Lindsay Eagar (lindsaymccall on QT) has signed with agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency.
The whole thing poured out of me with no warning. I started with a blank piece of paper at 7 AM on a June morning. I literally sat down with no idea, no premise, just a desire to write something different. An hour later, I had a scene about this girl, her ailing grandfather, and a baby brother who crawls under the porch and is nearly bitten by a rattlesnake. This is still my opening chapter.
I had no idea who these people were. Or why they were on a ranch, or why the grandfather kept talking about bees. I turned on the soundtrack to The Fountain (gorgeous, sparse, haunting violin music by Clint Mansell). By the end of the last song, I knew my plot. The thing spilled out of me in ten days.
Writing well? For about two years. Books and storytelling have always been part of my fabric; they're in my blood. After a few false start manuscripts (we all have those, right?), I made a conscious decision to work on my writing craft. Hard. That was in fall of 2011. The writing I did before, as compared to the writing I am capable of now... It's astonishing. Forget talent; hard work makes the writing bloom.
Amazingly enough, the night before I started HOUR OF THE BEES, I officially trunked my Pirate Book. Closed the computer files, put all my hard copies in a desk drawer. I gave myself one night to cry and mourn (I really love Pirate Book) and set out a blank piece of paper for in the morning. I knew to be a writer, I needed to move onto a new project. The next morning, I wrote that first chapter of HOUR OF THE BEES.
Music's been my anchor for getting "in the mood" to write; whenever I go back to the songs I've assigned to certain scenes, I can remember what kind of emotional core each scene has.
I do handwrite everything, then edit as I type. And coffee. Iced coffee, in an IV.
Also the exceptional Taryn Albright, who edited HOUR OF THE BEES in its raw, rough draft form and told me, "you've got something special, people will be buzz-ing about it," and I love her enough to let her make bad puns like that.
My other CP is an old friend Bree, a writer of brilliantly dark and bloody things. Bree and I have been swapping our writing since elementary school. She's my favorite author, but she hasn't been published yet.
My family also kindly read the manuscript at various points of completion.
I outline scenes and break down my chapters. I also write chronologically, at least for the first draft, so I can control the pacing. I don't outline every detail in every scene, but I do a rough sketch of the main plot points that need to happen before I begin; that way I can focus on those up-close moments that are so important to have with a character.
Before I sent a single query, I posted my finely-polished (with the help of the QT Forum community) onto the WriteOnCon forums. That was on 8/6. I had two Ninja Agents (real-life agents in disguise) request my full manuscript within a couple of hours! I had two full requests before I even sent any queries!
I took that as a sign. Instead of tentatively sending queries in wee little batches (testing the waters, like you do), I got super picky with my list of agents and sent ALL the queries. One in particular was terrifying to send, to Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Lit. I know you're not supposed to have a "dream" agent, QT community, but I did, and Sarah Davies was her name. I nearly bit through my tongue when I hit the send button on that one.
On 8/23, these were my stats:
I spoke to lovely literary agents on the phone about HOUR OF THE BEES. Hearing strangers tell you they loved your book... Honestly, it's the best writing experience I've had. But when I hung up with Sarah Davies... I knew this was the agent for me. Dream agent. :)
I know it seems like my experience querying was atypical... But I didn't sent a single query until both my manuscript and the query letter were SOLID. Ready. Without a doubt the best I could make them.
It was kind of a crazy couple of weeks.
Treat every response as the feedback it is. Are you getting form rejections? That's feedback; something's not working. Are you getting personalized rejections? That says something too. You almost have their attention, but it's still not working. Getting requests on your full manuscript, but no offers? Your query and sample pages are doing their job, but something's wrong with your manuscript. Dead silence? That's feedback, too.
This is obvious, but slooooooooooow down. Treebeard says, "Don't be hasty." He must have been in publishing. Is your manuscript really ready? Are you sure? Double check, just in case. What about your query? Have others read it? You only get one shot per agent per project. Why rush and waste that chance? Why guarantee rejections when your manuscript or query isn't ready? I'm proof that if you wait, work hard, and only submit when it's really time, you don't have to have a ton of rejections.
Babysitting her thousand-year-old grandfather isn't how Carolina wants to spend her last summer before junior high. Grandpa Serge has dementia and is meaner than a rattler. Her family is fixing up Serge's sheep ranch to sell, and Carol's already counting down the days until they dump Serge at the assisted-living facility. Then she can go home. Sweet, air-conditioned home.
This stretch of New Mexico desert is so dry, the locals joke it's cursed with an eternal drought. But Serge takes it literally. He says a magic tree used to grow on the shores of a green lake, and honeybees lived in its blossoms. When the tree was chopped down, the bees were so furious, they carried the lake away and the drought began. It won't rain again until the bees come back, Serge says. To Carol, it's the stuff of fairy tales.
Carol rolls her eyes at Serge's wild stories, along with the rest of her family. But when she finds a beehive in the barn and hears thunder at night, she realizes this is more than Serge's dementia rambling. Curses don't come with how-to manuals, so Carol has to team up with the one person she never thought she'd fight for: loud, creaky, crazy Grandpa Serge.
Unravel the curse, so the bees will bring back the rain. Keep Serge out of the old folks' home long enough to see it happen.
There's something happening under all that New Mexico sky, and it might be rain.
HOUR OF THE BEES, a MG magical realism, is complete at 32,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Louis Sachar's HOLES and Sandra Cisneros's THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET.