If you read my last two posts, you'll already know that I carpooled my way down to the Austin SCBWI conference (thanks, Tahni, for your expert driving and great company!).
The panels and speakers were fantastic. Truly, folks, if you're a writer or illustrator of children's/MG/YA lit, you must get yourself to one of these conferences. It's like a big old family--and not the dysfunctional kind. Everyone there is your cheerleader. There are published writers and illustrators and not-yet-published ones, agents and editors, and they all mingle and lunch and chit-chat at the same tables.
Some pictures from my iPhone (forgive the grainy images):
|The fabulous writer Lisa Yee|
|Close-up: grainy, but still fabulous Lisa Yee|
|Agent panel (and Lisa Yee). Jill is on the far left.|
The talks were inspirational and informative, well worth the small registration cost.
And here's the BIG news: Because I went to this conference, I have an agent! (I'm stopping to do my happy dance! Happy dance, Happy dance...)
It was all so strange and unexpected, to say the least. So here's my How It Happened story:
At the last minute, I decided to go to the SCBWI conference in Austin, thanks to Tahni in my critique group. There, I was profoundly inspired by Donna Jo's talk on why writing stories about terrible things makes readers better people. (It was incredible, trust me.) After thanking Donna Jo with my curious and unexpected emotion, I sat down to write a bit on my laptop. Jill Corcoran and Donna Jo were talking a few minutes later, and I overheard Donna Jo say something like, "You have to meet this writer named Lori Ann Stephens." And so, I walked over with a pathetic flutter in my heart.
You see, a few weeks earlier, I had researched and fell in love with Jill, submitted a query to her, and had received a rejection email. I knew I had already blown my chance with her. (And she had been greatness on the stage, which made meeting her in person even more bittersweet.)
But I hadn't completely blown it! She asked me about my rejected query, and I told her. She listened and smiled and said yes, she'd had four or five other queries with a similar sounding main character and had robo-rejected them. That was when I realized that my query letter sucked! In the query, I hadn't really distinguished enough my main character and plot from the other writers who might dare to have a similar premise.
But as I described the story to her, Jill's eyes lit up. (Someone actually took a photograph of us while I was crouched on the floor describing my story to her. How I wish I could have a copy of it.) Jill asked me to email her the manuscript that evening, which I did. I fell asleep, nervous but grateful. Sunday morning, I opened my laptop to see Jill's email:
It is almost one am and I have to go to sleep but I keep reading!
Thank goodness for Donna Jo!
A few hours later, I was sitting in a booth, still filled with wonder as she offered representation.
So, now I have a lot of work to do. Jill gave me a list.
It's nice to have a list.
Thank you, SCBWI!