Thursday, September 19, 2013



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?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Operation Tree House Round Up

Hello, fellow tree dwellers!!! I'd like to thank everyone that took part in the Operation Tree House contest. The agents Danielle, Terrie, and Sarah were fabulous, the contest entries were off the hook talented and the support from everyone was outstanding! It was a lot of hard work,

BUT it was totally worth it in the end!  I hope you all made some connections through other writers that took part, and I'm REALLY hopeful there are a few agent-y connections too! *There were 66 entries, 32 for picture books (someone bowed out after the start date) and 33 for middle grade. Of those a total of 25 requests were made; 15 requests for MG and 10 requests for PBs!  I have a good feeling that I'll hear back from some of you in the coming weeks with very happy news. 

And when you do we shall dance.

Until then, I bid you adieu, ALL THE WORDS, and happy times in your own tree house!!! <3


*updated info per request

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Please welcome our next agent!

I'd love for you all to give a warm welcome to our next agent, Ms. Terrie Wolf! 

*I figured the penguins were appropriate since it looks like CO will be stuck in winter mode through the summer months.;)

Terrie grew up on a steady diet of real-life adventure and believed until her early 30’s that days spent with explorers, treasure hunters  and other adrenaline junkies was perfectly typical. Her well-developed and insatiable curiosity led her to positions within the international media and several award-winning writing and promotions teams at venues including CBS, NBC, Penguin(UK) and Hobsons Press (Cambridge University Press). The recipient of the Emmy, Queen’s Service Award (UK), La Voz y Papel (Spain), and Young Journalist of the Year, Terrie read English Literature and Cambridge, studied Creative Writing at NYU and Journalism at CU-Denver, and will tell you she’s equally proud of the “Master of Mirth” status awarded by Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

A series of life changing events most anyone else would have labeled “accidents” brought Terrie back to her home in Colorado and after 22 months of rehab, she joined the Anita Kushen Agency in 2009 as a Foreign Rights Specialist. Shortly thereafter, she acquired and renamed the agency.  

Terrie is currently in search of your very best MG and picture/board books and believes in the necessity of well written, well presented works that touch the tender minds and hearts of young people. She especially enjoys humorous (not gross), engaging (not mean), adventurous fiction, beautifully depicted  – and illustrated - picture/board books and highly expressive and entertaining nonfiction. She’s most likely to acquire the works that hold the wonderful and elusive elements of those stories told around the campfires and fishing holes of her youth. She dares you to thrill her.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's an agent reveal!!

I'm pleased as punch to reveal the next awesome agent in our contest, the incomparable Ms.Sarah Davies!!!

Sarah Davies founded the Greenhouse and is head of the agency.  She created the business after moving to the USA from England in 2007, following a long career as a senior UK children’s publisher.

In her publisher incarnation, Sarah worked with many high-profile writers on both sides of the Atlantic. As an agent she has shepherded many debut authors to success. She has considerable experience in contract negotiation, marketing and rights, as well as a strong understanding of digital developments. Excellent publishing contacts in both the USA and Britain, and homes in both countries, have given her an unusually transatlantic view of the children’s books industry, from both sides of the desk.

A member of AAR and SCBWI, Sarah is an experienced speaker on children’s books and creative writing and attends many writers’ and book-trade events throughout the year. She says, ‘Everything you need to know about Greenhouse is embodied in its name.’

What Sarah is seeking: Fiction by North American and UK/Commonwealth authors, from Middle Grade through Young Adult and across all genres (note: she is currently closed to debut Picturebooks but does rep PBs by clients whom she’s initially taken on for older fiction). She loves strong, hooky plots, writing that has literary quality but is also commercial, a strong/special voice, emotional heart. Loves both adventurous and classic MG, especially for girls, and has much experience in developing/selling twisty, dark crime/mystery YA thrillers.

I can hear your collective SQUEES right now, so breathe deep into the paper bag!  i can't wait to see what connections we can make for everyone!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

First Agent Reveal!!!

I am bursting at the seams to let you know about our first agent. She's super sweet and I can't wait for you all to charm her with your work!! So without further ado, I present Ms. Danielle Smith of Foreword Literary!!! 

All right. Calm down. You, in the corner! Stop flailing! Here is a little bit about Danielle if you are new to her (trust me she is a rising star).

Danielle Smith began her agent career at Foreword Literary Agents in 2013 where she represents picture books and middle grade authors and illustrators. Her enthusiasm for children’s literature began as a young child, but grew exponentially when her own two children were born and shortly thereafter she began reviewing books at her top rated children’s book review site There’s A Book. For more than five years she’s been involved professionally with books through print and online publications such as Women’s World and Parenting Magazine, as a member of the judging panel for The Cybils awards for fiction picture books, as well as locally by serving on the board of The Central Coast Writer’s Conference.
A few of Danielle’s recent favorite children’s books include CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds, RABBIT AND ROBOT: THE SLEEPOVER by Cece Bell, IN A GLASS GRIMMLY by Adam Gidwitz and anything Jon Klassen has had his hands in.
Danielle is currently looking for picture books, early readers and chapter books with characters that embody the true essence of what it means to be a child. She’s not afraid to represent all that this encompasses whether it be vibrant joyous stories to darker and harder to tackle subjects such as bullying, loss and death. She would also love to find a great new MG novel and/or graphic novel author/illustrator with a flair for great humor that doesn’t involve devaluing others in order to be funny. More than anything she would love to represent authors who are passionate about getting children to love reading and are able to execute that in a way that both children and parents can love.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Quick Hello!

Hello! Welcome to my tree house blog. I'm new on the block and appreciate any input from you fabulous people! I've always found the writing community to be very inclusive and helpful in a variety of ways, and I hope this blog will follow in that tradition. However, I may post musings from life as a mother of three on occasion so prepare to find a cure for your insomnia be AMAZED by my awesomeness! Heh. So, as I said this is just an initial post to welcome you and say hello! *waves* *swishes tail* *scampers off*

P.S. I'm on the lookout for agents that rep picture books and MG for a secret project of awesomeness! Pass it on, please!!