Some people think that writing is a solitary endeavor, and in some ways, it is. But I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the support of my friends and family. I can never say thank you enough to my amazing husband and children, who remind me daily to keep moving forward, when I feel like giving up. My awesome agent, Jessica Sinsheimer, is more than the best agent ever. She’s also a great friend. My fabulous editors, Mandy Shoen (editor for my YA debut novel, TWELVE STEPS) and Kristin Rens (editor for my debut picture book, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS) have made my books sparkle, and it’s always a plus when I can look forward to edit notes with a smile. And there have been so many other writers who have helped and encouraged me along the way, as both critique partners and cheerleaders. Ashley Turcotte, Laura Shovan, Amie Rose Rotruck, Brenda Drake, Rachel Harris, Isabel Bandeira, Lizzy Charles, Mina Vaughn, Katie Bailey, Summer Heacock, Jason F. Wright … The list is far too long to include in just one blog post.
Today, I want to thank the others. I want to thank the people who have passed through my life for the briefest of moments, who I may never meet again in real life, and who may never know (unless they read this post) how much their well-timed words meant to me. Because they helped me to break down the barriers I’d constructed from bricks of fear, insecurity, and self-doubt, giving me courage to chase my dreams.
And I hope, someday, these people will find this post and know how grateful I am.
First, I need to thank Matt Birch, a publicist who spoke (via video chat) at a writing workshop Jason F. Wright organized in 2011. Months earlier, I had received my very first “professional” writing critique from the anonymous judge of a fairly large writing contest. The judge was harsh in his/her critique: “You’ve given your main character friends, and she doesn’t deserve friends. No one in their right mind would ever care about a character like this.” The words were still stinging months later when I entered this workshop. Matt Birch looked straight at me (okay, he was probably just looking straight at the camera, since he was addressing us via video chat … but it felt like he was looking straight at me) and said, “No matter how hard it gets, don’t give up. Someone will care.” I felt like he was directly answering the fear I’d been hiding behind for months. And suddenly, that wall between me and my dreams wasn’t quite so solid.
Next, I need to thank Liz Szabla, an editor I met at the “Staying on Track” regional SCBWI conference in Maryland later that same year. This was a fabulous conference, where attendees were divided into “tracks” for picture books, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction. Liz Szabla and Stephanie Bodeen were the faculty members leading the YA track. I had spent months revising and polishing my YA manuscript, and I felt like I was possibly ready to start actually querying. But every time I tried to write a query letter, the fear took over. Yes, I knew that someone would care. But what if I queried too soon? What if I burned all of my bridges by sending the manuscript out when it wasn’t ready yet? After two days of intense workshop exercises, I had a moment to chat privately with Liz Szabla, and so I asked her: “How do I know when my manuscript is really ready? How do I know I’m not querying too soon?” And she gave me the best writing advice I’ve ever received. “You can revise the same manuscript for twenty years and never be fully satisfied. Eventually, you have to give yourself permission to let it go.” And she encouraged me to start querying.
And finally, I need to thank Quinlan Lee, a literary agent that I met at another SCBWI regional conference in Maryland (this one was in 2012). She was incredibly encouraging in her critique of my manuscript, and we spent a lot of time talking over the course of the weekend. Her enthusiasm and excitement at the conference inspired me. When I started querying, I always said that I didn’t believe in having a “dream agent,” because you can’t know from a website or a manuscript wish list who your perfect agent match will be. But after meeting Ms. Lee, I absolutely knew what type of an agent I was looking for. I wanted an agent I could be friends with, who was smart and savvy with the business side of publishing. But most importantly, I wanted an agent who would be as excited and enthusiastic about my writing as this agent was about her clients. Although she wasn’t the “dream agent” I was searching for, that experience helped me to recognize the right match when I found it.
My awesome agent, Jessica Sinsheimer, meets every item on my “dream agent” checklist, but I didn’t have the courage to query her until this experience put my dreams into focus. Thank you, Quinlan Lee!
I love going to writing conferences and participating in online pitch contests like Pitch Wars. The connections I’ve made with agents, editors, authors, and other publishing professionals have been absolutely priceless. Because each one has helped me grow as a writer, allowing me to break through those walls and discover my dreams.
Veronica Bartles grew up in Wyoming and currently lives in New Mexico with her husband and four children. As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy. When Veronica’s not writing or lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, she enjoys creating delicious desserts, exploring new places, and knitting with recycled materials.
TWELVE STEPS is Veronica’s first novel.