How I Got My Literary Agent (A Tale of Heartbreak and Stubbornness)

I just have to lead into this by saying: I NOW HAVE A LITERARY AGENT! And wow, that feels great to say. The path that led to this was not easy. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I am so glad I pushed myself to get to this point.

I’ve known that this is what I wanted ever since I wrote my first book at 15. The book that got me this agent is my 10th. Some of these books are unfit to see the light of day, and I only tried querying a couple of times before I got too intimidated and just focused on writing new things instead. This eventually led me to my latest project, a YA trilogy. And I knew this would be the one.

I wrote the first book late 2013, taking a grand total of two weeks. Yeah. The first draft wasn’t great. I didn’t touch it again until 2014, when I went to the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in February. THAT was an eye-opener. I was one of the youngest writers there (“You’re how old?!” was something I heard a lot) and I certainly felt like it. YA is a new category for me writing-wise, so I spent all my time at the conference learning, taking notes, talking to writers experienced in the category. I was once again intimidated, but energized.

I slunk back into the writing cave and took a grindstone to the book. I felt curiously confident and not-confident at the same time. After a while, I decided to finally send out the dreaded queries.

“It’ll be fine,” I thought. “I’ve gotten rejections before.”

It was not fine.

When I first started writing at 14/15, I had an ego. The first short story I ever submitted got accepted, people praised me all the time in high school, etc. Over the years, however, this ego steadily deflated, until I started to quake behind my manuscripts. As the agent rejections kept rolling in, the more and more my book, my shield, kept shredding in my hands.

I changed my query multiple times. I kept tinkering with the book. I didn’t know what else to do. But then I heard about this awesome thing called Pitch Wars. I entered and was chosen by an amazing mentor, Liz Briggs, who helped me patch the book up. It was that book that I sent to my now-agent, who had initially read the partial and told me, “This isn’t enough. I need more.”

Then followed one of the most stressful months of my life.

stress

I felt like everything around me was being sucked into a vacuum. I suffered panic attacks and days where I didn’t want to do anything but stay in bed. I even wondered what would happen if I just deleted the book completely. It was extreme thinking, but I was in an extreme place, and while I got used to agent rejection, every single one of them still hurt like a dagger between my ribs.

One night, I noticed an agent who had my book had followed me on Twitter.

“That can’t be right,” I said. I tried not to get my hopes up. But in the weeks that followed I noticed a steady interest in my social media presence, and I couldn’t help but get my hopes up.

It got to the point where I actually had a dream about this agent accepting me (on the condition I brought a pot roast to the office. I don’t know, it was a dream, okay?) Little did I know that same day, my literal and figurative dream was about to come true, sans pot roast.

I had always fantasized about getting “The Call,” but when it actually happened, I just couldn’t process it. I was at my day job, stepped away from my phone to get lunch, and came back to the voicemail I had been pining for. I couldn’t eat. I just sat there staring at food that was getting cold.

I mean, I eventually called her back and everything, but those few minutes were totally surreal. I thought, “This can’t be happening to me, the book is horrible, I’m horrible, did she even read it?!”

Yeah, it was happening. To me.

No pot roast required.

You bet your ass I celebrated.

I contacted all the other agents to get their verdict, waited some more, and finally made my decision—which I’d known all along from the gut feeling I had since that first phone call. I am happy to say that I am now represented by Laura Crockett and Uwe Stender at TriadaUS Literary Agency, who have shown me nothing but excitement and kindness so far in this crazy turn of events.

While it’s not the last step in the journey, it’s still a big one, and I’m thrilled to have advocates at my side to help me the rest of the way.

Somewhere in the mess of time, 15-year-old me is throwing 25-year-old me a smirk and saying, “See? I told you.”

 

Stats:

Querying time: 11 months

Total queries sent: 44

# of partials requested: 7

# of fulls requested: 12

Offers: 2

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Pitch Wars: Why I Wrote My Book

As part of a fun Pitch Wars 2014 blog hop, a question was asked of all the mentors’ picks: Why did you write this book?

