Sitting down to write the “how I got my agent” post is pretty surreal and I’m not sure that it’s fully sunk in yet. And it’s been two weeks since I first got my offer. I still have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it really did happen and, yes, I do have an agent. I could be traditionally published some day.
This is how it happened for me.
In March 2011, fresh from a trip to Sedona, I decided I was going to finally sit down and finish a novel. It’s something I’ve wanted to do my entire life (all 37 years prior to that date). I had started and stopped more times than I can remember, but this time it was going to happen for real. I was going to finish an entire novel this time. I wasn’t going to quit like I had all of the other times.
So, I wrote. And wrote. And kept writing. And, over 60,000 words later, I wrote a novel!
And, guess what. It was bad. Only, I didn’t know just how bad it was until I let people start reading it. Everything started to turn around for me a year later when I took Mandy Hubbard’s wonderful, amazing Lit Reactor course – Writing and Publishing the Young Adult Novel. As a result of that class, I made some lifelong CPs and friends and gained some skills I needed to vastly improve my manuscript.
As a result of the feedback I received from that class, I rewrote the entire manuscript (including converting it from third person to first). And, when I thought it was ready, I sent out a few tentative queries and entered a few contests. I got a couple of requests and was pretty happy and encouraged.
In the meantime, I wrote my second manuscript, a Middle Grade story about an Abe Lincoln fangirl and history fanatic named Lilly Petunia Washington.
When it was complete, I sent it off to some smart and amazing CPs who offered me invaluable advice on how to make it better.
I took the advice seriously and made some pretty major changes. Three rewrites later (around October of 2012) I started entering it into contests. And, unbelievably, I made it into the final round of almost every contest I entered!
As a result of those contests, I received quite a few full requests. Feeling on top of the world, I started sending a few queries out. And slowly, the rejections started trickling in.
I made a few more revisions, entered a few more contests, sent out a few more queries. And a few more rejections started trickling in.
In February of this year, I entered Cupid’s Blind Speed Dating contest with both of my completed manuscripts. It may not have been the smartest thing to do, in retrospect, because the manuscripts are complete opposites. But unbelievably both made the final agent round. And, as a result of that contest, I received several full and partial requests for BOTH manuscripts. I was pretty darn excited.
I sent off the requested material, and a few more queries.
Two days later, I got an email from one of the requesting agents (from Cupid’s contest) saying she was passing on the first 50 pages of my middle grade manuscript for another agent in her office. The next day, I got an email back from her requesting the full.
Feeling more confident than ever, I sent off that full and a few more queries in March. And, once again, more rejections trickled in.
In April, my little family of three took a four day trip to the beach to relax and unwind, and at 9:00 on a Monday evening, I checked my email and saw a message from the agent who had requested the full a month ago. I almost closed my email because I didn’t want any bad news while on vacation. But my curiosity got the best of me and when I opened it, I saw that she wanted to set up a time to chat about the possibility of representation.
I almost fell over. Then I sent texts to my family and several CPs who’ve helped so much along the way for advice.
When we spoke, I really liked what she had to say about the manuscript and about my future career as a writer. In fact, the first thing she said to me was that she wanted me to write a second Lilly Washington story set i nWashington D.C., which happened to be the exact same thing my husband’s been bugging me to do for the last month. I pretty much knew at that moment that I wanted to sign with her. She’s a relatively new agent, but with a great agency, and I immediately felt as ease with her. I asked for a week to get back to the other agents who had fulls and partials, but was 99 percent sure I was going to sign with her. It felt right.
A week later, I signed the contract. And I’m happy to announce that I’m now represented by Olga Filina of The Rights Factory.
Partials – 8
Fulls – 6
Queries sent: 37
Full requests – 8
Partial requests – 1
Referrals – 2
Rejections – 27
R&Rs – 1
Offers – 1
I recently completed the first draft of my third manuscript, Summer Lake. I originally intended for it to be a historic Young Adult. It’s set in the 1973 and, true to the ’70s, it has a lot of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. As I work my way through my first set of edits, I’m realizing it’s pretty mature. There’s a rape scene, explicit drug use, and several other scenes that involve sex that probably push the YA limits.
As I result, I’ve started to think it might be an idea to age my main character (Cass) from 17 to 18, thus shifting the story forward a year to the summer after her senior year in high school. A big storyline in the novel is Cass trying to figure out who she is. Her mother is strung out and her father abandoned her. In the second chapter, she finds a picture of him, and decides to try to find him. She thinks if she can find him, he may be able to answer some of her questions about who she is.
My issue is, in all my reading of and research on the New Adult genre (if it is indeed now a genre) I can’t find a single New Adult historic novel. At least one that is published. There seems to be a lot of contemporary, and a growing subset of speculative, but no historic. And I have a feeling that is because of what New Adult is.
