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Happy Tuesday, KidLit friends! I feel like the past month or so has flown by. This year will soon be over, and I'm sure that we're all glad to see it go! But as crazy and difficult as this year has been, there's also been a lot of good. I was able to sign with my own agent, Emily Forney, and start this super fun blog series featuring querying authors and their time in the trenches leading up to publication. I've loved this series so much, and hope you have too.


Before I introduce you to this week's guest, let me first ask you: Have you heard about the KidLit Holiday Dance Party? Have you registered? If not, make sure to get on that right away! Space is limited, and we're 80% full right now.


And now, join we in welcoming Monica Acker to the blog today!


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

Thanks so much for having me. I always enjoy reading everyone’s unique paths and now I get to share mine!



It's really been so fun to see just how unique each path to representation is. I'm excited to hear about yours. Can you share your query stats with us?


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: Two years, but really three phases. July 2018: Two months into writing seriously. Definitely not ready. My apologies to the handful of agents I queried. Fall 2019: Dipped toes in the water. Form responses. January to July 2020: Not sure if I would ever feel totally ready, but dove in!

Number of Agents Queried: 43

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 1

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 1

Number of R&Rs:

Number of Rejections: Loads.

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Kaitlyn Sanchez at Olswanger Literary Agency



I think we've all queried too soon as least a time or two. I know I did, at least!

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

I love an Excel spreadsheet. I like that I can adjust my sort to see agents at the same agency, submissions by story, date sent, etc.



I'm the same. Nothing like a good Excel sheet to keep me organized.

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

I queried the first story I wrote. I brought it to one critique group. And if I recall correctly, I called my mom to say the group didn’t hate it so now I just needed to find an agent. Ha! There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know. But when that first rejection rolled in, I thought, how lucky I was that someone took the time to read what I wrote. I even queried an agent who was closed to queries, such a rookie move, but she sent me my first personal rejection. She was so kind and encouraged me to keep writing. So I did.


Every agent I queried, I felt some sort of connection with, or else I wouldn’t have queried them, so there was a bummer feeling when a rejection came in. Scattered among the rejections were positive comments about my stories or my writing. These told me I was on the right path. I took screenshots on my phone of the personal notes to reflect on when doubts crept in here and there. And when a no came into my in-box, I usually found the best way to remove the sting was to replace it with hope by sending another query.



I love those kind and encouraging rejections so much! They kept me going. And I know exactly what it is like to no even realize all the things you don't know yet. But the kidlit community is so kind and accepting. Authors and agents alike.

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

I started assembling agent info from various sources such as conferences I attended, blog interviews, and Twitter. Then another writer kindly shared her list of agents, so I used that as a starting point for research.



I seriously love how generous people are! So between all of that, how did you ultimately connect with your agent? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?

This is where I feel like a cheater-cheater pants because I did not traditionally query Kaitlyn. I was incredibly lucky, but it boils down to making connections. My super star agent runs a fantastic blog. She conducts interviews and often offers giveaways (in addition to running the #FallWritingFrenzy and #SpringFlingKidlit contest). I won a critique with an author through the blog and sent a manuscript in the same email thread, including the author and Kaitlyn. The story I shared caught Kaitlyn’s eye. She helped me get the MS submission ready, because the story of my heart touched hers as well.

This got me on the radar. And as I sent the MS out, Kaitlyn cheered me on. Once Kaitlyn started taking on clients, she reached out to me to see if my body of work would be a good fit for her list. The first things I sent weren’t quite right yet, but she asked for revisions and more work. We went back and forth a lot, but I always felt encouraged to be better. I hoped a mentorship through #PBChat would help get my MSs to where they needed to be, but when I didn’t earn one, I tackled revisions again, with the help of CPs (Always. If you do not have critique partners, find some) and sent them off to Kaitlyn one more time. This time, within, minutes (ok, maybe hours) my phone rang. Kaitlyn said she was so excited about the revisions that she had to call right away. During that quick call we set up “the call.”




Oh wow! That is all so amazing. And not cheating at all! It's so important to take all of those awesome opportunities. You never know what will come from them. And how amazing that she called you so soon after some time of back and forth! Kaitlyn is seriously so kind and supportive. I've loved my interactions with her. Can you tell us more about “the call”? How did you know Kaitlyn was the right choice?


I feel lucky to have known Kaitlyn from Twitter as a writer friend before she was an agent. I knew going into the call that she is passionate about kidlit and great at connecting people. During “the call” I got to know Kaitlyn the agent. We had a similar vision for my MSs and the process of revising and resubmitting showed me how well we work together. It was a no-brainer.




I love that so much. And I couldn't agree more that Kaitlyn is an amazing cheerleader and champion in the kidlit community.

