Tuesday, February 25, 2014

After the Call: Leatrice McKinney

You'll notice I changed the title of this post from the usual "Getting the Call." Leatrice's story has the joy of finding her agent and ... well I'll let you read the rest. Let's just say we all need to have a giant hugfest afterward! 

I feel and I'm sure Leatrice feels also that writers need to remember the journey goes on after the agent call.

People are sometimes surprised when I say I WAS agented. They blink and stare, and I can see them trying to muscle up the courage to ask me what happened. One question I get is "oh my gosh, what did she do?". Folks tend to assume the worse, don't they? That there was a falling out, or something wasn't done right, or someone somewhere screwed the pooch, and it all lead to a bad divorce or whatever. That's SO not what happened in my case. This was honestly a case of life happens, no horror stories here, which is why I've decided to share it. Not all agent partings end sourly.

My agent was the result of a contest. I know I tell people on Twitter and Facebook that contests results (while sometimes awesome and sometimes depressing) are not the end all beat all, and I'm referring to my own experience when I say so. It's not fluff to make people feel good, it's the truth. I entered the inaugural launch of The Writer's Voice contest now held every year, and was fortunate enough to land on Team Brenda!

Brief sidebar, Brenda Drake is an amazing person who gives back to the community in ways that continue to grow in leaps and bounds both in size and in spirit.

Okay, so, I landed on Team Brenda and she helped me turn my pitch and first into gold. Now, I didn't get any requests during the agent round, but after the contest was over that shiny new query landed in front of my previous agent. The story of how that happened is pretty awesome itself, but a whole other blog post, so I'll tell that another time. In short, she loved my story, told me the direction she wanted to with the edits, and made an offer.

Thanks to suggestions from my agent, my story went through a few more rounds of edits. Oh no, the revisions aren't over when you get an agent, in some cases the fun is just starting (and by fun I mean hard work). I pulled some characters out completely and beefed up the presence of others. We worked on various chunks of the story then went back through to make sure the changes melded seamlessly with the rest of the piece. Then we went on submission!

Now, my agent was also a writer, and a good one because her work just exploded in the best possible way. She was, and still is, everywhere and it's kinda cool being able to elbow-nudge someone and go "hey, I know that gal". But as awesome as she is, she's also human and thus constrained to the same 24/7 as the rest of us. It honestly came down to having to choose between two careers she loved, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

So we had an hour-long phone conversation about the entire thing, and I told her I support her no matter what she did, that I was proud of her, and in the end everyone has to make the choice that's best for them and their work. As writers, we all understand that last one, yeah?

She made the announcement she was leaving the business. I'll admit it was bittersweet. What happened was huge and great in so many ways, but at the same time I lost someone who took on my work and believed in it and helped me get that much closer to the dream, y'know? She helped me push myself, and I'll always be thankful for that.

At first, things were sort of surreal, but as time moved on I realized a very scary fact: if I wanted to get back into the game, I was going to have to start querying.


For those who think something like this might be easier the second time around or less stressful, you couldn't be more wrong. This was, in essence, starting over. Back to square one, do not pass go. Queue meltdown, but I gave myself a time limit for freaking out. I said to myself "Self! You're allowed one nervous breakdown but that's it, I'm cutting you off, you have work to do."

With the encouragement of my VERY supportive friends in the community I finished another book, polished it up, and sent it out. Took me an hour to work up the courage to hit SEND for the first time. Yeah, that happened again.

And here I am now, backed by my friends and colleagues, cheered on by loved ones, and believing in myself that if I was blessed to be able did it before, God willing I can certainly do it again.


Leatrice McKinney, AKA El, is a published poet, an active member of Novel Clique–an established group of professional writers–and a member of the online groups TwitWits and YA Lit Chat. Living the single life in Kansas City, she is curerntly seeking representation for her work. She is also an Affiliate Member of Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. via Midwest Pen & Ink.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story! I love your down-to-earth, peaceful view on your own story and the entire process.

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  3. Leatrice, you're so zen about it all. I don't know if I would have had that same amount of grace. Here's to hoping the query gods are kind to you in round two!

  4. Thanks ladies!

    I honestly owe my cool head and calm demeanor to the people who've cheered me on and cheered me up through the whole thing. A good support system in this crazy writing world is key.