Archives: #YazzysAmazingYarn

Guess what? I got an agent!

I’m super-duper-triple-axel-back-flip-cartwheel happy to announce that I officially signed with a literary agent today!

My agent—(oooh, I love sound of that!)—is Keely Boeving, and she has been with WordServe Literary since 2016. Keely is always looking for new voices and ideas, and, like me, she believes that books change lives. After receiving her B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, she went on to attend the Denver Publishing Institute and then began her career in New York working in the editorial department at Oxford University Press, where she acquired books for the trade history list. She moved back to Colorado in 2014 and began her own freelance editorial company before joining WordServe. She lives in Denver with her husband and their twins. You can find out more about her editorial work at https://www.keelyboeving.com/ and follow her on Twitter @KeelyBoeving (here’s a direct link to her account: https://twitter.com/KeelyBoeving).

I suppose my path to finding an agent started back with my two self-published picture books, which I launched in 2016 and 2019. My indie experience with those books has been wonderful: I’ve done at least 100 author visits, met new friends/writers/illustrators/librarians, and expanded upon a long-time writing career that began right after college when I was a newspaper reporter. I’ve learned so much and wouldn’t change a thing, but through it all, I developed a desire to try to enter the world of traditional publishing. One day, a fun story idea zapped into my brain, and I started writing it as a children’s middle grade novel (for ages 8-12).

This was my view for many months while writing … a makeshift “whiteboard.”

I got really serious about this manuscript in January 2020; then, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I hunkered down at home and spent more time than ever on my laptop. I’d start early and would often write for 8-10 hours a day. During this time, I also worked with a book coach, Jen Braaksma. She kept me accountable on completing the finished draft, and by June, I joyfully typed “The End”! If you need a writing guide who will sit on your shoulder, whispering Jiminy-Cricket-like advice, please check her out at https://www.jenbraaksma.com/ … Jen is fantastic! My next step was to send my story out to several beta readers—individuals who review finished manuscripts before they’re published, providing the author with feedback from a reader’s point of view. I poured over their suggested edits, and I revised and revised (and revised!!) the draft a gazillion times, until I finally felt ready.

My first query letter went out to the vast, intimidating “Land o’ Agents” around the end of July 2020. And, of course, not just that one email, but many, many more. I was walloped with a lot of canned rejections, but I also got some requests! Woohoo! See, the thing novelists are looking for when we query an agent is a request from them to read the full manuscript. A query usually includes a cover letter and anywhere from 5-25 pages, depending on what each particular agent wants. I received a large handful of requests from agents wanting to read the full, so I quickly sent them off … and waited. Querying is definitely a test of patience, so I buckled up and prepared as best I could to enjoy the ride.

Fast forward to today—April 12, 2021—when I signed a contract with Keely. What an amazing day … you know, that magical Cinderella kind of moment when the Fairy Godmother appears. I’m glad we found each other. 🙂

Whatever your goals are, never give up. That sounds a bit cliché, I guess, but it’s true. There were times during this eight-month process of seeking representation that I wanted to quit. The rejections were sometimes tough to take (I was hit with far too many of those soul-sucking “no’s”!). One example of particular heartbreak occurred earlier this year … I thought I was close to getting a person I felt could be my “dream agent,” only to have her eventually pass; she was so nice and explained it had been a difficult decision for her, but the disappointment I felt was heavy. Although, you know what? Sometimes on the way to a dream, we get rerouted and find an even better one. For me, that meant joining Team Keely and WordServe Literary. I’m so grateful!

Now the hard part really starts! Next step: Find a publisher. Wish us luck!

BE AMAZING!

Holiday shopping made easy!

The holidays are right around the corner. Can you believe it? This difficult year of 2020 is almost at a close, and I’m hoping and praying for only goodness and grace to cover all of us in the upcoming year. And guess what? I’m finally getting into the holiday shopping mood. Are you? If so, I have some creative ideas to share.

Discover new products!

(1) This 2020 Gift Guide was made possible by Katie Carlisle Gonzales, someone I’ve “met” (well, virtually anyway!) through a Facebook group called Moms and Ladies of Southwest Houston. There, we share tips and network with our neighbors. Katie had the idea to create a holiday shopping guide, and I was lucky enough to make the deadline and be included. The guide includes links to over 30 businesses, offering a wide variety of shopping items that you might not think of or know about otherwise. Check out the link here >>> https://bit.ly/34OY1qO

Follow her: www.tericase.com

(2) Do you love books? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could read the first chapter of a novel before you purchased it? Well, my friend Teri Case has made that possible with “Great Beginnings: An Anthology.” More than 30 authors—myself included!—have joined together to share the first chapters of their books for free, especially for you. We hope you find new authors and books to add to your must-read pile, and who knows, maybe you’ll even find gift ideas for your friends and family. Here’s a link that will walk you through the easy process of downloading the free e-book >>> https://BookHip.com/NMLQAW

Bring a mask!

