an unexpected hiatus

Has it really been three months since I last updated? Jinkies!

I could list all the reasons for not posting, but mostly it boils down to this: I’ve been hard at work putting a second book out on submission and finishing a draft of another project that hopefully I’ll be able to start sending out to publishers in the next few months once I get it a little more polished. I also had some personal changes in my life regarding my day job, but the upside of everything that happened is that I have MUCH more time to write and pursue projects that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to chase after. It’s kind of like I’ve unintentionally given myself a full-time writer lifestyle even though I definitely still need some money coming in. (Real talk!)

Anyway, last time I wrote here, I was talking about going off to YALLWEST for the first time. It truly ended up being an amazing weekend, and every panel I got to speak on and attend was a delightful experience. (Though my favorites were by far the fandom panel and the LGBTQIA panel.) I made some wonderful new friends, I got to practice speaking about my book on panels with Big Important Authors, and it was a weekend that reminded me of how lucky I am to be an author and pursue this career. Ultimately, I came away super inspired and ready to dive back in to a few things that I had been letting fall by the wayside because I was stuck/unmotivated. Have some pics!

GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY has now been out for about 3 months, and I’m still getting a lot of comments from people who are either finding it for the first time (yay libraries!) or passing it on to friends. I’m really, really heartened by the response I’ve been getting and how much it’s helped or touched people and I’ve truly loved hearing people’s reactions. The best part of this gig, in my opinion.

I’m going to try to be better at updating this blog in the near future, even if I don’t have a lot of writing stuff to talk about because publishing is a long waiting project where you can be working on ten things at once but basically have no news on anything for months. To keep myself on track (I get very easily distracted by my anxiety, okay) I’ve been doing this thing where I’ve been making lists of my goals and “big dream” projects, because it helps me put things in perspective and it also helps me organize my brain. Some of the things are really, really out there and right now, it includes a lot of IP stuff — but hey, a little dreaming never hurt anyone, right? I encourage everyone to try making their own list if you can, because it really does help your motivation.

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author life & yallwest 2019 schedule!

Whew, life comes at you fast once you publish a book.

I’m only half kidding. The part about life coming at you fast is really referring to the fact that you realize you need to finish another book for multiple reasons and that you have a ton of other projects you WANT to pursue that may or may not depend on getting enough cred as a published author to do them and all of a sudden you’re up to your arms in stress…and plotting Avengers: Endgame fic. (This month has been WILD, you guys. WILD. From my book to Game of Thrones to Avengers…I’m surprised I’ve survived it so far.)

Anyway, since my release date a few weeks ago, things have been a whirlwind. My signing in California was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced (pics on Instagram!) and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to celebrate my debut weekend Emerald Knights Comics and Games, who truly made me feel welcome and loved. So many friends came out to support me, everyone was so thoughtful and asked so many good questions at the Q&A, and I’m pretty sure I had warm fuzzies for like, a week after. It’s been crazy (in a good way!) seeing people talk about my book on social media and share it with their friends and share their own thoughts about it — I’ve loved reading everyone’s reactions and some of the stuff has made me cry, so, ya know, a pretty on brand reaction for a first book. I just hope everyone continues to love it.

And the hype train don’t stop! I’ve got a NYC signing at Barnes and Noble on May 1st that I’m super excited about (mostly because I get to share the magic of my release with my family and friends who are local), a little surprise in May that I’ve yet to announce, AND I’m super excited to announce that I’m coming back to LA to attend my first YALLWEST festival next week! I get to be among an amazing group of authors and creatives and some of my best colleagues, I get to see my friends, and I’m just super stoked all around. The schedule is finally up on the website, and you can check out my panels below!

 

STORYMAKERS: THE WOMEN OF MARVEL

11 AM – Cafeteria

Join a live recording of the Women of Marvel podcast, hosted by Judy Stephens and Sana Amanat, who will be talking everything from Captain Marvel to Ms. Marvel along with a cast of Marvel comic + novel creators, as well as a few special guests.

Sana Amanat, Lorraine Cink, Sam Maggs, Judy Stephens (moderator), Margaret Stohl, Andrea Towers, Steve Wacker

 

YALLWEST AMA: BASKETCASES EDITION

12 PM – Cafeteria

Ask Me Anything style panel with some of the bestselling + most acclaimed authors you know, who also struggle with anxiety, depression, adhd + human brain suckage. Every day is a struggle for everyone, fellow humans.

