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Trying to learn about publishing can be overwhelming. Whether you are just starting out, or have been querying for awhile, there's so much to it. Awhile ago I made a resource that I shared on twitter. It is called "The Roadmap to Getting Traditionally Published." Since then I've had many people link to the resource, and several people reach out to ask if I still had it available.


So, I decided to share it here to make it easier to find.


As a disclaimer, this is just one route to traditional publishing. There are other ways to go about it, and many other paths you can take. This just happens to be the most common route. So here we go. The roadmap to getting traditonally published:


(A plaintext version can be found: here)




I hope this resource helps. Trying to write a story and start on this path can be so overwhelming. But you can do it! If you have a story to tell, don't give up. Keep writing and keep trying.


If you have questions, I'm always willing to try and help. You can reach out to me through my contact form, or find me on twitter. I'm no expert. I don't have all the answers and I never will. However, I do love sharing what I've learned on this journey.

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Here’s a link to a plaintext version of this post for accessibility.



If there’s one thing I love more than writing STEM, it's reading STEM.


For those who haven’t heard that term before, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It’s a popular term in the education world and in the literary world as more and more books are released with STEM themes. As an engineering teacher, and a writer of books about engineering and robotics, STEM stories are some of my favorites. Even better when you add in art and make them STEAM stories.


Though, it wasn’t always that way.


I remember a year ago, searching desperately for any good robotics and STEM fiction books to use in my classroom. I found many picture books, but not many middle grade books. For awhile, I began to think that STEM middle grade didn’t exist.


Then I found one.


And another. And one more.


Once I found those, it was like a door opened up. I found so many more than I ever dreamed of. It turns out the kidlit world is full of amazing middle grade STEM books.


This is a list I've compiled of all the STEM based fiction I can find in the middle grade category. Many of these books feature STEM and STEAM skills that mirror what we have in our world now, or look at the possibilities of the near future. They feature kids who feel real, kids who are going through all sorts of struggles and challenges, yet find solace in the skills and knowledge they learn through science, technology, engineering, and math. These are books that will add so much to any bookshelf.


Please note: I have not personally read all these books, though it is my goal to one day do so! Also, I know there’s books I have missed. If you know of a STEM book not on this list, please let me know and I can add it. Descriptions of the books were pulled from goodreads.


The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller



How do you grow a miracle?


For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.


Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.


Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?




The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty



Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test — middle school!


Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?



Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski



Mary Murphy feels like she’s drowning. Her violent father is home from prison, and the social worker is suspicious of her new bruises. An aunt she’s never met keeps calling. And if she can’t get a good grade on her science project, she’ll fail her favorite class.


But Mary doesn’t want to be a victim anymore. She has a plan: build a real submarine, like the model she’s been making with Kip Dwyer, the secretly sweet class clown.


Gaining courage from her heroine, Joan of Arc, Mary vows to pilot a sub across the Chesapeake Bay, risking her life in a modern crusade to save herself.



The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L Holm



Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer. Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?


Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?



The Line Tender by Kate Allen



Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, preparing to swim with a Great White, when she died suddenly. Lucy was eight. Since then Lucy and her father have done OK—thanks in large part to her best friend, Fred, and a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport.


On one steamy day, the tide brings a Great White—and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was “meaningful” but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother’s unfinished research. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she’ll finally be able to look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s left to be discovered.



The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin



After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting--things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.




A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Joy McCullough



Sutton is having robot problems. Her mini-bot is supposed to be able to get through a maze in under a minute, but she must have gotten something wrong in the coding. Which is frustrating for a science-minded girl like Sutton—almost as frustrating as the fact that her mother probably won’t be home in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday.


Luis spends his days writing thrilling stories about brave kids, but there’s only so much inspiration you can find when you’re stuck inside all day. He’s allergic to bees, afraid of dogs, and has an overprotective mom to boot. So Luis can only dream of daring adventures in the wild.


Sutton and Luis couldn’t be more different from each other. Except now that their parents are dating, these two have to find some common ground. Will they be able to navigate their way down a path they never planned on exploring?



