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Hello, wonderful Tuesday From The Trenches Readers! I am so excited to be sharing this wonderful interview with Margo Sorenson! Her persistence is incredible and inspiring. I hope that you will know that your "yes" will come! You will find your path!! So please join me in welcoming Margo to the blog!



Hi Margo! Thank you so much for joining us today! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers!

Thank you, Kailei---I'm honored to be here!



Can you share your query stats with us? (as far as you know/remember. It’s okay if some of these numbers are zero):

Believe me, they're not zero!!!


Time Spent in the Query Trenches:

About fifteen years, give or take a year—but (take a deep breath!)—these figures represent ALL of my various manuscripts queried to all the agents on my list, not only the manuscript that landed me my awesome agent. For that manuscript, it was about two years of querying off and on, revising, and resubmitting.


Number of Agents Queried:

For the manuscript that landed me my agent, it was forty carefully-vetted, other agents. As we all do, I tried to pay close attention to what agents were looking for and worked hard not to do the "throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks" process, as tempting as that might be. 😉 The kid lit writing community is very generous, and authors as well as agents willingly share their query processes and insights, which were an indispensable aid, and for that I am most grateful. As a result, I am beyond thrilled with my super-agent Dan Cramer.


Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript:

There was one full request for the picture book manuscript that got me my agent. As you know, most picture book agents want the full manuscript up front; Jennifer Flannery wants only the query letter first. Thus, the "only one" full request. The other agents already had the full and a few did request additional work.


Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”:

NA

Number of R&Rs:

At least fifty for various other manuscripts overall and two for the manuscript that got me my agent.

Number of Rejections:

Are you kidding? If you mean number of rejections for ALL of my different manuscripts, I stopped counting and started weighing them. 😉 For the manuscript that got me my agent, there were about fifteen.

Number of Offers:

One—the very best! Others demurred, once they knew I had an offer, and wished me the best.

Agent and Agency:

Dan Cramer, Agent, Page Turner Literary Agency, a sister agency to Flannery Literary




Margo, this is such an amazing story!! I love your dedication so much and I know it is really going to inspire our readers! How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

I did it the old-fashioned way—hard copies on lined notebook paper, organized alphabetically by manuscript title (I always submitted about a half-dozen different manuscripts at the same time, in rotation) and another set alphabetically by agent, and I kept a "tickler file" to remind me when to "nudge." Because I also submitted to publishers, "post-agent search," I had another, separate folder for those, as well.



That sounds like a great system! How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

I handle rejection pretty well, because I was a middle school and high school teacher. 😉 Regarding all of my different manuscripts, not the one that landed me my agent, a rejection that stung a bit was when an agent LOVED one of my YA manuscripts and strongly encouraged ("read this or else!") another agent in her agency to take it on, and that agent kept it for months, but finally passed. Another was an R&R on another YA, and that agent was really enthusiastic, but, eventually rejected it. As you know, we writers understand that this is a "business," after all, with a bottom line. Rejection isn't personal, although it can feel like it, sometimes. 😊 Many agents said they had something similar coming up and others said it just didn't resonate with them, (they just "didn't love it"), and all the kind and positive feedback helped me handle the rejections. The agent rejections were very encouraging and professional. Yes, as we know, there is such a thing as a "good rejection"—it's not an oxymoron! Most of all, I think what helped me deal with rejections was that I kept writing new manuscripts and revising current ones, listening to my critique partner, and submitting to publishers (after enough good agents had passed whom I thought would be a fit). There is always hope. 😊 As a side-note, a few of the manuscripts that agents rejected I was fortunately able to sell eventually on my own to traditional publishers. We all know it's a subjective business. Believe in yourself!



Such a good reminder to keep believing in ourselves. Because you're right... it's so subjective. It sounds like you found a good way to deal with those rejections... just keep writing!

