Posted in Literary Agents, Publishing

I Have an Agent Announcement!

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.

Hey Everyone,

I have news that I can finally share…

I have an agent!!!

After 8 years of writing, revising, querying, waiting, hoping, dreaming, and wishing to find the perfect Literary Agent to represent me and my middle grade work, I am thrilled to finally say…

I am now represented by the amazing Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary!

Please excuse me while I faint a little on the keyboard of my laptop. And then pinch myself, because I’m still overwhelmed and shocked that I’m not dreaming any of this. I mean 8 years, three manuscripts and loads of rejections in a supremely competitive marketplace has been my world until one week ago!

If you’re interested to read on, I’ll share with you the story of how my writing career changed in one normal day. Just one. It wasn’t too long ago that I mentioned on this blog that I’ve never dreaded Mondays the way many people do. I see each Monday as a day full of endless possibilities for the week to come. ( A little sappy, I know!) At the time though, I had no idea how true that statement would soon become for me.

My writing journey began eight years ago with a middle grade manuscript and a dream to become a published author. I whipped out an entire novel in 6 months flat and sent it out to one literary agent after another, positive that each one would be the one. If I knew then that it would actually take me three manuscripts, many more revisions, countless rejections and all this time to get to this point, I’m not sure I would have pressed on. Wow, am I glad I’m a patient person.

So how exactly did this big moment finally happen for me?

In May of 2011, I was in the process of querying my second novel. I was also fresh off a trip to the University Maryland for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals (a creative problem solving competition) with my team of 11 year-olds. It was an unforgettable experience and I decided right then, that I needed to write a new middle grade story. Not about Odyssey of the Mind specifically but about 5 kids who embark on an unforgettable journey. What that journey would be, I wasn’t yet sure, but I knew that it had to be special. It had to be amazing. It had to be over the top.

And so I spent the next year brainstorming what this story should look like. I began drafting in the spring of 2012, and by late spring of 2013 I had a completed draft and somewhat revised manuscript. I wasn’t ready to query yet though. The story needed polishing, and many more revisions.

I continued to revise over the summer and in the fall I found an amazing soon to be published critique partner on a blog I had been a long time reader of, Miss Snark’s First Victim. And though separated by hundreds of miles, she was able to help make the story stronger. She also walked me through her publishing process. I learned so much from her and made a special friend as well. Faithful readers to this site will know I’m talking about Beth Hautala, author of the amazing MG novel, Waiting For Unicorns. I am so grateful for her early feedback on this book.

While Beth was reading for me, I began work on my query letter, knowing that I’d be sending it out to literary agents  eventually. Soon after, I saw that a well respected agent was hosting a query letter event—a mock slush pile read. In it, she would tell participating writers whether or not she would reject it if it came across her desk (and why) or if she would request additional pages. I was anxious to hear what she thought because she had requested the full of my second novel ( and eventually passed) the year before. To my shock and surprise my letter was one of 5 out of 616 that received a request for the full manuscript! As in, she wanted to read the whole MS, giving me a shot at representation (again)!

Say what?? I nearly fell off my chair when I got that email.

So naturally I panicked because this story had been read by no one yet. (Except a few chapters by Beth, but I hadn’t gotten her feedback yet). My two critique groups for my earlier manuscripts had kind of disbanded and I hadn’t found anyone else to read  for me yet. My husband, like the Prince Charming with no writing experience that he is, offered to read it—to at least let me know about any glaring mistakes. So on a business flight across country, he emailed me and texted me page numbers where he needed clarification and where he saw typos. I was so thankful for his sharp eye and support on the fly!

Months later, the agent politely declined to represent me. But what she offered instead was priceless. She emailed me pages of feedback detailing the strengths of the MS and her suggestions for how to make it stronger.  She loved the concept, characters, and story but advised me to make some changes to make it strong enough for representation  before querying other agents. She saw potential but not for her own list. I couldn’t believe an agent would take the time to help a writer who she had no plans to represent.

It took me over a year (with work and family commitments) to make the changes based on Beth’s feedback and the agent’s feedback too. It was a frustrating time because the changes were not major but I had little time to work on it! But as I chipped away (lots of late nights and early mornings) I saw my manuscript  improving.

But still my manuscript was not ready. Call me picky but I knew it needed more work.

Enter fall of 2014. A new reader of this blog contacted me about becoming critique partners. She and I were in similar situations. We both wrote MG. We both had written several manuscripts. We both had received countless rejections, but we both also had a fiery determination to improve and make our stories stronger.  We clicked right away, and I knew at once that not only would her feedback be invaluable, her friendship would be too. And I was right! The feedback I got from Melyssa Mercado was spot on and amazingly insightful. My story is what it is because of her and I value her friendship and support immensely. I began the querying process soon after, even though Mel was still working on my chapters. I couldn’t help it. I knew it was too soon but I was impatient and had waited so long to get this story out there.

So I sent the first round of queries out – 6 in all and got one partial request.  That agent eventually passed so I stopped querying. I did however participate in my first Twitter pitch event, #Pitmad. It was a great experience. I made many new great writer friends, received two requests on my pitch, and soon submitted my query and pages to those agents. One requested additional pages, but ultimately she passed as well.

During this time, I also submitted to Pitch Wars, an event hosted by Brenda Drake, where published authors can choose to mentor you in order to make your manuscript perfect and attract the attention of agents. I was not chosen, but the feedback on my query letter and first chapter was extremely helpful. Each mentor had a fresh perspective and made me look at my story in a new way. It was just the kick in the pants my query letter and opening pages needed.

