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I HAVE AN AGENT!

After a long journey, I’m THRILLED to announce I am represented by Becca Crandall at the Carolyn Jenks Agency. I’m so excited to work with Becca to bring my modern Greek myth to life and cannot wait to share it with the world.

I’ve posted an entire post on my querying journey if your interested in learning about it HERE

An aesthetic of my YA contemporary fantasy, Frayed
Writing Advice

How I got my agent…

While in the throes of the query trenches, I found so much inspiration in reading posts just like this and STILL cannot believe the day has come that I officially get to write one for myself!!!

My writing journey started back in college with fan-fic and short stories, but in the effort of brevity I’ll fast forward to 2017 when I really got serious about not only completing a full length novel but actually publishing it.

In the fall of 2016, my partner and I started a new business and I found myself quitting my day job to not only stay home with our two small children but helping with the bookkeeping and office managing of the business. In January of 2017, I made a new years resolution to start and finish a book. I finished it that April (we’ll call it Manuscript A). *Cue fanfare* In my baby writer innocence I googled how to get published and immediately ran into the brick wall that was “You need a literary agent.” (It couldn’t be THAT hard and besides, if they really loved it, they’d look past all the grammatical errors, gaping plot holes, and the fact that the word count was not appropriate for the age group, right?)

So, again, being completely ignorant of the industry, I gave the draft a quick once over edit and sent out terrible excuses for queries.

Surprise! There were floods of rejections.

While querying, I read blogs on how to get agents, how to perfect a query etc and quickly realized that I needed to start from scratch. Manuscript A was not going to be the one and so I gave up and started a fresh idea. In the Summer of 2017, I shelved manuscript A, and wrote a completely new story. This time for a different age group and genre. THIS time, I spent months revising and while drafting, I read craft books and read blogs on how to better my writing.

In the Fall of 2017, I started querying Manuscript B, and to my joy, received a few requests! One of which replied after reading that my YA story actually had a middle grade aged voice and I’d do it service to revise it completely for that age group. SO, I pulled all outstanding queries and spent the winter of 2018 doing so.
At which point, in January 2019, I saw a Twitter post about a writing/querying group that was looking for members. To be honest, I hesitated because surely THIS manuscript was the one and I’d join this group but within a month, I’d have an offer.

(*Surprise, surprise* that was not the case)

While in this group—the Llamasquad, as it came to be lovingly called—I discovered so many mistakes in my query as well as my story. I outgrew my self-conscientiousness and exchanged pages with others and everyday learned how to really hone my writing abilities. I entered a few pitch contests with newly revised manuscript B. I had many requests, and truly there were so close calls, but alas as I crept over a hundred queries, I felt it was time to move on.

It was very difficult decision but the urge to create something new had taken hold and so while waiting on the last of manuscript B queries to reply, I wrote manuscript C, something I highly recomend you do when facing the stressful days of querying.

WRITE THE WAIT 😉 Trust me, it’ll keep you sane, improve your craft, and should you happen to get an offer, your new agent will be ecstatic you have another project complete!

This new idea, manuscript C, (titled: Frayed) was so vivid in my mind. The characters more real than any of the other stories I’d worked on. It burned through me, and within two months I’d written a first draft. I spent the entire month of March revising it, taking notes from my critique partners and thoroughly polishing it.

I was more careful this time, making sure each and every agent I picked was seeking that genre and age group. I googled interviews they’d done, I subscribed to Publisher’s Marketplace searching what books they repped and if they were similar to mine. That spring I (obsessesed) over perfecting my pitches and entered several pitch contests.

The response was AMAZING. Suddenly, I had dozens of agents interest and garnered many requests. More than any of the other manuscripts.

It was really happening. For once I really felt hope that this story was something special.

Then, the rejections started rolling in. Many were kind and gave no feedback merely saying “Just not a good fit.” In July of 2019, I received not just a polite form rejection, but a long email that summed up was something like, “Here are all things wrong with your story, and while I like the premise, I can’t sell it as is. However, if you fix all of these things, I’ll take another look.”

I re-read the email several times and even shared it with a few close friends to double check, but it was indeed an R&R. A revise and resubmit. Not an offer, but the next best thing.

However, the edits this agent requested were extensive and would require a FULL rewrite. Querying tends to make most writers feel anxious because there is so much they can’t control, so being exactly that, I began a re-write that summer. What could it hurt? Besides, I could keep the OG version in case any of the other agents reading it fell in love as it was. I took almost two months to finish it, had some CP’s look it over, then I took a deep breath and sent it back.

