Andy Shepherd found her agent, Jo Williamson, through the fantastic SCBWI Agent Party that was held in November 2013 at the Frontline Club in London (organised by the amazing Michelle Newell).
Keep reading to find out how it all happened for Andy and Jo.
Andy Shepherd is a children’s writer working on middle-grade fiction and picture books. She lives near St Ives – the Fennish one, not the coastal one – with her husband, her two young sons and their Border Collie, Poppy. Growing up on the Essex coast, she spent most of her time scribbling stories and messing about in boats. Since then she’s been slightly distracted by going to college, doing a PGCE, teaching English and becoming a Campaigns Officer for Oxfam, but she has finally found her way back to writing.
She has written ‘Phoenix Fire’, a middle-grade contemporary fantasy, and a number of picture book texts, including the ‘Lizzie May’ series and is currently working on her second novel. Her main ambition is to figure out how to move Cambridge closer to the sea.
"The book I’ve written is a middle-grade contemporary fantasy called 'Phoenix Fire'. It's about 11 year old Davy who, bullied at school and isolated at home, escapes into a hidden garden where strange metallic animal sculptures come to life and he is drawn into an old woman’s obsessive quest to hatch a Phoenix egg. But will the creatures he finds – the beautiful jewelled insects, the hulking komodo dragon and the giant metallic spider, which lurks at the bottom of the garden and haunts his dreams, help or hinder him? And when all appears to be lost, will he finally find the fiery self-belief he needs to hatch the Phoenix?"
"The story is all about being true to yourself, and being able to speak up for what you believe in, no matter what other people may think. I wanted it to be the kind of book I loved to read as a kid, but with a contemporary edge."
"I did actually meet Jo at the Agents’ Party in London. In fact I very nearly didn’t as I had made my way round the room madly pitching to every agent and right at the end I realized I hadn’t spoken to Jo. It crossed my mind that I could let myself off the hook and just head home (I was shattered by then after getting the nerve up at all!) but I thought, 'no, I’ve come this far.' And I’m so glad I did! She really liked the pitch and seemed to get what I was going for with the book instantly."
"The day after the event I got my submissions out to all the agents who had shown an interest and Jo was top of the list. She was also the first one to get back to me and ask for a full. Over the next week I had 3 more requests for the full. Jo made her offer within the week and one of the other agencies asked to meet me. In the end, however, I chose to go with Jo as she really understood the book and I felt we would work very well together."
Jo Williamson from the Antony Harwood Agency speaks very highly of both SCBWI and her new client Andy.
"The SCWBI party is such an excellent opportunity for agents to meet dedicated, enthusiastic and talented authors and so it is always something I look forward to."
"This year, I met a huge array of writers, but Andy's pitch and her subsequent manuscript really got me hooked. For me, the author relationship is crucial so it was wonderful to have been able to meet Andy before I read her book as I just knew she would be great to work with! I could see how driven she was and how passionately she felt about the story. And what a story...
"With allusions to books such as THE SECRET GARDEN, TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN and THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET, Andy's MG novel, PHOENIX FIRE has a classic feel to it, but contemporary issues of family breakdowns and bullying are also at its heart. Andy's writing is fluent and, boy, can she do atmosphere! I just fell in love with it and knew it was something I wanted to represent."
"I am delighted that the SCWBI network gave me the opportunity to represent Andy and I look forward to guiding her through what I am sure will be a hugely successful publishing career."
Let's all raise our glasses, toast Andy and wish her all the best for the future and while we're at it let's say cheers to SCBWI BI, the extra, magic ingredient in so many success stories.
Lorraine Gregory has been writing fantasy adventure books aimed at middle-grade boys for the last three years. She's been a chef and a restaurant manager and now works from home as an Antenatal Teacher. She belongs to the Words & Pictures Team and helps Tania to bring joy to our Saturday Celebrations' posts