Throughout the winter, I worked hard to revise based on those comments and Mel’s feedback too, but decided to wait on submitting until she was finished with my book.

In May 2015, after Mel finished, I began round 2. I queried six more agents. This time, I received no requests. Discouraged, I began to think I was pitching this book all wrong—again.

In June, I decided to enter the next #PitMad Twitter event, in hopes of attracting the attention of agents (again). I received several favorites on my pitches this time, three from small presses, one from an agent who had already passed on my MS, and one from Jessica Schmeidler at Golden Wheat Literary, a brand new literary agency. Intrigued, I submitted to Jessica the first three chapters and synopsis, and waited for her response.

Soon after, in July, I changed my query letter and my opening pages and decided to go ahead with round three—another six agents. I received a few rejections from these and honestly just waited for the rest of the rejections to come in.

Weeks later, I learned that Pitch Wars, the mentor competition I had entered last year was coming up. I decided to enter, thinking even if I didn’t get picked for mentoring, I may get useful feedback on why my query letter and opening pages were not hooking the right agent for my book. (As I did the year before.) So I decided not to query another agent or enter another contest until I got their feedback. I figured it was a waste of time anyway. If my query and opening pages weren’t strong enough, why bother? So, I spent the next week polishing my submission materials for Pitch Wars.

But around 7am on July 15th, I woke up, glanced at my Twitter feed, and noticed another pitch party was happening that day, #Pit2Pub. I wasn’t at all prepared to participate in this one. I didn’t have a ton of pitches ready and I didn’t feel like being tethered to Twitter all day, getting my hopes up once again. Besides, I had decided enough was enough for a while. But something convinced me to throw a couple of pitches out anyway and see what happens.

So I tweeted two pitches. Just two. Definitely not enough to catch an agent’s eye as the fast moving twitter feed rolled by. I actually did get two favorites though, but from small e-book publishers. I was happy they were interested, but really I was still holding out hope that an agent would fall in love with my book and help me get it traditionally published.

The next day, On July 16th, I got a notification from Twitter. I had another favorite on my pitch! And it was from an agent, Rebecca Angus. I looked her up and (almost) to my dismay, I realized she was also an agent at Golden Wheat Literary. Translation: It was the same agency that I had already submitted my chapters to, not another agency interested in my book. But I was excited thinking that maybe my book would be a good fit for their agency since now two agents there had favorited my pitches! So…since Jessica had not yet responded about my book, I sent a her a message asking how I should proceed. I also thanked Rebecca for her interest but pointed out that Jessica had my chapters already. Later that day, Jessica forwarded my chapters to Rebecca, whom she thought might be a better fit for my book.

Okay then. I was excited, but not jumping for joy. Why? Well, lots of agents had read the opening chapters of my manuscript—16 so far. And they had all rejected it. And I had been through this whole process with my other two manuscripts also, so I was used to not getting my hopes up. But still the wait began—again!

On July 22nd, I received an email from Rebecca Angus. She told me she loved my first few chapters and would like to read the full manuscript if it was still available! So of course I did a mini happy dance and sent her the full within the next few minutes.

For days I tried to forget that my book baby was in Rebecca’s hands, tried to forget that she could be the agent that finally loved it as much as me, tried to ward off negative thoughts and stay positive. But it was hard! I researched Golden Wheat Literary. I stalked Rebecca. Lol She followed me on Twitter! (gasp!) I followed her right back. I followed her clients. And mostly I tried to not get my hopes up. But I realized a LONG time ago, that doesn’t work anyway. Think positive. Picture the outcome you desire, blah, blah, blah…

A few weeks passed and suddenly it was August 10th.

A Monday. The day of the week most full of possibilities. 🙂

Rebecca emailed me in the afternoon. She said she had read halfway through my manuscript and adored it so far. She wondered if it was still available and asked me a question.

I practically passed out. She adored it so far! She adored it so far! OMG she adored it so far!

I thanked her for her kind words, told her I hoped the rest could live up to her expectations, answered her question and then waited to hear from her again.  And then I held my breath.

But I didn’t have to hold it long.

Rebecca emailed me later that evening. She told me she had finished my manuscript and it was everything she hoped it would be and more! She said it again in all caps. She loved my story so much and wanted to set up a call to talk about representation. She wanted to call me!

I read her email and my eyes filled.  My breath caught and I almost broke down. Was this really happening to me? Had Rebecca just offered to represent me?

I raced down the stairs to find my husband (my prince Charming who saved the day with this manuscript two years earlier). He screamed and hugged me. I beamed and called for my kids. They screamed and hugged me too. I turned around in circles, and spewed some incoherent words, not sure what to do next.

I tried to respond to Rebecca’s email but all I could think to write was OMG! OMG! OMG!  So I decided to wait awhile before drafting that response!

Eventually I remembered how to think again and we set up The Call for three days later. That night we spoke on the phone for over two hours. She told me what she loved about my book, her very specific plan for submitting it, and more. So much more. We clicked immediately and I knew from the first few moments that Rebecca and Golden Wheat Literary would be the perfect fit for me and for my MG story.

She had been an Odyssey of the Mind kid. She understood the over the top world I had tried to create in my story. She loved the voice. She loved the characters. She loved the themes. She loved the futuristic elements. She loved the conflict. Listening to her gush about my little story, I felt like she loved it as much as I did. And I knew without a doubt that she was the right advocate for me and for my work.

At the end of The Call, she officially offered to represent me and a half hour later, I had a contract in my hand! Rebecca gave me time to think it over an urged me to let any agents who had chapters of my ms know that I had an offer on the table and give them a chance to respond.

