Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Monday, October 12, 2015


For those of you who don't know . . . MY AGENT SOLD MY BOOK!!! Yahoo! Yippee! Yay! I've had so many friends, neighbors, writers, and family members ask for specifics, so I thought it'd be fun to do a HOW I GOT MY BOOK DEAL post. (Psst. If you want to start at the beginning of my writing journey, you'll have to read my HOW I GOT MY AGENT post, first.) 

What easier way to tell a story than to use a timeline? So here goes . . .

May 1, 2015: I signed with my wonderful agent, Steven Chudney. I spent five weeks doing a second round of revisions for him (I did the first round before he offered representation) and then spent a couple more days line editing.

June 8, 2015: I went out on submission. That means my agent sent my story out to a list of editors he thought would be interested in my book. In the writing world, "being on submission" is a very wonderful and scary place to be. Signing with an agent does NOT, I repeat does NOT, mean you get an automatic book deal. I knew getting an agent was the first step, but I'd heard there were about 895 more hoops to jump through before getting a book deal. Okay, okay. I'm exaggerating. The number was more like 894. But seriously, I know so many talented writers who have been on submission for months and even years and are still waiting. So, knowing that submission could be a long road, I hoped for the best, but prepared myself for the worst. I went out of town with my 12 year-old daughter, so she could compete in a state scholarship pageant. And thank goodness. I was way too busy fixing hair and ironing dresses to think much about my book being on sub. 

June 15, 2015: I was at the orthodontist's office watching my daughter get metal squares glued onto her teeth when my phone made the Happy Sound--if you don't know what this is, read my HOW I GOT MY AGENT post. It was an email from my agent, telling me that the first editor on our sub list, Liz Szabla of Feiwel & Friends, was interested and wanted to set up a phone call. *cue internal freak out*

June 19, 2015: The day of the phone call finally came. And by this time, I had gotten a master's degree in Researching All Things Liz Szabla. I was already excited about working with her before I got on the phone. First, she just looked nice, ya know? I could tell from her Facebook picture that she is a nice person. Second, I discovered she was the editor of RAIN, REIGN by Ann M. Martin--a book I had recently read and loved. I gathered from reading online interviews that Liz is smart and her authors respect her. She was absolutely lovely to speak with on the phone and said some very lovely things about my writing. *heartmelt* I was hopeful that things would work out. Lucky for me, Steven called later that day to tell me Liz was taking my book to the next Acquisitions Meeting!

June 24, 2015: The day of the next Acquisitions Meeting. I was a nervous wreck. This meeting is where the interested editor must present your book to the sales and marketing people. (Yikes!) It is when the company decides to publish your book or not. I spent the entire day sitting on my back porch with my feet in a kiddie-pool while I read through my TBR pile and tried to keep calm.

June 25, 2015: As you can imagine, I hardly slept the previous night, so I was a bit groggy when my agent emailed at 7:00 a.m, saying he'd heard from Liz and when could I call him? Hahaha. Hahahahaha. When could I call him? Like I'd wait any longer to learn whether or not my publishing dreams were about to come true or be dashed to pieces? I called him. 

And it was good news.

Liz Szabla of Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan had offered (in a pre-empt) to publish my book! It was a deal we were happy with, so we accepted. My favorite part of the phone conversation was when Steven said, "Congratulations, you're going to be a published author." 

After we hung up, I sort of walked around in a stupor. I'm sure my kids wondered about my well being. "Did you sell your book?" they asked. "Yes!" I shouted. And I guess that snapped me out of whatever shock I was in. I called my husband, who was on the other side of the country for a business trip (seems he's always away during these exciting moments!) I dialed my mom's number eight times before she finally answered. I texted my dad, who immediately called and told me how proud he was of me for never giving up on my dream all these years. 

The celebratory breakfast: German Pancakes with Strawberries and Powdered Sugar.

That night the kids and I had a dance party in our living room. We even turned on strobe lights! I let it all out. I danced so hard, I twisted my ankle. I can honestly say, there hasn't been a lot of times in my life when I have been THIS excited. Maybe when my husband proposed . . . or when I found out I was pregnant with my first child.

