New Voice: Peggy Eddleman on Sky Jumpers

Educator Guide

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Peggy Eddleman is the first-time author of Sky Jumpers (Random House, 2013). From the promotional copy:

Twelve-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. 

But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of compressed air that covers the crater left by the bombs—than fail at yet another invention. 

When bandits discover that White Rock has priceless antibiotics, they invade. With a two-day deadline to finish making this year’s batch and no ingredients to make more, the town is left to choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from the disease that’s run rampant since the bombs, or die fighting the bandits now. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. 

Hope and her friends Aaren and Brock might be the only ones who can escape to make the dangerous trek through the Bomb’s Breath and over the snow-covered mountain. 

For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and recklessness that usually get Hope into trouble might just save them all.

Could you tell us about your writing community–your critique group or partner or other sources of emotional and/or professional support?

Peggy Eddleman

If anyone ever is in need of a group of supportive people who know what they are going through, it’s writers!

This is not a profession to be tackled alone. You need people who will celebrate your triumphs with you, commiserate with you on the frustrations, and share their knowledge and opinions on the million and one things you’ll have questions about along the way.

The people you surround yourselves with make all the difference in the world, and there are a lot of places to find them.

I met my writing group— the people I got together with once a week with to do critiques for over four years— in a writing class.

The things I learned about writing from this group was invaluable. There is no way I could’ve gotten my writing to a publishable point in the time frame I did without their help.

With as much as my writing group helped my writing, a different group helps me emotionally. They’re all writers who I met through blogging, then later found out most of them live in my state. We get together for writing retreats twice a year, and we have a Facebook group where we can share all the writing woes and wins and worries that we aren’t willing to shout out to the world.

Other groups have helped tons with the nitty-gritty business side, and figuring out how to be an author. If you write kidlit, every year a group forms of the authors debuting nationally.

For me, it was a very amazing group called The Lucky 13s. I can’t even begin to tell how helpful they’ve been. If you’re ever in the position to join one of these groups, do it! You’ll be so glad you did.

I was also fortunate enough to join the lovely folks at The League of Extraordinary Writers, and a group in my state of nationally published writers called Rock Canyon. In both of these, I’ve gotten valuable advice, camaraderie, and opportunities from people who have been in the business longer than I have. At every stage of your writing career, from when you’re just starting to having dozens of books out, you’ll get chances to join groups.

Critiquers Jessie Humphries (left), Erin Summerill (right)

Check them out! Give them a chance. With some of them, you and they will be a great fit.

My inner circle– the people I go to the most– consists of four people. One I was already friends with before either of us became writers. (When I decided I wanted to pursue this, I needed a buddy and went to her– and found out she had been closet writing.) One I met at a writer’s conference. One I served in the PTA with at our kids’ school. And one was an author I had listened to at conferences, started following her online, realized she’s brilliant, and then found out we live in the same city.

The thing is, there are writers everywhere, and your chances to meet ones you get along with swimmingly can happen in a million different places. All it takes is a little opening up to them, and you may have found someone (or a group of someones) that are exactly what you need, and you may be exactly what they need.

I know that no matter how crazy / confusing / exciting / frustrating / tough things get, there’s someone in one of my support groups I can go to. And that’s invaluable.

Peggy (center, middle) with the Writing Group of Joy and Awesomeness (yes, that’s actually their name)

How did you go about connecting with your agent? What was your search process like? Who did you decide to sign with? What about that person and/or agency seemed like the best fit for you? What advice do you have for other writers in seeking the right agent for them?

I first met my agent—Sara Crowe—at a writer’s conference, before I was ready to query. I heard her speak in workshops and on panels, so I got a good sense of who she was and guessed that our personalities would work well together. I was thrilled that she was the one that I had signed up to pitch to.

But the pitch itself? That was another thing altogether. It was the first time I had ever pitched, and I was a bundle of nerves. I rushed through my pitch (speaking fast when I’m nervous is my specialty), forgetting half of what I was going to say, and somehow didn’t think to have any questions for her.

Three minutes later, I walked out of the pitch room with seven of our minutes unused. But, she had asked to see my full!

Sara and Peggy

(Which kind of helped to temper the fact that I totally flubbed my pitch. And also goes to show that you probably shouldn’t be so nervous when going in to pitch, because agents are nice. And they’re normal people. And they assume you are normal—extremely nervous, yes—but normal. And they base their requests on the book itself, and it’s okay if the meeting doesn’t go as gloriously as you had hoped.)

I wasn’t about to put all my eggs in one basket, though. I knew enough about the querying process to know that one agent showing some interest didn’t mean I had made it. My manuscript was finished and revised at that point, but I worked on it and my query letter for another four months, making both of them as perfect as I could possibly make them, because I was afraid to lose a chance with the agent who might be perfect for me if it wasn’t.

I researched agents like crazy. I made lists of all the agents I thought I’d work well with and that I thought would be interested in my book, and came up with my top agents. Then I started querying. I didn’t actually send Sara my manuscript until I had other agent interest.

In the end, I had a choice to make as far as which agent to choose, and I went with Sara.

In all honesty, even if I hadn’t met her in person beforehand, I still would’ve chosen her based on the phone calls alone. But I’ll also say that there is nothing like meeting an agent in person before you sign with them!

Coming up with that list of top agents isn’t easy, and if you sign with an agent who looks good on paper but is the completely wrong agent in reality, you lose so much time and gain so much stress.

That’s one of the huge benefits of going to writer’s conferences. Meeting those agents— even if it’s a few years before you query— really helps you to learn if they’re someone you want to work with, and if you want them to be on your “Query someday” list.

8 thoughts on “New Voice: Peggy Eddleman on Sky Jumpers

  1. I heart this post so hard! So much good information and hot pics! haha. But for reals, Peggy is very popular and everyone wants to be her friend. Because she is awesome. And her book is awesome. And everything is awesome! (lyrics to that Lego Movie song)

  2. Peggy, this is just what I needed to hear today! Knowing how you went about finding your agent and building your writer community is great information. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Peggy, you're so awesome! I love reading your advice and your experience. And I agree, writing friends are so important. I feel so lucky to be in the Writing Group of Joy and Awesomeness!

  4. I love this. So much. And I love Peggy! I've discovered that writers are some of the most giving and supportive people out there. Love my writing buddies.

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