Contest Winners AND An Interview with My Agent: Jennie Goloboy

Winning Song of the Day: “Jenny From the Block” by Jennifer Lopez

First off, thanks to all of you who entered the contest and who took the time to follow us on Tumblr and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We hope more of you will take part in our social media take-over later. In the mean time, we have some winners to announce!

So, that’s grammatically incorrect, because we have more than one, but you get the idea!!!

1. Leslie Wright!!!!
2. Melanie Conklin!!!!
3. Rachel Searles!!!!

Contact us at and rank the prizes from one to three. Here are the prizes once more: Jennie’s query critique, Dawn Frederick’s query critique, or the ten dollar gift card. We will reward you all in the order that receive the e-mails.

In the mean time, why not learn a little more about my agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary?

You are a newer agent, when did you start and what made you want to become a literary agent? (How many clients would you consider your “max” and where are you on that list right now?)

People who’ve known me for a long time say I’m a natural matchmaker, and that is what drew me to being an agent– the idea that this writer and that editor should know each other, and I can help by introducing
them! Currently, I am growing my client list, but I do know I plan to keep the list small so each of my authors gets special attention.

What kind of projects do you usually look for/gravitate toward?
Right now my practice centers on YA and MG novels and science fiction and fantasy for adults. Beyond that, first of all, I have to love your protagonist and care what happens to him or her. I love funny books (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and Fay Weldon are current favorites). I love fantasy with a realistic feel– either because it’s set in the real world, or because the world and its characters are fully imagined and credible. Romance is always a plus, as long as the romance doesn’t solve all the protagonist’s problems (especially in YA). And as a historian, I appreciate historical settings!

I also love it when my authors already have an audience ready and eager to read their books when they are published– for example, by starting a popular blog and running exciting contests…

(Tee hee, Oh Jennie :D) 

When do you usually stop reading a query or sample pages?
I stop reading queries if I can tell that the book is not something I’d represent (like a thriller or a memoir). I skim queries if I think I’ve seen the idea before, in case the author has promising credentials or an unusual twist on the idea. Currently I’m seeing a lot of novels about girls who have prophetic dreams and girls who
either are or are dating the grim reaper.

If I like the query, I generally let it sit for a while, and if it still looks good at a second glance, I will request the first three chapters. (I don’t ask for a synopsis– I like to be surprised.) I always read all three chapters. If I like them, I will ask for the full manuscript, which I will also read in full.

In general, if I’ve asked for it, I’ll read it.

How do you network with editors and other industry professionals with your office being located in Minnesota?

I have the benefit of Dawn’s years of experience in the industry and great track record. Beyond that, I love conferences! I’ll be speaking at three this year, one at the Loft Literary Center in late April (, one at the DFW Writer’s Conference (, and one at the Florida Writers Association
( I also plan to be at Worldcon again this year, as well as a couple of history conferences.

You are a writer as well. How do you balance your time between writing your own material and helping your clients get published?

Coffee. I also try to keep a daily schedule: Monday is for sorting through the mail, Tuesday and Thursday are for client needs, Wednesday and Friday for my own writing. Of course, if there’s an urgent issue
from one of my clients, I get to it right away!

As a writer, what advice would you give to others still working to get published?
This shouldn’t be a lonely business! Once you’ve written that book, you’ll need beta readers. You’ll need people to show you the next steps, and you’ll need people to help you commiserate and celebrate.
Go out and find some writer buddies!

Do you have any recommendations for writers on how to build their platform?
It’s not enough to write a great book, you also have to know the kind of book you’re writing, so it can find its proper audience. At Red Sofa, we’re big fans of Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal, which has some great exercises to help you define yourself as a writer, and to publicize your work using social media.

What is your favorite book/author right now? What is your favorite book/author of all time?
Wow, that’s a hard question! The best book I read recently– the most creative, immersive, moving and satisfying– was Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City. Probably the book I think about most frequently is actually a
history book: Richard Bushman’s The Refinement of America. But when I want to reread a book, it’s usually one of Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork books, of which Thud! is my very favorite.

Random Questions!

Me and Pam are scared-y cats. We’re scared of clowns, mermaids, centaurs, and people on stilts… What freaks you out the most?

Mayonnaise. And yet, oddly enough, I love chicken salad, and I’m willing to make some to get it.

