Hello my wonderful KidLit family! And Happy Holidays! I hope you are finding meaningful ways to connect with loved ones in this strange year. If you attended out Virtual KidLit Holiday Party, thank you for joining us! We had a blast and were so glad to connect with all of you! I took last week off of the trenches interviews so that I could focus on final preparations for that event, and I am happy to be jumping back in with these emails today. I'm especially excited, because I get to interview another agent sibling of mine!! So help me welcome to the blog, Elizabeth Holden!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Elizabeth! I’m thrilled to share your query story with my readers. Especially since we are agent sisters and Emily is just so wonderful!

Thank you for having me! This is exciting!

Hooray! Let's jump right in. Can you share your query stats with us?

Time Spent in the Query Trenches:

I’ve queried three manuscripts—well, kind of four, because one of them I completely rewrote. If you add up the time I spent actively querying, it was about 3.5 years. But there was a 12 year gap between querying Manuscripts 1 and 2.

Number of Agents Queried: (Brace yourself) 234. But some of those were the same agent queried multiple times, for different manuscripts. I queried 20 for my first completed novel (chick lit with werewolves) in 2006; 85 for my second completed novel (middle grade mystery) in 2018; 85 (coincidentally the same exact number!) for the total re-do of that middle grade mystery in 2020; and 23 for my YA contemporary (one of whom was Emily Forney, my agent!) later in 2020.

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: My total for all 3 (or 4) manuscripts was about 35.

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: I participated in the September 3rd PitMad and got 5 likes from agents.

Number of R&Rs: None

Number of Rejections: Soooooo many. Probably 175? Basically everyone I queried, except for several more recently queried agents (for both the YA and the re-do of the MG mystery) who didn’t have time to evaluate my work after Emily made me an offer.

Agent and Agency: Emily Forney at BookEnds Literary Agency

I'm so glad that you didn't give up after those first few books! Your dedication is amazing and shows that persistence really does pay off! Some time we should chat about those 12 years you took off and what that brought to your journey. So with all of those numbers, how did you keep track of it all? What was your method for organizing queries? Spread sheet? Query Tracker? Etc.

I love spreadsheets. For each manuscript, I had a Google sheet with the columns:

Name Agency Name Website with submission guidelines Time for Response Date Queried Updates Method of querying ~Response expected: Other Notes

I love those headings! Very organized! How did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

Oh, some definitely stung more. Any rejections from a full or a partial always hurt more, even though that is ultimately someone who must have seen something good in your work. How I handled rejection overall was mostly fine. I’d just plug along, find someone else to query, make changes if I thought I should. But I know some days were tougher than others. One particular bad day I got three rejections before noon. I didn’t care for that. The thing that kept me positive was that even though I got rejections, I got a fair amount of personalized rejections, and I know that for an agent to take the time to do that is a huge deal and a good sign.

I absolutely agree. The personalized rejections (especially after a request for more) could really sting, but at the same time it helped me feel like I was on the right track. How did you find agents to query/how did you decide who to query?

It’s varied a lot over the years! I honestly don’t remember how I found agents for the manuscript I queried back in 2006. More recently, I looked on Query Manager (yes, sorting by response time, because I’m impatient to a fault), read articles about good children’s lit agencies, poked around on the Manuscript Wishlist website, and searched the #mswl hashtag.

Sounds like lots of great resources! I'm the same with response times. The waiting game was the hardest! So from all of those resources, how did you ultimately connect with Emily? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

I’d actually queried Emily for my middle grade mystery back in the summer, and she’d written me a really nice rejection in which she invited me to send her future work. Then, having just finished a YA manuscript in August, I participated in the September 3rd PitMad pitch event. Emily not only clicked “like” on my pitch, she also left a comment that said “Hello, yes, okay I’m obsessed” and the heart-eyes emoji. I was thrilled!

SO awesome!! I had a heart and comment from Emily that day too, so I know exactly how that felt. AMAZING! haha. I love that you had an amazing earlier experience with her kind rejection, and then such an enthusiastic response to your pitch!

How much time passed between querying Emily after that event to getting “the call”?

