This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Christa Heschke from McIntosh and Otis will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members October 1-15. Janine Le from Sheldon Fogelman Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members October 16-31. Christa’s profile appears first, followed by Janine’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

12 x 12 Featured Agent Christa HeschkeCHRISTA HESCHKE

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Christa, but after a few email exchanges with her about the 12 x 12 program, I was impressed with her love for picture books and her enthusiasm for participating in 12 x 12 as a featured agent. I was also happy to discover she is actively seeking nonfiction picture books with a strong hook, as I know quite a few members who write those. Please welcome Christa!

A little bit about Christa from the McIntosh & Otis website:

CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects.  For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.”

Find out more about Christa:

Featured 12 x 12 Agent Janine LeJANINE LE

I have also not yet met Janine Le in person, but one of my longtime in-person critique partners signed with her a few months ago and is extremely happy with her representation. One of our previous featured agents, Sean McCarthy, used to work at Sheldon Fogelman before creating his own agency. He had nothing but great things to say about Janine when we spoke at the NJ-SCBWI conference this past summer. Please welcome Janine!

A little bit about Janine from the Sheldon Fogelman Agency website:

Janine Le joined the agency after graduating from Bucknell Unversity with honors in English (Creative Writing) and completing NYU’s program at its Summer Publishing Institute. She enjoys working with the agency’s clients as an assistant agent and as the agency’s foreign rights manager. Janine has licensed translation rights in over 20 languages and has represented the agency and its clients annually at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Janine is building her list of clients and is open to picture books through YA. She is most drawn to stories with a strong emotional core that influence the way readers view the world, themselves, and the people around them. She is also fond of complex characters and relationships, unique cultural perspectives, and stories with a touch of humor, romance, or both.”

Articles featuring Janine:

Full submission guidelines for Christa and Janine will posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Christa Heschke from October 1st – October 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Janine Le from October 16th – October 31st at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
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Me with MLFYI’m chagrined by how long it’s been since I posted a Gratitude Sunday, but I am rectifying that today. How could I not when I had such an AMAZING week in my hometown of Gaylord, Michigan launching MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN? Between the phenomenal launch party hosted by Saturn Booksellers in the company of my family, speaking at SCBWI-MI on gorgeous Mackinac Island, having a nice long visit with my best friend from high school, and visiting the elementary schools, it was one of the most rewarding 2014-09-24 08.12.01trips I’ve ever been lucky enough to take.

I guess sometimes the trips that take you the farthest are the ones that take you home.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” — Mary Anne Roadacher-Hershey

“For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief.” — Fernandez de Andrada

“Most of us miss out on life’s big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel. Oscars. The World Cup. But we’re all eligible for life’s smaller prizes… A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Cold beer.” — Unknown

Gratitude list for the week ending September 27

  1. Saturn Booksellers for the outstanding job they did planning, promoting, and hosting my book launch party
  2. My mom, Jeff, and Ashley for traveling up to MI for the big eventautumn red
  3. Fantastic dinner with family at The Bearded Dogg
  4. Nancy – for hosting me all week, feeding me, letting me sleep whenever I had the chance, and putting up with my crazy schedule
  5. The fall color and warm sunshine. As much as autumn is beautiful in CO, those reds and oranges in MI just take your breath away
  6. Mackinac Island fudge. Yes, it’s official. Even though I am from Northern Michigan, I’ve now become a “fudgie.”
  7. Mel – for inviting me into her classroom to see her teach, and sharing a long walk, a delicious meal, and even more delicious conversation. I’m grateful to her for being the amazing, inspiring friend she is.
  8. The 1000 or so local school children I had the honor of visiting. They were so welcoming, enthusiastic, and inspiring!
  9. Pot roast with cheese curds on top of truffle french fries!
  10. Getting hand cramps from signing so many books! :-)

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Children's Books, Family, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books, Volunteer/Community · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Kim MacPherson

As I sat down to write the introduction for this week’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Kim MacPherson, I was reflecting on a school visit I conducted today (Monday, September 22). Rarely does a picture book author meet with high schoolers, but this was a small private school so I got every grade from K-12. In speaking to the high schoolers, I talked about “dreams deferred” and choosing “logical, rational” career paths over doing what you love. It seems Kim and I both came to writing books for children via the circuitous route after leaving “responsible” jobs. So I appreciate her willingness to share her story to inspire others of you out there who have done the same, may be considering the same, or will perhaps bypass the detour altogether and go straight for the goal. Please welcome Kim! 

