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Finding a literary agent in a metaphorical tornado

Last night physical and spiritual madness struck at once. Feels like my last sane moment was running on a wooded lane in Bon Air, with a border collie barking his fool head off at me. Next thing I knew literal and metaphorical winds were threatening to blow my house down. By which I mean, the wind went nuts, tornadoes threatened, and Dad’s dementia carried him to a place where none of us could follow.

I spent the night at Mom and Dad’s house. Bob was there with me for a while, providing succor and good humor (he’s a SAINT), but when a tornado watch appeared in an ugly little line at the bottom of the TV screen I sent him home, convinced that even our self-reliant 12 year-old shouldn’t be alone in a tornado. Eventually, Mom convinced Dad to go upstairs to bed, but of course Bob was gone by then and Dad was sooooo shaky . . . So there I was, supporting him from behind (he’s still a big man) as he made his tottering way up the staircase. And me trying to hold him up but knowing that if he keeled over backwards there was no way to prevent him from falling.

But he made it, and Mom took over, and after a while convinced him to go to bed. And I went downstairs to the guest room and put my head between my knees until the terror passed.

Of course it was impossible to sleep. So . . . what do writers do?

No, they don’t write. They try to figure out how to get an agent. Noah Lukeman is an agent who has very kindly made his book, How to Land a Literary Agent, available for free on the Internet. I had downloaded it onto my phone and last night spent a few hours reading it. He’s kind of a nag, but it was something to think about at 1 a.m., and he got me researching agents. Lukeman says I should have a database of at least fifty agents. Well, I now have seventy, and every one of them has expressed interest in YA and fantasy.

Of course, by this point it was long past my bedtime, and I had to get up and teach in the morning, but the agent search carried me beyond the fear of the dark night, and of tornadoes, and of dementia. The work sometimes seems crazy but last night it felt like sanity.

So if anyone wants my list of seventy agents interested in YA and fantasy, just leave me a comment with your email and I’ll send it on. And if you get a chance, check out the Writers Digest lottery—you get to pitch a YA novel to an agent. http://tinyurl.com/a8msdw2

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Endless revisions coming to an end

Weird, weird day. Bare branches clawing the sky while goblin-leaves skitter across the asphalt. And the sky, the whole clouded, mottled sky, moving so fast like it’s got somewhere to go.

A good day, actually, to write, but I’m doing a chapter-by-chapter outline of my current novel, Deathsign, so if an agent wants to see it I’ve got it ready. Not fun. Thank God the synopsis is already done.

It’s been a long slog, but I’ve finished my revisions for now, having gutted a wonderful but ultimately unproductive centerpiece. In the excised section my characters went to an awesome temple in the mountains, which I’ve named Thornamdia and which looks vaguely like the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo, in Peru’s Sacred Valley. I loved that section, and the second novel in this series has a battle in Thornamdia, but in this novel I finally accepted that our heroine’s time there felt like a travelogue. So, after a long and painful narrative liposuction, good-bye Thornamdia. The result is a leaner, meaner and I hope better manuscript.

My critique group gets a final stab at it, but I’m starting to query agents. I will not (NOT) start another huge set of revisions unless I get 50 rejections. Or more. Remember A Wrinkle in Time, that perfect little gem of a novel? Dozens of editorial rejections, and then a Newbery. Not that the Newbery matters.

Okay, I lied. A Newbery does matter. A lot. But what matters to me, personally, is that when I was 12 I read it a gazillion times and I still remember it. And if you ask other adults of a certain age if they remember anything they read when they were kids, you’d be amazed how many say, “well, there was this book about a girl who had to go rescue her father . . . ”