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

Keep learning and writing. Once the query is sent, it is out of your control, so focus on what you can control. Take a webinar, read lots of books, attend a class, and write, write, write. Also, writing can feel really solitary, but get out there and make those connections.



Your story is a great testament to the good that comes from making those connections. That is wonderful advice! Before I let you go, where can we connect with you online?

Twitter @MonicaAcker1

My infrequently updated blog https://teacherwriteracker.home.blog/


Thanks so much for joining us today! This has been so much fun and I've loved hearing your story on the path to representation!



GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY

Readers, Monica has generously offered one lucky reader a non-rhyming picture book manuscript critique! To enter, follow both Monica and Kailei on twitter and retweet THIS tweet. Best of luck to everyone!



About Monica Acker

Monica Acker is a picture book writer and kid lit cheerleader represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary. She is a member of SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x12 Picture Book Challenge. Born and raised in New York, she now resides north of Boston, MA with her husband and three wicked awesome daughters.


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.

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Hello friends! Happy Monday! I hope your weekend was relaxing, fun, and rejuvenating and that you're ready to jump back into writing/revising/editing/querying/etc. Speaking of relaxing, fun, and rejuvenating, I have some super exciting news! Valerie Bolling and Kaitlyn Sanchez have teamed up to bring to you a virtual Kidlit Holiday DANCE PARTY!! I mean, how incredibly fun does that sound, and I haven't even shared the details with you yet! Let's start with the basic details:


What: A Virtual KidLit Holiday Dance Party

When: Saturday, December 12th, 7:00-8:00 PM Eastern Time

Who: YOU are invited as Valerie Bolling and Kaitlyn Sanchez share their favorite dances and talk inspiration in both writing and agenting.

Why: Because we could all use a little more connection! And who doesn't love to dance?


Now for some more details...

Upon the suggestion of one of Kaitlyn's clients, Valerie and Kaitlyn got to talking about how much fun it would be to connect the KidLit community through dance. Valerie's amazing book, Let's Dance! is all about that... connection through dance. Dance brings people together in a way that nothing else does. I absolutely adore this book. The simple, fun, and brief text pairs amazingly with gorgeous, bright, energetic illustrations to make a story that is truly special.


Valerie has teamed up with one of her favorite Black-owned indie bookstores to offer signed copies of Let's Dance! You can purchase a signed copy HERE.


As Valerie and Kaitlyn talked more, they came up with the fun idea of hosting a virtual KidLit Holiday dance party. The idea was to gather via zoom, dance together, and discuss their inspiration in writing and agenting. I was thrilled when they reached out to me to host the event! I love opportunities to connect as a community, and this sounded like so much fun! This is going to be a fairly relaxed event, and more about connection and fun than anything else. We'll spend a good chunk of the event dancing and having a great time. But we will also be chatting a bit about Valerie's inspiration behind Let's Dance! as well as Kaitlyn's inspiration when choosing clients in agenting. We'll also hold a Q&A at the end to answer your writing related questions. We'll try our best to keep the event to 1 hour, as we know that everyone is so busy this time of year (and always).



While this is a free event, we would love to encourage each of you to donate $5-$10+ to a favorite charity, especially at this time of year. If you need some help selecting a cause, we'd each like to share one of our favorites (though it was so hard to each choose just one):


Equal Justice Initiative:

https://eji.org/

The EJI is one of Valerie's favorites. It is committed to ending mass incarceration and challenging racial and economic injustice in the United States. Which we need now more than ever.


Danielle's Gift:

http://daniellesgift.org/donate-or-volunteer/donate/

Danielle was one of Kaitlyn's best friends growing up. Danielle always wanted to help others when she grew up, but when her life was cut short, her family started a foundation to keep her dreams of helping others alive.


The Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project:

https://firrp.org/

This project is close to my heart as immigration rights are so important to me. My husband has had opportunities to do some pro-bono legal work for them. This organization provides legal representation for detained immigrants to help them out of wrongful convictions, and is so very needed as about 86% of detained immigrants go unrepresented due to poverty.



We hope that you will take the time to consider donating to one of these extremely worthy causes, or to one that is close to your heart. Feel free to share in the comments more of your favorite nonprofits.



Space is limited, so make sure to register soon! Register here:

LET'S DANCE! A KIDLIT HOLIDAY DANCE PARTY REGISTRATION


And now... what would an awesome event like this be without some GIVEAWAYS!!? During the event, we will be offering two amazing prizes.

  1. One PB Manuscript Critique from Author/Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

  2. One Signed Copy of Let's Dance! by Valerie Bolling

Prizes will only be available to participants who attend the live event. If we're able, we will draw names during the event! But if not, we will absolutely announce the winners by Monday, December 14th on Twitter.


