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Today I am ecstatic to bring you a different kind of “How I Got My Agent” story. This one is special because it is the first, of hopefully many, success stories of authors finding agents through 12 x 12. Once again I was moved to tears by a member’s expression of what 12 x 12 has done for her confidence, her writing and her career. I can honestly say the only time I’ve ever been more pleased to announce that someone signed with an agent is when it was me! Without further ado, congratulations to Pat Miller, who recently signed with Stephen Fraser of Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency! May there be many more 12 x 12 participants who come after you! :-)

I began my writing career out of green-eyed jealousy in 1994 with a magazine article. (That’s another story.) I mostly wrote for school librarians. I reconnected with children’s writing, thanks to Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month challenge, in November 2012. Tara mentioned Julie Hedlund’s upcoming 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. Perhaps it was the timing, perhaps the financial investment, but I decided to commit. Here’s how 12 x 12 has made 2013 my luckiest writing year.

ENCOURAGEMENT I began reading other people’s work and submitting my own in the 250 Words Forum. I had done more than six months of research on the sea captain who invented the hole in the doughnut. Now I felt encouraged to stop researching and start writing.

COMPANIONSHIP The 12 x 12 Facebook page peopled my writing space with amiable fellow writers. I was surrounded by their hopes and encouraged by their work. My difficulties were theirs–I wasn’t alone. I began showing up at my desk every morning at 7:00, feeling the invisible but warm company of kindred spirits.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS Is a particular conference worth the money? Which writing books are most helpful? How does one format a picture book? The 12×12 group reminds me of a trampoline—throw out a question and within hours, answers bounce up from all over! When I asked if anyone had experience with making book trailers, Julie connected me with Katie Davis. I’ll be joining her Video Idiot Boot Campin May.

RESOURCES Members often suggest sites, blogs, and resources that inspire and educate. Lori Degman told us about a site called Rate Your Story. Over the next couple of months, I submitted three stories. My Stone Soup variant rated a 7, The Hole Story of the Doughnut earned a 3, and Lone Star, Lone Star convinced someone to give it a 1. Encouraged, I sent Lone Star out to several regional publishers.

EXPERT HELP I committed to bringing my Hole Story to completion. I returned to Rate your Story to peruse their list of editors for hire. From a list of heavy hitters, I chose Jill Esbaum, author of 11 picture books and former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. She helped me revise my story, and with high hopes, I submitted it to the Highlights Fiction Contest.

I had more than 200 pages of research on my doughnut inventor. In February I began to feel a book was necessary. But where to begin? What to include? What to leave out? On January 23, Elaine Kearns recommended Dear Editor.com, where you send in questions to editor Deborah Halverson. Deborah’s answer to my questions appeared the next day. I began the book.

NEW DIRECTIONS In mid-January, Janie Reinart posted a site about building one’s author platform. Reading it convinced me I needed to learn about using social media to promote my work. In a marvelous coincidence, another member recommended marketing magician Rivka Kawano. On January 28, I took her three-hour online seminar called “Author Success in 2013”. It was so helpful that I signed for her twelve week course,  Author’s Marketing Class.

CRITIQUE GROUP In early February, Laura Carpenter posted on the forum’s Critique Connect that she wanted to form a group. Lickety-split, nine of us joined her from seven states and Canada—my first critique group! Soon the stories began to fly, as well as posts about our vacations, our discouragements, and our delight in the group.

SHARED SUCCESSES  We participated in the voting for Janie Reinart’s book, Love You More Than You Know, nominated for Best Cleveland Book of 2013. And she won! Tracey Cox shared news of the debut of her cleverly named Arachnabet: An Alphabet of Spiders. Cheryl Lawton Malone nearly won the March Madness Poetry Match with her poem, “Autocorrect”. The success of any of us gave us all hope.

ACCESS TO AGENTS In January, Emma Walton Hamilton taught us to write query letters and posted her analysis of 40 queries submitted by 12x12ers. In February, Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency became the first of 11 monthly agents willing to look at our work and make suggestions.

