How I Got My Agent - My Story
Nearly 20 years ago I declared to my family and friends that I wanted to write children’s books so, I wrote one. I expected publishers to recognize the brilliance of my story and publish it right away. That didn't happen and at the time I didn't know why. I wanted to know how to make publishers take notice of my work. With that question in mind I headed to my local library and did research the good old-fashioned way. I found a few "How To" books on writing , but not the wonderful step-by-step instruction manual I was hoping for. I fiddled around with writing for the next few years. Throughout this time in my life writing was a hobby and publication was a dream that I didn’t really know how to pursue. As my family grew my writing time whittled to near nothing. Once in a blue moon someone would ask me about it. I would shrug and wonder how in the world they remembered I wrote when I had almost forgotten myself. After my fourth child was born I decided to roll up my sleeves and get back to work on my dream. I remember sitting at in our home office googling how to write children’s books and feeling frustrated that I still couldn’t find that step-by-step instruction manual when I came across an article written by an agent. I can’t remember the name of the agent or where the article was posted, but I will never forget the advice that was given. She said that if there was anything about the publishing process that angers or frustrates you, focus on that. She went on to explain that it is human nature to feel anger when we face a weakness so if something angers you that is your weakness. The only way to strengthen a weakness is to focus on it, work on it, make it your bit… well you know what I mean. So, I focused. I realized that no one was going to hand me that oh so coveted step-by-step manual. I was going to have to dig a little deeper. I couldn’t simply stay in the comfort of my home and expect to get results. I was going to have to research. I was going to have to learn. I was going to have to…gulp…talk to people.
That didn't happen right away. A few more years and one more child later I found myself once again searching google. This time my search was focused on self publishing. I figured if a publishing house wasn't interested in my work I would publish it myself. On one of the self publishing sites an ad popped up for SCBWI - The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I clicked and never looked back. Two years later I signed with an agent!
But how did that happen?
By facing my weakness and getting out of my comfort zone. I went to my first SCBWI meeting not knowing what to expect. I drove an hour and half to the meeting and as usual I was late (hey I've got 5 kids remember and I will use them as an excuse for my tardiness for as long I can). I walked into a room full of strangers and made a conspicuous walk to my seat. The event featured picture book author Tammi Sauer. I was captivated. I left feeling energized and ready to conquer that publication mountain.
The next month I ventured on another hour and half journey to an SCBWI meeting where I found myself volunteering to write a blog post for the chapter's website (What!) Talk about getting out my comfort zone. The process was brutal. I didn't realize I would be critiqued on a blog post, but critiqued I was which was not easy on my eago. Several revisions later the post was finally published on the SCBWI North Texas website. This experience taught a very important lesson...take criticism well.
I didn't complain about the endless changes I was asked to make. They really did make my work better. In the end the chapter's Regional Advisor wrote me a lovely email thanking me for my post and complimenting my work. She even offered me the position on the leadership team. I jumped at the chance.
I continued attending meetings, joined a critique group, and made an effort to make friends. Within a year I had worked my way up the leadership ladder and became the Regional Advisor for my SCBWI chapter. This is where things get interesting.
One of my new SCBWI friends invited me to writing workshop in Kansas City (we live in Texas). I went. The keynote speaker was Marisa Corvisiero founder of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. I introduced my self as the Regional Advisor of SCBWI North Texas and invited her to Dallas to do a workshop. She accepted. Part of the deal was that she offer critiques to our members. I submitted one of my manuscripts for her to critique. She made a few suggestions and asked me to resubmit. I did. She made a few more suggestions and asked me to resubmit. I did. She made even more suggestions and asked me to resubmit...you see what happening here. As they say third time's the charm and she offered representation! We have since amicably parted ways but the experience and connections I made have proved. invaluable.
I would never have gotten this far if I hadn't gotten out of my chair and did the leg work. With each SCBWI meeting I gained more knowledge. With each critique group meeting my writing improved. With each leadership position I put myself in direct contact with agents and editors. It all paid off.
I'll leave you with this; focus on your weakness. For me it was getting out of my comfort zone and I am so glad I did.
Jackie Kruzie is a children's librarian and picture book author. She lives on a farm in North Texas with her husband where they raise 5 kids, 3 horses, a cacophony of chickens, several of cows and goats, and 1 persnickety cat named Godzilla.