Friday, November 14, 2008

Running in Circles

When do we stop running in circles? And no, I'm not talking about the rat race metaphor, or any sort of metaphor at all. I mean very literally when do we stop running around in circles?

I watch my kids play and they just want to move. The other night we were stuck in a building that had a hall circling the entire thing. They spent the entire hour we were there running laps and laughing like it was the greatest thing ever.

Do you remember the last time you saw a circular hall and thought, "Awesome!! I can run in circles INFINITELY!" I saw the couches in the circular hall and thought, "Awesome!! I can sit down INFINITELY!" But I can remember a time when I, too, saw those circular halls and ran in endless circles. In fact, another child was doing the same thing going the opposite directions, and we'd laugh every time we passed. And then I vaguely remember a collision and waking up on the floor with some very concerned adults standing around me.

So maybe that's when I, personally, lost the joy of movement. Along with my consciousness. But really, I do wonder when that sheer elation with our little bodies and what they can do ends. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go run around in circles in my family room, because it's SO MUCH FUN!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things I Love

You know what I love? I love it when you spend $350 and two hours getting new tires on the car, only to discover the next morning that one of the tires is completely flat.

Love it! So fun!

In the category of things I actually love and don't want to yell at someone on the phone for, just wait until you see what Natalie is up to. I'll let you know when it's finished, but rest assured--it is AWESOME, and she is so insanely awesome it blows my mind.

Which brings me to my thank you list. Because as I've said before, if you are trying to get an agent, you should recruit help.

Hot Stuff, for suffering through a month of having a wife completely obsessed with imaginary characters. Poor thing.

The MoMos, Natalie and Renee, of course, for being my writer group. Natalie especially for chatting with me every single day, listening to me whine, and never slapping me across the face. That may have had something to do with the fact that we're in different states though. Plus these girls gave me GREAT advice on how to make Flash better.

And then there were my other victims--er--early readers. Ashley (who was so enthusiastic she actually read it twice, just for fun), Lindsey, Matt, Erin (who very kindly told me that my original ending made no sense--and was right), all of those other people I'm going to forget and then feel bad about, and especially Lauren. Lauren was my test audience--teenage girl--and her very regular email responses of, "I'M FREAKING OUT! I JUST SCREAMED AND THEN PEED MY PANTS!" and "SEND ME THE NEXT CHAPTER NOW OR I'LL KILL YOU!" were always encouraging and helpful as I was writing Flash.

Of course I can't leave out my wonderful online cheerleaders who regularly checked during June to see just how many thousand words I had written that day. Whirl, my wonderfully insane British friend, WW, Freddie, and all of the other people I'm forgetting who are going to feel bad. (Awesome! I'm going to write a thank-you post that will make people mad! That takes talent, right?)

And then there's you. Yes, YOU. Whether you're brand new or you've been lurking for a while, I'm thankful for you. (Especially if you wrote one of those awesome congratulatory posts on your blog.) (Also, Cindy gets a special shout out thanks to her magical querying dust, which I suggest you request ASAP. Now I'm going to see if she has any magical three book deal dust around.) Trying to find an agent is long and lonely and incredibly frustrating. You all provided loads of validation and humor, both of which were indispensible on this journey.

And which will continue to be so, given that now that I have an agent, the real stress begins.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Break It Down

While I'm waiting for a phone call from my agent (man, am I ever going to get tired of saying that? I don't think so. In fact, I think I'm going to see if I can figure out the exact number of times I can casually refer to my agent in any given conversation so that it remains impressive without being annoying. I'm thinking like fifty?), I thought I'd give you a little bit of a breakdown of the journey, statistically.

Flash is my second book. My first book, Keeping King Tut, I queried off and on for about a year. Sad, but true. In fact, I was still hoping (with a healthy dash of realistic melancholy) that something might happen with it clear until last June, when I started writing Flash and stopped caring about anything else. Now, with some healthy distance between us, I can look back fondly on Tut and realize exactly what was wrong with it. Middle grade? Who was I kidding? Pondering the nature of family and the impact of loss while pretending it was actually a story about two kids who go back in time to Egypt? Yeah. Not so much.

