Monday, August 30, 2010

One Step at a time...

Everything worth accomplishing in life takes some degree of patience, and usually happens one step at a time. From learning how to actually walk as a baby, to riding a bike, to driving a car, to figuring out how to raise children of your own... or writing a book and trying to get published. We are all at different places in our lives and goals, and we all take different paths to get where we want to go or do what we want to accomplish. One person might take a few less steps (or a few more) than you to get to the same place. But as long as we make it -- accomplish what we set out to do -- does it matter how many steps it took? What do you think? As you can tell from my 6 part post on "my path to getting an agent," I took a TON of steps to get to that goal. I could have quit so many times, but I didn't. Did I want to quit along the way? Um, yes. But am I so incredibly grateful now that I didn't? That I kept forcing myself to take those steps, no matter what? You bet I am! I know it doesn't end here, either. I have more steps to take on my journey to getting published, and they will continue even after I have a book on a shelf.

So, my question on this Monday (the start of a new week, with new promise) is this: What is your next step? Have you been worried about taking it? Or are you moving forward with purpose and confidence? Let's all "step" into this week with a smile and renewed purpose and make it a great one. Then we can all relax and enjoy the long holiday weekend. Right? (For everyone here in the U.S. anyway...)

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Five

Five random thoughts on my mind for your Friday enjoyment...

1. Mockingjay... whoa. I've heard quite a few different reactions to this book so far. I have to say that I actually loved it. Was it gory? Yes. Was it heart wrenching? Yes. Did it have some plot issues that I wish had been done differently? Yes. I would elaborate, but I don't want to have any spoilers. But it was also incredible and made me feel so deeply entrenched in the world of Panem that I felt guilty for eating an orange while I was reading it. That is the power a book can have. I could say so much more, but don't want to be spoilery.

2. I should have written my Friday Five yesterday when I actually had five things I was thinking "I should write about these five things." But then I thought, naw, I'll remember all of 'em. And now I don't. I remember Mockingjay and the rest is a big blank. Such is the state of my memory. Other things I've forgotten this week? My son's goggles for swim lessons, where I put one of my favorite shirts, to make dinner last night, about ten different things at the store (causing multiple trips back), and a whole lot more. I just can't remember what else I forgot. Yeah. It's great. For someone who used to be able to memorize a name the first time I met someone, or a phone number after hearing it once, this memory loss stuff is a serious pain the butt.

3. Having children causes memory loss. I didn't believe it either until I actually had kids. And then... well, you read #2.

4. I feel guilty sometimes that I almost always wear my hair straight for family pictures. I have naturally curly hair, but it's so unreliable that I usually decide to do it straight for "important" pictures so I KNOW it will look good. (Instead of possibly going frizzy and/or collapsing into the "dead-curl-zone," wherein my curls look great upon drying them, but within an hour are totally dying and look horrendous.) But then I feel guilty that I'm not "taking advantage" of my curly hair and "being proud" of it. I worry that because I straighten it so much, my curl is starting to go away and that one day I'll wish I'd just kept wearing it curly all the time. Yes, I know I'm weird. It's okay. Why is this on my mind? We're probably doing family portraits this weekend. Bring on the good times of hair indecision.

5. Running can be like writing/revising: You have moments where you feel like you're flying and could go forever, and moments where every step kills and it's a struggle to breathe, and all you want to do is lie down and quit. But you have to keep going no matter what or you'll never reach your goal. Trying to train for a 10k and revising 2 books and continuing to do everything else on my "to-do list" and getting very little sleep for the last, um, forever contributed to this thought. It may have also contributed to #2.

Is this just me, or do any of you have days (or weeks) where you seriously can't remember anything?

What are your thoughts on this Friday?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Utah authors gone wild! (otherwise known as Writing for Charity)

