Showing posts with label Don't Give Up. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Don't Give Up. Show all posts

Friday, February 19, 2016

My Very Own "How I Got My Agent" Story!

I have a literary agent.

Did I really just get to type that sentence?!

Two weeks later, and it's finally starting to sink in. It's something I've hoped for, worked toward, and daydreamed about for such a long time. Now that it's real, I'll do my best to squash into a few paragraphs the crazy journey that got me to this point, in the hopes that my story can encourage someone else. (Basically, I'm here to once again be that annoying person that shouts at you, "DON'T GIVE UP!")

All I ever wanted to be was a writer. I remember writing some of my first stories in elementary school. My go-to Mother's Day gifts were poems, decorated with doodles and stickers and homemade cardboard frames. (My mom still has one of them, tucked away in a box filled with old family photographs.) But somewhere around high school, becoming an author turned into a pipe dream--as likely as becoming a pop star, or an actress, or living in one of the castles on the posters I had pinned to my wall. (That's right, while my friends had N'SYNC and Backstreet Boys, I plastered my walls with maps of Europe.)

Still, there was a hope...maybe someday.

A few years later, and I still had my someday dream. The desire to write wouldn't leave me alone, and neither would my amazing husband who nudged and encouraged me to actually do something about it. So I enrolled in a writing course from the Institute of Children's Literature. I learned a lot about the basics of good storytelling, but most importantly, I learned what comes after you write the story: Querying.

Suddenly, the path to publication didn't seem so mysterious. It started to feel less like a pipe dream, and more like a possibility. Especially when I got my first acceptance letter for a short story I'd submitted to a children's magazine. But could I really go from short story, to full length novel?

Enter NaNoWriMo.

I wrote my first novel in November of 2009. 50K in 30 days. A young adult fantasy that no one else will ever, EVER set eyes on. (Seriously, you would probably fall into a plot hole and never be heard from again. But it proved to me that I really could write enough words for a whole book and for that reason, I will allow it to live out its days in peace, buried in a folder on my laptop.) I continued to participate in NaNoWriMo every November, and in 2012, I wrote my first children's novel. In 2013, I wrote my second, a middle grade fantasy called FOLLOW ME, which would eventually...

(fast forward to more recent months)

...earn me a spot as a mentee in Brenda Drake's 2015 Pitch Wars contest. My amazing mentor, Kara Seal, helped me make FOLLOW ME even stronger. I got a handful of requests in the Pitch Wars agent round, but it would be the slush pile that would finally land me an agent: the ever-so-lovely Marietta Zacker of the Gallt-Zacker Literary Agency! Marietta had actually read FOLLOW ME almost two years ago when it was still...well, let's just say "in progress." (AKA it was a hot mess, but Marietta's encouraging words spurred me to take it from "almost there" to "By George, I think she's got it!") After Pitch Wars, I queried her again with the revised manuscript, and I'm SO glad I did! From our very first conversation, I knew that having Marietta as my agent would mean having an incredible champion in my corner. I feel very fortunate to have found such a great match; someone who is passionate about my stories, loves my characters as much as I do, and is excited to help me build my writing career. 

The road here has been filled with highs and lows, plenty of rejections, tears, frustrations, and triumphs. Not to mention countless hours of rewrites, edits, and revisions (and a fair share of both pity-party and celebratory ice cream). I have gone from optimistic and sure of myself one day, to depressed and feeling like the worst writer ever the next. There were times I wanted to quit, but thankfully I have a community of family, friends, and fellow writers (and, of course, those pesky characters demanding their stories be written) who wouldn't let me. 

So here it is (I warned you it was coming)...

Even if it feels like a pipe dream...

Even if you feel like you've been at it forever...

Even if you've gotten a hundred rejections...

Even if it means shelving one story and starting a new one...

Even if the words don't come easily...

Even if you're terrified it's never going to happen...

DON'T GIVE UP. 

