Stubborn Love: How I Got My Agent

Something really cool happened.

Something I’ve been working toward for some time.

…Your girl got a literary agent.

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It’s been kind of a long story for me and this manuscript. There was the pitch contest, and then there was the waiting. And then invitations to resubmit along with some incredible notes. The ones I took and climbed back into my cave with. I wrote this YA Southern romance that was like a murder ballad meets a telenovela and it took some tweaking to get it right. Each turning the lock a little this way and that until finally it clicked.

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I left the revision cave, emailing it to the agents who’d requested the revision, and then I queried a few more. Luckily it was right around a #MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist) event on twitter, which let me scroll through and see who wanted what.

I got more notes. More great notes.

I turned up my playlist, put on my headphones, went back to my orange grove, turned the lock and revised once more.

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And then I queried once more, too. It was a new to me agent, but I’d heard of the agency. When you’re on Twitter long enough, faces start to become familiar, and I’d seen this agent mentioned when it came to YA, so I queried. A few days later I glanced through #MSWL again when I noticed that this agent I’d just queried had tweeted a #MSWL I hadn’t caught before.

She had Southern fiction on her wish list.

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Hold up. Tiny butterflies went loose, landing on my ribs and flirting with my heart. I shushed them, because I was finishing this last revision and you never know.

Then I got a partial request.

Other things were stirring, but something about this request and agent felt like a quiet sort of magic. Being in the right place at the right time and running into the right person kind of magic.

Then came an enthusiastic request for the rest of the manuscript.

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The butterflies went wild.

I sent that latest revision to this agent and a few others and then I sat back and chilled. I had pots on the stove and had gotten pretty good at waiting. I was reading through my TBR pile again and I was revising the new thing. I was busy while waiting on my TARDIS.

And then one random Monday I was in the kitchen when Lucy called out from the living room. Something about my phone. I made it too late to answer (although, let’s be real, I’m terrible about answering unknown numbers) but I sat down and fired up the voicemail expecting reminders about appointments or insurance things or maybe even school stuff about my son. But it was a pleasant voice introducing herself and my head got blurry, and then she named the literary agency. I stopped clicking the pen in my other hand and sat back, wide-eyed. But I waited. I knew how these things went. I understood revision requests. I waited for that. For her to say she wanted to discuss the book with me, because that could mean a whole host of things.

But then she offered.

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I called her back and listened as she said things that clicked what I’d written and wanted to continue to write into place. When I got off the phone I blasted that playlist I’d listened to while writing, revising, querying and pitching and I danced with the girl who’d been in my belly when I first thought about querying this story.

Then came the part of letting the other agents know. There were emails and last requests and I freaked out with my writer friends in secret who helped me navigate this part. Grateful to so many, I knew I had to listen to my gut.

And I did.

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There were a couple months of terrible queries and then a few more of R&Rs and thoughtful breaks, every stop on this winding path sharpening the tools I was collecting, but I’m so excited to be #TeamTriada and am now represented by Laura Crockett and Dr. Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency!

The songs of my orange grove:

May we always have a mixtape at every turn in the road.

Front Porch Stories: Monday’s Five

1. Orlando City keeps breaking my heart in stoppage time. We lost this week in the 91st minute. I’m a throw myself off the couch yelling at the TV sports fan thanks to my dad, and growing up watching the Miami Dolphins, but I’m also an anxious knot of nerves that huddles, covering her face and switching the TV to mute. And Orlando City is getting stronger every game, but MY GOD. Soccer, I tell you what. I’m new to the MLS fandom, so to speak, and being this emotionally invested is both exciting and exhausting. And hell, college football starts soon and my Gators have a new coach. Bless my heart.

But just look at Brek Shea.

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Running behind his goalkeeper and defending it like it’s his house. Glorious.