Until 12 x 12, I had a whole lot of “works-in-progress.” Oh yes, I’m a very good starter. (You non-finishers out there know of what I speak!)

I am not kidding or exaggerating. Over the past couple of years, I think I’ve started no less than several dozen children’s books.

Granted, over these last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to have more time to dedicate to the craft since leaving a big corporate job. However, until 12 x 12, I’ve mainly only come up with ideas and first drafts. Or just first paragraphs. Sometimes only first lines.

And endings? Ah, there’s my nemesis. (Actually, to clarify—I’ve become an expert at writing the first 2/3 of a book, and then the very last page. It’s the in-between that always has me flummoxed.)

Perhaps My Past Explains It…
As a child, I was all about art and words. All I wanted to do was draw and paint and color. I was an only child, so I had a lot of free time to explore my imagination. By the end of elementary school, I was also writing. A lot. However, I didn’t LOVE it in and of itself (and by itself) like I loved drawing.

When art and words came together for me, though, my brain exploded. I was downright prolific. AND I finished everything I started! Imagine that.

Then life got in the way. I won’t bore you with the details, but a lot of home moves (eleven of them before I graduated high school) and tumultuous times had me heading for a “logical” degree by the time I went off to college. All of that led to a sometimes fulfilling marketing career that completely stalled my artistic ambitions. I mean it ground them to a screeching halt. Bella_illo_stand_600_2

Having a Baby Really DOES Change Everything
That is, until one crazy day, I simply quit. My son was eight years old at the time and my love of words and pictures had been simmering in my heart from the time I was reading him books in utero. Something was rekindled when HE was created… and it has never waned. In fact, it has only gotten stronger.

Again, though (and I’ll mention this for a third time), there was still that non-finisher in me. Where was that prolific girl who finished everything she started? Oh sure, I had all kinds of excuses. My son’s activities took up a lot of time. My freelance editing work took hours. Tennis… school volunteer gigs… etc. They all got in the way. I was busy, but I was trying.

As Yoda says, though: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
And that’s what 12 x 12 makes you do. It makes you DO! I thought about joining in 2013, and then actually joined in January of this year. And I’m so grateful that I did, because while it hasn’t completely brought me back to my astoundingly productive past, I have actually finished—and I mean polished-finished, not just “completed”—no less than three picture book manuscripts this year, and I’ve written five new drafts. I am going to polish those up starting in September. What progress!

Thank you, Julie Hedlund (AND Kelli—can’t forget about Kelli!) in addition to all of the great 12 x 12 volunteers for helping authors like me (as well as the already-productive ones) stay on task and connect to a like-minded community.

Oh yeah… and for helping us actually finish all of those great works-in-progress.

Kim MacPherson is a children’s author, illustrator, and editor. Her favorite book as a kid was the original (and gorgeously illustrated) Golden Book of Fairy Tales. She was also obsessed with Dr. Seuss, but some of Sendak’s early drawings creeped her out. (Sorry to say.) She blogs about writing, drawing, and reading children’s books at KidLitDish.com and also edits PBs at PictureBookEditor.com.

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12 x 12 Member Joanne Sher

I am a firm believer that once you set an intention, especially one pertaining to writing, a path appears before you. So I love the story today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Joanne Sher, has to tell about how she ended up in our community. Like all good stories, it involves determination, overcoming hardship, and finding mentors who help you while you get your hands steady on the wheel. I hope you find the story as uplifting as I did. Please welcome Joanne!

I love my computer: It’s where all my friends live.

For the last decade or so, I’ve wanted to be a writer. But only in the last year did I decide to write picture books. And it all happened because of the Internet. NO – really.

