How I Got My Agent in 30 Easy Steps!

  1. To my grand surprise, I finally finished writing my very first novel. This novel took me YEARS to write. I wrote it between acting gigs. I wrote in audition waiting rooms and on trains. I scribbled ideas for it in scripts and while I was supposed to be paying attention to acting class. And lo and behold, I FINISHED!
  2. I edited that book.
  3. I decided it was ready!
  4. It wasn’t. I edited it more. I aged it down from YA to MG, which made so much sense for my voice and story. Sadly, it was now WAY too long. #whoops
  5. I cut SO MANY WORDS.
  6. It was still too long.
  7. I did Query Kombat in 2016 with that book. My query and first page made it to the top 16 queries! Also, I met some amazing MG writers who became my CPs.
  8. I submitted to Pitch Wars with that book, hoping a mentor would chose me and tell me what to cut. To distract myself during Pitch Wars submission window, I dove into my second novel.
  9. I got totally wonderfully distracted. I loved writing in 1st person. I loved my narrator, a girl everyone called Lisa Pizza who lived with her dad above her family’s Italian restaurant. I loved the elaborate word games she played with her best friend and the neighborhood seance she dragged him to where a whopper of a curse that landed on their heads.
  10. I didn’t get into Pitch Wars 2016, but I launched into the fall with so much energy. I made more friends through Pitch Wars who became CPs. A few mentors who didn’t choose me were kind enough to offer great feedback on my still-too-long first novel, but I was too distracted to apply those notes immediately.
  11. I was too busy drafting Lisa Pizza.
  12. It took me YEARS to finish a draft of my first novel. I had a working draft (with only one “insert scene here” comment) of Lisa Pizza’s Pernicious Curse in December.
  13. I sent Lisa Pizza to my CPs. I got notes!
  14. I edited!
  15. I sent it to more CPs!
  16. I edited more and queried a little to test the waters. I got some requests! But I knew I could make my story better.
  17. I entered Pitch Wars in 2017, and a fabulous team of mentors—Jenna Lehne and Tara Creel—chose to work with me and Lisa Pizza.
  18. One day, I will write a love letter to my Pitch Wars mentors. For now, I will say Jenna and Tara had such a beautiful vision for my story. In two months of intense editing and emotional eating, I cut six characters. I removed an entire subplot and I added another. Lisa’s emotional arc got even stronger, and because I am me, I added more jokes.
  19. I finished Pitch Wars with a shiny draft and the supportive, wonderful Pitch Wars community/army at my back. My mentee class is filled with champions. I found some writing soulmates. I finally felt brave enough to query.
  20. I queried some awesome agents, including Alyssa Jennette at Stonesong Literary, who is fierce and DM’ed me on Twitter, asking me to query her after she read an interview I did for the Pitch Wars website (Thanks, Pitch Wars!).
  21. I got a full request from Alyssa!
  22. I dove into work on my new WIP.
  23. I queried more. I did PitMad. I got more requests. And rejections. And my inbox also came down with a case of the crickets.
  24. I wrote more chapters of my WIP. I edited CPs’ novels. I read a lot. I rewatched all of Parks and Recreation. I wrote more. I took a cruise with a friend and called it a “Writer’s Retreat.”  I did lots of “research” for my WIP, which included playing lots of video games since my MC Gussie is a gamer.
  25. I read more and wrote more and CP’ed more. I got more requests. I got more rejections. The loudest crickets in the world invaded my inbox.
  26. I attended the SCWBI NYC winter conference, learned loads, and met some of my Pitch Wars loves IRL.
  27. I did the Whole 30, so I would stop eating sugar when I got good or bad news.
  28. One day in March 2018, I got an email from Alyssa asking to schedule a phone call to talk about my writing career.
  29. We talked, and guys, she is great—editorial, insightful, and kind.
  30. We signed!
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Pitch Wars Here I Come!

I got into Pitch Wars!!!!

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I am so jazzed to revise my story, LISA PIZZA’S PERNICIOUS CURSE, with a team of amazing mentors, Tara Creel and Jenna Lehne. They are beyond awesome, have oodles of wonderful ideas to make my MS shine, and are more supportive than I can possibly express in one blog post.

LISA PIZZA’S PERNICIOUS CURSE is a middle-grade novel about a twelve-year-old girl who attends a seance, get cursed, and suffers some truly dastardly consequences. She and her best friend become Curseologists, fighting back against the curse before it tramples her family’s restaurant and their friendship in its wake.

