Never Give Up: How I Found My Agent

flyLast April, I learned valuable pitch conference lessons at the Desert Dreams Writer’s Conference in Phoenix. I left that conference excited to revise my manuscript. My goal was to query as many agents and editors as possible.

I thought my revisions would take two or three months. They took eight. *cough* Another lesson learned.

Flash forward to December/January, when I began querying again. I did so widely and got an amazing response: Ten full reads, which is a freaking miracle. Still, full reads mean a long waiting game. Slush piles are large, so it can take four months or more for an agent or editor to read the full manuscript.

All that time can wreak havoc with your confidence. Rejections, even more so. But I crossed my fingers, tried not to think too much, and stayed busy researching the second and third books and editing a contemporary women’s fiction novel.

Flash forward to early April, when I got “The Call” from an agent, offering representation. Wheeeee!

Had I planned for such a call? I’d read enough articles about agent calls, so I sure thought I had.

Was I able to project my best cool, calm exterior during that call? Nope. I was pretty much out of my mind.

Do I recall very much about that first conversation? Definitely not. I had the attention span of a 5-year old.

It’s two weeks later, and I’m thrilled to say that I’m represented by The Ruben Agency — the fabulous Eric Ruben (who I met at the conference last year) and his wonderful Junior Agent, Shannon Orso.

The lesson, of course, is Never Give Up. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, and don’t waste time worrying the process is taking too long. Just keep entering contests and pitching at conferences, and definitely keep querying. The feedback you get with each rejection can be hard to hear, but it’s invaluable. Consider the input, see if you agree with it, and if you do, revise.

Persist. The right agent will come along, and at the right time.

So now what? More revisions of course, so we can get the manuscript ready to submit to editors. And then there are synopses to finesse (for books two and three), a website to create (stay tuned), and lots of social media activity. I’m sure the coming year will provide me with a whole bunch of new lessons to learn.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

What are your dreams for finding representation and/or publishing your work? If you have a moment, let me know by posting a comment below.

Posted in Agents, contests, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pitch Conference Lessons

Last week, I attended my first writers’ conference—2016 Desert Dreams, sponsored by Desert Rose RWA. My goal was to pitch my historical novel to as many agents and editors as possible.

Was I terrified at that prospect? Definitely. But there was no need. It was a fantastic experience. Here’s some of what I learned:

Pitching caexcellence aristotlen be fun. I lucked out, because the conference agenda included (1) a helpful workshop, led by an executive editor, on pitching, and (2) practice sessions that took the edge off the fear. By the time my first appointment rolled around, I had my 30-word elevator pitch, along with two minutes of distilled info about my novel. Even more important, I’d found my passion again. Practicing my pitch, and seeing the light go on in someone else’s eyes, helped me flip the switch. Jitters morphed into enthusiasm. By the end of the conference, I’d even pitched to an editor during happy hour—totally off-the-cuff, as I didn’t know she was interested in historical fiction. (Yes, a glass of wine helped, but we also had an intense conversation about the time period, so nerves took a back seat.)

FYI: You don’t need to use your agent/editor appointment to pitch your work. For example, I entered a contest associated with this conference, and one of my assigned agents critiqued my contest entry. She mentioned in her comments that she’d be interested in seeing more if I made some changes, so I used my pitch appointment to ask her for detailed feedback. I’m using that info to revise my MS.

Don’t be afraid of agents and editors: They’re good people. Without exception, the editors and agents I met were kind, funny, helpful, and interesting. The author-agent-editor relationship is important. These folks want to get to know you. They’re also generous with their experience and knowledge. Take advantage of their expertise.  I learned the most from workshops run by agents and editors and took pages of notes on querying, pitching, proposals, contracts, the agent-author relationship, and publishing trends.

Keep in mind that these men and women are busy professionals who wouldn’t attend a conference unless they were looking for new clients. (Think warm market, people.) When you meet, be honest about where you are in the process. If you’re not ready to submit sample chapters, tell them that—and ask how they’d like to be reminded of how you met. When you follow up with sample chapters, send your best work and make sure the entire MS is ready if it’s requested. Many agents and editors get hundreds of queries a week. Yours must stand out, and in a good way. (Be patient and respectful, not cray-cray.)

Finally…Never give up.  What’s the difference between an unpublished author and a published one? The published author didn’t give up.  I heard this message dozens of times, especially from published authors who spoke at the conference. They gave us hope. There is no such thing as failure, since every perceived blunder is a step towards success.

I went into the conference thinking: Oh my God, what if I fail?  No, no, no. That’s not the right attitude. The right attitude is: What can I learn? You can’t learn unless you put yourself out there, and improvement isn’t possible in a vacuum.