2. Last week was fun/nerve-wracking/impossible leading up to today. Things are fluttering around in my inbox and soon I’ll get to talk about that more, but let’s just say there’s been a lot of dancing. Down hallways, through the kitchen, past the kids who follow along like I’m the pied piper and my iPod blasts some out of this world beats.

Just remember what I said before about listening to my gut? Know that I’m chasing it still.

Rita3. I’ve just discovered the show Rita on Netflix, and four episodes in and it is so good. It’s Danish and watching a show with subtitles forces me to put down my phone and actually pay attention, but in a really great way. All my Netflix bingeing lately has been familiar shows like Parks and The Office (except for Bloodline, I’m about to talk about that one, because y’all) but Rita forces you to sit down, shut your mouth and listen. I love her. She’s a teacher and single mother with a list of vices and is stubborn and unapologetic, and that alone is incredibly engaging, but to watch a person like that burst into the room, breaking rules and tearing up papers, because she’s protecting that one kid in a way that protects their reputation? It’s fun to listen to the language and see life in Denmark, and I want every piece of furniture and decor I see, but I’m here for Rita. There’s two seasons on Netflix and I heard they’re gonna fund the third. Oh, Rita. Never leave me.

bloodline4. Craig and I watched Bloodline together in that really fun way of squeezing in episodes together when we could, and not daring to watch until the other could. I wanted to watch for three reasons:  1) Kyle Chandler 2) Florida and 3) Kyle Chandler. And let me tell you, it satisfied on every level and so much more. Bloodline is a family drama of adult siblings and their parents, much in the way of Parenthood, but if it took place in the Florida Keys around the family’s bed & breakfast and there was more humidity and murder. There were so many TWISTS and moments that you thought everything was about to go to hell, but it didn’t, but then it did in a totally different way. I love shows that use Florida as a backdrop, because I think this state is such a character, and here the Keys are used to perfection. They just announced a second season in 2016.

5. Easter Sunday was great. Craig’s schedule is a bit wonky, and we have to fit things with the kids where we can. This year Phoenix had some difficulty with the idea of the Easter bunny coming to our house and was showing some fear over it. When he’s thinking quickly you have to follow him and pick up whatever pieces of the story you can, and finally he stopped and drew it out on our chalkboard wall (that thing has been so helpful in our house) and he had seen a scary version, and frankly, I’d be worried as hell too, if my parents were telling me that thing was coming to our house. We talked it over and this year the bunny left the baskets outside and Dad “found” them and brought them inside. We watched Easter Mass from the Vatican, a thing my Dad always did when I lived at home. It was a nice, quiet day and the mess of plastic eggs gets thankfully put back in the closet until next year.

The Autism Mom Grows Up (Too)

If you know me, you know my story pretty well at this point. The mom, the reader, the writer, the lazy crafter. And you know that in some circles I’m referred to as an autism mom. My son is in an ASD class and his curriculum is classified as alternative. He has a list of sensory issues and struggles with verbal communication, and when he comes home I get snippets of his day from what he tells me, the rest from his agenda and what he shows me, so when it comes to the conversation of autism, my part comes from sitting beside him.

Eventually behind him.

My voice is of the observer and advocate. Of the tired fighter sometimes, because I’m Mom, and I’ve had to go a few rounds in his name. But he’s not a baby anymore. The conversations we’re having, living, and stumbling through are growing up. They’re about school curriculum and IEPs. The burgeoning independence that comes with adolescence. Life is about him turning eight and planning for life after elementary school and the question of diplomas. Our discussions are about goals, struggles, and an entire team of educators and therapists sharpening and welding together every last tool I can find to help him become a self-advocate. I’m listening to others. Adults who have walked my son’s path. I’m listening, curious and hungry. Trying. I’m always trying to learn new skills, new ways to discuss and learn from him. I’m still reading beside him, checking over his spelling words, throwing him high-fives when he beats that new level on his game, and skillfully moving around him as he runs back and forth down the hall, working off his day.

