Before I headed to Boise to speak at their regional SCBWI conference on Saturday, September 11, I knew editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic's Arthur Levine imprint and agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency would be two of my fellow speakers -- along with my very good friend Chris Crutcher. I was really looking forward to sharing time with people who love the business of writing for young people as much as I do. But it never crossed my mind that they'd be interested in my work, apart from professional curiosity. They deal with fiction, I write nonfiction. I just hoped to learn a few things, and I did.
Cheryl Klein's opening presentation on revision was a GREAT primer on techniques that will make us all better writers -- and word is she's got a book coming out in the not too distant future. Jill Corcoran's overview of what an agent wants and does was ideal. Great stuff. And the root of Chris's inspiration is always awesome. He touches lives. That's why we're close and that's why I work for him.
But even before the conference started, the night before at a Friday signing on Boise's 8th Avenue (The Rediscovered Bookstore, wonderful place run by wonderful people), a Cinderella story unfolded. Jill Corcoran walked up to the signing table and started looking at my books. She has three boys close to my target age group, and she loved them. It was a VERY rewarding discussion -- fun too. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and she never seemed off put when I paused to attend to a young reader. She was terrific.
At some point, it came up that I didn't have an agent. I don't even remember how.
Jill mentioned she might be uneasy about representing nonfiction, because how do you trust the writer to get the facts right? I agreed. I've seen way too much lazy nonfiction mixed liberally with the great stuff to disagree, and I told her so. Then I explained how I do my work, and we agreed some nonfiction types like Deborah Heiligman and Tanya Lee Stone work hard to elevate the art form. Some of us, we decided, could be trusted.
That's when it happened.
"I want you," she said. We hadn't even left the bookstore. "I want you." I tried to stay calm when I heard those words, because -- come on -- could she be serious? Jill Corcoran represents FICTION. She's kidding, speaking hypothetically, right?
Nope. The glass slipper fit, this time. She's making an exception and taking on a nonfiction client. The contract goes back to her with tomorrow's mail. It was in my email box by Saturday morning.
I could not be more delighted. And I'll work incredibly hard to prove her decision was a good one.
Did I do well during my own presentations? I hope so. But I was a little distracted. Sleep didn't come easily after that conversation. The conferees said I did great, and I think my author visit presentation was especially helpful. But we'll have to take their words for it.
Kelly Milner Halls now has an agent -- a great one with off the chart energy, humor and enormous heart.
So here's to a great partnership. I promise, Jill. I will not let you down!
Neysa Jensen, Sydney Salter, you sure know how to throw a party! : ) Thanks so much for having me. Thanks for letting me borrow this picture, too.