Hello, friends! And welcome back to #TuesdayFromTheTrenches. If you missed last week's interview with the one and only Brian Gehrlein, make sure to check it out HERE.

I have a special treat for you today as we welcome author and agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez to the blog! I've been lucky enough to connect with Kaitlyn on a few projects now, and I am always so impressed by her dedication, drive, and determination. She is sure to go far in this industry, and is definitely one to watch! She recently announced her first sell as an agent (CONGRATS!!) and is working with one amazing team of authors. Though she's currently closed to queries, make sure to subscribe to her blog to be the first to hear when she reopens. Also, make sure to read to the end and check out an awesome giveaway opportunity from Kaitlyn!

Just to give you an idea of how supportive Kaitlyn is: When I received a couple of offers of representation, I emailed Kaitlyn to let her know. She literally called me less than 1 minute after I sent the email, screaming in excitement for me. She let me share some of my thoughts and the back and forth I was going through on choosing and agent and had some stellar advice. She even followed up with me to see how I was doing while making my decision. She's become a dear writing friend and I'm glad to know her. So I'm super excited to share this interview!

And now, help me welcome to the blog Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez!


Thank you so much for joining us today, Kaitlyn! You are such a light to the KidLit community, and I’m thrilled to share your query story with my readers!

Aw, thank you so much! One of my favorite nicknames as a kid was sparkplug and that comment made me think of that, thanks for that wonderful memory! And it's been just a delight working with you on so many wonderful adventures for this Kidlit community, thanks for including me!

Aww, thanks so much! I always love connecting and so appreciate your willingness to always jump on board with my new ideas. My goal with #TuesdayFromTheTrenches is to share that there is no "one right path" to representation. I love your story and can't wait to see how it inspires readers.

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

Uh...all of these are going to be approximate because at one point I stopped keeping track because it was too depressing to keep adding LOL.

Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Probably about a year for my first agent, then when she left the business about a month to get my soulmate agent!

Number of Agents Queried: too many, probably over a hundred but I stopped keeping track

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: off the top of my head, double digits but never kept track

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: at least a handful but never kept track either lol

Number of R&Rs: none

Number of Rejections: too many to count, hundreds for sure

Number of Offers: one the first time, two the second

Agent and Agency: the amazing, the spectacular, my agent soulmate: Joyce Sweeney at the Seymour Agency

I love that you stayed aware of your mental health in the process and stopped counting when it became overwhelming. Very smart. I'm also so glad you connected with your perfect agent!

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

I used a spreadsheet that I started to despise. I even started using orange for rejections because red was too harsh!

Haha! I feel that for sure. I also came to dislike my spreadsheet... more of a love-hate relationship maybe? haha. Loved that it kept me organized. Hated all the red! How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

It was much harder getting rejections after requests from pitch events/parties. In fact, one time after yet another close call but not quite, I decided to step away from picture book writing in general for a while. Ironically, it was then that I wrote a picture book story for a call that landed me my first contract.

Those close calls were the most painful for me as well. And I agree that sometimes you have to step back from it all for a bit. What a perfect example of stepping back and taking some time away in order to foster new ideas and write that story that gets the yes! In the middle of all of this, how did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

Everywhere! But one of my favorite places is my friend Heather Aryis Burnell's Monster List of Picture Book Agents.

Yes, yes, yes! I also used Heather's list! Love it so much! It sounds like you took advantage of lots of opportunities to find an agent. How did you ultimately connect with your now agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

Mindy Alyse Weiss!

I asked her how she liked her new agency and as a wonderful friend she asked me what was going on and when I explained my predicament—my agent leaving the business (and because she knew my writing from PBParty) she thought Joyce and I might work well together, so she recommended me :)

That's fantastic! I love wonderful writing friends! How much time passed between querying Joyce to getting “the call”?

It was about a month. Joyce loved my newest voice. It was only found in the story I queried her with, so she tasked me to write more like it before having a talk :)

Very cool. And amazing that you could turn around more great stories in a month! Way to go!! Can you tell us more about “the call” with Joyce? How did you know she was the right choice?