I had the opportunity to go to the Writing for Charity Evening Extravaganza last Saturday night. Shannon Hale and a bunch of other local Utah authors have started this charity to raise money in order to buy and give books to underprivileged children. Children who may otherwise never own a book in their lives. This was my first year attending, and let me tell you--it was well worth it! Not only to help out the children, and having the chance to bid on some amazing gift baskets and prizes (my friend Stacey [who runs the book review blog] won a real "Bella's engagement ring" and I got a family meal deal to SmashBurger. Next year, I am bringing a checkbook and saving my pennies. They had some amazing prizes for auction that I really, really wish I had brought the money to bid on...). But if you need more incentive to come, you could have had the chance to see Utah authors gone wild. Completely crazy. Don't believe me? Then read on.
James Dashner and Shannon Hale (who is due with twins in a couple of months) were the co-MCs for the night. I think she first regretted asking him to help her when he pushed her out on stage and then continued pushing her all the way to the edge of the stage and nearly dumped her out of the wheelchair off of the stage. If that wasn't enough to make her question her choice in co-MC, I'm sure she really thought twice when he started auctioning off both of her placentas. Yes, you read that correctly. He used the word placenta multiple times in an auditorium filled with children and teens. Families galore. Oh, if only the inappropriate word usage ended there... (In all seriousness James did a great job with Shannon, and I'm sure she was thrilled with his MC-ing skills.)
Not to be outdone, Brandon Mull (New York Times bestselling author of FABLEHAVEN and the forthcoming BEYONDERS series) decided to relive his comedy skit troupe days. This particular skit was the best one IMO--a couple of the actors pretended to be different authors, "rewriting" JACK AND JILL WENT UP A HILL in their own styles. Brandon and the woman next to him acted out the different versions. They did the Shakespeare version, the Stephenie Meyer version which was awesome, the monster truck rally announcer version, and the picture is him just before he crashes to the ground, enacting the Edgar Allan Poe version. Which included this death scene where there was much flopping and thrashing on the ground. If only I'd known he had this kind of talent when I lived next door to him a few years ago. Our neighborhood/church parties would have been a whole lot more fun. Seriously, I was shocked (in a good way). He seemed so quiet and shy when I knew him back then. Just goes to show, you never know someone until you make them do improv comedy in front of an auditorium full of people.

The author panel was great. James got totally let off the hook for his placenta comments, because one of these innocent looking authors completely shot the placenta comment out of the water. Can you guess who? (From left to right this is James Dashner, Brandon Sanderson, Bree Despain, Sara Zarr, Ally Condie, Jessica Day George, Brandon Mull, and Shannon Hale.)

Did you guess one of these lovely ladies? Then you were wrong.
There, that's the guy. Yep, Brandon topped James easily. Just be warned that if you ask him to explain the difference between YA and MG you might get more than you bargained for. Mentions of "blushing crushes" versus "sexual attraction" (or something like that) may be tossed around quite a bit. (Which isn't a big deal, until you remember that young children were there. Lots of them.) But the best part was when he started talking about vaginal births. Yep, placenta wasn't good enough. Brandon knew the only way he could win was to bring up where the placenta comes out. (Okay, we have to cut him some slack, his wife did just have a baby a few weeks ago, so he's somewhat immune to those words right now.) Honestly, it was completely hilarious. And he definitely blushed a little bit.
Ally didn't do anything too wild or crazy. However, if you were to try and steal her favorite dessert ever (my brown sugar cookies) you better watch out. She'll go all ninja on you. Okay, not really. And my cookies probably aren't her most favorite dessert, but I know they're up there somewhere. Top ten?

(Side note: I just read the ARC of MATCHED. I wanted to see how different it would be from the pre-published mss I read a year ago. It is every bit as incredible as I remembered, only even more so--which I can hardly believe. Julie, her editor, just polished the diamond that was MATCHED until it is now so brilliant I can hardly stand to look at it directly. If this isn't on your TBR list yet, you'd better add it right now.)

The night ended in fist-fights, complete with knitted gloves.
It was touch and go for a while there, but luckily, the yarn was pretty soft, so no one sustained any life threatening injuries.

See? Who says Utah authors can't party? (Does anyone say that? I'm just guessing ...) Anyway, if this recap doesn't make you want to come next year and help the cause, I don't know what will.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And the winner is...

First, I have to say how interesting it was to do the contest the way I did. I used four different readers to judge and rate the pitches, and then combined the scores to decide an overall winner. I found it fascinating to see how differently each judge rated the various entries. However, only one person could win, and the one that got the highest overall score when combining all four judges scores was:

JAMIE!! Here's his pitch: Waking up in a coffin hungry for blood is only the beginning for sixteen-year-old Everly Blue. Things are about to get a lot worse.

So, obviously vampires are far from "over" - at least, according to my four readers! (Who varied in age by almost thirty years by the way.) Jamie please email me your query at sarablarson21 (at) gmail (dot) com and I will get working on your critique. Congratulations!

What did I learn from this? That different readers have different tastes, opinions, and reactions to the exact same pitch (or query, or book, or anything!) and that you need to write what you love, do it well, and find the person who loves it as well. Because someone will.

