Baby nephew

Baby nephew

I’ve gotten behind in the weekly posts, but today seems as good a day as any to get my streak going again. Much to be grateful for over the past few weeks, and this week in particular.

Quotes on Gratitude

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” — Brene Brown

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” — Kristin Armstrong

“Feeling gratitude isn’t born in us – it’s something we are taught, and in turn, we teach our children.” — Joyce Brothers

And one extra for my father, whom I miss on this Father’s Day.

“To her the name of father was another name for love.” — Fanny Fern

Gratitude List for the week ending June 18

  1. Cooking a delicious dinner in great company and enjoying the results for the rest of the week.
  2. My daughter rose early the day we traveled to Florida and made me breakfast – before I even woke up!

    IMG_4087

    Em took this stunning picture of fireworks at our hotel.

  3. Fireworks
  4. Happening upon an art gallery displaying 2014 paintings painted consecutively over as many days.
  5. Now You See Me 2, also in great company, in a cinema drafthouse
  6. My stepmother has a good and thorough doctor who has steered her toward an important life-saving surgery.
  7. Visiting my brother, SIL, and seeing both my oldest and my youngest nephews!
  8. Holding my youngest nephew. Nothing more therapeutic than cuddling a four month-old baby.
  9. Watching my kids hold and love their new cousin.
  10. Body surfing in big waves at Boca Beach.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

Categories: Family, Gratitude Sunday

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viv black dressToday we are celebrating the story of how one of the most generous, gracious, supportive people in the kidlit community got HER agent. Vivian Kirkfield has lifted me up and inspired me for YEARS with her kindness, tenacity, and talent. Her desire to contribute to the lives of children and her fellow writers is boundless. That I have been able to play a small part in her success story is an honor. Please welcome Vivian!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

Coming from a background as a kindergarten teacher, I always loved picture books. But my baptism into the world of writing actually started out with a book for parents and teachers. When I self-published Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking at the end of 2010, I catapulted into social media. I knew nothing about Twitter (I thought a tweet was something a bird said), Facebook (I unfriended marketing guru John Kremer in my first week on Facebook because I didn’t understand how Facebook worked and when I got a bunch of posts from him in my feed, I panicked and thought someone was messing with my profile), or blogging. But it was through blogging that I connected with this amazing kid lit community—and by 2012, when the word went out that Julie Hedlund was starting a picture book writing challenge, I knew what path I wanted to take. So I hopped on board and never looked back. And, having already experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of the self-publishing road, I was determined to try the traditional route for my picture book stories.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

In the beginning, I didn’t do any research. I really didn’t know what I was doing or what I was looking for.  There are a ton of agents out there…but not every agent is right for every author. I think, for most of us, it takes time to understand what you need from an agent. Some people want a good communicator—an agent who keeps you in the loop with regular email updates. Others are searching for an editorial agent—someone who can help you polish your manuscript till it sings. I guess everyone wants an agent who is a great networker and salesperson—after all, the bottom line is that you need your agent to get in front of editors and sell your book. For me, another key ingredient is the passion the agent has for your writing. Once you know what you are looking for, you can refine your research and hone in on submitting to those agents who would be a good fit for you. Thank goodness for 12×12 which gave me the basics…and so much more…about how to submit. And the more I did it, the easier it was to write a query or cover letter. I talked to friends, mentors, and critique partners who already had agents. I asked them how things were going. I attended webinars featuring agents talking about getting an agent. I read blog posts that outlined what to look for in an author/agent relationship.

The dreaded questions: How many queries?  How many rejections?

I guess we can do the math. In 2012, I wrote twelve picture book drafts and fleshed several of those into stories. I had joined two critique groups, one in-person and one online. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to have other writers giving me feedback and encouragement. In 2013, when Julie started the submissions component of 12×12, I submitted every month. Some of my manuscripts got nice responses from the agents, but no bites…and truthfully, I’m not surprised. I don’t think my work was really ready. In fact, I KNOW my work was not ready. In 2014, not only did I submit via 12×12, I also submitted to a few agents and editors on my own. In addition, I took five different picture book writing classes. My May 2014 12×12 submission got a nod from an agent who asked to see more of my work. Oh my gosh…was I ever excited!!!!

