And now for a special treat..one of my critique partners, Hannah Holt of Portland, Oregon, just signed with agent Danielle Smith of Foreword Literary last month. I'm so happy for her. I wanted Hannah to share her story, and so I interviewed her.
Tina: How did you get started?
Hannah: One Christmas during graduate school, my husband and I didn't have money for presents, so I created handmade comic books. While I worked I wondered: what if I gave myself year to write a children's book? That was four years ago.
Tina: Have you taken any writing classes that have helped you in your pb writing?
Hannah: I took a poetry workshop from Linda Ashman, and I'd recommend it to anyone. But overall I'm pretty stingy selective when it comes to classes. My favorite writing resources are books, like WRITING WITH PICTURES (Uri Shulevitz) and WRITING PICTURE BOOKS (Ann Whitford Paul).
Tina: How did you know which agents to submit to?
Hannah: In the beginning, I didn't. My first round of queries was a random selection of agents from THE CHILDREN'S WRITER'S AND ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. (Rookie mistake!) It felt like playing roulette and resulted a bunch form rejections. After that ill conceived initial batch, I took a break from submitting to work on craft. I joined a few writing groups, and this crazy thing happened: my writing got better, and I made friends with other writers. When two of my friends signed with agent Danielle Smith, I started following her on twitter. I liked her right away.
Tina: How did you nab an agent?
Hannah: Well, because I followed Danielle on twitter, I knew about events she was participating in. My first attempt to catch her attention was at the #PitMad twitter party. She didn't bite.
A few weeks later, I tried again during #PitchMas. This time she requested a manuscript. I sent it to her and heard nothing for over a month.
While I was waiting, I signed up for WriteOnCon and posted a query in the forum. Danielle saw it and recognized my name from my previous query. She requested the second manuscript and offered representation within a week.
Tina: Any advice to writers who are looking for agents?
Hannah: Keep hope. Start something new while you are waiting (something other than a sequel!). Challenge yourself to write bigger, deeper, fresher. Find a balance between researching, networking, and writing. If you only have time for one thing... always choose writing!
Tina: How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit?
Hannah: Critique groups help. My critique group always gives me great advice. Their feedback usually falls into one of four categories:
1) Not much enthusiasm & major revision suggestions
2) Not much enthusiasm & minor revision suggestions
3) Lots of enthusiasm & major revision suggestions
4) Lots of enthusiasm & minor revision suggestions
Here is how I interpret it:
1) My idea stinks, and I executed it poorly.
2) My idea stinks, but I executed it decently.
3) My idea is okay, but I executed it poorly.
4) I am ready to submit.
Thanks for having me over, Tina. Best wishes to everyone actively submitting! Good luck!
Hannah Holt is civil engineer turned picture book writer. She's a two-time Barbara Karlin Grant Letter of Merit recipient and Phillip E. Rollhaus essay winner. She lives in the Portland, Oregon with her husband Josh and their four young children.
You can visit Hannah at her blog:
Kid Crafts | Kitchen Play | Children's Literature
Thanks, Hannah, for answering my questions. Hope this helps any of you who are agent-hunting! And thanks to all of you for stopping by!