Coming up on Wednesday is my recap of the awesome Writing for Charity evening extravaganza I went to over the weekend, which included Shannon Hale (who is pregnant with twins, in case you didn't know, and on bedrest) nearly getting dumped off the stage (from her wheelchair) by James Dashner, Brandon Mull joining with his old comedy troupe to do some skits that included enacting a Jack and Jill death scene in Edgar Allan Poe style, and even more. You don't want to miss it. Until then, Happy Monday!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Happy Friday everyone! This is just your quick reminder that the query contest closes today at 12:00 MST - (2:00 pm EST, 11:00 AM PST). If you want a chance to win a query critique, click here and give me your best twitter pitch!

So, I'm curious... what book (or books) is/are coming out in 2010 that you are just dying to own? I can think of quite a few that I can't wait to have on my book shelf. Or, more realistically, in the huge pile next to my bed. I loved PARANORMALCY and can't wait to buy it (August 31st!). Kiersten's book is a wonderfully fresh, funny, romantic and unique take on the YA paranormal genre. I highly recommend it. And of course, MOCKINGJAY. Oh boy, I can't wait to see how this trilogy is going to end. Happy? Sad? Peeta? Gale? (Come on, go for Peeta! ahem...) Or maybe she'll kill them all. (Yikes, I hope not.)

There are so many amazing books coming out, but since those are both being released in August, they're on my mind right now.

Further on in the year is NIGHTSHADE (also loved it! I'm totally team Ren though. Not sure that's what she intended...), and one of my personal favorites MATCHED (duh, if you've been reading this blog long enough, you know how much I love Ally's book--all of her books really, but this one in particular). I know these are technically next year, but I also can't wait for DARKEST MERCY (the final Wicked Lovely book), and THE IRON QUEEN. CRESCENDO and FIRELIGHT and ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and... Okay, I better stop. This list could go on and on and on.

So tell me, what books are you just dying to get your hands on?

Happy weekend everyone, and best of luck to all of the query contest entrants! I'm glad I'm not judging it, you guys have some great pitches.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The power of...

Here's my thought for the day, and it can relate to writing, to querying, to continuing to pursue your path to getting published... or trying to train for a 10k in a month and a half. Or anything else you really want to accomplish that is hard. You ready for this?
(This is actually printed off and taped up right by my computer to help keep me going, even when I don't feel like it.)

"Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not." (Brian Tracy, The Power of Discipline) He goes on to say, "There are 999 other success principles that I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work."

So, let's all do what we know we have to do, whether we feel like it or not, okay?

(also, don't forget to enter my contest to win a query critique by Friday! Only two days left!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Running and Writing and Query Contests...

Wow, you didn't realize what you were getting into when you asked me to tell you my path to getting an agent, did you? At least there was a super cool contest at the end of it all! Wait, you didn't know about it yet?? At the end of my last post, there are details on how you could win a query critique, so go check it out and enter. (Contest is open for submissions until Friday at 12:00 pm MST, so 2:00 pm EST.)

Did you all have a nice weekend? I hope so. My little guy got his glasses last week (he's 19 months old, but he has strabismus and so this is the first step in treating it--we're hoping he won't need surgery as well, but we'll see). He looks adorable in them if I do say so myself. He wouldn't keep them on AT ALL for the first two days, so I was seriously stressing. (Also adding to the stress was the two, yes TWO, books I was doing revisions on for my agent.) I called the doctor, and they said it might take months before he'll wear them all day like he's supposed to. Fabulous, right?

Well, the next day, he wore them for a couple of hours without taking them off. Then yesterday, he kept them on for almost 6 hours - I finally took them off because he had to take a nap. Victory!

So, what did I accomplish this weekend? One book revised and sent back to agent, second book caught up to the notes I have so far from her, kitchen cleaned, bedroom cleaned (thanks hubby!), SonB wearing glasses almost all day already (woot!)...

and then I went and decided to sign up and train for a 10k in October with my mom. WHAAAA? Am I insane? Considering I have this love/hate relationship with running (in that I hate running and love it when it's over), this could be interesting. Working out at the gym? I'm all over it. But I have always wanted to be a runner, so I'm just going to force myself to do it. Okay, I don't actually HATE running, I would love it, if it didn't hurt so bad. But I'm doing this. One step at a time, one mile at a time. Pushing myself through side cramps, and bad knees, and bad weather, and anything that comes in my way. I. Can. Do. This.

Kind of like writing, isn't it?

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Path to Getting an Agent Pt. 6

Okay, let's see if I can do this!