If it’s your last day on earth, what would you eat (all we think about is food)?

I’d head down to the North End in Boston and get pizza and an arancine from Galleria Umberto, followed by Italian rum cake from Modern Pastry (all I think about is food, too!).

“The Voice” or “American Idol”?
I’ve run out of time for most TV, but I always watch Mad Men, to see how Don’s messed up his life this week.

What would you do for a klondike bar?
For a Klondike bar? Not much. For a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar? I’m embarrassed to say…

Thanks so much, Jennie!

And again, thanks to all of you who entered the contest (and even those of you who were THINKING about entering). If you want to query Jennie, find out more about her here:

Jennie’s Facebook
Jennie’s Twitter
Jennie on


An Exclusive Interview with Debut Author Jaime Reed!

Writing Song of the Day: “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates

Side note: Before we begin with the awesomeness, we just wanted to let you know that we will have an INCREDIBLE recap of all things SCBWI LA Conference this Wednesday and Thursday. We need time to wrap our heads around things, but we can’t wait to share all of the goodies.

With that said, we have something very cool for you today. If you don’t know Jaime Reed already, then you need to fix this. Like now. Living Violet, the first book in her paranormal YA series, The Cambion Chronicles, releases January 2012 through Dafina Books (Kensington). Now before you roll your eyes at the thought of another paranormal tale, answer this question: When’s the last time you read a paranormal with a minority protagonist AND that features a succubus?

Jaime’s blog posts and tweets are both hilarious and informative–and she’s represented by Kortizzle herself, Kathleen Ortiz. It now brings us great pleasure to give you Jaime’s VERY FIRST interview as a debut author. 🙂

1. Do you remember the first story you’ve ever written? What was it about?

I wrote a lot of stories, but very few I’ve completed. But my very first finished piece was a short story about two powerful families that hated each other. Imagine Romeo and Juliet with record labels and mafia ties. Enough said. I think I was about 17 when I wrote that. Good idea, BAD execution. (Side note: We think Jaime needs to revisit this idea!)

2. Who were some of your favorite authors growing up? Who are your favorite current authors?

I was a bit of a closet Goth, back when it wasn’t cool to be so. I had a real soft spot for Anne Rice and Stephen King. But I also liked the wacky teen books, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Beverly Cleary, and I was a HUGE fan of the Vampire Diaries. Like I said, I was kind of a dark kid.

I read everything now. Strangely enough, I read mostly men authors: James Patterson, Cormac McCarthy, and Chuck Palahniuk to name a few. I just like how gritty they are– no flowery adjective and excruciating details about every single feeling. Bleh. Just get to the point! Lately I’m focusing more on YA and it’s been an amusing and reflective shift. At the moment, I’m in love with Libba Bray, and Melissa Marr, and John Green.

3. You originally majored in art. What drew you back to pursuing writing?

Sheer boredom and soul searching. I always wrote as a kid—little short stories I let my friends read. I was a good artist, so I would illustrate my stories and everything. But not much came to it, but collecting dust in the back of my closet. When I didn’t get into my major in college, I kinda went into a slump. You know the kind where you’re standing out in the rain and screaming “What does it all mean?” So I went back home, and out of nowhere, I dug up my old notebooks. Some of them were actually good and I decided to add to it. The rest is history.

4. You first started querying for a different book series before veering into a different direction. Could you tell us anything about it? Have you considered going back to this series?

Well, it’s an urban fantasy set in somewhat modern times. This guy with special abilities and his crazy quest to find his missing girlfriend. It was kinda like Heroes, where the characters stories are intertwined in a very cool way, but with a more consistent storyline. Tons of violence, melodrama, and a Lot of people die. It’s a 5- book series where each book centers on a specific character. I only finished book three before I decided to take a break. Eventually I’ll go back to my series and finish it. It’s my baby, after all. The ideas are still there in the back of my head and they’re not fading away anytime soon. Right now, I’m waiting to see where The Cambion Chronicles takes me.

