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Writing Tips

How I Got My Literary Agent

I spent a couple of years writing my manuscript, revising, and taking my writing group’s critique to heart. I knew I wanted to find a traditional publisher and realize my dream of becoming a published author. I had, actually, had a book of poems published by a little university press, but I hoped my new book could appeal to a wider audience. In short, I wanted the dream, the dream of seeing my book on the shelves of an actual bookstore.

To do that, I needed an agent. Ideally, an agent who loved my book and could shepherd it to a publisher.

The is the story of how I found that agent, from the actual query letter and examples of rejections to the phone call that led to representation.

 

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Why Get an Agent?

(photo above: the tweet my agent sent out when Publisher’s Weekly announced the sale of my book to Chronicle)

When I sent out 20 queries to agents a few years ago, I wasn’t even sure what an agent did! I knew they shopped around my book to publishers, but what else?

Here’s my twelve minutes on what a good agent can do for you and your book — and how agents get paid, too.

 

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Book Reviews

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL by Stacy McAnulty — book review!

“One chapter,” I said to myself. “Okay, two.” In this way, I read Stacy McAnulty’s middle grade novel in two sittings!

MisCalcLightcover

What I enjoyed:

  1. Math
    References to pi and Fibonacci, plus a main character who calculates quicker than a calculator makes for a brain-tickling theme. Better than that, math is used to save shelter dogs, and the book reveals how math is all around us. Better than even THAT is the use our main character makes of math. Rather than being merely the author’s decoration, math is the MC’s coping mechanism for anxiety. Sometimes math gets in her way, but mostly Lucy Callahan uses her gift as a way to grasp this ungraspable world. Naturally, her inner journey hinges on going where no formula has gone before.
  2. Friendships
    Though Lucy starts out with only online math friends, her chances of making an IRL (in-real-life) friend increase exponentially when she’s forced to attend a public middle school. Though it’s rocky for a long time, and not without anger and tears, caring about a couple of people and having them care about you turns out to be worth it. This book focuses on Lucy’s new relationships, and I appreciate that one is inter-racial and the other inter-class-al, with both feeling natural.
  3. Challenges
    The reader sees at once that Lucy’s gift is also her curse. A lightning strike left her a math savant, but also a “freak.” She hides her talent at school, but we can’t be who we aren’t for long. Life drags her into facing one fear after another — her phobia of germs, her wish to stay with her online math peers rather than plain kids, and her aversion to smelly, lick-y dogs.
  4. The Writing
    First person works well here to bring the reader into Lucy’s mind, which is an interesting place! We experience her OCD first-hand and understand the psychological costs to not completing her routines. The plot moves along well, keeping the character arc and action arc connected, with action pushing Lucy’s emotional journey forward. The mean girls make their appearances, but they don’t dominate the scenes. The adults facilitate, but they don’t take over. The friends have their mini-arcs, growing and changing, too, underscoring the book’s hopeful tone.

Consider reading this one yourself and then handing it off immediately to the nearest 10-14-year-old!

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Book Reviews

ART BOSS by Kayla Cagan– book review!

ArtBossCoverMeet Piper Perish, up close and personal! This first person, journal-style book gives the reader a front row seat to Piper’s brain, and that’s a fun place to be because she’s an artist, a teen finding her way in a new city, and a gal who is discovering that she can make meaning, not just money — which is good because she has a lot more meaning than money!

Young adults will key into Piper’s search for authenticity in the fashion world of New York City. Plus, it’s fun to see what everyone is wearing! They’ll also celebrate her triumphant assertion of her own identity when she stops letting others use her talents and takes the steering wheel of her own artistic life. The romantic subplot works better than most because the not-the-one guy becomes a friend. Readers may want to check out the book preceding this one, Piper Perish, but it’s not required.

For NYC buffs, this book holds a special treat. As Piper explores the city — from the furniture left on curbs to the Empire State Building to homeless folks to the iconic public library (remember the lions?) — she sketches and creates a hashtag, #NYSeen, for all the spots she’s seen. These come in handy later, but you’ll have to read the book to see how!

I enjoyed my peek into Piper’s first months in NY, as her initiative and creativity grow and she comes into her own as an adult. Piper’s voice is one I’m going to miss now that the book has ended. Her ups and downs are fun to follow because her journal (the book in our hands) keeps her honest. She admits to faults and conflicting feelings as well as confessing her hopes and values. Ultimately, Piper succeeds in matching her insides to her outsides, as she says, bringing the best of herself off the page and into the world.

Recommended!

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