Not much at all! Emily had instructions on Twitter for anyone whose PitMad pitch she liked to submit the full manuscript to her. I did this immediately (again, I am not a patient person). [Side story: the next day, she tweeted that she was loving one of the PitMad submissions she was reading, and I just had this good, excited feeling it might be mine. I later confirmed that it was!] PitMad was on a Thursday, and Emily had sent me an email to schedule The Call on Sunday afternoon. When I got the email I gasped “I think… this is it! I think I got the email!” to my husband, then started full-on ugly sobbing. Emily and I scheduled our call for two days after that.

That is so so wonderful!! Emily is so much fun with pitch events and I love her little teasers. How wonderful that her teaser this time was with your book! Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Emily was the right choice?

I could tell immediately. She started by talking about what she liked about my novel but also what she would recommend changing and rearranging, and it was immediately clear that she is just so damn smart. I loved her vision for my book, and I loved her energy. We talked for a long time about the novel, about her background, about me, about the editing and submitting process, about BookEnds. It was great. She is super knowledgeable. I had been nervous that what if it was actually going to be a request for an R&R, not an offer (just because her email was super nice but did not explicitly say “this is an offer”). We had a bottle of Prosecco chilling in the fridge that I felt very superstitious about. My husband was waiting to hear downstairs while Emily and I talked on Zoom for an hour and a half. As soon as the meeting was over, I stepped into the hallway and yelled downstairs “open up the Prosecco!” I will never forget that moment.

I made sure to give other agents with outstanding queries two weeks to make counter offers before I replied to Emily, but, as I told my husband that night, I was ready to say yes to Emily right then.

I love that so much!! What a wonderful memory to have. Emily is just so wonderful and I know exactly what you are talking about. She really knows her stuff and every time I get off the phone with her, I know I am in such good hands. Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent? I see that you yourself are a roller derby girl and that sounds amazing!

Thanks! It IS amazing! I miss it SO much, what with the pandemic. I can’t wait till it is safe to play again. (Also, you should join your local roller derby league—you specifically, Kailei, and you generally, reader. There are off-skates volunteer opportunities, too!) (I am never not recruiting for derby.)

My novel, Mighty Millie Novak, is the story of an isolated teenage girl who has joined a junior derby team to meet new people. Millie’s older brother has just moved out for college, her parents are fighting, and her choice to attend an online high school is seeming like more and more of a mistake. She and the other rookies bond as they try to get better, and, after an unlucky injury at the rink, Millie falls hard for the cute girl on the all-star team who helps her out. The story takes Millie from the start of the season till the final tournament at the end.

Oh my goodness, that sounds amazing! So many wonderful layers and angles. Can't wait to see where it lands! And as for roller derby, I have often wondered what it would be like to try after watching the episode of Psych when Juliet goes undercover as a derby girl! But then I remember that I am the least coordinated person in the world, and decide it's maybe best to be the cheer section! haha.

Elizabeth, this has been so much fun! Thank you for joining me. Before I sign off, if you could give querying authors a piece of advice, what would that be?

Query in small batches. For my middle grade mystery, I queried, like, 25 agents, then decided I wanted to completely redo my first chapter. It would have been better to stop at, say, ten, wait for some replies, and then revamp things and submit to more.

Allow rejections to hurt, but also don’t let yourself wallow. All writers get rejected; it doesn’t mean anything about your worth as a person. As far as the content of rejections, don’t take any individual rejection as especially meaningful, but if patterns emerge (say, three agents all tell you your concept is great but they couldn’t connect with your character), then pay attention and consider revisions.

That is solid advice! Thank you so much. I think we can all get caught up in the rejections until they start feeling personal. So important to remember our value and worth regardless of what is happening in the query trenches. Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?

Find me at, on Twitter as @ElizabethH_WI and email me at

Don’t be a stranger! If you have questions about writing (or about roller derby!) definitely reach out and say hi!

That is so kind of you, Elizabeth! Readers, Elizabeth has been so nice to connect with as an agent sister, and I know that she absolutely means that, so don't hesitate to connect. And Elizabeth, thanks so much for joining us today! I’ve had a blast chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck on submission! I can’t wait to see your books in the world.


