion agent success stories I’d read, I knew an actual “call” didn’t always happen, so I was good with it. The offering agent was extremely generous in giving me time to let the other agents know of my offer. She was a real pro and totally understood my need to extend this courtesy without any pressure.
Nudge emails went out right away. I informed the other agents of the offer and told them I was looking to make a decision in a week. And true to everything I’d ever read about nudge emails, my querying spreadsheet immediately began to fill with responses. Emails back with either a wish-me-well pass or a request for the full manuscript and time to read.
Vicki Selvaggio of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency was one of agents who asked for the full manuscript and time to read. She said she’d get back to me within the requested time frame, and even added a sweet personal note saying she was expecting this nudge-email based on my query. It was an immediate connection. And, of course, I asked her for the following week’s lottery numbers.
Now to wait and see what she thought of the full story.
Meanwhile, more wish-me-wells came in. Some of the agents were interested in the story, but just didn’t have time to read by the deadline. Some just didn’t connect. But I have to say that I was floored by all the extremely busy agents who took the time to get back to me one way or the other so promptly. By mid-week, my spreadsheet was complete and it was down to Vicki and the first offering agent.
Feel free to triple whatever level of nail-biting excitement you can imagine going on between me and my super-power writing buddies during this whole week (especially, since one of them was also going back and forth with an offer of her own at this exact same time *points at Jackie*)
While I waited to hear back from Vicki, the offering agent sent me her contract to review, as well as some comments she had on both my stories. Every one of her emails were lovely, kind, and extremely enthusiastic about my work. I was able to envision implementing most of the notes, while others veered slightly from the story’s path. But I’d done enough research to know that changes are to be expected in publication, so I was totally ready to take on the challenge.
During this time, Vicki was also emailing me, requesting additional info: What else I was working on? Could I send a short pitch for all my WIPs?
Um, yeah, I could! …Here’s her chance to run screaming.
I laid it all out there. WIPs, premises, genres…a particularly odd title for a MG Halloween story, which revealed the full measure of my inner-MG silliness. I even included a tidbit about a Historical Romance I’ve been dying to start. *swoons all over HR*
She didn’t run.
And when Vicki wrote again, exactly when she said she would, and asked for a call that very same night, my blink was off the charts. I still might need a patch.
We talked for about an hour. She had notes on my stories also. She loved that I wrote with humor (which was a biggie for me). And the story changes she had in mind weren’t on style, but more along the lines of structure.
I could do structure.
She asked more questions:
How do I feel about the collaborative process?
My middle name’s Half Chopstick.
How long have I been writing?
Just start with forever and count backwards.
She filled me in some more on her professional background, and told me how much she loved helping new writers shape and build their careers. We talked about family, life, more writing stuff. And we just clicked. When Vicki offered me representation right there on the spot (for both of these stories and the future WIPs I’d told her about), I just knew in my heart she was the one.
The first offering agent was completely awesome, no doubt about it. But sometimes a choice comes down to a feeling and Vicki was just the rightest one for me (yes, rightest is a word). I wrote to tell the first agent of my decision, and she had nothing but genuine happiness and good wishes for me and my new agent.
So with my decision made, Vicki sent the contract and I signed! WOO!! *champagne pop*
The road is still being paved to seeing one of my stories on a shelf, and I know there are no guarantees on anything, but for me, having someone in your corner who believes not only in what you do, but how you do it is invaluable.
I can’t wait to read all of your agent call stories next!! Thanks for spending some time with mine.
And thanks again for having me, Jackie! 💜💜💜 You are the purplest!
*snags two cookies for the blog ride home*
Okay Guys, so forgive me while I wipe the tears of virtual joy away. Reading call stories always get me anyway, but this one really got me because it happened to someone I know and love and treasure.
You sooo deserve this Mel and I’m so very proud of you! Just wait until the world gets their hands on your books. They will never want to put them down!
And the weirdest part is that Mel and I both signed with our literary agents in the SAME WEEK-just like Mel said. I couldn’t have written the scene better myself! Just as I was freaking out over my call, Mel was freaking out over hers too. So you can imagine what our messages back and forth were like! It was a crazy, unbelievable week and I’m so happy to have had her to share it with.
Thanks Mel, for sharing your story with all of us (and for bringing the cookies!). I know we’ll all be rooting for you- to see your words in print. Feel free to stop by the blog anytime. We can’t to read about your publishing news one day. And next time feel free to bring the champagne so we can celebrate. Oh wait, never mind. I guess I should have it here waiting for you! ❤