I knew from the first email she sent the same day I queried her that she would be perfect for me! Her response was EXACTLY how I would have reacted to a story I loved. But, overall it was more complicated than that as I had another offer as well, so it wasn't the call that eventually won me over (though it was fantastic!) it all came down to which stories I wanted to focus on because each agent wanted to focus on a different side of me (I may be a little eclectic lol).

I love that! And I totally understand being eclectic. I feel like I am bouncing around from idea to idea and wanting to write all types of PBs. It's nice to have my agent to help ground me and show me my strengths and where to focus. It sounds like you and Joyce are a wonderful match! And as a now agent yourself, do you have any additional insights on the query trenches from “the other side?”

Oh, definitely! I had heard from freelance editing friends that they would see certain topics often and I didn't see that side until I started receiving queries. I think another great way to get this insight is to observe pitch events. You can see all the different (and similar) stories that are being written and the creative (or lack thereof) spin people are putting on them.

Great advice to watch the trends and make sure you're standing out! If you could give querying authors any other piece of advice, what would that be?

Keep learning, growing, and trying new things, but most of all, have a great writer support system. A critique group or check-in buddy where you can share your frustrations and achievements and they can commiserate with you in a way non-writing support systems can't.

I couldn't agree more! Having that support system has been invaluable to me!

Kaitlyn, this has been so much fun! Thank you so much for joining us!! Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online? (I'd love for all your readers to subscribe to my blog)

@KaitlynLeann17 for Insta and Twitter

Thank you so much, Katilyn!! I can't wait to see your books on my shelf!


Kaitlyn will be giving away one PB MS critique and one Query Critique to two lucky readers! To enter for your chance to win, follow Kaitlyn and Kailei on twitter, and retweet this post! For an extra entry, subscribe to Kaitlyn's blog and tell me in the comments below that you did! Good luck, everyone! Winner will be announced next Monday on Twitter.

About Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez:

Kaitlyn Leann Sachez is a writer of humorous picture books and an active member of SCBWI. She's a proud finalist of the 2019 Picture Book Party event. Kaitlyn is the co-creator and co-host of the many contests including: the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest, the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy, and Kidlit Zombie Week. Kaitlyn is also an associate literary agent, helping writers achieve their dreams of publication.

She was born, raised, and has always stayed in California's Central Valley, where she lives with her family and teaches junior high school math. When Kaitlyn isn’t writing, teaching, or agenting, you can find her eating cookies, laughing with her hilarious family, or out on the soccer field, but you'll never find her cleaning. She would definitely rather be sucked into a vacuum than use it!


Twitter: @KaitlynLeann17

Facebook Author Page:

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. 

Welcome to another Tuesday From The Trenches! I am SO super excited to be interviewing Brian Gehrlein today! Brian is one of my critique partners and one of the very first people I met on this writing journey. He's been a wealth of knowledge and always so willing to support me and answer any questions I might have. If you don't follow Brian, you are missing out!! His story is so inspirational and I had so much fun interviewing him! Join me in welcoming Brian to this week's Tuesday From The Trenches.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Brian! I’ve drawn so much strength from your success story and I’m beyond thrilled to share it with readers today.

I’m happy to be here, Kailei! In this...literal trench. Odd place for an interview, but I do love what you’ve done with the place. It’s downright trenchy! And barren. And...eerily devoid of any and all life--in a cozy, nostalgic sort of way! While I don’t know much about success, I’m pleased to be an encouragement to anyone slogging through literal or otherwise figurative trenches. If I can’t be a good example, at the very least I can be a horrible warning! 😅

Haha. You always bring a smile to my face, Brian! I think an eery yet cozy place is a great way to describe these crazy query trenches! Let's start out with the nitty gritty... will you please share your query stats with us?

Alright. Buckle up. Numbers are happening. As a qualifier to my approach, my querying process was very much in line with the “Thomas Edison model.” I believe Thomas Edison once said, “I had no idea what I was doing but I just kept doing stuff and eventually I invented the lightbulb. So yeah. You’re welcome.” (he absolutely did not say this)


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 25 months (1/27/17 - 2/17/19)

Number of Agents Queried: 85 (from 69 different agencies)

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 1

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: Unknown but in the ballpark of 5-10

Number of R&Rs: 2

Number of Rejections: 593 (but let’s round that up to a solid 600, shall we?)

