So, the superexciting news I have been dying to share with everybody is that I have signed with the amazing Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency! I’m so thrilled and honored to be represented by Kathleen and I can’t wait to start working with her!
That’s the short version. The long version? I wrote a book. I queried it. I learned from it. Then I wrote a second book, and learned from that one too. Then I wrote a third book, my first attempt at YA contemporary (ironically, titled FIRSTS) and decided to enter it in a contest called PitchWars, run by the fabulous Brenda Drake. My PitchWars mentors, Lori Goldstein and Evelyn Ehrlich, helped whip my manuscript into the best possible shape. FIRSTS garnered several requests during PitchWars, but after the contest was over, I started sending out queries as well, and this is where Kathleen found me– in the slush pile. Regular, old-fashioned querying DOES work!
When I received an email from Kathleen asking to set up a call for later that day, my stomach started doing flips. Was this the call? I tried not to get my hopes up and did my best to get through the rest of my workday without thinking about it at least once every ten seconds. (It didn’t work.) But when Kathleen called, she made me feel at ease right away. She told me how much she enjoyed FIRSTS and my writing. Then she told me she wanted to offer representation. (At least, this is what I think happened. I was too excited to remember it exactly!)
I sort of lost my ability to string sentences together, but Kathleen was smart and kind and answered all of my questions. She let me know her ideas for FIRSTS, great ideas that all resonated with me. And she was interested in my future writing, too. I had the feeling Kathleen was somebody I could have a great and long-lasting relationship with– somebody who would fully support me throughout my career and advocate for me and my work. She appreciates that I like to push boundaries in my writing and is willing to take risks with me, which I think is so important.
The next couple weeks were pretty hectic. My husband and I moved into a new house and I received three more offers of representation. I feel so honored to have been considered by every agent who offered. They were all so thoughtful and insightful, and made me realize even more just how amazing the writing community really is. I’m grateful for all of the agents who took the time to read FIRSTS and offer feedback and kind congratulations. Really, I just feel so lucky to get to be a part of such a great community.
If you are reading this and in the query trenches right now or feeling down about writing, don’t give up. There were several times with my first book where I wanted to throw in the towel, that I thought life would be easier without the cycle of stress and hope and rejection that came from sending my work into the world. And yeah, it would be easier. But I could never give up, because I had to write. A huge, irreplaceable part of my happiness is tied to it. So I started reading more YA and figuring out why I loved the books I loved, and what made them so memorable. I wrote without self-editing, something I had always struggled with in the past. I spent more and more time logging in word counts every day. I used to struggle to hit the 1K mark, then found myself reaching 5K or more without even realizing it. I was having more fun with writing because it didn’t feel like work. I wasn’t so critical or hard on myself. I let myself write things that definitely sucked and probably didn’t make sense, knowing I could go back and fix them later.
Another piece of advice I have is to enter contests. Inevitably, there will be some you are chosen for and some you’re not. I have had my share of both experiences. But I can honestly say that entering PitchWars was the best decision I made for my writing career. Lori and Evelyn are HUGELY influential to me, and I have learned so much from them. It didn’t stop when the contest ended, either. Lori and Evelyn have been there for me every step of the way. They have answered all of my silly questions and offered so much wisdom and encouragement and support. So to both of you wonderful ladies– a wholehearted THANK YOU! I only hope I can help somebody out in the future the way you two have done for me. The best thing about contests isn’t the exposure or the requests from agents– it’s the amazing people you meet. Like my lovely CP, Emily Martin, who offered several invaluable insights on FIRSTS. (Thank you, Emily!)
And lastly, here are the stats, for those of you who are interested. I have included the stats for the first book I wrote along with my stats for FIRSTS, just to show how much of a difference reading widely and writing every day makes.
Queries sent: 57
Full requests: 12
Partial requests: 5
Queries sent: 33
Full requests: 16
Partial requests: 1
And last of all… remember that it only takes one yes, so if being traditionally published is your goal, never stop until you find it!
Happy writing (and querying)!