You see, I’d been writing devotionals and short stories, a nonfiction book, and even made a bit of headway on a novel – but I wasn’t engaged. I dabbled in writing, but not with passion – at least not regularly.

But then a couple friends I’d met through two different organizations whose primary presence is online (American Christian Fiction Writers and FaithWriters) offered to give me $900 (YES – you read that right!) to go to a writers’ conference. My husband is on disability – and has been for over ten years now. I’m a stay-at-home-mom with a ten and thirteen-year old. Needless to say, money doesn’t grow on trees. So I can honestly say there is no way I could have afforded a conference if it weren’t for my friends. (By the way – one of the “donors” had never met me in person!)

So I researched (on the Internet, of course!) writing conferences, and ended up attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May of 2013. It was a wonderful experience (where I had a chance to meet the lovely lady who helped me get there :D) – and I took a four-part practicum on picture book writing (led by the lovely Pam Zollman) that woke a desire in me to write for young children.

So once summer was over (had to spend time with the kids, yanno), I started searching the Internet for information on picture book writing. First, I found the Kidlitosphere, which sent me scanning hundreds of children’s lit blogs. And I discovered Tara Lazar and her WAY fun PiBoIdMo, which I dove into last November with reckless abandon (ended up with 47 picture book ideas). And one of the guest posts during that month was…wait for it…

Julie Hedlund. And on that day, my fate was sealed. I WOULD learn as much as I could about picture book writing. I WOULD write twelve picture book drafts in twelve months. I signed up the very first day that I possibly could.

And here I am, halfway through the challenge, and what do I have to show for it? Eight picture book drafts. Incredible resources – both human and material – to keep me motivated, on the right track, learning, and growing in my writing skills. A sense that I am writing what God WANTS me – what He has led me – to write. People who GET ME. Incredibly talented folks who probably realize by now that I’ve never met a picture-book-writing challenge I haven’t at least tried. (Can you say Start The Year off Write? ReviMo? RhyPiBoMo? Debut PB Study Group? Summer Sparks? PPBF?)

Does it matter that 99.9% of the people and resources that have helped me get to this point disappear when I turn off my computer? (You DO believe that, don’t you?) I don’t think so. Cuz though I would LOVE to meet these folks face to face, their impact on my life – on my writing journey – is no less important. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m not ready to send my babies out into “the real world” yet, but with the help of 12 x12 in ALL its facets, I will some day.

Joanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a children’s writer by gift. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husband and two school-aged children. In addition to writing, she is also a freelance editor, the blogger at at the FaithWriters blog, and posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe Devotions. Visit her at www.joannesher.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Perfect Picture Book Friday, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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I’ve been thinking a great deal about the financial viability of being an author this week. I just completed (or rather, started) the launch for my latest picture book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, AND a pre-launch (available only to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers) for a brand new course I created on How to Make Money as a Writer.

So for a Throwback Thursday, I’m re-sharing a Brain Burps podcast episode, featuring myself and Susanna Hill, on this very topic. Everything we discuss in the episode is still as relevant today as they were a year ago. If you are inspired to try the course after listening, I have a pre-launch special running through Friday, September 12th. In the meantime, enjoy the “oldie but goodie” podcast episode. :-)

Brain Burps BadgeI’m delighted to be a featured guest on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast today, alongside fellow author, friend and 12 x 12 member Susanna Leonard Hill. As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post, we discuss the topic of Making Money in Children’s Publishing, but really, it’s applicable to writers of all genres.

For those of us who are not able to live off of book royalties but still need to put food on the table, finding a way to combine the passion and love of writing with the need to earn a living is imperative.

I’m not going to give away the guidance we gave in the podcast – you’ll have to listen for that. BUT, I did figure now would be a good time to share my top three takeaways from The O’Reilly Tools of Change Author (R)evolution conference in New York last week, as the lessons are 100% applicable to this podcast episode.

  1. Writers MUST be Entrepreneurs. The debate is no longer about traditional vs. self-publishing, as there are success stories in both and many authors are taking a hybrid
    Unfortunately, it doesn't grow on trees. We need to earn it and stop making it a taboo subject!

