Started querying REFUGE.
Got requests. Got several "the writing is good but there's a spark missing" responses. Started writing AFTER THE FALL.
To my surprise, finished writing AFTER THE FALL. Knew immediately that first draft was better than seventh draft of REFUGE.
Betas agreed. The lovely Michelle Schusterman informed everyone that it "ripped her face off." (I love her.)
Sent queries for ATF to 8 agents.
Woke up to 3 full requests. Almost died of shock.
Packed frantically for LA, a task made more difficult by a crippling need to check my email every. five. seconds. Continued to freak out as more full requests showed up.
JULY 29-AUGUST 2:
Fun at SCBWI. Copious borrowing of friends' iPhones. Tried to keep the crazy under control.
- AUGUST 1: On bus back to hotel from Hollywood, Kirsten asked if I was going to query her agent, Michelle. I explained that I still had a REFUGE query for Michelle at her last agency, and didn't know how to query her at the new one, or if I even should. Kirsten offered to contact her. I responded with semi-coherent thanks and blabber.
Flew home. Checked messages on runway after landing in Dallas. I HAVE AN OFFER. Did a little dance in my seat. Girl next to me did dance with me. (Thank you girl flying from Seattle to Dallas for a Mary Kay conference!) Spent time before next delayed flight calling husband, BFF and mom. Squealing ensued. (Except for husband, whose reaction was appropriately enthusiastic in a manly way, of course.)
Sent emails to agents who had ATF, or REFUGE, or in some cases, just a query for either.
I GET ANOTHER OFFER.
I HAVE THREE MORE OFFERS OMG. And one of them was from Michelle, who requested the full without a query, based on whatever nice things Kirsten told her.
Husband left for DC. I spent the day wondering how to survive the crazy without him.
Email with locked attachment from BFF that said "I will call at 10:45 with the password." At 10:45, she called, I opened the document, and found: "Say this out loud: ACCIO BFF." So I did.
OMG WTF I HAVE ANOTHER OFFER. BFF watched children, kept me sane and reminded me to do things like eat because OMG WHAT is this insanity the next offer makes SEVEN and this one is for REFUGE!
As alpha/beta/most important reader, BFF helped breakdown all the agents' suggested revisions. As my BFF, she took one look at me and said, "You're in love with Michelle."
And I was.
But it was still a ridiculously hard decision, because I loved some others too. I purposely didn't query anyone I wasn't absolutely sure I'd like to work with-- which is a great strategy, until you have to pick between them and they're all freaking awesome.
Finally, though, it came down to the advice that the amazing Myra McEntire gave me: Go with your gut. You want someone who's genuinely excited. And considering Michelle offered to get on a plane and fly to Arkansas to meet me, I couldn't doubt her enthusiasm. (I also couldn't possibly ask her to fly here when it's 102 degrees.)
(Also, her agency's hold music is old school Michael Jackson. And she tells me their office walls are green with gold glitter. SPARKLES, people. And their agency cookout involved ice cream and Frisbee. These things all suggest a match, despite my tendency to get hit in the head with Frisbees pretty much anytime one's around.)
Of course I didn't pick just based on excitement (or sparkles, or "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"). Michelle's revision suggestions for ATF are amazing, and then she read REFUGE and her suggestions for it were just perfect. When I found myself at the library, checking out the research books she'd recommended for its revisions, I knew the decision was already made-- her suggestions had already registered as the ones that matched my vision, but challenged it to be better.
When I queried REFUGE, I desperately did not want the "start writing your second book" axiom to be true. I started writing ATF as a writing exercise, nothing more. But it turned into a lot more. A whole lot more.
Sometimes things don't work out the way you expect, but that way turns out to be just about perfect.
Thank you to all of the amazing agents, writers, friends and family who have gotten me this far. I hope I can do your support justice.
ETA: I should add: I know it's sometimes disheartening to hear that someone got an agent based on their connections. Please believe me when I say-- Yes, it helped, but I did get offers from people I have no connection to at all. People get picked out of the slush all the time and if you're doing your research, reading blogs like these, you may very well be next.
Also... I feel kind of obnoxious putting my stats out here for the world to see. I hope it helps someone the way other people's stories helped me. :)