Monday, February 20, 2012

Big News!

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...) 


The incredible Jill Corcoran, with Herman Agency, is now representing me.

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!
more soon,

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!


  1. This is such a great story! Congratulations! :-D

    1. Thanks, Jessica. It's kind of overwhelming, isn't it? Lots of people have read this post, so I hope it encourages writers to go to conferences.

  2. That's a really REALLY cool story!! Congratulations, Lori! I'm very happy for you! :D

  3. That is a wonderful story. Congrats!

  4. yeehaw! I love your story - and I loved meeting you on Sunday at the Lisa Yee day! I can't wait to see your book on the shelves.

    1. Nikki!! I was meaning to look you up and email you, but this week has been a BLUR. Between teaching at the university and writing, I'm on full speed. I am definitely going to get your book for my son. Can you post your link here?? Hope to see you again soon. (You were so funny at the conference. Loved your hammy performance.)

    2. I would be delighted to have your son read my book - and you, too. ;) I'm so happy for you. Be warned, it only gets more hectic from this point on. That is, until you're on submission... and then time does this weird Dali-esque watch-melty thing and the world turns to quicksand.
      Enjoy the ride!

  5. Congrats. Jill is a top-notch agent who I respect a lot. You are in good hands.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I'm floored by her "agenting" already.

  6. Great success story, Lori. I was sitting with you at the Lisa Yee intensive and I was so pleased to hear you Jill had signed you before the event was over. Really wonderful! Well done!

    1. Hi Samantha~
      I remember--you and my niece share the same lovely name. Thank you so much! Wasn't Lisa Yee wonderful? Good luck with your stories!

  7. Hooray! Thank you for sharing, and congratulations to both you and Jill on finding each other! Wonderful news!

  8. Thank you, Cynthia. Your website looks fascinating. Can't wait to dig into it.

  9. Replies
    1. Thanks, Karen. A Dallasite! Nice to meet you (and follow you)! I'm really bad at Twitter--just sayin' (Congrats on your Middle-Grade book. 2013 is closer than it appears!