Elizabeth is offering one lucky reader a query critique! Just follow Elizabeth and Kailei on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet. Best of luck! Winner will be announced Tuesday, December 22nd.

About Elizabeth Holden

Elizabeth Holden writes light-hearted young adult and middle grade fiction. She teaches physics at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and, along with her husband, is the co-founder of a tour company, Leaping Hound Travel, which specializes in the history of science. An avid roller derby player, she's skated with Madison Roller Derby since 2015 and leads "physics of roller derby" workshops for schools and other community groups. Her hair is bright blue, her laugh is loud, and her heart belongs to her pet greyhounds.

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.

Hello friends, and SURPRISE! We get a BONUS "Tuesday from the Trenches" post this week... on Thursday! The post and giveaway with Monica Acker is still going strong, so if you missed that, you can find it HERE. I had the opportunity to interview my agent sibling this week, and I just couldn't pass up the chance! So join me in welcoming B.A. Cabada to the blog and thanking him for the generous giveaway opportunity at the end!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Borja! I’m thrilled to share your query story with my readers. Especially since we are agent siblings and I adore Emily!

So do I, Kailei! Thank you for having me! I’m so excited to be here sharing my query journey with your readers.

Yay!! Let’s just jump right in… Can you share your query stats with us? (as far as you know/remember. It’s okay if some of these numbers are zero):

Time Spent in the Query Trenches: A little over 4 months.

Number of Agents Queried: 87

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 18

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: I didn’t participate in any pitch events.

Number of R&Rs: 0

Number of Rejections: I got 44 rejection emails; the rest never responded.

Number of Offers: 2

Agent and Agency: Emily Forney, BookEnds Literary

Photo Credit: Santi Veiga

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

I used a spread sheet, and it was such a mixed bag of hopefulness, anxiety, and frustration. I remember looking at it and dreaming of the day I could just toss it out when I finally found an agent. Funny thing is I still have it on my computer. I think it’s good to remember all the work and effort that went into the process—helps me value how lucky I am to have found such an amazing agent after all those ups and downs.

I still have my spread sheep saved on my computer as well! I think it’s a good reminder like you say. And I understand about the anxiety and frustration it could elicit. So tell me, how did you handle rejections? Did any sting more than others?

For better or worse, about half of the rejection emails I got were actually soft passes, and those agents did have a lot of good things to say about my book. Even though it was still a bummer, I felt encouraged to keep querying. In fact, I always took the time to write them back and let them know how grateful I was to receive this type of response. When someone shows you kindness in this industry, I think it’s important to put aside your frustrations and acknowledge that on the other side of things there are real people investing their time in your dream. Even if they decide your work isn’t the best fit for them, at least they treated it with respect and empathy.

I did get my fair share of form rejections, too, but I guess the ones that really stung were the no-response ones, especially when it was an agent I thought could be a great match for me and my book. Sadly, though, that’s part of the game, so there’s not a whole lot you can do about that other than shake it off and move on to the next query.

That’s really good advice to be able to shake it off and move on. I absolutely agree that the no responses are the hardest. And those soft passes really do keep you going.

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

I had a very clear idea of the type of agent I wanted to end up with, so I spent hours and hours going through different databases, agent profiles, agency websites, social media, and such, paying special attention to manuscript wish lists. That being said, I must admit I was more selective at the beginning, but the scope got broader as time went by—you know that panicky feeling you get when you’re in the trenches and rejections start coming in? Suddenly any agent that carries your genre seems like a good fit haha. All kidding aside, though, I never completely gave up the idea of finding the perfect agent for me—even when I did have my doubts it would ever happen—so when I eventually crossed paths with Emily, you can imagine how incredibly happy and thankful I felt.

I absolutely know what you mean about broadening your scope. And yes! Suddenly Emily was this new agent and absolutely perfect and it was just an amazing thing! How did you ultimately connect with Emily?

It was a cold query, and it was my very last, Hail Mary attempt to reach out to an agent before I seriously considered giving up, or at least taking a break. After 4 months in the trenches, my optimism was dangerously fading away with every new rejection, and the thought of finding an agent—let alone one I could share a strong connection with—seemed farther and farther away. Then I saw an announcement from BookEnds about their new hires. One of them was Emily. I sent out the query, gathering all the hope I had left in me. Waited for her response. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That’s amazing! And I must say, 4 months is actually really impressive! I myself spent 20 months in and out of the trenches. I’m so glad that you gave it another go with Emily. How much time passed between querying her to getting “the call”?