Charles Beacham, Bill Konigsberg, Mallory Schleif, Victoria/V.E. Schwab, Margaret Stohl (moderator), Andrea Towers and Kiersten White

 

DIY STORYMAKERS: HOW TO UP YOUR COSPLAY GAME, YOUTUBE CHANNEL, WEBCOMIC OR FANDOM LIFE 

2 PM – Tent

From Captain Marvel cosplays, youtube Marvel Minutes, Dinosaur Comics and a YA podcast to nerd girl guides and superhero speak — we’ve got all the expertise you need to up your fandom game. Teens creators are encouraged to share a favorite fandom idea or to ask for help with something you’re stuck on.

Lorraine Cink, Sarah Enni, Sam Maggs (moderator), Ryan North, Judy Stephens, Andrea Towers and F.C. Yee

 

YALLWEST AMA: LGBTQIA+ EDITION 

3 PM – Cafeteria

Some of your fave LGBTQIA+ authors come together to answer your questions about identity, coming out, supporting your LGBTQIA+ friends and family, and more!

Sara Farizan, Christine Lynn Herman, Bill Konigsberg, Abdi Nazemian, Kat Shepherd, Adam Silvera, Nic Stone, Rosiee Thor, and Andrea Towers

 

SIGNING

5 PM – Comics Area

Gwenda Bond

Ryan North

Margaret Stohl

Andrea Towers

happy book birthday to me!

Three years ago—with no agent, no dedicated knowledge of the publishing industry, and only connections from my work in the entertainment industry under my belt—I had a crazy idea to cold pitch a book that I didn’t even know I could sell to an editor at a big publishing company. A month or so following that initial pitch, I had the crazy idea to convince an agent that I should be represented for said project, what would be my first (and only) query letter. I did both of those things not expecting anything to come of it, but I guess things worked out, because today is April 2nd and GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY: REAL-LIFE LESSONS FROM FEMALE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS is officially out in the wild as a real, published book.

Technically, my book has been in the wild for a bit now, between early copies coming into bookstores and ARCs. But today, it’s official. Today, Amazon pre-orders will deliver and ship. People who have been waiting for the “on sale” date so they can go buy it will get to read it. People I don’t even know will be able to walk into a store, see my book on a shelf, and take it home. And I can officially say it’s my book birthday: a day that felt like it was years away and coming way too fast all at once. A day when I finally get to see the actual rewards of the work I put into my debut book, a book that I care about and love like my own child, for many reasons. A day that every traditionally published author wishes and hopes for.

I’m so damn excited.

I’m also, admittedly, a little scared.

I mean, guess what? It’s freaking nerve-wracking putting something you love out into the world! Plus, I can only read my own words so many times before I start to second guess everything. Am I being convincing enough? Am I writing well enough? Will this book actually be helpful in any way? Did I (or my copy-editor or my agent or my publisher) miss getting any information right? Did I miss anyone important in my acknowledgements? (Spoiler alert, I did, and everything is terrible. Shout out to my sparkle angel Jill, who has been a comforting voice and my biggest cheerleader for so many years.) Is my writing really any good? This is what goes through my brain every time I see a new review, a new tweet, or a new text about someone picking up my book and reading it.

But, hey! You know what? This little baby’s doing pretty good so far! It’s got nice Goodreads ratings, a starred review from Booklist, and I’ve heard nothing but positive things from friends and people in the industry.

