Wednesday, July 21, 2010

41 WOW Wednesday: Stephanie Blake

How I (Finally) Got a Book Plucked From the Slush Pile


Stephanie Blake


January: I write this cheesy romance novel and think it’s the best thing since The Notebook. I query three agents, but it’s so awful, I shelve it, and we shall never speak of it again.

March: Inspired by cute things my 3-year old says, I write about 12 bad picture books. I clog up slush piles everywhere, spending astronomical amounts on postage, paper, and ink cartridges. I don’t have a clue.

Summer: I write this hilarious middle grade novel about three boys who start a dog poop pick up service (Yes, really). I run spell check twice and query almost every U.S. publisher with it.

Fall: Requests for fulls roll in, to my surprise. I spend even more on postage, paper, and ink cartridges. I stalk the mail truck. I save each rejection letter in a file folder. I keep elaborate spreadsheets on whom I’ve sent what and when they’ve responded. I dutifully post my response times on Verla Kay. I subscribe to Publishers Marketplace. I am on the computer 12 hours a day, combing the internet for information on editors or agents.

December: I’ve racked up over 100 rejections.


February: I write a boy-centric chapter book while recuperating from spinal fusion.

May: I start querying agents with the chapter book. I get serious interest from three great agents.

July: I pick the agent who offers first, burning bridges along the way. Off on submission we go.

August: I write a historical called The Marble Queen. I attend my first big writer’s conference in LA!

September: Agent #1 forwards 10 rejections in three weeks. I revise, but we don’t go back out. I send her the historical.

October: Sadly, Agent #1 and I part ways. I start querying new agents with the historical. I get lots of rejections telling me that the book is “too quiet.” I go after editors and get requests. An editor from FSG wants a revision! And Agent #2 wants to work together, but not on The Marble Queen, but on one of my WIP’s, Skinny Minnie.

November: I work on Skinny Minnie for Agent #2, and I also start revising The Marble Queen for FSG.


January: I’ve had 7 rejections on The Marble Queen. Nothing is happening. I’m still revising.

March: The editor at FSG asks for another revision on the historical.

May: I go into a deep depression about the endless revising. I hate writing.

June: An editor from HC contacts me about snippets of Skinny Minnie on my blog. Agent #2 says its not ready, yet. I pout and start yet another round of revision.

July: I attend the LA conference, again and have an even better time than the year before. I send FSG the historical.

October: After almost a year of working together, Agent #2 declines to represent Skinny Minnie. I cry, I pick myself up off the floor and start submitting to new agents that same evening.

November: Agent #3 and I have a lovely phone call, and I start revising Skinny Minnie, again.


January: FSG rejects The Marble Queen. I’m crushed.

February: I go to the winter SCBWI Conference in NYC. I meet the agent I’m revising for! When I get home, she declines to rep Skinny Minnie. Was it something I said? I’ve spent money on a conference for nothing. My morale is lower than ever.

April: I finish a YA novel-in-verse and query agents with a vengeance.

May: I rack up over 75 form rejections. I get jealous of book deals. I can’t sleep. In a last ditch effort, I send a full of The Marble Queen to three more editors.

August: I decide it is never going to happen for me. I go back to school for a phlebotomy certificate. I get a job at the hospital. I don’t write, don’t read writing blogs, and I ponder deleting my profile on the blue board. I assume all submissions out are rejections. I hate writing.

December: An editor emails to ask if the YA novel-in-verse is available. I send it, elated.


March: Out of the blue I get an email from an editor at Marshall Cavendish asking if The Marble Queen is still available. (The manuscript sat in slush for 10 months) 10 days later she asks if I want to revise. Um, yes? I work my tail off hitting every single point in the editorial letter.

April 26, 2010: I send in the revisions.

