Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween!

From the annals of My Halloweens Past:
  • Longest my candy ever lasted: until February (unless you count the gross stuff)
  • Shortest my candy ever lasted: until December
  • Best costume in humor category: gum on the bottom of a shoe
  • Best costume in the cute category: cowgirl (yeah, I was a tom boy. No princesses here)
  • Worst costume: clown (I cried until my mom took it off)
  • Most Recent costume: Geisha
  • Best treat received: $1 bill
  • Worst treat received: toothbrush
  • Age I stopped trick-or-treating: 13
  • Age I was first questioned about being too old to trick-or-treat: 10
  • Most times I trick-or-treated in a year: 1
  • Most time my children have trick-or-treated in a year: 4
  • Parent tax demanded of me: all my Almond Joys and Mounds
  • Current "parent tax" I charge my children: 2 pieces of my choosing (but they usually give me more)
Happy Halloween ya'll!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Traditions

Growing up, one of my favorite October family traditions was making caramel apples. We'd buy a bag of caramel cubes and my siblings and I would race to see who could unwrap the most before they were gone.

We'd dump them in a pan and wait and wait and wait for the cream and caramels to go from this:

. . . to this.


I was the fourth child so I had to wait FOREVER for my turn, but then I'd get to drip (what was left of) that melty goodness over my apple on a stick.

The tradition is so ingrained in me, it's like it's not really Fall until we've made caramel apples.

I could go on about how important traditions are and ask you what your characters' traditions are, etc., but my mind can't focus that far when the gooey caramelly picture is staring me in the face. So instead, I'll keep it simple: What's your favorite Fall tradition?

P.S. The fabulous, wonderful, amazing Brenda Drake invited me for an interview on her blog. If you've got time, check it out! :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lenny's Birthday Bash

If you haven't noticed from all the blogosphere love, today is Lenny Lee's 13th birthday. Happy Birthday Lenny! So I wanted to share my Lenny Top Ten. You ready for this?

Top Ten Things I've Learned from Lenny
  1. Be yourself. If you've had contact with Lenny, you know that his bright soul shines through all his posts and comments. He's so purely him,
  2. Be positive. A corollary to #1. All the positivity not only makes others happier, but it makes you happier, too.
  3. If you want to improve your writing, study hard then share what you learned with others. If you haven't read Lenny's posts on writing, you are missing out. I learn a ton from him!
  4. Old-fashioned snail mail letters never go out of style. I have gotten a letter or two from him, and gosh they put a goofy grin on my face!
  5. Raccoons are cute. Well, not so cute when they tear open your garbage and throw it everywhere, but I can love them anyway because Lenny does. :)
  6. Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner is awesome. I read this book because Lenny so highly recommended it. A very fun read!
  7. You reap what you sow. Okay, this is a corollary to #1 and #2. Lenny gets so much love from the blogosphere because he gives so much love.
  8. It's always a good time to eat Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups. Okay, I knew this one before I met Lenny, but he really reinforced it for me. :)
  9. Southern charm is real! And Lenny has it. What with his "Miss" Janet (or whoever), and his "hugs" . . . Gosh it's all so charming it just melts my heart.
  10. You're never too small/young/insert-other-limiting-adjective-here to make a difference. Lenny has influenced so many people, it's amazing. I hope to be like him when I grow up. (Though, do children's writers ever really grow up?)
Happy Birthday Lenny! I hope it is a happy one. :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

How I Got My Agent

First of all, thank you to everyone who stopped by to wish me congratulations last week! It's such a great feeling having so many supportive friends. :) I'm still working through the comments, but I might be slow. So in the mean time, know that every comment was VERY appreciated!

Anyhoo, last week you got the short version of my news, so today, for those who like this sort of thing (I always do), I give you the long version. I totally understand if you skim. Because it's long. Especially for me!

Many moons ago, when I was but a wee lass, I wrote a book. It was amazing. A best seller. Humorous. Touching. Emotional. Gripping from page one. (Okay, I'm lying. It was TERRIBLE. But that's how I felt about it.)

I queried precisely one agent. And I got precisely one partial request . . . and then an exceedingly kind rejection. And I KNEW. I put that book on a shelf and moved on to the next book.

The next book took me . . . um, A LOT of years to write. Because by golly, I was going to get it right this time! I entered one pitch contest, and got one full request (I know! Crazy, right?). And then I got the rejection. And I KNEW. This book was not ready. I tried to fix this one, but just never felt ready to let it go. So I moved on to the next book.

Except, really, I moved back to the previous book. I re-read it. Groaned at how awful it was. But I saw the spark in my characters. I replotted. Made my darling husband talk plot points on date night. Carried a notebook with me everywhere so I could write in every spare minute. But before I was done, I sent the first ten pages to be critiqued by an agent at a conference.

And people, you are going to laugh, but I got a full request! So I worked even harder and finished the first draft (I use the term loosely). I edited it, polished it, and finally sent it off (Jan. 2011). And then . . .? Nothing. So I took a deep breath and began querying in March. Slowly. V-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y. And I got some requests, but one by one, they all came back as rejections.

Something had to be done. Come October 2011, I battled in an online auction for an editor critique. I paid my money, and got some fabulous advice. But alas, it meant major revisions. So I dug in, and by February 2012, I was raring to go again. So I sent off ten more queries, and got a couple of requests. I even e-mailed some agents who had rejected the full, and they all agreed to look at it again. I was feeling good!

But when those rejections came, I was crushed. CRUSHED. I came to the only conclusion I could. My book was not ready. Irrational, I know, but there we have it. I stopped querying last April.

