scbwi & my agent story

I’ve been messing around my website here and realized I’ve never done a blog post (at least that I can find, or remember) about signing with my agent, Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary. I did have a page on here for awhile about it but it’s time to take it down and make room for other things, so I thought I’d turn it into a blog post, so I can keep it forever. 🙂

During my querying years, I always wished that every writer would post their queries and query stories on their websites/blogs since the agent query process is such a HUGE part of this publishing journey.  With the first novel I queried I sent out over 120 query letters over the course of almost a year and a half. I had five requests out of those 120 queries. Five. Five requests, 120+ rejections. Ugh.

For the next novel I kept the query in mind while I was writing, and I had a file where I’d stick little query notes for the time I would need them. With the last novel I had bought Elana Johnson’s online book From the Query to the Call, so I started with her awesome format. I started writing my query in the summer (before I started sending it out in December), and worked on it a little at a time for almost 5 months! Of course during that time I was also revising my novel. I had my critique partners critique the query for me and then I was ready to send it! So here are my stats for this novel:

Query 1: 12/12/12 (uh, I thought submitting on this date would bring me luck)

Reject 12/13/12 (obviously it didn’t!)

Query 2: 12/12/12

Reject 1/30/13

Query 3: 12/18/12

Reject 12/19/12

So, after Query 3, I was having flashback feelings of the first novel I queried! So I went back to the query drawing board for tweaking. I had just bought Mary Kole’s book and started at the end, with her query help section. Reading this helped me fine-tune it a little bit! But… it was January, and I always hate January! Holidays were over, I had to go back to the classroom and practically start over with my kindergartners, and go on a diet. Ugh! Surely January couldn’t bring me luck. I almost waited until February to start querying again.

Little did I know this would be my best January ever!

Query 4: 1/2/13

No response

Query 5: 1/4/13

1/21/13 Full request (wishes of good luck as she bowed out later due to my offers of rep)

Query 6: 1/7/13

Reject 1/16/13

Query 7: 1/8/13

Same day Full request (bowed out later due to my offers of rep–didn’t have time to read yet)

Query 8: 1/10/13

1/11/13 Full request

1/21/13 offer of rep! (from an agent who rejected my last story)

Query 9: 1/10/13

1/16/13 Full request

1/22/13 offer of rep! (from an agent who rejected my last story)

Query 10: 1/10/13

1/14/13, Full request (this agent knew I had offers and I was confused by their emails regarding   if they were still reading or  not, or bowing out.)

Query 11: 1/11/13

1/16/13, Partial request

1/22/13 reject

Query 12: 1/12/13

1/14/13 Full request

1/17/13 offer of rep!

Query 13: 1/16/13

Same day Full request

1/19/13 offer of rep! (from an agent who rejected my last story)

Holy cow. I walked around like a dork with my mouth hanging open! The requests blew me away (because of history of course).  Those requests had me in unending smiles. Really. I was over the moon to be getting REQUESTS! And I thought, wow, this so cool, these awesome agents wanting to read my story. But of course the LITTLE VOICE comes in and says, yeah, but they’ll think your story sucks, so I’ll sit back and eat popcorn and wait for the rejections to come.

But then…the offers.

Within that one very fun week in January I had four offers of representation from AMAZING agents! Including Sarah Davies who had been at the top of my list for almost two years! And even though I had the offer from her, the other agents spent the time reading and loving my story that it was very difficult to make the final decision. Actually, this part was painful. It’s no fun to reject anyone.

This is where SCBWI played a part in my query success. I attended my first SCBWI Western Washington conference in 2010 and kept the booklet from it so I could query those agents later. Actually, one of the agents at that conference was one of the agents above to offer rep! I think I’d gotten a request from her because I’d been able to reference that conference in my query and mention that she’d read my first page in a First Pages panel and said that based on that, she would’ve kept reading to the next page!

At my second regional SCBWI conference, in 2011, I was lucky enough to have an MS consultation with Sarah Davies, where she actually nominated my story for a most promising WIP, and asked me to query her when I was ready. Nearly two years later, I queried her. 🙂

My name was listed with a bunch of other writers on the next screen.

My name was listed with a bunch of other writers on the next screen.

So, here is my final query (minus the greeting, word count, etc.):


Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley thinks winning a national baking contest will help her escape her life, which includes her Holy Roller mom and the stalker who might have killed her sister.

Kara is alone.

She tries to be a girl who cuts class to smoke weed. But her sister isn’t around anymore to teach her, or to tell her what a cookie-baking loser she is. And even though her sister is dead, Kara can’t escape what she did to her before she died, or the creepy stalker notes she’s now getting at school.

He watches.

