How I Got My Agent: the Multi-talented Teresa Robeson

I've been sitting on really exciting news.

My picture book critique buddy and good friend Teresa Robeson has signed with an agent: Ella Kennen of the Corvisiero Agency. She is multitalented: she writes picture books, middle grade, YA, short stories, and illustrates (not to mention homeschools, paints, knits, gardens, cans food, etc.). She tells us about The Call and how she ended up here.

Tell us about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and what sorts of stories do you write?

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I learned English after moving to Canada in third grade, but I didn’t think about writing professionally until 1990 when I took my first course from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I decided to take the course because kid lit, along with science fiction, was one of my first loves. Within a year of completing the class, I joined SCBWI and sold my first short story to Ladybug Magazine and my first article to Outdoor Indiana.

Throughout the next decade, I continued to sell poetry to Babybug and Ladybug magazines. When my kids got to be a certain age, I became so busy with homeschooling and small-scale homesteading, I stopped writing for a while.

About four years ago, I decided to turn to my other first love, science fiction, and took the Science Fiction and Fantasy courses from the talented Michaela Roessner through Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

I never forgot about children’s lit and when I saw Julie Hedlund's 12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge mentioned at WriteOn Con and Verla Kay’s Blueboard (now SCBWI’s Blueboard) back in 2012, I decided to give it a try in 2013. What a wonderful venue that has been in so many ways!

So, that was the long way to say I write general fiction, nonfiction (mainly science and nature), and science fiction for all ages, from children to adults.

How did you met Ella Kennen and how did she became your agent?

I want to stress that this is not how I recommend someone find an agent. LOL!

It started innocently enough. I first met Ella through the 2013 12x12 (like I said, that has been a wonderful venue in so many ways!), and we became Facebook and Twitter friends. Now, I normally try very hard not to whine on social media, but I was feeling down after a rejection, and despite my better judgment, I tweeted that just because some publisher doesn’t like my story doesn’t mean it’s not a good story.

The universe must have taken pity on me that day because Ella saw my tweet, asked me to show her the story so she could give me some feedback. So, I sent the story to her, and she gave me a terrific critique. I did the edits she suggested, and she looked at the story again. After going back and forth a couple more times, I joked that she should charge me for the feedback because she wasn’t in my critique group and was spending an awful lot of time helping me.

That was when she confessed that she was interning to be an agent and perhaps it was possible that we could, one day, work together as agent and client since she was looking to represent most of the things I write.

I thought it was a wonderful idea since she is obviously smart and nice and if it worked out, I couldn’t ask for a better person to represent me.

Signing the Contract!
Please describe THE CALL when you were offered representation.

Even though we’d been inching closer and closer to officially working together, I was still taken by surprise when I got The Call. When she said, “May I ask you a question?” I was absolutely not expecting it to be “Would you like to be my client?” I thought she was going to ask me some detail about one of the stories I’d recently submitted to her to look at. I think Clueless is my middle name.

I squeeeeed, of course. I hope I didn’t hurt her ear.

When did you know she was the agent for you?

When I first got feedback from her, I discovered that she was incredibly insightful, and thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if she were part of my critique group?” But since I didn’t know she was interning to be an agent, I wasn’t thinking, “boy, she’d be the perfect agent for me.” By the time she told me she was an agent-in-training, we’d already established a good rapport and worked well together on editing my stories, so I knew then that having her as my agent would be absolutely ideal.

You are already indie published. Is that something Ella is supportive of?

I’m pretty sure Ella knows about the speculative fiction anthologies for charity that I’m a part of, but I’ve not asked her for her thoughts on them. The anthologies are selling well, and we’ve donated over $1,000 to Doctors Without Borders (100% of the profits are donated). Besides the do-good component of these indie-published e-books, they have also served as a nice platform builder for my SF group, The Minnows. We have a number of complimentary reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, and I have personally received two fan emails from complete strangers.

One of Teresa's stories is in this science fiction anthology

One of Teresa's stories is in this anthology of fractured fairy tales
Since agents and editors generally like for authors to build platforms, I would think that the anthologies can only be a beneficial thing. While they’re not related to children’s lit, they are science fiction, which is one of the categories that I write. If I were ever to write anything that was not compatible with the kid lit world, I would definitely ask Ella’s opinion on it.

Okay, I checked with Ella and here’s her reply: "Whether indie publishing makes sense depends on the circumstances. I think a group of sci-fi writers teaming up together to write a short story anthology to support charity is awesome, so go you."

See, isn’t Ella THE best?!

What are the next steps for you and your agent?

I think the current game plan is to start submitting one or two of my fiction and nonfiction picture book manuscripts. I have a couple more picture book stories that are pretty close to final draft form that Ella plans to take on after that. I have a middle-grade science fiction story and a young adult steampunk novel in various stages of revision and writing, so they’re not really on Ella’s radar yet. Can’t sell unfinished works. J

I’m continuing to write sci-fi short stories for inclusion in upcoming charity anthologies, but those are independent of Ella (as I get no income from them).

Thank you, Teresa. I am so happy Ella Kennen recognized your hard work, dedication, and talent, and I can't wait to see what's next in store for you. Any last words?

I would be remiss if I didn’t credit my three critique groups for helping me on my writing journey: The Minnows Literary Group - the sci-fi group composed of former classmates from the Gotham classes; my in-real-life SCBWI critique group; and The Penguins, my online picture book critique group of fellow 12x12 participants. I love all my critique group friends dearly!

You can find Teresa online at her website, her blog, Growing, Writing, Creating, on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter