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A Success Story Spanning Many Contests!

Friday, 20 September 2013  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

We’re happy to bring you an unusual success story, spanning many contests in a Cloud Atlas kind of way, except with contests (just go with it). Jessa Russo, Jessica Collins, and Brenda Drake would like to announce that Sean P. McConnell has signed with agent Terrie Wolf. 
Here’s their story and some other fun tidbits we threw in …
Sean, how did you meet your agent?
I’d have to say I met Terrie on several occasions. The first time was via Twitter where I saw something she tweeted and thought it was wickedly clever and followed. After a few months, I re-met her through a great interview I read on the web and thought I should follow this cool person. Doh!
I met her again when I saw she was a participating in PitchMadness and thought, “Wow she sounds like this cool agent I read about in an interview. Doh!
#2 The contest led to a request, so naturally I learned all I could about her. I patted myself on the back for having the wisdom to follow this fabulous agent for months.
I “met” Terrie for the final time when I participated in Jessica’s Pitchsqueak contest.
Terrie, what caught your attention about Sean and his pitch?
Sean is really nice… what he’s trying to say is, “Get to know people.” Agents do the same thing. Just about the time Sean was learning me, I was learning him. I realized that during each contest this very nice person was spurring on other participants. I won’t tell you his pitch was perfect, but his consistency was intriguing. I think it was his delivery, his grace, or maybe his footing. If it sounds like I’m comparing him to an All-Star, well, maybe I am. He never lost form, never lost focus. He was gracious and excited to be taking part in each event. He proved he was interested in the long haul not just for himself but for others taking part. The first pitch needed work and next time round, I saw improvement. We secret agent types keep tabs, you know…
Give us details leading to “The Call”?
When I received a first 25 page request from my Pitch Madness entry, I sent it immediately and waited. I waited longer and waited some more. I began to play the mental game of No News is Good News, Right? Wrong. No news meant the email did not go through. If I hadn’t checked with Terrie she wouldn’t have requested a resend and then a full request within a few hours. Phew!
Luckily I am a work-a-holic and immersed myself into resuming book four of my YA series and writing/illustrating a picture book. It helped to remain so busy I was forced to refrain from chronically checking the inbox. Didn’t work very well. My day job is painting murals and it is very easy to check email while paint dries.
While my full YA was in the capable hands of Ms. Wolf, I found out about a pitch contest for picture books. I was so excited to participate as PB contests were rare. I was able to secure a place on the blog and gleefully sent off my entry. I got a full request from Terrie.
Now I had to keep calm and patiently wait while an amazing agent had two full manuscripts plus a dozen illustrations. I seriously contemplated taking up needlepoint or street luge to take my mind off things. Maybe I’d combine the two.
Poor Sean! Not quite everything works without a hitch in the super-perfect secret-agent world. In fact, I think Sean’s submission got eaten by the spam machine twice. Plus, we ran into several other situations that needed attention before we could proceed. Now, it’s all ancient history, the stuff we’ll tell our grandchildren. At the time, I was calling the web guy, griping at least once and on at least one occasion, I may not have used my inside voice. Such pleasant memories!
What can you tell us about THE CALL?
The CALL was not the typical call. To start, I called Terrie. She was taking a moment of her busy day to answer a question I had about publishing. Before you all pick up the phone and call Terrie, please don’t.  The question was pertaining to factors that involved the manuscript in her possession. In short, I could call because I had permission.
We spoke for a very long time and laughed and “clicked.” At one point, Terrie said, “Here’s what I want to do.” There was a pause. “I want to work with you.”
Internally I was flipping out, but conversationally I just kept chatting as though we’d known each other for a long time. That was it. It was a delightful and smooth merging of two people who chose to paddle the same boat.
The happy dancing and shrieking was reserved for my wife and son after the call.