As you can imagine, the next week was agonizingly slow. I nudged the other agents and had a request from one of the top ones on my list.  Ultimately though, my decision was easy. I really no longer wanted representation by any of the other agents. I had an offer from my dream agent. I didn’t want to wait! But I did wait the appropriate time. It was professional courtesy after all.

Rebecca and I corresponded all week. She answered my neurotic questions and sent me amazing messages about my book on Twitter. I was anxious and excited and just wanted to make it official.

Finally, I contacted Rebecca Angus, literary agent extraordinaire, thanked her again for the offer, told her I would be honored to work with her and Golden Wheat Lit, and signed the contract. Then I covered my face and let out a breath I had been holding for eight long years.

I have an agent! I have an agent! I have an agent! And I feel so very blessed!

So for all of you who think your time will never come, think again…

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”  ~ Walt Disney

Thank you to all of you (my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my critique partners, my writing peeps, and those involved in PitchWars and #Pit2Pub) who believed that I could reach this milestone. It means everything to me…

But now the hard work begins.  My book isn’t on bookstore bookshelves just yet. But at least this is a start! 🙂

Posted in Literary Agents

What Happens After you Sign with a Literary Agent

Hey all,

I thought today I’d chat about a subject that’s shrouded in mystery for most writers:

What happens after a writer finally becomes represented by a literary agent?

This experience is different for every writer. There are hundreds of literary agents out there, and when you match them up with the thousands of writers who sign with them, the results can vary. So, I can only speak for myself when I bring up this topic. However, there are some commonalities that I like to focus on so that maybe, somehow, you’ll feel less anxiety should you ever find yourself courted by your own fabulous literary agent.

For me, the days that followed my signing with Golden Wheat Literary were a whirlwind, and actually not that much different than I pictured, imagined, and dreamed it would be like for the last seven years. A permanent smile was plastered across my face as I made calls to my closest family members and friends. I told everyone who asked the story of how Rebecca Angus requested my pages, how she eventually requested the full, how much she adored my book (yes adored!), all about our amazing phone conversation including her offer of representation and her exciting plan for my manuscript. (Yikes!)

It was an exhausting and exhilarating and crazy and wonderful time! For the full story click here.

That first week was something special because not only did I gain an advocate for my work, I gained a slew of writer friends at the agency including their founder, literary agent Jessica Schmeidler too. It immediately felt like a combination of a family full of encouragement and congratulations, and a team that I had just been selected to.  It felt (and still does feel) amazing to become a part of something so fantastic that I’ve work so hard for, for so long.

I have to admit that suddenly being represented by a literary agent felt like validation—like I had finally made it to the big leagues or something. I can’t explain it any better except to say, I felt like I’d just jumped into the basket of a hot air balloon that was going to carry me to the next level in my quest to get my manuscript published.

 hot-air-balloon-57_3

 Over the course of that first week after signing, Rebecca and I communicated mainly through email.  She let me know what I should expect from her in the weeks to come, and a pretty specific timeline for when I should expect it. It was all so reassuring and made this journey into the unknown somehow less daunting.

So this is the part you’re probably all dying to know. What’s the timeline? How soon after I sign, will my book actually go out on submission to editors? Well as I said before, every writer’s manuscript is different and every agent’s  situation is different.

Overall, here is my understanding of what happens next for most every writer.

A writer will receive an edit letter. But here’s where every agent and letter is obviously different. Some edit letters will indicate massive changes, and some will indicate minor ones depending on the readiness of the manuscript.

The other big question you’re probably wondering is how long after I sign with an agent will I receive my edit letter. Well, that depends on the agent and the condition of your manuscript too. If an agent handles hundreds of clients, it may take her longer to complete it and then send it along to you. If it’s a busy time of year, it may take her longer as well. If your manuscript needs massive revisions, the letter will take a bit longer still.

But here’s the thing, you will probably know the answers to these questions by the end of your call with the agent, or at least before you sign on the dotted line. Rebecca and I spoke at length about the condition of my manuscript and how ready it was to go out on submission during our call. I felt very confident and clear at the end of the call about what the next step would be for me.

Many agents are very good with communication. I am thrilled to say that Rebecca is one of them. She was in constant contact with me immediately after signing and was very specific about the time frame. It made it much easier to manage my expectations and not refresh my email every forty-five seconds. She was also clear with what I should be doing until I received my edit letter. We had talked during the call about a sequel to my manuscript and she was on board with the idea. Since I had already planned out the major plot points, she encouraged me to get started on it.

So that’s what I did while I waited for my edit letter from her. She also put me in touch with one of the other middle grade writers that she recently signed on to represent. The agency has a fantastic “team” philosophy and it was a great way to come off the bench so to speak. Ultimately we ended up reading each others manuscripts… I immediately felt like  part of the team, acting as an additional beta reader for an amazingly talented author. I’m not sure if this happens often or rarely, but that’s what happened for me.

Rebecca also made me aware of the comp titles she would be using to pitch my manuscript in her proposal, and wanted my opinion. (My opinion!) So be prepared for that. A few were titles I had not read, so it gave me a chance to read a couple of recently published middle grade books similar to my own. It was a fun assignment to have because now it was sort of my “job” to read—which of course I was eager to do!