A month passed before I heard a response, and *whomp whomp* while the agent said they were impressed with my revisions, it still wasn’t what they were looking for in regards to their list.

Rejection after an R&R is the worst I tell you

By the Fall of 2019, I’d begun to lose a lot of hope that Manuscript C as not being the ‘one’. The exciting rush I’d had earlier was fading and I felt the first sense of nagging doubt that THIS story too needed to be shelved. That winter, I struggled to start anything new, and the month of November was a tough one. Over the past months, the rejections to my complete manuscript were like gut punches and only contributed to the dark thoughts that grew that perhaps THIS path would never happen for me. More and more I grew to believe that my writing would never be good enough and that getting an agent would never be a reality I would get to experience.

Facing a bleak outlook on the last of my queries closing out, December was shaping up to be a dark one. With encouragement from my writing group, I decided to take one last chance at this story finding its match, and entered in December’s Pitmad contest. One last hurrah before shelving it for good.

To my delight, I did receive a few agent likes, not as much as before, probably because the publishing world is small and the same agents were seeing the same pitch over and over and thought “WOW, is she still querying that thing?”

However, one of the likes, did garner a full request!! While I waited to hear back, I did some find courage and started writing again and mentally I found myself forgetting that I still had one chance of hope.

On March 20th, I received an email from the agent who’d requested the full from Pitmad. The very last FULL request I had out, which to be frank I was excited to hear from them because then it would officially mean I was done querying that story and could move on for real.

But it WASN’T a rejection, instead they said that they were halfway through my story but could they see the other version as well to read along beside it. (I mentioned the revised version in my query because I’d spent so much time on it, why not offer both as options?)

Delighted, I sent it over, still not letting myself get too excited of course. I’d been close in the past, and I’d learned not to read too much into emails.

On April 2nd, the agent replied again and said she’d finished reading but needed some time to discuss with their managing agent about it.

Again, I felt a small flicker of hope, but quickly squashed it down. Nothing in this industry is certain.

One week later, April 8th, the agent replied and said they’d love to set up a time to chat. Still, I’d heard of agents asking for revise and resubmits on the phone and I prepared myself for this possibly being one of those calls.

We scheduled the call for 4/15 (a whole 7 days away which at the time was a blur of stress, excitement, and not enough sleep). The day of the call finally came, and I gripped the phone in my hand, my heart somersaulting when I saw the east coast number pop up.

Our call was great, and the agent said EVERYTHING I wanted to hear. They answered all of my questions and then some and the best part was how much they LOVED and really understood my story.

After we hung up, I received an email with the subject line:

OFFER OF REPRESENTATION!!!!

We decided to take two weeks for me to notify the few remaining agents with my queries and then I’d choose. On April 30th, I replied to the agent with an acceptance of their OFFER!!!! In the end, I had several kind passes and one other offer of rep. It was an incredibly hard decision to decline the other agent, but I am THRILLED to announce that I am now represented by Becca Crandall at the Carolyn Jenks Agency.

Becca has been a dream to work with and I cannot wait to grow my writing career with her by side!

QUERY STATS:

Manuscript A:

Queries: 32

Requests: 0

Manuscript B:

Queries: 124

Requests: 12

Rejections: 94 and 30 no response

Manuscript C (Frayed):

Queries: 97 (28 were pitch contest requests)

Requests: 21

Rejections: 20 on the partial/full, 78 on queries, 19 no response

Offers: 2!!!!

Me signing my agency agreement contract

HERE is a quick post with more info on the story that hooked my agent!

To all you still in the query trenches or just starting, there are so many fantastic resources available online. One of the greatest discoveries I made when I begun this journey was the true kindness other writers and authors show. I plan to post in the future with links to some of my favorite resources so stay tuned!

Writing Advice

Water Trough Thoughts

Before I can go into today’s post, I need to share a little background on my life. I live in the Pacific Northwest on a small farm with horses, chickens, dogs, a half acre garden and an abundance of wild birds and squirrels that live alongside us. Every one of these creatures depends on one very old trough for a fresh supply of water. Therefore, everyday I venture out as the sun begins to rise and spend ten minutes or so filling said trough. Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why I don’t just use an automatic filler? well, I have in the past done so! Unfortunately, it lead to issues of it becoming stuck on or stuck off and us arriving home from a weekend trip to a pasture that had either become a pond (as well as a very tired well pump) or horses pawing at the bottom of a nearly empty water trough. Therefore—in an effort to ease my already anxious mind— I manually go out and fill it every day.

