Monday, March 4, 2013

8 First Five Pages Success Story: Brenda Drake

Today's Inspired Openings post is a little different. It's more about the opening of a writing career than the opening of a book! Brenda Drake's journey kickstarted right here on Adventures in YA Publishing and in one of our First Five PagesWorkshops.

Brenda Drake writes young adult and middle grade novels. Look for her debut young adult novel, LIBRARY JUMPERS, coming February 2014 and its sequels February 2015 and February 2016 from Month9Books. Find her on her blog, Brenda Drake Writes, or on Twitter. She also has a new round of Pitch Madness coming up!

Brenda Drake Writes. . .

I'm so excited to be sharing my success story here on Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. There was a time when I huddled, scared, in my writing cave. I was afraid of venturing out into the world of more seasoned writers. I started a blog. No one ever stopped by and commented on it. I started a Twitter account. I only had a few followers. Some were spam. But then I started participating in blog hops and stumbled across a workshop on the Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing blog. To my surprise, I made it into the workshop. Martina Boone and Lisa Gail Greene were so kind and helpful. My query was extremely long and did not focus on the plot. My 35-word pitch was confusing. With the critiques from their guest author, JA Souders, Martina, Lisa, and commenters, I was able to get my query into such wonderful shape.

When I queried with the shiny new query, the partial and full requests started rolling in. I went from no response to many. I soon got an agent and sold LIBRARY JUMPERS in a three book deal. I think this is where I fell in love with the 35-word logline. Why? Because it taught me to narrow in on the plot of my stories.

Before I got my agent, I entered my middle grade novel into the First Five Pages Workshop Martina and Lisa put on. The workshop helped me find the voice for my story. Workshops like that are invaluable. I received many helpful suggestions and encouraging comments.

I was so amazed at Martina and Lisa's dedication that I threw my own contest to give back. Before long Pitch Madness took off, and other contests followed. If you are new to the wonderful world of writing, the best gift you can give yourself is to put yourself out there. Don't be afraid to let others critique your work, enter contests, make friends with the participants, join Twitter, and make many writerly friends. Surround yourself with your peers and learn from each other. Going it alone, without any feedback, may keep you from taking flight and finding the perfect flock of like-minded friends.


  1. I feel extremely cool that I was in the First Five Pages critique group. I had been lamely content in my writing, and the group pushed me to see things I'd never thought of.

    So thrilled for you and all your success. You've worked hard for it. And your contests are AWESOME! (Not that I'm biased . . . ) :)

  2. I had no idea, Brenda! Wow! This is the best encouragement I have ever had to keep going, keep writing, keep improving. I plan to improve my craft until it shines with perfection. Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you Adventures in YA Publishing for all your hard work and the immense effort you put into helping others.

  3. Congrats on getting your book picked up!! I just went through the First Five Pages workshop and it was GREAT.

  4. So this is where it began for you! Pitch Madness is what got the ball rolling for me. It's so inspiring to see these stories, and I'm super grateful that so many of you writers are helping us along. Very cool.

  5. Brenda has definitely been busy in paying it forward with very helpful critique and pitch contests at her blog. Very inspiring :-)

  6. Sorry for the late response here, but I was out of town. I am so thrilled for Brenda! And I am proud of everyone who has gone through the First Five Pages Workshops. I get so much out of them each month. It's incredible to watch how professionally everyone takes their craft and how much all the participants are able (and willing) to offer to others. And the transformations in the manuscripts. Holy cow. We always get some that are pretty much done, and those are fun to work on, but my favorites are always the ones that start out a long way from publishable and then end up amazing as the writer has an epiphany. That is so inspiring to watch, and it is wonderful to work with Lisa Gail Green and the phenomenal mentors who give their time so generously.

    Again, congrats to Brenda on all the success. She does so much to give back, and she has so much talent--it truly couldn't happen to a nicer person. :)

  7. Love hearing Brenda's success story. I've benefitted big time from her Pitch Madness and greatly appreciate the generosity of the blogosphere.

  8. Aww, shucks, thanks for all the kind words. I just love this community beyond words! *Group Hug*


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