Oh, yeah, and I played this song no less than sixteen times in a row. My kids were about to take away my music privileges, but it embodied all the joy I was feeling, plus it had inspired one of the scenes in my book, so I felt like my characters were joining in on my happiness. Go ahead, have a listen . . . 

July 1, 2015: Hubby was finally home from his trip. If you read my HOW I GOT MY AGENT post, you'll know that I was purposely waiting to eat my favorite sushi dish until I signed with an agent, but then when I actually did sign with an agent, the restaurant had gone out of business, so I didn't get that long awaited reward. To celebrate the book deal, my hubby took me to a new restaurant in town and put in a special request. Sushi at last!

 The celebratory dinner: Smoked Salmon Sushi with Cream Cheese and Eel Sauce.

July 9, 2015: My Pitch Wars Mentor, the fab-tab-u-lous Joy McCullough-Carranza, spotted my announcement in Publisher's Weekly! This meant I could spill the beans to everyone! Some writers have to wait months to share their book news with the world. Luckily, I only had to wait two weeks (but it felt like two years, I promise!) 

September 23, 2015: I signed the official contract! 

Not the best pic, but hey, my four year old took it.

The celebratory drink: Martinelli's Sparkling Cider.

All in all, my journey from submission to book deal was a relatively quick one (about 2.5 weeks -- please don't hate me.) I never expected it to happen so easily, but of course, I am glad it did. I can't wait until 2017 when I get to share my first published novel for middle-grade readers with all of you!

Whew! That was long. Thanks for reading!!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

HOW I GOT MY AGENT -- Steven Chudney

When I was on the hunt for an agent, I loved reading stories of how other writers had snagged their agents. Each writer's journey is unique, and they gave me a heaping dose of something I very much needed: hope. I am so excited to finally be able to share my own journey of HOW I GOT MY AGENT with you.

First off, in order to truly appreciate the magnitude of my happiness at signing with a literary agent, you have to go back to the beginning and hear the whole story. (Note: this story is not brief. Feel free to skip to the end now if you don't think you'll be able to make it.)


When I was ten years old, I decided I was going to be a writer. My awesome fifth grade teacher, Mr. David Kahn, introduced our class to a little something called "creative writing" and I fell in love. I'd wait by the door during lunch recess so I could be the first one in the room to get started. After school, I spent a good portion of my free time reading, daydreaming, and writing stories and poems--on the porch swing, up in the aspen tree in our backyard, or on my dad's typewriter.


I wrote my first middle grade novel at age fourteen during algebra class. (What can I say, I love words more than numbers.) So while the rest of the class took notes during the teacher's lectures each day, I added more scenes to my novel each day. The story was historical fiction, set in 1847. Kind of a Little House on the Prairie meets Charlotte's Web sort of a thing. I still got an "A" out of that algebra class, by the way.

I revised the manuscript for seven years. I went to college. I got married. I had my first child. I dropped out of college. (I didn't want to spend my time doing assignments for professors, I just wanted to write stories, dang it!) So I queried everyone I could find in the Children's Writers & Illustrators Market, but did not receive ANY REQUESTS. (What did I expect? No one had read the thing except for ME!)


I wrote my second middle grade novel while my toddler napped. This time I was at least smart enough to join my first critique group. This novel was a magical story about a girl who gets turned into a genie for a week. I thought it was brilliant. It wasn't. But I managed to get ONE REQUEST for the full manuscript. The request came via snail mail, and when I opened my SASE and saw it wasn't a rejection, I ran all the way from the mail box back to my house screaming like a lunatic. And I also foolishly believed that this meant I was going to become a published author!!! Unfortunately, the manuscript was rejected a few weeks later. I cried. A lot. 


This was another historical fiction novel set in the late 1800's. I researched the heck out of the time period and setting. I revised. I entered contests. I got a lot of great feedback. I revised some more. Although this manuscript was written so much better than the first two, I still didn't get ANY REQUESTS. This hurt my little writer ego. I started three other middle-grade novels, but gave up on each one before even getting half-way through the first drafts.