But it wasn’t until this year, 2015, that things really started cooking. From January through September, I submitted to over fifteen agents, five editors, plus I entered six contests and sent twelve manuscripts to Rate Your Story. That’s a LOT of submissions.

Then in February, I heard back from the October 12×12 agent (word to the wise…never give up…sometimes agents are really busy and they will get to your work when they can) who wanted to see more of my work. In March, a friend tweeted that she had signed with Essie White from Storm Literary Agency. I had a lot of respect for that writer’s work so I went to Essie’s website and fell in love with her. On a whim, I sent her the manuscript that had peaked the interest of the other agent. And when I checked my inbox an hour later, there was a message from Essie telling me how much she loved that story. In June, I participated in #Pitmad (a Twitter pitching opportunity where agents are ‘lurking’ on Twitter and if they give your pitch a favorite, you can send them the manuscript – make sure you follow their submission guidelines which you can usually find on their agency website). That same story received a favorite from another agent! And then I checked the #mswl (Manuscript Wish List on Twitter where agents, and sometimes editors, tweet about what type of stories they are looking for – go to their agency website and follow the guidelines for submission) and noticed a different agent was looking for that type of story, so I sent it to her. She responded within a day or two!

At that point, I knew I needed to think carefully about what was really important to me. I wanted someone who was organized and a timely communicator. I wanted someone who was personable, easy to work with, and savvy about business. And I wanted someone who was passionate about my stories.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?

No, I don’t think so. In fact, there are some who do focus mainly on picture books, although I think that most agents have a wider scope of representation and will also be open to chapter books (CB), middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA). Usually you can find out about their scope of representation from reading their bio on their agency website.

Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.

I’m thrilled to be represented by Essie White from Storm Literary Agency. As I mentioned, she had responded IMMEDIATELY when I sent her the Sarah story. She had so much confidence in it and passion for it that she even ran it past an editor she happened to be meeting with. Unfortunately, that editor passed on it, but Essie’s heart was in the right place…and I loved that about her. During the June #pitmad challenge, she noticed I had pitched a different nonfiction picture book and she asked if she could see it. After reading that one, she offered me representation…but I hesitated because I was slated to go to the WOW Retreat and I wanted to go with an open mind and no strings attached. When I returned from WOW at the end of July, I started getting lots of activity with those other agents. For two months, I had a chance to be a bit more up close and personal with how they worked. And they were a stellar group! Each had tremendous strengths. Was I looking for a big established agency or a smaller newer one? Would I be happy with an agent who had many clients and less time for me or did I want someone who would respond more quickly? Should I go with an agent who felt my writing was just about perfect or someone who had a different vision for my story?

In the end, I went with my heart and my gut. I emailed Essie and asked her to send me a contract and we set up a time to chat on the phone. I’m thrilled with Essie’s communication style. Every Monday, she sends an update of what’s going on. In addition, as soon as she receives feedback from an editor, she immediately emails me. And I can tell from the tone of the editors’ comments that they all think very highly of Essie—as do all of her clients. I spoke to quite a few of them before I signed with her. I would encourage those of you who receive an offer of representation to absolutely, positively, definitely connect with the agent’s authors. You know what they say about word of mouth—it’s the best advertisement and the way the agent treats her authors is probably how you will be treated.

Two weeks after I signed the contract, Essie had already formulated a submission list and Sweet Dreams, Sarah began her journey. And only a few weeks later, Creston Books editor, Marissa Moss, offered us a contract. Whoa! I realize that it doesn’t usually happen this way…but it’s been great validation. I am extremely grateful to Marissa for believing in me…and honoring a worthy main character like Sarah E. Goode. There were only a few minor revisions requested…and the manuscript is now in the hands of the illustrator, Chris Ewald.

Essie also has three other manuscripts of mine out on submission…one of them has piqued the interest of three different editors…so it’s back to the drawing board to address their feedback with a revision or two or three. You are all seeing a pattern here, I’m sure…research, write, revise, submit, repeat! As you can imagine, I am walking on air and over the moon about how things are going with my writing career.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?