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Melissa Richeson of Apokedak Literary Agency--Melissa is now with Storm Literary Agency.

600 rejections…such a testament to your stamina, dedication, and drive! That’s almost a query a day that you sent out for two years. How did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spreadsheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Either I had stamina, dedication, and drive...or I was certifiably insane. However, in my defense, I wasn’t sending the same manuscript to the same agents--that would be insane! For organizational purposes, I kept a simple Excel spreadsheet that kept track of the agent, agency, manuscript, date of submission, means of submission, type of rejection, and notes on the agent/agency. I liked having my own system that I could control and edit. It worked for me. You have to find something that works for you. Some people swear by querytracker but I never tried it. I just liked having my own little system.

It may break down mathematically to a query a day (keeps the doctor away!) but my usual rhythm was alternating periods of sending out multiple submissions in bursts and then waiting--though I was never really “waiting” because I forced myself to stay busy, developing new content, revising, reading, researching, and critiquing others’ work. You have to stay busy or the waiting eats you from the inside out.

One of the healthiest things I think I did was when I changed a submission to “rejected,” I would force myself to immediately send out 3-5 queries to “counterbalance” the emotional blow of feeling rejected. It gave me back control. It moved the ball forward. It became a reflexive discipline in which I alone had the final word. Didn’t catch a fish? You can either sit there, slumped in defeat on the shore, or cast out ten more lines--you only catch fish if you keep casting! Doors only open for fish who knock (how’s that for imagery?).

You are amazing, Brian! I am so glad you are a fish who knocked because I adore your debut and really can't wait to get THE BOOK OF RULES on my self! I also really love your post about lessons learned from your rejections, and mainly just want to tell readers that it’s a MUST READ. Please readers… go check it out HERE! (And then come back and read the rest of this wonderful interview, of course.)

I would love to know, how did you handle the rejections? Did any sting more than others?

I have another interview where I discuss this at length on Daniella Levy’s website The Rejection Survival Guide. This interview gives a really good psychological snapshot of how I was personally processing rejection around the middle of my querying journey. Ultimately, it was about the story I told myself. We all tell ourselves stories every day--every second of every day. We’re story creatures. We can’t NOT tell stories. It’s how we make meaning out of the chaos of existence. So I kept telling myself that it was going to happen--that I would find my yes. I also told myself that I was not my work. I was not my manuscripts. This helped me keep a healthy sense of humor and attitude and to avoid seeing myself as what was being rejected. Sure, some hurt like hell. Some made me question my work and voice and approach. But I didn’t let that negative self-talk win the day. I tried to just have fun with it. I liked the stories I was telling and I thought others might like them too. Finding an agent was not my everything. It wasn’t something I desperately needed for approval. Anytime my heart slipped and started telling that wasn’t as fun. It needs to be fun. So I held on loosely but didn’t let go.

Another story I told myself that helped me process rejections is that specific agents were rejecting particular manuscripts--not me as a writer. This gave me permission to share more than one manuscript with the same agent (after enough time had passed after the rejection). To me, it was always, “Okay...not this...BUT how about that!?” And I had A LOT of stories--some I shouldn’t have queried, but having that next story lined up helped keep my submission momentum going strong. I think there were 25 stories in all that I queried at least once in those 25 months.

Little moments of encouragement from agents go a long way. I had a few very uplifting rejections in various forms that just kept me going.

Also, the encouragement from critique groups, friends, and family also helped me to continue the journey with hope. I simply wouldn’t have had the drive, attitude, or the quantity or quality of stories without people in my life speaking into my work, my heart, and cheering me on.