So, how did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

I did a lot of research by reading interviews and publishing blogs and newsletters. Yes, it's work! Thank goodness for the kid lit community of authors, agents, and editors, who graciously share their experiences online; they were an amazing help in researching agents. It was a new world for me, because I had been submitting on my own to traditional publishers for thirty years, and I'd had the good fortune to have had over thirty of my books traditionally published by small to mid-size publishers (no Big Six/Five). I'd been around the block a few times, (yes, I am that old 😉) and, because very few kid lit authors had agents when I began writing thirty years ago, I had always just felt I was all right on my own, without an agent. You can certainly tell this is "back in the day"! That was why I had never tried for an agent until the doors began to close in traditional publishing to un-agented authors. (Slam—slam—slam! 😉) Even those editors with whom I'd had good relationships were more than apologetic in their rejections, saying they could no longer accept un-agented manuscripts. This also forced me to confront an issue I'd tried to ignore for years. If I had an agent, I could spend a great deal more time writing and revising, instead of spending hours and hours in researching publishers and editors, writing query letters, and following up with editors. That clinched it. That was the turning point, so my agent search and research began. As an author, it's important to me to have clear, honest, and timely communication, and from a few of the sad stories I'd read, there were a few agents out there who weren't that professional or who lacked integrity, as well as good communication skills. I knew that would be a disaster. 😊 So, I carefully and painstakingly researched who might be a good fit for each manuscript as far as what they were looking for, and then read as much as I could about the agents, to try and gauge how conscientious and communicative they were. Again, I send my unending gratitude to all the fellow trench warriors out there who unselfishly contributed their insights, helping me make my choices.


That is so amazing! I love hearing about your success with 30 published books before landing your agent! I think that's a great point to remember. Some writers have highly successful careers even before the agent comes in. But how did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

It was a cold query. I'd read that Jennifer Flannery of Flannery Literary had hired an associate agent, Dan Cramer, and I knew she repped Gary Paulsen and had an awesome reputation in the industry for having a great deal of integrity, being tenacious and forthright, and being extremely supportive of her authors (besides all the national book awards her clients have won). I hoped—crossing my fingers—my picture book manuscript might be a good fit for the agency and for Dan, whose background was just what I was looking for in an agent.


That is so wonderful! And exciting now that Dan is starting his sister agency! How much time passed between querying him to getting “the call”?

Actually, it was an email exchange, and it was about two weeks from my emailing the initial query letter to getting a full request from Jennifer Flannery. Then, four days after I sent her the manuscript, I got an email from her associate Dan Cramer at Flannery that he'd read it and loved it and wanted to offer me representation. I was over the moon!


That is such an exciting story and fast turn around! Congrats! Can you tell us more about that email? How did you know your agent was the right choice?

In his email offering representation, Dan wrote these words: "For transparency's sake, my offer of representation to you, will come with editorial changes to your manuscript before submitting it to publishers. I can provide you with an editorial letter that would summarize the changes and allow you to understand how I want to elevate your manuscript. I know you have other agents/publishers reviewing your manuscript currently and you may want to wait to hear back from them before you consider my offer. I feel that we could have a very good agent/author working relationship." Because of his professionalism in checking all those important boxes, I was pretty much sold, even before we talked. As a former speech and debate coach and rhetoric nut, I appreciated all of the points he made, his language, his vision, and his tone. We talked ten days later, after I communicated with the other agents who had that manuscript, as well as some of my other manuscripts. He was courteous, professional, had a great sense of humor (a definite plus), and stayed on-message with me and was very upbeat. I truly felt he had my manuscript's—and my career's— best interests at heart. Dan has been an amazing agent in every way, and I feel so fortunate to have found him.


That author/agent relationship really is so important. I'm glad to hear that you found such a good fit! Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?

This is the pitch for my non-fiction picture book manuscript: "Back in the days of castles and knights, girls were supposed to toe the line, but Eleanor didn’t! AND SHE DID! THE STORY OF ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE."



Oh, Margo, it sounds wonderful! I can't wait to see if on shelves.


If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?

Do your research and keep your standards high. Don't settle—even though it can be tempting. Seriously. Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell once wrote: "There is no substitute for excellence—not even success." You want an agent with integrity.



Oh I love that so much... that success isn't a substitute for excellence. I am going to remember that one for sure!! Where can we connect with you online?

Margo's website: www.margosorenson.com

Twitter: @ipapaverison

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/margosorenson/,

Instagram: margosorensonwriter

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/60982.Margo_Sorenson

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/YAItalia


Thanks so much for joining us today! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck on this journey! I can’t wait to see more of your books in the world.

Thank you, Kailei, and I'm looking forward to your MG debut, KID MADE! It sounds like just the ticket for young readers today.



Aww, thank you so much, Margo! I am so excited about it and really appreciate your kind words. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers before signing off?

