How I Got My Agent: Lisa Lawmaster Hess

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, email me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics. Lisa Lawmaster Hess writes inspirational and juvenile.
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"How I Got My Agent" is a new recurring feature on the GLA blog. I find it fascinating to see the exact road people took that landed them with a rep. Seeing the things people did right vs. what they did wrong (highs and the lows) can help other scribes who are on the same journey. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings.

To see the previous installments of this column, click here.If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, email me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we'll talk specifics.

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This installment of "How I Got My Agent is
by Lisa Lawmaster Hess,
who writes inspirational
and juvenile. See her author website here
and her blog here. Acting Assertively, a book for
students in grades 4
8, is one of
Lisa's previously published books.

TWO NOVELS AND NO LUCK

I started freelancing in 1993 and the unpredictability of writing on spec meant that I couldn’t quit my day job. When I signed up for my second course through the Institute of Children’s Literature in the fall of 2000, I decided to tackle something new, and so I began to try my hand at fiction. The short stories I developed as part of that course became the heart of my second book, Diverse Divorce, which came out in 2004.

One of the stories originally intended for that book never made it in, but the protagonist wouldn’t leave me alone. For the first time, I thought I might have enough material for a novel, which I targeted to my favorite age group, middle-grade readers. When the book was complete, agents passed on it—so I went on to write a second novel with the same characters. But alas, my characters remained homeless.

TRANSITIONING TO INSPIRATIONAL

I kept writing, and reading, and discovered Christian fiction - first as a reader, then as a writer. I was working on the first draft of my Christian chick lit novel, Casting the First Stone, in May 2008 when The Susquehanna Writers Workshop – rolled around. Familiar with the conference from my attendance the previous year, I was ready to take advantage of everything. Extra day off from work to enjoy the campus and get my bearings? Check. Friday night Red Eye critique group? Check. Appointment with an agent representing juvenile fiction? Check. Appointment with an agent repping adult fiction? Check.

I first saw her just as a critique group was about to begin when she asked to join our group. There was no photo of her in the conference brochure, so I didn’t know who she was until she introduced herself as Diana Flegal from Hartline Literary Agency.

DIANA, THE CONFERENCE, AND A PRAYER

Everyone in the group had a Christian flavor to their writing, which was not unusual at this conference. We had devotionals, skits, historical fiction, poetry and my contemporary novel to review, round-robin style. Diana declined to comment on any pieces, preferring to wait for our scheduled times the next day. So I was surprised when, on the way back to the hotel, she stopped me and expressed enthusiasm for the manuscript—my manuscript!—that we’d just critiqued. The next morning, as I was returning from breakfast, she stepped out of her room – across the hall from mine – and jokingly asked me if my ears had been burning.

Looking back, the funny thing is: She was so nice. So upbeat and down-to-earth. So friendly. So normal. Weren’t agents supposed to be stiff and formal? A bit holier than thou?

By the time I sat down with her later that morning, I was no longer nervous, at least not in the panic-stricken sense. Diana told me that she loved my work, and the validation (that I hoped and prayed and dreamed about) was just as good in reality as it had been in my dreams. Diana ended our appointment with a prayer. That blew me away. It made perfect sense, though. This Christian agent, this truly nice person whose company I enjoyed, couldn’t have closed our meeting in any more perfect way.

I signed my contract with Hartline on July 4, 2008. Diana is now shopping the novel she took on based on my conference submission as well as a nonfiction book for the educational market and a ‘tween novel. Waiting for that elusive sale is still frustrating at times, but with Diana at bat for me, it’s easier to believe that it will come.

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