Photo credit: Rebecca Evenson
Karen S. Chow started writing novels when she was a college sophomore, while earning a degree in Electrical Engineering at Arizona State University. Now, she is an engineer by day and middle-grade novelist by night. She lives in Gilbert, AZ, with her family. Karen is represented by Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Agency.
Karen S. Chow started writing novels as a sophomore at Arizona State University while she studied Electrical Engineering. She wrote and queried several books (mostly YA fiction), before discovering a love for writing middle grade contemporary fiction.
She wrote her first middle grade novel, MIRACLE, during NaNoWriMo 2016, which is a heart story that combines her love for music (she's a band geek!), Harry Potter (she's a Slytherin!), and adds her experiences witnessing her father passing away from cancer. She was a mentee in Pitch Wars 2017 with this novel, under Cindy Baldwin and Amanda Rawson Hill. It eventually hooked her agent, Andrea Cascardi, through #DVPit and will become her debut with Christy Ottaviano/Little Brown in Fall 2022.
She contributes regularly to the Middle Grade @ Heart bookclub, a monthly newsletter that highlights middle grade books with a little magic and a lot of heart. She's also a supporter of the We Need Diverse Books movement and is a member of SCBWI.
When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her three kids, hiking all over Arizona, and applying her electrical engineering know-how on rotorcraft (aka helicopters) at her day job. She lives in Gilbert, AZ.
Every writer's journey to publication is different. Here is mine (beware, it is long).
I started writing in Fall 2000, when my friend Christy asked me whether I wanted to go through The Weekend Novelist with her and be writing buddies (both of us working on our own novels). I fell in love with writing as we did all the assignments and activities. I printed out celebrity pictures and attached them to character sketches. I had a whole a notebook, written with sparkly gel pen, with possible character dreams, a character's bedroom layout, and a chapter-by-chapter outline of my book. I would write between classes (and sometimes in class) and outside marching band practice and at night and every spare moment.
This first book was one of many I wrote in college. I eventually "revised" (in quotes because I didn't know how to really revise) that first book in attempt to publish it. Back in 2002/2003, email queries weren't very common, so I checked out volumes of publisher anthologies and sent snail mail queries with SASEs. Many rejections later, I gave up querying.
Fast forward to 2008. I'd gotten married, had a steady job, joined my first critique group, and had a stronger urge to be published. I wrote a YA fantasy, THE PROPHECY BOX, during NaNoWriMo 2008. I queried it, and after several rejections, "revised" it and decided to self-publish it. I made ALL the self-pub mistakes. I didn't know what I was doing. But it made me happy, and in summer of 2009, I had a launch party and a book in hand.
However, after a year of trying to market it on my own, while simultaneously writing the sequel and learning more about publishing, I recognized all the self-pub mistakes I'd made and decided traditional publishing might be better for me.
And so, I embarked on a mission to write a great book, hook an agent, and get a book deal. It was slow. I joined a new critique group and spent the next five years writing and revising and re-revising the sequel to THE PROPHECY BOX, which I thought could be a standalone YA fantasy. During that time, I had two kids, disgruntled feelings about my day job, and some personal problems.
When I was pregnant with my third child (circa 2015), I came across a FB post that my friend G.F. Miller had written three books in the past year and was already querying and moving toward her goal of being a published author. I met with her because, somewhere between 2010-2015, I'd become a writer who kept revising and re-revising and lost my drive. I tried to figure out what she was doing differently. Turns out, it wasn't anything different really (because writers write books and there's nothing different about that), but what might have helped was her critique group, the Charglings. One member had a book coming out the following year with Scholastic (Mary E. Lambert's Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes, Feb 2016), and the others were driven to publish soon. I needed this group so much! (Not to knock my other critique group because they are wonderful women, but this group fitted my wants and needs better.)
I joined the Charglings and began submitting my five-year YA fantasy for critique, only to realize that it needed A LOT more work. I also realized it wasn't very original, and I hadn't put in the work to develop the world. I decided to shelve it. It was devastating because...FIVE YEARS OF WORK! But, looking back, it was the best thing for my writing because it freed me to work on something new, a YA contemporary (which also was shelved).
BUT THEN (I promise it gets happier), after I had my third and last child, NaNoWriMo 2016 came. I poured my heart and memories into a MG contemporary about a 11yo girl who couldn't cope with her father dying from cancer, drawing on my own experiences with my father dying from pancreatic cancer when I was 21 (a senior at ASU). NaNoWriMo 2016 was a magical month. My heart was ready to tell this story. My heart was ready for people to see my wonderful dad and feel all the feels. It flew onto the page. I called the story MIRACLE, and its journey is kind of a miracle.
I revised MIRACLE with the Charglings and submitted it to Pitch Wars in 2017. I was not picked as a mentee, but taken on unofficially by #teammascaratracks Cindy Baldwin and Amanda Rawson Hill (who are AMAZING!). They sent an edit letter, and I revised. About six weeks in, they asked whether I'd like to become "official" because another mentee pulled out of the agent round. Seriously, a MIRACLE!!! I said yes!
My whole author trajectory changed. All of a sudden, I had 180 other mentees in the same place as me. We cheered each other on and provided words of encouragement from across the world. I was able to meet fellow #teammascaratracks mentee Remy Lai, who has published several books that my kids and I absolutely adore. I was able to go to Cindy and Amanda's book launches. I've connected with so many authors I never would have known about.
Unfortunately, I did not receive an agent offer during the agent round, but I did receive good feedback. So, I revised again with the deadline of #DVPit in April 2018. During #DVPit, MIRACLE hooked my agent Andrea Cascardi (another miracle!). She is editorial and professional, and she helps my writing so much.
After a couple short rounds of revision, we went on submission. Got an initial bite from Christy Ottaviano, but we waited until all the rejections rolled in. In October 2018, we went to Christy, who wanted more revisions (an R&R). I rewrote MIRACLE entirely (during more personal problems and while I was at a new job). All that work paid off because Christy loved it and made an offer.
And now, it's being published Fall 2022 with Ottaviano/Little Brown.
(Did you make it through? :) You're amazing!)