So, Flash. I wrote Flash in June. I think it took me less than thirty days--hard to remember because I was in Mexico for a week so I couldn't work on it. Then, after a few edits (thanks to my fabulous, FABULOUS readers including my sisters, some old friends, and the MoMos), I put together a query (made better thanks to the fabulous Evil Editor and the Minions) and started sending it out.

Here were are, three-and-a-halfish months later. Man, it felt like a long time, but I guess it really wasn't. At first I was very moody and grouchy. Then when I almost died in September I realized that, hey, getting an agent really ISN'T a life or death thing. Massive internal bleeding = life or death. Getting an agent = something I would like to happen. So, with that new perspective, I was much happier, and resolved to the idea that no matter how good Flash was, it might not happen.

Searching on Agent Query, I noticed Michelle's name again. I always liked her name--Wolfson is just a great last name--but had never queried her before because her tastes didn't include sci-fi or paranormal. Flash isn't hardcore either one of those, but it has a touch, so I held off. Then the last week of October I figured, what have I got to lose?

About two hours after I queried her, Michelle responded and asked for a partial. "Oh, that's nice," I thought. I sent it off.

Then, ten days later, she emailed me again asking for a full. "Yay!" I thought. Then I thought, "Oh no," because she asked for an exclusive, which I couldn't give (two other agents were already considering the full). I told her so, hoping very much that she would still be interested. She emailed me back and said that she was, and she would read quickly and get back to me soon.

So I'm thinking, hey, maybe I'll hear back from her before Thanksgiving, wouldn't that be nice?

That was Tuesday. Thu

[We now interrupt this post so that I can have a freak out moment: I LOVE MY AGENT. SHE IS AWESOME. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog post.]

rsday morning as I'm getting Nayna out the door for a playdate the phone rings. Which is unusual unless it's my final warning that my car warrantee is about to expire and I should renew now or hello may I please speak with (long pause) Kristen Brassiere? So I answer it and this lovely voice on the other end says, "Hi, Kiersten? This is Michelle Wolfson."

At which point my brain explodes.

So, I did what any person would who has been dreaming of such a call and resolved to herself that it would never happen. I hung up on her.

Ha! Well, actually, she asked if it was a good time and I had to admit that it wasn't but could I please call her back in two minutes (thinking please please don't change your mind before then)? She said I could. So I freaked out to my very confused brother-in-law, sent Nayna out the door, and typed a quick message to Natalie, with whom I was chatting at the time. I believe the exact text was HOLY CRAP THE CALL THE CALL THE CALL.

However, Nayna leaving naturally made Dojo start bawling because he didn't get to go, too. I knew I had to do something--whenever I imagined THE CALL in my head (and it was always all caps in my head) I was professional and collected, had my excellent list of questions to ask so I would sound informed and prepared, and most of all there were no screaming toddlers in the background. So I grabbed my cell phone, strapped Dojo into the stroller, and took him down to watch the bulldozers clearing lots nearby. Instead of my professional phone call, Michelle got to hear construction in the background.

Awesome. Better than a screaming toddler though.

Anyway--it was the best phonecall of my life. Seriously. Hearing an agent rave to you about your book? Best thing ever. I really felt like we connected well and that she was someone I would love to work with. I gave the other two agents a few days to finish my manuscript. One got back quickly, saying that she loved it but would step aside since I had another offer. Then, after considering it and talking with some of Michelle's other clients, I went ahead and let the other (very nice and gracious) agent know I was going to go with Michelle.

And there you have it. I just got off the phone with my agent (nope, not gonna get tired of saying that) and we have a plan and a timeframe for submission. And I am so, so excited, and so grateful that I get to work with her.