During the month of November and December, I get quite a few requests for fulls and partials of IMPACT. (Both were in the double digits) I am feeling very hopeful this time, but am nervous to get my hopes up after so many rejections in the past. Ultimately, I get rejected by ALL of them. The majority of the responses were so full of praise, that again they read like acceptance emails, until you got to the part where that word "enough" showed up again. Didn't love it enough. Didn't feel passionate enough. At this point I really, REALLY hate the word enough. I'm considering never using it out loud or in a book again. Ever. Okay, just kidding, but you get my point.

So, what do I do? I write another book. I loved the idea I'd used for my "adult book," but didn't want to try adult fiction again, so I thought about how I could turn it into something YA. At first it was going to be more of a quiet, emotionally driven book. But then this whole other side to the plot begins to build, characters and histories and future events begin crowding into my mind and I think it sounds like a lot more fun to write. Hence, SIGHT UNSEEN is born. I write it in about 3 weeks or so (it was over Christmas break, so I had a lot of writing time), and then spend about a month revising and polishing it. I start querying it in mid--late February.

I get a lot of interest again, with many requests for fulls and partials. When, suddenly, out of the blue, I get an email from an agent about IMPACT. She'd just read my query that I sent a few months ago and wondered if it was still available to read? If so, she'd like to read the full. I am totally surprised, but think, "sure, why not? I'll send it to her," and figure I'll get the rejection sometime in the next month or two. Then I didn't think too much about it again, as I am concentrating on SIGHT UNSEEN at this point.

Imagine my surprise when I get an email just two weeks later, telling me she'd read the whole thing over the weekend and wanted to set up a time later that week to talk on the phone. I seriously just sit there staring at my email (I checked it on my iTouch) trying to figure out if this was real. Instead of screaming or crying or anything like I thought I would do, after all the years of heartache and faith and hard work and dedication, I just feel... almost numb with shock. An agent had read the whole book and wanted to talk to me. On the phone. My next thought is, "I should call Trav and tell him that I think an agent might be offering to represent me." It is so surreal. Once I tell him, and he starts whooping and yelling, I finally snap out of my shock and start jumping up and down and freaking out. Then I have to wait for four days to talk to her. I begin to doubt myself, and wonder, "What if she just wants to tell me why she isn't offering? Or wants to revise it first before she offers?"

By the morning of the call, I am so nervous, I am sick to my stomach as I sit on my bed, holding the phone, a pen and a notebook on my lap (with a printed paper of the questions I wanted to ask next to me). Thank heavens she is so incredibly nice, and asks me really lovely questions like, "Have you lived in Utah your whole life?" and "Do you work or just stay home with your kids?" I know the answers to these questions pretty well, so I don't mess up. Phwew!! (Seriously, it made a big difference, and helped put me at ease before we started talking about my book.) Then, when she does start talking about my book, it is AMAZING. Her exuberance, her passion for my writing and my story, she actually GETS IT! We end up talking for almost an hour. When she asks if I have any other books I am working on, and I tell her how many I have finished, she is actually thrilled.

I can't accept her offer on the spot, because I have so many fulls out still. I immediately write the other agents, letting them know I've received an offer, and get quite a few emails back very quickly, telling me they will hurry and read SIGHT UNSEEN and let me know if they'd also like to offer. This sounds like a dream situation, but honestly, it is a very stressful week. Finally, the next Friday, I ultimately decide that Hannah's passion and love for my books, my writing, and her hopes to help me build a career, make her the right fit for me. I accept Hannah's offer, and two and a half years after I started querying, I finally, FINALLY have an agent. (And an awesome one at that!)

So that is my story! Wow, huh?

Now, on to the fun stuff! Your reward for continuing to read (and hopefully gleaning some sort of hope or wisdom from my long, arduous path to getting an agent) is that I am going to do a contest. But not just any contest...

What do you need to be as shiny and polished as possible to get your foot in the door on your path to getting an agent? Yep, you got it. A QUERY. So here's my contest: All you have to do is leave a comment with your "twitter pitch" (aka 140 characters or less); basically a one or two line pitch of your book. Then, I will take all of the pitches and have a panel of readers vote on which ones they like the best. The pitch with the highest number of votes will win a query critique from yours truly.

Sound good? I hope so! Thanks for reading and let the pitching begin!
(This contest is open until Friday, August 20 at 12:00 P.M. MST. Judging will occur over the weekend, and the winner will be announced on Monday, August 23!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Path to Getting an Agent Pt. 5

Phwew, are you still there? Betchya didn't realize what you were signing up for when you asked me to tell you about my path to getting an agent, did you? Well, for those of you bravely continuing to read, let's continue.