Here in our cave, in our home base, it’s just us. We’re the narrative. But thanks to places like Twitter, I’ve come to realize people are a little tired of hearing from me.

That’s disconcerting at first.

In the conversation about autism, the parental voice has been noted. The focus leans so heavily on the early stuff. The When They Turn Two stuff. The hours of therapy one should be getting or else You’re Not Doing Enough. Personally, a lot of my son’s time is unstructured. Because he’s seven and gets to play and be bored, too.

The thing about autism is that more often than not, we’re listening to the support team, and not the person they’re all standing around. The world is looking at these kids as problems that need to be fixed. My son is growing up in a world where he has to develop a tolerance to discomfort just to get by. And that’s kind of terrifying to a mom who wants to build him the smoothest roads, find him the best of friends, and convince him that green vegetables are delicious. I can’t build him an easy life, and I let go of trying to find answers from neurotypical resources. But truth be told, it’s hard sometimes to connect the eloquent voice of autistic adults with my son and his struggles, because he’s still so young. But he’s growing up so fast. I’m straddling old fears with ones further out I can’t see yet. But it’s about him. I’m a neurotypical person connected to the autism community, but I am not autistic. So I did the only thing I could when you care so much, but aren’t part of that group: I sat down and listened.

They want to know what my son thinks. What he wants. What he’ll do when he’s older and if the world is doing enough to make sure it’s ready for him and his classmates. Everyone is tired of the sad mom stories, the campaigns driven by fear, and the dismissive attitudes. They’re tired of a toddler and his long-faced mother being on every poster, stirring pity instead of acceptance. They’re damn near exhausted of being told they’re not whole people.

They’re fighting for their lives. They’re fighting for his future. Because if the conversation grows up, if the concerns and support go beyond toddlers and pediatricians, toxic “cures” and campaigns, then the world might be a little less scary for my son as he grows up, too. He is not a problem, and he is not a canvas for someone else to paint a sad story or to be anyone’s inspirational sidekick.

You want a story about a mom? Fine. Cool. I’ve got one of those. You want one about a Latina? Okay, I can personally talk about that. And yes, my story has been tremendously shaped by not only being a mother, but being my son’s mother. I love him so much my chest could burst, but I’m not claiming this sword or his voice as mine. I’m here to raise him. To honor who he is as a person every step of the way. From the baby I cradled to my chest to the adolescent who still holds my hand sometimes. I’ll never stop or apologize for fighting for him, supporting him. I’ll never stop trying to become better for him, and that’s a whole other tale deserving of its own place, but not before or at the expense of his.

The fight for neurodiversity and autism acceptance belongs to us all, but the sword and seat at the table are his.

In the quest to listen to important voices in the conversation about autism, a great place to start is with the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. They’ve compiled a great list of resources for Autism Acceptance Month: http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/resources/

A great group that’s near and dear to our family’s heart is A.skate.

And in the lit world, I’ve been following and learning so much from the writers behind Disability in Kidlit. Throughout April they’re doing an Autism on the Page event.

Front Porch Stories: Monday’s Five

1. Had a family reunion out at my parent’s place this weekend. It was a big, Cuban affair with my dad’s brothers and all my cousins. We all grew up together in Homestead and went different ways via formidable years in Georgia and are now spread out between Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but when we all get together it’s noisy, joyous and filled with my mother’s food. We even made a hashtag, because it’s apparently 2015? And people do that. #MorenoReunion2015

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It’s a little mad to realize we’re not the kids anymore. The young cousins I last saw as babies are in high school and most of us have kids and what even is this time thing. Glancing at my mom and grandmother I wonder how it feels. Then again, I look at my kids chasing each other and laugh at the fact that somehow I’m someone’s mom and where is Mufasa to explain the circle of life to me.

2. And it was nice to cap off the week with a party. Because, last week? It was awesome.

Like, real awesome.