In so doing this chore every morning, I’m left alone with my thoughts for a good while. I view the sunrise. Talk to the hens and horses grazing peacefully on the grass wet with dew, and ponder life.

This morning I was mulling over a discussion I had with a dear writer friend. We had spent some time talking this past week about telling stories that the market seems to feel is ‘saturated’ or ‘overdone’. We even chatted nostalgically about trunked manuscripts or unfinished stories that we’d been told over and over that publishers won’t spend a second looking at.

Well, here’s the epiphany I had.

THAT’S A LOAD OF GARBAGE.

And here’s why. In my thirty-some years on this Earth, I have preferred fantasy and sci-fi books. As a child, that’s all I read. Am I going to one day wake up and say, “You know what, there’s too much fantasy right now. I’m bored of it and will never read it again.”

Umm, no. I will always love what I love. Period. AND will continue to buy it until the day I depart. (although there will probably be a few pre-orders sitting on my front porch while they’re having my funeral)

But I digress. The point is, people are like this. Readers are like this. We love what we love. And no amount of how many books with the same theme are out there will change it.

Let me give you an example. There’s a twelve year old I know that adores cats. However, she is cursed with severe allergies and will never be able to own one. She is able to pet one with a prophylactic Benadryl and an immediate hand wash. So, she does whats the next best thing to being around cats, she reads about them. ANY book with a cat on the cover, she snaps up. For her birthday or Christmas that’s her number one wish list, and she is showered in heaps of cat books. Cats who talk, cats who are secondary characters, cats in space, you get my point.

So, what if I told her publishers say there are TOO MANY cat books.

Is she going to buy any less? Is she going to change her preferences?

Nope.

She’s going to continue devouring any feline book she can get her turquoise fingernail painted hands on.

Imagine that right now, there is a 15 year old girl who’s ultra-trendy and super cool cousin from Los Angeles is visiting her. AND she brought her all her YA fairy books she’d binged last summer. That 15 year old girl is now hooked. A forever fan of any YA fae book.

And what if somewhere else, there is a 13 year old boy who’s parents are going through a nasty divorce? His school librarian recommended a dystopian thriller series and he has become obsessed. He stays up late reading them because they give him hope and courage that even under the most bleak of circumstances, a person can prevail. There will be a tomorrow.

And just yesterday, what if a 22 year old boy is struggling with his identity? But is learning to find peace in a vampire series where the main character’s life mirrors his own. 

These are just a few examples of stories that are too often said to be overdone. And yet, there are still readers seeking them out. Waiting for hours in lines to meet their authors. Stalking their Twitter or Instagram for sneak peaks or announcements. Finding solace in creating fan art for their characters that fill their hearts with so much joy.

So, I say to you fellow writers reading this: Ignore the trends. Ignore the publishers. Tune it all out and just write. YOUR story is needed.

Write what you want to write.

Or better yet, write what you want to read.

Writing Advice

Telling Impostor Syndrome to Kiss It

Ever since beginning my writing journey, I believed two things about Impostor syndrome. Both of which I now know to be untrue.

First, Impostor syndrome only effects published authors.

and Second, since I’ve been writing for so long and never experienced it, that I was somehow immune to it.

Both are completely FALSE.

For those who are unfamiliar with what Impostor syndrome is, I’ll do my best to summarize. Impostor syndrome can effect anyone in literally any endeavor. Whether its creative arts, music, or your 9-5 office job. It effects everyone in different ways, but essentially it is the feeling that whatever you’re doing, will never be good enough.

In published authors with their smash hit debut, it can feel like they just got “lucky” and will never again strike gold. With querying authors or those on submission to publishing houses, it can feel like their writing will never amount to anything. The hours of time they’ve spent outlining, drafting, editing, will be for naught. Time and energy wasted.

In my naivety, I felt somehow that my skin was “thick enough” or I had enough objectivity that I would never experience such a feeling. But, alas, Impostor syndrome is a sneaky B*tch.

I’m currently in the query trenches with what I feel is THE best novel I’ve ever written. (yes, yes authors always feel this way) but for me it is true! And being aware of how slow the query trenches are, I’ve begun outlining and even drafting scenes for my new Middle grade sci-fi. However, each time I sit down to write, I’m overcome with the sinking sensation that I’m wasting my time. I’m flooded with questions and negative thoughts like…

Will this story ever be as good as my previous one? Should this really be a middle grade, or perhaps I should switch to YA? What if this story would be better told as a graphic novel and all I am doing right now is spinning my wheels when I should be focusing changing the entire format?