So, I have a full out with an amazing agent when we last left off. After about a month and a half (I don't remember exactly anymore), she responded to it and let me know that she loved it, but just not enough. However, she gave me a bunch of notes and said if I was willing to revise it, she'd be happy to read it again. At first I will admit I was dismayed that it wasn't a big, huge YES. But, then after talking to Julie and taking a few deep breaths, I realized what an amazing opportunity this was. I spent about a month tearing my manuscript apart and revising it. I even found a great writer's conference at BYU and signed up for it, hoping to get some more feedback on it and meet more people in the industry. I met some amazing people at that conference, including my morning class that ended up becoming a critique group for a while. We've since split up because it was just too big, but we still get together quarterly for BBQs. All those ladies are so wonderful and fun!

I also became good friends with one of the nicest, most genuinely sweet and humble people I've ever known, Ally Condie; and I got to learn at the hysterical and wise feet of our morning class teacher, Janette Rallison (whom I also am lucky to count as a friend). I learned so much at that conference, met such wonderful people, and am so grateful I went.

Then... I waited for another month to hear back from the agent after I resubmitted my manuscript. I got a couple more requests for partials in the meantime from some great agents. I was feeling pretty confident. For reals this time. This. Was. It.

And then they all rejected HIDDEN. All of them said about the same thing, they loved the writing, the characters were wonderful and so real, the plot was intriguing, etc. But they just didn't love it enough to offer representation. I really grew to hate the word "enough" over the next few months. My rejection letters had evolved into reading like an acceptance letter, until you got to the part where two little words "didn't" and "enough" got shoved in before and after "love it." Ugh.

This was a really low time for me. I seriously thought about giving up. But even at my worst moments, I knew deep down that I couldn't. As much as I wanted to sometimes, I just knew I couldn't give up. I was determined to make it. I would send out more queries, and got more requests (some partials, some fulls) and kept getting the same responses. Ally joked that she'd never seen such nice rejections before--and so many of them, too! That was funny, but unfortunately it was also small comfort, since they were still ultimately rejections. And what do you do with nice rejections anyway? There's nothing to work on, or revise, or change.

After talking with her, my other friends and family, and Janette, I finally came to the realization that after two YEARS of querying HIDDEN, maybe I needed to step back and try something else. It broke my heart to give up on Gareth and Ava, but I was running out of options. I wanted to fight it, but the truth was staring me in the face. I had to write a new book if I wanted to keep pursuing getting an agent. I still had a few more hopes for HIDDEN left to try before I shelved it for good, but in the meantime, I began working on a new book, a completely different story with a totally different narrator. Ethnie started whispering to me, and grabbed my full attention in a very short time. IMPACT (as it was titled then) took me over three months to write (which was VERY slow for me), but it came out very clean. All my other hopes for HIDDEN had by now been squashed (yay for more incredibly nice rejections), and so, with the encouragement of my CPs and everyone else who read IMPACT, I decided to start over at the top of my agent list with my shiny, new book. By this time it was October/November 2009. With renewed hope and confidence, I sent out my first wave of queries.

My hope is to finish up this story in the next post (we'll see if I can do it!), so make sure and come back for the exciting conclusion. PLUS as a reward for sticking with me through this long and arduous retelling of my journey, I am going to have a fun contest. So stay tuned for that!

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Path to Getting an Agent Pt. 4

Did you all have a nice weekend? I hope so. Are you ready to continue reliving my crazy journey to getting an agent with me? Yes? Fabulous.

One of you guessed right in the comments for Pt. 3: I got a severe and rare form of PPD called Acute Anxiety Post Partum Depression. Instead of just being depressed (sad, tired, wanting to sleep, etc.) I was basically having an anxiety attack constantly, 24/7. I couldn't sleep, I could barely force myself to eat (my stomach was too upset), it was horrible. I won't go into all the details, but the reason I'm even bringing this up at all is because so many women are afraid to talk about their experiences after having a baby. They don't want to admit that they cried more than they smiled for the first couple of weeks (or more), or that they were mad or afraid or anything besides calm and put together. They're afraid that by admitting things weren't as perfect and deliriously happy as they thought it would be, that they are bad moms. Which is 100% NOT TRUE. PPD in any form or severity is a disease, just like any other. People will tell you to just "snap out of it," to put "mind over matter," and just "make yourself be happy." Here I was, with the baby we'd been desperately pleading for (for two years) and I was miserable, almost hysterically unhappy at times. Logically, I knew deep down that what I was feeling wasn't true -- that it wasn't really me. But there was nothing I could do to stop it. Thankfully, I'm not the type to pretend I'm okay when I'm not (which would have been pretty impossible anyway with how severe it was), and I got help very quickly. I also got better very quickly, especially for how severe it was.