Follow the adventures of #teamcurseologists on Twitter!

More MG Reading Adventures

It’s 2017. I wrote a new novel! I am editing another one! And I have been doing A LOT of middle grade reading, which means even more ugly-crying on NYC public transit. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are some recent favorites:

  1. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
  2. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  3. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  4. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  5. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  7. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
  8. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  9. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
  10. The Seven Wonders Series, Books 1-5 by Peter Lerangis
  11. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
  12. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  13. Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle
  14. The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  15. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  16. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
  17. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
  18. The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
  19. The Scandalous Sisters of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
  20. The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates by Caroline Carlson

Books that made me laugh out loud: almost all

Books that made me cry: at least a third

Books that made me cry while taking public transportation: 3

My Latest MG Reading Adventures

In my search for comp titles for my novel, I have been reading lots of books about awesome 12-year-olds on fantastical adventures. Here are 20 recent reads, an embarrassing number of which made me cry on the NYC subway:

  1. My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  2. The Keeper of the Lost Cities  by Shannon Messenger
  3. Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  5. Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
  6. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  7. Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
  8. The Thickety by J. A. White
  9. Savvy by Ingrid Law
  10. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
  11. The Expeditioners by  S.S. Taylor
  12. The School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
  13. Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy
  14. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
  15. Pegasus: the Flame of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn
  16. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  17. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  18. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  19. Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sister by Lesley M. M. Blume
  20. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

On Rejection

Ok. I’ve been an actor for MANY years, which means I’ve been rejected from jobs ZILLIONS of times. If you don’t want to read an actor’s thoughts on rejection, skip this post! But if you’re querying or on submission and feeling a little blue, perhaps you might find this helpful.
 
Unlike querying, when you are auditioning for a play, you get to watch people’s faces as they decide to reject you. For example, you are singing a song in an audition, literally in the middle of a note, and the director decides the lunch menu on his desk is more interesting than you. So you keep singing while he ponders whether or not to order a turkey sandwich [this is a true story].
 
Another true story: I audition for a world premiere of a new play at an awesome theatre. The play is clever and funny and the role is PERFECT for me. My audition goes well. I get a callback! I spend all day at a callback, while the casting team winnows people down. I get kept all day. I’ve also been joking around with the casting team. They like me! They think I’m funny in the role and as a human. This magic is going to happen! Except, it doesn’t. And I’m crushed. I get no explanation. I get the theatre equivalent of a cold query form rejection.
 
A few months later, I’ve booked another job and am having a fantastic time (playing Amy in Company for the musical theatre savvy). One of my castmates has a friend in the world premiere play, so we road trip to the theatre on a day off.  We see the play, and the girl they cast in my part is wonderful. She’s also 5’2” and blond. I am a 5’7″ brunette. As I watch the show, I have this incredibly healing moment. Because I had thought my form rejection from this show (and to be honest, a lot of shows in the past) meant that this creative team had found my talent lacking in some way. I was walking around for months believing they must have thought I wasn’t good enough to cast. But as I watched the tiny blond girl, I realized their decision wasn’t about my talent at all. 
 
For my part, I am trying to revive this mentality for querying. There are so many external factors going into an agent’s decision. Is the book similar to something a client is working on? Is the market saturated with that kind of story? Did they read your query on an empty stomach? Does a character in your book remind the agent of their ex? [Seriously, this also happened to me as an actor. I couldn’t figure out why a director HATED me. In a drunken confession from him years later, he told me I reminded him of an ex-girlfriend.]
 
So focus on what you can control (your book!) and develop a hide like a rhino. Also, if you want to hear more hilarious rejection stories, message me. I HAVE TONS.

Will All of My Blog Posts Be Lists?

Answer: Definite Maybe. Because I love lists!

Today’s Topic: Strangest Google searches I have undertaken as a writer of middle grade fiction. Here are ten recent gems:

  1. Videos of Swan Attacks (Dear Reader, should you want to waste an afternoon, this is a particularly fruitful youtube wormhole to explore).
  2. Common Haitian Pet Names
  3. Science Behind Feet Falling Asleep
  4. Do Guinea Pigs Recognize Their Owners?
  5. Underbed Dioramas/Art Installations
  6. Steampunk Bunkbed
  7. How to Pop A Dislocated Shoulder Back In
  8. Vanish in a Poof of Dust Sound Effect
  9. Properties of Superconductors
  10. Restaurant Quality Whipped Cream Dispenser