Friday, September 26, 2014

Getting the Call with Leatrice McKinney

Sometimes things don't work out the way you plan. Sometimes you think you've reached the happy ending, only to have to start over. I shared Leatrice's happy ending some time back. Then through no one's fault, life sent a knock out blow and she was back in the query trenches. (See that post here.) 

When things get tough ... the tough keep writing. Congrats, El, on your comeback! 

And she is also the creator and host of the pitch contest Pitchslam, coming in early October.





It’s somewhat surreal, writing this post a second time. Okay, here goes...

If anyone claims to know me at all, they know I love pitch/writing contests. I love entering them, I love judging them, I love hosting them, I love absolutely every aspect of the online contest circuit (sounds so official doesn’t it). Some would say I have a problem. I like to say I’m enthusiastic. But even with my love of contests—and my luck in a handful—it was my query that won over my agent.

There’s a website called Query Drill that simulates the querying process while offering feedback on submitted letters. It’s kinda of neat. You submit a query and get a yes or a no as to if a request would be made. The person offering the critique is the one who says yes or no, so subjectivity still plays a part. You also get a reason for why or why not said request was or wasn’t made. And feedback. Mustn’t forget the feedback.

This one time, the website hosted an event where an actual agent perused the queries as well. It wasn’t exactly a contest, but the agent was from an agency that specializes in what I write (YA), so I entered. A couple of weeks later, I received a request for a full and happily replied. The agent sounded excited about what she’d read so far. While I basked in the possibility of “what if,” I tried not to get my hopes too high. Like many writers I’ve had plenty of requests for fulls end in some of the nicest, most heartfelt rejections based on subjectivity, but a no is still a no. I sent out my story and turned my attention to drafting my current WIP. Oh, and entering more contests.

Told you, enthusiasm.

Fast-forward another few weeks to my return from lunch one Tuesday afternoon to find an email waiting in my inbox. I try not to open my writing email at work—especially responses to queries or submissions—since I can’t exercise my prescribed remedy for rejection of binging on chocolate and Supernatural episodes as needed. But something made me pull up this email.

I stared at the brief paragraph where the agent said they’d finished reading my manuscript minutes before, loved it, wanted to represent me, and we needed to set up a time to chat. I gave some excited noise that was more than a squeal but not quite a scream. The looks my coworkers gave me: priceless.

Barely containing myself, I quickly responded that I would be thrilled to set up a time to discuss things further. I spent the rest of the workday in a giddy haze. It was hard to concentrate on anything but that email. After work I rushed home to send out emails to other agents who had my work, letting them know I’d received an offer of representation.

One almost immediate response was another agent throwing her hat into the ring. She loved my story and wanted to set up a meeting as well. Two agents. Two calls. I couldn’t tell you what was going through my mind other than random snatches of “phone…story good…dial phone? Yes call…story good?” That, that right there, was how my brain handled this. Way to go me…

Once I managed to calm the frick’n’frack down, I prepared for for The Call and The Call Reloaded. I did my research, laid out questions I should ask, so on and so forth. Then the phone rang.

And I panicked.

Mind you’ve I’ve done The Call before, but for some reason, this time, my brain said eff it and abandoned me completely. I forgot my notes, all of my research, I even forgot how to speak a couple of times during BOTH calls! Needless to say, I felt like a spaz. Both agents were awesome and very easy to talk to. I walked away with all the feels about everything, and a very hard decision looming on the horizon.

Like I said, both were amaze-sauce, but there was this feeling I got while speaking with one agent in particular or while looking over the notes I’d taken during our conversations. In the end the feeling won. It was a gut reaction I had to follow, even when another interested party asked about setting up a call.

That’s when I freaked right on out, but that’s a story for another time. I made a fool of myself. In public. It was grand.

I’d made up my mind and had said yes to the brilliant Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content!
Melissa adored my manuscript and we connected in a major way. She’s rooting for my heroin, fangurling over the love interest, and cannot wait to see where the story goes. She’s well prepared to deal with my enthusiasm by matching it with her own. When she received my email about receiving an offer of rep, her reaction had people asking if she was okay or if someone had died. That, that right there? I’ll take it.

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Leatrice McKinney (writing as L. L. McKinney) is a freelance writer, a published poet, and a core member of Novel Clique. She’s also the creator and host of the bi-annual Pitch Slam contest via her blog. Living the single life in Kansas City, surrounded by more nieces and nephews than she knows what to do with, she writes for the joy of it and knows when it’s time for her voice to be heard, God will provide the means. He always has.

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