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow on trees. We need to earn it and stop making it a taboo subject!

    approach. What makes the difference between a book becoming a success or languishing unnoticed among the hundreds of thousands of new books published every year? It’s the authors who treat themselves, and their books, as a business who thrive.

  2. Social Media is NOT Marketing. It’s a Conversation. If you are using social media networks exclusively to blast information about your books, you are going to bomb. Social media is all about engagement and building an audience and community by sharing, conversing, being helpful. If you come to it from that angle, it can be a very effective engagement tool to motivate your audience and community to support your work.
  3. Writers Must Build Community. A community is more specific than an audience. A community is a group of people who are loyal to you and your work and will follow you everywhere. This does not happen overnight and can be a slow build, but it’s a must for success in 21st century publishing. So for pre-published authors who are wondering whether to take the plunge into social media, blogging, etc.? NOW is the time.

What are you doing to treat your writing and your books like a business?

 

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This could quite possibly be the latest an author has ever announced the arrival of his/her book on publication day. But I have been working on a special commemoration video of this event. I hope you enjoy this “story behind the story” and MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN‘s long journey to publication.

If you are a regular blog reader, you know this book is particularly close to my heart. In fact, it IS my heart in 118 words. I only hope it brings as much joy to those who read it as it gave me to write it, and that it will give families everywhere a way to express the depth of their love for one another for years to come.

I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to our backers on Kickstarter, without whom this book simply would not have been possible. My sincerest thanks to all of you for loving and supporting this book. You’ve made this girl’s dream come true, that’s for sure!

Huge thanks also go, of course, to Susan Eaddy for illustrations they defy belief, toStacey Williams-Ng at Little Bahalia for taking a risk on me once again, and to Erzsi Deak, my agent, for bushwhacking the path.

Here is… MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN.

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12 x 12 new bannerIt’s prize time! Our August Featured Author, Melissa Stewart, is giving away a 30 minute Skype critique or consultation.

And the lucky winner is…

KATHY BERMAN!!

Congrats! Please contact me at JulieFHedlund (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.

It’s a brand new month and a brand new chance to win! Write those drafts and revise, revise, revise for your chance to win September’s prize.

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Erzsi DeakToday I have the honor of turning the tables on my agent, Erzsi Deak, and interviewing HER about HER writing. As the author of the newly minted picture book, PUMPKIN TIME!, she makes a perfect featured author for September. Being on both sides of the writing/agenting table also gives her a unique perspective to share on writing great picture books.

But before we get into the interview, I need to tell you about the fabulous prizes you might win this month. One is the end-of-month drawing we always do, and that winner will get the chance to submit THREE picture book pitches to Erzsi. She will then give feedback on which she thinks is the strongest, most marketable. Plus, if she is interested in one or more of the winner’s pitches, she may ask you to submit to her. Since Hen & Ink is closed to submissions, this is a fantastic opportunity.

Erzsi is also offering the chance to win a copy of PUMPKIN TIME! Here’s how: the FIRST person who emails Kelli with the correct answer to what GBID stands for wins the book. Ready, set, GO! :-)

Now please welcome Erzsi as our September featured author.

Which came first, the writing or the agenting?

I’ve been writing since before I was born, so I guess you’d say, that writing came first. Seriously, I wrote from as soon as I could conceptualize ideas and hold a writing tool. As for the agenting, it’s something I thought about for at least 25 years before doing (mostly because I wasn’t going to go through the traditional agenting ladder).

You represent PB through YA, but what is your favorite genre to write in and why? Which is your favorite to read and why?

You will laugh, but I started out (you know, before I was born) writing poetry. From there I went to journalism and back to poetry and essays. My first picture book text had a faint (read: heavily faint) resemblance to THE CAT IN THE HAT, though I never liked Seuss as a child (only later did I come close to understanding, or at least, enjoying what he was doing). I love picture books — the interplay of text and image. I studied graphic design in post-graduate school and always wanted to work with words and pictures. Picture books allow for that. Now middle-grade and YA do, too. And “big people” books, too, for that matter. As a writer, I’ll write whatever comes to mind and finds its way onto the screen/page in front of me. I don’t have a favorite genre to write. I don’t really have a favorite genre to read, either; though, that said, my go-to place is probably gentle or humorous picture books, well-rounded literary middle-grade and humorous, heartfelt YA. Intelligent and honest humor, overall, is of huge importance to me. If I laugh and cry, all-the-better. But I’m not the reader/agent for self-conscious serious works, nor particularly socially-correct works. I like to laugh at myself and with everyone else.

