Our Blogmaster extraordinaire, Lindsay Bandy, becomes the interviewee in this Pocono Retreat Success story.
So Lindsay, I know you signed with Heather Flaherty, from the Bent Agency in the beginning of January! Now we want details, and lots of them.
When did you first meet Heather?
Lindsay: Well, we met “virtually” via the Eastern Penn Points Café, and then we met in person at the Poconos in May of 2015.
How did that One-to-One Critique go at Pocono?
Lindsay: Well, I actually didn’t have a one-to-one critique with Heather. I had a critique with editor Laura Whitaker, and another with agent Ammi-Joan Paquette. It was interesting, because their critiques of my first ten pages were similar, but very different from the last round of critiques I had received several months before. So, first I panicked. Then, I shut myself up in the lodge, and worked feverishly into the night on a new beginning using their advice. I was able to show Laura Whitaker my re-worked beginning before we left. (It wasn’t another critique session, and it’s not something that the agents/editors always have time for, but I ended up being lucky and getting to hang out with Laura again and give her a gander at my first page.) I said, “Is this what you had in mind?” And she said YESSSS!! and hugged me. We hi-fived. It was a happy day. And that advice carried me through into landing an agent!
Do you think meeting Heather at the Pocono Retreat helped seal the deal for you? What was it like being able to hang out with her during the Retreat? You’ve attended a number of different writing events through the years, did you get the same Faculty FaceTime at these other events?
Lindsay: The unique thing about the Pocono Retreat is that you get to just hang out with the faculty in addition to listening to them speak/teach/critique your work. So, Heather and I got to eat a few meals together and talk about our husbands, traveling, movies, and our favorite books. She liked my tattoo! And we got to talk about my projects casually. She was very excited about the things I had going on, and she gave me her card so that once I was ready, I could send my manuscript to her directly.
I also took her workshop: “Show, Don’t Tell.” She had so many examples of what she, as an agent, would cut from expository text, or how it could be re-worded to be more concise. She showed a lot of examples from books like THE HUNGER GAMES, where a single sentence does a ton of work in showing. I asked a few questions during the workshop that pertained directly to my editor/agent critiques, and she had answers!! I took crazy notes and went home to do a full revision with these strategies, and my Pocono critiques, in mind.
Describe the journey from the Pocono Retreat to signing with her. How often did you check in to see how she was doing?
Lindsay: After I did that full revision, I sent a query letter and my first pages. Heather then requested the full manuscript, and I waited. Good agents are crazy busy people, what with all those queries and their client manuscripts! I checked in after a month, and she assured me that she hadn’t forgotten about me or the manuscript. I had a few more full requests in the meantime, waited another two months, checked in again politely, telling her how much I would love to work with her! She got back to me right away and said she was still reading.
Then, I entered one of my picture book manuscripts into #PBParty. I made it to the agent/editor round and got three requests. I sent the full manuscript with a query letter in which I also briefly described my other projects (more picture books and YA fiction). One of the editors who requested my picture book said that her colleague in the YA department wanted to see my novel. In less than a week, I had an e-mailed offer of publication from this mid-size press! I also had an offer of representation from another agent. Then, I had a decision to make: Do I go with a smaller press and agency? Is this a good career move? I had two contracts sitting in my e-mail. My parents took me to the Olive Garden.
The next step was to notify the agents that had my full manuscript that I had had an offer. I was given 30 days to make my decision about the contracts, so of course, right away I e-mailed Heather. She got back to me right away and said she’d hurry to finish reading so I could make a proper decision. A few days later, we talked on the phone. She advised me to forgo the contract with the smaller publisher and do some revisions with her to tweak my many manuscripts for major house submissions. I trusted her instincts and advice. Having met her and knowing that she was from a respected agency made a big difference. I got advice from many of my SCBWI friends (yay SCBWI!!) and decided to take a risk….I turned down two other contracts! We did a “revise and resubmit,” but with close contact. This meant I had to turn down another full manuscript request from an agent in the meantime. I loved her suggestions, and I felt confident that the manuscript was getting better. (She’s great! Did I mention that?) I sent her my revision, and then….
SHE SIGNED ME!!!!!
What are the next steps for you?
Lindsay: We’re finishing up a few tweaks, and we both can’t wait to get it out there!
You’ve got your agent, you working on revisions, do you think you’ll continue to attend workshops and conferences? Why? (You see where I’m going with this, right;)
Lindsay: YES!! There is always more to learn. Each manuscript presents its own challenges, and every time I come away from a workshop, I work like a maniac applying what I learned. (In the best way….like the fun kind of crazy.) It’s always something different, and it always sheds new light on what I’m working on. Plus, I like other writers. We’re the same kind of fun-crazy. It’s good for morale.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Lindsay: I often hear my PopPop’s voice in my head: “Patience is Wirtue!” (Yes, a “w” instead of a “v” – he likes to talk Pennsylvania Dutchy. And Japanese. And Spanish. But that’s another story.). He used to say this to me when I was a kid, and actually, he still says it to me all the time. The other thing he and my grandma would always say was, “Lindsay, don’t be so shashlick!!!” They used this word to mean “impatient or reckless.” However, I’ve since googled it and realized it’s actually a word for an Eastern European kebab….
So, take my PopPop’s advice: DON’T BE SHASHLICK! Settle in the for the long haul. Commit yourself to taking suggestions, revising, and parting with lovely words that just don’t work. It’s not just about publication. It’s about becoming a master at what you do, and for that, you need the “wirtue” of patience. Every step involves waiting. So sing some Tom Petty, and then sing “Don’t worry, be happy.” Or maybe “Hakuna Matata.” It helps. Trust me.
Thanks Lindsay! Can’t wait to see you at the Pocono Retreat!
SCBWI members: Pocono Retreat Registration is still open, but filling fast. Be sure to visit Pocono Retreat Registration to reserve your spot! Hope to see you there!
There are still critiques available at the Pocono Retreat–Deadline for Manuscript is March 11. So hurry!