By mid-February, The Hole Story of the Doughnut had been through numerous revisions and shaped up as a picture book biography. I crafted my e-query based on Emma’s advice. I followed it with the manuscript that had been through my critique group, Rate Your Story, Jill Esbaum, and Kathi Appelt, the Newbery-honor winner whose critique I won at a local SCBWI auction. With a small prayer, I hit “send” and off went my manuscript to Stephen Fraser.

A REALIZED DREAM Julie sent out interview and biographic information on Stephen Fraser when he stepped up to be our first agent reader. He sounded experienced, passionate, and kind. Just the kind of agent I would like if I had one. He amazed all of us by turning our stories around in three days or less. And he liked my story. Could I make some changes and resubmit? The day after April Fool’s Day, Stephen called me and offered to represent The Hole Story. I tried not to squeal like a pre-teen at a Bieber concert. He patiently answered my questions and said his contract would be in the mail. HIS CONTRACT WOULD BE IN THE MAIL! I was fizzy with joy, thrilled to have an agent, and very aware of how much I owe to Julie Hedlund and  the writers of 12 x 12. Thanks to them, my nineteen-year career became an overnight success.

Pat Miller is the author of 20 professional books and more than 200 articles for school librarians. Her first children’s book, Substitute Groundhog, garnered 32 rejection letters before publication by Albert Whitman. It was named a Junior Library Guild selection. Find out more at www.patmillerbooks.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Month, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Social Media, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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51 Comments

  1. I am absolutely thrilled for you, Pat!! You’ve done your work and you deserve this success!

  2. “Overnight” success is still sweet! Thanks for sharing your sweet news with us. Way to give us inspiration, Pat.

  3. What a wonderful story, Pat. Congratulations to you! I am also so grateful to 12×12 for many of the same reasons, so I hope to have a similar happy ending (or rather, beginning). The best of luck on this story – hope it sells quickly & we can see it in bookstores.

  4. My gosh, Pat. What a great story. Tons of inspiration. Congrats on the shiny new agent! The doughnut book sounds like a lot of fun. Cheers!

  5. What a thrill!!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey, so far. I am also so grateful to 12×12 and am convinced I shall someday be in your shoes. Congratulations!! And thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Pat, did I just see a piece in the May 2013 Highlights? Hopefully I wasn’t imagining. Congrats on all your successes!

  7. Fabulous story! All so true about the 12×12 community! Congratulations, Pat, fellow lover of groundhogs :)

  8. Huge kudos and oodles of congratulations to you Pat. So excited for you. T.

  9. congratulations, pat! enjoy the ride!

  10. Cheers for you, Pat!! This is terrific! I peeked at your other books you’ve had published. Very neat!

  11. Congratulations, Pat! I enjoyed reading your journey. I wrote an article titled, The doughnut- The Hole Story and sold it to Boy’s Quest 3 years ago. It’s finally going to be published in August this year. I hadn’t thought of turning it into a picture book. Good for you. It’s a fascinating story worth sharing in book form. i can’t wait to read your version!

  12. YAY, PAT!!! I adore this story. And Julie, here’s a hug for you, too, cause I can picture you trembling in a corner with love and joy and happiness. This sentence stopped me in my tracks:

    The success of any of us gave us all hope.

    And I propose Pat’s words from the first 12×12 agent success story become our official motto!

  13. I am absolutely thrilled and a little green with envy :-) Great story idea and great agent.

  14. Congrats Pat! Wonderful story. Can’t wait to see The Hole Story in print one day. :)

  15. Julie Dillemuth

    W-O-W! Way to go, Pat!