Julie’s note: I DID laugh! Erzsi and I have had MANY discussions about rhyme. Reading what she said here about Dr. Seuss makes me understand why it took so long for her to sign me – LOL.

During one of our conversations, we laughed about how you gave your clients the advice not to write about topics that are overdone (like seasons), and then you sold a “Pumpkin Book.” But Pumpkin Time! isn’t really about pumpkins. Give us your one-line pitch for the book! (Ha – how fun to turn that exercise around on an agent!)

PUMPKIN TIME! is actually a harvest tale. And at its heart is the story of process and stick-to-itiveness. I think it’s really a writer’s book! BIC and all that! In this case it’s GBID (the first 12×12 writer who can figure out what “GBID” means receives a free copy of PUMPKIN TIME! We’ll announce the winner on http://www.pumpkin-time.com. Send your responses to KELLI!).

Here’s the pitch: Evy, wearing her spiffy gardening boots, is so focused on her garden and the feast at the end of the year that she doesn’t see the wondrous things going on around her; luckily, her sidekick Turkey (in matching gardening boots) sees everything and keeps the pages turning. Gardening boots, btw, are very important; everyone should have his or her most beautiful pair.

Pumpkin Time by Erzsi DeakWhat advice would you give writers who want to write on a familiar theme but avoid being derivative of what’s already out there?

Whatever you do, make it your own and write from the heart. Read your work aloud; find a good critique group with other writers and illustrators who can be candid without being hurtful; revise, revise, revise. PUMPKIN TIME! did not arrive fully hatched (or, maybe I should say, ripe); it went through a good number of versions before happily finding its home at Sourcebooks. IF anything sounds or feels familiar, cross it out (aka, kill it) and come up with something else. There’s always room for the best in a genre; make yours the best. (Is that obnoxious enough?)

Because you read so many picture books each year, is it difficult for you to make “room” in your head for your own writing – your own voice?

Nice question. I try to leave room for my authors’ voices. That said, I definitely know what I like to read and know when something doesn’t ring true. As for my own voice, it’s still here; I keep it in a separate room. :-) I do far less writing of my own picture books than of cover letters for Hen&ink, however.

In my role as the leader of 12 x 12, I provide opportunities for PB authors to submit to agents. Some of the agents, like you, are also writers. Sometimes people express concern about whether a person can be as dedicated to both, especially since they are both time-consuming. How would you address those concerns?

I hope I addressed that in the question above, but basically, my focus is the agency and my clients. I’m pretty good at departmentalizing, however, as I wear many hats to make everything tick (ever-so-smoothly): agent, writer, editor.

Any parting advice on writing great picture books?

I can only repeat that which I hope everyone has heard before: Read 1000 picture books (or whatever genre you want to write in or are writing in) and keep reading; make the genre your own with original ideas and beautiful writing; avoid clichés at all costs; think active verbs and vibrant words and language; leave room for the illustrations (they are part of the story-telling experience). Finally, less-is-more remains a strong maxim for today’s market.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Picture Books, Poetry, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 new banner

As you can probably tell from the lateness of this post today, I kind of forgot it was the last day of August. That said, August was a great month for me in that it started with the SCBWI-LA conference (and I was even interviewed for the “Official” SCBWI blog!) and proceeded with a great deal of revision (albeit no new drafts).

How about you? Did you get your draft or revision done this month? Let us know in the comments and in the Rafflecopter. Special thanks to our featured author Melissa Stewart for showing us the ins and outs of writing non-fiction picture books. Be sure to stop back tomorrow to meet our September author! (Yes, September! Can you believe it?)

