Recently, I’ve learned of many writer friends who have made the difficult decision to leave their agent for one reason or another. This always seems like such a huge decision to me, and in today’s W.O.W., I ask Dee Romito about her experience with changing agents. In sharing her story, Dee shows us that the path to publication is not always smooth, but if you believe in your work things do truly turn out for the best.
Many thanks to Dee for being honest about her experience and sharing her journey today…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Dee: It wasn’t a moment in time for me, but more of a feeling that built up every time I wrote something new. In elementary school, I always entered to get into the district writing book, The Panther’s Paws and I still remember how exciting it was to see my work in there. I’ve always dreamed of writing children’s books, but it was one of those, “I’d love to do that someday” kind of dreams.
Amy: What inspires you to write Middle Grade fiction?
Dee: Kids. As an elementary teacher and a parent, it’s incredible to see kids get excited about a story. I love watching their reactions at super-fun moments or surprise parts and I figure if I can make them love reading just a little bit more, that’s a pretty good reason to write.
Amy: You have an interesting backstory I think many aspiring writers would be interested in. You were previously agented with one book and then left that agency and later found another agent. Can you share how you came to this difficult decision and how it affected your writing?
Dee: It really was a difficult decision. And a scary one. But luckily I had other writers to talk to who had been through it and I quickly realized it was more common than I thought.
I loved working with my previous agent, but there came a point where it became pretty obvious we might not be a creative fit. I could have tried to make it work with her, but it meant going in a different direction with my writing. After a lot of thought, I decided that wasn’t what I wanted. It was a leap of faith going out and looking for new representation, but ultimately, I felt I needed to give myself and my writing that chance. I had a lot of support and encouragement which helped tremendously.
I’m now with an agent who is super enthusiastic about the book he signed me for and who’s excited for me to finish my other projects too. Knowing I have someone to champion my writing is a pretty great feeling and it has certainly sent me in a positive direction with my writing.
Amy: When you began your second agent search with TRUTH HEIST did you feel like you were pretty seasoned with the process? Did the query come easily?
Dee: I definitely knew a lot more than I did the first time I queried. I had already been through the process and I’d met quite a few agents through contests, auctions, writer friends, and conferences. I was very specific in what I was looking for in an agent and only queried a small, select list.
Here’s a little secret. I kinda love queries and I usually write them before I finish a manuscript. I’m not a plotter, so a query is like a story map for me. As I write, I go back and adjust it, but by the end, a lot of the original foundation is still there.
Amy: I know you connected with your new agent via a conference. Can you talk about how important those events are to a writer?
Dee: Not all writers are interested in attending conferences, but for me, they’re essential. I’m someone who loves to dive into whatever I’m learning about and have friends by my side that are on the ride with me. I’ve gotten so much out of conferences. I learn about the craft and business of writing, I meet online friends in person and meet other writers, and yes, at my last conference I met my agent! So I suppose it depends who you ask, but I’d say that conferences and writing events are such a great source for learning and inspiration that writers should go when they have the chance.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish TRUTH HEIST? If so, how did that influence your writing process?
Dee: Yes, yes, yes! My critique partners are wonderful and were a huge part of revising and polishing TRUTH HEIST. I’m so lucky to have found writers who give great feedback that’s both helpful and encouraging at the same time. I had readers for the first couple rounds of revision that really helped me shape it, especially because it involves some complicated plot points and twists. When I decided to go back in and revise again, I had more incredible readers that helped me get it ready to send out.
Amy: What can you tell us about your call with your agent, Uwe Stender? How did you know he was a good fit for you?
Dee: I had the great fortune to meet Uwe at a conference, so I learned a lot about him in person. I mean, how cool is that? We chatted at a conference function for over three hours one night about everything from how he works to what I’d do to promote my book. It was like “the call” before the call even happened. He was so excited about the story and at one point it dawned on me that he hadn’t even read one line of it yet!
Three days later, he offered representation and we talked on the phone. I was so impressed with his notes on the manuscript and his enthusiasm for the story. I knew his changes would not only make the story better, but they’d make my writing better too. He wanted to be my agent for the long haul, which is something I was specifically looking for.
Amy: What was one piece of advice you got during your early writing stages that has stuck with you to this day?
Dee: Wow, there has been a lot of great advice. The one thing I think of every time I write though was from a writer in my critique group when I first started out. (Credit to Kristin Gray on this one.) I had some unnecessary scenes in the first chapter and she said, “I know you needed to write this for you to get to know your characters, but your readers don’t need it.” It stuck with me and it always helps me stay focused on what moves the story forward.
Dee Romito is an elementary teacher and middle grade writer represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. She also blogs at writeforapples.com where she runs the Query.Sign.Submit interview series and continues to collect inspiring stories of writers finding their agents. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her spending time with family and friends, traveling, or quite possibly, tracking down the world’s best chocolate.