Some agents are more active on social media than others, and depending on how yours is, that may be a way that you communicate in an informal way in addition to phone calls or email. Rebecca happens to be pretty active and I’ve come to appreciate that she’s busy and inundated with emails—from querying writers, clients, editors…so interacting on Twitter is a way we can connect even if I’m not receiving weekly emails from her. When I tweet that I’m working on some new chapters, and she favorites my tweet or replies with a word of encouragement—it’s like an unofficial check-in. I don’t have to email her with my progress, but she’s still aware of what I’m doing. So it’s possible your agent may work this way too.

I received an evaluation of my manuscript and my edit letter from Rebecca a few weeks after signing, and got to work right away on revisions. They were like gold in my hands! I couldn’t wait to read through them and then dig right in. It was time to polish my manuscript up to a shine. 🙂 Meanwhile, Rebecca was busy preparing a list of editors she would target in the first round of submissions, and also the proposal she would present to them with regards to my book. What’s included in that proposal I will include in a future post if I am able to disclose that info. This is all pretty new to me so I want to be sure not to speak on anything that may be confidential.

After I completed my revisions, I sent my manuscript back to her and crossed my fingers. Its always nerve wracking having someone read your manuscript, and even more so when it’s your new agent!  But she loved my revisions and I was fortunate that I didn’t need to revise a second time. However, many writers go through several revisions before their agent feels it’s ready to go out on submission. In fact, its pretty common from what I understand.  So be ready for whatever’s thrown your way—Be open to his/ her expertise, be sure you understand what they’re requesting, and take your time getting it right. As much as you want to hurry and get your baby out into the world, you’ll have a better chance of ultimate success if you make your story into the best possible version of itself.

So that’s it. That’s what happens immediately after signing. Of course there are exceptions to this and if there are I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to hear them…so comment away! Or comment anyway if you’d just like to say Hi!

I hope this topic has been helpful. I always handle new situations better when I have at least a vague idea of what to expect. Hopefully this info can do that for you.

Because your time will soon come.

If you keep at it long enough and work hard to improve your craft, it just will. Because it only takes one agent to love your work—to become an advocate for your story. I’m so lucky to have found mine! Now go on and write something—and if you haven’t already, go find yours! ❤

dallas-hot-air-balloon-rides-05

*Photo credits- unknown

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Hey all,

Wow has this been a whirlwind week! I guess I’m still floating and spinning and grinning over finally signing with my agent. Click back to read last week’s post if you haven’t already!

But seriously, my head is swirling. Like I have no clue what day it is. Or if I already made breakfast for my son. I did right, or was that yesterday? Over the weekend I couldn’t remember what day I signed the contract. Was it last Tuesday or the week before? The kids go back to school soon, I know that. But is it next Wednedsday or the week after? Yikes! How many more days of summer vacation are there? (For the record, there’s 7. ) I’m usually an on-top-of-things kind of girl, but this week has knocked me off my game. Even if it is in the best way possible!

I remember when my daughter was born and I was about to be discharged from the hospital. The midwife told me I couldn’t drive for two weeks. I felt fine and asked her why exactly. She said she had no medical answer to give me, but merely a practical one. She told me that new moms are in la-la land after giving birth. They have so many thoughts and worries and random images (especially of the baby) swirling in their heads that they can be easily distracted while driving.

Hmm. I remember that time, and she was right. And I haven’t felt that way again—until now.

I guess my book baby has sent me to la-la land this week too!

Feeling this way has made me ask myself over and over,”What have I gotten myself into?” Not in a bad way, but in a OMG, am I ready for all this, kind of way.

Embarking on this next stage in my writing journey is like teetering on the edge of a cliff ready to dive into the azure waters below. It’s scary and exciting facing the unknown, even though no one is pushing me off this cliff. I’m opting to jump into this crazy adventure on purpose!

But still. Will I be able to handle the deadlines? Will I be able to polish this story to shine, sparkly enough that it will sell? Will I be able to write any words again? Will my next book live up my agent’s expectations like this one did and become something that people want to read?

And then I think of how long I have been walking towards this cliff (I mean waiting for this next step!) and all I can think is “Of course, I can!” Besides, I get to work with agent of fabulous, Rebecca Angus. So bring it on!!

And I also think of all the comments and good wishes I’ve gotten in person and through Facebook and on Twitter…all this amazing support. And I definitely know I can do it.

The thing is, all this attention (even for a few days) on social medial IS a little overwhelming. I didn’t think it would make me feel uneasy. I didn’t think sharing the details of my journey so publicly would be a big deal. Like I said, it’s amazing to feel the love, and to know I’m inspiring even one writer to keep at it.

But then a well meaning friend shares my agent announcement on Facebook which is so sweet BTW. But in doing so she mentions that I am about to become a published author.

Wait. Whoa. Hold on! That’s not what I said. I have an agent. I’m hoping she can sell my book baby to a publisher. But let’s not get ahead of outselves. That hasn’t happened yet. Gulp. Getting an agent is a huge deal to me. But by announcing that, I didn’t mean for people to think I’m published yet.

*cue the head spinning and feeling like a fraud because I’m not actually published yet*

I forget sometimes that not everyone is fully engrossed in the writing world like I am. Like my writing friends are. They don’t know exaclty what it means to have an agent. They are just happy to hear my news. So instead of allowing my head to spin off my shoulders, I breathe deep breaths and thank them for being happy for me. Even if they think my book is about to magically appear on bookstore bookshelves tomorrow!

Maybe that’s why jumping off this cliff is so exciting. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen next. I don’t know how this next stage in my quest to get my book baby in the hands of young readers will play out. But that’s okay. It’s kind of like watching one word after another magically appear on the page when I’m drafting a new story. It’s a feeling like no other. One word. Then the next. And then somehow, I have a whole bunch of words dancing together. It will happen the way it’s going to happen- one day and one milestone at a time. And hopefully somewhere along the way, there WILL be dancing!