If you require further convincing, check out this blog post I wrote while I was in the midst of writing FOLLOW ME (and pretty convinced it was going nowhere): The Day I Almost Quit.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't Give Up (Or, Why I Heart Pitch Wars)

I've noticed a common theme among the mentor's Pitch Wars tweets this year: DON'T GIVE UP. Now, I know it's sometimes hard to hear that from another writer when they've already got the finished book, the agent, AND the book deal. If we're being honest, we've all thought it at some point...


Easy for you to say.

Well, as a hopeful, yet-to-be-published Pitch Wars submitter, I'd like to echo the "keep at it" sentiments. (Also, you shouldn't compare your journey to someone else's, but I already wrote a post about that here.)

Last year I submitted to Pitch Wars right after receiving a pretty heartbreaking rejection. It went something like this:

Start querying first MG novel.
Get a bunch of rejections.
Get a full request! Huzzah!
Have phone call with agent. Double huzzah!
Be told book is awesome, but too quiet to sell as debut. Huzzah?
"Do you have any other books?"
Scramble to finish WIP and send to agent, hoping it's enough to tip the scales.
Email notification dings. Heart leaps. Open email...
Heart sinks.

Let me just say, this agent was over-the-moon wonderful and encouraging and supportive, and I could not have had a more lovely interaction with her. But the very nice, very complimentary no was still a no, and of course I was disappointed. So I had some Ben and Jerry's...



...decided it wasn't meant to be, determined I wouldn't let it get me down, and that very night I submitted my manuscript to Pitch Wars.

I didn't get any requests for additional pages.
I didn't get picked as a mentee.

I did get feedback. (Thank you Michelle Hauck and Joy McCullough!) And wouldn't you know it, they both said the same thing: lovely voice, hard to market the story. But they also had some really great advice on what they felt could be improved. Because of them, and tweets from some of the other mentors, I at least knew what I had done wrong in my query and I'd grown as a writer. I knew it was time to move on to the next book.

So I didn't give up, and I kept going, and it was all rainbows and unicorns from there, right?

Um, yeah, no.

About six months (and a slew of rejections) later, I'm in the midst of waffling between two WIPs, and feeling like this...


It had been FOREVER since I'd made any real progress, and I was desperate to just FINISH SOMETHING, DAMMIT. I had three-quarters of a novel--why was the last bit SO FRIGGIN' HARD? I felt like a complete failure. Like maybe I should just give up on this whole writing thing.

I felt like all I would ever be was an almost.

Almost good enough.
Almost represented.
Almost published.

It was really, really hard to write. I ignored my manuscript(s) for weeks. But eventually I admitted it felt worse to NOT write. So I limped along. Some nights I think I managed to add one decent paragraph to my almost finished novel. Then, after borrowing Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell from a dear friend/CP, I had a plot breakthrough. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could do this. 

I gave myself a deadline: Pitch Wars 2015. I started to feel the excitement of possibility again. Several sleep-deprived weeks later...

The Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop went live and I sat down to make a list of the mentors I wanted to submit my FINISHED manuscript to. 




Would I love to sit at the feet of a mentor for the next two months? Of course. But whether we get picked or not, or whether our manuscripts are all shiny and ready for the world or a hot mess that needs way more work, we'll have to remind ourselves to keep going. There's always more to be learned, more stories to write, more ways to improve. There will always be super awesome 2,000-word days and really, really crappy one-sentence days. If there's one thing I've learned thus far, it's that this writing thing takes a lot of working and waiting...and then working and waiting some more. I happen to think it's worth it.

So for those of you in the Pitch Wars trenches (or the querying trenches, or the WIP trenches), let me be that annoying person who says it for the one hundredth time: DON'T GIVE UP.



And THANK YOU Brenda Drake, and Pitch Wars mentors. Whether I get picked or not, I have a novel. I've gained invaluable advice from the mentor's tweets and blog posts, not to mention connections with other writers. I've remembered what it feels like to be passionate about telling stories. To be hopeful and positive and excited about my writing journey. This year's contest has seriously been so encouraging and helped me so, so much. It's been exactly what I needed. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Pitch Wars twitter stalking...