SILENCE… *insert angst, lots of donut consumption…*

June 1, 2010: I get an email. They are discussing it. *more donut consumption*

June 15, 2010 Late in the day, Robin Benjamin emails to ask if we can talk on the phone. I’m at the pool. It’s too late in NY for her to get my response. I have “a feeling.” I make a list of things to ask during the phone call. Amazingly enough, I sleep soundly.

June 16, 2010 I give the children stern warnings not to bother me while I am on the call unless the house is on fire. Robin calls at 9:11 am and offers to buy The Marble Queen. We chat. (The details are hazy) I hang up the phone and squeal. I am not even downstairs before I cry for my husband.

I call my dad, my mom, my sister and my best friend. I post the good news on all social media. My children run amok, while I am glued to the computer reading congratulatory emails and posts. I grin like The Joker during an hour at Little League. Later, we celebrate with champagne. My parents and friends give me bouquets. I’m so happy I could die.

Moral of the story: Never surrender! The Marble Queen is the book of my heart. I’m thrilled that it has found the perfect home, but it never would have happened if I wouldn’t have sent out just one more query!

And come to think of it, I’ve never heard on the novel-in-verse.


My debut novel is a middle grade historical called THE MARBLE QUEEN, forthcoming from Marshall Cavendish in 2012. It’s about a girl who longs to enter and win the local marble-shooting competition, even though everyone says marbles are for boys.

When I'm not in front of the computer, which is nearly always, I can be found in the backyard with my dog, my husband, and our three boys. Virtually I can be: here, here, here or here.


  1. Brilliant and tragic funny and relevant and WELL DONE!

  2. Thanks for sharing. Your journey to publication is SO inspiring.

  3. Okay, that just made my day. I've got a full and a partial out on a book of my heart (which I also believe is an honestly good book) and the ups and downs are killing me slowly... You'd think someone who loves to ski and has fallen off multiple horses, would be better at hitting the moguls of writing... but sadly neither skiing nor riding are the career I'm striving for.

    I'm so glad to know that you worked on other things while trying to land agents and publishers with 'finished' works! Many people (not in the writing business) have told me to stop working on new things and focus on the one I'm trying to sell. I've always refused, but recently I've had moments (following rejections) when I doubted myself and wondered if I was shafting my current YA by working on new projects and going back to rework the first YA series I wrote (which went nowhere, and didn't deserve to at the time). Now I'm all excited to be working on what I'm working on while at the same time keeping my fingers in the submission pies... :)

  4. Stephanie,
    LOVE IT. You had me at January 2006, for what we have gone through together, without each other, in different places of the world. I haven't been able to burn a real bridge yet, but I've sparked a few matches. I LOVED this. Everyone should read it because it sounds like all of our stories. (Wipes eyes dramatically) It's like I found another sister. (GRIN)

  5. That is quite the story. Obviously you do a lot of journaling to remember all those dates. Awesome!!! :O)

  6. WOW. I kinda needed this post today. So a big THANKS! And good luck to you--I hope your perserverence pays off BIG TIME!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. What a story! Congrats! And thanks for sharing!

  8. Wonderful author post! Congratulations for persevering and for finally hitting the big time! Do you still hate writing? So cute and funny! I'll be reading this one.

  9. Wow, this is fascinating! And, it's another example of going straight to an editor in the beginning. Congratulations!

  10. Wow, what an inspiring post. Congratulations. :)

  11. Wow! What a story! So glad your story has found its home :)

  12. Stephanie, I watched every moment of this at Verla's. I remember when you made the decision to go back to school and my heart ached for you because I knew how hard you'd worked at writing and I didn't want you to give up. I am so glad you didn't and am so happy to hear the news of this sale! Good for you!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  13. Gah! What a long process. But still encouraging, and it's good (and amazing) that you didn't give up. Congratz for the book deal as well as for the perseverance to keep writing and rewriting.

  14. What an inspirational interview! Loved it! And can't wait to read the book :)

  15. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!
    And so proud you stuck it out!

  16. This is so inspiring!!! You are the little engine that could. I'm SO glad you didn't give up. Can't wait to read The Marble Queen!!!!!

  17. Thanks for sharing all the ups and downs of your road to publication, Stephanie. Not only did I enjoy reading about them, I discovered I love your voice! I'm so used to seeing just brief snippets from you on the blue boards, it's exciting to see how engaging your writing is in a longer format. Can't wait to read The Marble Queen! : )

  18. What a journey! Gives us all hope :-) Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your story--and congratulations!

  19. What a wonderful story, Stephanie. The Marble Queen sounds delightful-- I can't wait to read it.

    There are so many good lessons in your saga, but the biggest lesson I see is that perseverance is the key when you have a story you believe in and you've had nibbles. Congratulations on making it happen!

  20. I love the account of your journey. It's so inspiring. I, too, have seen your posts on the Blue Boards and thank you for sharing your story. Everytime I fall into that black hole of doubt, I'll think of your story. Congrats!

  21. Love it, Steph! You know how happy I am for you. Steph is not only a great writer but a great person, and yes, I am one of the agents that passed on her novel in verse, I admit it.

  22. This was truly wonderful! I'm so happy for you! CONGRATS again!

  23. Gosh, this brought tears to my eyes. How sweet is life when it goes right after going so wrong, so many times?

    Enjoy your richly deserved success!

  24. ive been blogger buddies with stephanie since early 2009 and have gone down this road with her. I so happy she made it! :)

  25. Thank you all for the encouragement and support!

  26. What an awesome story! Stephanie, great job with "sticking with it." Your perseverance is what did the trick, along with great writing. Congratulations!

  27. Wow. You are an inspiration! Talk about perseverance. I just got turned down for the same dream job for the third time in the past three years, but that's nothing compared to what you went through. I'm very happy for you, Stephanie. Jen

  28. Wow! This is very crushing yet encouraging at the same time. Thanks for posting and congrats!

  29. Great post, great story, great outcome! Very inspiring!

  30. Stephanie, I'm so glad you didn't quit and that you sold your book! I'm looking forward to seeing it on shelves (and many more as well!)

  31. this was so inspiring and fun to read. Way to hang in there! Can't wait to see your book in stores.

  32. So great to read this!

  33. Take THAT slush pile!!! Congratulations and best wishes on the Marble Queen!

    At least it was a phlebotomy certificate and not a lobotomy one. ;D

    Keep up the good work. It all happens in God's perfect timing (I keep telling myself.)

  34. Your story is an inspiration to writers everywhere! So very happy for your success and glad you didn't delete your profile at Verlas!!!

  35. So glad you kept on keeping on! I can relate to so much of this. My ms has only made the rounds of agents, not editors, but it's been right through the mill, damned with faint praise and serially rejected, and my emotions have run a wild roller-coaster ride alongside it.

    I loved marbles when I was a little girl -- your book sounds great. And so help me, I would absolutely read a book about a dog-poo cleaning service. Our town could use one...

  36. Stephanie, I just now found this post and was so happy to read it. I LOVED hearing your story! Very inspiring, and also encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, and congrats again on your book deal! :D

  37. Thank you guys for all the tweeting and celebration for me.

  38. Stephanie, it's SUCH an amazing story and we are all so happy for you. Thanks again for sharing this with us!


  39. Good lord, Stephanie, we're query-hell soul mates. I'm serious. I yelped twice while reading your journey. Congratulations on finally getting there. Feels good, I'm sure!!!!!!

  40. I've followed Steph's journey since the blueboards, but to see it all laid out here in a timeline is truly AMAZING! Talk about perseverance . . . go Stephanie! SO, so, happy for you! And YAY for MG historicals!

  41. Wow! I am so impressed with your perseverance and drive. I've always heard that true writers have those characteristics. (I'm your Uncle Greg's sister-in-law -- Mary's sister.)


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)