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 Nancy Gallt 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.

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