So I threw my heart into my next book which I am absolutely in love with. And this time I was feeling it. This was going to be THE book. My breakthrough.

Halfway through draft two of THE book, I got an email from a former CP telling me how she had given her novel one last shot and actually gotten an agent. I was so happy for her, and so humbled. Deep down, I knew I hadn't really given my previous book a chance. So I told myself: "One last hurrah. And then I can't say I didn't try."

Right about this same time Brenda Drake was starting Pitch Madness. 300 entries. 60 finalists. 9 agents.

I entered, and was lucky enough to be pulled from the slush by Dee and chosen as a finalist by Erica Chapman.

Now see, I had read all the agent bios. One had already rejected this ms, and 3 or so didn't do Middle Grade. Of the remaining 5, based on interests, I thought I'd probably get one request. Two if I were particularly lucky.

That week I bit my nails (which I DON'T do), followed the #pitchmadness twitter conversation religiously, and tried my best to sleep at night. And of course I told myself, "It's not like anything's going to come of this. Even if I do get a request."

Yeah. Pessimist, much?

The day arrived. With shaking hands I went to twitter for the announcement of which agent won each entry. But my entry didn't come up. They skipped right past my number. I felt sick. But wasn't it just the inevitable? No interest. More of the same.

Dejected, I went to my entry just to make it real, and my jaw dropped to the floor to find that SIX of the nine agents had expressed interest! SIX!!! Including the one who had previously rejected it. And including an agent I KNEW didn't rep middle grade. There had been a tie, which is why my entry hadn't been announced.

I was agog. I must have stared at that screen for a full minute with my mouth still hanging open.

Anyway, to bring this epically long post to an end, I ended up with three requests in addition to the winner. One of those being the agent who had previously rejected this book.

So when I received an e-mail from the said agent a mere six days later, I assumed she had finally realized her mistake.

I could not have been more wrong. She wanted to talk representation!

I know!

We had a wonderful telephone conversation in which she told me what she loved about my ms (among other things), and though I tried to keep an open mind for the other agents still reading, I knew I wanted to work with her. And if you haven't guessed by now, yes, this was Victoria Marini. SHE WAS THE AGENT WHO HAD REJECTED THIS VERY SAME BOOK! Form rejection of the query, no less.

I tell you this because I had written her off. She hadn't like it. So even though I'd done a major revision, I had no plans to re-query her.


Writing a book is a bold endeavor. It takes hard work, patience, and lots of courage. And querying is no different. Be bold! Be brave! BE BRAVER THAN ME. Don't be afraid of a 'no' . . . or even a second 'no'.

And there I shall end, but for those who like stats, here are mine. I've combined contest requests with queries, just to make it less convoluted:

Time spent querying: 9 months actively (over span of 1.5 years)
Total queries sent: 63 (fyi, I only sent 55 queries, the rest were requests from contests)
Query Rejections: 28
Non-responders: 20
Partial requests:  8
Full requests: 9
Offers of Representation: 1

It just takes one, right? Don't give up. And BE BOLD!

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Big News!!

Yes!!! This is THAT big news: I. Have. An. Agent! *insert cheesy grin and maybe a squee or two*

I know! Cool, right?

And do you know how hard it was not to say anything last week?!! Well I assure you, it was hard.

So who is this agent you ask? The wonderfully fabulous Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc.

She read my manuscript in one sitting guys. And when she e-mailed me, she used words like "wonderful," "marketable," and "fabulous." I've read others' experiences so many times, and wondered if an agent could ever really love my little book enough to offer representation. Seriously, I am all agog at the fantastickness of it.

I have a whole long "How I Got My Agent" post written out in my head with all kinds of thanks involved which I'm sure will be coming shortly, not to mention a celebration of some sort, but for now I give you the mandatory 'I'm-signing-my-contract' picture. (And yes, my desk is always that clean. Why do you ask?) 

So what is your good news, today?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Last week I was tagged by both Amy Sonnichsen (my Hacky Sack Club Partner-in-crime) and Stina Lindenblatt (one of my favorite bloggers) for the latest tag game going around: The Next Big Thing! Like Stina, I'm going to hold off on my WIP, but I will share about one of my labors of love: 

What is your working title of your book?

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Friendship

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Forever ago I wrote a terrible book about a girl whose best friend had to move. Terrible. It may or may not have come from personal experience. ;) So when I pulled it out and reexamined the plot, foreclosures were ravaging the US, and a new story was born.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary Middle Grade.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don't watch TV and I'm horribly behind on watching movies, so all the kid actors I once knew of are now grown up, so I don't know. Yeah, yeah, cop out answer, but honest!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When selling her appendix on e-bay doesn’t work, ten-year-old Annie Jenkins seeks other ways to save her best friend’s house from foreclosure.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Hopefully represented by an agency. ;)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?

If you count that horrible, awful version I mentioned above, I wrote the bulk of it in a month, though the first chapter had been written about 7 years prior to that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think it has similar themes to WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET, but Annie is very much like RAMONA.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Egad. I'm a little embarrassed to admit (which I think you'd understand if you read the book), but much of what happens was inspired by my own childhood. However, the larger themes are very much influenced by the rocky economic situation the world is going through. I really wanted to explore how foreclosures were affecting the kids who are touched by them.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Well after that last answer, I better come up with something good before ya'll fall asleep on me. So let's just say that this book involves pirates and lost treasure, not to mention prune juice and turkey poop. What's not to love?! ;)

And I am tagging (no pressure tags here):

Melissa Sarno
Old Kitty
Theresa Milstein
Vicki Rocho
Lenny Lee


Rules of The Next Big Thing:

*Use this format for your post
*Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged. Be sure to line up your five people in advance.