Isn’t he a great story teller? I was pleased that Sean reached out to me in the way he did. He had some pretty persnickety issues to figure out and I was pleased that Sean felt like he could talk to me. I’m very up front about what I see happening with works, especially when people are asking from a point of earnest interest. I try to explain what I believe needs to happen with the work(s), what could and probably couldn’t happen, and how I might be able to help. I’d like to think most agents behave in such a way. So, as we were talking about the possibilities for Sean’s work it seemed like we almost had to work together. I couldn’t imagine not being a part. I’ll admit that every work and client I represent goes through this moment of reckoning. And, don’t be fooled, after the call I did my own share of happy dance- shrieking. It hit me a second time maybe three days later, and the people nearest me would tell you I’ve been riding the giddy wave ever since.
What can you tell us about your book?
S.P.O.O.K. is the first in a young adult series. The story is about the less-than-perfect recruitment of Josh Clark to a society dedicated to the extermination of paranormal threats. I like to think of it as Ghostbusters meets Call of Duty. Though the work fits into the urban fantasy/horror bracket, there is plenty of dark humor to balance out the creepy factor. I’ve even included some romantic elements. Josh is not written as the well-adjusted and competent male found in YA books. He is more introverted and defined by a dynamic cast that helps him to become an eventual leader. If any of you have a teenage boy, you know it’s nothing short of a miracle when they remember something as menial as tying shoes. That’s my Josh. He spends the first half of the book in a perpetual OMG mode; a well warranted state as he faces a wraith in a Vegas casino, a spectre at a sidewalk cafe, and an ancient geist in the Black Forest.
The Picture Book is the playful contemplations about what’s outside a little boy’s window on Halloween night. It has gaggles of ghosts and multitudes of monsters.
Yes, I have a son. Yes, I love all things spooky.
Terrie: Sean’s works remind me of a) what my kids like to read and b) what my kids would like to read. I call that win-win!
How long have you been querying?
About three years, but I am not a volume querier. I would research the heck out of an agent and send only one query, maybe two. One agent had a full manuscript of Book One and Book Two for about a year. Seemed like forever, but I just kept writing. I found it was really worthwhile to make sure I knew who I was contacting. The throw-100-lines-out-and-hope-to-catch-one may work for some aspiring authors, but that is not me. I’m sure I made my process slower, but I couldn’t be any more thrilled with the results.
Terrie:Sean queried well. But, he also addressed me as if he realized the potential of our partnership. When he talks about the “100 lines, hope to catch” I understand. I don’t want a 100 clients I don’t know or 1,000 works I can’t identify. This is not speed dating. It’s commitment.
What made you participate in and what did you get out of contests?
Pitch contests rock! Unlike traditional querying, I was a contest enthusiast and I still am. Once I jumped in, I wanted to participate in as many as I could. Those of you who have done a contest understand how terrific the writing community is. Never before have I encountered such a supportive group of talented people. I found I was more excited and eager to share in the joys and success of my fellow authors than I was about my own entries.
The contests are scary and you really feel vulnerable but the return is great. Every time I participated, I made a whole new group of friends, found some valuable CPs and made lifetime connections.
I try whenever possible to dust off the pompoms and encourage all entrants to just go for it.
I have to give a special thanks to Cat Scully. She convinced me to ignore my busy schedule and participate in the Pitch Madness that brought me together with Terrie. I’m sure I owe Cat a Ferrari filled with Godiva chocolate or something.
The short answer:
I was invited! I’m not sure anyone understands the “know and grow” opportunity present unless they’ve taken part in an event with eyes way-wide open. Getting involved allows everyone to refine, renew and reconnect. Who wouldn’t want to take part?
The long answer:
What made me participate? Gosh, the organizers of #CAGI (ComeAndGetIt) invited me! Then came #WriteOnCon wherein I was allowed to assume the role of #NinjaAgentRainbow (2012) and, I think Summer Heacock promised me a year’s supply of gummies shortly thereafter for Pitch Madness. Now, I’m addicted to the excitement and I’ve lived through the gummy addiction fairly well. I appreciate contests because they give members of the writing community the opportunity to know and grow. This community is more intimate than some of us realize. We’re allowed to learn one another, refine our craft and strengthen the industry because of authentic support. I encourage my clients to support contests, to learn about which works are making it through rounds, receiving comment, and even take a look at how those comments might apply to their own work. Everyone can improve whether they’re pitching, refining or watching in the wings! If the result is an improved offering, how can anyone be anything but exuberant about spending a few hours tuned in to the best reality “show” out there?
