Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me! (AKA My PitchWars Bio)

I'm so excited!! It's PitchWars time!!!!!

Okay, I'll cool it with the exclamation points. For now, anyway.

I can't wait to get the best ever PitchWars team put together (you hear that, other MG mentors?)!

So, why in the world would you want me as your PitchWars mentor when you can choose any of the other stellar MG mentors?


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1) I beta read like a madwoman. Honestly, I can't even remember how many manuscripts I've beta read this year. I'm a member of MG Beta Readers, an amazing talented group of writers, and together we run the Kidliterati blog. I'm also part of a semi-local MG and YA critique group. So, yeah. I beta read a lot. And no one's complained yet. I also tend to make random comments in your manuscript that may or may not make you laugh. (They make me laugh, anyway...)

2) I can spot your typo from a mile away. I did time in grad school editing academic works for professors, and held the ever-so-enviable position of Articles Editor on my law school's scholarly journal. (Now watch me have a typo in this blog post...)

3) I LOVE middle grade! Really, I'm the oldest twelve-year-old in the world. I recently spent all my downtime at a writing conference watching the Disney Channel. (Seriously. I don't have cable at home, people!)

4) I'll focus not just on shining up those first few pages, but making sure your entire manuscript is agent-ready. I'm talking plot, character arcs, pacing, writing quirks - all that good stuff! I want to help you make your manuscript as perfect as possible.

5) I have chocolate! See:

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Okay, I'll get to the important stuff now.

What am I looking for?

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Hamster! Not on a boat, but whatever.

1) Anything MG. I know, I know. Not helpful. But I read widely, and would never pass up a manuscript based solely upon genre. So throw it all at me: contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, speculative romantic hamsters on a boat, whatever. It just has to be MG.

But, since everyone has soft spots, here are mine:

2) Contemporary. I write it. I love it. Funny, heart-wrenching, girl, boy, commercial, literary, all of it!

3) Historical. Any place, any time. I have a BA and a MA in history. I was the kid who dressed up as a Laura Ingalls-esque pioneer girl for three Halloweens in a row. 'Nuff said.

4) Twists on Contemporary and Historical. Meaning magical realism, time travel, alternate history, historical fantasy.

5) The funny stuff in any genre. Ah, those books where I have to go find my asthma inhaler because I'm laughing so hard I can't breathe. Send me those.

5) Voice. A killer voice is one that grabs you on the first page and tosses you into the story so fast you can't even remember what it was you should be doing instead.

6) Random things: sports, travel, performing arts, spooky stuff, mysteries, fish-out-of-water situations, how-the-other-half-lives stories, outdoorsy stuff, first crushes, friend stories, animal stories, smart kids, oh whatever -- I love it all!

Hey, wait, who am I?

I'm a contemporary middle grade writer, represented by Julia A. Weber. My debut, DON'T FALL DOWN, will be published in Spring 2015 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. I'm a business attorney by day (meaning, I write contracts so dry your eyeballs would fall out before you finished reading them).

In the past, I've moonlighted as a homeless shelter worker (best job I've ever had), a somewhat friendly retail associate (I can fold a sweater like no one's business), that nice lady who answers the phones at your ophthalmologist's office (where I learned how to spell ophthalmologist and understand things like PRN and HBP), and an ice rink Jill-of-All-Trades (I could rent you skates and get you nachos at the same time).

Photo courtesy of
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Ah, nothing like the aroma of hundreds of old, wet skates...
I'm obsessed with travel, camping, figure skating, cats, spinach, and Jason Isbell. I have a two-year-old daughter who is the light of my life.

Who are the PitchWars Agents?

  1. Louise Fury - Bent Agency
  2. Suzie Townsend - New Leaf Literary
  3. Nicole Resciniti - The Seymour Agency
  4. John M. Cusick - The Greenhouse Agency
  5. Sarah LaPolla - Bradford Literary Agency
  6. Victoria Marini - Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency
  7. Jessica Sinsheimer - Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
  8. Pam van Hylckama Vlieg - Foreword Literary
  9. Quinlan Lee - Adams Literary
  10. Jen Udden - Donald Maass Literary Agency
  11. Emily Keyes - Foreword Literary
  12. Brianne Johnson - Writers House
  13. Carly Watters - P.S. Literary
  14. Lana Popovic and Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
  15. Molly Jaffa - Folio Literary Management
  16. Evan Gregory - Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
  17. Stefanie Lieberman - Janklow & Nesbit Associates
  18. Rena Rossner - The Deborah Harris Agency

Yeah, you're great and all, but who are the other PitchWars Mentors?