Here is what you need to do to check in for a chance to win a 30 minute Skype critique or consultation with Melissa:

  1. See the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post that says “30 Minute Skype Consultation” at the top.
  2. Click on the “Comment on Melissa’s Blog Post” button. It will reveal the task, which is to comment on Melissa’s blog post. Commenting on Melissa’s post is mandatory and gets you one point even if you didn’t complete a draft in August. If you haven’t yet commented, click here to do so. Then you click ENTER on that option in Rafflecopter, which will then open the next two options.
  3. Click on the “Wrote a PB Manuscript” button. This will ask if you completed a PB draft in August. If you did, click ENTER, if you did not, move on to the next step.
  4. Click on the last “Revised a PB Manuscript” button. This will ask if you revised a PB in August. If you did, click ENTER. If not, move on to the next step.
  5. Submit your entry. Rafflecopter will track your points.

You have until midnight Eastern on September 1st to enter your results. Rafflecopter will draw a winner and I’ll announce it on the blog on September 2nd.

Keep on writing!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Giveaway, Picture Books, SCBWI · Tags: , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Teresa RobesonI am so pleased to bring Teresa Robeson to the “How I Got My Agent” series. I think of her as a “fireball,” and you’ll see why when you read this post. Here’s a gal who can teach you how to make a vodka creamsicle, can bushels of garden beans, and carry on a lucid discussion about the laws of motion — all while making you laugh! Not to mention this is a story that began with two participants of 12 x 12. Read on and have fun…

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

The short version is: I’ve been writing for submission since the early 90s, and only started looking for an agent at the start of 2013.

The long version (and you might want to get some caffeine now, or skip to the next question) is:

I learned English at the age of eight when my family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, from Hong Kong. As soon as I learned this beautiful language, I started devouring books in English, going from “Matt the Rat” readers to Little Women in a year. As is the case with many avid readers, I also started writing, penning everything from crossword puzzles for my younger sister to poems to short stories — probably in order to catch the excess words that were spilling out of me.

But it wasn’t until around 1991, when I was approaching 30, that I decided to get serious about writing, taking a course with The Institute of Children’s Literature. At the completion of the class, I sold one of my assignments to Ladybug Magazine as a short story.

Within a couple of months of the sale to Ladybug, I sold a personal essay to Outdoor Indiana magazine. Buoyed by my success coming out of the gate, so to speak, I continued to submit to the Cricket Magazine Group (now Carus Publishing) and other places for the next little while.

My kids, born in 1996 and 1997, inspired many of the pieces that were bought by Babybug and Ladybug. But, as they got older, and I began to homeschool them, life got busy and I put writing on hold.

I didn’t start writing seriously again until around 2010 when I took a speculative fiction class, followed by another, from Gotham Writers’ Workshop with the wonderful Michaela Roessner. Science fiction had been a love of mine since I was four years old. But I hadn’t abandoned kidlit. Somehow, somewhere — I’m fuzzy on the details, but it could have been from the Children’s Writer newsletter, which I’ve been subscribing to for years — I discovered websites for kidlit writers folks to lurk on. It was in those communities such as the (then Verla Kay’s) Blue Boards and Write-On Con that I saw Julie’s posts about 12×12. What I read sounded good and I knew that I needed something to push me in my writing because I’m basically lazy and would love to sit around all day eating cookies and reading books instead of doing something more constructive.

12×12 turned out to be just the shove I needed. I considered joining at the Bronze or Silver level, but knew that if I didn’t feel pressured by having made a larger monetary commitment, and having agents practically handed to me to submit to, I’d probably slack off. As it is, I don’t get a brand new manuscript written every month…though I always get a revision, or ten, done. Anyway, the special access to agents was what made me start looking in earnest for one.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

Prior to joining 12×12 in 2013, I wrote mainly for the magazine market and hadn’t looked seriously at agents. When I joined 2013’s 12×12 as a Gold member, I used Julie’s monthly posts about the agents who were available to us as a starting point for research. As I began to search for agents on my own, I read about them in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, the Writer’s Digest website posts on new agents, and a number of different online sites and blogs that feature agent interviews or highlights (e.g. Literary Rambles, Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating).

