Friday, June 26, 2015

Getting the Call with Kaye Callard

I haven't done one of these stories in a while, and it's great to get back to them! Especially when it's someone I know in the writersphere. You just never know how long it's going to take. Here's your Friday dose of inspiration. 

When I started querying my first novel, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was bad. Really bad. But I didn’t know it. Even worse, I had no idea what a query letter was, so my first queries pretty much said “here’s my book, I hope you like it.”

Yeah. I told you it was bad.

But I learned. I went on Google and looked up query letters. I cut 15,000 words from the ms (not nearly enough, but I didn’t know that). I wrote a completely new first chapter that didn’t start with the MC waking up.

It still got rejected.

I kept querying, and reading, and learning. Eventually I realized my story was beyond repair. It was time to trunk it.

It had taken me over two years to write that first ms, and I’d spent another year querying and learning. I had the spark of a new idea floating around my head, but the thought of spending another two years squeezing out the story scared me.

That’s when I heard of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo – seriously, you’d think a bunch of writers would come up with an easier to pronounce acronym). I knew there was no way I could manage to write 50,000 words in a month, but I figured even if I only scratched out 10,000 words, I’d be 10,000 words farther along than I was at the start of the month.

So in November 2012 I let housework slide, and squeezed writing into every available minute. And at the end of the month, I had a 50,000-word MG Fantasy.

Even better, I found a critique group through the forum.

I started revising with the help of my crit group, and in May 2013 I took the shiny first chapter of my half-revised novel to a conference. I came home with requests for fulls from an agent and an editor, plus the event organizer sent it to her agent.

I was overwhelmed, excited, and a bit frantic. The editor asked me to finish revising and submit ASAP, so I did. And then I waited. And waited.

No response ever came. I politely nudged, but still…nada.

So I revised some more, and queried more. Any time an agent was nice enough to give feedback, I took it, tore apart the ms and worked to make it better.

I was getting a fair number of requests, and lots of personalized, encouraging rejections. I was determined not to give up. But by May 2014, I was running out of agents to submit to (I also write Picture Books, and was looking for an agent to rep those too, thus limiting my numbers). I sent out to what I’d decided would be my last batch of agents.

A month later I got a request for 50 pages. I also got a concussion (you can read that boring, embarrassing story here), which meant I couldn’t use the computer. I sent out the partial with my husband’s help, and then went back to hide in my dark, quiet room for the next eight months.

In February 2015, I was finally feeling well enough to go on the computer again, and the first thing I did was send a nudge to the agent with my partial. She replied that she’d missed my original email, but remembered the story and would read it right away.

Two days later, she requested the full.

Three agonizing weeks after that, she asked for an R&R, with a one month exclusive on the re-submission. Her notes were amazing – every one resonated with me. She even got on the phone and talked though all her revision notes with me. By the end of the phone call I was psyched to jump into the revision.

I spent the next two months revising, and finally sent her the shiny new version.

After a week of gnawing my way through more chocolate than I’d have thought possible, she emailed back to say the ms still needed some work, but she wanted to sign me. Squee!

A phone call the next evening confirmed it, and on May 6, 2015 – 363 days from querying her, 2 years from my first query for that story – I signed with the awesome Brianne Johnson of Writer’s House. *Insert Muppet arm flail here*

The stats for those who like ‘em:

Queries: 33
Requests: 11 (4 Partial, 7 Full – not counting the editor)
Offers: 1


K Callard lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband, three kids, and a life-sized stuffed polar bear. Somewhere in that chaos she manages to write Middle Grade and Picture Books. When not writing or taking care of her family, she decorates cakes, reads, and tries not to embarrass herself (or others) with her geekiness. She blogs about her writing journey at and tweets about just about anything at @k_callard. She is represented by Brianne Johnson of Writer’s House.


  1. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks again for posting my story.

  2. Happy, peppy story of perseverance and triumph over a concussion-- YAY!

    1. Thanks, Mirka. Glad you liked it.