(3) How about an open-air outdoor holiday shopping market? I’ll be one of about 30 vendors at the 16th Annual Heights Holiday Market from 10am-4 pm, Saturday December 5th, at The Church at 1548 Heights Blvd. I’m going to be autographing and personalizing my two children’s books: Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car and Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn. Meanwhile, my friend Bonnie Blue will bring her “Women That Rock” artcar/van, and she’ll be selling her hand-painted driftwood Santas (and more). Such a fun photo op for the kids! You’ll also find a coffee truck, a taco vendor, and so many amazing one-of-a-kind gift ideas, so please join us if you’re in the Houston area. Masks are required for both vendors and visitors. #houstonheightsholidaymarket

www.lonestarliterary.com

(4) I’m also in another online Holiday Gift Guide, thanks to Lone Star Literary Life, a wonderful organization that helps readers find stories and helps Texas authors find their ideal audiences. Owner and publisher Kristine Hall has put together a Holiday Gift Guide, and I’m in it! You can find my two books and so many other children’s books here >>> https://www.lonestarliterary.com/content/2020-hgg-books-young-readers … and if you go to the Lone Star Literary Life website, Kristine has put together some other gift guides for fiction and non-fiction adult books as well (go to the LSLL website and look under the “Features” tab).

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and the merriest of holidays in whatever way you celebrate, if you do. And, as we shop and buy and—as best we are able—find ways to safely fellowship together, let’s also remember those less fortunate. I’m trying to be mindful of the people whose lives have taken a turn, friends who’ve lost their jobs, that person who might be home alone this year, and those who are working so hard but not quite getting ahead. Every year at Christmas-time, I choose a charity or a specific family to support, and I hope you will consider doing the same if you are able.

BE AMAZING!

Butterflies Mixed with Cartwheels

When you get an email from a writer who’s with the Los Angeles office of the SCBWI, you sit up and pay attention. If you don’t already know, SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s the only professional organization specifically created for individuals who write and illustrate for children and young adults. And, it’s international too, with nearly 100 chapters around the world: https://www.scbwi.org/

But… back to ME! I was asked to be interviewed for the SCBWI Pro-Insider newsletter and when I first read the email request, I paused with a “Wait, what?” kind of feeling. I was nervous (butterflies) and excited (cartwheels). I mean, it goes out to about 10,000-plus members! How did they even hear about me and my two indie books, I wondered? Laurie Miller, SCBWI’s event coordinator and writer-at-large in LA, explained that one of the regional chapter advisors referred me. In July, I had spoken via Zoom at the SCBWI Ohio Central-South chapter meeting, delivering a talk called “How to Hustle: Tips from a Self-Published Author.” (So, thank you Kathryn Powers & Leigh Lewis for singing my praises!)

I hope you enjoy the SCBWI Pro-Insider article. Here’s a LINK to read it: https://www.scbwi.org/finding-and-working-with-an-illustrator-when-self-publishing-a-picture-book/

Thank you, SCBWI for giving me the opportunity to talk about the path I took in hiring professional illustrators for my two picture books. I adore Bill Megenhardt’s hand-illustrated cross-hatch drawings that brought ARTHUR ZARR’S AMAZING ART CAR to life. And the original watercolors that Emily Calimlim did for YAZZY’S AMAZING YARN are so bright and beautiful. I will always be grateful to Bill and Emily for joining me in this book adventure. And like I say in the article: Always Pay Your Creative Professionals A Fair Rate That Acknowledges Their Value! You’re missing out if you’re not already following these two on Instagram… Bill is @megenhardtstudio, and Emily is @limlimillustration.

Also check out Kathryn Powers’ website here; she’s the regional advisor who referred me around SCBWI as a potential speaker: https://www.kspowers.com/ She’s a writer and illustrator, to name just a few of the hats she wears. And follow my friend Leigh Lewis on Twitter @leighwriting. I appreciate their support of my endeavors.

If you’d like me to speak (virtually for the time being!)—about writing, publishing, creativity and inspiration—at your school, library, meeting, organization, etc., please reach out by sending me an email through the CONTACT tab on my website: https://www.catheynickell.com/contact/

I’d love to hear from you!

Be Amazing!

© 2021 Cathey Graham Nickell
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