To enter:

Register for AND ATTEND the live KidLit Dance Party On December 12th

Like and Retweet THIS tweet for a bonus entry!


Easy as pie!


Also, make sure to be following me, Kaitlyn, and Valerie on Twitter so that you don't miss any exciting announcements about the event! You should also be following Kaitlyn's amazing clients!


So friends, we hope that you will all join us via Zoom on December 12th at 7:00 PM Eastern Time. Once you register, a confirmation window will pop up and you will receive an email within one week of registering to join the Zoom meeting. Again, please only register if you will be able to attend as space is limited and this will not be a recorded event.


Thank you all for joining us for such a fun event and for supporting our favorite charities this Holiday Season!


Register here:

LET'S DANCE! A KIDLIT HOLIDAY DANCE PARTY REGISTRATION

Can't wait to see you all soon!

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Happy Tuesday, KidLit friends! I have seriously had such a blast with these Tuesday From The Trenches interviews! Every interview is so unique and I love hearing about each journey. Plus, it helps me actually know what day it is because let me tell you... during this pandemic, I never know the day. That's normal, right?


Anyways... I'm so excited to be welcoming one of my agent siblings to the blog today!! Michelle Mohrweis is the first of a few agent siblings that I get to highlight and I am absolutely thrilled. Our interview just solidified for me how much I adore Emily Forney, our rock star agent. Seriously friends, if Emily is not on your radar, she should be. She's been nothing but a joy to work with. Watch her on Twitter to find out when she reopens to queries.


And now, join me in welcoming Michelle Mohrweis to the blog.



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

First of all, Can you share your query stats with us? (as far as you know/remember):


Of course! I do want to start by saying, this wasn’t my first time in the trenches, but it was certainly the most exciting for me! Before this attempt I had written and queried several other stories, including one I spent six years on. For the story that got me my agent, however, it was a short whirlwind of a journey.


Time Spent in the Query Trenches: 4 Days (18 if you count the 2 weeks I gave for agents to get back to me after my notice of an offer.)

Number of Agents Queried: 10

Number of Requests for Additional Work/Full Manuscript: 4

Number of Twitter Pitch “Likes”: 5

Number of R&Rs: 0

Number of Rejections: 9

Number of Offers: 1

Agent and Agency: Emily Forney at Bookends



Oh my goodness! I don't think I've ever seen such a quick turn around! This is beyond amazing. I also love your persistence. After 6 years, you didn't give up, you wrote another story, and you jumped back into the trenches. I bet many of our readers need that motivation to try again. The query trenches can really beat us up, but they are a necessary evil!

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

I used Query Tracker to keep track of my queries this time. Though in the past attempts I used a chart in a word document!


I loved Query Tracker! I was one of those who would stalk the "timeline" feature to see if agents had responded to others who had queried around the same time. haha. One of the reasons I started this series, actually!

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


During my past attempts, rejections stung. A lot. I would usually try to follow a rejection up by doing something relaxing to distract myself, like playing a game, writing more, or taking a walk.


This time, however, my querying journey moved unusually fast. I didn’t get any time to stew on rejections. By the time I was getting rejections, I already had my call set up and I was distracted preparing for that. Then, after the call, the remaining rejections were from agents that kindly decided to step aside once I notified them off my offer. Those rejections were all so nice, and if anything, they made me more excited to be working with Emily.


That is so great. I love the advice to distance yourself from the rejections a bit. I think that's key. But how awesome that you didn't even need the coping mechanisms this time!

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


I started searching for agents to query when THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS was just a concept. In between writing sessions, I searched the #MSWL tag on twitter, looking for any agents interested in MG STEM books. I made a list of all the agents interested. Then, I searched for the agents that represented books I enjoyed. I would read a good MG book with a similar tone and similar themes, then check the acknowledgements to see who the agent was.


Once I had a good list, I then went on Publisher’s Marketplace to research the agents further. I checked out their agent websites to see what they were interested in and searched for their twitter accounts. I used my research to refine my list, sorting it by who I would be most interested in.


By the time I was ready to start querying, I had 3 lists, one for each of my planned rounds of querying. My plan was to send out about 10 to 15 queries at a time. Then, in between each round, I would revise my query and first pages as needed before starting the next round.


At the time I had no idea how fast things were going to go, or that my first round of queries would become my only round.


Wow, that is an awesome tactic. I love the research and thought you put into the process. I think that's so key... really looking for an agent who will best connect with your work.

How did you ultimately connect with Emily? Did you cold query? Participate in a twitter pitch event? Or connect in some other way?


