Andrea and Tricia, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Andrea, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
ANDREA: I grew up in San Francisco, where the streets burst to life with graffiti. Myths and creatures crawl out of the walls, and you can probably tell that I’ve spent way too many nights waiting for the 14-owl bus that never comes. One day, I thought, what if the graffiti creatures actually came to life. And what if I could weave in myths from the Philippines that were slowly slipping away from my family.
ROMAN & LYNX is about a forgettable teenager named Roman who’s tired of blending in with the wallpaper. His classmates hardly know his name, his grandma has dementia, his dad left him, and he’s so afraid of being forgotten that he wants to rage his name on the walls. Instead, he accidentally unleashes a beast. A snarky winged-beast named Lynx who’s set on devouring every hipster in San Francisco. Basically, I’ve pitched it as SHADOWSHAPER meets HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON with Filipino mythology and graffiti magic bursting at the seams.
It’s the novel that hooked my agent in #DVpit. But... we’re actually going out on submission with my second novel first.
BLANCA & THE RUINS is about a fiery teenage girl named Blanca who’s determined not to inherit her Filipino family curse of becoming a nurse and falling for the disasters that are drawn to them. (In case you didn’t know this, Filipino mamas are notorious for “nudging” their daughters into the nursing profession). Blanca wants to pursue her secret passion for architecture, but when she sneaks out to draw one night in Dolores Park, she finds a boy committing suicide atop a billboard who needs her help to unravel the mysterious demons that haunt him. Once he gets hold of her hand neither of them can let go. In this novel, I truly wanted to explore the idea: how can you help others without losing yourself? Not to mention wildfire girls, disastrous boys, family curses, and manananggal monsters!
Tricia, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
TRICIA: The writing was breathtakingly beautiful from the first sentence. I can’t help it; when writing is this lovely, I am ALL IN.
Andrea, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
ANDREA: I’ve met fabulous crit partners through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators), and I also have a writing group called the Mugsters that have put up with my crazy ideas over the years. Writing in the Margins and author Justina Ireland were super helpful in spit-shining my ROMAN & LYNX query letter. I revised until I couldn’t stand to look at my manuscript any more, and then I contemplated rewriting the whole thing as a graphic novel… and repeat.
BLANCA AND THE RUINS on the other hand, I wrote and revised in two months of brilliant flow that I’m kind of afraid I’ll never be able to replicate. This novel is my soul on paper and the first few chapters actually won the SCBWI LA Writers Day Award a couple months before #DVpit. The first person to read the full manuscript was my agent. And she LOVED it. And I nearly burst into flames when she told me.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
ANDREA: I had no idea what to expect! I was just starting to research and query agents when I stumbled upon #DVpit. I hardly knew anything about Twitter and I’d only opened an account a few years before because my teenage idol Pretty in Pink’s Molly Ringwald tweeted about an article I’d written for the NaNoWriMo blog. So I knew magical things could happen on Twitter.
Fast forward to #DVpit, I tossed my pitch out there like a tagger trying to throw graffiti on a moving train. No expectations, even though I couldn’t stop checking Twitter at my office.
Then, magic. Authors that I admire like Anne Ursu and Cindy Pon were retweeting my pitch. Other writers were commenting on pitches and giving such incredible support to each other. So many diverse stories that I wanted to see on the shelves one day. And then I got 29 hearts on one of my tweets and immediately jumped on the query train!
How was the experience for you, Tricia?
TRICIA: It was so exciting that I requested too many manuscripts! But it’s so fun and there is so much energy. It’s one of the most fun experiences on Twitter ever. Highly recommend that everyone jump in (agent-wise) next time.
Andrea, did you receive pitch help? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
ANDREA: During #DVpit, I started reading through the list and realized that many of the exciting pitches were the ones with unexpected comp title combinations. I immediately re-vamped my pitch. Don’t go for Harry Potter meets Hunger Games. Try to use recent comp titles that really highlight your unique story. The Twitter feed moves so fast that you need your pitch to strike lightning!
And Tricia, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
TRICIA: Keep honing those manuscripts and be ready. You want to be involved in #DVpit. It’s contagious enthusiasm, and so much fun. I’m so into it!
Tell us about The Call, Andrea!
ANDREA: After sending out queries and getting a bunch of full manuscript requests, I received an agent offer! So, I frantically messaged a deadline to all the other agents with fulls. I received another offer. Torn between the two agents, I asked them for the weekend to think it over before making such a tough choice. And then Tricia Lawrence from Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA) called on Sunday afternoon, and I couldn’t stop dancing around my apartment. At SCBWI conferences and retreats, I’d heard how EMLA was such an amazing community of agents and authors that specialized in children’s and YA literature. I immediately loved Tricia’s enthusiasm! I felt like she understood my writing and wanted to be a champion for diverse voices. I wanted to zoom up to Seattle, knock on her door, and tackle her with a hug.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
ANDREA: “Shadowshaper meets How to Train your Dragon–a boy busting out his inner Banksy & Filipino myths in SanFrancisco graffiti streets #YA #DVpit”
Tricia, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
TRICIA: Unique elements that I hadn’t seen before. Andrea really chose her pitch words carefully and it paid off.
What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find, maybe at the next #DVpit?
TRICIA: I am looking for novels written by #ownvoices writers. Anything and everything. I feel like #DVpit is a wonderful place to connect writers and agents. I’m delighted to be a part.
Warm congratulations to Andrea and Tricia for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
As an agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Tricia Lawrence (@authorblogger) represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won't let go.
Andrea Ellickson (@andreaellickson) writes YA novels about wildfire girls, Filipino legends, family curses and graffiti magic. She's rep'd by Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA). She lives in Santa Barbara where the hills catch fire and her monstrously sweet pit bull frolics the beaches.