Lexi-Magill and the Teleportation Tournament by Kim Long



Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament--the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve science-based puzzles. She needs the prize money if she wants to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. Added bonus: she'll be able to reconnect with her best friend Haley.


But Lexi's two teammates put a wrench in her plans. When one misreads a clue that lands the team in a castle in Germany, and the other loses her teleportation medallion in Poland, Lexi wonders what she's gotten herself into. Struggling to keep her team under control as the race rages on, Lexi not only has to figure out how to get back on course (literally), but she must decide how far she's willing to go to win, and who her real friends are. With riddles to solve and messages to decode, this interactive read won't disappoint!




What Stars are Made Of by Sarah Allen



Twelve-year-old Libby Monroe is great at science, being optimistic, and talking to her famous, accomplished friends (okay, maybe that last one is only in her head). She’s not great at playing piano, sitting still, or figuring out how to say the right thing at the right time in real life. Libby was born with Turner Syndrome, and that makes some things hard. But she has lots of people who love her, and that makes her pretty lucky.


When her big sister Nonny tells her she’s pregnant, Libby is thrilled—but worried. Nonny and her husband are in a financial black hole, and Libby knows that babies aren’t always born healthy. So she strikes a deal with the universe: She’ll enter a contest with a project about Cecelia Payne, the first person to discover what stars are made of. If she wins the grand prize and gives all that money to Nonny’s family, then the baby will be perfect. Does she have what it takes to care for the sister that has always cared for her? And what will it take for the universe to notice?




The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio



Lou Bulosan-Nelson is going to build her dream. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother's house in San Francisco, and longs for a place of her own where she can escape her lovable but large extended Filipino family. Lou has a talent for woodshop class and creating projects, and plans to build a tiny house, 100 square feet, all her own, on land that she inherited from her dad, who died before she was born. Then Lou discovers it's not so easy to build one, but she won't give up on her dream—and her friends and family won’t either. This heartwarming coming-of-age story explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a house a true home.



We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly



Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties.


Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.


The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project—they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.




Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido



In a new city, at a new school, twelve-year-old Emmy has never felt more out of tune. Things start to look up when she takes her first coding class, unexpectedly connecting with the material—and Abigail, a new friend—through a shared language: music. But when Emmy gets bad news about their computer teacher, and finds out Abigail isn’t being entirely honest about their friendship, she feels like her new life is screeching to a halt. Despite these obstacles, Emmy is determined to prove one thing: that, for the first time ever, she isn’t a wrong note, but a musician in the world’s most beautiful symphony.



Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner



Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.


They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.


At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?


But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!



Clues to The Universe by Christina Li



The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.


Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.


Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?




The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch



Loops, variables, input/output - Lucy can't wait to get started with the new coding club at school. Finally, an after school activity that she's really interested in. But Lucy's excitement turns to disappointment when she's put into a work group with girls she barely knows. All she wanted to do was make an app that she believes will help someone very special to her.


Suddenly, Lucy begins to get cryptic coding messages and needs some help translating them. She soon discovers that coding - and friendship - takes time, dedication, and some laughs!




Shine! By JJ and Chris Grabenstein



Who do you want to be? asks Mr. Van Deusen. And not when you grow up. Right here, right now. Shine on! might be the catchphrase of twelve-year-old Piper's hero--astronaut, astronomer, and television host Nellie Dumont Frisse--but Piper knows the truth: some people are born to shine, and she's just not one of them. That fact has never been clearer than now, since her dad's new job has landed them both at Chumley Prep, a posh private school where everyone seems to be the best at something and where Piper definitely doesn't fit in.




See You In the Cosmos by Jack Cheng



11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he'll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.




Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce



Ellie is an engineer. With a tool belt strapped over her favorite skirt (who says you can’t wear a dress and have two kinds of screwdrivers handy, just in case?), she invents and builds amazing creations in her backyard workshop. Together with her best friend Kit, Ellie can make anything. As Kit’s birthday nears, Ellie doesn’t know what gift to make until the girls overhear Kit’s mom talking about her present--the dog Kit always wanted! Ellie plans to make an amazing doghouse, but her plans grow so elaborate that she has to enlist help from the neighbor boys and crafty girls, even though the two groups don’t get along. Will Ellie be able to pull off her biggest project yet, all while keeping a secret from Kit?




