How I Found My Agent (Part 2/3: Getting Directions)

In 2015, I decided to do just that, learn how the industry operates. I joined SCBWI and joined an incredible SCWBI Hong Kong critique group. I read and read and read (MG, YA, blogs, anything industry-related).

I had no shortage of ideas. I started many projects (YA and MG). I love the idea phase of a project. A single scene pops into my head while walking and that’s all I need to start. I don’t outline. I don’t write in any order. I don’t commit to character’s names. My lovely and extremely patient critique group might receive 2 chapters from different parts of a new project. The characters could have 3-4 name changes in those two chapters alone and the chapters might be numbered 14 and 20 for no particular reason because they are the only chapters so far. They may never see this manuscript again because I’ve moved on. My critique group will confirm this. I still work this way.

While exploring new story ideas, I did my homework. I continued to read MG, YA, and industry-related blogs and articles. I attended conferences (SCBWI LA and SCBWI NY) and took advantages of professional critiques. 

In 2017, I then completed another MG manuscript, STONE. I wrote drafts and had critique partners read my chapters. I then hired an independent editor. When it was ready, I began to query. I was now connected to online forums. I researched agents. I wrote a synopsis. I already knew how to write a query. I sent STONE to 8 agents. I received 5 rejections, 3 with substantial feedback. 3 I never heard from. The feedback unanimously explained that I wasn’t the right person to write this particular story. I had an #ownvoices issue. I did more industry research. I filed STONE away. 

Then I found a call for applications for the Tent Jewish Children’s Literature program through the Yiddish Book Center. This was everything that I needed. The program was perfect for me. Wrong! I received a rejection and was told that this was for published authors only. 

In 2018, I began to seriously look into how I could bring the PJ Library program to my community. I officially launched PJ Library Hong Kong in 2019.

In 2019, I also discovered Highlights Symposium for Jewish Children’s Literature and was able to book a place despite the fact that I had not published any KidLit, yet. In 2019, I attended this program and it was the single best investment that I could have made in my writing career. I met writers, librarians, agents, and publishers that were all as enthusiastic about Jewish KidLit as I was. I found my people! I also learned that there were agents interested in Jewish stories and that there were also publishers that I could send unagented Jewish manuscripts to. 

Later in 2019, I completed a YA manuscript LIES. I sent LIES to a freelance editor. LIES was a complete mess. LIES still is a mess. One day I hope to bring LIES to the world, but for now it too has been filed away. I will write about LIES more later.

In July 2019, I attended the SCBWI Israel conference.

In Fall 2019, there were the protests in Hong Kong. In January 2020, the pandemic hits. I had just started a MG manuscript that I was very excited about, MILA. What I needed to finish MILA was time and quiet. I live in an apartment and for the fall of 2019 most of 2020 and 2021, I had four children home learning. One of my children has special needs and because school was closed and educational support was now unavailable, I became her full-time shadow. (Our school was great, but special needs kids have been particularly grossly underserved in the pandemic.)

Somehow I managed to complete MILA thanks to an incredible critique partner. I entered PITMAD for MILA in the November 2020. I received 3 agent hearts for it. They all were ultimately rejections and two with similar feedback. I sent MILA to 2 more agents and both were also rejections, but I had neither the time nor the space nor the mindset to work on MILA now. 

How could I fit my writing life into tiny soundbites? How was I going to write during the pandemic? 

More on my journey in How I Found My Agent: Parts 1 and 3