Literally, 3 days. She reached out asking for the full MS on a Saturday only 3 days after I had sent out my query. I remember it so clearly because I had just spent the day out kayaking for the first time! As soon as I got home I emailed her the full text, and by Sunday evening she was already asking me to set up a call. It all happened so fast! And oh, was I excited. Let me put it this way: I’m not one for crying, but I can honestly say my eyes welled up big time.

That is so so exciting! Especially since you were so discouraged leading up to this. I love it! Can you tell us more about “the call” with Emily? How did you know she was the right choice?

It was the perfect call. Seriously. We immediately clicked, not just because I could tell right from the get-go she was super passionate about my book and had a clear plan for it, but also because it all just flowed as if we had known each other our whole life. They say publishing is an industry of relationships, but what Emily and I had was this sort of amazing connection that (if I can speak for the both of us) neither of us expected. That is the author’s dream. And BookEnds was definitely at the top of my agency list, too. So when the time came for me to make a decision, it was truly a no-brainer.

That is so wonderful. I know exactly what you’re talking about too based on my call with Emily. Isn’t she amazing?

Could you tell us a little about your book that landed your agent? I am fascinated by middle grade fiction. It is seriously my preferred genre to read for fun. I think it’s such a magical age.

I couldn’t agree more! I’ve always been a fan of middle grade fiction. My book is a riveting ghost-hunting story about a young medium and his half-witch friend, who team up to solve a supernatural mystery that threatens the safety of their town and leads them to the ruins of the Spooky Spirits Society—a secret school club founded back in 1984 by a handful of… let’s just say very unique students. The book is set against the eerie backdrop of the historic town of Tarrytown, NY, and it is the first installment in a planned pentalogy packed with suspense, heart, and just a dab of magic rooted in Celtic mythology. But above everything else, it’s a story of compassion, grief, and friendship. Honestly, I cannot wait to share it with the world!

Oh my goodness, that sounds absolutely incredible! I can’t wait to hear about a book deal so that I can put it on my list to pre-order. This sounds right up my ally!

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

First of all, congratulate yourself on finishing your book and take a moment to really let that sink in—it’s no easy feat, believe me. And for those of you in the thick of querying, hang in there. Querying takes time. Be true to yourself in your query and don’t be afraid to share your personal motivation for writing your book. Remember, publishing is all about people connecting. Nobody wants to work with a jerk. So don’t take it personally if your book gets rejected. Keep at it. And have a support system around you—I know I wouldn’t have lasted long without some of my closest friends by my side.

That is all wonderful advice. Thank you so much! This has been an absolute blast. Thank you so much for joining me! Before I let you go… where can we connect with you online?

Both my Twitter and Instagram handles are @cabadawrites. Feel free to reach out and ask me anything! I’m always happy to chat with fellow authors.

You are wonderful! Thanks so much for joining us today! I’ve had a great time chatting and learning more about your journey. Best of luck on submission! I can’t wait to see your books in the world (and on my shelf especially).

Me too! Thanks so much for letting me share my story on your blog. Good luck to everyone still in the trenches! You’re not alone!


B.A Cabada is offering one lucky reader a query critique! Remember, his query landed him a request for more in only 3 days. So you don’t want to miss this chance! To enter, follow both Borja and Kailei on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet. Best of luck to everyone! Winner will be announced on twitter 12/10.

About B.A. Cabada

Photo Credit: Santi Veiga

B.A. Cabada is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and occasional illustrator from Spain. He holds an MA in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University, where he attended as a Fulbright scholar.

As a screenwriter, he has served as script consultant on three episodes of Amazon’s “Carnival Row.” He has also penned several projects for television and film, including Rosario Dawson’s directorial debut for Google and Straight Up Films, and worked in script development for some of the most influential content and talent hubs in Hollywood, namely Studio 8 (Alpha, White Boy Rick) and Heroes & Villains Entertainment.