However, there was definitely NO writing or querying or anything remotely close to pursuing getting an agent for a couple of months.

When my son was about two months old, I started getting back to work. I was feeling a LOT better, and wanted to keep pursuing my dream. I started querying again, and revising the sequel to HIDDEN to give me something to do. (Yes, I wrote the sequel the year before, while I was waiting to hear back from Jodi. I also started writing the third and final book. But now I'm getting ahead of myself.) Around this time I met a wonderful author who has become a dear friend and is one of the nicest, most generous people I know in this business: Julie Berry. She gave me advice, helped me some more with my query, taught me so much about what to do and not to do when querying and communicating with agents, and even more. Meeting and getting to know other authors, or aspiring authors, or bloggers, agents, etc. is one of the most fulfilling parts of this business. Don't you agree? People are so kind and willing to help. (Usually, ha ha.) I have been lucky to get to know many wonderful people along my journey, and continue to meet more and more of them all the time!

Then... one beautiful spring day... it happened. I got my first request for a FULL MANUSCRIPT! I was over the moon. NOW my dream was finally going to come true! I was finally going to get an agent. I'd been through so much, and hadn't given up - no matter what - and it was finally going to pay off. Right?

P.S. If you, or anyone you know, is suffering or has suffered from any form of PPD and would like to talk more, I would be happy to. Talking about it and finding other people who have been through what you have, who truly understand, can be amazing and therapeutic.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Path to Getting an Agent Pt. 3

Okay, I'm just warning you guys now. Telling you the whole path to getting my agent is probably going to take a few more posts. I was joking with some of the ladies in a writer's group tonight that if I told you ALL the details, I could stretch this out for four months. Wait! Don't pass out yet--I'm not planning on actually doing that. I will try to condense it enough to keep it to a couple more posts, while still sharing the ups and downs of my story in case anyone out there is benefiting from hearing this.

So, where did I leave off? Oh yes, the lesson I learned. Wanna know what it was? All those red marks on my manuscript meant that she liked it enough to actually take the time and effort to give me such a detailed edit. Because honestly, that must have taken her a LOT of time. And possibly more than one red pen, due to the ink running out from all of my mistakes she marked and her notes on the pages. (It was so bad, she actually stopped marking it after about page 60 and said, "you keep repeating the same mistakes, so try and catch them yourself from here on out and I will go through it again after you revise it.")

The thing that helped me not get completely depressed about her edit, was that she took the time to explain how much she liked my book and my writing, and that the things she'd marked were actually relatively minor, common "pre-published" mistakes, and easily fixed. I learned that when someone takes the time to give you a detailed edit, it means they like it and care. Not that they hate it. If she'd hated it, or thought I had no talent, she would have told me "it was good, maybe you could try and work on ____" and handed me back my manuscript unmarked.

I got down to work, and did pretty much every edit she gave me. My manuscript had a complete make-over. Suddenly, I wasn't thinking "How could Jodi have rejected me?!" -- I was thinking, "Why in the world did she even request this in the first place??" Obviously it had potential, and the story was still there, but wow. I really tightened it up a ton. At that time in my path I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I'd queried Jodi AFTER the revision from Stephanni. However, I may never have asked Stephanni to look at it without Jodi's rejection. Her feedback is what spurred me to ask Stephanni to look at it and help me figure out what I was missing. (Just so you know, I eventually realized that there were lots of other amazing agents out there--the one that represents me included! She was just the only I really knew about at the beginning of foray into this industry because of Stephenie Meyer's acknowledgements. Again, can you say naive?)

Phwew. That was a rough month. But I was ready to get back in the saddle. I was going to start querying again. I revised my query with Stephanni (and her writer's group's) help. I used my new discoveries (! agent blogs! absolutewrite! the list goes on...) to compile a HUGE list of agents to query. I, and two of my friends, spent days and days (morning, noon, and night) researching every agent on that list and then "rating" them from best fit for my book to least, based on what we could find about their likes/dislikes/submissions/etc. I finally picked ten of my "5's" (the highest score we gave them), and I prepared to jump back into the waters, my confidence completely restored. I was definitely getting an agent this time! First round baby! Those two friends gave me so much support and time, I am also forever indebted to them for their belief in me. They got me through more rough patches than you can believe.