For those of you who are really curious, here is a stats list of my querying:

Total Agents Queried: 44
Query Rejections: 26
Partial Requests: 5
Partial Rejections: 3
Full Requests: 5
Full Rejections: 1 (on the same day I started losing my pregnancy. THAT was a great day.)

Total time querying was about three-and-a-half months.

I used three different query letters and got requests and rejections from each of them. I found all of my information on Agent Query. I also found out that publishing really IS a subjective business, and that there really WAS no doubt that Flash would be right for some other agent out there.

And I'm so glad it was Michelle!

Tomorrow I'll give you my extensive thank yous, along with an idea of where I go from here, since I now know after talking with Michelle, my agent. My agent Michelle. Who is an awesome agent. Did I mention she's my agent?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kiersten's 200th Post of Glory and Awesomeness (and Announcements)

First of all, thanks everyone for participating in my ridiculous contest. I was half expecting a) no responses at all, or b) people cussing me out for being so lame. But look at you, wonderful readers! You came through for me and then some. Anyone interested, please see the comment section of the previous post to see just how generous people offered to be.

Among my favorite offerings were:

Chocolate (notice nearly all of the chocolate offers came from my male readers. They clearly have it figured out)

Natalie's offer of an internal organ transplant (I'll let you see the comments for the specific organ, since I already get enough google search hits for it. I was both touched and creeped out)

Lindsey's offers of things that were going to happen anyway

TAMN of Seriously So Blessed's offer to let me pick the gender of her unborn twins, OR one of her great t-shirts

And finally,

Cindy Pon's offer of one of her Chinese Brush paintings

Not to mention all of the other great things (Dr Pepper! Naming puppies! Partially used gift cards!) people were willing to contribute in an effort to win the contest to give me a prize. After my initial excitement I started feeling bad--I mean, come on, am I really going to make James mail me Smarties all the way from Australia, much as I would love to try them? I may be ridiculous, but I try hard not to be a jerk. So I was going to magnanimously turn them down in some grand gesture, saying something along the lines of having your love and readership is the greatest gift of all.

And then I was like, wait a second, what am I thinking?? I've been coveting Cindy's artwork since I very first saw it! So I officially declare Cindy the winner of the giving Kiersten a prize contest! (Everyone else breathes a huge sigh of relief, while Cindy ponders what on earth she was thinking.)

As far as the poetry contest--well, honestly, I didn't expect you all to be such great poets! Seriously. I'm going to have to deliberate and announce the winner a little later.

Speaking of winners, I've got one other announcement.

For a while, querying felt like this:

Then that whole pregnancy-nearly-killing me thing I tried out in September gave me some perspective, so querying felt like this:

Then, out of the blue, I got the BEST PHONECALL OF MY LIFE last Thursday:

Now, thanks to Michelle Wolfson, my agent, I look like this most of the time (it's true--Michelle got me to smile showing my teeth!):

(Coming tomorrow: my very long thank-you list, gushing about Michelle, and more fun details!)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kiersten's Guide to Trying to Get Published

*Editor's Note: This Is Not An Announcement. I don't have a book deal--this is just because most people don't understand how getting published happens. Most of it is hypothetical.

For the uninitiated, the idea of getting published seems simple. You write a book, make a few phone calls, and voila! You're the next Stephenie Meyer! Alas, it's not quite that easy. I'll break down how it actually works.

Step One: Write a Book

There are millions of people out there who think, "Hey, I could write an awesome book." And then they never do. Which is great, I hate competition.

Then there are millions of people who try but never finish. I also like these people.

Then there are those people, which now number in the hundreds of thousands, who say, "I'm going to write a book." And then they do. I actually love these people, because man, that's great. It's not easy--go you!

Step Two: Congratulate Yourself and Daydream about Book Signings

So you've got your fancy, shiny new manuscript you finished last night. STOP. Do not research agents, do not send it out to Random House with a big heart sticker on the envelope, do not start booking library tours. Edit it. Trust me.