Once I found an agent through those venues who represented the type of writing I do, I looked at her/his agency’s website for up-to-date details on what s/he want and how to submit.

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

Since March, 2013, I submitted to 23 agents, and was rejected by all of them. I don’t count my agent, Ella Kennen, among those I submitted to because I came to sign with her through an unconventional route, which you can read about at my friend Sylvia Liu’s blog post.

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

Well, it wasn’t for me because I write for all ages, from PBs to short stories for adults. In fact, the hard part was finding an agent who actually takes all the genres and categories that I write. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to find one agent for PBs, one for MGs/YAs, etc. Fortunately for me, Ella has eclectic (and excellent, I might add! *grin*) tastes and can represent everything I crank out, including, hopefully, illustrative work in the future.

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

Ella and I first connected through 12×12 where she was a participant in 2013. We had lovely conversations about our common interests, including homeschooling and science fiction, and I already knew I liked her as a person. When she told me that she was interning to be an agent, and was interested in one of the stories I’d shown her, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it did occur to me that having an agent who was already a friend I admired would be a totally awesome thing! When she called me with the official offer, hubby told me that he could hear me squealing from out in our field (about a city block’s distance away).  Well, what did he expect? It was a dream come true!

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 :-) )

Are you kidding? 12×12 was primarily responsible for my getting an agent (see answer to the above question)! If it weren’t for 12×12, I wouldn’t have met Ella and would not have an agent right now. Maybe I would have stumbled across her on my own eventually, but 12×12 was my “matchmaker.” ;)

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

Having an agent has freed me to concentrate on goofing off on Facebook, editing current manuscripts, as well as writing new stories, rather than spending time doing market research. Having an agent has also helped me figure out which pieces are worth working on and which should be scrapped, taking away a lot of the hand-wringing I was doing over which stories were actually publishable. It may still be just one person’s opinion, but it’s eliminated some of the uncertainty on my end.

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

I don’t usually like to give advice (unless you’re my offspring, and then you can’t shut me up; they’ll thank me one day), but would suggest that when you start out doing something – whether it be writing for publication or looking for an agent or tackling the fine art of ikebana – read all you can about the topic from books and online (search engines are your friends), then ask informed questions in friendly forums, like 12×12 or Blue Boards, before you actually leap into it.

And always keep in mind that publishing is a subjective field. I know you’ve heard it before and are probably so sick of hearing it, you want to throw a chair at me, but that won’t change the truism.

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

Perhaps not directly, but it was on Twitter that I started a conversation with Ella that led to my eventual signing with her. (Yes, I committed the big no-no of whining on Twitter. Don’t do what I did, boys and girls.)

I’ve been blogging since 2006, so I have a decent, if not huge, following, most of whom are not writers, which is actually pretty nice because we know we have a friend in other writers, but we want non-writers to buy our books too.

Also helpful in platform building is the fact that my speculative fiction critique group, The Minnows Literary Group, has self-published a couple of short story anthologies (on different themes) with 100% of the profits being donated to Doctors Without Borders. These anthologies have done quite well – we’ve donated over $2,000 to MSF so far – and I’ve received fan letters from strangers about my stories in the books; I’m sure Ella can’t find fault with my building a fan base before I have books published.

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 :-) )

There are three things I really want to do; unfortunately, they are also highly improbable for me to achieve:
1) I want to land a huge portrait commission; I would love to paint the portraits of the National Academy of Sciences members.
2) I want to sing an aria, just once, at the Met because, many moons ago, I sang with a choir for 12 years and had wanted to be an opera singer.
3) I want to do graduate work in physics — particle/quantum, or astrophysics would be lovely.

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

Besides daydreaming about the impossible things on my bucket list, I’m currently editing a couple of picture book manuscripts, revising a completed MG novel, writing the first draft of a YA novel (and doing some historical research as I go along), as well as working on a number of sci-fi short stories and a possible novella for adults. Meanwhile, Ella and I are putting the finishing touches on two manuscripts that she’ll start shopping around soon.

The fun never ends!

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Books, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, Self Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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