By now my daughter was pre-school aged, and we were bringing home lots of picture books from the library. I decided I wanted to write poetry and picture books instead of middle-grade novels, because they were probably easier. (*insert evil laughing here*) So I did. I wrote 40 picture books and over 200 poems. And subsequently racked up dozens and dozens of rejection letters for them. Although I was lucky to win some awards and have several poems published in magazines for children, I had zero luck in the agent/book deal department. My spirits were down. Very down. And then a sweet writer friend of mine sent me a link to this video:


How can anyone give up after watching that? With renewed energy, I wrote my fourth middle grade novel, a heartfelt fairy-tale retelling of Hansel and Gretel. I kept going to workshops and conferences. I "knew" this story would be the one that would get me an agent. I "knew" it, because I was NEVER going to give up on it. This time I used Query Tracker to find agents to query. I received ONE FULL REQUEST. I was excited, but didn't get my hopes up too high, and I was glad, because the rejection came less than 24 hours later. 

I revised this novel for three more years, determined to make it "the one". I was not going to stop. I was not going to give up. But this story wasn't working. And I knew it. I knew it was time to put it away and work on something new. Problem was--I was fresh out of ideas. (Not really. I have ideas coming out the wazoo, but none of them grabbed me by the shirt collar and screamed in my face.) So I didn't write anything. I didn't know where to go next. 


It's funny how life hands you inspiration in the most unlikely of places. It was around this time that my husband and I learned that our daughter (10 years old at the time) had Tourette Syndrome. She was having a rough time in school and with friends. I wanted to support her in any way that I could. Since she's a huge reader, I hunted for middle-grade novels that involved characters with Tourette Syndrome. I found exactly one. (And it was written 20 years earlier.) That wasn't going to be enough for her. And I knew that one book wasn't enough for the thousands of other children with TS and other tic disorders.

This is for those that know, if you don’t you never will! Reblog if you have Tourettes syndrome! Let’s go for 1,000,000 of 1 kind ! I have Tourettes and I’m damn proud of it!I had found my "grab-me-by-the-shirt-collar" idea. I had found my new motivation. I began heavy research and drafting of the novel immediately. It was during this time of research and drafting that a light bulb went off inside my brain. I wondered if I, too, might have TS. I wondered if those crazy, weird, quirky, embarrassing, painful things I had done my whole life could be attributed to Tourette's? So I visited a neurologist who gave me a resounding: YES! Suddenly, writing the novel took on new meaning. I was still writing it for my daughter, mostly, but I was also writing it for me. It became therapeutic as I learned the reasoning behind so many frustrating questions about my brain. The words flowed easily. They were natural and real.


I got big thumbs up from my critique partners. I got rave reviews from my beta readers. I entered contests, most importantly Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars. I was miraculously chosen as an alternate mentee by the lovely and brilliant Joy McCullough-Carranza. We worked together for two months. I performed surgery on my manuscript, namely, cutting out an entire POV. The contest ended with my getting three full requests. I sent out queries in batches of ten and the requests kept rolling in. All in all, I received TWENTY-TWO FULL REQUESTS and FOUR PARTIAL REQUESTS. A big difference from the single requests I was used to getting!

I set-up my email so that it would make a unique sound on my phone--kind of a tinkling sound--whenever I got a response from an agent. Since the majority of my responses for the first couple of months were requests, that sound became known as "the happy sound" in our house. My kids were always like: "Mom! Check your phone . . . I heard the happy sound!" It was all very exciting. But as the months wore on, those full requests turned into a lot of full rejections. There were two that were particularly painful--from agents I wanted with all of my heart--and they came on the same (the same!) day. I wish I could tell you I did NOT sob on the couch for hours like a four-year-old who can't find her favorite pair of Elsa undies. But I can't. The "happy sound" turned into "the sound I loathe more than anything in the world" and when I heard it go off, I'd ignore my phone for several hours or open the email as if it were a ticking time bomb.


Then one morning at 7:00 am, I got an email from Steven Chudney. He had the first 75 pages and was sorry he couldn't offer representation at that time, but wanted to know if I was interested in talking about ways to improve the manuscript. I told him I was. We set up a phone call for a few hours later. Little did he know . . .

