Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the beginning... there were a lot of words. (Agent Story)

Sorry this is so long, but people asked for my story. This is my story:

For those that are new to my blog, I'm an insomniac... a raging insomniac, and I always have been. I've also always loved writing. I adored creative writing classes in high school and college and I submitted to school magazines and won placement. When the kids came, their needs pushed my writing towards blog posts and journals and mentoring others dealing with Autism and Special Needs. I wasn't writing for fun... I was writing to keep my sanity... but, still, I was writing... a lot.

In October of 2008, my brother said to me, "You should try writing a novel. You'd be good at it."

The idea stuck in my head... and wouldn't let go. I thought there was no way I could write a novel. I mean, that's a lot of words, right? What would I even write about? Well... obviously... something I knew... and so I did. A month later, I'd completed my first novel. The second novel was already pushing its way into my head... so I wrote that one. I mean, I had the time. I wasn't sleeping. I might as well do something with all that time. The third novel slipped out just as easily... and the fourth... and so on. I won't say they're fantastic. It was the challenge of writing something that drove me. They're heavy on dialogue and need revisions. Novel followed novel followed novel... and my family kept saying, "You should publish these. They're good." I laughed and said "whatever" for the most part.

By early 2009, I couldn't stop writing or I couldn't sleep. The characters were keeping me awake with their stories... and now I knew I could write them.

Then, Honor came on the scene. All the novels up until that point had been in a series of books I call "The Company of Him" series. Honor was different. She was a different take on the vampire legend... and she was pissy and fun and when I printed out a hardcopy of "Honor Among Thieves" my betas went nuts for it. Honor traveled. I had friends telling me, "I hope you don't mind but I loaned my copies to my friend/mother/daughter/my cousin's former roommate's orthodontist's ex-assistant." It was crazy. People talked about Honor as if she was alive and asked for the next book... and the next book.

I thought they were weird... and it was a little surreal, but I liked that Honor felt so real to them.

In August of 2009, I submitted a copy of Honor to DAW publishing's slush pile. I tried to keep my expectations low. I mean, sure... people liked my writing... but not professionals. This was DAW. DAW was big-time. Honor made it to a second reader there and they sent me a list of revisions and told me to resubmit in the future.

I wanted to frame that rejection. I wanted to hug it and take it bed and put it under my pillow. They read it! They liked it! They may have passed, but they took me seriously.

It was time to get serious and get an agent... because I knew that I needed help... and someone to do all the math. (Seriously, I've always hated math.)

So, I submitted Honor to a few agents... and almost every query turned into a submission. It was staggering. For someone who writes for herself and her characters... being taken seriously was just so hard to fathom. By that time, I'd decided to step out of the series manuscripts and start writing stand-alones.

When 2010 rolled in, I was going to query... and query hard. I'd decided to query on some of my other manuscripts depending on the agent's preferences. I didn't want to tackle the heavily-saturated vampire market... and, besides, I'd started writing YA by that time, and I was digging it. So, Honor was set aside and I queried on three manuscripts.

I have been thoroughly rejected. In 2010, I was rejected over 100 times.

However, in 2010, I was asked for a submission over 20 times.

I was also on Twitter and I was meeting tons and tons of writers and agents and realizing that even if I was never published... the friendships I was building... were worth the hell of querying.

BTW... querying is hell. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something... or just a liar.
Synopses are a special place in hell that only writers are forced to visit. They're a dark corner that will make your brain explode as you weep uncontrollably.

Okay... back to the story....

All the while, I kept writing... and writing... and writing... so I could sleep. In March of 2010, the idea for Secrets of Skin and Stone stole into my brain. I wanted to write about OCD... real OCD... OCD in all its darkness from a YA girl's POV. I wanted to talk about it... but there was no way I'd query it. No way. Just... no way. I mean, it was too close... perhaps even shades of autobiographical. Just. No.