Stay true to your heart and conscience. It's tough being in the trenches, truly, but, as I've heard, it's far worse to have an agent who doesn't communicate, doesn't "get" your work, has other priorities, is unprofessional, and lacks integrity. We've all read stories on the SCBWI message board and elsewhere about "agent laments," such as "no agent is better than a bad agent," and I am so blessed that Dan Cramer and Jennifer Flannery chose to represent me and all my work. Dan has been a creative, conscientious, supportive, and professional collaborator, and he continues to help me to bring my other manuscripts to new levels. Dan thinks outside the box creatively, which has been a hoot for me. I trust him, which is key. He communicates consistently and supports all my published books, even those he's not sold, with social media posts for publicity, by even leading a book club to read one of my YA's, and generally by being an all-around stand-up, good person. I couldn't ask for more.


That sounds absolutely wonderful, Margo. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us!!


GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNTY!

Margo is offering a Picture Book query critique to one lucky reader! Just follow Margo and Kailei on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet. Winner will be announced on Twitter.


About Margo Sorenson

National Milken Educator Award recipient, Johns Hopkins CTY Fellow, and author of over thirty traditionally-published books for young readers, Margo Sorenson has won recognition and awards for her books, including being named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction and a number of ALA Quick Pick nominations. She enjoys Zooming and Google-Meeting and in-person school visits with students everywhere. Her newest picture books are CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD (Tilbury House, October 2020), reviewed in the New York Times, and LITTLE CALABASH (Island Heritage, 2020), selected by SCBWI for their recommended reading list for "Celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, May, 2021."


About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and picture book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee, and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest. She loves writing books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to. Her debut Middle Grade, KID MADE, will be out from F&F Macmillan Summer 2023.


Kailei can't wait to get her stories into your hands.

Hello wonderful and patient readers! Welcome to another Tuesday From The Trenches! What's that you say? It's Wednesday?? Oh... well, yes. Yes, it is. This is 100% my fault and I own it. I am so sorry to be a day late. But... I am beyond thrilled to be hosting one of my agent siblings on the blog today, and I promise this interview is absolutely worth the wait. Kay is such a wonderful soul and I am just so glad to welcome her to the blog!


Hi Kay! Thank you so much for joining us today! I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers! And not only because you and I agree on the ever important truths about Vampires, or because you are my agent sibling, or because we both adore Emily Forney... but also because your story is just so great! Let's jump right in!



Can you share your query stats with us?

Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 2 months

Number of Agents Queried: 28

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 15

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 13

Number of R&Rs: 0

Number of Rejections: 12

Number of Offers: 2

Agent and Agency: Emily Forney at BookEnds Literary Agency



Wow! 15 full requests in 2 months?? That is absolutely incredible! How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

Query Tracker was such a life saver for me! I also made different email folders to organize the emails I was waiting for responses on as well as folders for rejections and full requests!


What a good idea to use email folders! I think you're the first person on Tuesday From The Trenches to suggest that, and I love it! I hope some of our readers use that method. Seriously would have saved me from searching my inbox so frequently.

How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?


Honestly, I went into querying thinking this would probably be a failed venture but that I at least wanted to learn the absolute most I could for the next books I wrote (so cynical I know.) Despite how desperately I wanted this book to be THE book that finally got me an agent, I knew the odds were stacked high. So, for my mental health I told myself the rejections were just an opportunity to perfect my query and honestly that got me through most of the rejections! I’d say the only rejections that particularly stung were the ones that came from agents who passed after asking for my full– but their feedback was also invaluable to me moving forward and I was so grateful for it!



That is actually really wise. And I am SO glad that this was the book that landed your agent. I'm still so so so ready to read it!! And I understand about the rejections after requests. I would absolutely agree that those are the toughest. So with your whirlwind story, how did you find agents to query and how did you decide who to query?


It started with a lotttttt of research. I got a master list of literary agencies and cross-referenced agents who rep’ my book’s genre specifically at each agency and organized them by best fit first per agency. Then I went through and made sure they didn’t already have anything on their lists that were TOO similar mine. I also looked through every MSWL out there and I utilized twitter a LOT and that’s how I found my agent Emily– while researching the twitters of agents who worked for BookEnds! Emily had an online vibe that was very very similar to mine AND she looked for books in my genre, so I knew I wanted to query her eventually! From there I narrowed down my top 30 agents and divided my list into 4 rounds with a randomizer (because I tried desperately not to have any ‘dream’ agents and had already narrowed my list down to only include agents I would absolutely want to work with) and sent them out a couple weeks apart at a time!



Wow! Kay, that is absolutely amazing. I love how organized you were and how you took the time to do the research. What a difference it makes to be querying the right agents who you would love to work with rather than just any agent. And I love the side advice to not have a dream agent in mind. It can be easier said than done for sure, but I think that is so wise.


So I know you found her on Twitter, but how did you ultimately officially connect with Emily? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?