And besides, I won’t be jumping off the cliff alone. I have a very dear friend jumping into the azure blue waters with me…

I am so ecstatic to share that just yesterday, my fabulous CP signed with her dream agent too!!!

Congratulations, Melyssa Mercado. I am bonkers happy that this is happening for you and that we will be cliff jumping together!! (Hopefully the water will be warm. And we won’t crack our heads open on any rocks. Oh, and our bathing suits don’t fall off.

So guys, click to read Mel’s Agent Announcement. You’ll know just from reading her post why she is well on her way to getting her book baby out there. She’s funny, adorable, and has the Best. Voice. Ever!

Thanks for reading my rambles today. Now go out there and write something. You know you want to. And remember, I’ll be cheering for you every step of the way!! 🙂 And now I’m off. I have another story to write while I wait for my revision notes from Rebecca to come. Yay. I can’t wait! This jump off the cliff is going to be fun! 🙂

Living a Writer’s Life

Writers live the best life ever, and the worse life ever. Sometimes both in the same day.  Read on for my take on what it’s really like to be a writer.

Writing

A writer’s routine includes writing. Many don’t write daily, but they write consistently. If long periods of time go between their writing sessions, it takes them that much longer to get back into their story. Maybe they’ve forgotten how their characters were feeling when they last worked on a scene, or how to access their voice. So they re-read that scene and sometimes another before they can add new words. And for writers, that’s wasted writing time. That’s why they try to write every day.

Writers don’t actually want to write all the time. But…writers make writing a priority anyway. Even though they want to binge watch Netflix when they get home from work, or work out, or read a book, they force their butt into the chair and write the words because they know that even the greatest words will never be read  if they don’t write them down… along with many others.

Writer’s spend too much time procrastinating. They peruse their Twitter Feed and stalk their friends on Facebook…even though they’ve set aside sacred time for writing. Then they wonder why they’ve only written 200 words in two hours. True story.

Writers think their stories stink. They also think their stories are brilliant. They think these things every day and sometime both on the same day.

Writers think about their stories even when they’re not writing. They think about the world they’ve created while showering, while cooking, while grocery shopping and even sometimes while they’re talking to their mom on their phone. Sorry, Mom! Not that talking to Mom isn’t important, but characters feel like children to their creators and the worrying, the planning, the dreaming about them simply doesn’t end when a writer turns their computer off.

On each and every birthday, writers make a writing wish. While they blow out their birthday candles, they quickly sum up their greatest writing desire. They wish to finish writing their manuscript. They wish to sign with a literary agent. They wish for a big fat book deal. They wish someone will buy their book, or lots of people will buy their book. They wish for a book launch party. They wish everyone will love their book.

Writers drink warm drinks. A lot of them. They drink coffee. They drink tea. They drink lattes. They drink Red Bull. Oh  wait, that last one isn’t warm. Well, I guess it could be, so whatever. And these drinks seem to fuel their creative energy.

Writers sometimes write in their pajamas. Actually many writers write in their pajamas and don’t shower or brush their hair. It’s kind of a thing, I guess. However, some writers actually shower every morning, get dressed in real clothes, do their hair, AND put on make-up. That’s actually a thing too. I hope I don’t have to tell you which one refers to me.

Writers hate telling people what their story is about. They can write a 70,000 word novel but writing an elevator pitch is worse that running out of coffee. Writers didn’t always feel this way. When they first started writing, they loved telling their family and friends what their next best seller was about. But after seeing too many blank faces staring back at them, and wasting too many words trying to make their story sound as amazing as it is in their head, they realize it’s better to be vague about the whole thing.

Writers panic every time their words are read. They hand those precious pages filled with their blood, sweat, and tears over to their beloved critique partner or agent or editor for the first time and they resort back to the cafeteria as a middle school kid. Will they like my words? Will they love my characters? Will they hate them? Will they think my writing sounds amateur? They think these things if they written three books or even if they’ve written thirty.

For a writer, writing partners are pure gold. A critique partner is like a best friend and workout partner and sister rolled into one. They understand your dreams, they understand your goals, and they know how hard you’ve worked through the years to make a sparkly story. They also give tough love when it’s needed. They are a writer’s cheerleader in the best sense of the word.

Writers wonder each day why their families expect dinner every single night. They feel bad when they order out. But they soon get over it because by not spending an hour cooking a meal that’s devoured in five minutes flat, they’ll have time to write 500 more words. And there won’t be any clean up.

With that said, writers love their crock pots. Or at least they want to. They want the ingredients they throw in there to magically turn into a gourmet feast. Because, ya know writers are good at dreaming.

Writers work at other jobs to pay the bills. Unless they are JK Rolling, independently wealthy, or have another source of income in their family, they find other ways to make money. They do freelance work, they work another job, or they sell their stuff on Craigslist. How’s that for reality?

Writers experience serious self doubt about their chosen profession. But they write anyway because they love to write. And they are gluttons for punishment. They spend too much time staring at a blank screen wondering if their idea is any good. But then another idea sparks and they splash it up on that blank page. Then the doubt is gone and replaced by a great sense of accomplishment.

Writers spend and awful lot of time by themselves. Most writers love this. It’s not a death sentence. It’s glorious time spent with their laptop, coffee, and the imaginary world they’ve created from nothing. It exhilarates them. It’s better than sunning themselves on a beach. Well, maybe not quite but you get the idea.

