How I Found My Agent with #MSWL

By Dee Leone
DeeHeadshotIt was late in the evening and I had just finished what I hoped was my final draft of a manuscript. I rewarded myself with playtime on Twitter. Somehow or another I happened upon a week-old tweet by Red Sofa literary agent @StaceyiGraham: “Have a quirky NF PB? … Looking for history, inventions, and weird facts. ##MSWL.”
How would I describe what I had literally just finished? Quirky? Check. Nonfiction? Check. Picture book? Check. And … it had history, inventions, and weird facts. Surely, it was too good to be true. After reading the tweet a few more times and noticing that the agent had put not one, but two hashtag symbols in front of MSWL, I was convinced she really, really wanted that genre. (Okay, Stacey, don’t tell me it was just a typo because it set the rest of my actions on a roll.)
It was time for some computer detective work. Stacey’s name brought up zombies, ghosts and parenting. Hmm. My first thought was, “How young and scared are her kids?” After reading more, though, I knew I needn’t have worried.
The first thing I discovered about Stacey was that she was an overachiever. Her LinkedIn account lists three websites. The second thing I learned was she has a great sense of humor. “An Army of Ermas” has basically been retired, but Stacey Graham’s posts on there were hilarious. The third thing I found out was that she’s a writer, too. Zombies and ghosts and Boxcar Children, oh my!
It was close to midnight when I conjured up a query letter because I thought all this was too much of a coincidence not to take immediate action. I nixed the idea of taking my manuscript to Katy Critique one last time. I sent off an email around midnight, and before noon—Only. Twelve. Hours. Later.—I opened my email and saw the words, “I love this!” Need I say that the fourth thing I discovered about Stacey is she wasn’t a procrastinator. A call was scheduled right away.
We had an abominable phone connection and I could only catch a few syllables here and there. At one point I heard, “I … off … you … shin.” With the eagerness of a Wheel of Fortune contestant, I tried to fill in the blanks. What might she have said?
  1. I am deeply offended you write like a Martian.
  2. I want you on offense, but first you need to bandage your shin.
  3. I am pleased to offer you a paid vacation.
  4. I would like to offer you representation.
I chose to believe it was the fourth statement. If that’s not what she said, she’s been playing a practical joke on me ever since because several emails have gone back and forth between us. (Note to Stacey: Confession … Option three was a close second.)
So why did I choose Stacey above other agents? I had two book deals in hand and a few offers to negotiate those. What I liked about Stacey was that she was completely focused on the future, not on what was already in the works. By that time, those were pretty much done deals anyway.
I’d like to mention my gratitude and appreciation for Manuscript Wish List, the brainchild of agent Jessica Sinsheimer, KK Hendin, and the #MSWL board. If it hadn’t been for the #MSWL hashtag, or rather the double ##MSWL one, I may never have discovered my agent, the awesome Stacey Graham.
Lest any of you get the impression that Red Sofa Literary agents and their clients are a bunch of couch potatoes as the name would suggest, I can assure you that’s not the case. The sofa is red. We’re couch tomatoes.
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Dee Leone is the author of Bizz & Buzz Make Honey Buns (Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin, 2014) and two forthcoming books from Sterling to be released in 2017 and 2018. Twenty of her reproducible books have been published in the educational market, and more than 100 of her plays, articles, word puzzles, poems, and stories have appeared in magazines such as Highlights and on websites like (Disney articles). She enjoys writing picture books, middle grade, silly poems, nonfiction, and screenplays. In addition, she is a member of SCBWI and taught at the elementary level. You can follow Dee on Twitter @DeeLeone3 and learn more about her at or (Yes, she really did feed her uncle a worm.)



Stacey Graham is an agent with Red Sofa Literary. You can see her full MSWL profile here.