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I think most authors have done it... queried an MS that wasn't *quite* ready... At least, I like to think I'm not alone in this. For me, the first MS I queried was not even close to ready. I decided in December of 2018 that I wanted to write picture books. I was jazzed. I wrote a story that I loved. A Mom was the MC and narrator... and it taught a pretty dandy lesson... and I subbed it at 900 words in January 2019 without any other eyes on it. *FacePalm*


Truthfully, I had no idea about the ins and outs of picture books. But surprisingly, one agent sent me a super kind personalized rejection praising the idea and pointing me to rewrite with the focus on the child and taking away the heavy moral. And my eyes were open to what could be. Truthfully, I still haven't fixed that MS. I've tried, but I just can't seem to figure it out. But I took the lessons learned from that experience and decided in February of 2019 to get serious about writing picture books.


I read books about writing picture books. Blogs with ideas for craft. Articles explaining the query process. Really, anything I could get my hands on about the art of picture books. And I wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote. I formed a super flexible Critique Group based on my availability at the time, and they have become invaluable friends in the process. I applied for the WriteMentor mentorship in 2019 and was selected as a mentee! That was a hinge point in my writing journey as I was able to work closely with my mentor and really delve in to what makes a good picture book.


In June of 2019 I jumped into the query trenches for real with the MS I had worked on during the mentorship. And I actually got a few requests from agents for more work! I was jazzed. So I sent off the additional MSs (that I truthfully hadn't worked nearly as hard on) and waited for the offers to come rolling in.


Only they didn't. Rejection after rejection said pretty much the same thing. Something like "I just didn't connect with the full body of your work in the way I had hoped to." Man... one shining MS and three weak MSs weren't enough. I needed to get serious.


So I joined a second critique group that critiques weekly. I stepped back from the query trenches and focused on creating stronger stories. And I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. And then revised, revised, revised, revised.


And now, after 7 months without sending any queries, I'm jumping back into the trenches. I'm excited and ready. I know that a good submission packet doesn't guarantee an offer of representation. I mean, how many times have we heard that this is all so subjective? I know that to be true just from giving and receiving critiques... not every MS is a good fit for everyone. But this time, I actually feel like I have something great to send out into the void. Something that I'm proud and excited about. Something that I feel is the best I could make it. And something that I know could still change and develop under the experienced eyes of an agent or editor.


So what are my takeaways for knowing when to jump into the query trenches?


1. Learn the Market

Know what agents are looking for. Yes, absolutely write the story of your heart. But if you're writing a 900 work fictional PB told by an adult... you might want to try something new.


2. Revise. And then Revise Again.

Don't send out the first, or even 5th draft of your WIP. Take the time to truly make it shine. Step away from it for a week or two and see if you still love it when you come back. Try writing it in a new POV just for the fun of it. And make sure that you seek some critiques. That leads me into


3. Join a Critique Goup (or two!)

Your critique partners will be invaluable in helping you know when an MS is ready to send into the query seas. They'll see flaws and holes that you aren't able to see because of how close you are to the project. Don't change everything they suggest right away. Take some time to let their suggestions settle in and see what resonates with you. And don't be offended by constructive criticism. Remember that your critique group is there to help. Even when it stings.


4. Wait--But Not Too Long

Make sure that you give yourself a little bit of time to ask "is this the best it can be?" I don't mean that it won't ever change, because I'm sure that agents and editors will both have notes on any MS they offer on. But I mean, don't send it in with any known flaws. If you're thinking "I know that I need to work X out, but I don't know how," wait until you figure out how to work X out. Don't query an MS with a known flaw. On the opposite hand, don't be paralyzed by "what ifs." Don't be afraid to query an MS because you don't know what an agent will think. Basically, don't self reject. If you feel like the MS is in the best state it can currently be in, and your critique partners have given you the green light, query that sucker! But only if you...


5. Have Additional Manuscripts Ready that Shine

Picture Book Agents will almost always request to see more MSs if they like your first query. Make sure you are ready with additional manuscripts that are proven in the same way you proved the original. My mistake on round 2 of querying was that I had one strong MS and about 15 weak stories. Make sure you are ready with projects you are proud of for when the requests come in.


6. Remember That It's All Subjective

While I'm really happy with my current submission package, I know that doesn't ensure an offer of rep. Agents have different tastes, see different holes in the market, and might even represent clients with something too similar to yours. Don't take the rejections personally. (Easier said than done, I know). But my experience is that agents are some of the nicest people, and a rejection isn't a reflection on you or even your work. It just means you weren't the right fit. So send out another batch of queries when the rejections come in.


7. Keep Writing While you Wait

I find that it's best to stay busy now that I've sent my work out into the query trenches. Otherwise, I would be starting a support group for people who check their emails too often. Hi. I'm Kailei. And I check my emails approximately 3941 times a day. So write something new. Something that doesn't even have to be good. Just write.


