I'm very very excited about this. Betsy and Carrie are Query Kombat 2014's GRAND CHAMPIONS (they won the whole freaking thing!) and already have an agent! Plus, Betsy named her daughter after a Harry Potter character. That's awesome. I love this story, so read on!
Close friends from NYU, we’d worked together on a variety of creative projects through the years. Some have been more memorable than others, like the time we produced and performed in a dystopian version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in an old store front on the Lower East Side, but we’d always planned on writing something original together.
One Halloween, while on a ghost tour of Greenwich Village, we came up with an idea for a YA Paranormal novel. We passed chapters back and forth, just for fun, over the next two years. Once we had written about 40,000 words, we decided it was time to get serious about finishing the book and enrolled in a MediaBistro online class with writer Micol Ostow, which started in January 2013. The class was just what we needed at that time to push us to finish and revise the manuscript. Plus, we met other writers, learned how to work under deadline, how to give and accept feedback, and how to query agents.
After a few more re-writes, we started writing and re-writing queries and sending them out. We even made it into the Nightmare on Query Street contest and got some requests from that along with requests the old-fashioned way. In total, we probably queried 30 people, most of whom were pretty positive. But one theme stuck out over and over, even among those who liked the manuscript. No one was buying paranormal anymore. A couple of very nice agents told us to write something else and to be in touch. That was all the encouragement we needed.
After a crazy brainstorming session in August 2013, we came up with a wacky idea, to write a YA contemporary romance about Bigfoot hunters. We still had queries out for the other manuscript, but rather than refreshing our inboxes every two minutes, we got excited about writing again. We drafted, revised, and worked with our critique partner and a couple of beta readers, until we felt it was ready.
Then we heard about Query Kombat and thought it would be a great way to test the waters with this manuscript and get some valuable feedback from other writers before wading into querying again. We wrote and re-wrote our query (sense a theme here?), with insight from a few professionals (thanks Lauren Spieller, Kate Brauning, and Taryn Albright).
We know how competitive pitching contests are, so when the hosts announced they were giving away free passes, we entered, and won one from Mike, who loved our short pitch. Phew! We were so relieved to be able to skip the slush and go right into the contest.
We figured the competition would be stiff and we’d be lucky to just get past the first round and get seen by agents. But something happened along the way. We kept winning. At the top of each round we assumed this would be the last round for us – that we would be eliminated. But it never happened. Before we knew it, we were the grand champions and had received 10 agent requests! We were completely floored that so many folks liked our pitch and writing sample so much.
During the contest, we also sent a handful of queries to other agents who were on our short list, a few of them responded asking for partials as well. We expected that it would be a while until we heard anything, but within a few days we had an offer of representation on the table from Agent A who loved the manuscript. We quickly went back to everyone who had a full, partial, or query, because you never know. We heard from all but one agent. Most requested the full and said they would read our manuscript before our deadline. Only a couple bowed out right away, and a few agents came back later on saying they really liked it, but weren’t quite in love. Then two more offers came in from Agents B and C!
We had a long phone conversation with each agent who offered. They were all great in different ways, but we were undecided. Then, two days before we were going to make a decision, we got a fourth offer. We quickly set up a call with the fourth agent, knowing our decision deadline was around the corner. However, before we even ended the call, we just knew, “the way you know about a good melon,” to quote When Harry Met Sally. This was our agent, the one we wanted to represent us. She really seemed to get what we were trying to do and had great ideas to make our manuscript even better. We knew we would enjoy working with her and that she would be a rock star champion for our novel.
So now, we are thrilled to say we are represented by Christa Heschke at McIntosh & Otis, who was one of the agents who requested our manuscript during Query Kombat.
If we had to offer some advice, based on our story, we would say to keep writing. You never know if the manuscript you are writing now is the one that is going to get you an agent, or the one that is going to teach you how to write the one that gets you the agent. Also, working on a new project keeps your mind off of all those queries out in the world.
Thanks to all the Query Kombat judges, and especially to Michelle, Mike, and SC for playing literary matchmakers and for creating such a wonderful community!
Betsy Aldredge (on the right in the picture, while Carrie is on the left - SC) is a former magazine editor turned museum professional. She’s worked at a library and at two independent bookstores including Shakespeare and Company. Born a book nerd, she is happy to pass on the tradition. Her four-year-old daughter is named after a Harry Potter character and already insists on sleeping with piles of books in her bed. She lives and works in New York.
Carrie DuBois-Shaw has had two plays for young audiences produced in New York City and spearheaded the new play development program at The New Victory Theater, a performing arts venue in Times Square dedicated to engaging and entertaining kids and families. She recently relocated to San Francisco, where she is enjoying the abundance of independent bookstores, sour dough bread, and fog.
Betsy and Carrie are members of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). They met at NYU where they lived in a haunted dorm, studied theater, and were secretly delighted to be mistaken for English literature majors.
Check out their blog and congratulate Betsy and Carrie on Twitter!
CONGRATS BOTH OF YOU!!!! Can't wait to see how everything turns out. Keep us informed, and good luck!