  16. Your post is a great story in itself – it is wonderful to hear of successes from 12 x 12 participants!

  17. I love this post! Congratulations! I can’t wait to read the whole story. :)

  18. Pat…what a delight to meet you and learn so much about you through Julie’s spotlight interview. What I love most is that you decided what you wanted to do, marshaled your forces, networked and connected and took advantage of as many opportunities as you could that would lead towards your goal. You have not let rejection or failure stop you…tenacity and passion, when combined with talent and hard work spell success! Congratulations and best of luck in what is definitely going to be a wonderful future. :)

  19. Great story and what a wonderful ending to all that hard work! Here’s to many more successes…

    Donna L Martin

  20. Great news, Pat! I loved reading your journey. Isn’t 12 x 12 the greatest?

  21. Janie Reinart

    Yeah, Pat! You rock!! I am so proud of you and your wonderful work. Looking forward to seeing your Hole Story in print! You are a great role model for us all! And as my Dad always said,” See you around, like a doughnut.” :)

  22. Congratulations Pat, what a thrill! Thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading your book!

  23. kelly mcdonald

    Fantastic news!!! Well deserved overnight success

  24. Awesome! Congratulations.

  25. Pat, thank you for sharing all the little/big steps and people involved in this success. This is a lovely tribute to the 12×12 community and your perseverance. Huge congratulations!

  26. That’s a great story, Pat. Huge congratulations. I bet Stephen is a fantastic agent.

  27. Congratulations, Pat! I am so happy for you and I am so excited that my post about Deborah Halverson was helpful in your process- she’s the best! Lots of love and good wishes for many, many blessings coming your way!

  28. Julie- I’m so glad that you can see the tangible evidence of what you do for your fellow writers. You’ve been a great resource to so many of us. Thank you and congrats to Pat!

  29. Cheryl Lawton Malone

    Super congratulations,pat!! What a great story. Inspirational. Thanks for mentioning me. I look forward to reading your amazing book

  30. Melanie Ellsworth

    Congratulations, Pat, for signing with Stephen Fraser! And thanks for sharing so many wonderful resources in your post; I have bookmarked many of them. You sound like a true life-long learner, always challenging yourself to learn something new.

  31. Pat,
    Wonderful, wonderful post!!! I am thrilled for you.Huge congratulations!

    And thank you, Julie Hedlund…you’re all that!

  32. Sharalyn Edgeberg

    Congratulations Pat! How wonderful. Thank you for sharing the details with us.

  33. Congratulations, Pat! It’s great to see how all your hard work has paid off.

  34. What an amazing story, Pat. You must be thrilled! Congratulations!!

    Just the other day, my daughter was asking why doughnuts have holes in them — so I think your book is destined to be a success!

  35. I’m thrilled for you, Pat! Way to go. And what an interesting recap of your success story! :)

  36. Congratulations Pat! That is so exciting!

  37. Love reading about your journey, Pat! Congrats!!

  38. Huge congratulations Pat!

    Planning your book launch party will be a snap! Doughnut holes for everyone!

  39. I am thrilled for you, Pat! It took much dedication to keep on going, which you did. Your creative gifts and hard work paid off in the end. Thanks for your wonderful example.

  40. Congratulations upon congratulations, Pat! Great news!

  41. So nice to meet you here, Pat, just in time for congratulations and I knew you when. Such awesome news! So well deserved. Thanks for sharing your process with us the rest of the 12×12 ers. I agree that the motto be “The success of any of us gave us all hope.” :)

  42. I wish there was a ‘like’ button here. Congratulations Pat, well done, you’ve worked hard and you deserve success.

  43. What an inspiring series, Julie! Huge congrats, Pat! Thanks both of you for sharing. Wishing you oodles of ever-expanding success. :)

  44. Pat, a huge congrats! This is such a great story! Most inspiring and also very helpful in sharing the steps you took to reach this successful goal.

    I was just about to post a question to Facebook to ask if anyone has had success on being signed on with a 12×12 agent and then I saw this post – what a thrill!

    Julie, thanks for creating this amazing forum.

  45. Congratulations Pat! I was inspired by your post about all the support you’ve received!

  46. Pingback: Gratitude Sunday 114 | JulieHedlund.com

  47. Thank you for sharing your 12 x 12 journey! I felt so much excitement as I read. I am so happy for you, and wish you continued success!

  48. So happy for you, Pat! The Justin Bieber line was hilarious. I hope you have many more sweet successes in the near future!

  49. Kirstine Call

    I’m thrilled for you. It’s amazing how hard work and talent pay off!!!

  50. What a great story! Thanks for the inspiration, and congratulations on it all.

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