In June of 2010, Sarah Yake read and loved "Curse Me A Story" and asked what else I had written... which was probably a question she almost immediately regretted. Frances Collin got involved and asked for a list of what I'd written and fulls of several of my mss. I sent her the list. (Stuck in as an aside... I muttered something quietly about this story about a gargoyle and OCD I'd completed but said it needed revision.) The summer squeaked by as they went through them. Sarah came back in September and said they wanted to see revisions of "Curse Me A Story" done. She told me what she wanted... and it just clicked in my brain and I thought, "OF COURSE! I should have done that from the beginning!!!!! BAWAHAHAHA!" I did the revisions which included adding about 20K in words onto the ms... and sent it back... and waited.

I hate New Year's resolutions, but I received my 100th rejection shortly before the year turned and I was determined 2011 was going to be different. I'd tried that hell called querying, and I'd given it everything. I'd poured my soul into querying. Not only had I been rejected THAT many times, but some agents hadn't even cared enough to respond.


I wasn't "giving up." I was going to try something different. Something that WAS NOT querying.

On January 17th, I had a game plan. I was going to hard-core revise the Honor series and epublish it. I was going to submit my short stories to magazine/ezine and short story collection markets. Finally, I was going to revise the one novel that had never really seen the light of day and submit it to ABNA (Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award) because I wouldn't have to worry about the exclusivity conditions with ABNA. No one had seen Secrets of Skin and Stone. I'd been reading up on epublishing and I'd talked it over with my husband.


I announced on Twitter: "I'm going to epublish Honor." Within a minute (NO JOKE) of this... an email notification pops up.

I may have said some naughty words when I saw Sarah had sent me another revision request. Not because I wasn't excited... but... because... geez... the universe had it out for me. I mean, I'd JUST made this plan. I'D HAD A PLAN!

I'd decided long ago that if I was going to do this thing... I was going to do it the Sinatra way... my way. I was going to be me... and if the agents didn't like me... it wouldn't have worked anyway. I'm too honest. I'm irreverent. I'm sarcastic. I'm goofy. I overshare. Plus, I have a lot of bad qualities. ; )

So, I wrote back to Sarah and told her that while I would love to do more revisions... (Her advice again... was spot-on perfect... so I was excited to do them.) I told her that I'd started making plans and I dumped all my plans in front of her and asked if I should halt them all until after she'd reviewed Curse Me A Story.

This was probably a very weird thing to do and may have even made Sarah want to run the other direction....

She didn't run, though... so... uhh... hah!

Sarah asked me to tell her more about this story that I "never planned on querying." So, I did... and she was excited and asked to see a full of Secrets of Skin and Stone when I was done revising it.

If you've been following my blog, you know how I revised the crap out of Secrets of Skin and Stone in order to add a southern accent in January. I went hoarse during my read aloud after a full week of reading it aloud in a southern accent. It wasn't the most pleasant revision... but... on the other hand, parts of it still made me cry... and I loved it. I love Secrets of Skin and Stone... even after revisions. I think this was my seventh or eight revision even.

I sent it out to betas... with my heart on the line... and they loved it too.

Finally, last Monday (February 7th,) I hit send and sent it to Sarah... and immediately wished I hadn't.

It was too personal.

It was too OCD.

It had scenes with cutting in it... for crying out loud. What if she wrote back and said, "What part of your twisted little mind did this crawl out of, Wendy?" She'd say it nicely, of course... because Sarah is awesome, but she'd be thinking that.

Last Monday, I was a freaking wreck. I snarled at people all day before I just told myself to go offline for a while until I was less of a bear.

My husband kept sending me looks like "Wendy has finally lost it.... more."

Tuesday morning, I pulled myself out of bed and thought, "I'm going to pretend I didn't send that so I can get on with my life for the next few weeks until she gets back with me." I had all sorts of things scheduled for that day so I did an early run with my dog... during which we were nearly attacked by another dog. It was the worst run ever because my knee brace made it last FOREVER. I got home pissier than ever... and I had to run out the door after a shower to an appt. I was in a foul mood. REALLY FOUL. (We're talking "mentally composing hate mail to the owners' of the dog that attacked us" and "planning on ripping the heads off chickens with my bare hands in the mean time" type of mood.) All the while, I kept thinking, "Why did I send that? She'll probably think I'm crazy. I shouldn't have sent it." While gathering clothes, I popped up my email to make sure the appt. hadn't been cancelled. I was muttering under my breath I was so stressed and frustrated and....