8. Keep Your Chin Up

The query trenches can be really draining. Multiple rejections can really start to hurt. Remember that every no is one no closer to your yes. I am a firm believer that we can all make it if we don't stop writing, don't stop querying, don't stop trying. One day, we will get those books published, and I can't wait til all of our stories are on next to each other on my bookshelf. Let's do this, friends!



What have you learned in the query trenches?

Meet Kailei Pew

Kailei believes in books. She believes in imaginative play. She believes in having fun, getting messy, and being silly with her kids. Thus For Little Readers was born.​ Kailei also writes picture books and is currently seeking representation. She loves creating books that bring children and parents together. Kailei hopes that her own books will one day be featured in her blog. ​Prior to staying home with her children and writing picture books, Kailei worked as a reading teacher and middle school mentor. She was a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest.


Hello my friends!

I had SO much fun hosting the Corona Critique Giveaway that I've been anxious to create another way to lift spirits and connect during this crazy time.

I've decided to host another KidLit event! This time around, EVERYONE is a winner!

Today, I'm thrilled to announce the Kidlit Quarantine Connection!


What is this KidLit Quarantine Connection, you ask?

Well... it's a super awesome pen pal exchange! Here is how it works:


1. Fill out the form below to join the exchange. (Form will be live through Monday, April 20th)!

2. Receive an email from me on Thursday, April 23rd with the name and email address of your pen pal!

3. Send each other emails/letters/tweets/etc. during this crazy time. Connect and get to know each other in any way that works best for you.

4. When we are back to a normal life and feel like we can again go to the post office, MAIL YOUR KIDLIT QUARANTINE CONNECTION PEN PAL A BOOK-ISH BOX. This could be a book, writing materials, etc. Use what you learned about your pen pal to send a great book-ish care package individualized for your new friend. You can coordinate with your partner about when you will send this package when you are comfortable being back out and about. I will send out periodic emails to remind you to connect and eventually send this package.

5. Receive your care package from your partner!


I think this will be such a fun way to make new friends, have something semi normal to do, and to have something (an awesome book-ish package) to look forward to when this whole thing is over!


I know that it feels like this quarantine will never end, but I am confident that we will get through this and become even stronger than before.


Since this does require mailing a package, this pen pal exchange is only open to residents of the United States. (Unless enough of you from the same country band together and want to get in on the fun. Reach out to me through my contact page if that's you.)



I hope we'll have lots of people making new writer friends through this pen pal connection. Sign up on this form to get started:





I can't wait to hear stories of connection, friendship, and hope from all of this!

Happy Spring, friends! I was glad to squeeze in a moment to write a little something for the Spring Fling KidLit Contest hosted by Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’Neal. I hope that reading all of the entries will bring everyone a little smile during this crazy time.


The task? Choose a Spring GIF for inspiration and write a 150 word (or less) story for kids ages 12 or under. Here's my take on a spring story. Huge shout out to my CPs for a very last minute plea for their thoughts. It's truly a miracle that I squeezed something out for this. I decided that I would put aside the notion that it had to be perfect and just have some fun writing a story. We could all use a little more fun in our lives right now.




The Honey Hunt

By Kailei Pew

150 Words

GIF: https://www.clipart.email/download/10775346.html#.XoyXehFWMwQ.link

Benjamin hadn’t meant to eat all the honey.

But a taste became a meal and a meal became a feast.

Now, the last of the hive’s winter storage was gone!

The Queen would be furious.

Benjamin searched high and low for a single morsel to save.

But there wasn’t a drop.

He asked a neighboring hive for help.

But they weren’t very sympathetic.

“Buzz off!”

He pleaded with a passing bear.

But that was dangerous.

“Grrr… Find your own honey!”

Benjamin’s antennae drooped as he faced the queen.

“Your majesty? I… ate the last of the winter honey.”

The Queen’s eyes narrowed.

She pointed to the exit.

“Banishment?” Benjamin worried.

But the queen smiled. “Watch.”

The gatherers returned, bellies full of nectar.

And the workers were already busy making honey!

Benjamin grinned and buzzed to do his part.

The winter supply was gone, but so was winter.

Spring had arrived!



***



Thanks for reading, friends! And good luck to everyone who entered. I'm looking forward to reading all of the submissions.




Meet Kailei Pew


Kailei believes in books. She believes in imaginative play. She believes in having fun, getting messy, and being silly with her kids. Thus For Little Readers was born.​ Kailei also writes picture books and is currently seeking representation. She loves creating books that bring children and parents together. Kailei hopes that her own books will one day be featured in her blog. ​Prior to staying home with her children and writing picture books, Kailei worked as a reading teacher and middle school mentor. She was a 2019 Write Mentor Mentee and a finalist in Susanna Leonard Hill's 2019 Holiday Writing Contest.

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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