This journey has been a learning curve and an exhilarating ride all at once; some things happened faster than I expected and some things happened more slowly. Still, it’s a ride I wouldn’t change for anything. I’ve written at length about my publishing journey when it comes to this specific book, so this is not a post to rehash all that. This is a post to acknowledge my book birthday and all that comes with it, because I wouldn’t be here without specific people. Certainly not without all the people listed in my acknowledgements—my agent, my publisher, my family, my husband, my friends, Marisha. But also, I wouldn’t be here without the authors who gave me their support dating back when I first started writing a book proposal and had no idea what I was doing or if anyone would want to read this: Margie Stohl, JJ, Seanan McGuire (who took time out of her insane schedule to blurb me, bless this woman who is such a great friend), Sam Brody, and Anthony Breznican (one of my first mentors). I wouldn’t be here without Lee Travis and Kelly Knox, who worked super hard to help me pull off my cover reveal on Geek and Sundry, allowing this debut author to experience one of the coolest moments of her life. I wouldn’t be here without comic journalist friends like Chris Arrant and Tim Stevens and Andy Burns, who reached out and gave me press to help support this project. I wouldn’t be here without the Critter community, who shared their excitement and enthusiasm not only for my book, but for a character I love so much. The point is, I know I did a ton of work here and I’m not denying that, but it takes a village. And you can write a book, but you need people to support a book and read a book, and it matters who you have on your side both in your life and in your community. I’m so thankful to everyone who helped me get here.

Although I haven’t re-read my manuscript since I sent it off for final proofs in January, I’ve read each chapter so many times that I’m pretty sure I can recite them in my sleep. It’s hard to cut the cord of “this is mine” and accept that “this is everyone’s, whether they like it or not,” but I know there’s nothing I can do except hope that my baby is welcomed into the world with open arms. I hope, if nothing else, people find a bit of themselves in this book filled with advice from mutants, FBI agents, and druids.

Anyway, today I have an appointment to make my hair pretty, then I’m going to go romp around Manhattan and find my book in stores (isn’t that a thing all the cool kids do?), then I’m going to have some drinks to celebrate, and I’m going to do it all with people I love. Because today I’m a published author.

Today is a good day.

I love you all.

(You better believe I’ve been waiting over a year to post this gif, which I’ve had saved ever since I remembered this episode aired. I feel you, Jane.)

almost at the finish line

My friend and seasoned author Seanan McGuire told me, when I was anxiety-hand-wringing over how and when my book would start getting out there, that things would start slowly and then everything would happen at once, probably when I was least emotionally prepared to handle it. In that sense, I’ve been anticipating March with both excitement and trepidation – watching my countdown app like a hawk to mark the “official one month” until my publishing date, searching my own book title and name for interviews that might have popped up, frantically checking Good Reads for reviews, eyeballing my publishing schedule from my editor that tells me when my author copies are supposed to ship and when I could possibly start seeing my book in stores since sometimes they ship before the release date.

As it stands, March has barely started, but this week alone has been an unexpected whirlwind of fun and good things. My friends over at Critical Role launched a Kickstarter for their animated special that far surpassed their funding goal in less than one day (every time I check the page, the uptick in dollar amount makes me want to cry), I got my first real review from a proper and professional comics website (check it out here!), I saw Captain Marvel (it was absolutely everything I wanted it to be after waiting so long), AND my publisher emailed to tell me that some printer samples of my book were in – which means I got to hold and see my very first copy of my debut book in all its hardcover and color glory. It was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, because, well…I wrote a book, y’all! A real published book! If you think I’m emotional now, just remember that there’s still about 3 weeks until its official release. (APRIL 2nd! GO, GO, GO!)

Because I have no shame in documenting every part of my author journey, I recorded a short video to commemorate the moment. So, have at it – also, turn up the volume up because the sound in my apartment is super wonky. And please ignore a) the video optics on my 2012 Macbook that make this look less than professional (I KNOW I NEED A NEW COMPUTER BUT I AM STICKING WITH VEX’AHLIA UNTIL SHE ACTUALLY DIES and also until I have the money to spare to upgrade) and b) the fact that I sound/look less enthused than you might expect because I was literally trying to keep all my emotions in check and also I’m still dealing with a lot of “holy crap this is actually happening” – newsflash, this is definitely not a professional on-camera kind of recording. It’s one made up of nervous love and excitement. But I think that stuff is important to share, because it’s real and it’s me.

The two year journey of my debut book is almost at an end, but my publishing journey is just getting started, and I can’t wait to share many more moments like this.

 

there and back again: my journey to becoming a published author

I’m writing a blog post that I never thought I’d write — although I suppose that’s not exactly fair to say, considering that I never thought I’d write about having representation from a literary agent. I’ve gotten used to saying “I have an agent” though, so it doesn’t feel like such an awe-inspiring thing anymore. (Even though I still pinch myself every day as a reminder of how lucky I am.) But now I need to get used to saying “I’m going to be published author.”