Ah this is my favorite part. SO, I knew I wanted to query Emily very badly, but at the time I sent out my first round she was closed to queries– though she had tweeted she’d reopen to them in a couple months so I put her in my last querying group in hope that she’d be open by the time I got to that round. Fortunately for me, however, Emily is super active and I had started developing a fun banter with her on twitter about random things (Henry Cavill, demons, burritos, etc.). This happened to coincide with a pitch event I was already planning on pitching for and she ended up seeing and liking my pitch and I got to query her through that even though she was closed to public queries!


YES! (Side note, I still very much enjoy your twitter banter with Emily... and now Elba too!) and I love that you are a twitter pitch success story! That's how I connected with Emily as well, so I'm a big believer in putting yourself out there for those events.

So how much time passed between sending your query off to Emily and getting “the call”?


42 days!


Yay! Can you tell us more about that call? How did you know Emily was the right choice?


It was two hours of squealing chaos lol! Which is exactly how I knew she was the one! Emily told me all about her vision and we talked about all my goals for my career and book. We talked about the characters and I asked my list of one hundred agent questions and we just bonded! I knew immediately she was the sort of partner I wanted to have on this journey!



That sounds absolutely fantastic! I love when a connection just feels right. And I can totally picture you and Emily spending 2 hours together in squealing chaos. I feel so good about that.

Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?


It’s a YA fantasy adventure with an ensemble cast of bisexual witches. It’s exactly the book I wanted when I was a teen and it’s just a ton of action-packed fun (with a nice bit of romance ;)) There’s magical dice, and sirens, and the whole thing takes place in a dangerous enchanted forest!



I'm so serious that I cannot wait until I can get my hands on that book! I am SO happy for you and all that your future holds.

If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?


Be nice to yourself! It’s so much easier said than done but the thing is– I can’t tell you that it’s a guarantee you’re going to get an agent. The industry is just so subjective and those empty reassurances from everyone can be such a heavy burden. I know they were to me. But, what I CAN tell you, is that rejection does not mean you’re a bad writer! AT ALL. We’ve all been told no and it’s so important that you’re kind to yourself because this process is not going to be.


Oh, and please PLEASE check your word counts for your genre.



Kay, that is absolutely lovely advice. I love that realistic approach with a nice sprinkling of hope and confidence. This business is truly so so soooo subjective. Readers, you can't control that, but you can control being great authors.

And yes, word count. We won't talk about my 2000 word, didactic picture book MS...


Kay, this has been so much fun! Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?


I am @kaylsmoon on every social platform (Twitter is my fave!) and I even have a (very poorly kept up with) Youtube channel ☺ And my site is Kaysmithbooks.com


Thanks so much for joining us today, Kay! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck to you and you know that I'm watching and waiting patiently (okay, not so patiently) to see where this book ends up and read your future stories! I literally can’t wait to see your books in the world.




GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY!

Kay is generously offering one lucky reader a query critique. Please retweet THIS tweet, follow Kay, and follow Kailei to enter.





About Kay Smith

Kay Smith is a queer writer and lover of all things magical and YA fantasy. She grew up in Louisiana where she frequently haunted bookstores and practiced her craft, and after getting her degree in graphic design, she decided to fully pursue her dream of being an author. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found at home with her menagerie of animals, practicing witchcraft, or annoying people about astrology.



About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and picture book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee, and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest. She loves writing books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to. Her debut Middle Grade, KID MADE, will be out from F&F Macmillan Summer 2023.


Kailei can't wait to get her stories into your hands.

Hello wonderful readers! I hope you're having a wonderful summer. We're loving our summer days by the pool and sad that we only have 2.5 more weeks before school starts again. But then again, it will be nice to return to a routine as well. Anyways... as per usual, I digress. So...Welcome to another Tuesday From The Trenches! I'm thrilled to share June's story with you and I just know it will give you the boost you need!


Hi June! And welcome! Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m thrilled to share your story with my readers, so let's just jump right in. Can you share your query stats with us?

I started querying (way before I was actually ready or had enough information on the publishing industry) back in 2013 after I finished a MG manuscript and some picture book manuscripts. Over that first year, I joined SCBWI, attended classes, and really dedicated myself to learning more about craft and the business of writing.

Here is a snapshot of my numbers. (I didn’t track responses in detail that first year)

As you can see, I racked up a lot of rejections over a number of years, but this included picture books, chapter books, novels, and a few articles.


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 5.5 to 6 years

Number of Agents Queried: MANY

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 28 times agents asked for more work.