Did I leave the conference happy? Yes. Five agents and editors said they’d take sample chapters and synopses. That means I’ve got a bunch of work to do and a good two months of revisions and additional beta reads. It’s time to burn the mid-morning, mid-day, and midnight oil. What fun! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you pitched at a writers conference? Did you attend 2016 Desert Dreams? If you have a moment, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.




Posted in Agents, contests, General, Inspiration | 10 Comments

How Mulder, Scully, and The X-Files Rock My Writing World

We’ll start with a confession: I’m an X-Phile, a fan since the first episode, and I think the revival has been exceptional. So this blog’s gonna wax rhapsodic. You’ve been warned.

x-filesWhen The X-Files debuted, it broke new ground. How could anyone resist the sexy spookiness of each case, the complex and crazy plots, the monsters, and the myth arc—not to mention, the insane chemistry between Scully and Mulder?

I was 26 when the pilot aired, a contemporary of the lead characters, and filled with the same boundless energy and passion for my work. Now that I’m pushing 50, one of the delights of the revival has been watching my favorite dynamic duo face middle age. It’s been funny and charming and moving: Mulder fumbling with his new iPhone app. Scully mourning her inability to take the stairs in 3-inch heels. Both of them dealing with the absence of their son William, mid-life cynicism, and the aging process. (No offense to the actors meant. Anderson is as lovely as ever and Duchovny remains seriously hot, whether shirtless and in Wranglers—woo-woo—or the red speedo.)

This week, I also realized how much The X-Files has contributed to my writing and creative process.  Here’s why:

Awesome archetypes. Mulder’s a classic Hero—at different times warrior, romantic, scapegoat, unbalanced, apocalyptic, and vengeful. Scully’s heroic, too, of course, but in the early seasons, she’s also what Jung called The Platonic Ideal, a source of inspiration for the hero, though not a romantic interest. In later seasons, she served as Earth Mother, a symbol of abundance and fertility, particularly after she became (miraculously) pregnant.

Gender role reversals and equality. I’ve always loved that Scully is the scientist (logical) and Mulder is the believer (emotional). That creates conflict (let’s face it, without conflict there’s no TV show), and conflict is always an opportunity to grow. In the end, their strengths and differences are complementary. Because they’re equals, Mulder and Scully support and save each other—mentally, emotionally, and physically. I mean, sure, Scully was a damsel in distress in Unruhe, but she’s saved Mulder’s ass more times than we can count. Hell, she even shot Mulder to save him in Anasazi.

Secrets, lies, duplicity, and truth. The show’s convoluted plots are maddening for fans, but uncovering the truth isn’t easy. It’s a slippery slope. When we’re young, we think in black and white. The ability to discern shades of gray comes with maturity. The X-Files does a great job at exploring the gray area. How long can you look into the dark before risking the light? Think of Mulder’s desire for revenge in One Breath or his longing for a simple life in Amor Fati,  Scully’s struggle over her sister’s death in Paper Clip and Christmas Carol,  and the great Skinner-centric episode, Zero Sum.

The quest. I don’t think any other television show portrays the heroic quest as well as The X-files. Mulder and Scully battle through each stage of the journey—from the call to action, through myriad trials and destruction, and finally to triumphant rebirth—within each episode and throughout the show. (Even the current 6-episode revival is true to the quest.) Their shared experience is full of rich, classic dichotomies: Light vs. Dark. Heaven vs. Hell. Fire vs. Ice. Nature vs. Technology. Above all, though, Scully and Mulder never surrender. As dark as some of the episodes are, eventually their shared quest makes them turn back to the light.

So how did Chris Carter & Co.  rock my writing world with The X-Files?

My current work-in-progress has nothing to do with sci fi or the paranormal. Far from it. It’s a historical novel, about a nurse who uncovers the abuses perpetrated on children in a Nazi baby factory. Allina, the protagonist, is a logical/cerebral soul who is dedicated to her work. She saves the children by looking into the darkness of the Reich with the help of her love interest, Karl, a classic hero with a softer side. They live in duplicity—pretending to support a regime they hate—as they risk their lives to transport the children to England, and safety. It’s a heartbreaking story. And yes, it’s a serious one, tackling real events that happened decades ago. But the parallels are still there.

Some folks dismiss The X-Files because it’s sci fi, or say it’s silly because it deals with conspiracy theory. But the sci fi genre often allows writers (in print and screen) to tackle societal and political issues with enormous flexibility and creative freedom.

What attracted me to The X-Files more than two decades ago—the hero’s quest, classic archetypes, equal partnership in a romantic relationship, and the need to discover the truth and make a difference—is what motivates my storytelling now.


