While we all know Agents sell your work and cheer you on, sometimes they are your source for inspiration.
Back on International Woman's Day, March 8, 2018, Rebecca shot a simple tweet my way.
Of course I said, "I love elephants!" and we had a fun little back and forth where, like all highly evolved creatures, we spoke in GIFS and pictures.
But now I had a problem. I couldn't get this idea out of my head. Like I'd told my agent, I'd done a good amount of research on elephants already for a possible Chapter Book Series. I even went to meet one and interview a caretaker. But did I have enough info? I had only done generic research and it was mostly about captive elephants. Was there a solid story here?
I couldn't stop thinking about the elephant I met, the elephant matriarch, and their beautiful and complex family structure.
On March 12th, 2018 I emailed my agent a REALLY rough draft and asked, "Should I pursue this further?"
Her response was simply, "YES!!! Please pursue this !!!! :-)"
So I put everything else I was working on to the side, stayed up way too late watching elephants on the internet, Animal Planet, Net Geo, pulling every elephant book off the shelf at my library and pulling out all my old notes. After fast tracking it to my critique buddies I gave my agent on April 12th.
I was so attached to this piece. I lost sleep over it. I reached out to trusts in Africa to have it vetted. I was terrified that she'd say it was all wrong. (Not because she is mean or harsh, but every writer worries their stuff is crap at some point, right?)
She read it on April 16th. This is what I got back.
OH MY GOSH THIS IS AMAZING AND IT'S EXACTLEY WHAT I WAS WANTING WHEN I SHARED THAT PICTURE WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, I'm done writing
We sent it on an exclusive to an editor who ultimately didn't offer. Then we sent it on its first round of submissions.
Friday, August 3rd, 2018 it went out.
Tuesday the 7th we had interest and they wanted to call and speak with me. Within a month we had another editor who wanted a call. We received multiple offers but we chose to publish with Familius.
That they offered is still a little shocking since I'd never spoken with an editor or publisher on the phone so I nervous giggled for half of the conversation and forgot the English language a few times. Thankfully they still loved SHE LEADS. (Whether or not they think I'm nuttier than a peanut shell... we can't be sure.)
I signed the contract on Friday, September 14th. Six months after my Agent playfully pitched me an idea on twitter.
Agents are more than the person who can get your MS seen at big houses. They are more than a contract translator. They are friends and inspiration and cheerleaders and editors and I for one am thankful!
DISCLAIMER FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS: This is not a normal timeframe! Six months is ridiculously fast!!! It took me about three years to sell my first picture book. I've been seriously writing for two to three years prior to that.
SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH will be published in Spring, 2020 by Familius.