Wow, that’s kinda unheard of, isn’t it? A debut deal for TWO picture books?! I’m blown away. I know you are, too. So let’s meet the NOT UNTALENTED Maria Gianferrari!

I met Maria online a couple years ago when she signed up for PiBoIdMo. She’s also purchased my jewelry. And now she’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette, which makes us agent-mates. I mean, we’re practically sisters at this point, right?

OK, I will stop asking questions and give answers now. How did Maria land her agent? What is the two-book deal about? (Oh wait, that’s more questions, huh?)


Maria Gianferrari’s debut PENELOPE, UNTALENTED, focusing on a girl who’s having a difficult time deciding on what talent she might have (if any!) to put on display for her school talent show; with a little help from her dog, she tries out various talents with disastrous results — until she realizes that she and her dog have a talent to share that’s unique to them, to Cynthia Platt at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, for publication Spring 2014, in a two-book deal, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Now take it away, Maria!

Maria...on the path to publication!

Maria…on the path to publication!

I first met Joan in 2009 at the PEN New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award ceremony. I was lucky to have been chosen as one of the winners for one of my nonfiction picture book manuscripts, and she introduced herself to me. At the time, I only had two submission-ready picture book manuscripts (and several in progress) so the timing wasn’t right, but she told me to keep in touch.

In May 2011, I saw Joan briefly at the New England SCBWI conference and she encouraged me to send her some manuscripts. We were getting ready to drive cross-country and live in San Diego for a year for my husband’s sabbatical, so I told her I’d be in touch at the end of the summer. I sent her a bunch of picture book manuscripts in late August, and then I heard back in October that she liked several of them, and asked me to revise two of them. I did two rounds of revisions for Joan, with the able assistance of my online critique group (Go CP!), and in late August 2012, I became her client. I felt overjoyed, and very lucky again, because Joan took me on based on my picture book manuscripts, knowing it would be more work, because there would be multiple editors involved. Ultimately, she told me that she had to have them on her list, which was a very nice compliment.

Joan began sending out three of my manuscripts almost immediately, and I began to receive some lovely rejections, and even a couple of revision requests. I was coming home from picking up my daughter at school, when I heard a voice on the answering machine. I picked it up and to my great surprise and delight it was Joan telling me we had an offer from Houghton Mifflin for my fiction picture book PENELOPE, UNTALENTED! I must have sounded like a complete and total idiot. All I could say was “Oh My God” about a thousand times.

Meanwhile my 11 year-old-daughter, Anya, was screeching in the background—“Mom—what is it? Who is it?”—so I told her that I sold a book. Then if I’m remembering correctly, I think Joan asked me if I wanted to sit down, so I did, and then she started telling me that I got a two-book deal! I was completely flabbergasted. Most of the conversation was pretty hazy, but I do remember thanking her, and telling her that this was beyond my wildest dreams—it was & is! After we hung up the phone, Anya and I did a happy dance in our living room. Our dog, Becca, thought we were nuts. The hardest part was having to wait to share my news because Joan had a hard time getting in touch with the other two editors to whom it had been sent since both had been out sick—flu season!

The lovely Cynthia Platt is “my” editor at Houghton. I live in the Boston area, so we recently met for lunch, and I was also able to meet Mary Wilcox and Monica Perez. It was so surreal that they knew my MC Penelope, and were excited about the book! I’m really looking forward to working with Cynthia on both of these books, and to finding out who will be chosen as the illustrator!

Thanks for sharing your success story with us, Maria! 

Now aspiring picture book authors, what does this teach us? Patience and perseverance is key! Maria first met Joan three years before she became her client. Make those connections and keep in touch! Take advantage of SCBWI events (like the NJ Chapter’s annual conference in June) to improve your craft and network with agents, editors and fellow kidlit professionals. It all pays off!