So awesome my dude and kids took me out to a nice dinner at the lake. I mean, sure, the lake is at the end of my street, but it was some delicious seafood and fruity drinks out by the water as the sun set with signs reminding us not to feed the gators. I love you, Florida.

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3. ALSO SOUND THE ALARMS BECAUSE OUTLANDER RETURNS THIS SATURDAY. *faints*

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Every day, Jaime. Every. Day.

4. I didn’t get to watch the Orlando City match this weekend, because of the reunion, BUT I did follow the score on my phone, because of course I did, and I absolutely rocked my Orlando City koozie. I’m actually new to the koozie thing. I was once at a bar in South Carolina with a friend and every woman I ran into had a koozie in her purse. It was amazing. My sister has a drawer of them. I only have three. A Florida Gators one, Orlando City, and a blue one with Daleks that say, “Intoxicate. Intoxicate.” I’m feeling pretty good about my koozie collection representing who I am as a person.

5. Speaking of koozies and what we put in them, found this beer at Publix this week.

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Something something about tequila barrels and almost like a beergarita, but really smooth.

Finally, someone on Twitter reminded us all that it’s two days until APRIL in the year 2015.

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Put that in your koozie and drink it.

My Crooked Bookshelf: Kicking the 2014 Book Slump

Unfortunately last year was kind of a crap year for me reading-wise. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine. It was literally an “it isn’t you, it’s me” situation. Between the drafting and revising and life-ing, I couldn’t turn the voracious reading part of my brain back on. I was binging on Netflix, discovering Doctor Who and scrolling through Twitter in my down time instead of picking up a book.

The reader inside me was STARVING.

When 2015 kicked down my door, I looked it in the face, narrowed my eyes and said, “I’m going to read the crap out of this year. I swear it.”

To be completely frank I read a total of 20 books last year.

20. Books. In twelve months. I can’t even with myself.

Here we are at the end of March, and my current total is 23. Not too shabby.

Some of those have been rereads, but I totally count those, because choosing to go back means something.

I reread all of the Fever books by Karen Marie Moning in preparation of reading BURNED and it was amazing, frustrating and everything I love about that series. I also reread the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews as well as caught up on the last two books and am officially now dying for the next one. I swear, MAGIC BREAKS was one of the most epic reading experiences I can remember in forever. Speaking of Ilona Andrews, I read the first in their new series, BURN FOR ME, and dammit, if they aren’t amazing storytellers and totally top five forever and ever for me. I’m currently on the hunt for all the Urban Fantasy I haven’t read. I just finished MIND GAMES by Carolyn Crane, and will be surely reading the rest of that trilogy.

This is also the year I want to read more Fantasy Romance. I started with WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughn and RADIANCE by Grace Draven, and am now reading LORD OF THE FADING LANDS by C.L. Wilson. (And I am SO IN.)

I was also on a New Adult kick and loved THE HOOK UP by Kristen Callihan, THE DEAL by Elle Kennedy, and LUCK ON THE LINE by Zoraida Córdova. All are first books in series I will follow from here on out, waving my fangirl flag.

As far as Young Adult, I read two amazing, contemporary YA books that take place in the South. BIGGEST FLIRTS by Jennifer Echols and NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown. I’m working on a blog post about southern YA and the ways some of my favorite stories use setting, voice and characters to show the many sides of the South.

My bracket is also still alive and well in this year’s DABWAHA. It’s a tournament of 64 books put together by Jane from Dear Author and Sarah from Smart Bitches, and it’s a ton of fun. There’s no telling how long my luck and guesses will go, but I’m going all the way with MAGIC BREAKS. It was that kind of book.

Here’s to creaking bookshelves and never-ending TBR piles.