The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten by Krista Van Dolzer



Twelve-year-old painter Esther can't wait to attend Camp Vermeer, the most prestigious art camp around. But when her stepdad accidentally drives up the wrong mountain, she lands at Camp Archimedes—a math camp!


Determined to prove herself to the other campers, she tackles a brain-teaser that’s supposed to be impossible—and solves it in a single day. But not everyone is happy about it . . . someone wants her out of camp at any cost, and starts leaving cryptic, threatening notes all over the camp’s grounds. Esther doesn’t know who to trust—will she solve this riddle before it’s too late?




Spin the Golden Lightbulb by Jackie Yeager



It's the year 2071 and eleven year-old Kia Krumpet is determined to build her 67 inventions, but she won't have the opportunity to unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor's Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends at school, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. After she and four of her classmates are selected to compete for a spot at PIPS, they travel by aero-bus to Camp Piedmont to solve a task against forty-nine other state teams to earn their place at the best inventor's school in the country.




Click’d by Tamara Stone



Allie Navarro can't wait to show her best friends the app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. CLICK'D pairs users based on common interests and sends them on a fun (and occasionally rule-breaking) scavenger hunt to find each other. And it's a hit. By the second day of school, everyone is talking about CLICK'D.


Watching her app go viral is amazing. Leaderboards are filling up! Everyone's making new friends. And with all the data Allie is collecting, she has an even better shot at beating her archenemy, Nathan, at the upcoming youth coding competition. But when Allie discovers a glitch that threatens to expose everyone's secrets, she has to figure out how to make things right, even if that means sharing the computer lab with Nathan. Can Allie fix her app, stop it from doing any more damage, and win back the friends it hurt-all before she steps on stage to present CLICK'D to the judges?




Bees on The Roof by Robbie Shell



Sam needs to find a seventh-grade science fair project and a way to save the restaurant where his father works. When he enrolls three friends in an effort to raise bees on a hotel roof in New York City, the complications multiply. Bee sting allergies, a great bee die-off, a rival team's cheating, a mysteriously reclusive science teacher, and Sam's romantic feelings for a classmate make the bee project anything but simple. This story includes lots of facts about bees and Colony Collapse Disorder.




Solving For M by Jennifer Swender



When Mika starts fifth grade at the middle school, her neat life gets messy. Separated from old friends and starting new classes, Mika is far from her comfort zone. And math class is the most confusing of all, especially when her teacher Mr. Vann assigns math journals. Art in math? Who's ever heard of such a thing?


But when challenges arise at home, Mika realizes there are no easy answers. Maybe, with some help from friends, family, and one unique teacher, a math journal can help her work out problems, and not just the math ones.




The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by kate Messner



In the mountains of rural Vermont, fall is a season of beauty and transformation . . . but not for Gianna Z. With less than one week to collect twenty-five leaves for a science project, her spot at cross-country sectionals is in serious peril. Plus with a dad who runs a funeral parlor out of the basement, a grandma who keeps losing her teeth, and a rival trying to steal her spot on the team, Gee just wishes life could leave her alone to finish her project. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, suddenly some things seem more important than projects and races.




The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner



Kirby "Zig" Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people--especially his father, who he hasn't seen in over a year. When his dad's latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo--a garage sale GPS unit--for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren't always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there's more than one set of coordinates for home.



The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly



Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger.


As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.




The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic



Wishes, magic, and dares abound when a tween math whiz tries to fit in at her new school by wishing on a magical cat clock only to suffer catastrophic consequences! Perfect for fans of Sarah Mlynowski, Wendy Mass, and Ingrid Law.