Emily was on my first-round of agents to query. I knew about her from seeing my friends query her, and I knew that she was enthusiastic, quick to respond, and very kind. However, I never did send her a traditional query.


When I was ready to query, it was a few days before PitMad (a contest where you pitch your story in a tweet, and agents who want to see more like your tweet), so I decided to start my journey by taking part in PitMad. Emily liked my very first pitch, and I was thrilled! She wanted a full manuscript from anyone whose pitch she liked, so that night I sent it off. I also responded to the four other agents that liked my pitch and sent out the rest of my round one queries (which ended up being 5 queries). It was very exciting.


So exciting! I know exactly what you were feeling there... Emily and I also connected at that PitMad event! What a whirlwind day!

So how much time passed between officially querying Emily to getting “the call”?


I heard back from Emily two days later. I was stunned at how fast she moved! After PitMad I had seen her tweet about enjoying one of the manuscripts she got, but I hadn’t imagined it could be mine. Then I woke up in the morning two days later with that email sitting in my inbox. We scheduled the call for two days after, and just like that, my querying journey ended. Only four days had passed since I started.


WOW! That is absolutely incredible, Michelle! I can't even imagine what that must have felt like. Major congratulations!

Can you tell us more about “the call” with Emily? How did you know she was the right choice?


I was so nervous leading up to the call! I kept telling myself that maybe I was wrong. Maybe it would be a revise and resubmit and not THE call. Maybe Emily just wanted to talk about the weather. Maybe Emily would change her mind. Maybe…


Yet the moment I hopped on zoom with Emily, she was so kind and calm and welcoming. She put me at ease and got so excited talking about my story. I was still nervous (I’m pretty sure my face was bright red for the entire zoom call!) but I was also excited now. We talked about THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS. We talked about my future project. I asked about her plan for my book, her communication style, her view of my future, etc. And by the end, I knew that I would be in good hands with Emily.


That is wonderful! Isn't Emily just amazing?? I feel like I could have written the exact same things (including wondering if this would be THE call or just A call). I love how calming and yet completely excited Emily is!

Could you tell us a little about the book that landed your agent? I see that you write and teach about robotics? That’s so awesome!!


THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS is a MG contemporary story about two girls in STEM. These girls hate each other, yet when their middle school robotics team is at risk of being cancelled, they must work together to save it.


I started the story because I couldn’t find many books dealing with modern day robotics. I teach engineering and robotics at my own school, and I wanted a story I could read with my students. Yet most books where the kids interact with robotics are either historical fiction style books, or scifi like ones with robotics that walk and talk. I wanted something showing kids interacting with current, modern day robotics.


So, I decided to write it.


Of course, THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS became much more than just robotics. It’s a story about coping with grief, about loss of family and friendship. It’s a story about determination and forming new friendships, about overcoming differences to accomplish incredible things. It’s a story about finding the art in all things, even robotics. And it is the story of my heart. I am so glad I got to write it and I hope someday I get to share it with the world.



Oh my goodness, it sounds absolutely incredible! I am certain you will find the perfect home for it, and I can't wait to read it myself!


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


Don’t give up! I queried several stories before this one. I spent six years on my last story, writing, refining, querying, revising, and querying again. By the time I shelved that story, I was starting to fear I would never succeed. Then THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS got me an offer within less than a week.


Querying is an odd blend of skill, luck, timing, and more luck. You just need to keep trying. Keep querying, keep working on the next story, and keep trying!



What perfect advice! I seriously can't get over your persaverance. And to go from a 6 year journey to a one week experience is still just blowing my mind. I love this story so much! Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us, Michelle! I know you are inspiring readers like crazy! Before I let you go... where can we connect with you online?


I’m on twitter as @MMichelleAZ. I also have an Instagram account (@MichelleMohrweis) though I am less active there. And my website is https://www.michellemohrweis.com/


Thanks so much for joining us today, Michelle! 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.



GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY!!!

Michelle has generously offered TWO giveaways with this awesome interview!

1-Query Critique

1- 1st 5 Pages Feedback

To enter, retweet THIS tweet and follow Michelle and Kailei on twitter.

Best of luck!

Winner will be announced on Twitter on Monday, November 30th.




About Michelle Mohrweis:

Michelle Mohrweis is a middle school Robotics and Engineering teacher. She writes MG contemporary books about STEM Girls and loves to dive into MG and YA fantasy on the side. She is also a member of SCBWI Arizona chapter and a moderator at the Tucson Festival of Books. Michelle lives in Arizona with her husband and two dogs. When not writing, she can be found chasing her dogs around the house with remote control robots and launching paper rockets down the middle of her street.



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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