I probably answered this question in the previous paragraphs. From the very beginning, I felt Essie would be a staunch supporter of my work. That is a crucial ingredient in the author/agent relationship, at least for me. The tone and timeliness of her first communication hit a sweet spot…and each succeeding email was no different. I’m thrilled that I’ll be getting to meet Essie in person at the WOW Retreat next July where she will be part of the esteemed faculty.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )

12×12 played a HUGE role in my agent search AND in the development of my craft. I’m a person who responds positively to challenges and accountability. You all know how easy it is for life to get in the way of what we want to do. I would never have accomplished so much in so little time if not for Julie Hedlund, her 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, and the incredible kid lit community that has grown up around it. If I have a question or a concern about a character in a new manuscript, what editor is looking for nonfiction, or which software program would be best for writing, I can turn to the 12×12 Facebook group or hop over to the 12×12 Forum. And since I’ve connected with so many fellow writers (and illustrators even though I’m not one of them), I can reach out by email, chat, or phone.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?

Yes, it has. I can say that ALL the time and energy that I had given over to agent search has now been channeled to writing and revising…mostly revising. Over the last few years, because of 12×12, I’ve amassed a large number of stories. The ones I wrote in 2012 and 2013 might have nuggets of gold, but just like the miners of old, each story is a panful of water filled with sediment that needs to be cleaned and edited and polished to reveal a possibly marketable manuscript. I’ve got a notebook that is filling up with even more ideas.  But now I have someone, other than my critique buddies (YES…you MUST be in at least one critique group…more if possible), to run my stories by. Essie will let me know if she feels the story has a place in the market today. Hopefully, she’ll also be able to give me feedback as to what the editors are looking for. And THAT may change my writing process as well.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?

  1. Write what you love and what you know.
  2. Read agency websites/#mswl on Twitter/agent blogs to find out which agents are looking for the stories you are writing.
  3. Listen to webinars that feature agents.
  4. Talk with friends and acquaintances who have agents.
  5. Learn how to write a killer query letter – Julie Hedlund and Emma Walton Hamilton just did a stellar webinar all about that…they also offer an amazing package called The Complete Picture Book Submission System that will get you up to speed in record time.
  6. Submit your work to critique groups, contests, Rate Your Story, and of course, agents. You know what they say…you can’t win if you don’t play. Don’t send out work that is not up to par…but don’t hold it back because you think it isn’t perfect.
  7. Believe in yourself—you will succeed!

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?

No, I don’t think my own platform helped per se, although I did hear about Essie from a tweet…and two of the other agents from Twitter-related opportunities. So I guess I’d say that it is helpful to be involved in a certain amount of social media so you can have your finger on the pulse of what is going on.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )

Inevitable? Well, I do love that type of positive thinking, Julie! I’ve never been to Europe. I’m hoping to go in 2017 with my son and his family…unless another opportunity pops up to go there before then.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

I fell in love with nonfiction when I took Kristen Fulton’s Non Fiction Archaeology class last June, so a lot of my stories are nonfiction. I LOVE finding a gem of an event or incident that history seems to have forgotten and then I love bringing it to life for young readers. So I’m doing lots of research, lots of writing, and lots of revising. I keep saying I’m going to cut down on the insane number of critique groups I participate with, but I doubt that will happen because it is a joy for me to connect with other writers.  They support and encourage me as much as I, hopefully, support and encourage them. I’m living my bliss…I couldn’t ask for more.

Categories: 12 x 12, How I Got My Agent, Writing · Tags: , , ,

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Picture Book Summit 2016

Mark your calendar! I’m happy to announce Picture Book Summit 2016 is coming October 1, 2016. It’s a privilege to reteam with Emma Walton Hamilton, Katie Davis and Laura Backes to bring you another extraordinary event.

The fun is already underway on the Facebook page where we’ve been giving hints about our Superstar Speakers all week. Come on over and join in the fun by CLICKING HERE.

