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 https://www.dbhiguera.com/ - 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
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 - https://alyssaramosreynoso.wordpress.com - Books
Motivational Speaker Website - alyssaspeaks.com
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.