5. How many rejections and/or close calls did you receive? What kept you going?

Paper rejections: about 30 and I kept them all. I lost count on the number of email rejections—maybe somewhere in the high 20 range. Some of those rejections were rough. I mean, I-need-an-ice-pack-for-my-sore-groin rough. There was one letter I got that was So rude, it broke my heart. But, I can’t let setbacks bother me for too long. I give it 24hrs to stew then move on. The best revenge is success, and I’m very vindictive. *evil grin*

6. The manuscript that nabbed your fab agent, Kathleen Ortiz (as well as your book deal), is a YA paranormal romance. Have you written in this field before? How did you know that this manuscript was THE ONE?

I didn’t. Actually, I wrote it as a type of spoof, something to take my mind off my series that was driving me up the wall. I’ve always been a fan of YA, but never thought I would venture into that genre for myself. My humor is just too sick and twisted for kids, I guess. But anyway, after finishing the manuscript and realizing it wasn’t half bad and I decided to submit it.

I know a lot of people are gonna hate this, but it was all a whim. I didn’t really grit my teeth and break a sweat trying to write or submit THIS particular piece to an agent. (The other manuscripts are another story.) In fact, I found my agent by accident, or fate, whatever you want to call it. *swoon* KOrtizzle

7. How did you go about researching agents? Did you alter your queries for each one?

Usually Internet, library, writer sites, and bookstores, anywhere I could get a hold of a reference book full of agents. I wrote a basic query, a brief summary of the story and a quick bio of myself—nothing too fancy. I didn’t need to change too much per query; although, some agents look for a specific thing, like multicultural characters, a strong female lead, etc. Most agents have a webpage that tell what they’re looking for specifically and whether they are taking on new clients so you don’t waste your time.

8. Would you be able to share a small portion of the query that hooked Kathleen?

I need to find it first. LOL. It’s been so long, I completely forgot. That’s how outstanding it was. *eye roll* I will say this, it was the most basic query letter format. I followed the guidelines to the letter; gave all the needed information: genre, target audience, word count, two-paragraph synopsis, short bio, and why I thought the specific agency would work.

The key is to be as gracious and professional as possible. And FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Most of all, have a really good hook and a premise that very few have heard of, which honestly, is what caught Kathleen’s eye. Agents have seen and heard it all, a few dozen times, and they want something that pops.

9. So now you’re agented. Are the challenges the same, easier, or more difficult than when you were an un-agented writer? How so?

It’s a little bit of both. While un-agented, I could sort of work at my own pace and do whatever. But once the ink dries on the contract you’re breaking your neck to get to the computer. I wouldn’t call it performance anxiety; it’s just a feeling of “Oh crap, this is real! I have to try now!”

It’s like a video game: new level, different challenges. It’s exciting, the deadlines, the meetings, and submissions. It all sounds glamorous, but it’s nerve-wracking at times. One major challenge is admitting your faults and recognizing flaws in the manuscript. There is a great deal of trust and waiting involved and revisions, revisions, oh and did I mention revisions?

10. Random question alert! If you had to relate your stories to music, which genre/musical act would it be?

Pretty much anything from Placebo and a whole lot of Radiohead–The Bends album in particular. That was what I wrote and edited my manuscript to, so yeah. But my musical tastes vary from story to story.

Isn’t she awesome, you guys? As we get closer to her release date, start looking for some giveaways from our blog. Jaime is definitely one to watch! Anyone want to share about where they are in their writing journey?

Green Looks Good On You

Envious Song of the Day: “Jealous Guy” by John Lennon

As soon as I get to work, I complete the following tasks:

1. Check my work email.

2. Complete morning bus duty.

3. Grab a coffee from my school’s cafe.

4. Check out the latest deals on Publishers Marketplace.

Now, the last task pretty much determines my mood for the rest of the day. I range from: “Hey, what a cool concept. Good for them!” to “Wait a minute…I wrote something just like this…” to “Where’s my name? When is it my turn??” With the latter, my tears add extra flavoring to my coffee (it’s the new Splenda).

And sometimes I feel so guilty when I get those moments. Outside of any job I’ve ever had, the writing community is the most supportive. You always have someone giving you a high five (both IRL or electronically) when you complete revisions or even a rough draft. And when you receive bad news, it’s the writers that offer their condolences when your friends and family don’t quite understand. It’s not like teachers do the wave for me when I write an awesome-tastic guidance lesson (which they always are, btw).

This is the time where we’re supposed to tell each other to not compare ourselves to other writers. To say that our time will come one day.