In the spring of 2010 I did something I thought I would be too terrified to do: I studied abroad for four months in London. And it was terrifying. It was one of the most memorable periods of my life peppered with great memories, but the chaos of public transport and the panic-inducing necessity of interacting with strangers ALL THE TIME took its toll.

But there are these little moments I have, snapshots in my memory, that transcend all the anxiety and confusion I felt. One of those moments is seeing Big Ben for the first time, and the handful of times I managed to see it after.

It is absolutely beautiful. Not quite as big as I thought it would be, but still pretty big, and the details in the tower are insane. I don’t know why, but whenever I spotted it in the distance, or stared at it across the Thames when I went to the Embankment, I felt calm. That clock tower centered me. It fascinated the hell out of me.

A few years later, jump to 2013. There was a contest going on at that time for unconventional love stories. So I thought, well, why not? As I was driving to work, I thought about the little golden keychain I have of Big Ben, which I bought when I was in London. And then I got the idea for a book.

What if the world relied on clock towers like Big Ben to run time? What if there are mechanics who have to maintain these towers? And what if one of these mechanics meets the physical embodiment of a clock tower? And–here it is–they fall in love?

Oh yeah, and they’re both boys. In Victorian England.

I couldn’t concentrate on work the entire day. I ran back home and started writing the first scene immediately. It’s a story that was bizarre to me, a category and genre I’ve never written before. But I really, really liked it. And then I loved it.

After some big revisions, I entered TIMEKEEPER into Pitch Wars without much hope. It’s a weird story, and maybe I’m so used to writing adult novels that my YA voice sucks. Then my mentor, Elizabeth Briggs, wrote me and said she loved it. I ended up becoming her alternate, but due to some good news received by her first mentee, I graduated to her mentee instead. Thanks to her, I’ve made some awesome revisions to the book that help make it more well-rounded and complete.

I’m ridiculously excited about this trilogy. My characters get to explore not only the well-trod yet always fascinating Victorian London, but also India during the rule of the British Raj. It’s a diverse YA book with a gay main character, but focusing more on his adventures rather than the fact that he’s gay. Book Three is (slowly) coming along, so while I continuously work on Book One, I’m still chipping out the sculpture of this story. Pitch Wars has been so helpful in that regard, and I’m really proud to be a part of it!

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Pitch Wars!

Hello!

I’m really excited to be taking part in Pitch Wars this year! There’s such a great range of mentors/agents taking part this year, which is frankly Quite Intimidating, but also Really, Really Awesome. Thank you so much to the mentors for volunteering their time!

A list of random Tara tidbits:

– I’m a Northern California native who likes her burritos with extra guacamole

– I am half Indian, which means I can get Indian food whenever I want

– I am a Disney nut

– Cake is the best (that’s not really a tidbit, more of a fact of life)

– I can and will get into passionate debates about any and all of your fandoms

 

Okay, gifs aside, I’ve been (“seriously”) writing for over ten years now, and the amazing thing about writing is that every year you can see yourself improving. It’s such an ever-evolving beast. That being said, I’ve embarked on quite a few writing projects over the years, but for Pitch Wars I’m focusing on my most current project, which is:

*drumroll*

TIMEKEEPER – A young adult historical novel set in an alternate steampunk Victorian England, where clocks control time and clock mechanics (like my MC) are in charge of keeping them running.

I’m really, really, really passionate about diversity in books, especially young adult books, so I’m proud to say that my main character is gay. And may or may not fall in love with another boy. Who may or may not be entirely human. *cough*

A little about my work ethic:

When I tell people my daily schedule, they look at my like I’m nuts. I work full-time in a law firm, which can be pretty draining, and then I go home and spend maybe 3+ hours writing/editing. And when the weekend rolls around, I’ve been known to spend 5+ hours each day working on whatever project I’m currently slapping together.

I go out of my way to demand bully politely ask beta readers to give me feedback on my work. I am not a stranger to harsh critique (although I may need large quantities of chocolate afterwards). I believe honest, thoughtful critique is imperative to bringing your writing to the next level, so I never shirk away from it.

So, in other words, I’m in it to win it.

Thanks again to the mentors, and good luck to everyone! We are awesome!

For more great mentee bios, go here.

Follow me on Twitter: @EachStarAWorld