Writers write the stories that must be written. Writers constantly have stories that live in their heads, begging to be told. They write them in the car while waiting for their child to finish practice. They write late at night when the house is finally quiet. While other people are sleeping in or getting up at 5am to workout, writers are writing. Because that story swirling in their head insists on it.

Writers find inspiration in anything. Music. People. Places. Situations. Experiences. Pets. That’s why they do more than sit at their desk or in a coffee shop. They go outside. They run. They walk.They talk to people. They travel. And they love people watching. Oh, and people listening. But then they turn into hermits again. Because well, they’re writers.

Writers read their horoscope. They read tarot cards. They look for angel signs…or any signs that will tell them their manuscript is good enough and will become a real book someday.

Writers love Staples and Office Depot. They love pens. They love paper. They love notebooks and pencils. They love sticky notes, index cards, and pretty journals. They do.

Writers love to talk to other writers about their stories. And they especially love meeting their writing friends for coffee. No one knows the challenges and successes a writer feels, like another writer.

Writers love belonging to this secret club of writing people. They know how hard it is to write a complete story from beginning to middle to end, full of amazing characters, world class goals, unthinkable obstacles, and emotion that runs off the charts. They know what it takes to write a stellar picture book, hysterically heartfelt middle grade story, or gut wrenching YA novel. They get it and they’ve done it, and that’s kind of exclusive.

Writers celebrate writing successes. Like when they finish their first draft, when they finish revising, when they get their first full manuscript request, when they sign with an agent, when they get a book deal. There’s often chocolate. Usually wine. Always hugs and screams and sharing on Twitter.

Writers are genuinely excited for other writers when they achieve success  too. And not only because they think if it can happen to another writer it can happen to them too. It’s because another baby story is about to be born at the hand of a fellow writer who has worked just as hard as they have, and maybe harder. They love seeing other people’s dreams come true.

A writer’s life is a great one, because writers get to write. They get to share their stories with other people. They get to be creative. But it takes a patient person to enjoy all that goes along with it, that’s for sure.

So writers keep writing. They keep creating. They keep the words coming. They keep buying pencils, and drinking coffee. They know one day there’ll be chocolate and lots of readers for their story. They know their book will save the day for a young boy or girl one day… and that’s why so many writers knowingly choose to live this crazy writing life.

For more posts on living life as a writer, click the links below:

4 Signs You May not Fit the Writer’s Stereotype

An Open Letter to my Future Reader

I Have an Agent Announcement

What Happens After you Sign with a Literary Agent

Things You Imagine While Out on Sub

I Have a Book Deal

Posted in The Crimson Five series

Refocus Your Writing

Hello there! I’ve missed you guys. I mean, I’ve really have! I hope this summer was all you hoped it would be—or at least some of what you hoped it would be. I hope you were able to read a little, write a little, or even travel a little. I hope you were able to enjoy the sunshine and spend time with your favorite people—or revel in some alone time too.

The last time I checked in with you, our family was in the process of moving. My husband and I sold our house of twenty six years (I know, right?!), packed it up, and moved with our two college kids about thirty minutes east to a brand new area—a brand new house. No small task when you’re dealing with so many years of memories and so many years of life. The move was some parts easy, some parts stressful, and a really long process. Some days I was an emotional mess, some days I was physically wrecked, some days I floated on cloud nine, some days I worked on auto pilot. My writing and blogging took a back seat, that’s for sure. But now that we’re in and mostly settled, I’m so glad we made the move. I love our new home and even though a few boxes are still sprinkled throughout every room and we have projects galore to tackle, I feel energized by this new space and refreshed. And definitely ready to get back to writing. How lucky am I that this is my new writing view?

I had a long conversation with my husband and son about goals recently. It was the night before my son moved back to college for his second cross country preseason. He was struggling with his running goals, trying to pin-point what he hoped to accomplish this season. He was worried that after running for so many years, he had lost his love for the sport—not a good feeling the night before his official training was to begin. My husband had some wise words for him…ones that got me thinking about my own goals for writing.

He asked him why he had joined the cross country team way back in seventh grade. Was it because he loved running? Or something else? He responded, “I joined because I wanted to be on a team with nice kids and I had a feeling I could be good at it… I wanted to run in college.”

We proceded to talk about goal setting and my son soon realized he had set a goal for himself way back in seventh grade. His whole high school life revolved around doing what it took to achieve his goal. And he did it! He was recruited to run for his first choice college and he did. He achieved his goal.  

But the funny thing about goals is that once you achieve them, what’s next?

I think sometimes there’s a bit of a letdown. It happened to my son and it happened to me.

I know exactly how it feels to flounder and lose focus after you achieve your goal. It feels awful.

As some of you know, I spent 8 years trying to get an agent. If you don’t know my story, you can read about it here. It was ten years before I got a book deal. You can read about that story here. My dream came true when my middle grade novel Spin the Golden Light Bulb debuted in January, 2018 and because my book deal was for two books, the second, Flip the Silver Switch released later that summer. It was a whirlwind for sure and I’m still trying to believe that I really do have two published books!

But for the last year, I’ve sort of worked on auto pilot when it comes to writing and all that comes along with being published. I signed a contract for a third book in the series, which I know is a very huge deal, and I’m so grateful. But writing that book was so much harder. I wrote it on proposal. I wrote it on a deadline. I wrote it while trying to help promote two books, do Skype classroom visits, in person classroom visits, a bunch of book signings, and mentor a fifth grade class. It may sound like a dream come true for some writers and believe me, in some ways it most definitely was! I still pinch myself that this is actually real!

