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?
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.
Michelle has generously offered TWO giveaways with this awesome interview!
1- 1st 5 Pages Feedback
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.