So, as a writer, I did what I typically do when frustrated, I poured myself a bowl of cereal and browsed Instagram. BAD IDEA. Story after story showed my favorite authors on book tours, greeting fans, signing special editions at packed bookstores, or jetting off to overseas countries that had invited them.

None of which made me feel better.

Feeling now even more in a slump, I had the sudden realization that perhaps, THIS was what Impostor syndrome was all along and I just hadn’t realized it. So, I started googling it discovered dozens of articles, some even from big name authors, and how (surprise, surprise) THEY too experience it as well!

So no matter how YOU experience it, I can guarantee it’ll rear it’s ugly, joy-sapping-head up at least once in your life.

Through all the articles and blogs I read, the one piece of advice that was consistent was this…

NEVER, EVER take yourself too seriously.

Write for yourself, and no one else.

Write something that YOU want to read. Write something silly, write something that makes you tear up because it’s full of such flowery prose, write something that you’ve held in your heart for so long, but have been too afraid to share it. And If at any time, you find yourself dreading sitting at the keyboard, worrying that you’ll never do your story justice, you should ask yourself a single question: “Why?”

That bar you have set SO high that you’re trying to reach?

Guess what…It doesn’t exist.

I hope this article was helpful, and I’d love be sure and comment below with any other tips or experiences you’ve had!

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Devouring Gray

** WARNING: This review is full of spoilers **

I went into this YA horror/fantasy novel with fairly high expectations after so many reader friends recommended it. It starts out amazing, set in a small town in upstate New York and has a very Riverdale vibe including mysterious founding families and their secrets. But unfortunately nothing related to the mystery ever felt ever fully formed. The “beast” and a turquoise hair person is teased (adnauseam) and while a lot of the story was atmospheric and interlaced with creepy descriptions, a lot of it was…blah drama between families, and introspective circles as the characters struggled to accomplish anything.

This, unfortunately, is one of those YA books that could have been solved so easily from the beginning but is conveniently… ignored <<rolls eyes>>. If somebody would’ve shown Violet her ritual (literally ANY of her friends could’ve done this) she would have had her powers from day 1 and that would’ve been the end of that.

I have to add while the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the book was overall good/interesting, it wasn’t until the last few chapters that I almost didn’t finish. The whole amnesia bit with Violet is OVERDONE in fantasy and YA and frankly, is exhausting. Was that somehow supposed to be the climax?!
I give this book a 3 star rating mostly due to the fact that I love Stranger Things and the author’s descriptions and YA tone were very well done. The story itself felt dragging at times, and the premise is nothing special. If you’re into a darker, horror YA, I recommend you check it out.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

As this is one of my first book reviews, I wanted to start it out with a bang! Sadie is, hands down, one of THE best books I’ve read in years.

For those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll give you a brief (spoiler free) summary. Sadie takes place in a rural town in Colorado. It’s told from dual narratives, beginning with a radio podcast reporter named West McCray who does pieces on small towns in rural America and overhears about Sadie’s disappearance following the death of her thirteen-year-old sister. The other point of view is told from nineteen year old Sadie, who’s mother was a drug addict and was forced to raise her younger sister in the single wide trailer they shared. As if her life couldn’t be any worse, she also suffers from a severe speech impediment However, she’s bold, and headstrong, and is determined to find her sister’s killer and so embarks on her journey.

Several things fascinated me about this book including how Sadie is seemingly one step ahead of the reporter as the story progresses. The author does a phenomenal job showing the impossible odds Sadie faces as she’s impaired by her difficulty communicating (she has a terrible stutter). In a classic—tear your heart in half scene— Sadie struggles to ask a waitress at a diner to identify a man in a picture. At first, she’s ignored, than treated like she’s mentally handicap. Finally they lie to her, berate her, insult her, and tell her to leave as they’re worried she’s “up to no good.”

The exact scene is later mirrored as McCray arrives at the diner. He proceeds to interrogate the same cook and waitress. Being an adult, white, cis male, from the “big city”, surprise surprise, he’s treated completely different. They’re courteous, honest, and more than obliging to answer his questions.

It’s as raw and real as it is disheartening.

The remainder of the book follows a similar pattern until you’re nearly in tears as Sadie, desperate to communicate, struggles every step of the way.

I gave Sadie a five stars on Goodreads, and highly recommend anyone looking for a dark thriller revolving around the stereotypes people face everyday and the impact it has on their lives. It’s an intriguing, well thought out tale told in such a unique way, that it allows it to portray the very real power imbalances in today’s society.