But you know what? That doesn’t always work for me. What does work is to allow myself to have those mixed feelings when I read about Jane Smith’s 3-book deal for a dystopian vampire adventure. Because those mixed feelings are what motivate me. They make me sneak in a few spare minutes at work to complete my WIP. They make me turn off American Idol at night to knock out more revisions (and in all honesty, it hasn’t been very difficult to tune out AI this season). Basically, reading about someone else’s good fortune makes me get my butt in the chair. Not to prove anything to everyone else–just to prove something to me.

How do you all feel about writer jealousy? Do you think it’s productive, or does it hinder your work?

Agent Interview: Sarah LaPolla!!

Querying Song of the Day: “She Got Her Own” by Ne-Yo ftg. Jamie Foxx and Fabolous

Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with my Agent of Awesome, Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, LTD! Sarah has worked with Curtis Brown since 2008, and officially started picking up her own clients last year. She also mans the terrific blog, Glass Cases, in which she gives her insightful thoughts of the publishing biz and even features submissions from up-and-coming writers! You can find a brief bio of Sarah here, and follow her on Twitter here.

The Agent-y Questions:

You received your MFA in creative writing. What types of stories/novels do you write?

My MFA is in creative nonfiction. I wrote mostly personal essays, some political stuff that was pretty terrible, and dabbled in memoir. My nonfiction tends to come out only in blog form now and I recently started writing fiction just to see if I could. I’m about ¾ done with a contemporary YA and have a rough outline for an adult literary fiction project. So far it’s fun, but I’m not taking it too seriously.

How do you feel your MFA helps you with your career as an agent?

MFAs are useful in becoming a better writer and a better judge of what “good” writing, which is not always the equivalent of “what I like to read” or “what will compete within a given market.” So, there’s that. More than anything though, my MFA program made me a better editor, which is a skill I use constantly as an agent, whether with my own clients’ work or in deciding whether to take on a new project.

When you’re reading a query/submission, what makes you know that you’ve found “the one”?

If the book has interesting and dynamic characters AND the premise sounds amazing, then it’s golden. There has to be both.

You recently tweeted that you were over vampires, angels, werewolves, and zombies. Should writers with these characters steer clear from querying you, or are you willing to have a look if the concept is unique enough?

Yikes. I guess just steer clear. I appreciate a good vamp story when I see one (and I still love me some True Blood and Vampire Diaries), but I’m just over them in books. I’d like to add gods and other forms of shapeshifters to the list of non-humans I don’t want to see anymore too. I just have no interest.

I do still like witches, aliens, ghosts, and (if you follow me on Twitter, you know this) centaurs! (Seriously, it doesn’t have to be the main character; just plop one in your next fantasy submission.) Of course, you need a solid plot to back up these characters, no matter what.

(Bloggers Note: Pam has a RIDICULOUS fear of centaurs–only to be matched by Quita’s phobia of mermaids. Quita has never been able to watch the Tom Hanks classic, Splash)

Is there a genre that you wish you saw more of in your slush pile?

I get a lot of queries for “magical realism,” but they always turn out to be fantasy. So, I wish I got more magical realism. I’d also like to see more horror and mystery, both on the literary side, for YA and adult. A great YA or MG ghost story that’s scary instead of romantic would be fabulous.

Including a synopsis is part of the submissions process for Curtis Brown LTD. Is the synopsis ever a deal breaker, or would you still request more if you enjoyed the query and/or sample pages?

Honestly, I gloss over a synopsis. It is never a deciding factor for me. If I’m hooked by the query, I’ll go straight to the sample pages and decide whether to request the manuscript from there.

I was lucky enough to receive an offer from you after a revise and resubmit request. What’s the number one tip you’d give a writer in the same position?

I can’t really answer this for all writers. In your case, we were on the same page with the revisions and you understood what I was asking in a way that still allowed you to make it your own. In this way, I guess my #1 piece of advice for writers would be to only revise if YOU agree with the revision suggestions. What one agent says could be different from another, and if you’re only revising to make one agent happy, then what happens with your next project? And the one after that? The last thing I want is for a writer to say “whatever you want, I’ll do it!” That’s not where the best writing comes from.
(Pam’s Note: I couldn’t agree more! Sarah brought up suggestions that I was already pondering with my critique partner. We were so in sync–only thing missing was Justin Timberlake!)