This is all seriously SO inspirational, Brian! I think being able to keep it fun, remember just how subjective it truly is, and to write more stories are all great pieces of advice. You were a query trenches king! Tell me... how did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

There were many sources--Twitter, google searches, blogs, Manuscript Wish List, but the place that got me started back in January of 2017 was the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. This is a PHENOMENAL place to start if you are not sure where to even begin. I circled all the agents I was interested in and then jumped online to see if the information was accurate--there is turnover and fluidity within the industry all the time (example: Melissa moving from Apokedak to Storm) so you always want to double-check on the agency website that someone is still there. The good thing about that book is that they update it every year. There’s also tons of articles and examples of exemplary query letters and interviews with industry professionals. It’s worth every dime and penny. Having that physical book as a companion was probably the first major step I took to investing in myself and seeing myself as a writer. Membership in SCBWI was also a formative decision and I was fortunate enough to receive membership as a gift from my parents for several years. Membership in SCBWI was another major source of support, inspiration, information, and evidence that I was taking my work seriously. Buy that book! Join SCBWI!

I agree completely about SCBWI! Game changer for sure. Go join, readers!

So Brian, how did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

Melissa has a really good article she wrote for Manuscript Wish List about how we began our partnership. She talks about persistence and politely trying again even after rejection. I like seeing it from her perspective. As for my point of view, her agency was just one of many I was actively querying. I had sent something in June 2018 and then another submission in the late summer. Both ultimately were assumed rejections. But as my usual practice was, I tried again with a third. By that fall, I sent another story (NINJA NOODLES) and I got a response! Melissa requested more work to send to the senior agent (she was not yet taking on her own clients). Having that request for more work was the most thrilling thing. Out of nowhere, it felt like something was finally...happening. It wasn’t a yes...but it was a “not no.” A maybe. That maybe sent me over the moon.

Absolutely! I am so amazed with how querying authors go from months and years of "nos" to that sudden "not no" in a day. it's thrilling. How much time passed between querying your now agent to getting “the call”?

4 EXACT MONTHS! I submitted my third query and manuscript on October 15th, 2018, and had the offer of representation on February 15th, 2019. The birth of my son was a welcomed distraction as I squirmed, waiting 😆. Also, the offer of representation was actually the second phone call we had. The first happened about two weeks before the offer.

Oh my goodness! I think I would have died waiting that long! Glad you had such an awesome and welcoming distraction! Can you tell us more about “the call” with Melissa? How did you know she was the right choice?

The first call felt a little like a casual job interview. Melissa wanted to know more about my life as a writer, my background, how I got started, etc. When I get really excited on the phone, I pace like a caged panther at the zoo. My wife thinks it’s terribly annoying when I pace like that. Lucky for her, I was in a study room at the library where I worked, walking myself dizzy. I just had to MOVE!

After that phone call, I got an email requesting a second phone call a week or two later. This was “the call.” I was in my kitchen for this one. There was also a lot of pacing. And a lot of floating. Don’t think my feet touched the ground for most of it. Hard to describe that feeling--utter disbelief and concentrated joy. Like butterflies raging in your gut after a first kiss.

In the conversation, Melissa said she had good news and bad news. She explained that Sally (the senior agent) was not actually in a place where she could expand her client list for picture book authors at that time. So it was a little bit of a rejection--I came this far only to hear another “no?!” But then she shared the good news. She mentioned that she had been promoted to the role of Associate Agent and that she would be building her own client list and that she wanted me on her team. WHAT?! Totally didn’t see that coming. After receiving some coaching from published friends on how to proceed next, I thanked her for the offer and asked for a few weeks to think on the decision since I had outstanding queries with other agents. We agreed to touch base about the offer within 2 weeks of the call.

Starting a new journey with an agent who was building her list was exciting to me. It meant I would have her full and undivided attention and that she would be hungry to learn and eager to begin the submission process. But I wanted to be fair to the other agents I was interested in as well. I sent out a few final agent emails mentioning the offer and our timeline. Sleeping on the decision for several days was crucial. This was no small choice. Prior to accepting her offer, I sought counsel from trusted friends and family as well as published authors in my community. I also sent Melissa an additional list of questions over email to aid in my decision--there’s no way you’ll think of everything to ask on the call since the emotions are so overwhelming.