If you’re truly a fan of picture books, you are going to LOVE this line up!

What is Picture Book Summit, you ask?

One day not so long ago, a group of friends (who also happened to be successful picture book authors, editors and educators) were chatting online.

“That looks like a cool conference,” said one.  “But if I have to get on another plane or check into another hotel, I think I’m going to explode.”

The others commiserated, sharing their own stories of uprooting their lives and spending far too much money to travel to conferences.

That’s when one of the group piped up and said “What if we….”

 

The rest is history.   Picture Book Summit was born.

 

Picture Book Summit 2016 is the dream conference for picture book writers — an unprecedented day of instruction, fun and inspiration…and it all takes place online. No plane ticket. No hotel. No bad conference food. From the comfort of your home, you’ll get to experience our dream line up of picture book superstars on October 1, 2016.

As we started getting ready for this year’s event, we were reminiscing about the best moments from our first event last Fall:

  • Peter Brown sharing why it’s important to have fun while you’re creating picture books.
  • Andrea Davis Pinkney inspiring us to show how real people can be even more entertaining than imaginary characters.
  • Mac Barnett helping us rediscover the magic of a page turn.

We’ve gathered 10 of our favorites and put them in one place. You can download the Top 10 Takeaways from Picture Book Summit 2015 for FREE by clicking HERE.

Pick up the Top 10 Takeaways today and you’ll be among the first to hear when Early Bird registration open in a couple weeks. Believe me, you don’t want miss that. Picture Book Summit is going to be even more inspiring, educational, and fun than last year with agent and editor panels, workshops and our three out-of-this-world Superstar Speakers, each an uber-successful author in their own right.

Don’t miss it!

Categories: Picture Books, Writing · Tags:

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I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain

I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain

Since the Colorado May Day includes snow, I felt obliged to include a quote on gratitude that included snow, even though I’d be feeling especially grateful for some sun right about now. 🙂

Quotes on Gratitude

“Just as millions of snowflakes pile up to create a blanket of snow, the ‘thank you’s’ we say pile up and fall gently upon one another until, in our hearts and minds, we are adrift in gratitude.” – Daphne Rose Kingman 

“When a child gives you a gift, even if it is just a rock, exude gratitude. It may be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you.” — Dean Jackson

“Gratitude is Heaven itself.” – William Blake

Gratitude list for the week ending April 30

  1. Went to see “dueling pianos” on Friday, and the guys turned on the purple lights and busted out Purple Rain
  2. At the same show, a woman requested “Gangnam Style.” They declined, saying neither of them could read or sing in Korean. So the woman jumped up and belted it out karaoke style – IN Korean. It just made me happy that this random white woman in the middle of suburbia could have the guts to stand up in front of a crowd and sing that song just for the joy of it. Check out video below.
  3. Watched the movie “Overboard” with the kids. Laughed like crazy.
  4. Comfort food on cold nights
  5. Marianne Williamson
  6. I poured my heart out in this blog post and got SO MUCH love and support back from 12 x 12 members. Even when we have the illusion of being alone, we’re really not.
  7. Watching Jay play flag football and have fun
  8. Spaghetti dinner over at Mom’s
  9. Walks with Rocky
  10. Last, but not least, being able to celebrate the release of my friend Sylvia Liu’s debut picture book, A Morning with Grandpa. You owe it to yourself to check out this beautiful book!

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday

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prince-memeSecond week of getting back in the saddle with Gratitude Sunday posts! I’ve spent a lot of time appreciating Prince, devastated as I am by his premature death. If you haven’t seen the retrospective of his performance at the Superbowl in 2007, it is worth a watch. As for the rest of the week…

Quotes on Gratitude

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons.” — Ruth Ann Schabacker

May you begin each day in the spirit of Gratitude
With oceans of love and a kiss on each wave. — Katherine Scherer and Eileen Bodoh

“Gratitude incorporates both the heart and mind, and instantly paves the shortest road to happiness.”
–Alan Cohen

“He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.”
–J. A. Shedd

Gratitude list for the week ending April 23

  1. Prince! For his life, his music. For his bravery. For being the soundtrack of my youth. I don’t think there is any other musician who had such an impact on me. RIP
  2. Lovely lunch followed by a walk in the park on a gorgeous spring day
  3. My kids paying an Improv Poet on Pearl Street to say a poem about Prince for me
  4. Delicious dinner with the kids on Pearl Street Friday night. Jammed with people out and about enjoying the weather
  5. Fun movie night with the kids
  6. Getting great sleep (highly unusual for me)
  7. Another phenomenal Italian Food & Wine meetup at Valerio’s house
  8. My hyacinths are blooming.
  9. Last week’s snow didn’t kill my lilacs, which will bloom any minute now!
  10. Cosmic forces known only to me 😉

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday

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Spring in Colorado!

Spring in Colorado!

“I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection. For me, I’m going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice.” Mike Ericksen

“Practicing appreciation is like receiving everything you already have all over again. Focusing on that which you have engenders more of the same.” — Jack Peterson

“You gotta look for the good in the bad, the happy in the sad, the gain in your pain, and what makes you grateful, not hateful.” — Karen Salmonsohn

It’s been far, FAR too long since I’ve done a Gratitude Sunday post, and I honestly feel its absence. So I’m starting anew with this series. It keeps me grounded and, yes, grateful.

Gratitude list for the week ending April 16

  1. My taxes are done!
  2. Opened new retirement account!
  3. 75 degrees and tulips one day, 12 inches of snow two days later. Gotta love the variety in Colorado weather!
  4. Two fun dinners out with my kiddos
  5. A couple of important, meaningful conversations with each of my kids
  6. Lovely lunch at a “new to me” restaurant on Pearl Street
  7. Won three games of pool on Friday!
  8. Got lots of rest this week – now fully recovered from jet lag
  9. Great 12 x 12 webinar on school visits – thanks Michelle Cusolito!
  10. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, Family, Gratitude Sunday

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anti-resolutionFour years ago I wrote a blog post that garnered quite a bit of attention. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. I skipped 2013, but got back on track in 2014 and have stuck with the tradition. Now it’s time to reveal successes from 2015, and I’ve asked participants in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to do the same.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation… Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done

It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Because I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself, I’ve invited 12 Days of Christmas for Writers participants to post their successes on their blogs and websites too. Feel free to share links to your posts in the comments here!

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2015. 

  1. This was the year of revision. Nine out of twelve months this year were focused on MAJOR revisions to multiple manuscripts. All of those manuscripts ended up on submission.
  2. Two of my manuscripts made it all the way to acquisitions, one at two different publishing houses. Although those ended up as rejections, I got feedback about how “gorgeous” and “evocative” my writing was. I was also invited to revise and resubmit, which I am working on now.
  3. One of the manuscripts I’ve been working on all year is a picture book biography. I can honestly say it’s been the most difficult and most rewarding writing I’ve ever done.
  4. I wrote two new picture book manuscripts.
  5. I once again shepherded the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge participants through a year of writing, revising, submitting, and SUPPORTING. With almost 800 members in 2015, I take pride in the fact that the community still feels like family.
  6. Successfully launched the brand new 12 x 12 webinar series with fabulous speakers such as author/editor Emma Walton Hamilton, agent Jill Corcoran, author Jane Yolen, and editor Emma Dryden.
  7. A Jefferson County school got a grant to buy 300 copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, and I spent the whole day at their school presenting to each elementary grade. One of the most rewarding author experiences I’ve ever had.
  8. Speaking of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, my agent Erzsi Deak sold Korean rights. The book has been translated into Korean and will likely go on sale in Korea this coming year.
  9. Co-hosted and launched the first-ever Picture Book Summit, an online conference that boasted keynote speakers Peter Brown, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Mac Barnett. With more than 700 registrants, it was a smashing success.
  10. With my partner Emma Walton Hamilton, fully updated and re-launched The Complete Picture Book Submissions System.
  11. I managed to get my taxes done, which showed a nice increase in income from 2013 to 2014.
  12. I sought more professional help, which I desperately needed.
  13. Came up with 30+ new picture book ideas in this year’s PiBoIdMo
  14. I managed to keep up with my work despite suffering a pinched nerve due to a bulging disc in my cervical spine. The injury was quite debilitating, and while I’m much, much better, I’m still recovering. So I honestly need to give myself credit for all I accomplished in the last six months of the year, given most of it was done while in chronic pain.
  15. Attending the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference in September, seeing old friends and making new, and learning loads in the post-conference picture book intensive.
  16. Spoke at two SCBWI Connect local events – one in Boulder and one in Colorado Springs (virtually)
  17. Was a guest lecturer at a University of Colorado Children’s Literature course. Super fun!!
  18. Presented a 12 x 12 webinar on crowdfunding
  19. Spoke with an editor at Scholastic for an hour, soaking up advice on possible revisions for my picture book biography.
  20. Got 20 agents for 12 x 12 in 2016 lined up BEFORE Christmas, plus five webinar speakers, and eight professional “critique ninjas,” a new feature for 2016. For once, I feel pretty organized for the launch of 12 x 12.