There was an email from Sarah... she couldn't put it down. She couldn't put MY NOVEL down.


No... really.

Like... really.

I sat down on my couch and just stared.

Utter shock ensued.

I pointed at my laptop... even though I was the only one home.

I laughed... even though I was the only one home. It was one of those crazy laughs that crazy people do too. Maybe it was good that I was the only one home.

I sent an email to the husband and went and took a shower... and went to the appt. and tried to concentrate. My emotions were flying to pieces underneath my skin. I just kept thinking, "An agent... couldn't put down my book. She read it in less than 24 hours. This is the dream. THIS. IS. THE. DREAM." Meanwhile, I was nodding and trying to look sane.

I came home and composed an email to Sarah that probably looked much like the ramblings of a psychopath.

It mostly was.

On Thursday, Sarah offered representation... but I had some manuscripts out that I needed to work things out with the agents... and I'd just come back from a run... and I had to run out the door to a meeting.

At the meeting, I sent an email to Di... and we texted highly-exclaiming texts back and forth while I desperately tried to concentrate on taking notes for the meeting.

My notes for that meeting suck, btw. One of the people there told me at the meeting, "You spelled my name with a "y" in the last notes, by the way... it should be with an "i."' I remember staring at her and thinking, "DUDE!!! An agent asked to represent me!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!" Instead, I made a note.

I got home and sent another psychotic rambling email to Sarah.

My husband took me out to dinner and told everyone on the ferry and at his work how proud he was of me and that I'd received an offer of representation. (Yes, everyone on that ferry run of the WA state ferries found out before all of you... I apologize. What can I say... my husband is a big fan of me... and it was really sweet.)

By Saturday, I was free and clear to accept Sarah's offer of representation.

I celebrated with Mt. Dew and asked Sarah when I was allowed to start screaming it around online.

I got my contract in an email yesterday and the go-ahead.

I still can't believe it. I'm sure most writers in my position behave with a moderate amount of decorum or something... but... I'm me. I've already put poor Sarah through the labyrinth of psychotic rambling emails... and she still wants to represent me.

This has been a crazy two and a half years... and no matter what happens from this moment on... I feel proud of the fact that I've struggled and grown and become a writer thanks to it. If my first novel had been published, I never would have managed to improve my writing as much as I have. If my first query had netted me an agent, I wouldn't have learned what I have or met some of the wonderful people I've found.

This has been a journey... and sometimes success isn't in the destination but the amazing things you learn along the way and the people who help you get to the next step in the journey. I've queried and interacted with some truly spectacular agents. Sarah is one of them. She "gets" my manuscripts and she's been great about helping me with revisions.

I'm really excited. Hopefully, I'll have more good news eventually... but I finally feel like I'm a professional. I'm not just writing to keep my characters from disrupting my sleep. I'm writing because I'm a writer. I'm not playing at it anymore. I am a writer.

Author comes next.


  1. Awesome - Wendy - you're awesome and you deserve your success.

  2. omg is it odd that your story made me cry? Right at this part:

    There was an email from Sarah... she couldn't put it down. She couldn't put MY NOVEL down.


    No... really.

    Like... really.


    Congratulations to you, it is really so fabulous and you have earned this completely. Your story gives me hope and inspiration to stay with it. This process is l.o.n.g.

    Cannot wait to see your book on my shelf.
    Cheers and good luck with submissions!!

  3. I liked your agent story. It's a nice retelling. I am a little confused about the part where you said Honor isn't real?... ;)
    Love ya.

  4. Wendy,
    Thanks for sharing, this is so exciting! I cant believe someone I know (Well, kinda) has an agent and I was around to (again, kinda) experience it. I'm so happy for you!!

  5. Wendy! Wow. I think it's wonderful that the book your agent loves is the one that comes from your heart. A lot of times the things that are most personal and hardest to share are the ones that have the most power. Beautiful story.


    *throws more virtual confetti (that explodes within five minutes . . . no mess to clean up!)*

    This is a wonderful story, and am so so so happy for you.

