success stories

Wanda Morris

A week later, I hit the send button on my queries and manuscript requests. I told myself, I would only check my email once a day, after 4 pm. But the very next day, I was sitting in the parking lot of my son’s day camp. It was 3:15. That was close enough to 4, right? I opened my email and there it was.

A Conversation With A Friend


I attended my first ThrillerFest conference in 2015 on the recommendation of a writer friend. The first time I walked into ThrillerFest, I was like a shy kid on the school playground. I met a few people, but I spent the majority of my time gawking and geeking out at the warmth and friendliness of writers whose work I’d always admired. 

Before I attended that first conference, I challenged myself to do something I never thought I would do. I entered the ThrillerFest Conference’s Best First Sentence Contest. Baby steps folks – I wasn’t quite ready to let someone see the whole darn thing. On the day of the conference when the winners were announced, I sat up in my chair a little straighter, a little prouder because I had submitted what I believed to be a spectacular first sentence. They called out the winners and my name…was not among them! I was heartbroken.

But I didn’t stop writing. I kept working on my manuscript, took writing classes, and joined writing communities. The next year rolled around. This time, I signed up for PitchFest and entered the Best First Sentence contest again, and when they called the winners of the contest, my name was among them!

I was riding a high at the 2016 conference too, because every agent I pitched to requested either my partial or full manuscript. My pitch was working, and my premise wowed the agents. I rode that high all the way back home to Atlanta and promptly emailed the manuscript requests to “waiting” agents. Almost immediately, my inbox started to swell with rejections. 

So, what to do now? Keep writing!

Fast forward to 2019. I traveled back to New York City to attend Thrillerfest XIV armed with a thoroughly revised manuscript and an entry pass for PitchFest. I’d pitched to a number of agents before I met a woman in that room who would help me make my dream of becoming a published author come true: Lori Galvin of Aevitas Creative Management. Lori’s bio was one of the few that mentioned she was looking for women’s fiction and thrillers. I had both genres wrapped up in my manuscript. 

When I saw the woman in front of me start to gather her belongings and rise from the chair, I knew it was showtime! My stomach tumbled once before I stepped up to the table, introduced myself and shook her hand. She smiled and said, “So tell me about your book.”

For the next few minutes, I talked to Lori as if I were having a conversation with a friend about some people we knew who did some really awful things. Only the people we talked about were the characters in my manuscript and the really awful things they did was the plot of my book. When I was done. She said, “WOW! That sounds really interesting. Send me the full manuscript.” I waltzed out of PitchFest on a cloud and headed straight to the hotel bar to celebrate my good news with friends.

A week later, I hit the send button on my queries and manuscript requests. I told myself, I would only check my email once a day, after 4 pm. But the very next day, I was sitting in the parking lot of my son’s day camp. It was 3:15. That was close enough to 4, right? I opened my email and there it was. An email from Lori Galvin.

Hi Wanda,

I am LOVING The Elephant Fighter. Could we set up a phone call tomorrow afternoon…

While other agents showed the same level of interest in my manuscript, it was something about that first conversation with Lori and her vision for my book that made me know she was the agent that could best help me in the long game of my writing career. And Lori has been the dream agent I had hoped for – patient, funny, blunt when needed, and a fierce believer in my book. I am blessed that ITW and the wonderful folks at ThrillerFest brought us together. 

Wanda’s second novel, Anywhere You Run, won an Anthony Award for Best Historical Novel at Bouchercon 2023. Her third novel, What You Leave Behind, comes out June 18, 2024. 

Hi Wanda,

I am LOVING The Elephant Fighter. Could we set up a phone call tomorrow afternoon …

Tears welled up in my eyes before I could finish reading her email. While other agents showed the same level of interest in my manuscript, it was something about that first conversation with Lori and her vision for my book that made me know she was the agent that could best help me in the long game of my writing career.

And Lori has been the dream agent I had hoped for – patient, funny, blunt when needed, and a fierce believer in my book. Her keen editorial eye was exactly what my manuscript needed to take me to the next level. I am blessed that ITW and the wonderful folks at Thrillerfest brought us together. Thank you.

In August of this year, Lori moved my journey forward by taking my book to auction and securing a two-book deal with William Morrow publisher. I am now working with a phenomenally talented editor, Asante Simons, who believes in my book as much as Lori and I do.

And to think it all started with me having a “conversation with a friend.”

 

Biography

Wanda Morris is a corporate attorney and the author of the forthcoming thriller, The Elephant Fighter, slated for publication in Fall 2021. She won the ITW’s Thrillerfest Conference Best First Sentence Contest in 2016. She has studied at the Yale Writers Workshop and Robert McKee’s Story Seminar. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.