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list! Share in the comments if you’d like! 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Holidays, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member and Author Amy MooreI‘m so pleased to bring such a heartwarming “How I Got My Agent” story to you today. Not only are Ginger Harris and Liza Fleissig from the Liza Royce agency two of the biggest and best supporters of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, but, like Amy, my own commitment to my writing career deepened after the loss of my father. It’s inspiring to see someone turn loss and sorrow into pursuing their dreams. Please give a warm welcome to Amy Moore!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I have written stories my whole life, starting with my poem “People” in first grade and my first book “The Waterproof Boots” in third grade (which included a hastily added last chapter about boots after I finished and read the whole book only to realize my masterpiece had nothing to do with boots!)

I persevered after that mishap and studied journalism in college and took my first writing for children course the fall after I graduated. I was hooked and knew this was what I wanted to do with my writing. I worked at it for many years and slowly got better at it as I got older. I started receiving personal rejections and got an honorable mention in a Writer’s Digest contest shortly before I got married. Things seemed on the upswing!

I kept working at it and then my first baby girl came along. Little did I know how much my writing would be put on the back-burner! Though my writing was on a pretty large hiatus, I spent five years reading, reading, reading every picture book my two baby girls and I could get our hands on. (It’s so much fun raising little bookworms!) This time of reading and constant inspiration from my girls really got my creative juices flowing again.

After losing my Dad suddenly a year before, I had a long, hard cry on New Year’s Eve of 2013. It was one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching nights of my life. I was determined to put the most horrible year of my life behind me and make all of my dreams come true in his honor, even if he would never be able to share in my joys and success.

I decided to “make something happen” with my writing my New Year’s Resolution. I wasn’t even sure what that something would be, I just knew it was time to get really serious about it. A few weeks later I found 12×12 and went for Gold right away. What a decision! I can’t tell you how therapeutic it was to sit and work on my writing every night and to connect with other writers in this amazing 12×12 community. Needless to say, this is when I decided I should be targeting agents rather than publishers. The opportunity was in front of me!

What kind of research did you do before submitting?
I read everything I could find on the internet about the agents I submitted to. Some had more information available than others but I did my best to read any articles I could find and look up authors and books that each agent represented if possible. Twitter also proved helpful in seeing what kind of rapport they had with their authors.

The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
I submitted to three agents through 12×12 in 2014 (two of them at the same agency) and got one rejection…after I had already been offered a contract from the other agency. (Though oddly enough that rejection still stung a bit.) Mind you, this does not include many rejections from my early years submitting to publishers before I was truly ready.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
Thanks to 12×12, no! I had a whole group of picture book agents ready and waiting to read my manuscripts.

How did you know your agent was “the one? Ginger Harris and Liza Fleissig
When I was researching which agents to submit to, I kept coming back to a photograph of Ginger Harris and Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency just beaming. Something about the smiles they had in every photograph I could find made me hope their agency was the one for me.