Considering our conversations and her answers to my questions, I was ready to commit before the two weeks were up. Here’s what I kept coming back to and what ultimately persuaded me to take the leap: Melissa believed in my voice. She explicitly said as much in our very first phone call! I can still hear her voice ringing just as loud today. She had read several of my stories and liked my humor and style. That’s what it really came down to--her belief in my voice. This one element has kept me going through the highs and lows of our journey together--she always knows just what to say to encourage me and cheer me on. If ya’ll haven’t queried Melissa’re wrong. Fix it. NOW! Saying yes was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What an amazing phone call!! I love everything about this. And Melissa sounds absolutely amazing. I also love that you had advice from agented authors on how to handle the call... and you've totally paid it forward in that regard. I'll always be grateful to you for being that person for me to coach me through "the call." We're just about ready to wrap this awesome interview up, Brian! You've been wonderful. If you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?

Write a lot of stories. Get them out. And don’t query until you have 5 good ones. Critiqued, revised, good, solid stories. Because what happens if they ask for more work but you only have one story? RED FLAG. Nope. Don’t do it. Take your work but not yourself seriously. Separate yourself from your work. If you take things too personally, you won’t stomach this journey. Doubt your assumptions. Your best book might be your worst. Your dead manuscript might be your best--keep an open mind about everything you write. Don’t tie yourself to rules and conventions and “story formulas.” Break the rules. Shatter them into a million stupid pieces. Write a bad book on purpose. Write the worst book ever. Write a book that no kid should ever read and that should never be on the shelf. Experiment. Innovate. Be bold. Be ridiculous. Be ABSURD! you. We only have one you--so why write like anyone else? Finally, and probably most importantly, give yourself permission to fail. Fail a lot. Fail all over yourself and all over the place. And laugh while you fail. Because it’s okay to fail. And failure is how lightbulbs (and books) get made. That was like eighteen pieces of advice, and a little preachy...but...there you go (dropkicks mic, saunters stage left).

(Standing Ovation! Bravo! Encore!!) Love every single one of those 18 pieces of advice! I especially love the advice to take your work but not yourself seriously. Gold Right there. I'm about to let you go, Brian but before I do, where can we connect with you online?

You can connect with me on Picture Book Spotlight or on the Twittersphere (@BrianGehrlein) where I’m probably tweeting about wolves. I also respond to Morse Code, smoke signals, signal flares and carrier pigeons. Cause...birds.

There you have it, dear readers! Go on and prep those back yard fire and send your smoke signals, because you don't want to miss any chance to connect with Brian! But seriously, thank you so much for joining us today, Brian. This has been an absolute blast and a complete inspiration. See below for an awesome Giveaway opportunity from Brian, and make sure to read to the very end in honor of Picture Book Spotlight.

GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY! Brian will be giving away a PB MS *and* query critique! Retweet THIS tweet and follow Brian and Kailei on twitter for your chance to win! Winner will be announced on twitter on Monday, October 26th.

About Brian Gehrlein:

Brian Gehrlein was born deep within the bowels of a top secret government lab. The scientists weren’t exactly sure how it happened and none of them ever thought to ask why...but there he was--a bouncing baby boy, bursting from the bubbling vat of some bioluminescent, gelatinous gloop. Being raised by top secret government scientists had its perks. Brian had an above average appreciation for alliteration. He liked tinkering with things and was always curious and up to mischief. Then one day...Brian escaped from that top secret government lab. He emerged from the belly of the beast and found himself on a desert highway, cutting through an arid hellscape of impossible proportions. He wandered for days. He stumbled down that asphalt river, surviving only on roadkill carrion and saguaro juice. He crawled until he saw the bright lights of a distant suburban oasis. A town called Liberty. And liberty it was. For Brian...was free. Free to write books for kids. Free to teach high school English at a local public school. Free to raise a family, and live out his days removed from the stifling confines of a top secret government lab, buried deep within the unforgiving salt flats and sand wastes of a forgotten and forbidden desert --the American Dream. But he thinks about his past from time to time. He wonders about those top secret government scientists in their clean, white lab coats. The ones he called Mom and Dad. The ones who taught him to spell. And rhyme. And the delicate intricacies of quantum physics, subatomic particles, and the principle of superposition. He wonders if they...miss him. Do they lie in their government-issued cots, beneath soft electrical hums, wondering about him? Perhaps. Or perhaps still they never truly existed. Perhaps he was born to normal human parents called Russ and Linda. Yes, perhaps. One can never really know the truth of such things. One can never really know...