Are you attending any upcoming conferences?

January 22: Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference/Pitch Slam (NY)

March 25-26: Write Stuff 2011 Conference (PA)

Just For Fun:

We’re avid Joseph Gordon-Levitt fans here at the blog, and we know you are, too! What’s your fave JGL movie?

Oh JGL… I’ve always thought he was adorable, but I didn’t fall IN LOVE with him until I saw him in Brick.
(Bloggers Note: Brick=One of the Best Movies Ever! Truly, we’d love to read or write a YA novel that’s just as clever)

We’re also lovers of music here. Is there any song that automatically puts you in a better mood, even if you’re having a crum-tastic day?

“Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe will pretty much brighten any day. If I need an entire album’s worth of happiness, I’ll throw on The Pipettes or some vintage They Might Be Giants.

Okay, we have to ask a food question. Is there any food out there that’s so delicious that you’d commit a crime to taste it again (it’s sad, but I’d have to say my mom’s lasagna…or Wendy’s new sea salt fries)?

Every time my sister visits me in New York we go to this Moroccan place called Zerza and get their saganaki (fried feta covered in honey). So simple, yet it’s the most amazing thing in the world. Luckily I don’t have to commit any crimes to eat it again. That with a toasted marshmallow milkshake would probably be my choice for a last meal (speaking of committing crimes).

What’s the last book that made you cry?

I definitely cried twice while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Not sure if that was the last book to do it, but it was the most memorable.

Is there any book character that you’d run off with to elope?

Mr. Knightley from Emma is my idea of the perfect man. Just as smart and snarky as Mr. Darcy, but he’s actually a nice guy. Then again, if Oliver Wood asked me to run away with him, I’d do it. (Sure he’s not as smart, but you know he’s going pro, and who wouldn’t want to be a Quidditch player’s wife?)
(Bloggers Note: We’re both totally crushing on Kent from Before I Fall. So different with his bowler hat but SO sweet. Where was this guy when we were in high school??)

Major thanks to Sarah for completing this interview! She’s definitely worth your query, so get those babies critiqued and send them off…unless you’re writing about vampires. 🙂

That’s Soooo Been Done Before!

**Editors’ Note: Well, Anonymous tooooold us 🙂 Yes, I mistakingly left out the author’s name. It was written by Joelle Anthony and it was a GREAT article. Again, as stated in the post, this was from the SCBWI Nov/Dec 2010 issue…and there is an actual link for the article in the post.**

Writing Song of the Day: “Heard it All Before” by Sunshine Anderson

There are so many perks to being a member of SCBWI if you are a children’s writer (Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books etc.). You get to go to conferences–both the regional and awesomeriffic national conferences– you get insider information, a group of peers who understand exactly what you are trying to write, and a really cool bi-monthly bulletin that helps you stay sharp with your writing.

Because we love our readers so much we wanted to go deeper into a topic that was brought up in the November/December 2010 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. This one page article briefly discussed the fifteen most overused things in YA writing. We are sure that just like us, as you read this list, a great YA book will pop up in your head…but since we REFUSE to talk about books b/c we love them all so much, we won’t list examples…but I’m sure we’ll all be thinking of the same ones. 😉

So, take out your pen and paper and write a check mark for each of the following that you have done in your WIP or manuscript…If you find that you have checks next to five or more, then you might want to go and fix it, STAT!

15-Stories with irresponsible parents (leaving the kid to do the cleaning/cooking)
14-The MC likes retro music (usually b/c it’s the music YOU liked in high school)
13-Hot, young moms who are the MC’s best friend
12-Female MC who is obsessed with Jane Eyre
11-Lab partners where one person is the dork that does all the work…then they are the love interest later
10-A MC with only one best friend…then they get in a fight and the MC is all alone for awhile
9-A poor scholarship student in a private school
8-First POV and the MC describes themselves by looking in the mirror
7-MC that is a tomboy who doesn’t know how to do anything “girly”
6-Younger sis. that is the popular, gorgeous one
5-Big vocab. words put in by the author and then passed off as an SAT word
4-MC who happens to be the only one in their group of friends without a cell phone
3-Clumsy characters who couldn’t dance or play sports if someone had a gun pressed into their backs
2-Guys with striking, beautiful, gorgeous green eyes- this is used so much that green eyes are becoming as common as blue eyes. They no longer pack the same punch, so to speak.

