Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since my first hard-hitting journalism assignment on snails for the Balboa Elementary School newsletter. After cultivating a love for kidlit in college, I finally found my groove and finished my first novel about ten years ago.

Five more years went by before I got serious about submitting, but I was a hopeless newbie. I made a lot of mistakes, and seriously underestimated the amount of time it takes to hear back from anyone in publishing. I submitted to a handful of publishers before discovering the treasure trove of information and support that is Verla Kay’s message board. I switched my focus to agents. I cleaned up my manuscript and received a few requests, but it soon became clear that I was missing the mark.

So while continuing to query I did what good writers should: wrote another book. Unfortunately it was a sequel to the first one--another rookie mistake (can’t sell the sequel if you don’t sell the original!). Plus we lived overseas at the time, creating a disconnect in my own head that I couldn’t seem to overcome. All in all I sent about 50 queries on that first book before moving on.

We navigated our way through a foreign adoption, then moved back across the ocean in ’08. I wrote and polished book #3 and started querying again in Jan. 2010. There were more requests and better feedback this time, but after about 20 queries still nothing concrete. I branched out, rewrote the query, explored writing blogs, and eventually stumbled on an offer by blogger (now agent) Weronika Janczuk to critique a query + 10 pages for anyone who submitted. Her generosity eventually landed me an agent.

Weronika provided great feedback and posted my query in April. The next month I received a request to read the full from Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (!!!!!!!!) She later called to suggest revisions and invited me to resubmit. I quit querying and got to work.

It took a second call and another round of revisions before the book was where it needed to be, but on 1/11/11, I got THE CALL from Joan. She is wonderful. Life is good. Here’s what I learned:

Total time from request to offer: 8 months
a) Don’t give up.
b) Work hard to improve your craft.
c) Find writer friends. They understand! Help each other. Lift others up when they're down, and they will do the same for you.
d) Dig deep for patience and be productive while you wait.

Husbands with infinite patience of their own also help quite a bit. Thanks, honey!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Weird and Wonderful Mr. Thurber

While browsing at an antique shop today I found a copy of The Thurber Carnival, a collection of stories, drawings, and poems by James Thurber. I discovered his work in college and remember being all at once charmed, amused, and utterly befuddled. So of course I snatched that book right up.

It's been fun paging through, enjoying the book in bite-sized pieces. This guy worked for The New Yorker. He collaborated with E.B. White (another favorite). He wrote the awesome picture book Many Moons. Composer Peter Schickele of P.D.Q. Bach fame wrote a really cool symphony called Thurber's Dogs, based on some of Thurber's most famous cartoons.

And you know what else is cool? Mo Willems's travel memoir You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons, a cartoon-a-day treasure with a very Thurber-esque flavor of humor.

I'm also reading Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. What better month than January to fill your reading list with plenty of funny?

Books are awesome.