About Kailei Pew

Kailei Pew doesn't generally write amazing bios. But when she has the chance to interview Brian Gehrlein, she absolutely takes the opportunity. Until she starts trying to write said bio and realizes that it's an absolute art form. Of Van Gogh proportions. And she sees that she is no Van Gogh. But perhaps she could be the Monet or a Picasso of bio writing. Perhaps her skills are simply... different. And while there is nothing wrong with different...Kailei is quite certain she will have to go back to regular, ordinary, shall we say boring bios after this particular bio. And yet, this feels like exactly what it should be when interviewing the amazing Brian Gehrlein. Indeed, Brian would be proud... or face palming. Yes, probably face palming. For truly, no one should try to be Van Gogh when they are simply... not Van Gogh. And if you are still reading at this point, in honor of Brian and Picture Book Spotlight, it felt only appropriate to throw in an emoji code. Yes, the above hint was definitely about an emoji code. And what is the code you ask? A wolf. Because, Brian. Add in a wolf emoji to your retweet, and Kailei will throw your name into the mix an extra time. And don't worry dear readers... Kailei has learned quite painfully that she is no Van Gogh and will be returning to your regularly scheduled boring bio next week. You're welcome.

Welcome, friends to another installment of Tuesday From The Trenches! I'm so excited to be back with a new writer friend and can't wait to share Alyssa's story with you! I love how unique each story is, really showing that everyone's path to representation is different. If you missed our interview with Valerie Bolling last week, you can check it out HERE, and follow along with all of our Tuesday From The Trenches archives HERE. And to make sure you never miss an interview, go ahead and subscribe to this little blog of mine at the bottom of the page, please and thank you! And now, join me in welcoming Alyssa!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Alyssa! My goal with Tuesday from the Trenches is to help authors in the query trenches to see that there is no “one size fits all” on the path to representation and to encourage them to keep trudging through. I’m excited to talk about your process. It sounds like you took a more calculated approach to the query process. Can you tell us a little about your decision? How long had you been writing before deciding to query?

Before deciding to jump into the query trenches, I knew rejection was a major part of this industry. I had the statistic, “Only 1% of submissions are published,” etched in my mind. I knew - emotionally - I was not ready for the inevitable rejections, so before I started querying agents I did a ton of research and preparation. Before I started querying, I was (and still am) in 4 very active critique groups. I graduated from the Children’s Book Academy taught by the marvelous Mira and was being mentored by the prolific Las Musas picture book and middle grade author, Donna Barba Higuera. Her website is - check her out and buy her books. I also applied for the Editor-Writer Mentorship program organized by The Word and am fortunate enough to be working with the talented Jessica Anderson from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan Children's). Lastly, I applied for the PB Chat Mentorship program organized by Justin Colon. I was selected to be a mentee, but received an offer of representation before the mentorship began and therefore withdrew my application in order to provide an opportunity for another aspiring writer. Basically, I applied to EVERY opportunity I qualified for and LISTENED a lot. I made sure to pay attention to my voice of course, but I took this time to listen to experts. I am not a patient person, but I was self aware enough to know that I wanted to take my time on this journey and learn as much as possible before taking the leap, and I am glad I did.

Wow! That is an amazing story of hard work and really educating yourself. You had such amazing learning experiences and I love the calculated approach to waiting until you were ready. I wish I had been more like that... instead, I queried way to soon! Twice! haha.

Please share your query stats with us:

Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Two months

Number of Agents Queried: 23

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 3

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 7 likes from agents and 4 from editors

Number of R&Rs: 2

Number of Rejections: 9 redirections (I needed to stop thinking about them as rejections for my sanity) and 13 queries I never received a response about

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Kaitlyn Sanchez, associate literary agent at Olswanger Literary

Wow! 2 months!! Good for you... makes my 2 years really seem long! haha. But I love how different your journey was... you talked about waiting to jump into the query trenches until you were certain you were ready. How did you know the time had come? What made you jump in?