Don't edit it so much that you never do anything else, but really, make sure it's in the best possible condition. I highly, HIGHLY recommend a writing group (such as my dear and fabulous MoMos). Preferably people who are writers, but definitely people who will be honest with you. Your mom? Probably not going to be honest with you, as she'll be too busy bursting with pride that her darling wrote a book.

Step Three: Figure Out What You're Supposed to Do Next

Promise you edited it? Okay then. You probably started this whole process thinking you could print off your baby, send it to a huge publishing house, and get an offer within days.


Well, I mean, maybe you can, but here's what the rest of us have to do. You sit down and write a query letter, which is basically a one page description of your book. It's hard. Maybe harder than writing a whole book. After you've written it, you have your friends look at it, then send it over to Evil Editor to let him make fun of it and give you good advice.

You'll also want to include a short bio in your query letter. For mine, I simply stated that I had a story published in a journal this year and work as a freelance writer. It's brief, but to the point--someone has seen something in my writing worth publishing. However, if your only publishing cred is the poem you wrote in first grade and decorated with sparkles that your teacher displayed on the chalkboard, well, you're probably better off leaving it out.

So, now you've got your query letter all polished and pretty.

Step Four: Send Your Tender Heart Out into the World to Get Trampled

You really can't send your manuscript to most editors or publishers anymore. They get so much stuff, they simply don't read it. This is where literary agents come in. They act as a filter--if they think your book is good enough to represent it, an editor is willing to give it a chance. Agents are awesome.

You'll want to do some extensive research. I recommend Agent Query. Put together a list of potential agents, then google them, check their blogs if they have one, check out their website. Most agents want slightly different things, and all agents like queries to be personalized.

Then, after putting together your charming, well-written, and error-free email or letter to the agent, you send it out.

And then you wait. Sometimes you wait twenty minutes for a "No thanks." Sometimes you wait two months for a "No thanks."

And trust me, you'll get a LOT of "No thanks." A lot. Really? A lot. And it's not easy. Sometimes it's downright heartbreaking.

But, sprinkled in with all of those "No thanks," you'll probably get some "Yes, please." And those are awesome. Agents will request either a partial, with a specified number of pages, or a full, meaning they want to look at the whole manuscript.

And then you REALLY get to wait. Nervously. Nail-bitingingly agonizingly. Checking your email every five freaking minutes because maybe maybe there's a response (there isn't).

And if you thought getting a no on your query was sad, wait until you get a no on a partial or, worse yet, a full. Because then they aren't just rejecting the idea of your book--they're actually rejecting your book. It's rather crushing.

(I recommend Dr Pepper and M&Ms for self-medicating. Some people like ice cream. Comfort eating is a must during this stage.)

But here's where you set yourself apart--you don't give up after that first generic partial rejection. You send out a new query for every rejection. If you aren't getting any requests, you reevaluate your query. You find new agents to contact. And you DON'T GIVE UP. I think the best example of this is my darling friend Cindy. She sent out well over a hundred queries. And you know what happened? She got an agent and a three book deal. If your book is good, someone, somewhere out there is going to realize it.

Step Five: Hit the Jackpot

Maybe on your fifth query, or your fiftieth, or your one-hundred and fiftieth, you just might luck out and find that agent out there--your dream agent--the one you've been waiting for who it just so happens has been waiting for you. You freak out.

Then you get to work. Your agent will work with you and submit your manuscript to publishing houses and editors.

Know what that means? Yup. MORE WAITING. And probably more rejection. Awesome.

Step Six: Hit the Next Jackpot

Your awesome agent, after perservering and being all around wonderful, gets you a book deal. Seriously! Sure, there's tons more work ahead, edits like you wouldn't believe, etc, but hey, you are going to be published!

Man, I wish I were you.

So there you have it. My long, long guide to how this stuff actually works. If you read it all, you deserve a cookie.