I MEAN, HOLY CRAP. I’M GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

That blurb is my official Publishers Marketplace announcement telling the world that I have a contract, an agreement, and a deal to make my book a reality, thanks to my agent and publisher. It’s something that I have wanted to share with the world for months. So, in that vein, I’m going to take a moment to talk about my publishing journey. Not just because it’s a dream come true – obviously it is – but because everyone’s story is different, and I finally get to share mine. Also, this is something you really only get to talk about once. Sure, I’m set on publishing more books. But saying “this is how my second book got published!” doesn’t have the same “lifetime achievement” feeling that comes with getting a traditional publishing deal for your first ever book.

Everyone has a different story about breaking into publishing, but the gist of all those stories is this: publishing is rocky, volatile, and stressful. It’s also very, very lonely. You have your agent and you have a small handful of friends and/or a significant other who you can talk to. But even during your biggest moments, you’re alone. You can’t tell the world the moment you accept an offer from an agent. You can’t tell the world when your agent calls to say an offer’s been made. You can’t even tell anyone that your project is being looked at by [insert big name publisher that I would dream of working with here.] You can’t say anything until the paperwork is signed and trust me, that’s not a process that happens overnight. For some context, I officially accepted my book deal and offer around the end of March 2018 – that’s how long I have known about this. Even though contracts were being negotiated and I was actively working on my manuscript because I had an agreed-upon deadline to hit an already set publishing date, I STILL couldn’t tell the world until I squared everything away on both the publisher side and my agent’s side – 9 months later, in November. Granted, I realize that my contract negotiation process was a lot lengthier than usual, but like I said – everyone’s story is different.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. For all intents and purposes, my story starts here: a girl who vividly remembers her teacher running a program in 2nd grade where students would submit stories to be turned into “real” books, aka bound portfolios with shiny, sparkly covers. I remember being so excited to get those books and show my stories off.

I wrote a lot. I was always writing. I loved writing. I discovered fanfiction in high school (thanks, X-Files!) and once I started writing about Mulder and Scully, my world changed. A lot of people like to discredit fanfiction for ~reasons, but I credit it a lot. Because I wasn’t always writing – I couldn’t always find a creative idea to chase, and you can’t write what’s not there. But the television shows and movies and comics that I liked? Those already had characters and ideas. I knew them better than I realized. I could write about them because they already existed in a space that provided me with creativity. It’s thanks to fanfiction that I was able to keep writing when I might’ve otherwise stopped.

(It’s also thanks to fanfiction that I realized I could finish something manuscript-length worthy, which I had never been able to do with an original work before. My fanfic magnum opus was a 256k word story; that story fits into a series which is over 500k words in total and still ongoing. Basically, no one ever tell me I can’t write 20-30k words, because this monster exists and I am damn proud of it.)

I always thought I’d write something fiction, as that’s what I loved to write when I was younger. Those were my stories: dragons and gnomes and elves, tales that included the intricate world building of Lord of the Rings or Redwall. I certainly didn’t go around saying, “one day, I’m going to write a self-help book about female characters in pop culture!” That’s the funny thing about life, I guess. You find yourself on roads that lead to moments that become bigger moments, or you meet people who change your worldview. You evolve both as a person and as a creative and sometimes, those changes kick off ideas and connections…and things like a book.

I started working on Geek Girls Don’t Cry (originally titled I Am My Own Woman and OH BOY did we go through ten million title changes/brainstorms) back in the winter of 2016, during a point in which I was in a really, really bad place. My mental health was in a downward spiral that I couldn’t seem to control. I had been let go from my dream job earlier in the year and couldn’t seem to land anything permanent despite connections and networking. I was broke, as freelancing was only going so far. My personal life seemed to be stalling; I wasn’t engaged and I wasn’t getting ready to have kids and because I had just moved in with my boyfriend at the time, I couldn’t exactly pick up and move to another state or house for a fresh start. In the interest of trying to keep my mind away from unhealthy thoughts, I started to spend less time job searching and more time writing – and yes, this is where fanfic comes back in. Writing stories about fictional characters I loved, some of whom I’ve always seen myself reflected in thanks to their thoughts and decisions and lifestyles, distracted me from feeling useless and depressed.