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

For Redheads Only! (Or not.)

RedRed by Alison Cherry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A well-executed, unique concept. It would've been easy to just let the book ride on the premise, but Felicity's emotional growth throughout the book is what really made the story. I also especially liked the way the love interest developed - it was believable and had me turning pages to see what would happen.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The story of DON'T FALL DOWN

At this time last year, I was finishing up revisions on my latest manuscript, a middle grade novel about a figure skater who says all the wrong things and ends up having to start over with the sport's misfits.

I was busy querying another manuscript, but I'd entered this new one -- DON'T FALL DOWN -- into the yearly contest at the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference in September. I didn't expect to win anything, so I'm sure I looked completely confused when they actually called my name as the winner of an honorable mention.

That was exactly what I needed. I finished revising and decided to enter DFD into blog contests. Maybe a few too many contests (I really like writing contests). Somehow, I made it into the granddaddy of writing blog contests - the Baker's Dozen. (You can see my entry here.) I even got bids!! I was super afraid that the entries would go up and all I'd hear was crickets.

At around the same time, I threw the pitch for DFD up on Twitter for #PitchMas. Amazing agent Julia A. Weber requested it (and she already had a full on my other can see where this is heading!).

So if that's not enough, during one of these Twitter pitch parties, Kate Messner favorited my pitch for DFD. KATE MESSNER, y'all. And then she said nice things that I can't even remember because I was trying too hard not to faint and/or fangirl out.

I entered more contests -- won one at Project Middle Grade Mayhem, didn't even get selected for others -- but the support and camaraderie from these contests was enough to make me start traditionally querying DFD. And then Julia offered representation. Which I accepted, of course!

Fast forward through revisions and the submission September I got THE email from Julia. The one that pretty much made me unable to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

It was an offer.

And not just any old offer. It was from an editor at Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

OK - so you know how when you start writing, people give you the sage advice to, "Go to a bookstore and see where your book might fit in"? I did that early on. And I stumbled across these fun, light-hearted, middle grade books from Aladdin. As I stood there in Barnes & Noble, flipping pages and admiring cover art, I thought, These people would so get my writing.

So...I'm bouncing-up-and-down excited to say that DON'T FALL DOWN will be published by Aladdin/S&S in Spring 2015!!

And this is where I say THANK YOU to my critique group, my beta readers including the ever-amazing MG Beta Readers group, writing friends, non-writing friends and family, everyone in SCBWI Midsouth, all of the hard-working writing contest organizers and the awesome writers who enter those contests, the incredible writing community on Twitter, and pretty much everyone who's ever said anything nice about my writing.

A little encouragement goes a long way, folks. I only hope I can pay it forward. :)

You can follow my fabulous agent, Julia Weber, on Twitter here.  And my equally fabulous editor at Aladdin, Annie Berger, here.

And here's a Firefly gif. Just because...well, it's a Firefly gif. And you read all the way to the end, so you deserve a dancing Nathan Fillion.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Big News!!!

So you may have seen this today if you subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace:

Can I say this is the best Halloween ever!?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stay tuned for Pitch Wars...

I'm going to be a middle grade mentor for the upcoming Pitch Wars. And I'm SO excited about it!

What is Pitch Wars? Glad you's an amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with an agented or published author, an industry intern, or an editor to shine up your manuscript! It's open to writers of MG, YA, NA, or Adult, and the fun will begin in November. 

Check out Brenda Drake's blog for more info.

Monday, August 5, 2013

WriteOnCon 2013

So, you all know about WriteOnCon, right?

What?! You don't?

If you write middle grade, YA, picture books, or NA, you need to check this out. It's a free, online kidlit conference on August 13 and 14. Because it's online, there are TONS of agents and editors and authors, all willing to offer you free writing advice!

And WriteOnCon has forums where you can post your query letter, your first 250 words and/or your first five pages. Other writers will pop in and give you feedback so you can edit your query/250/1st 5 into perfect, shiny words to possibly catch the eye of a Ninja Agent roaming the forums.

I love WriteOnCon. No, I never got any ninja requests the two years I participated, but I learned so much and had FUN and got free advice on my writing. Not too shabby for free, huh?

So get on over there. Yours truly is wandering the MG forums leaving comments. :)

Word Count!

I had so much fun participating in July's Camp NaNoWriMo as I did first-pass revisions on KSFD, my current WIP. As is my track record with anything NaNoWriMo, I didn't finish. :)

So, to keep up with the public accountability thing, I installed a Word Meter gadget on the side of the blog that I plan to update as I revise.

Go me!