  7. Congratulations again, Wendy! well earned!!

    And your story was great! I'm so glad you shared it!

  8. You are so amazing. Like really. I could not put your novel down either ;) (of course I'm not an awesome agent, but still that's how good it was).
    I am so so so happy for you. And this made me laugh (especially at the synopses part) and smile and tear up <3 You deserve this so much! Congratulations again <3 :D *hugs* *gives Mylar balloons, red velvet cupcakes, and TONS of Mt. Dew*

  9. Hey Wendy!!
    I was waiting to hear your story! And I LOVED it!

    I wish you have more moments of pointing at your laptop when nobody's home! (I mean, I can't wait for you to start selling your books!)

    Congratulations again!


  10. I cried too, and I just found your blog just now! Thanks for sharing your story, and good luck to you. Sounds like your book will sell quickly if it's that good...then I can read it! :) Good luck to you.

  11. *sniffles* I'm so happy for you!!!

    And yes, I was one of those Honor freaks =D

  12. I am so excited for you Wendy,
    this is such fantastic news.

    And you know what? I think you poured your heart out into this book and wrote with honesty and truth. I can't wait to see it on the shelves.

    No if I may give you some advice (which I never take myself) get writing on the next book.


  13. Such an awesome story, Wendy! I'm so excited for you!!!!

  14. I popped over from Stephanie's blog.. and wow.. I'm so glad I did... this was just an AMAZING story!

    Congratulations on your fantastic news! :)

  15. Congrats! Loved the whole story, it wasn't too long at all. :) Can't wait to see where this takes you.

  16. Truly Wendy, your story is ginormously inspiring! I can't stop smiling on your behalf. I even told my family although they have no idea who you are. Haha. (They say, Congratulations!)

    I feel proud of you even though I have nothing to do with it, but still. Proud of a co-writer who has journeyed long and hard and who now has an agent. I loved Honor and I can't WAIT to read Secrets of Skin and Stone when (and I say when because I think anyone would be a fool not to publish you) it comes out.

  17. This is so exciting! I can't wait to read your book. :)

  18. I cried. A lot. I'm still crying. *walks away muttering*

  19. *high five* Wendy this is excellent news! Thanks for sharing the story with us. It goes to prove that the story you loved because of its honesty is the one she loved too.

    I can't wait to read it! Congratulations!

  20. Thanks for sharing this amazing story of how, thought fits and starts and lots or negotiation and rewrites, representation happened. It's really encouraging to hear. Especially encouraging is that the risky, close-to-your-heart manuscript is the one that got you there. Congrats!

  21. Mary, thanks! I was just about to delete this and try again with something less than a novel when you responded. LOL. Anyway, thanks. *hugs*

    Corinne, aww... you're so nice. Whenever I read other people's agent stories... I'd get somewhat jealous because I just couldn't see it happening to me. As the revisions on Curse Me A Story lengthened out... I thought, "This is going to somewhat anticlimactic if I sign with Sarah after seven months. Still cool... but meh." I almost mentioned on Twitter after sending Secrets of Skin and Stone out last Monday, "Wouldn't it be great if she got back to me after a few days?" Then, I figured it might jinx it. LOL. (I'm weirdly superstitious.) Anyway, I'm glad you liked my super long retelling.

    Jaime, *whispers* I totally made that up. *looks around* Honor is totally real. She has her own Twitter profile, doesn't she? She's real, dude. I'd definitely not risk her ire by mentioning Reeve, though.

    Melanie, thanks and thank you for helping me with this book. You've always been an awesome friend on Twitter. *hugs*

    Candice, I agree. It's got me looking back into my other books and wondering how I can pour my soul into them, too.

    Ashe, yay!!!!! *hugs* I love that kind of confetti. *tears up* That may be the most thoughtful kind of confetti I've ever heard of. *flaps hands in front of eyes* I'll need a moment... *sniffs*

  22. Amalia, thanks! I really hope you'll have cause for celebration too... for.. *knocks on wood* *crosses fingers* ...for it being President's Day soon. Yeah... that's it.

    KT, thanks sooo much. You and Techie really convinced me to go for it. I honestly was already thinking of backing out of it when you guys got back to me. Thank you.