The more I wrote, the more the idea for my book – a book about female characters and the real mental health issues they deal with and how we can relate to them and learn from them – started to form. One day, energized by a rare spark of motivation, I decided to just take the leap. I had been doing some research on traditional publishing, and I submitted a query letter along with a few sample chapters to a publisher who I knew produced content similar to what I was hoping to sell. Screw it, I thought as I sent the email. What do I have to lose? The worst that happens is that I get rejected or they ignore me. I expected to get no response but to my surprise, I got one a few days later – with a request for a proposal.

After freaking out about the fact that someone was seriously interested in this project, I realized I had a problem: I had no idea how to write a book proposal. There were a lot of google searches (thank heavens for the Internet and writers/authors who put blogs upon blogs of information out there), a few panicked emails/DMs to author friends who are much more seasoned than I am, and a lot of hours in a Park Slope Barnes and Noble. Eventually, I put together what I hoped was a passable book proposal and sent it back, hoping for the best. Being honest with myself, I knew that at this point, I’d already gotten further than I ever thought I’d get in the process. So now, I felt like I really didn’t have anything to lose.

Then I started to think, well…if I’m doing all of this and hoping to get a book deal, I should probably try to get an agent. Easier said than done, considering I was doing this whole process backwards. I did, however, have an idea of who I wanted to work with thanks to knowing published writers in the pop culture sphere. I also realized I had the added bonus of being able to say that a legitimate publisher had already shown interest in my work. I researched P.S. Literary Agency and then sent a query email to Maria Vicente who would, after some back and forth conversations, a few more sample submissions, and a brief phone call, officially offer me representation.

As 2017 began, I accepted Maria’s offer. And then the real work started: revisions, an updated proposal that looked much more professional than what I had cobbled together on my own, and multiple conversations with the publisher who was initially interested but ultimately ended up passing. Around the beginning of spring, I began going out on submission for the first time. My life became an endless loop of checking my email every five seconds in addition to googling every version imaginable of “how long does it take to hear from publishers?” Sometime in August, I found out that all of the editors who were looking at my project had passed – and I won’t lie, I was more than a little disappointed. I knew that this was normal and that I wasn’t even at the point where I should feel beaten down considering I had JUST started submitting. I also knew this was only the tip of the iceberg – there were many more editors to try and many more revisions to make. Still, nothing stings like first professional rejections, amirite?

Maria and I went back to the drawing board and spent a few months re-working my proposal. In November, I went out on submission round #2, feeling stronger and more confident about this version of my book. December brought about some positive feedback from a bunch of new editors, but still no offers. At the beginning of 2018, I set out on submission round #3, hoping that maybe third time was the charm.

A few weeks into January, Maria sent me an email with a question from an editor at Sterling Books. A few weeks after that, I received a heads up that the same editor was taking my book to their acquisitions meeting (basically one of the last steps before a publisher decides whether or not they want to buy your project.) My anxiety and impatience returned in full force and I tried as hard as I could to put everything out of my mind, which is basically the equivalent of telling me “you’re going to definitely meet Robert Downey Jr. but we can’t promise when it will happen. Just know it has a really good chance of happening.” Weeks went by, and I tried not to obsess over how much time was passing. Was this good? Was this bad? Surely if it was good news I would’ve heard something. But if it was bad news, I would’ve heard something too, right?

On March 22nd, near the end of a long work day, Maria emailed me asking if I had time for a phone call. At this point, I knew what to expect if your agent called you. Still, I refused to let myself get excited. There was no reason this couldn’t be a random call updating me on where we were with submissions…or a call to tell me that the editors who were looking at my book had passed on it.

Turns out, the news was good: Sterling had made me an offer. In retrospect, I probably should have had a more emotional response to being told I was getting a book deal* but I was at work and in a bit of shock, so I just sat at a table and tried to process what this meant: that my dream was coming true. That someone besides me (and my agent, and my close friends, and my then-fiancé, and my family) believed in me and my vision and my writing. That I was going to publish something that would be read by people all over the world, maybe even by my mentors and heroes – the ones who had inspired this book in the first place.