Annnd the # 1 most overused thing done in YA novels is…..

Having your MC hate math

BTW- In Limbo had little traces of two of these cliches and has another one big time, so if you found a few, don’t be ashamed!

Now that you have this list handy, there are two things we’d like you to do for us (and for yourself):

1.) Do a quick writing exercise (this will be graded tomorrow–sorry, that’s the educators creeping out of us). Write for ten minutes straight using this beginning sentence: Mandy/Marc always hated his/her first day at a new school. Just write freely, then go back and see if you included any of the above cliches. If so, change them around and see how your free writing sounds now!

2.) Can you think of anything else that has been overused in YA that should be added to this list?

Really…you can come back and tell us later how the free writing went 🙂

OMG! Pam Has an Agent!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang

As some of you may have read on Twitter, it’s true–I have an agent!! I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing right now, and I’m still shaking even typing up this blog post. I know when I was in the querying trenches, one of the things that kept me going was reading other people’s stories of finally nabbing an agent.

Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with flashbacks of how the very first story I ever told was my own version of Green Eggs and Ham (I do not like them, Pam, I am…). I won’t tell you how I used to staple pages of stories together and hand them as gifts to my parents. I won’t share how my idea of a perfect present was a brand new Lisa Frank notebook. I won’t even bug you about how my cousins (yes, including Quita) and I used to fill said Lisa Frank notebooks with different stories about growing up in the “hood,” even though we were about as hard as marshmallows. Instead, I’ll give you a timeline:

Early 2009–Had a dream starring Rosario Dawson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt that I thought would actually make a decent novel idea. However, I thought the concept was too challenging, so I stuck with screenplays and short stories.

Summer 2009–Actually wrote the first chapter of “the dream.” Let Quita read it. We both thought it was pretty cool, but I put it on the back burner.
October 2009–Pitched “the dream” to an agent at a conference, who LOVED the concept. At the time, I saw it more as adult fiction, and so I wrote more of “the dream” (eventually titled Wants) geared for that audience. Queried an agent who I saw on the Guide to Literary Agents blog (which, PLEASE visit if you haven’t already). Instead of being dismissive, she told me that I should consider writing the whole story as YA (the beginning chapters showed my characters in high school) because I had an authentic teen voice. I scratched my head.

Fall 2009–Researched every and anything YA, and realized I was in love. I started wondering where had Ellen Hopkins, Elizabeth Scott, and John Green been all of my life. I found the wonderful YA Highway and other awesome blogs devoted to YA. I reread most of the stories I submitted to my undergrad creative writing workshops and realized that they were, in fact, YA tales. I had finally found my place and there was no turning back.

March 2010–Completed Wants as a contemporary YA novel. Queried agents, including the one who suggested the change. The agent told me I still wasn’t quite there, and gave me feedback on things that I could do for revisions. Based on all of the rejections, I knew that the agent was right.

March-Mid April 2010–Revised like crazy. I switched Wants from 3rd person to 1st person POV and made a TON of other changes. Then I started querying again.

Mid April 2010–Found out there was a new agent at Curtis Brown LTD named Sarah LaPolla. Looked her up, thought she was pretty cool, but considered holding off on querying her since I already sent out quite a bit. Then I saw this interview on YA Highway, and knew it was a sign. I queried her, and a few weeks later she requested the full.

Mid June 2010–Received feedback from Sarah. Said that she LOVED it, but the voices weren’t distinctive yet. Said that she would love to see a revision whenever one was ready.

Rest of June 2010–Moped. Ate junk food. Moped some more.

July 2010–Started a new WIP. Attended the LA SCBWI conference where I made sure to attend workshops on voice.

Fall 2010–Kicked revisions into high gear. Queried more agents. Got lots of requests for fulls. Resent my shiny, revised version of Wants to Sarah on October 15th.
October–December 2010–Waited. Ate junk food. Waited some more. The requests were piling up. Had a few close calls.

Friday, December 10th, 2010–Got an email from Sarah apologizing for the wait and saying that she finally got a chance to read Wants and that she loved the revisions so far. Said that I would hear back from her by Monday. Panic ensued.