Megan Meyers has a foolproof plan to reinvent herself at her new middle school. But when she’s dared to make something exciting happen by the end of her first day, Megan gets stuck in the middle of an epic rivalry between the two most popular girls in the seventh grade. And totally panics! Megan’s reputation has always been more science-geek-meets-Humane-Society-volunteer than party-planner-fun-maker. So, with nothing to lose as her classroom’s strange cat clock chimes 11:11 a.m., Megan makes a wish. And it comes true! In the form of an enchanted teen magazine that promises back-to-school makeovers and the secrets to winning over friends and crushes.


But each wish comes with its own Pinocchio-esque side effects, and soon Megan finds herself coughing up hairballs as she makes bigger and bigger promises to her new friends. Now, if she can’t impress the school with the most spectacular kickoff event for Spirit Week they’ve ever seen—without using magic—her social life will be doomed and Megan may remain feline and friendless forever.


Parker Bell and The Science of Friendship by Cynthia Platt



Budding scientist Parker Bell really wants to win the school Science Triathlon and follow in the footsteps of her idols, chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and astronaut Mae Jemison. She’s sure that if she teams up with her trivia whiz BFF, Cassie, they will dominate the Science Bee, Egg Drop, and Animal Adaptation Presentation. When Cassie invites her new friend, Theo, to join their team, Parker is worried—that Theo won't help them win and might steal her best friend. As the three work together, Parker learns that you don’t have to be the best to be a real scientist and a good friend.




What Happens Next by Claire Swinarski



Astronomy-obsessed Abby McCourt should be thrilled about the solar eclipse her small town of Moose Junction is about to witness, but she’s not. After her older sister Blair was sent away for an eating disorder, Abby has been in a funk.


Desperate to dull the pain her sister’s absence has left, she teams up with a visiting astronomer to help track down his long-lost telescope. Though this is supposed to take Abby’s mind off the distance between her and Blair, what she finds may bring her closer to her sister than she ever thought possible.




Summer Set in Motion by Tracy Borgmeyer



Science camp is all about learning the laws of motion but someone wants to put the brakes on Camp Eureka for good. Can 9 year old science whiz Halley Harper find the culprit by using her knack of turning ordinary into the extraordinary? Will she find out who is sabotaging the experiments before anyone else gets hurt and camp closes forever?



The Secret Notebook by D.A. D’Aurelio



Riley Green is certain her lie detector pen will improve her status in a school full of kids from the most powerful families of Washington, D.C. But her plan collapses when her invention idea is stolen, her favorite teacher goes missing, and mysterious threats begin to appear around capital. Before vanishing, Riley's teacher entrusts her with her most prized possession, the lost notebook of Nikola Tesla, legendary inventor and scientist. Now Riley and her friends must protect the notebook from thieves who want to steal the details it holds about a dangerous invention. When Riley discovers another secret, she must decode a mysterious message before it's too late. Her teacher's life depends on it.



Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos



Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger--it's the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.


While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can't express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova's new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she's counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she'll see Bridget again. Because Bridget said, "No matter what, I'll be there. I promise."


---


There you have it. These are all the MG STEM books I’ve found so far. I KNOW there are more out there, and as I find more, I plan to edit and add to this post. Know of a good STEM book I missed? Send me a message or comment to let me know!


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Hello all. So I’m bad at blog posts. Really bad. Which is why we are just going to jump right in. Here’s my how I got my agent post:



I wrote my book in June, finished it in August, and got my agent in September.



Yep. That’s it.


Okay, not really. In fact, that is only a fraction of the story. There’s a long history before this particular whirlwind and I hope sharing about it will inspire others. Or at least entertain you.


As a disclaimer: This post is long. Like, really long. If you want to skip all the struggles and the writing journey I went through and get right to the part where I find my agent, search for "The Day Everything Changed". Anyhow, here we go.



Where It All Started

It all started when I was in third grade and realized I liked writing…


Oops. Too far back? Okay, okay.


It all started when I was in college…


I always loved writing, and in the back of my head, I had a vague idea that I might want to be a writer one day. Like, a REAL PROFESSIONAL writer with books on the shelves and stuff. What it took to get there, I had no idea.


