YALITCHAT, The League of Awesomeness, & How I Got From There to Here

I co-hosted YALITCHAT for the second time last night and loved every minute of it. Some incredible agents, editors, and publishers stopped by, and we had a lively conversation about what makes great YA and what exactly agents are looking for in YA queries and submissions. We were also treated to the names of the winners of the New Adult contest by St. Martin's Press. The top five winners were invited to submit their full manuscripts. Kudos to Georgia McBride for being the High Priestess of YALITCHAT, to Agent Elana Roth of the Caren Johnson Literary Agency for taking on the rapid-fire questions regarding what agents look for in YA, and to JJ Jones from St. Martin's Press for sharing the winners of their contest with us.

Some of the other awesome folks who stopped by to share their awesomeness were:

Colleen Lindsay of FinePrint Literary Agency
Bernadette Baker-Baughman (aka, Awesome Agent) from Baker's Mark Literary Agency*

Feel free to read the transcript from last night's YALITCHAT and learn more about the website and weekly chat here. If you write YA and are not already a member, I urge you to get involved. It's fun and informative, and the networking is incredible.

During the chat, I sensed many unagented writers wanting to know more about the process. How do you get an agent? What happens after you get an agent? What happens during the time before your book goes on submission? I'm in that very place right now, so I thought I'd share my experience with you.

Here's a recap of my journey thus far:
  • 1995: Started writing "seriously."
  • Wrote sporadically until 2008, sometimes with passion and focus, but more often, with indifference and lack of sustained attention, and always in between the obligations of my "real" life.
  • July 2008: After a conversation with my honey about getting really serious about my writing, I registered for the Algonkian Pitch & Shop Conference. Part of the registration involved submitting a writing sample. I was thrilled when I was accepted, though I was suspicious that all who registered were allowed in. I called and asked that very question. The organizer assured me only about 60% get in. I'll never know if this is true, but nonetheless, I felt a sense of accomplishment. For the first time, my writing had been accepted by people in the know (maybe).
  • Last weekend of Sept. '08: I attended the Algonkian Pitch & Shop Conference in NYC. There were approximately 60 writers in attendance, some who'd traveled from as far away as Australia. We were split into four groups of 15, mostly to work on our query letters. I met several amazing writers there, two of whom I'm still in communication with (shout out to Wendy and Sarah!). Over the 4-day conference, I met one-on-one with agents for the first time in my life. I was pitching my novel LITTLE PEARLS, and I was horribly unprepared. Before the conference, I was under the delusion I was good to go. I was fairly certain an agent would catch a glimpse of my literary genius, and I'd soon be on my way to sipping champagne with JK Rowling at fancy author dinners in our honor. Um, not quite. I struggled with condensing my story into three succinct paragraphs. Frustrated, I spent my time entertaining the group - making them laugh, encouraging them, generally lightening things up. I know this may come as a huge surprise, but I really can be the class clown. The last day of the conference, I didn't show up. I wasn't feeling well, or rather, I couldn't take it anymore. You see, over the first three days, most of the women in my group received business cards from at least one agent who we pitched to requesting sample pages. But me? Nada. Zero. Zip. The big, empty goose egg. I got nuttin'.
  • Sept. 30th, 2008: I started my blog. This was highly encouraged by some of the wonderful gals in my group, and one of the greatest gifts I've given myself as a writer.
  • October '08: I sent out a handful of queries, although I still had no business doing that.
  • Nov. '08: I received my first request for a partial. I was in Denver at the time, caring for my mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer (she's doing great, btw!), and I'm fairly certain my husband and kids heard me screaming with joy all the way in Philly. I was beyond excited.
  • Nov. '08: I started writing a new novel, SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS. This project was loosely based on my life, with a huge amount of humorous fiction thrown in for good measure. This was the book with my tag line, "Life as a rock princess in the Denver music scene, does nothing to prepare Jenny for life as a domestic goddess in the suburbs of Philly." (I would later receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 partial requests for SFS from queries. None of them turned into full requests. Not one.)
  • Jan. '09: I received my 1ST partial back from LITTLE PEARLS with a note basically telling me my writing sucked. Big time. She was very disappointed the pages I sent in no way matched the promise of the query. I was shaken and angry. I threw the note away, not wanting any negative ju-ju in my world. That same month, I finished the rough draft for SFS.
  • Feb - March '09: Revised, revised, revised.
  • March - April '09: Researched agents and queried, queried, queried.
  • May '09: Attended the BEA Pitch Slam and the Backspace Writer's Conference, both in NYC. At BEA, I pitched one-on-one to six agents. I was asked for five partials and one full. It was the greatest day of my writing career to that point. All of the agents I pitched to requested material, and I finally received my first full request.
  • May '09: I started writing a murder mystery called, MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE.
  • July '09: Finished MTC, polished it, and queried it to over 150 agents.
  • July - Oct. '09: Out of nearly 150 queries, I received 18 partial requests and 8 full requests for MTC (2 of those were from partials).
  • Sept. '09: I "met" Bernadette Baker-Baughman from Baker's Mark Literary Agency* on Twitter. She enjoyed our banter and checked out my blog. Feeling the love, she emailed me and apologized if her agency had passed on my query. In fact, they had. Twice. I'd received form rejections on both SFS and MTC. I described the projects, and she invited me to personally query her again with MTC. Here's the link to that whole wonderful, beautiful, magical story.
  • Nov. 13th: (Friday the 13TH!) I was offered representation by Baker's Mark for my newest project, a YA novel called, THE SECRET KEEPER, which I wrote in six weeks during Sept-October of '09.
  • Nov. 15th: I let the other awesome agents who had my work know I'd been offered representation, and told Bernadette I was good to go. I did a Happy Dance for at least one solid week. My feet hurt. I was tired. But I was happier than I'd been since my kids were born. We discussed the first draft of TSK and possible changes to be made.
  • Dec. - Jan. '09: I dug in and finished Draft #2.
  • Jan. '09: We discussed further ways to dig deeper into the story.
  • Jan. '09: I'm currently working on Draft #3. I have until the end of February to complete it, and I feel like the book is really taking shape. It's thrilling to see my work become better and better each time I edit. The advice and suggestions I've received from my agent are priceless.
  • Submission: Not sure when this will be, but it won't be before Bernadette and I feel the manuscript is sparkly enough for her to pitch. I'm hoping we'll be good to go by mid-spring.

I hope this blow by blow is helpful and encouraging to those of you seeking representation. I promise to continue to share my ongoing journey into the world of publishing - my path towards making my writing dreams come true - in hopes it will inspire you and keep you moving forward.

Where are you on your journey? Did this post help you? How? Do you have any questions for me?

*Baker's Mark website is currently under reconstruction. Please check back next week!
You have read this article Baker's Mark Lit / Colleen Lindsay / Elana Roth / Elizabeth Law / JJ Jones / Kate McKean / Kathleen Ortiz / Laura Bradford / St. Martin's Press / YALITCHAT with the title YALITCHAT, The League of Awesomeness, & How I Got From There to Here. You can bookmark this page URL http://loriescorner.blogspot.com/2010/01/yalitchat-league-of-awesomeness-how-i.html. Thanks!