Posted in General, Inspiration, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Writing contests are a fun mix of anticipation and terror. To enter, authors submit the first 20 to 30 pages of an MS, say a prayer, and prep for feedback. The top three in try againthe initial round make it to the final round, judged by agents and editors. That’s where the potential breakthrough is. Agents and editors can request your MS, which makes for a warmer market, an open door.

A thick skin is helpful when internalizing feedback. Translation: Expect no-holds-barred and sometimes conflicting advice. For example, here are comments I got from two first-round judges on the same entry:  (1) The prologue hooked me and is mesmerizing in its intensity; and (2) Prologue was confusing. Kill it. Start with chapter 1. 

As much as I wanted to ignore Judge Number Two, a ruthless review of the prologue revealed sections that might be confusing to readers. Cutting part of it helped in the final round.

I finalled in three contests in 2015, one for Historical Romance (a surprise, as it isn’t a romance novel), one for Women’s Fiction, and one for Romantic Elements—a category for fiction with a romantic storyline. One of the finals judges, an agent, invited me to submit a query when I’m ready. Yep, I did the happy dance when I got that e-mail from the contest coordinator. You betcha.

Still, when I’m ready is a terrifying phrase, right? Any aspiring author will tell you that. I thought my MS was ready five years ago and submitted three dozen queries to agents. That led to several partial and full reads in 2011 and 2012, but, alas, no offers of representation, so I put the MS away for two (sad) years. Last year, I decided to do a radical rewrite using feedback from critique groups and contests to check my progress.

2015 was an amazing year, and I’m going for it in 2016. It’s time to attend pitch conferences (more about that in a later blog) and to submit the polished MS to the interested agent later this spring. I’m taking my time this time. It’s better to get it right than to lose the opportunity  by acting before the MS is ready.

If you’re interested in contests and write romance, women’s fiction, or novels with a strong romantic theme, Romance Writers of America offers dozens of contests every year. Be brave and go for it!

Posted in contests, General | Tagged | 1 Comment

Great Article: Things That Should Never Stop You From Writing Your Story

Got Oprah’s e-newlsetter today and really loved this article:

I thought it was funny and inspirational in a “pick yourself up and don’t let things get you down” sort of way.

Hope you enjoy it!

Posted in Inspiration | Leave a comment

The Third Annual Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction

Authoress has a wonderful blog called Miss Snark’s First Victim. It’s a great resource for writers in pursuit of publication.

There’s a content that she’s organized at end of month. She’s found 14 excellent agents to review new work. All interested authors need to provide their hook and the first 250 words of their MS.

Full details at her blog:

Her blog is fantastic. Hope you enjoy it.

Posted in contests | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Great Reads: Vanora Bennett’s Figures in Silk

I have a full MS and partials out with agents  (very exciting!) and I’m crossing my fingers…

And trying not to bite my nails…

Or stress out…

So what does this would-be author do when she’s climbing the walls waiting, Waiting, WAITING for answers?

She reads a good book of course!

Just fell in love with a new author and book. I finished Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett a couple of days ago and can’t get it out of my mind.

It has all the elements that I love in a book:

  • an interesting and complex storyline
  • a spunky heroine
  • lots of great historical detail
  • a romantic subplot

The book takes place in 16th century England. Its about the silk trade, told from the POV of a young woman named Isabel who is widowed and works as an apprentice for a silk manufacturer. She winds up being quite the entrepreneur and falls in love with a right guy/wrong guy/charismatic hunk of-a-gent who changes her life (and the fate of England) forever.

No, I can’t tell you more of the plot because you’ll need to read it for yourself. I don’t want to spoil a thing!

If you’re looking for a great read, consider Figures in Silk.

What books are keeping you up at night?

Posted in Great Reads | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Write

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. My mother began reading to me before I was born. She read to me every day. And then she let me read to her.

Books were revered in our house growing up. My parents had a comprehensive library. Rand. L’Amour. Michener. Scott Card. Uris. Steinbeck. You name it.

I loved summers, because summer meant freedom. I could take out a dozen or more books from the library each week. They were my constant companions, and I’d read each day until my eyes ached.

Even now, in the age of e-readers, the warm smell of old books makes me smile.

I write because I’m compelled to do so. I wrote stories as a child and teenager. When I went to college, I had less time to write (or read) for pleasure. But I’ve always wanted to be an author.

I wrote the beginning and the end of my novel in a matter of weeks and have been filling in the middle ever since. Along the way, I realized there was more than one story to be told. So I split it into two, and then completed the first.

Right now, I divide my writing time three ways: researching book 2, writing book 2, and querying agents about book 1.

This blog is devoted to the pursuit of publication. Welcome to my journey!

Why do you write? Post a comment and let me know. 

Posted in General | Tagged , , | Leave a comment