But my freshman year of college, in 2010, somebody told me about NaNoWriMo and I decided to go for it. I wrote a superhero story and was so proud of it. I finished it up, read through it once for edits, and decided it was ready to be published!


Oh, what a sweet, naïve child I was.


At that point I realized I had no idea just how one got published. I started to do some research, and that’s when I learned you don’t just send stuff to publishers. You need a thing called an agent? You have to write a query? What even is a query?


Despite my questions, I wasn’t too worried. After all, I had my book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo and it was brilliant. Who wouldn’t want this book?


I sent it out to a few agents, using a form letter titled “Dear Agent”. I’m pretty sure there might have been typos in my query too. I was hot stuff, y’all.


Shockingly I got rejections. Every single response was a rejection.


It devastated me. All those rejections felt like a knife to the heart. I stopped querying that book pretty soon after.


Truth be told, my superhero story was terrible. I don’t regret writing it. I learned a lot about writing from it and had a ton of fun. Buuuuuut… it was bad.



Moving On

I recovered quickly from my dissapointment. I had IDEAS for other stories. Throughout my four years of college I wrote a lot of first drafts. I probably wrote the first draft of 5 or 6 different stories, some of which I still have, and some of which are lost forever.


I had a MG fantasy story about a girl in a kingdom with an evil tyrant king. I tried querying that one too (I think I sent 4 or 5 queries for it) and then gave up. I had a YA story about a reporter in a fantasy world trying to find an adventuring party to tag along with. I even had a post apocalyptic story. My writing was all over the place, but I never really went past the first drafts.


At the time, I knew something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know HOW to get past that first draft. I didn’t know anything about beta readers or critique partners. Nor did I understand the importance of editing and revising. I still had a long ways to go.



The Story of My Heart

During my senior year of college, I wrote a Steampunk MG Fantasy. I loved this story and spent a year perfecting it. This time I had beta readers. Kind of. My close friends read it for me. They gave me feedback and I used that to revise and rewrite until I thought it was perfect.


In 2015 I was ready to query. I sent out a TON of queries. Most of them were form queries, but this time I at least remembered to include the agent’s actual name on them. I blasted queries out.


And then came the rejections. One after the other. Some queries got no response, but those that did? It was all rejections.


I stopped querying and went back to revising. I spent the next few years revising and rewriting it. At the same time, I was going into my second year of teaching. While I would work on writing here and there on the side, most my focus went to learning how to be a decent teacher. Writing took a back seat for a couple years. Occasionally I’d convince myself it was ready, send out a query or two, then go right back to revising.


I wrote a few other books too, including one about a Tree School and a silly parody of fairy tales. But in the end, I always returned to my Steampunk Fantasy.


Then finally, I was ready. I had revised it, reworked it, and even had a couple more friends read it. Everyone seemed to like it. In early 2019 I sent out another massive round of queries. This time I researched agents, personalized the queries, and did everything I could to do things right. I sent out nearly thirty queries… and nothing. No luck.



The Next Steps

At that point I realized that I needed to do something different. I decided to try and get more involved with other writers, to find whatever that missing puzzle piece was that would make my writing successful. My husband (then fiancé) encouraged me to join SCBWI where I met some of my first writing friends. I found a local critique group that met weekly and joined it. I finally polished off my old, mostly abandoned twitter account, and got active in writing twitter.


At the same time, the world seemed to fall apart. The pandemic started, and suddenly I found myself at home trying to social distance. Without my friends and half my hobbies, I had a lot of time on my hands.


So I wrote. I wrote several chapters of a scifi story. I wrote first draft of a YA fantasy that I might or might not come back to. Then I was getting ready to revise my YA fantasy when an idea hit me.


Did you know there aren’t many fiction MG books about robotics? Most of the ones that exist are either scifi like ones where the robots are characters, or historical type books. There’s not many books where kids are interacting with modern day robotics, and there is only one book I could find that deals with tournament robotics.


I wanted something I could read with my students, and I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t find it. So I decided to write it.


