How are you all doing? I hope well. Selfishly this blog today is going to be all about me! Though I sparkly promise the next one on Wednesday will be more for all you guys (definitely don't miss it). But what a few weeks it's been. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you might have seen the massive announcement I made at the end of last week. It went something like this...
I have accepted an offer of representation from Colleen Oefelein at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.
It feels so good to have finally found myself a partner in crime. Someone I can trust with my words, with my writing career, and to hug my horrible anxiety when it rocks back and forth in the corner. Colleen is that person.
Here's a brief rundown of how it all came about.
I haven't queried much, and when I have, I am THE SLOWEST QUERYER OF ALL TIME. I can't confirm this, obviously, but I reckon I'm up there with some of the best snail queryers in history. It's not that I don't enjoy the process (I don't much), but it's more that I suffer major anxiety and doubt every single time I hit send. Probably just like so many of you, I'm sure. I also love editing - as you might probably guess. I love feedback and I love taking ideas on board and revising my work. So, when I send one or two queries, I like to wait for replies. Is that laughter I hear? Yeah, it's okay, I'm laughing with you. Currently, even a form rejection is something to celebrate when so many agents offer nothing but radio silence. But, forever hopeful once the anxiety fades, I keep my fingers crossed an agent might offer their reasons for passing so I can then reconsider my opening chapters or my query.
Anyway, I had an agent a few years back, which didn't work out sadly, (and let's not mention the fallen-through offers of publication and the disastrous publication ordeal!) and in the wake of our separation I lost a whole bunch of confidence in my writing for years to follow. I didn't stop writing - I doubt that will ever happen - but I was afraid and reluctant to share my stuff. My decision to end the querying break came when I thought I'd take a serious shot at Twitter pitching contests. #PitDark was the first, if I remember correctly, followed by a few others including #PitMad. I did pretty well with favourites coming from some dream agents. Yet, in typical me fashion, I decided to embark on a major rewrite, so held off on sending my manuscript. Nuts, I know. But, the manuscript improved tenfold due to this revision and I added some confidence blocks to my core. Here's one of the pitches I used that resulted in some favourites:
"Kids fall sick. The dead rise. Black smoke lingers. Boy teams up with asylum patient who predicted the end to save humanity."
Still, when I started querying my MG horror, HALF DEAD, my expectations were super low. So, cue the surprise and buzz when I started receiving partial and full requests! In fact, I had an almost 50% success rate with my query and opening chapters. AMAZING! For those who like studying query letters, here's mine (although I tweaked and personalised it often!)...
"THE SKELETON TREE meets STRANGER THINGS meets SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK. HALF DEAD is an upper middle-grade light horror with paranormal elements and plenty of emotional depth, and is complete at 42000 words.
Thirteen-year-old Charlie Oaks wants his old life back—a dad who doesn’t shout, a mom who hasn’t abandoned her family, and a sister that isn’t dead. He tries his best to avoid dealing with his new reality, but it’s getting harder each day. And now that a nasty flu epidemic affecting only children is forcing schools to close, Charlie will be stuck at home with his depressed dad, which might just rob him of all the hope he has left.
When visiting his sister's grave, Charlie sees skeletons roaming the cemetery. Tendrils of black smoke rise from the earth and drag him towards the town's derelict asylum. Rescued by Molly Denton, the most unpopular kid at school, Charlie is both terrified and desperate. With a new goal to become a disease research scientist, he wants answers. He needs to find out why he—and Molly—aren't sick like all the other kids. It seems one person has the answers—Molly’s demonologist dad. Only problem is, he's an ex-asylum patient who was locked up for having a mental breakdown.
With the epidemic spreading quickly and the living plotting ways to take down the walking dead, there's a darker evil at work. It’s not the skeletons who are the bad guys, and now the professor believes the last of Charlie’s profound hope might be enough to restore belief in humanity and save the sick children—if there’s still time."
(I ended with a paragraph about me and some writing-related things that I thought might make me sound attractive. Meh, who knows if that worked!)
Yeah, of course, the rejections still came (and they tend to hurt a heck of a lot more on a full than simply a query) but eventually so did an offer. And what a feeling that was! Okay, so I have been there before, but this time it felt so different. It's what I can only describe as right. I am ready. And yeah, my excitement could be premature, but I am a creature that trusts my gut and this time it's pretty darn calm.
So, now came the chasing the outstanding queries and a flurry of full requests. Plus, a few more offers! AMAZING! I couldn't believe it. And, when I made my decision that Colleen was the agent for me, turning these agents down HURT LIKE CRAZY. Not because I experienced any concern or regret for the decision I made, but because I loathe letting people down. And that's how I felt. Ridiculously, I wished Colleen had been the only agent who'd offered so I could have avoided that part.
And here I am. Agented and feeling pretty validated and pumped for my next steps. The positive words I received for my writing through this experience will always mean everything, no matter what comes in the future. I learned that I can write - and quite well. It might not be to everyone's taste but I'm okay with that. Subjectivity smiles its cheesy grin on everyone!
I also have to go public with my thanks to a certain few people that supported me, beta read, and critiqued HALF DEAD at various stages. My mum, J.S. Roberts, Stacey Goldstein, Lynn Leitch, J.C. Davis, and Rebecca Carpenter. These guys...LOVE THEM! There are others who helped as well, but we'll stick with these guys for now.
And that's it. I have another blog coming on Wednesday, entitled NEWS, and this one isn't just about me, I promise. In fact, it's my way of celebrating and sharing my good news with you. But, I hope there are some helpful things in today's blog at the very least, and please feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
Until Wednesday, thanks for reading!
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