Within a couple of months, I'd gotten quite a few requests for partials, and a whole lot more rejections. The ability to query by email was nice for speed and convenience, but it kind of sucked how quickly they could send you a form rejection back. The rejections hurt every. single. time. The first one, the tenth one, the fortieth one. They all hurt bad. But I kept going.

About this time, I finally got the miracle my husband, son and I (and family and friends) had been praying for--after almost two years of trying, procedures, surgeries, losses, hopes and devastation, we were finally having a successful pregnancy with our second child. We'd made it through the scary time when I'd lost a baby the year before right before the second trimester in a "missed miscarriage." Over the ensuing nine months, I had many ups and downs. Some weeks I queried a bunch, and other times I was having complications with my pregnancy, and writing/querying got put on hold. I got requests, I got rejections. I'd revise some more and keep trying. I'd spend hours researching an agent to personalize a query only to get a form rejection the next day or week -- or in some cases, the next hour. Requests, rejections. Lots of rejections.

I was able to carry my baby full term (which was a wonderful miracle), and in the meantime nothing new happened with my querying. I was due the beginning of January, so I figured I'd take a break for Christmas and the New Year (since the industry pretty much shuts down anyway), and start putting my nose to the grindstone again a few weeks after he was born.

After talking about possibly having to deliver him at 25 weeks to try and save his life, then having the situation recover enough for him to hold on until the end, I ended up having to be scheduled for an induction. Not one to ever let us dictate how his life would be run even in utero, Son B decided to come the day before his induction in the most excruciating labor imaginable. (He was face up and turned to the side, the only thing harder to deliver is breech apparently.) But we both did just fine, and there he was! My miracle baby, alive, healthy, beautiful. I had bright hopes for our future, and felt really excited about getting back to work in a few weeks. I was deliriously happy.

And then... I wasn't. Something went wrong. Very, very wrong.

Okay, I think that's long enough, so I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to cut you off again. Sorry it isn't the happiest ending place, but things do get better. I promise. Stay tuned! Until then, happy weekend! (P.S. SonB's test and appointment went pretty well. Not fabulous, but the doctors will be able to help him and it isn't as bad as it could have been. Thank you for you prayers and well wishes.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Path to Getting an Agent Pt. 2

I just had a brilliant thought that I unfortunately didn't come up with on Monday when I posted Pt. 1... I should have asked you what YOU thought would happen next in the comments! That would have been fun. Oh well.

So, wanna know what happens next? For those of you who excel at math, you have probably figured out that I did not become the next Stephenie Meyer who got an agent on the first round of queries. (You would have figured that out by realizing I signed with my agent in March of this year 2010 - and Pt. 1 happened in Summer-Fall of 2007. Yikes.)

Here's what happened next: I waited. And waited. And waited. And started getting a few form rejections in the mail. A few more. Some more waiting. And then....! An email from someone I don't know! Celebrations! Oh, wait. Who is this person?

I queried an agent, and got an email back from a person (who's name doesn't show up on the agency website or the Writer's Market listing - which was the only source I was using at the time) asking for a partial. I figure out what agency she's from by the name of it in her email address. Okay, great, now I sort of know who she is. Maybe an assistant or something? I'm so excited! I got a partial request! I write her back to ask if she'd like it emailed as an attachment or sent in the mail (since she didn't say, it was really a very short email). And nothing. No response. Nada. Ever. Again. That was weird.

Also, no response from Jodi. But that could be a good thing, right? It's not a no... yet. After 8 weeks, I begin to lose hope and figure I'd better get ready for my next round of queries. But, wait! Another email comes, from someone I don't know again. Except this time, she says she's Jodi Reamer's assistant, that Jodi liked my sample pages and wants a 100 PAGE PARTIAL!! Celebrating and screaming and squealing ensues. This. Is. It!! I am so landing my number #1 agent baby!

I send her the partial and eagerly wait for a response in the next week or so. Because that's how fast she will respond when an agent is interested, right? Especially when they request it right around the Holidays so they have lots of free time to read it! (Hopefully you are laughing out loud right now at my naiveté. If not, you have much learning to do young padawan.) The other thing about this partial, is that she asked for it to be exclusive. Which I immediately granted. So I wait, and wait, without sending any other queries out. December passes silently. Christmas comes and goes. New Year's. Valentine's Day.