1. It was my birthday.
2. I had the stomach flu.
3. I had been up all night with a three-year-old who also had the stomach flu.

It's a miracle I got through the conversation without puking or saying anything absolutely ridiculous. But I guess I did. Mostly he talked and I listened. He mentioned similar issues I'd heard from an agent critique I'd received a few months earlier (but had ignored, which is probably why I was getting all the rejections on the fulls). I took 6 weeks to make the changes, which included rewriting the last 1/4 of the manuscript. I sent it out and waited.

Four days later I was cleaning my kitchen when my phone made the "this could be good news or bad news sound". My daughter begged me not to look at the email. I asked why. She said, "because you're always in a bad mood after you look." She had a point. But I couldn't help it. I dropped to my knees and curled up close to the couch in case I needed to use it for sobbing purposes. I opened the ticking time bomb. It was from Steven Chudney. He was offering representation. 

Folks, I cried. I cried on the couch. But these were happy tears. Eleven years of querying. 200 poems. 40 picture books. 5 middle-grade novels. 326 rejections. I cried. And when my husband got home, we all went out to eat. One of my favorite foods is a smoked salmon/cream cheese/avocado/deep fried sushi with eel sauce from a local restaurant. I had deprived myself of this dish for over a year, because I wanted it to be my celebratory I GOT AN OFFER FROM AN AGENT meal. Well . . . we drove to the restaurant and discovered it had unfortunately gone out of business. *wimper* So I settled for the next best thing:

Hawaiian food
ice cream!!!

I was so excited at the thought of working with Steven Chudney, but since I still had a handful of outstanding requests and queries, I nudged the agents I was still waiting to hear from. I ended up with three more offers of representation from three amazing agents. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking on the phone with them and hearing their ideas for the manuscript. I barely slept for the next 10 days. My husband left town on a business trip, so I fled to my parents home for food and advice. A lovely writer friend took me out for ice cream. It was all so surreal and a bit perplexing. But after deep soul searching, lots of praying, speaking with the agent's clients, etc., I felt Steven Chudney was the best fit for me. 

I signed with him May 1, 2015 and celebrated by taking the kids to get donuts. I think it's safe to say that I like celebrating with food.

Stats from middle-grade novel #5:

9 months querying
87 agents queried
51 rejections
33 no response
22 full requests
04 partial requests 
05 offers to revise and resubmit 
04 offers of representation

And here is an out of focus picture of me signing the contract. 

That's all folks. If you made it all the way through, I applaud and thank you. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I've waited a long time to say those words.

I'm so happy to announce that I've officially signed with literary agent Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency!

Details about my journey coming soon . . .

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Every new year, I set writing goals. Usually they sound something like this:


But January 1, 2014 I decided to shake things up. And by that, I mean, step outside of my comfort zone.

I've belonged to a wonderful critique group for the past 7 years. And I have several critique partners with whom I occasionally swap manuscripts. I feel comfortable and safe with them. But a year ago, in order to put into practice my 2014 goal, I started doing NEW little things. Things like joining Twitter, entering online contests, joining writer's groups on Facebook, and taking online writing classes.

I can't even begin to tell you the amazing year I've had. My writing has grown more this year than the previous 10 years combined. I've interacted with agents, editors, received feedback on my work, learned better mechanics of writing, and have made about a bajillion new friends (the best part.)

Moral of the story: expand your circle, spread your wings, take the leap. Don't be afraid to try new things and push your writing along. Who knows what 2015 will bring!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THREE BIRD SUMMER by Sara St. Antione

Adam always spends his summer up north at his grandmother's lakefront cabin with his large family. But this summer is different. Since his parents have recently divorced, there's no dad and no noisy cousins--just Adam, his stressed-out mom, and his stubborn grandmother who may or may not be "losing it".

THREE BIRD SUMMER is a surprisingly sweet nature-themed read, with a hint of mystery to keep things going. Readers will be just as sad to see the story end as Adam is to watch his summer draw to a close.