HOW I GOT MY VERY OWN AGENT STORY …

Remember the poem by Thomas Dekker? It goes, “O THE month of May, the merry month of May …” And then there was that song, “While strolling in the park one day, in the merry merry month of May, I was taken by surprise by a pair of roughish eyes …”

That was me.

I was strolling down Query Lane one day, in the merry merry month of May, when I was taken by surprise by an EMAIL that made me–well, clutch my chest in utter shock. A literary agent that I liked and admired wrote she thought my picture book was “fantastic.”

But that’s not all.

She also requested I tell her about my other books, how I planned to promote them, and a bio.

A quiet Friday morning, I had hoped to visit my elderly friend who lives in a nursing home. Parked in front of the building, I sat in the driver’s seat to check my emails before going inside. (I am a chronic and compulsive email checker. My fellow writer/queryer buddies understand this. :))

The email jumped out of the electronic devise, hit my brain, exploded under my skin, and made me tingly all over. Truly, not an exaggeration. Okay, maybe a little, but I did start talking to myself. “This is different, right? No agent has ever asked me about my other books before, right? This is good, right?”

In my own mind I use the word “right” a lot.

My elderly friend wasn’t inside of her room. So I thought I should cancel my appointments for the day, go home, and respond to the email.

It took two hours to write it. I even called my parents and auntie in San Diego and read the email to them before sending. They “ooohed” and “ahhhed” while I read, so I felt a teensy dash of confidence when I finally pushed SEND.

My little son would not be home from school for hours. Nervous and restless, I went to the mall to buy a graduation gift, found a really cute necklace (BTW: later, when I gave my friend her gift, she really loved it). Then on my way home, at a red traffic light, I quickly checked my e-receipts.

Along with the e-receipts was an email from the agent. It read, “Are you available to chat on Monday afternoon?”

Oh. My. Goodness.

The traffic light switched to green, and I drove forward, but everything seemed blurry, my arms tingled and my hands felt numb. Was this for real? An agent wanted to talk to ME? In person?

Of course I eventually stopped the car and responded. She wrote back again, and we had an appointment to “chat” at 2:30 on the following Monday.

I held my head in a euphoric disbelief.

That weekend, my writer buddy from the SCBWI BlueBoards and WriteOnCon saved me from having a nervous breakdown. She had recently signed with her new agent and had many wonderful suggestions. (Hi Sharon! :)) One of them was to “just breathe.” Very good advice.

This agent was high on my query list. In fact, I had only queried 18 agents with this picture book. Eight of them had requested to see the full nonfiction proposal, including my new agent, who had made the request one day after I queried her. And here I was only 9 days later with an appointment for THE CALL.

The more I researched this agent, the more I liked her, and by Sunday evening I felt much calmer and looked forward to “chatting” with her.

She called right on time. And well, she was kind and funny, made me feel comfortable right away, had sweet things to say about me and my stories, and her plan to share them with the world sounded wonderful to me. Toward the end of the call she offered representation.

And my heart said, “Yay!”

I had to wait a whole week to give other agents an opportunity to respond. But now, I FINALLY have an agent. Her name is Dawn Frederick, literary agent and owner of Red Sofa Literary. She represents all of my stories, from picture book through middle grade, and I couldn’t be happier.

After hundreds (probably 200 plus) rejections, and years (felt like a lifetime) of hopeful expectation, I found my agent. But most of all, although I signed my contract in June, and now writing my story in July, this wonderful thing happened in the merry merry month of May.

   

Summertime is Yellow and Blue and Red AND HOME…

Summertime, to me, is yellow because the sunshine makes the trees happy.

When the tulips and daisies and wildflowers sway by the roadside,

as I drive along the highway to home, I am all filled up with yellow.

My little son plays games, and sings, and talks to himself in my rearview mirror,

and from the backseat occupies the hours, long and quiet.

Our dusty van, filmed with soot and sad insects (who flew to their unsuspecting

demise) glides down the road toward a blue horizon and home.

Summertime is blue, too. When we stop near a town called Cedar City for a sprinkled donut, all pink and green and BLUE.

While there, a stranger, a man, offers to buy our treat. Though gracious, I smile

hesitantly. The dark shadows seem darker when alone.

Inside of our van, packed with suitcases and toys and books, we feel safe once again.

As I drive along the highway to home, I am all filled up with blue.

When the nighttime comes, in a lonely hotel room, the clock waits for a new day.

And yet again, the road is still there pointing to home.

Summertime is red when sunlight peeks through the window greeting the day.

The hotel breakfast is bland and tired.

Like me.

More hours, more trees, more flowers, more road…

Twenty hours.

As I drive along the highway to home, I am all filled up with red.

And then

down in a valley

in a caboodle of trees

by the foothills

is my town.

All of the colors collide. Yellow and blue and red.

As I drive along my street to home, I am all filled up with shades of brown.

The color of his hair

his eyes.

The color of home.