After surviving leukemia back in 2017, his first novel in Spanish, El sonido de Atlantis, won the Logroño Book Prize for Emerging Authors that same year, and was published in Spain by Grupo Anaya’s imprint Algaida to great critical and public success. Since then, he has been more committed than ever to his writing career. Stay tuned for more news on his middle-grade debut: Spooky Spirits Society, a fun yet gripping novel full of ghosts and thrills!

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.

Happy Wednesday, readers! It's been a minute since I've done a book review as I've transitioned this blog to Tuesday From The Trenches, but I have been missing book blogging, so I will be transitioning back to more of a balance between the two. I'll still be hosting a weekly interview with an agented author about their journey through the query trenches, but twice a month I will also be doing book reviews or debut author interviews. I hope you enjoy the new balance! Today I am sharing an interview with Janie Emaus, debut author of Latkes for Santa Claus. I loved this book so much and hope that you will all pick up a copy! Join me in welcoming Janie to the blog today.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Janie! I am thrilled to be featuring your book, Latkes for Santa Claus. I loved the mash up of Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s really such a great book for culturally blended families, as well as for those of us who want to better understand cultures different than our own. I also thought it was such a fun way to introduce new holiday treats!

Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for the book? How did this idea come to you?

I was raised Jewish and celebrated my first Christmas after marrying my husband. When our daughter was born, we had a Christmas tree, left cookies for Santa and lit our menorah for the eight nights of Hanukkah. I began to wonder if our daughter was confused. Not being able to find any fun, fanciful books with characters she could relate to, I decided to write my own.

That is wonderful. I absolutely feel like your book fills a hole in the market. It's truly delightful. Let’s talk a bit about the recipes you share in the back of your book. Are these personal family recipes of your own?

The latke recipe is our mouth-watering one passed down through the generations. Every year, the women in our family gather to peel, chop, fry and eat our latkes. It was during one of these events when the idea sizzled into my mind to have my main character leave latkes for Santa Claus.

I love that! Ideas really can come from everywhere. Will you share a little more about your publishing journey? How did you find a home for Latkes for Santa Claus? What was the submission process like?

Since I couldn’t find any books blending Hanukkah and Christmas in an enjoyable way, I thought my book would sell. Easy Peasy. Right. Wrong! It took over fifteen years, several agents and dozens of rejections for the book to sell.

Then back in December 2019, I entered #Pitmad. For those unfamiliar, #Pitmad is a Twitter event where authors tweet their pitch in 280 characters and anxiously wait, refreshing every few minutes, or seconds, for an agent or editor to like the pitch.

My editor liked my tweet on Thursday. I sent her the manuscript on Saturday. And on Tuesday, she offered me a contract! I like to say that after only a few decades, I became an overnight success. I learned a few days ago, that the book went into a second printing.

I love PitMad so much! I found my agent through the September event, so it holds a dear place in my heart. I love that you had such an amazing success story after so many years of nos. What a testament to your perseverance. Do you have any advice for authors considering going directly to publishers rather than working through an agent?

That’s a tough question. If you’re planning on going the traditional route, depending on the genre of your manuscript, you usually need an agent. Children’s book publishers are more open to unsolicited submissions. As are some of the smaller presses, such as Wild Rose Press, the publisher where I sold my time travel romance.

But the big publishers require submissions through agents.

I’m currently looking for an agent for my Women’s Fiction novel. I follow agents on Twitter and on Manuscript Wish List. (MSWL) I’ve been in the querying trenches for years, on and off, and I know how subjective this business can be. I’ve had several agents throughout my writing career and from my experience, no agent is better than a bad one.

But it’s all about perseverance and believing in yourself.

So very true, Janie! I truly believe that every author can make it if they don't give up. Thank you so much for joining us today! Best of luck as your beautiful debut continues to sell. I can't wait to see what else comes for you.

About Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus is an author/blogger. LATKES FOR SANTA CLAUS is her debut picture book. She is also the author of the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. Her essays and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and websites. The first book in her time travel series, The Time Traveling Matchmaker, will be released in Spring 2021. To learn more about Janie, visit her website and her blog at

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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