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: I did have a few of them, but they never got a sale, though I did get some nice personalized and encouraging responses.

Number of R&Rs: Zero

Number of Rejections: 486

Number of Offers: 2 from agents, 1 from an editor.

Agent and Agency: Golden Wheat Literary



I love that you didn't give up on your dream! Some of our recent stories have felt impossibly fast, so I always love hearing about someone who took maybe a bit longer in the trenches. I'm so inspired by the stick-to-itedness that you had.

How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.


I used a spreadsheet, even when I used Query Tracker I put the info into the sheet I already had since it also had all my notes.





Spreadsheets are the best! Tell me... How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?


I didn’t take them personally. I used to be in sales and so rejection in general didn’t hurt much, but some of those personal rejections where I was “so close” and “almost” and “keep sending me more work” were hard since I felt like I was tripping at the finish line. It got frustrating, for sure.


That is so very relatable. Those close calls were the hardest for me, too.

How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

Sometimes I’d research books like mine to see who repped them. Or I’d see a MSWL on Twitter that sounded like something I was working on. I also sent work to those I’d met at conferences and classes. Finally, I spent lots of time on Google and reading interviews to see who would likely rep work like mine.



It's a lot of work to find good fits, but so worth it. Finding an agent who reps books like your really is the key. How did you ultimately connect with Golden Wheat? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?


I cold queried Golden Wheat and I’d queried another agent that I attended a class with. Both offered rep, but I ultimately chose Golden Wheat. When my first agent left the industry, I moved to Jessica Schmeidler, the founder of Golden Wheat.



That's really nice that the agency made sure you were still taken care of. I like hearing that! How much time passed between querying your agent to getting “the call”?


I believe about one month, but I had received an offer on a different picture book from an editor at that same time, so I had reached out to all the agents who had my work to let them know I had an offer on the table. Then I asked for a response in two weeks or to let me know if they needed more time.

Note: I only sent work directly to editors I’d met or after I’d shopped them through all the agents that I thought would be interested.


A month isn't too terrible, but I know that can feel like an eternity. It's so great that you had an offer from an editor as well! Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know your agent was the right choice?


My first agent (who is no longer agenting) called me from her bathroom while construction was being done in her kitchen. She took the time to review the contract from the offer I’d received with me in detail, even though she knew I had multiple offers. Plus, she just ‘got’ my eclectic work and nerdy personality. It felt right.


It was a hard decision as both agents who offered were amazing, talented, and could be great advocates of my work. The anxiety of having to choose was more difficult than I’d imagined.



It really is so hard to choose between such great options. But I'm glad you felt that 'click' with your agent. I think that at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent?


I still have not sold that original picture book that interested her, though we sold others together. Including my debut, Odd Animal ABC’s with Blue Manatee Press and She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch with Familius Publishing.






SO exciting to have two books out in the world!! And I have no doubts that we'll see many more from you. If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?


Be patient. There is a lot of waiting and you have to depend on lucky timing more often than not. Just keep steady on the things you can control. Learning the craft, actually writing (sometimes harder than you’d think), and sending out polished work.


That is such good advice! It can be so tempting to push things faster than we should, but you are absolutely right. Learning the craft and being patient in the waiting game are both so important. Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?


Website: www.junesmalls.com

Twitter: @June_Smalls

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18320008.June_Smalls


Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?


Fun Fact: My fastest rejection was in three minutes. The longest came a whole year after I’d already published the book (and that took about a year and a half) so maybe 2+ years after sending.


Three minutes?? Woah! I've never heard of such a fast response! At least you weren't waiting! haha. And too funny about a rejection after the book was already published! Their loss, clearly!

June, Thanks so much for joining us today! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck to you! I can’t wait to see more of your books in the world.



GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY!

June is offering the winner's choice of a signed copy of one of her books or a non-rhyming PB critique of less than 1000 words. To enter, follow June and Kailei on Twitter and Retweet THIS tweet.




About June Smalls

June Smalls has been making up stories since she only had pets and stuffed animals to share them with. June Smalls the author of fiction and nonfiction such as He Leads: Mountain Gorilla, a Gentle Giant and Odd Animal ABC’s as well as books for the educational market. June is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and resides in Northern Virginia with her family and an ever-growing assortment of animals.


About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew is a wife, mother, and picture book author represented by the amazing Emily Forney of Bookends Literary. She is an active member of SCBWI, a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee, and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest. She loves writing picture books that help kids see they can do anything they set their minds to.


Kailei can't wait to get her stories into your hands.