After submitting separate manuscripts to both Liza and Ginger, I heard from Ginger that they’d like to represent me for both books. Obviously I was going to jump at the chance. But I truly knew Ginger was “the one” the first time she sent me a list of revision requests. I can’t even explain how spot-on her requests were and how she clued me in to the things I didn’t even realize were missing from my story. She turned out to be the critique partner I have been looking for all my life!

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )
12×12 has honestly been the single best thing I’ve ever done for my writing career. The level of talent and support in the community is unmatched and the opportunity to submit to agents directly was well worth the enrollment fee.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
Not too much, although I have become of fan of major revisions. I think prior to this I would write a story, fine-tune it as much as I thought it needed and move on to the next story. Now, as I’m moving toward the submission process with my agent, I’m learning how amazing the revision process can be. I’m also inspired to write a lot more frequently.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
Read, read, read! Then write, write, write!

Also, write what is inside of you. We all know we are not supposed to write in rhyme, not supposed to do this, not supposed to do that…but I am here to say I was signed based on two rhyming picture books. Because that is how I naturally write best. Write what YOU do well and the rest will hopefully fall into place.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
It did not since I currently only use social media on a personal level with family and friends and to promote my dance business.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )
I really want to see Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person at least once in my life. I love New York City (living there is also a dream!) and would love to experience the thrill of the parade I’ve watched on TV all my life up close. I’m just not sure how I’d handle missing Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

And I really, REALLY want to be one of Santa’s elves. A girl can dream.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?
I’m currently working on revisions of my first accepted manuscript with my agent. I’m also working on a few new picture book manuscripts and a revision of one I wrote a few years ago that I LOVE but just can’t seem to get “just right”.

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: , , , , ,

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Andrea Mack author picI must admit, Andrea Mack’s How I Got My Agent story is my favorite kind: one where a 12 x 12 member signed with a 12 x 12 Featured Agent with a manuscript written in the challenge. They do say good things come in threes! Andrea doesn’t know this (until now), but I got a lovely email from her agent, Janine Le at Sheldon Fogelman Agency, the other day telling me how excited she was to be representing Andrea. It’s all a result of Andrea’s hard work and dedication to craft. Please welcome Andrea!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. My earliest works are mostly about mice, cats and painting elephants (apparently, they look better in pink). I think it’s always been my dream to write for children, but I didn’t take myself seriously and start taking steps towards achieving my dream until my father passed away. That’s when I realized life is too short to wait for my dream to find me.

I started writing children’s stories for educational publishers. I had many books published in Korea, for children learning English. I’m proud of the work I did and I learned a lot, but I also found I didn’t have much time for my own stories to grow. So about six years ago, I created a work schedule for myself where I’d also have time to work on my own writing. I wrote some not-so-good picture books and submitted them to publishers and agents. As the rejections started piling up and I learned more about how hard it was to publish a picture book, I switched to writing middle grade novels. I submitted them to agents and got a few encouraging, personalized comments, but also more rejections. Some of the rejections left me feeling quite discouraged, to the point where I almost quit writing.

Luckily, I had the encouragement of my family and my wonderful critique partners. I decided what I needed was to bring back the fun. Since I teach kindergarten and spend so much time with 4- and 5-year-olds, it seemed natural to return to writing picture books. And it really is so much fun! In 2014, I ignored all the negative thoughts in my mind about picture books being hard to sell, joined the 12 x 12 challenge, and started to submit picture book manuscripts to agents.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

I wanted to find an agent who would represent my middle grade novels as well as my picture book texts, so I compiled a list using online resources (e.g., like Literary Rambles, Kathy Temean’s blog, #MSWL). Basically, whatever I could find to learn about agents and the kinds of books they were interested in representing.

The dreaded questions: How many queries?  How many rejections?

It varies, depending on the manuscript. All together, maybe 30 submissions and rejections for picture books. For the manuscript that first captured the attention of my new agent, I only sent 5 queries.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?

I thought what would happen was I’d find an agent who liked my middle grade novel and then later, we might work on my picture books. But the reverse happened! Janine first got interested in a picture book manuscript, and then I sent her two more manuscripts, as well as part of one of my novels.

Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.

In the fall of 2014, I submitted one of my manuscripts to Janine Le at Sheldon Fogelman Agency through the agent submission opportunity in the Gold level of 12 x 12. Janine liked that one and requested more of my work. I didn’t hear back for several months. In the meantime, I’d been working on another picture book manuscript that I was really excited about. So I sent her an e-mail inquiring about the status of my original manuscript and mentioned that I’d written a new one. She asked me to send it to her.

A few weeks later, Janine e-mailed and asked if we could talk on the phone. I was both nervous and excited! A couple of days later, after consulting with her colleagues, she told me she wanted to represent me! I still break out into a big smile when I remember that I now have an agent!

 How did you know your agent was “the one”?

Janine really seemed to understand my work and I got the feeling that she really respected my writing process. She also didn’t seem to mind that I was rambling excitedly, probably incoherently, on the phone! I liked that the agents in her agency work together as a team and are so experienced.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )

Joining 12 x 12 has played a key part in getting me this far, and I’m so grateful. Just being part of the 12 x 12 community helped me rekindle my interest in writing picture books, and being part of the challenge motivated me to write new drafts and to revise. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity to submit to agents and tried to send only send my very best work. I really believe that the challenge to write more has made my manuscripts stronger and helped me continue to develop my writing voice.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?

Since I only signed with Janine recently, it’s hard to say. One of the things that Janine emphasized was to keep writing and working on my projects. I usually work on either a picture book or my novel revisions every day, sometimes both! It really helps to have her notes to know what areas to focus on when I’m revising.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?

Be patient and don’t rush the process. Now that I have an agent, I realize that I probably wasn’t ready for this step before now, even though I thought I was. The more writing I do, the stronger my writing gets.  And because I keep producing more work, now I have more than one project to work on with my agent.

Also, take some risks in your writing. Read recently published picture books and study them. Try writing in a different style or a different type of story. Stretch your writing muscles. You might surprise yourself!

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?

I feature picture books on my blog, and I’m positive that studying other published books helped me with writing my own. I love how social media connects me to the wider community of writers, and I’ve learned so much from them. So I think it indirectly helped by making me a bit more savvy about the process, and about my own writing.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )

I want to do more traveling.  My husband and I went to France on a school trip in high school (before we were even dating) and I’d like to go back. I’d also like to revisit Hawaii, where we went on our honeymoon. I’d like to attend the big SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles or go on a writing retreat. And I have a secret dream to get back to the drawing and painting that I used to do when I was a teen.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

I’m revising a middle grade novel, working on new a picture book manuscript and revising a couple of picture books for submission to publishers. I’m on track to write 12 picture books in 12 months and I’d like to achieve that goal.

 

Andrea L. Mack grew up in Northern Ontario, exploring the woods and craggy shoreline of Lake Superior in the summers and retreating to the warmer, imaginary worlds of books during the long cold winters. She now lives near Toronto, where she enjoys sharing her love of nature with her kindergarten students and in her stories. She is the author of over twenty books for children learning English, published in Korea. In rare moments when she isn’t writing or reading, she enjoys blogging, gardening, playing board games, and walking one of her family’s three dogs. 

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , ,

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Picture-Book-MonthI have a confession to make.

Ever since Picture Book Month began four years ago, I dreamed of being a Champion. Not for the fame or fortune (if you write picture books you know how likely THAT is… not!).

No, it was because I wanted to be worthy of championing this form of books I love so much, that brings so much joy and possibility to the lives of children, and which I never thought I would write.

You see, I always dreamed of becoming the Great American Novelist. After my first child was born, however, I developed a love of picture books so ferocious I couldn’t STOP myself from writing them. That first child is will become a teenager in January, but the love of writing and reading picture books hasn’t waned even one little bit.

Appropriate that the theme for my champion post is Love. Picture books are love. Pure and simple. For me, for kids, for everyone.

Many, MANY thanks to Dianne de Las Casas, mother of Picture Book Month, for making this one particular dream come true.

Categories: Picture Book Month, Picture Books, Writing

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