Okay, now for the fun stuff…Coffee or Tea?
Sean: Coffee. I don’t understand potpourri in hot water.
Terrie:Hit me with your best shot. Caffeine is one of my favorite ways to color the day. It’s only fair to mention I enjoy potpourri every day at 11 and 4. Old habits die hard.
Potato chips or chocolate?
Sean: Dark chocolate, please!
Terrie:Give me the chocolate and nobody gets hurt! Or, if you’re talking BBQ chips…
Favorite Cookie?
Sean: Mint chocolate chip. I love when they use the butter mints you always find on wedding reception tables. Yum!
Terrie:I’m open to all offers. Butter mint cookies, really? *Scanning recipe books*
Vacation preference?
Sean: I used to be an outdoor enthusiast and then I married my high-school sweetheart. Her idea of “roughing it” means a town with no Starbucks. I suppose I’d say none of the above. She’s a big city girl and I adore her. So let’s go with: a big city excursion complete with shopping, dancing, a spa and kisses reserved for me.
Terrie:The one vacation I ever planned found me in a Spanish hospital with appendicitis that led to peritonitis and a really cool scar. My dad always said to give each day its own bit of special so I carry my fishing pole, and one good jar of stink bait, in my truck and um, a few (like, ten) good books. My work always seemed like vacation, including when I lived near castles and read Scottish manuscripts, or all the years spent at my family’s ranch which just happens to be surrounded by the Colorado wilderness. I’m not a great shopper but if somebody baits me into that holiday it would include stops at Bass Pro, Big R, and possibly every single bookstore ever built.
Where do you write?
Swim meets, baby! There’s nothing like terrible back-support, chlorine scented air and manic parental cheers to get the creative juices flowing.
He also does some of his best manuscript changes, agent notes and tweets from said location!
Sean, outline or Panster?
A mix of the two. I have a path, but the characters like to choose their own route. They’re now so embedded in my subconscious, I sit down and ask them, “Where are we going today?” So far, they have never disappointed.
Terrie, do you attend conferences? If so, which ones will you be attending in the near future?
I dig conferences! My recent faves include Romantic Times, Rocky Mountain SCBWI Agent Day, and Southwestern Writers Wrangling with Writing. It’s best to keep an eye on our website and our Facebook page for full details since things move at lightning speed! (www.akaliteraryllc.comand www.Facebook.com/akamanagement) We’d be honored with the “like” too.
Coming up soonest is Writer’s Digest West Conference in Los Angeles – September 27 – 29
Before untying you both from you chairs, do you have any advice for those seeking representation?
Jump into contests. Send chocolate and wine to Brenda, Jessica, Jessa and Tamara (they work so hard!). Don’t over-think the process. Just write your best and try to listen to your heart. It will take longer than you thought and you will want to quit. Don’t. If you need a cheerleader, tweet me and I will come running. My triple flip is legendary.
*Rubbing wrists* I second that emotion with a double dose of the chocolate and the cheerleading. And Terrie’s Top Five bits of advice:
1) Be authentic. Stand out, stand up, stand firm. Then be willing to bend. 
2) Good manners go a long way. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
3) Become the professional you’d like to attract. I can’t see you if you don’t see you.
4) Practice lightness. Take part in little things like #BePositiveHour. It’s not about you, per se, but every aspect of your life will benefit.
5)  Read until your eyes hurt. Then read some more! I expect you to know your work, your genre and your market.
And maybe…
6) The Bonus. You never know who might be watching. Live without fear. Enter the contests. Pitch with high expectations. Kindly ask for feedback. Be the mentor you haven’t found. 
And with that, Sean and Terrie walked together, discussing chocolate covered BBQ chips and other anomalies of the modern world. Later, they’d trade at least 15 texts about how utterly cool this edition of Pitch Madness would – no doubt – prove to be. Ah, it’s good to be alive. 
Thank you, Sean and Terrie, for visiting with us today and sharing your wonderful story!
We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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