Lazy Girl Crafts: Make Your Own Art

We’ve lived in our house for almost three years now, and there was a lot of work that went into getting it to where it is now. We bought an old place beside our small, but working downtown, and it is definitely not the house we walked into with our realtor anymore. The previous owners had run a business out of it, so there was glass walls, bright red paint, and concrete floors. Truth be told, we walked around a bit, sighed over not finding our house again, and moved on. But both Craig and I had felt something. Something in the backyard, something from standing beneath the big oak trees. From standing in the driveway and being able to look down the street and see the lake. From the grapefruit tree, blooming sweet. There was something to this house, and maybe we could make it work.

And we have.

I’m proud of the life we’ve built, and the work we’ve put into our house. From the wood floors Craig put down himself, to the walls he’s taken down and put up somewhere else. I’ve painted every single wall, and even the kitchen cabinets. But now here we are three years later and we’re finally making our own art for these walls.

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We found two MDF boards in the clearance cart at Home Depot and my eyes lit up, because I’d been flirting with the Scrabble tiles idea. After sketching out how to work all of our names together, we got the letter stencils and paint, also at Home Depot, and got to work.

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He may not find his name on a keychain in a tourist shop, but my son will always win the most points for that damn X.

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I had one more idea for a piece of art for our walls, and of course, it was also inspired by a post I saw on Pinterest. Putting letter stickers on a painting you found at the thrift store, painting over them and then peeling them off to reveal a revamped painting with a hipster cool quote?

And I had the perfect painting.

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I’ve been carting this thing with me for YEARS. And it’s huge, let me tell you. I found it in a thrift store when I still lived at home and I dragged it to every single apartment we lived in. We were the kids with the grandma apartment, and this was my showpiece. Over the years it got slipped into a closet, but I couldn’t get rid of it. There’s a tiny old couple walking down that nice, autumn street, and they were waiting for me to make this a showpiece again.

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So, with a beloved Parks & Rec quote in hand, I was ready to make this a forever piece. A “we’re gonna grow old with this one” piece.

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That bad boy is up on the big shelf, lording over us again. I’m proud of seventeen year-old me for picking it out, for twenty year-old me holding onto it, dragging it up another set of stairs, and for twenty-nine year-old me not being afraid to mess with it and make it completely ours.

Front Porch Stories: Hello, 2015

  1. I’m not immune to all that new year/new you talk. As much as I love Christmas, the older I get, the more I’ve looked forward to January. Maybe it’s because the weather gets so good here. Instead of snow we get crisp mornings and good breezes. The mosquitoes are a thing to worry about later and the sky is big and blue. It’s brand new calendars and planners. January is a first page, a tangible thing to grab and uncap your marker and make plans. Better ones. So, I celebrate it.
    I’ve started a #365project over on my instagram in an attempt to document the little things.

    Reading again. Kicking that slump right in the teeth. 4/365 📚 #365project

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    The quiet ones that have been redesigning me. This isn’t the year of waiting. It’s the year of writing.
    And reading.
    And making.
    It’s the year of stretching, more dancing and music, old books, Spanish and non-fiction ones, and growing. Celebrating my center, decorating it and burrowing into it. My anxieties and worries will be along for the ride, because fighting them never gets me anywhere new or good, but they can fumble around with the map while I drive.

  2. Speaking of January and new calendars and planners I bought one and am in loooooove. 2015-01-06 11.00.46
  3. I’m also doing Yoga with Adriene‘s 30 Days of Yoga.
    I stumbled upon her videos on Youtube one day and really dug it. I’ve had a yoga mat for years and it’s one of those things I always look at and give a try every couple months, because I’m an old creaky lady who feels better when I stretch. Who wants to find my place in all the noise of everything and I like the idea of doing that with my body. My about to be 30 year-old body. I want to be at peace with it, feel it move and stretch beyond this computer chair. So, I found her videos, loved how chill and relaxed she was and her Texas cool vibe. Her earlier videos even have a Shakey Graves song playing. It felt like I’d found my place to do this and she’s put together a 30 Days series and we’re into Day 6. Figuring it out with a toddler climbing all over me is right on the money for how I will rock this year.
    Here’s to that stretching thing, yeah?