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