Shortly after getting my offer, I had a super productive phone call with my potential editor. Within minutes of starting our conversation, I knew she was the right person to work with.  She genuinely shared my passion and vision, and she understood how involved I wanted to be while I understood certain things I would have to consider in order for the book to (hopefully) be successful. She had even already started envisioning cover art and named one of my favorite creators as a hypothetical artist! If that’s not serendipitous, I don’t know what is.

Most of the time, I end up downplaying whatever success I have. Maybe it’s a self-esteem thing, maybe it’s an anxiety thing, maybe it’s a women thing…it’s probably a mix. Accepting my accomplishments and feeling like I deserve them is something I’m trying to be better at, because I know I’ve worked hard to get where I am professionally and personally. I know that I’m proud of myself, even if my brain tells me I don’t have a reason to be.

But…screw those thoughts, because I’m getting a freaking book published! GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY: REAL LIFE LESSONS FROM FICTIONAL FEMALE CHARACTERS will be yours to hold and read on April 2, 2019. (And, hint hint, it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!) Even though there were so many times I thought there was no way I’d be able to wait THAT much longer for something to happen, or keep THAT kind of secret, I did it. And the exhilaration and feeling of being able to announce this to the world was everything I’d ever dreamed of.

 

*I DID actually freak out/cry/drink all the wine when I got home from work that day – this selfie was taken on March 22, the day that I got the call about my offer. (I also posted a cryptic Instagram photo.) It’s not the best photo of me ever taken but it’s authentic, which is what matters. (And clearly, given the fact that my book is all about strong and awesome females in pop culture, I had to open my Galadriel Lord of the Rings wine for the occasion.)

the big news: i’ve got an agent!

For the past month or so, I’ve been cryptically tweeting about progress on “I DID A THING,” which was my very, very vague way of getting out my excitement for a project I embarked on but due to a lot of reasons, couldn’t be specific about just yet. Some of that had to do with the fact that I had no idea if it would actually happen, so I didn’t want to put the cart before the horse. Some of that had to do with business.

Guys, keeping a secret of this magnitude, when all you want to do is shout to the rooftops about how excited you are about your dreams starting to come true, has been SO HARD. And the thing is, this very vague cryptic project has a number of steps involved. I still can’t talk about a few of them, but I can finally talk about one that I’ve been sitting on for awhile, now that the paperwork is officially signed.

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Signing my contract! Yes, that is a Black Widow shirt for obvious reasons. Yes, my hair is a mess, but that’s okay.

I have a literary agent. I am officially represented by Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary.

Writing that sentence out — even just seeing it in print — is still surreal to me. I wasn’t sure where this crazy journey would lead me when I decided to query P.S. Literary about a project that is extremely important to me, and I count myself eternally grateful that I happened to click right away with Maria, who is absolutely the right people to help usher this project into the world. Say what you will about the geek world, but it’s small and lovely, and part of the reason I even thought of Maria as a good fit for what I hoped to do was because I knew how much she understood this specific project. Within the span of our long conversation when representation was on the table, I realized how much Maria was invested in my ideas, and how much I would click with her as a collaborative partner. You can query a bunch of people and take the first agent that comes along, but it’s truly so important to be able to listen to your agent, understand their views, and recognize their intentions. Because they want you to be successful as much as you want to be successful, and that’s a team effort. Long story short, I instantly knew this was going to be a great fit.

I started this process at the beginning of 2017, but a lot of this has come together in the past few weeks, which has made February a month of ups and downs — ups where this project is concerned, downs where full-time job opportunities are concerned. But in the atmosphere of the current political climate, having something to focus my energy on besides job searching has been lifesaving, and I’m learning all I can about the publishing world from the other side…a place I never thought I’d be (says the girl who saved dozens of stories to her computer in middle school and high school with the file name “Novel[1], [2], [3], etc” but never managed to complete NaNo.)

I’m still learning the ins and outs — how the whole process works, what I can and can’t tell people at certain points, etc. I’ve even already made stupid tiny mistakes by being overambitious, because it’s me, and also that’s probably what Clint Barton would do. But Maria has been amazing to have as a cheerleader, and I can’t wait to work more with her.

So, yeah. I have an agent. And as soon as I can share some other good news along the same lines, I will.