This was supposed to be a small side project. Something to work on just a little while revising my YA fantasy. But the idea grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.


The Day Everything Changed

I started writing THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS on June 1st. I wrote all the time, every day. I wrote at least a chapter a day, if not more. I spent around 10 to 14 hours a day working on the story, relentlessly. I used writing to keep all my fears and pandemic stress at bay. I used writing to ignore all the things that I couldn’t control, like what was going to happen with my teaching job, and if I was going to have to delay my wedding again.


I’d bring my chapters to my critique groups (I was part of two by that point) and have them pick them apart. I had an outline that I changed and revised as my critique group spotted flaws with the story. I forced myself to keep writing, even as I also went back and fixed it up.


I don’t recommend this approach. For most people, it’s best to just write the first draft before getting into edits. Having critique when you are still telling yourself the story can stall writers out. I don’t know why I was able to do it this way, but I was. And it really helped me. By the time I finished the first draft of THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS, it was actually pretty good.


So, I sent it off to beta readers and had a slight emotional breakdown the very next day. Turns out when you use your writing to keep your stress and fears and emotions at bay, they all come crashing back the moment you don’t have writing to turn to. I might have scared my husband a little. It was the first time he ever saw me spend an entire day as a sobbing mess.


But then I picked myself up, went to my first day back at school, and forced myself to keep going. Soon enough, the beta reader feedback started rolling in and I was once again able to lean on my writing to distract myself. I made revisions and changes based on feedback, then sent it out to a second round of beta readers.


Once again, I was getting great feedback. All the changes were minor things. Fix a typo here. Clarify one small detail there. At that point, I realized I was ready.


Only three months had passed since I started writing THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS.


I guess I found what I truly wanted to write.


So, now it was time to query. I had an amazing and supportive group of writer friends that helped me get my query and synopsis ready. There was an event called PitMad coming up, where writers could pitch their story in a tweet, and agents like any pitches that catch their attention. I decided to take part.


PitMad rolled around, and my initial tweet did far better than I ever could have dreamed. It got retweeted over a hundred and sixty times, and at the end of the day, I had five agent likes. One agent wanted a full manuscript to read, another wanted my first 50 pages, and the other three wanted the first few chapters with a query.


That night I sent out all the material, as well as five more query letters.


When I woke up the next morning, I had a request for a full from one of the queries. I was off to a strong start, far stronger than I had ever dreamed. I spent the next day constantly checking my inbox, hoping against hope that I’d get more news. I knew it was silly. After all, things don’t move that fast, right?


Except when they do.


The next day, just two days after PitMad ended, I had an email. It was from the Emily Forney, the agent who requested a full during PitMad. She finished reading my manuscript and wanted to connect with me. I spent the day bouncing between excited and panicking. I got the call scheduled and spent the next two days wondering if it would actually be THE call.


I must have thought about a million other things it could be.


Maybe it was a revise and resubmit?


Maybe she just wanted to ask about the weather in AZ?


Maybe I imagined the ENTIRE thing?


Well, the day of the call rolled around… and it was indeed THE call. Emily was lovely. She saw to the heart of my story and was eager to represent me. As we talked about edits and plots and the characters, I realized she loved my story as much as I did, and right then I knew I wanted her to be my agent.


After that call I notified the rest of the agents with my material and gave them two weeks to respond. Those two weeks felt so long. During that time I constantly checked my inbox. Despite really liking Emily, I did have my full out with several other amazing agents, and I was eager to see how they would feel.


Then the end of the two weeks arrived. The last agent with my full graciously bowed out, and I notified Emily that I would like to sign with her.


So yes, Technically I wrote my book in June, finished it in August, and got my agent in September. But there was a long history of writing and struggling before that. I had to fail in order to learn what to do. I had to fail many times in order to succeed.


So if you are out there querying, or writing a story and dreaming of someday being published, don’t give up! It only takes one agent to fall in love with your work. For me, that agent was Emily.


I still have a long way to go in this writing journey, and I hope you’ll travel with me.


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