I’d love to know more about your road to publication and how you found your agent.
I started writing in earnest almost thirteen years ago. This was before blogging and Facebook and critique groups on-line (at least that I knew of). I did a lot of stumbling around for years, learning through my mistakes, from the how-to guides I found at the library, and from the middle-grade novels I read and shared with my students.
During those years I’d faithfully send out queries to publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. Most of the time my work would be an exclusive submission, and I would wait month after month for those rejections to come. I can still remember anticipating the mail, the surge of hope that accompanied every SASE in the mailbox, and the frustration that after months and sometimes years on submission, the answer was always no.
Because children’s authors can still get published without an agent, I never consistently pursued one until 2009. I had just decided to stop teaching and try out writing full time, without a book deal, agent, or lead of any sort (yes, really). I queried a number of books to a number of agents, trying to match my books to each agent’s preferences and got a good number of requests for fulls and partials. My strongest piece, this little verse novel thing, was one I only sent to a select few because honestly, who would want to represent a quiet literary historical for kids?
After a few months of this, I decided I had to shop my best work. Whether is was salable or not, it was what I believed in, and I hoped it would attract someone who could see beyond its non-flashy surface to the story beneath. With my focus just on MAY B., more agents responded, and long story short, I signed with the super-wonderful Michelle Humphrey, who had just the right combination of risk, enthusiasm, and hard work to sell MAY B. at auction.
I found Michelle through Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog. By the time I signed with her, I had received seventy-five agent rejections and over two hundred editor rejections over eleven years.
How is the reality of achieving your dream different than the dream itself?
The reality is one hundred times better. It’s harder, too, but in a really, really good way. I’ve learned so much about writing this past year. Going through the revision process has been like going back to school, except this time around I’ve got the advantage of having my instructor’s undivided attention, interest, and commitment. Even that rough patch, when my book was homeless for a few weeks, as harrowing as that was, I didn’t go through it alone. I had an agent backing me, a former editor willing to fight for my book’s survival in any way she could, writing friends to help with perspective. It wasn’t like those years before. I was waiting again, but this time waiting with the support and backing of people who knew the industry and my work. There was a lot of comfort in that.
Honestly, almost every night I fall asleep thinking, “I really have a book deal!”