If you don't see that meter moving for a couple of days, please bug me. :)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What about The Hunger Games appeals to a 12 Year Old?

Check out my post today at Kidliterati and find out what a twelve-year-old loves about The Hunger Games!

This interview is part of our ongoing K10 series of interviews with kids about the books they love. It's one of my favorite features on Kidliterati.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kidliterati is live!

All right, you guys - Kidliterati is live!

What is Kidliterati?

It's a great new blog that focuses exclusively on kidlit - middle grade and young adult books. Every Monday, we'll feature an interview with a young reader about the book he or she most recently finished. On Wednesdays, we'll have a book review, a post on the craft of writing, or an interview with someone who gets books into the hands of readers.

The blog is a group effort from the MG Beta Readers, an awesome group that I've had the good fortune to be a part of.

Come check us out!

Sunday, July 7, 2013


So, yes, I'm still alive! :)

After my last post, I've been crazy busy with revisions for my agent, revisions on a new manuscript, and life stuff.

I want to give you guys a heads-up on a new Secret Blog Project I've been working on with some of my favorite kidlit writing people. We're launching on Wednesday, July 10, so mark your calendars! I'll try to remember to post back with the site address so you can check out all the kidlit goodness we'll have up on Wednesday. On Twitter, you can follow the excitement at #july10.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I have an AGENT!!!!!

I cannot believe I'm actually writing this post. I love reading other writers' How I Got My Agent Posts, and I always hoped I'd get to write my own. And now I do!  :D

Warning - this will be long. I've been composing this in my head forever. Feel free to skip to the end for the good stuff.

I'm going to start from the very beginning, because it's a very good place to start (and if you know where that comes from, you will make my day!).

In 2006, I found out about this thing called NaNoWriMo. I was in law school and needed to do something that wasn't studying or law review or outlining. Something creative. I had an idea for a middle grade book (although I had no idea what "middle grade" was then). So I tried NaNo. And wrote about 30,000 words in a month.  I added to it here and there, and in the meantime, I read up on revising and the publishing industry and anything writing-related I could find.

The following November, I still hadn't finished that first book but I had an idea for a second book (which would eventually become EX-DRAMA QUEEN). So I started that one in November 2007, and wrote a whopping 7000 words. Ha! In my defense, I'd just found out I'd passed the bar exam in October, was interviewing for jobs, and then started my first lawyer gig immediately after Thanksgiving. So I was a little busy that month.

Fast forward to 2008. I decided to put EDQ aside so I could finish my first book. I polished it up and read about query letters. On November 10, 2008, I sent out my very first batch of queries.

And they were AWFUL.

Somehow I actually got one partial request and one full request on that book. I don't know what those agents were drinking, but I'd really like to have some. I cringe when I think of the manuscript I sent them, too. They probably added me to a "Never Ever Ever Request From This Writer Ever Again" list they keep on their wall. Because you know all agents totally have one of these lists. :)

Yeah. So after sending somewhere between 40-50 queries on that book, I decided it was time to move on. Between 2008 and 2010, I sent those queries and I (very slowly) finished EDQ and revised it.  In 2010, I joined SCBWI and went to a local writing retreat and my very first writing conference. I also found two local critique groups, lost my job, had a miscarriage, and went on a ginormous road trip out West. 2010 was an eventful year.

In November 2010, I sent out the first queries on EDQ. (And really, what IS it with me and November??)  Over the next few months, I only sent a few queries. No bites.

And then I got pregnant and everything writing-related stopped while I ate every piece of food in the house and spent hours perusing my Babies 'R Us registry.  Well, not everything. I did go to an SCBWI conference in May 2011 where I sat in the back near the door so I could go to the bathroom about 900 times a session.  I did WriteOnCon in August with my laptop propped on my belly. I started a new manuscript (DON'T FALL DOWN). And I even got a query rejection at 4:46 p.m. on September 9th, while I was getting checked into the hospital to give birth.

And then I really did nothing writing-wise for several months. I had a newborn and I was dealing with a crazy unexpected health issue from the pregnancy. It went undiagnosed for six weeks, and was such an incredibly scary thing that I still have a hard time talking about it. (Choriocarcinoma, if you're feeling ambitious and want to Google it. PS - do NOT Google this if you're pregnant right now. It will freak you the heck out.). 2012 I got a LOT more serious about my writing. A brush with death will kind of do that to you. I found a new critique group. I went back through EDQ with more critical eyes. I joined Twitter. I found beta readers (Stefanie Wass @stefwass, Jen Malone @jenniferlmalone, Heather Brady, and Jenn Brisendine @jennbrisendine). I went to more conferences. I drafted another version of the query for EDQ, and I began querying in earnest. I also discovered online contests and may have become a little addicted. ;)

And - I got requests!

