My second grade teacher, Mrs. Thuftedal told my mother I was going to be a writer, but it wasn’t until after college that I thought it sounded like fun
In 2004 I’d recently finished Half-Blood Prince and several Roald Dahl books and was suddenly filled with the desire to write my own story. I wanted to touch other people’s lives as Rowling and Dahl had mine. So I started on THE EXITOR, a story of an overweight girl who learns to stop her heart and send her soul out to spy on the neighbors. It was slow going. I didn’t know how to write and usually ended up playing video games instead.
Meanwhile, life happened. I got married and had a couple kids. Still, I plodded away on my story. I got some books on writing and devoured them. (Most helpful were Story by Robert McKee and Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.) I learned many things I’d been doing wrong and a few that I’d been doing right.
My wife Jaida read most of my work and loved it. (She claimed that had my writing been crap, she would’ve discouraged me at the start.) It was mostly because of her support (and because of the overwhelming urge to create) that I kept going. Several years later I’d finally finished my 200,000-word mammoth of a novel.
I queried the heck out of SLEEPING FATTY – Book 1 the EXITOR SERIES. Over a hundred agents. I received a few partials and one even liked the partial and requested the full, but in the end I was nursing my injured pride and trying to think what I could do to fix the manuscript. Jaida suggested I put my paranormal epic on hold and revisit a story I had written a few months back. (I had thrown together a couple shorts for publishing credit, but Cricket Magazine didn’t want them.)
So I started on AN UNCOMMON BLUE, turning the 2,000 word story into another whopper of a novel. (Over 100K words.) This time, however, I was a little more savvy with social media, I’d made a few friends in the Query Tracker forums, and heard mention of a pitch contest. That was the first I’d heard of blogger query/pitch contests and I was immediately hooked. In addition to my querying, I submitted my baby to tons of contests and received all kinds of great feedback. Here are a few of the entries I was able to find cluttering up cyber space.
Surprise Agent Invasion March 2012
Pitch Madness March 2012
America’s Next Author 2012
Writer’s Voice May 2012
Wilde’s Fire Editor Judged Contest May 2012
Entangle an Editor July 2012 (I entered both my stories in this one.)
Teen Eyes Contest August 2012
YAtopia September 2012
Operation Awesome Mystery Editor September 2012
An Agent’s Inbox September 2012
Backspace Writer’s Conference Scholarship Contest 2013
Adventures in YA Publishing February 2013
Query Combat May 2013
First Page Friday (Query Critique) July 2013
Miss Snark’s Secret Agent January 2014
During these contests/critiques I received tons of feedback that helped to reshape the pitch, query, and first page. With each contest, my story grew stronger. The most notable contests, ironically, were some of the first ones I entered (the first two on the list), because an R&R (Revise and Resubmit) resulted from both of them. Both Sara Sciuto and Gina Panettieri helped me identify problems with my manuscript and were extremely helpful in fixing them. I owe them both so much! If it hadn’t been for the time they took to help out an amateur, my story would probably be shelved, collecting dust. The Wilde’s Fire contest was also exciting because it resulted in an offer of publication from Curiosity Quills Press! I wanted to accept the offer right away but the agents I was working with at the time (Louise Fury gave me some great advice) said I should get an agent first and then they could decide which publishing company would be best for my career. So I declined the publishing offer (CQ was very gracious and said the offer stands) and continued to query.
Meanwhile I reconnected with Mrs. Thuftedal, who was pleased to learn of my writing goals and quickly fell in love with An Uncommon Blue. She even wrote an incredible letter to Ellen Degeneres in an effort to get me on her show. (That never panned out.)
Sara eventually passed on the project, but Gina stuck with me. In fact, since that contest in March 2012, I’ve been in regular contact with her at Talcott Notch and she’s been awesome! At one point I thought I’d snagged her (when she set up a time for a phone call) but we just talked about how she’d liked my changes and how I needed to solidify my world by getting the history down as well as a series outline. Because Gina was such an awesome (and experienced) agent she was exceptionally busy. At times I wondered if my submissions had gotten lost in the shuffle. Curiosity Quills was still anxious to publish me, and I was torn between waiting for Gina and starting the process with the small press.
That’s where I was last month when my wife’s friend Candace told me Cedar Fort was looking for submissions. Candace goes to our church and is a producer for Frame 7 Productions as well as a talent manager. Before she’d even told me about the call for submissions, she’d contacted her friend at Cedar Fort and told her about my book.
I submitted An Uncommon
Blue, and a week later received an offer of publication! Now I had some seriously hard decisions to make.
I had two publication offers (actually three, but one seemed suspicious) and an awesome agent (Gina) who I assumed would eventually take me on. But at the moment it was Candace who had naturally fallen into the agent role. She seemed as excited about the offer as I was, and with her contacts at Cedar Fort, was already finding out specifics about the contract and what it would mean to sign with them.
After thinking and praying about what to do, I decided I’d rather have an inexperienced agent with loads of enthusiasm and time for me. I asked Candace if she would consider being my literary agent. After doing a little research, she agreed, and that is how I ended up signing two contracts in one day. Candace has been an awesome help getting my social media up and running and Cedar will have AN UNCOMMON BLUE out on Dec 9th 2014, just in time for Christmas!
I will forever be grateful to Curiosity Quills, Gina, and all the other professionals and bloggers that took the time to help me along my journey. I’m especially grateful to my second grade teacher, who–a quarter century ago–knew what was in store for this shrimpy little blond kid.