Note: My next post will be HOW I GOT MY VERY OWN AGENT STORY. Although I got “the call” in May and signed the contract in June, I wanted to wait until I was HOME to tell the story. So stay posted…:)

UP AND AWAY ON MY BEAUTIFUL COMPUTER SCREEN…

I blinked.

I looked up.

And spring was here, or nearly here.

My head has been, not in the clouds, but in research material, books, and scientific journals. I have recently finished a nonfiction picture book text, and it was great fun. Winter slipped away (and when I peeked my head up to watch the news, it seems the east coast got a real whopper!), and now my book is done. The clouds are parting. I can look up and away from my beautiful computer screen just in time for the trees to bloom flowers.

Are you happy winter is nearly over, too?

A GARDEN OF PRETTY WORDS…

I love words.

Long words.

Short words.

Words that bind.

Words that sing.

Words that laugh.

Words that think.

But sometimes…

They get in the way of what I’m trying to say.

Sometimes, I become so enthralled with the pretty little words that I can’t see plot or characters or voice.

One time I wrote an entire paragraph centered around the word “ramshackle” just because I like that word.

Oftentimes, I’ve had to erase/delete all of those beautiful words and discard them forever.

But then…

Something happened.

Other words grew in their place. Fresh words blossomed and became a new story. The story I always meant to tell.

My authentic story.

Do you ever get caught up in pretty words too?

The 777 MEME: 7 LINES FROM PAGE 7 OF MY WORK IN PROGRESS…

I’ve been tagged by Cindy Rodriguez for the 777 Meme!

She highlighted the rules, so I will too.

Go to the 7th line of the 7th page of your work in progress.

Post the first full 7 lines.

Then tag 7 friends.

My work in progress, titled BAREFOOT ON THE SIDEWALK, has been chosen to be mentored for the Pitch Fiesta Contest through Latin@s in Kid Lit. I’m so excited to be a part of it. My mentor is fabulous! Kerry O’Malley Cerra. Her MG novel JUST A DROP OF WATER just debuted several weeks ago. Yay!

Here’s a little synopsis of what’s going on with my WIP:

Abby loves living on the prairie in her family’s country home surrounded by a vegetable garden and Texas bluebonnets. She wants to ride horseback through the tall grasses. But a voice inside her head, her mother’s voice, warns, “Life’s a basket of rotten apples. Be careful.”

When her Puerto Rican dad, who grew up in New York City, suddenly decides to trade their country home in Texas for a cold flat in Brooklyn, twelve-year-old Abby doesn’t understand why.

In Arkansas, on her way to Brooklyn, her family stops at a minimart to grab a few snacks and buy gasoline. But when Abby’s dad enters the minimart, an old man behind the cash register glares at him suspiciously. One of her relatives, Bart, inadvertently sees that the old man has a gun. Abby doesn’t understand why this old man is fearful of her family. After all, they’re just a family passing through town. What’s the big deal?

So here’s my 7 lines:

Abby’s dad sat in the driver’s seat this time, her mom beside him speaking in a loud whisper as their bus moved along the highway. “It’s a shame we couldn’t stay longer at that last stop. That old man was unstable to say the least.”

Her dad, who on most days readily agreed with everything her mom said, clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Unstable? That’s not the word I’d use.”

They passed a rumbling truck. Abby took the cotton balls out of her ears and scooted forward. “Well, I don’t like it,” said Abby’s mother, waving her hand in the air. “I should write that man a letter and give him a piece of my mind. He lost good business.”

Abby’s mind was stuck wondering what word her father would use other than unstable. She thought the old man looked frightened, or maybe even angry, and she suspected the word had something to do with the color of her dad’s skin.

Oh boy. I probably did more than 7 lines, but it made more sense adding a line or two. :)

Okay, so I need to tag some writer buddies. I’ll put some names here, but if anyone I name can’t participate, no worries!

I tag: Leandra Wallace, Hilary Sierpinski, Sharon Chriscoe, Valerie Coulman, Catherine A. Winn, Katherine Pisana, Donna Cook.

Wishing everyone the best with your WIPs!!!

NO WAY! WE FOUND LEO …

It’s true.

Leo was missing for close to 40 days. Every time I would drive into our neighborhood, I’d wonder if by some crazy happenstance, maybe Leo would show up. Maybe he’d walk across the road, strolling in his little Leo sort of way.

And he did. Seriously, he did.

But I wasn’t there to see it. My neighbor (thanks Tess!) texted me a photo of an African Sulcata tortoise with the question, “Is this yours?”

“Yes!” I texted back. “Where is he?”

She says, “Teresa saw him yesterday and posted a pic of him on Facebook.”

My hubby was home, so I texted him to go outside, Leo was spotted yesterday traipsing around Teresa’s front yard!

Leo was across the street the entire time.

Tess was kind enough to text a photo of Leo to all our neighbors. And within an hour, another neighbor called and said she found Leo.

And after nearly 40 days of wandering the bushes, flowerbeds, and gardens of our little neighborhood street, Leo came home.