Monday, December 13th, 2010–Checked email frequently at work. After lunch, I checked my phone on a whim and saw an email from Sarah. Tossed phone in desk drawer and ignored it for a few minutes out of sheer terror. Finally opened email and saw that Sarah only had concerns about my ending. If I was willing to revise it, she’d want to offer representation. Called mom and cried from joy. Emailed Quita and asked for her feedback, since she knew the story better than me at this point. She reminded me how we both had concerns about the ending, and that Sarah had given me great input before. Knew she was right.

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010–Spoke with Sarah on the phone and she was just as awesome as she is on Twitter and her blog. Plus, you could hear how much she adored Wants through the phone. Thought I would cry.

Friday, December 17th, 2010–Officially accepted representation from Sarah!!

There you have it. My journey isn’t as long as others, but it definitely wasn’t an overnight success! I just know I wouldn’t have gotten this far without my family and all of you wonderful writers in the blog-o-sphere.

I know that having an agent doesn’t mean the timeline ends. I’m nervous and excited and probably will eats loads more of junk food–but I know in my heart that Sarah’s going to steer me in the right direction. 🙂

Lessons Learned

Revising Song of the Day: “Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore” by James Morrison

As some of you may know, Quita and I attended the James River Writers Conference this past weekend–and we had a BLAST. We have oodles of news to share with you guys, including info from panels featuring MG/YA superstars, Jacqueline Woodson and Lauren Oliver (and she actually TALKED to us–plus personally signed Quita’s book. She’s so chill!). Unfortunately, I left my notes all at home (where I’d like to be at the moment, but once again, I digress), but we’ll be sure to spread the love next week.

I saw a recent post on Blue Lipstick Samurai’s blog (which if you aren’t following, you need to. Like now) where she asked what we have learned so far while writing our projects. It occurred to me recently that I have been officially writing/revising/slaving over Wants for a year. A whole year! I haven’t even kept a guy around for that long. I’m getting ready to send my final revisions to a handful of agents this weekend, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that someone will actually bite. If not, I’m laying Wants down to rest for a while and moving forward.

So, as I possibly close a chapter on this journey, what have I learned this past year?

1. Your cousin is your best friend. Seriously, Quita has been awesome this past year. I think I’ve made her read this manuscript like 97.4 times–but she always manages to find something to put a smiley face by. And though her eyesight is WAY worse than mine, she always spots mistakes that I keep missing. She probably knows my characters better than me at this point. And I think she’s actually in love with one of them.

2. If all else fails, mention The Karate Kid. I submitted a few chapters to my MFA workshops, and one of my classmates (who just happens to be a movie fanatic. He has tattoos of actors all over his body. Seriously) said that a section of my story reminded him of The Karate Kid. He then started to recite lines from the movie and compare it to my scene.

I wanted to hurt him.

But then I thought about it and saw that he may have a point. Although my story has nothing to do with a wimpy kid being chased around by thugs in skeleton costumes, I did need to be careful with cliches. So I made a character reference the movie to let readers know I was in on the joke.

3. Revisions are your your best friends. And enemies. And mistresses. It’s true, I have a love/hate relationship with the whole revision process. Wants has undergone 4 major revisions (and that’s not counting line edits). First, it was an adult novel. Second, I wrote it all in third-person past tense. Third, I switched it all to first-person present tense. And fourth, I went through the whole manuscript to make sure that each character (I have four POVs) had his/her own unique voice. Was the process painful? Yes. Was it worth it? HELL yes.

4. Think twice about writing in multiple POVs. That is all.

5. Rejections don’t always suck. Yes, they do about 99.8% of the time. It got to the point where I didn’t get excited when I saw a reply to one of my queries/submissions. I would just roll my eyes because I knew, once again, someone didn’t click with my story. But the more I revised, the more personal my rejections got. Agents were seeing potential. Some asked for a revision. Others didn’t scoff when I wrote them months later and asked if they’d like to see a revision. My craft was improving, and agents really do notice when you’re putting in the extra work.

So, there you have it. My long, bumpy road with Wants has made me a better writer overall. Even if it doesn’t leave a dent in the literary world, it’s definitely helped me grow. Do you all have any lessons you’d like to share with us??