Requests from contests, requests from Twitter pitch parties, requests from queries. I started getting personalized rejections! (You KNOW you're getting somewhere when you start getting those.) I even got my first R&R on EDQ. In November, I found a full request for EDQ from this really funny, nice, newer, awesome agent in my inbox.  I may have done a little dance (okay, I admit I did a little dance every time I got a request), and then I sent it off.

Meanwhile, I finished DFD, revised it, had it critiqued, and revised it again and again.

In November, I entered the Pitch Wars contest with DFD. I didn't get in, but I got some of the most helpful and inspiring feedback from the mentors. Not to mention some help with my first few pages and my agent search. (Shoutout to Dee @writeforapples, Brenda @brendadrake, and Krista @kristavandolzer - go follow them!!)

Also, I thought I'd do NaNoWriMo again with a new idea. Because I'm crazy that way. I also joined the #5amwritersclub to get some uninterrupted writing time.

In December, DFD got into the Baker's Dozen contest, and I almost broke the internet at work refreshing the website the morning of that contest.  After that, I decided to set EDQ aside and concentrate on querying DFD. I also did this fun Twitter pitch party - #PitchMas. And what do you know - that same Awesome Agent requested DFD! 

An agent had TWO of my manuscripts. *dies*

In January 2013, I put DFD into a few more contests - Cupid's Blind Speed Dating ContestProject Mayhem's I Have A Dream Contest, and the contest with the best name ever, The PAPfest (Pitch a Partner Contest).  I sent a few queries. Then I decided I hated the query letter, so my writing twinsie and critique partner, Jen Malone, helped me make it 1000 times better. And I sent a few more queries.  I found out I'd gotten into the Blind Speed Dating contest, and that I was a finalist in the Project Mayhem contest and the PAPfest.

Then I got this funny email from Jen asking if I'd heard anything back from Awesome Agent because she'd had a dream that said agent had offered me representation. I laughed and said, "I wish!"

And then Awesome Agent offered me representation.

Seriously, if you need something to happen in life, go ask Jen to dream it for you. ;)

I was sitting at work, chatting to my office-mate, and checking my email. I opened the email from Awesome Agent. I had to read it about fifty times before I believed what it was saying. I pretended to listen to my co-worker while my brain was screaming, "OH MY GOD!!!!!"

And THEN, when I emailed to pull my entry from the I Have a Dream Contest, I found out I'd won that contest, which came with a referral to another agent. Ack!!

I sent out all my notification emails to the agents who had my query, partial, or full. I had just queried several of those agents the day before I'd gotten the offer.  And even though I had started querying DFD, I still had unanswered queries and submissions out on EDQ. I had to combine two spreadsheets, y'all. This was some serious spreadsheeting.

Awesome Agent answered all my questions via email, and we decided to Skype after she got back from a trip out of the country.

I got requests from the agents I'd notified.

Then I waited.

And waited.

I annoyed the bejeezus out of my agented friends.

I SQUEE'D with a local writing buddy, Sara Thompson @ThWritingSpider (who writes the most hilarious blog entries! Yes, that is a shameless plug for a friend.).

I commiserated with another writer friend who also had an offer around the same time (and I can't tell you who because she's still in that excruciating waiting period - but you'll find out soon!).

I refreshed my email a few too many times.

And I got the most encouraging and friendly rejections EVER. Literary agents are the nicest people on the planet. Well, maybe after nuns. And kindergarten teachers.  But still, I want to frame most of those passes because they said so many sweet things about my writing.

Finally, it was Monday!!! Time to Skype with my new-agent-to-be.  I got home a little early, tamed my frizzy Helena Bonham Carter hair, put on lipstick (you know you're important when I bother to put on lipstick), and waited by my laptop.

Then I had the best conversation with the best agent ever. You guys - she really gets my books!  And she said all kinds of nice things about them. And she was just as friendly and down-to-earth as I thought she would be. And she didn't mind when my husband got home early and Little E crashed our call by demanding to be picked up. And and and...!!!!!

I'm represented by the awesome Julia Weber! :D  *cue dance moves*

So here are the stats (on both books)...

Queries Sent: 36
Partial Requests: 3
Full Requests: 7
R&Rs: 1

Queries Sent: 16
Referrals: 2
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 4
R&Rs: 1

Offers: 1 - the only one I needed! :)

(PS: This blog post shows exactly why I cannot write picture books or short stories.)