But at the same time, it’s been a little overwhelming. My writing hobby quickly turned into a job and a crazy juggling act. And I’m a terrible juggler! I found myself saying yes to more than I can handle and no to things I love. I found myself reacting to my own life instead of choosing my own path. That’s why this chat about goals really resonated with me.

Where was my focus now that my publishing dream had finally come true? What was my goal anyway? To sign with a literary agent? Yes. To get my book published? Yes. But what then? Was my goal to do school visits? Book as many book signings as possible? What were the things about being published that I was hoping to achieve that I couldn’t as an unpublished author?

It took some serious thought, but I’ve realized a few things. One is that I just really love to write stories. I also love to blog here and interact with other writers. And I love talking to kids and writers about chasing their dreams—even when those dreams seem so far out of reach. My goal is to write things that resonate with readers and inspire them to chase their dreams—through my middle grade books and through my writing focused blog posts.

The book signings and in-person school visits are a bonus, but they take time to prepare for—time away from my family and from writing. Skype visits are more manageable and they still allow me time to interact with kids. That leaves me more time to blog to my heart’s content which will hopefully inspire more of you! It also leaves me more time to write middle grade books.

So this fall, I’m getting back to the basics. I’m re-focusing my writing. I’ll be writing more and blogging more.  Just saying this makes me feel more energized than I have in a very long time! So stay tuned because the swirl and spark blog  is about to sparkle once again! I’ll also be posting more on Instagram (because I love it!) so follow me there if you aren’t already. I love the positive, creative vibe there—so many great accounts to follow! You can find me by searching Jackie Yeager.

I hope reading this post helps you to realize that if you’re in a writing funk or just feel like you’re floundering a little in your every day life, maybe it means you need to find the joy in what you’re doing again. Or maybe you need to re-focus your goals. Fall is the perfect time to do both. We weren’t put on this earth just to flounder. We were put here to thrive. So use this first week in September to re-write your goals. Make a plan to chase your dreams. They’re yours for the taking!

I know you can do it. If I can write a whole book you can. If I can sign with a literary agent, you can. If I can get a book published by a fantastic publisher, illustated by a spectacular artist, you can. If kids all over the country can read my books, someday they can be reading yours too. I believe that and I hope you do too!

If you’ve been clicking around my website, you may have noticed that the release date for POP THE BRONZE BALLOON has been pushed back to 2020. Publishing is a crazy business sometimes and this is one of those times! But it’s all good. This book will be worth the wait , I promise! I’ll keep you posted on the actual release date when I have it. In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to read Spin the Golden Light Bulb or Flip the Silver Switch and you’d like to, they are now both out in paperback! I’m still pinching myself about that one too! Click on the links below for the details.  

Spin the Golden Light Bulb

Flip the Silver Switch

Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now I’m off to work on copy edits for Pop the Bronze Balloon and then my WIP, a new middle grade project that’s un-related to the Crimson Five books. I’m over the top excited for this one! Wish me luck and have a fantastic week, everyone… I’m wishing you luck on your projects today too!

Posted in Uncategorized

Things You Imagine while out on Sub

So you’ve written a book (hooray!) and even managed to sign with a literary agent (so cool!). You’ve read the revision notes and revised your manuscript to a shine…even made it sparkle. Then suddenly, one day, your fantabulous agent notifies you that the first batch of submissions have been sent out. Your book baby has been released into the world for editors to see—and read! (Gulp).

But what happens after that, when your book proposal and chapters are officially out on submission to publishing houses?

Well, after you begin the process of refreshing your email, google hangout, or any other form of agent communication forty five times per day, here are 8 things that you may imagine:

One: A message from your agent appears like magic saying that an editor from a well-known publishing house has requested to read your full manuscript.

Two: You imagine that another message appears from your agent saying that ALL the editors have requested to read your full manuscript.

Three: You imagine that all of these editors will make an offer to publish your book, and then your agent will hold an auction…and of course it will turn into a bidding war for your book!

Four: You imagine the advance the winning editor will offer as part of the deal that will surely be in the six figure range. At least.

Five: You imagine signing the contract for your first published book, with an amazing editor at the publishing house of your dreams.

Six: You imagine the announcement you’ll make, and the party you’ll have when your book deal is official.

Seven: You imagine the amazing book launch party you’ll have when the book eventually releases with your friends, family, and all the people you’ve ever met who are anxious to read the book you’ve talked about for years.

Eight: You imagine signing your name (on the inside of the gorgeous book cover) with a pretty pink or purple pen, for the boy or girl who clutches the book to their chest, anxious to go right home to read it!

Hmm. Sound familiar?

As writers, we live in a dream world much of the day. And that’s okay. Our dreams are what got us here in the first place, right? But if you’ve ever wondered what really happens after your book goes out on sub to publishing houses, keep reading. I’ll give you the straight scoop.

Being out on submission goes something like this:

You wait.

You read about an author getting a book deal and feel encouraged. If it happened to them it can happen to you.

You wait.

Your agent tells you that you got a full request and practically pass out. You tell your family and friends and imagine all of the above.

You read about another writer getting a book deal during the sleepy holiday season and think, “Oh, I guess some editors do work over the holidays. Maybe I’ll hear something from one of them soon.”

You wait.

You get a rejection from another editor on the list. You think, “Okay that’s fine. There are other editors who will be a good fit for my book.”

You wait.

You keep writing. What if an editor wants my second book? If they do, I better have it ready!

You wait.

