Tina and Stephanie, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Tina, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
TINA: This picture book is born from an experience I imagine my daughter might have in the near future. Also, as a teacher, my eyes are always open to the needs of my students and I believe this story might speak to those children who feel that their family is so very different from those of their classmates.
Being adopted can make many class projects difficult for children and I believe the family tree is one of them. My daughter is adopted and I always look for information to help guide me with my parenting of her, in particular. I read an article about optional ways to create family trees for those who are adopted and from there, the idea for my book took hold. I do hope it will find a home, as I believe the message is one for all children; families are different and everyone in a family matters.
Stephanie, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
STEPHANIE: I recently witnessed a few children feeling ostracized at school for different reasons. Sometimes it’s not always on purpose. Kids ask innocent questions the can make adults feel awkward because of grown-up preconceptions. But, if more books gave the tools to answer questions in a creative and inclusive manner, we could bulldoze those preconceptions. The booked is one such book and I was hooked right off the bat.
Tina, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
TINA: This manuscript came fast and furious after the seed idea had been planted. I took notes while reading the article and worked on a rough draft from there. My first drafts are always very long and tend to lack some of the emotional content. That’s why I have 3 critique partners; one helps with the overall content, another helps with the emotions, and the final one edits for dialogue, word count, and appeal (she’s a retired librarian and knows what children like!). I take everyone’s input into consideration and work on the draft until I feel like it might be ready for submission. Sometimes, I will send it out again to the same 3 partners or to someone new.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
TINA: I remember my first #DVpit experience because it was the reason I joined Twitter! I had been reluctant to create an account, but when I started hearing about twitter pitches, I figured it might be worth it to jump on board. My first twitter pitch was #DVpit in April of 2016. I remember Claribel Ortega’s video with instructions on how to craft a pitch; it was extremely helpful! I’m not sure if I received any “likes” during that event, but I was hooked. The community was supportive and inclusive and that meant the world to me.
I love rooting on my writer friends during the events and I hope to see more matches made this October.
How was the experience for you, Stephanie?
STEPHANIE: #DVpit is an exciting experience. You get to see creative innovation in another form. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until it’s right in front of you. #DVpit allows you to see multiple pitches in a short amount of time. Beth Phelan and all of the volunteers do a brilliant job organizing the event and events leading up to #DVpit. I fully support the message of inclusion by #DVpit and appreciate that the event elevates marginalized voices.
Tina, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
TINA: As I mentioned, Claribel Ortega’s video paved the way for me. From there, I read as many pitches as I could from previous twitter pitch events. As a picture book author, I connected with others who were pitching and received advice from several crafty writers. You have to do your homework because you want your pitch to stand out.
One piece of advice is to stay in the game. I felt like giving up after a few rounds of #DVpit, but I celebrated with those who connected with agents, and found myself refueled by their success.
And Stephanie, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
STEPHANIE: My advice would be to have multiple reviewers of your #DVpit pitch, query, synopsis, and manuscript. I’ve seen talented authors query too early on many occasions. While completing a manuscript is a monumental occasion and one that should be celebrated, it doesn’t mean that the manuscript’s ready to be in front of agents. Writers should join a critique group, have beta readers, and/or have their manuscript edited prior to querying agents.
Tell us about The Call, Tina!
TINA: Well, we didn’t have The Call, but it didn’t seem necessary. I prefer email communication and Stephanie seemed to be comfortable with it as well, so we connected multiple times from offer to contract signing. I connected with some of her clients, formed a list of questions for her, and she responded within 24 hours (with all the answers I was hoping for!). At that point, I felt confident that Stephanie was the right person to champion my stories. Actually, one of the things she wrote in her first email when she asked if I would consider revising and resubmitting could have sealed the deal. She explained that she loved the idea behind my story and that “It’s clever and touched my heart.” I believe that brought a few tears to my eyes.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
TINA: “#Dvpit Jasmyn loves her family, but her class family tree project has her feeling uneasy. Where will she place her birth parents? Her two moms? Jasmyn must look at a tree in a different way in order to create her perfectly unique family tree. #pb #adoption #lgbtq”
Stephanie, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
STEPHANIE: Making sure all kids feel they belong is something very near and dear to my heart. My sister and her wife (both veterinarians and my sister’s in the army – they’re freakin’ awesome) had been struggling to find books that their kiddos could relate to right about the time I read Tina’s pitch. Once I opened the manuscript, it was a done deal! Tina has a style and voice that is unique and fun.
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?
STEPHANIE: Speaking of my sister (see above), there are many military moms. While I believe the military has done a phenomenal job in making adjustments toward inclusivity, there’s always room to improve, right. I’d like to see fiction stories about military moms, their struggles, and how kids cope.
Warm congratulations to Tina and Stephanie for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
A transplant from Massachusetts, Tina Mowrey lives in Austin, TX, where the sun never stops shining! Having been a singer/songwriter for years, Tina decided to put pen to paper and try her hand at picture book writing. It was much harder than expected! When she isn’t writing picture books, Tina spends her time working as a 7th grade language arts teacher and hanging out with her wife, two daughters and five pets (one, of which, is a black pug named Chico!).
Stephanie Hansen represents debut to New York Times bestselling authors. She's signed authors with presses like Amphorae to bigger houses like Amazon’s imprint Two Lions. She holds a master’s degree and Creative Writing Specialization. Predominately she represents YA SF/F but has a secret addiction for romance. While these are her favorite, she handles everything fiction from children's books to adult thrillers. Previously an editor for Mind’s Eye Literary Magazine, she became a part of Metamorphosis July 2016. Originally looking to help Midwest authors garner the attention of major publishing houses, despite residing in "flyover states," she found camaraderie with multiple agents and editors.