I knew I was ready when enough industry experts validated my story. My mentors and critique partners encouraged me to participate in #pitmad and #pbpitch. I was not going to because I felt I was not ready, but changed my mind the day before after remembering my grandmother’s advice, “Anything is possible.” She said this in Spanish and she has since passed, but she lives on in my manuscripts. My abuela was the original storyteller in the family and my mom would say, “You have the gift, like Abuela.” I was a shy kid and my face was always in a book or on my Abuela’s lap listening to her stories that brought the family together. My goal is to share her stories with the world.

I adore that your stories are so personal and close to home. Your abuela sounds so lovely as well and I can't wait to read her stories. I know you didn't have a lot of time in the trenches, but what was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

Both. I used Query Tracker and Manuscript Wish List to carefully research the agents and make sure we would be a good match. Then I tracked my submissions using a Spreadsheet.

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

Let’s say I ate a lot of chocolate. I got a rejection from a dream agent. I cried a bit and ate more chocolate. Then I called my mentor and she helped pick me back up. I highly recommend that authors build a support system for themselves before they query. It is important to have cheerleaders in your corner.

I absolutely agree! Chocolate and writing friends/cheerleaders got me through as well! Where did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

Query Tracker, Manuscript Wish List, Twitter Competitions, Children Book Academy class, and my mentors. I like options and I love researching so this was overwhelming but so much FUN!

I love that! And your passion and enthusiasm for kid lit really shines even through the computer screen. How did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

I cold queried my agent.

Wonderful! It's always so nice to hear about success from the slush piles! Can you tell us about “the call” with your agent? How did you know she was the right choice?

I will never forget this call - EVER! My call started off as a revise and resubmit, which I was totally open to. I LOVE feedback. This is how we grow as writers.

We chatted about my manuscript and other manuscripts I’m working on. We chatted about parenting, about why we write, why she became an agent, some of our favorite picture books, this crazy time we live in (pandemic), our zodiac signs, our parents, our partners, and so on. We were on the phone for a total of two hours. We are both talkers. Hehe. It was like we were old friends from a past life, reconnecting in this life.

After 1.5 hours on the phone, my agent, Kaitlyn said something to the effect of I changed my mind. I want to represent you. I was excited and shocked and flattered. Then we chatted about the business aspect for 30 minutes and scheduled another call so I could ask more questions, otherwise we would have been on the phone for 3 hours. I cried from joy after our call. My poor husband had to hear me GUSH about how awesome she was. I called my mentor Donna to tell her the good news and she helped me weigh the pros and cons.

But, I knew she was the one during the call. We are both Aries with the same nickname “Energizer Bunny.” It was destiny.

Oh my goodness! I love that story so much! That is absolutely incredible. I can't even imagine that moment of pure joy when a "maybe" became a "yes!!" Kaitlyn really is a gem as well. I've been able to work with her a couple of times and walked away feeling like she was such a genuine person. I think you two are an incredible match!

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

DON’T GIVE UP and KEEP WRITING. Do not refresh your inbox a thousand times. Send the letters and forget about them. I know, I know. Easier said than done, but not thinking about the letters helped me stay sane and enabled me to continue creating.

I was the absolute worst at sending and forgetting, and my refresh button was pushed way too many times... and it did nothing but make me crazy! So I know that your advice is sound!

Alyssa, this has been so much fun!! Thank you so much for joining us. Before I let you go,

where can we connect with you online?

Twitter - @areynosomorris

Instagram - @areynosomorris

Website - - Books

Motivational Speaker Website -



Alyssa will be giving the winner's choice of a query critique or a fiction picture book manuscript critique. Follow her on Twitter, and retweet this post to be entered to win!


About Alyssa Reynoso-Morris:

Growing up, Alyssa's abuelas taught her about love, hope, and service through stories. They motivated her to found Schools for Sustainability, Inc., to establish environmentally sustainable schools to alleviate poverty.  And they inspired her to write. Alyssa is an Afro-Latinx writer, member of SCBWI, and graduate from the Children’s Book Academy after earning the Yuyi Morales Diversity and More Merit Scholarship.

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. 

Hi! I'm Kailei. Thanks for stopping by!

I believe in books. I believe in imagination.

I believe in getting silly, messy, and crazy with my kids. Thus, For Little Readers was born. 

I write picture books and hope to someday feature

my own work here. 

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