You get another rejection and your agent reminds you that the perfect editor is out there somewhere. You smile because she’s always so positive and encouraging, and hope she’s right.

You hear of an another writer getting a book deal—a BIG six figure book deal!

You wonder what their book has that yours doesn’t—even though it’s in a different age category and genre. You’re happy for the author because they deserve this but secretly imagine the above scenario again.

You keep writing and telling yourself that waiting is a good sign. It means there’s still hope—one of the editors that has your manuscript will love it as much as you do.

You wait.

You reach out to other writing friends who are experiencing the same madness that you are and find comfort in their support. You secretly hope that all of you get a book deal at the same time because for real, how great would that be?

You wait some more and take on new projects. The realization hits you that you have zero control over this outcome and you may as well enjoy life while you wait.

You write and keep checking for updates, but not nearly as often as forty-five times per day. I mean, forty-five times a day is a lot. Twice a day- perfectly acceptable.

This process goes on and on. Waiting, writing, waiting, hoping, waiting…for how long I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is this…

Being out on submission (even with all the waiting) is the most exciting time ever.There’s nothing better than knowing that you (and your book) have been given this amazing opportunity to be considered. Yes, to be considered! There’s nothing better than knowing that Rebecca, my amazing agent, has my back, is here to support me in this process every step of the way, and is putting my manuscript out there—in all the right places. I feel so lucky—and so blessed.

Sure, I live in my imaginary world where all of the above happens, but I also live in a world where other writers like me live…the one where we long to see our books in the hands of readers somehow, some way. And even though we imagine the big stuff, we really imagine our books being published whatever way it’s meant to be.

So in the meantime, we wait and keep writing. That’s the real deal…and that’s not a bad deal at all, is it?

Have a great week, guys! I hope you have time to write and write well. I’m pulling for you to make this publishing thing happen too…the more the merrier!

Jackie ❤

Posted in Book Nook, December Book Blast, Publishing

Old Gems & New

Hey Everyone,

Happy Limbo Week… you know what I mean, the week between Christmas and New Years that makes you feel, well in limbo. The party is over, yet the next one is just days away. It’s hard to focus on anything new because you’re wrapping up all the old. It’s the best week ever, but also the worst!

So during limbo week I thought I’d focus on some of the old gems that made this site sparkle in 2015 and also some of the new ones that are planned for 2016…

This website and blog saw some changes this year. We shifted focus (especially in the Book Nook) from both middle grade books and YA, to simply middle grade. I thought the change was necessary because quite honestly, there aren’t enough hours in my day for me to read all the YA books that are amazing. I mean, sure I read YA, but it seems that by the time I read all those fabulous YA titles, the entire world has already read them first. So really then, why do readers need my YA recommendations anyway?

I have a better handle on middle grade books anyway (since middle grade is my life!) so that was the reason for the big shift. I’d like readers to be able to click on the tab and find some great titles they can check out and since I read middle grade all the time, turning the Book Nook into simple middle grade titles was a no brainer! I’ll admit sometimes I’m a little slow to update it though. I can see right now there are some titles that are listed as TBR that I read months ago! But, I’m working on it…

I also added some tools for tween writers—stuff that I think any young writer would love to use while writing their own creative gems.  Right now they’re in PDF format as a free download. Maybe one day I’ll turn them into something more concrete—like an actual print book or more possibly a downloadable app. Hmm…so many ideas so little time!

So what did you all think of the December Book Blast of middle grade books?? That was a first on the blog and I have to say it was, in fact, a blast! It was great for me to channel the books I love every day for 23 days, and encouraged me to seek out titles that I thought would appeal to the masses. But I did learn two things. There are WAY more than 23 books that are worth highlighting AND blogging every day (with mentions on both Twitter and Facebook) is way more work than I can handle. Have any of you ever tried blogging every day? If you have, I’m ultra impressed. It takes a lot of time! I hope you enjoyed the book related countdown to Christmas though. It was great fun for me. 🙂 To go back and read through the titles, click on the December Book Blast tab at the right, or click here.

Critique Corner saw some action at the beginning of 2015 and it was a big success—largely due to the bonus critiques from the lovely Mel Mercado, my writing crit partner and treasured friend. But interest has shifted, I think. Writers seem more reluctant to submit their beginning paragraphs for critique. I think that must mean that more and more of you are finding crit partners and groups and that is fantastic. I always say that finding the right people to critique your work is more valuable than all the rubies in the world! So I’ll keep you posted on the future of our in house critiques. I’m always open to hosting them if there is interest, so please keep the comments and emails coming. I love hearing your thoughts!

Speaking of hearing your thoughts, you may have noticed a new tab on the site that has a little something to do with my writing services. I’ll be posting separately about them but I will say this: The idea to offer them came directly as a result of your emails. I appreciate your questions about my work as a ghostwriter and requests for critiques.  I thought it was time I listened!  (More on that to come)

You may remember, I signed with my amazing literary agent, Rebecca Angus at the end of the summer. I consider that to be one of the most outstanding gems of my entire year! If you missed my agent announcement you can read it here. So now that I’m inching toward the 6 month mark of agent-dom, I thought you guys might be interested in hearing about what happens AFTER a writer signs with an agent and what it’s like to be out on submission. I know many writers have posted about this topic already, but each of our stories are different and I’d love to share mine. Hopefully I can help shed some light on the whole process.

Swirl and Spark saw a record number of views this year with a record number of readers. Seeing the readership grow means the world to me and is very humbling. That means that you think I have something worthwhile to offer here on the site. I’ll do my very best to keep doing it—and to do it even better in 2016!