Then... I get it. The long awaited email from her assistant. I open it with baited breath. I read an opening line thanking me for letting them have the chance to read the partial, and telling me how much they enjoyed it, and praising my writing and my characters and etc. Until suddenly they're telling me that unfortunately Jodi doesn't want to offer representation because she felt like there wasn't enough of a reason for Gareth and Ava to be falling in love - that she needs more than a vague sense of destiny. I'm stunned. What in the world just happened? She rejected me? All my dreams come shattering down around me. No one is going to think that Erin's younger daughter is named Ava because of my book after all. I'm not the next Stephenie Meyer. Jodi doesn't like it. I'm broken.

This lasts for a short period of time. Then I decide there has to be at least a few other agents out there, and I'd better start doing some more research. I (with the help of two friends) start researching this industry some more, and find websites like (holy crap! There's, like, a ton of agents out there!), and agent blogs and websites and all sorts of information. (I know, I'm lame that it took me almost 3/4 of a year into this journey to figure that all out.)

I dust myself off, wipe my eyes, swallow hard past that lump in my throat, and decide I'd better keep moving forward. I believe in HIDDEN, my friends/family/readers do (they claim they like it better than Twilight and swear they aren't just saying that. But they are my friends, so I'm not really sure I can trust 'em. However, it does give me the boost of confidence needed to make me want to find the person who WILL believe in Ava and Gareth as much as I do.) I also find out that a woman in my neighborhood (ironically named Stephanni Myers) used to be an acquisitions editor and is a published author. She graciously takes the time to help me take the feedback I got from Jodi, reads my whole manuscript and then tears it apart. In a good, GOOD way. It doesn't feel good at first - in fact, when I see all those red marks completely obliterating the page, I think "why did she even read this if she hated it so much?" She didn't hate it though, quite the opposite actually. Stephanni taught me a major lesson that is vitally important at any stage in this business and I am eternally indebted to her, not only for that but for all of her help and support along the way. What was that lesson? Stay tuned to find out! Or maybe let's play that game I thought up: what do you think the lesson was that I learned? Or can you make a guess at what happens next?

Until next time!
(P.S. if there are tense problems or rambling issues in this post, I am not held responsible. I am somewhat distracted by some health issues Son B is having and a test we have to go to today. Wish us luck or pray for us, whichever you feel comfortable doing.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

By Request: My path to getting an Agent pt. 1

I don't know how many of your paths have been/will be like mine, but for what it's worth, here's what I went through to get where I am.

Summer 2007 - Eclipse and Deathly Hollows get released. I have a very traumatic experience personally. I've been writing again for about a year (after my almost four year break due to dating/marriage, like I explained in previous posts). But I am trying to write "grown up" books - aka adult fiction with some heavy topics. Not working out too well; in fact one of the saddest scenes in my book ends up happening to me almost verbatim in real life, seriously freaking me out (on top of being horrible).

I decide I definitely need to write fantasy or something that absolutely can't happen to me in real life from now on. I believe that I can write a book like Twilight or HP, if I could just have a plotline come to me while I'm sitting on a subway (or car in my case), or in a dream. I just need the plotline! I've always written contemporary or historical YA fiction growing up, but decide to wrack my brain for an urban fantasy or paranormal romance idea that could combine the elements I loved the most from HP and Twilight - a wonderful, intense romance and an intricate fantasy world with magic, and characters have special abilities beyond just doing spells. After weeks of trying to come up with something, my main male protag Gareth shows up in my head with an entire back history and an awesome plotline (IMO). I start frantically writing notes, trying to get all of my ideas down on paper, all of the history and character arcs and plots going on, etc. I can see the main girl in my mind, I know exactly what she's like, what she wants, what is going to happen to her, I just can't figure out her name. I know it's something short, but beautiful. I start going through all my baby name books, and finally find it: Ava. (The funniest part about this is that one of my closest friends has two daughters: Bella and yep, you guessed it, Ava. We kept joking that if/when my book got "BIG" she'd get told she'd named both of her girls after characters in books, when they were actually named before the books were published.)

I start writing, and HIDDEN comes flying out in two weeks flat. I have a couple of people reading as I go, and they LOVE it. I start to believe this is THE ONE. After I finish, I go through it a couple of times, with feedback from my few readers, and I prepare my first round of queries. I start with my top pick and about fourteen others that I find through the few resources I know about at this point. Most of them are snail mail. With a wish and a prayer I send out my queries, truly believing I'm going to be like Stephenie Meyer and get a bunch of no's and (at least) one amazing yes. Especially since my number agent is her agent, aka Jodi Reamer.

Want to know what happens next? Tune in for the next installment of "My path to getting an Agent, pt. 2." Until then, Happy Monday!