He follows Kara, hiding and leaving her love notes. So when a teacher encourages her to enter a national baking contest, Kara sees her escape–the prize, a scholarship to culinary school in California.

Kara works on her plan for winning the contest but there are distractions: like that guy who hangs out in Mom’s café, the unanswered questions about her sister’s death, and her stalker–he’s getting closer, his notes more frequent and disturbing. Kara has no one she trusts enough to tell, and if she doesn’t figure out who he is, she’ll lose everything. Her chance to escape. And her life.


This little query letter brought me to my agent, and this novel is now in the process of becoming my debut with Soho Teen, out next year! If you want to read a little more, here is my success story on QueryTracker.

Querying is both painful and rewarding, an up and down of emotions (as is the submission process, but that’s an entirely different post to come!) and if you are on that ride now, I feel for you, my heart feels for you because I know how hard it is. It’s worth it though, isn’t it? I think so. Every grey hair, every tear, and every pound gained due to gobbling chocolate was worth it because it’s a dream come true. Keep going! And go to writer conferences, especially SCBWI because it makes a difference! ❤ 🙂


Holy Thursday, Titanic, and Hunger Games

1. Lent is over, it's Holy Thursday and I meant to post more often. You know since I gave up TV I should've had more time, right? But I did get more revising done and that's always good. Plus I had report cards and conferences in there too. But honestly my Lent cheating guilt kept me from posting. Jesus suffered and starved so I couldn't come on here and post how the stress of 22 kindergartners forced me into Starbucks a few times in those 40 days, could I?

2. I've seen Hunger Games twice now, so obviously I love it. I never see movies twice in the theater because who can afford it? But we have an old, cheap theater nearby, complete with a stage, velvet curtains, and Christmas trees that adorn each side of the stage year-round. The owner smokes in the box office but the tickets and popcorn are cheap! Since it's spring break I may have to take the kids to it again. I'm thrilled they stayed true to the book, but of course I always want more. But then they can't do a five hour movie, can they? Darn.

3. Speaking of seeing movies more than once in the theater, I did take my daughter and her friend to see Titanic last night. Back when it came out in 1997, before I had kids and was about 50 pounds lighter, my sister and I saw it twice in the theater. And since then I've watched it about 100 times on TV. I'm not sure why they re-released it in 3D. I'm not a fan of 3D movies. Number one I hate putting glasses on over my glasses and number two I have to take Dramamine so I don't get sick. Dramamine makes me sleepy. Titanic is a 3 hour movie. Still loved it but so glad when the credits rolled.

4. The highlight of my life is coming soon: The SCBWI Western Washington Conference! Yes I'm excited about what I'll learn and the online friends I'll get to see. But what I am most excited about (and always am) is the two days away from home and family and only having to clothe and feed and care for MYSELF! Is that horrible? Well really if it is I don't care.

SCBWI Washington!

Back from SCBWI Washington!  So fun, so inspiring, and it went so fast!  This was the first SCBWI conference for my sister   and myself.  We were overwhelmed and in awe!  We had a blast, as it was a mommy weekend and we relished in only having to take care of ourselves for a change!

I have just some random photos here.  The coolest picture is the link at the bottom from a Twitter post by Egmont USA editor Elizabeth Law @egmontgal.  She is hilarious and my sister and I loved that she had a poster of R Patt in her office!  In her picture we ended up sitting at the cool table with agents, editors, and published authors, like our supercool guide  .

I loved hearing the writing journey of everyone I met–unpublished, published, agented, unagented–everything.  A highlight for me was definitely the inspirational keynote by the genuinely kind and wonderful Jay Asher  The book store ran out of his book so they are mailing me one.  Jay was kind enough to sign bookplates for those of us without the book.  I bought many other books–don’t tell my DH–and met many other authors who were just as kind and humble as Jay.

I am super sleepy right now so this post is just a mini-scrapbook of my experience at the conference.  From left to right the pictures are: me and my sister, cards from some of the writers I met (I sooo enjoyed meeting everyone and please say ‘hi’ if you came to check out my blog!  I’ll be checking all of yours tomorrow!), my supercool bookplate signed by Jay Asher (I couldn’t get the picture to rotate), my name tag (because I am a dork and I save stuff like this), me again, with  and my sis  .  I am really ticked I don’t have anymore pictures!  I took a lot but now I realize that I did–it was just with other people’s cameras!

Me and my sisCards from writers I met

bookplate signed by Jay Ashermy nametag

Anyway, we had a blast and I can’t wait for SCBWI next year!

Don’t forget to check out this awesome picture.  I am the idiot on the end who turned to tell Tara something at the last minute.  Oops.

The cool picture: