This is a story about how fast things can change, but it is also a story about how long it might take for things to happen.
I’ve always written. I’ve got stacks of journals detailing my teenage angst. When I was in high school (circa the mid- to late-nineties), I produced my own zine called SALZA by writing the articles, physically cutting and pasting artwork, and then xeroxing the whole thing and handing it out to my friends. This may have gotten me into trouble at my Catholic high school, since I was writing articles about the hypocrisy and injustice I saw in the halls every day. A local comic book store agreed to sell my zine for $1 apiece.
In college, I took writing classes, wrote bad poetry and personal essays. Produced a zine called ESCAPE FROM DIET HELL about my struggle with an eating disorder. Submitted writing to the literary magazine. Kept journaling.
But it wasn’t until I’d been out of college and teaching a few years that I tried my first real crack at a novel. It had all the clichés, someone waking up to an alarm clock, looking in the mirror to describe herself, etc. It was a good concept, don’t get me wrong—in fact, it’s one I might like to return to someday. But it was bad. Plus, I was doing this for NaNoWriMo, and I went by the mantra of Never Delete. This resulted in many fragmented scenes that didn’t hang together quite right.
The next year, I tried NaNo again. This was the first time I wrote a novel that was actually semi-coherent: DRAWN TO YOU. Again, good concept, but there were some strong flaws, and I don’t think I chose the right POV because the writing at times seemed stilted and uninteresting. I did query this novel and ended up getting a number of requests; still, it wasn’t strong enough for anyone to take it on.
So I cooked up another story idea, wrote along with my kids during NaNo this year, and cranked out OTHER PEOPLE. I used first person present for the first time ever, and it really worked for me. It seemed comfortable, like an amazing pair of jeans that hugs you just right and works with your flaws.
A lovely literary agent gave me a huge vote of confidence when she saw some of my work on Share Your Work at the Absolute Write website. She e-mailed and asked that I query her when I was ready.
After several rounds of revisions, I felt the piece was strong enough to start querying. I am a querying maniac. Once I pop, I can’t stop. When I get a rejection, I send out ten more. But I’d chosen a poor time to query. It was right before BEA 2010. So of course most agents were busy preparing for that.
Around this time, I got the flu. But requests started coming in—the week of BEA! The day I felt the sickest, I got THREE full requests. One of them required a synopsis, which I didn’t have. So, sick as I was, I cranked out a synopsis and hoped for the best. I didn’t want to keep busy agents waiting.
A few hours after I sent one full, I got an e-mail from one of the agents. It said, “I’m really enjoying this; you’ll hear from me soon!” I was totally freaked. In a good way.
Okay, so at this point, I thought I’d better start researching what you do when an agent makes an offer of representation. I read a bunch of articles and consulted people on Absolute Write. They advised me, once the offer was made, to ask for a week to contact agents who still had my full.
The agent e-mailed me, told me what she loved about my manuscript, and asked for a good time to talk. This was it: THE CALL. We set up a time, and I arranged my baby so she had everything she could possibly need: toys, bottle, snacks. I changed her diaper. I rounded up my computer, my cell phone, some Tums. And then the agent called, and we had an awesome conversation! I really can’t express how lovely this agent is. She had great ideas for revisions and really seemed passionate about the project.
But, from my research, I knew the professional thing to do was contact the other agents and give them some time to read my manuscript. One dropped out right away. She had BEA and then Backspace and just wouldn’t have the time. Another thought the story and writing were solid, but she just didn’t fall in love with it. Still another thought the writing and plot were amazing, but it was too gritty for her; plus, she had another client with a similar premise. One agent was MIA. But another agent surprised me.
I got another CALL on the Sunday before Memorial Day, this one unplanned. I had to race upstairs, get the baby situated, and try to remember all the questions I wanted to ask. The agent, Sarah Davies, had just finished reading my manuscript and wanted to immediately speak with the person who’d written it. She asked me to tell her a little bit about myself, and she told me a little more about Greenhouse Literary Agency (which I’d already read about, but it sounded even better coming from her). She had a few ideas for revisions and said she knew exactly who she wanted to send the manuscript to.
The whole conversation, I was pretty much like, “Uh huh, uh huh” because I couldn’t think of what to say. My previous conversation with an agent had been planned; this one, not so much. But Sarah kindly suggested I take a day or two to put together some questions, and then we’d talk again. We spoke again a few days later, and she answered all my questions and was very reassuring. And somehow I just knew. I knew she was the one I wanted to usher me through this process.
It was so hard to let the other agent know. I really like her and believe she’d do a fabulous job with my book. But something about Sarah just clicked. I’m so, so excited to work with her.