This post is for you, dear writer, as you struggle through the querying trenches year after year (after year, after year), revised-to-the-guts manuscript in one hand and trusty barf bucket in the other. Querying is not for the weak. You, who soldier on in spite of rejection, striving to improve your craft and find the right word, the right genre, the right story, are brave. You, who willingly embark on such torture with each new manuscript, clinging to each new shred of hope, are the young poet to whom Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?”
Yes. Of course you must.
People told me that this story would be an inspiration to other writers someday. A lesson in persistence. Because mine is not one of those amazing enter-one-contest-and-get-five-offers stories. Nor did this happen after completing two, three, four, or even five manuscripts. No, my first taste of success has only come after twelve long years working on six manuscripts and four long years of querying.
If I can do this, you can do this.
Over my years in the trenches, I queried (or got contest/conference requests from) agents 176 times, netting 71 total requests. This might sound like a lot, but unfortunately a request doesn’t always lead to an offer of representation. I first queried my agent (*pause* my agent!) in 2013 when she tweeted an #MSWL that matched my fifth manuscript. I was thrilled that my first pages piqued her interest back then, but it was hardly a done deal. While she made her way through her reading pile, I was hard at work writing and revising my sixth manuscript. She ultimately suggested revisions on my fifth manuscript and signed me after reading the sixth, almost two years after my original query. So to echo what countless others have said before me, keep learning, keep submitting, and above all, keep writing!
I certainly couldn’t have done this alone, and honestly, I’m filled with so much gratitude to have reached this stage that I simply can’t take full credit. I’m so thankful to my wonderfully supportive family, of course, as well as the children’s writing community as a whole, and my own little circle in it. My amazing critique group, my plethora of fantastic critique partners and beta readers, and my lovely writing friends. The publishing professionals giving time at conferences, workshops, and retreats, the agents and editors reading all those queries and all those manuscripts–for nothing in return! Kind-hearted souls setting up and running contests to get writers’ work in front of agents, and my personal mentors who have helped me bring my work to the next level. You all know who you are, and I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for your help, your time, and your faith in my work.
While giving up writing along the way wasn’t an option, I did consider giving up querying on more than one occasion. One particularly dark moment came only a few months ago, after having gotten really close yet again only to be turned away. I happened to receive this beautiful notebook from my cousin, Amanda, that very same day:
I choose hope! I burst into maniacal laughter-tears upon receiving it, of course. As one does. And yet, according to my wise critique partner, Monica, choosing hope was the only option, and so—albeit grudgingly at the time—I did.
And now for the sentence I never thought I’d be able to write: I finally have an agent! Me. I’m thrilled to be represented by the incredible Roseanne Wells with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I couldn’t have found a more perfect match for my work, and I’m so very eager to take my next steps down this strange and terrifying path with her in my corner. Thank you, Roseanne, for believing in me!