    Monica, aww... it means a lot to me that in the middle of all your own excitement you stopped by. *hugs* I'm so glad I found you through Michelle. I've loved hearing all your good news on Twitter.

    Nicole, thanks! I'm glad no one has admitted to falling asleep during this really long post. *blushes* LOL. I hope you get to read it someday too.

    Natalie, *hugs* Thanks for coming by my blog when you're so stressed out... and thanks for being such an awesome beta. Honor freaks are the best kind.

    Ebony, actually... typically, I never stop writing, but things have been so chaotic that I haven't even tackled some revisions that have been keeping me up at night. Oy. Anyway, between revisions and WIPs... I'm a writer in my soul and I don't stop writing even if the words are just hovering in my brain ALL the time. Thank you for your congrats here and on Twitter. *hugs*

  23. Jade, thanks! *fist bumps*

    Writing Nut, thanks! Stephanie rocks... Egyptian style. I dropped by your blog and I'm stalking you now... in a nice way. ; )

    Shannon, thank you! I'm excited to see what happens next too. I keep finding myself asking Sarah what happens next because I realized that I've been so focused on getting an agent... I don't know what happens after that. LOL. My questions feel incredibly lame, but she's been awesome about answering them. Anyway, so yeah... hopefully the awesomeness continues now that I've made it to this point.

    Catherine, thanks! You've been a huge help and a really great cheerleader this whole time. I don't know what I would have done without all my fantastic betas. Thank you soooooooooo much. *hugs*

    Miriam, I hope you get to! That would be... wow... weird... and awesome... but also weird. LOL. I can't even imagine how great that would feel to be able to see it published.

    TINA!!!!! *tackle hugs* *gives bacon* Thank you!!!!!

    Charity, exactly. The fact that it STILL makes me cry every time I read a certain part should have tipped me off that others might like it, but... showing the first few people and then Sarah... nearly killed me. Most of my emails to my betas started out with "please tell me this doesn't suck." LOL. I'm not usually that emotionally needy and pathetic, but... I have been with Secrets of Skin and Stone.

    Laurel, thanks. Yeah, I'm somewhat glad it all worked out this way. It means more because it's the story that is closest to me and ripped out my soul to share. Sometimes, things just happen the way they're meant to... even though there are a lot of sucky moments along the way. This really happened the way it was meant to.

    Thanks to everyone who read but didn't comment... or commented on Twitter. *hugs*

  24. Thanks so much for posting this story, Wendy. You give us all hope and I definitely do not know who deserves this more than you. And now *squee* I can say I know ANOTHER soon-to-be-famous author!!!

  25. Yay, Wendy! Can't wait to see this on the shelves!

  26. Julie, thank you! *hugs* *squees* I had your blog up for a while yesterday just so I could listen to the music. It was so nice. (So... basically... sometimes I just use you for your good taste in soothing music. Le sigh. *a little ashamed*)

    Michelle, *hyperventilates* *fans self* *bows* ; ) Thank you for visiting my blog. You are one of the awesome agents I met on Twitter that made this process worth going through... even if it never went anywhere, it would have been worth it. I love how honest you are about your life and how excited you are about your authors. Seriously, any writers not on Twitter... are missing out on a way to really get to know agents like you.

  27. I'm trying really, really hard not to cry here because none of my eye makeup is waterproof, but you are not making it easy on me!! I'm so proud of you, Wendy :)

  28. (And, 'cause you said I could, I told you so!! Lol)

  29. Wow Wendy, what an awesome story! Life can sure twist when we least expect it. I can't wait to see your book on a shelf some day.

    Congratulations again!

  30. SO proud of you!!! *super hugs!!!*

  31. This is such a terrific (and unique) "How I got my agent!" story. Wendy, you truly are a gifted writer - psychopath rambling and all! I can't wait to read your work:)

  32. Laina, thanks!!!

    MC Howe, I hope so... that would be... surreal... but nice.

    Diana, you are the bomb! *super hugs back*

    Tory, thank you for all your comments!

  33. I'm at the beginning of sending out queries. Thanks for your encouragement and story.