So, this is where I ask for advice. Anyone have an opinion? Do I age up my MC, or not?
It’s 1973 and Cass and Brent are at a 4th of July party overlooking Summer Lake…
The bass thumps in my chest, mimicking my heartbeat. The last of my inhibitions have evaporated as the LSD takes control of my body, magnifying my senses by a million. I drape my arms around Brent’s neck and pull his body close to mine as the music swirls around us. He smells faintly of soap and beer with a little sweat mixed in. The combination is intoxicating, leaving me lightheaded and dizzy. My body throbs. I want him even closer. I kiss him hard on the mouth, tangling my hands in his hair.
The urgency of our kiss is palpable as Brent pulls me even tighter to him, refusing to break our seal. He runs one hand slowly down my spine and with every inch of movement, my body ignites. Tiny jolts of electricity zap me from the inside.
Our sweaty bodies sway to the music as every part of us remains locked together. Fireworks explode overhead head as the kiss deepens. Bang. Bang. The explosions rip through my core, increasing my desire.
When I pull away, my breath is ragged and urgent. Flashes of red, blue, white, and yellow blur together overhead, forming a line of animals marching across the sky. First bears, which morph into hippos.
Pointing up, I shout, “Look, hippos!” And it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I laugh so hard my stomach aches. Brent thinks it’s pretty funny, too, because he’s laughing right along with me. The lights and sounds blend together, creating a bubble around us. The dancing bears whisper “go for it,” so I lean into him, brushing my lips against his. Kissing him more softly this time. Questioning.
Brent answers my question as he takes a step forward, pushing my back up against the wooden railing and pressing his body into mine with so much force I can feel his heart racing. I want him so badly my entire body aches. When he pulls away, I pull him back. I can’t bear to not have his skin and body pressing against mine. It hurts too much to let go of him.
Cassie has been sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp as punishment for her transgressions, which just may go deeper than the arrest. Real, raw, hurt, vulnerable. These things come across loud and clear. This is a story about a girl who desperately wants to be loved and wanted and never has.
There’s an interesting cast of characters at Turning Pines. There’s Nez, the compulsive liar, Troyer, the girl who won’t talk, and then there’s Ben. Ben with a good heart who accepts Cassie for who she is and wants nothing more than to help her.
But, of course, Cassie wants nothing to do with Ben after what she went through before Turning Pines. Before that thing happened that sent her to Turning Pines in the first place.
I would highly recommend this book to all teenage girls. And to us older girls, who are still teenagers at heart. I so wish there had been books like this when I was that age and so desperately needed to know I wasn’t alone in the way I felt.
Thank you, Lisa, for writing a compelling story that has the potential to touch, and change, lives.
So many good books, never enough time to read them all. I am looking forward to reading so many books in 2013. I’m shooting for 100, we’ll see if I can do that. For now, here’s what’s at the top of my TBR:
One More Day by Gayle Forman
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi
Requiem by Lauren Oliver
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Golden by Jessi Kirby
And so, so, so many more. Looking forward to a book-filled 2013.
The Fault in Our Stars is John Green’s fourth solo book and, arguably, his best. This book is filled with heart and soul. It follows Hazel Grace, a 16-year-old girl with stage 4 thyroid cancer. Hazel is battling depression and her mother makes her go to a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus Waters, who is in remission from osteosarcoma.
Hazel and Gus bond over their share love of a book called An Imperial Affliction. The two go on a quest to find out what happened to the characters that leads them to Amsterdam and a meeting with the book’s author. Also in Amsterdam, Gus reveals a secret of his own, that his cancer has returned.
I was so unsure if I would be able to handle reading this book. I knew from the get go that it would reduce me to a puddle of mush. And it did. But it was so worth it.
It’s no secret I love young adult contemporary fiction. It comprises 80 percent of what I read, if not more. I’m just not the girl who’s ever going to be into sci fi, fantasy, and alternate worlds. I do try. I give these titles my all, and intersperse them in between all of the contemporaries, but I just don’t love them in the same way.
I am particularly drawn to stories about women coming into their own and finding themselves. So, Pretty Amy was a no brainer for me.
Amy is struggling with her identity. A high school “nobody” she befriends Cassie and Lila and embarks on a journey that leads her straight to trouble.
After being arrested for possession and intent to sell, Amy’s parents force her to get a job and encourage her to “narc” on her friends to get her out of her legal troubles.
Amy goes through some heavy duty soul searching before realizing the truth about her “friends” and doing the right thing.
I can’t recommend this book enough to every teenage girl out there struggling with her identity, struggling to fit in, and looking for validation. I only wish there had been more books like Pretty Amy when I was a teenager and needed them so badly.