My son is thrilled. I’m thrilled. My hubby is thrilled. Our neighbors were all thrilled.

But Leo is a bit shell-shocked. He hides his food as though someone may steal it from under his nose, and he skulks about, puts his head inside his shell, and looks weary. Which he probably is. Our poor little Leo.

But he’s home! Yay! He’s really home!

LEO, WHERE ARE YOU? …

Sunlight filtered through the trees in our backyard, casting shadows on the grass, while our one-year-old African Sulcata tortoise, Leo, enjoyed a quiet afternoon romping in a heap of fallen leaves. With my lawn chair propped beside him, I typically would read my book (right now it’s The Doll People, by Ann Martin), and listen to the sound of his shuffling little feet crunching on bark and dried leaves. But on this particular day, two weeks ago, I was visiting with a friend and not paying much attention to little Leo.

Oh, boy. Note to self: NEVER have an important conversation with a friend while watching a tortoise.

The noise of crunching leaves stopped. I promise. Really. Only like for, two-to-three minutes. Or so. Give or take. And he was gone. Forever.

My ten-year-old boy cried. I was heartbroken. What had I done?

Frantically, I searched our backyard, front yard, neighbor’s yards, nearby ponds, under shrubbery, pretty much EVERYWHERE I could look; for 5 hours. I went to Animal Control and filled out a missing tortoise application. Little Leo (full name Leonard Da Vinci), has his own missing animal id number. But he’s never come back home.

So today, two weeks later, I’m sitting here wondering how Leo is doing. Did he burrow under a tree? Is he hiding? Did he make new friends somewhere and having a party? Is he okay? I hope so. I truly do.

Today I’m melancholy when I look at the empty tortoise box. And not only that, I’m bummed about my writing life, too.

Maybe I’m just missing Leo. If anyone spots a cereal-bowl-sized African Sulcata tortoise roaming the plains of Southern Idaho, please let me know. We’d be so happy to see our friend again.

WRITING A REJECTION-PROOF MANUSCRIPT…

Does such a thing even exist for a first time novelist?

It does.

But the occurrence is so rare, like being struck by lightening and knocking, not your socks off, but your rubber soled boots to shreds and living to see another day. That’s how rare it is. And that actually happened to a young man from Georgia recently. Blown right out of his boots!

Who wants to be struck with the rare occurrence of having your first novel accepted without ever NEVER EVER being rejected?

Did you just leap out of your seat and holler, ME, ME? I certainly did.

I met a super nice young woman at a SCBWI conference two years ago who did just that. She never received a rejection letter. And no, she wasn’t a famous actor or any such thing. She happened to be a gifted writer who happened to know the right people in publishing. She even received The Edgar Allen Poe Award (or the Edgars) for the best mystery fiction, nonfiction, television, film or theater published or produced the year before. A huge honor! And on top of everything she was very humble about it.

Imagine?

I got all woozy imagining how it’d feel.

But coming back down to reality, this rare and wonderful occurrence is not the norm for most writers. Let’s face facts, rejection letters are trophies for many successful writers. It’s the rite of passage.

So I have only one question. How many more “trophies” will I be honored with before my first book is published?

Honestly, just got a little woozy thinking about that, too. ;-)

ATE TOO MANY COOKIES BLUES…

Something about summer sunshine, sparkling water and a wide blue sky makes me happy. But not today.

Today I ate too many cookies. Anytime I weigh myself and see how I’ve lost a few pounds, I immediately want to celebrate. Celebrate by eating cookies, of course. Any kind of cookie. Oatmeal, shortbread, sprinkled, oh and that powdered sugar cookie (think it’s called Mexican Wedding), and especially most of all…chocolate chip.

My summer break, so far, is similar to my cookie intake. Too much of a good thing can make one sick.

Here is what I mean: My manuscript is complete and off with the agents, so I’ve been celebrating. A lot. Went to visit my brother in Vegas, family in San Diego, had a wedding anniversary dinner, graduation party, had a slumber/pool party for my kiddo. And mind you, all of this “celebrating” happened in a span of only ONE week.

Anybody want a cookie?

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE TRAILER PARK, Second Summer

Last summer my son and I stayed in our little travel trailer nestled in the hidden valley of Escondido. Papa and Grammie and all the cousins live there. There’s a pool, jacuzzi and lots of palm trees. And last year’s adventure included a trip to Disneyland (for research, you know, for my book) :-)

This summer we hope to relax by the pool. I have a summer reading list that is growing everyday. Here’s where I’m at so far in middle grade:

THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY by, Tracy Holczer

BEST KEPT SECRET/FAMILY TREE SERIES Book Three by, Ann Martin

THE RIVERMAN by, Aaron Starmer

ALMOST HOME by, Joan Bauer

And in young adult and adult:

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX by, Donna Cook

GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES by, Jennifer Close

And in between all this fun reading, I hope to do a little writing, spend time with family, and dine at some of my favorite restaurants.

What summer plans await you?

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