Mar 11, 2010

How I got an agent - or - Determination

*Note to followers: this was posted on my livejournal blog, which was where I wrote about my writing journey. I'm going to be combining some of my life/writing thoughts with my art posts here. I hope you'll find it interesting enough to stay with me. A lot of this came about because I recently got an agent for my young adult book, so writing is again front and center in my life. That's what the following post is about. If you are curious about my writing blog, you can see back posts at sboman.livejournal.com. I am not forsaking my art, however, and will post challenges and freebies in the near future. Let's see how this works.

It feels a bit vain to think anyone would want to read this, but it is the whole point I started this journal two years ago.

It all began in Los Angeles thirty-eight years ago....nah, too far back. Most of you reading know the story, so, condensed version: I started writing, yada, yada, yada, time passes, blah, blah, blah, and then I submitted the revised version of FADING to a new round of agents at the end of November, 2009. I had up to ten fulls or partials requested, including a partial from Jason Yarn at Paradigm, who passed it on to Alyssa Reuben. She contacted me two weeks ago and asked for the rest of the manuscript, and then a little over a week ago she asked if we could talk (which in agent speak means "start partying girl, your dreams are about to come true!"). I obliged her.

Now no matter how prepared you are (questions written out with space to take notes, favorite candle burning, soft music and an empty house) you're still going to act like an idiot on that first call. Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, I called her and proceeded to blather on about stuff that had nothing to do with her questions. I laughed heartily at inappropriate times, and I hung up without asking her some things I should have. Alyssa had kinda got what was going on, though, and told me to take some time to absorb and then call her back for a more in depth interview (translation: "get a grip and call me when you're sane").

I gleefully sent out emails letting the five other agents still considering my ms know that I had an agent interested. Two bowed out immediately, one said, "what ms is that?" and two others asked for more time to read. Here is where it got hard.

In the brief time I'd talked to Alyssa I knew she got my story and I agreed with her opinions on what needed to be revised. So for a whole week I'm in this limbo, sitting on an offer from an agent that seemed like a good fit, not able to celebrate totally because I didn't actually "have" an agent yet. It was like my nightmare where getting an agent is within reach, but I just can't grasp it for whatever reason (you know, the usual dream frustrations; having to pee, not able to find a phone, falling off a cliff...). In fact I'd had dreams where I got an agent and it seemed so real that in my dream I said, "Am I dreaming? This seems so real.") After kazillions of rejections, even my dreams were guarded.

So to ratchet up the angst wile the time away, I did more research. Then my choice became clear and I wondered why I hadn't paid for a PM subscription heretofore. In the meantime, one more agent bowed out. But I knew what I wanted at that point. I called Ayssa back this last Tuesday (amazing how breathing becomes difficult when dialing the 212 area code), and we had a nice long talk. I felt more in control of my nerves, but still sounded ridiculous, I'm sure. At the end I told her I would be happy to work with her. Great! She'll send revision suggestions by Friday.

Then I emailed the others and told them I had made a decision to work with another agent. One said she had been just about to email me to "set up a time to talk". Nice validation.

So: it's been three-and a-half years since I began writing seriously, three years since I started querying for the first time ever, two years since I wrote Fading, one year since I began the second major revision of Fading, and three months since I sent out queries for the current version of Fading.

When I look at those numbers I think, man, I got off easy. Why was it then that while going through it I felt like I'd been sentenced to the Gulag for life? About a year ago I seriously considered throwing in the pen and picking up the apron for good. Maybe it wasn't going to happen for me, maybe I should go back to the less stressful job of being a mommy and wife (less stressful, mind you, not stress free). But I knew deep down that writing was the one thing I had passion and talent for, and if I ever wanted to fulfill my life-long dream, this was the route, however masochistic it be.

Since then I got all zen about it. Other people's success didn't take away from my chance of success. Complete acceptance that it may be a verrrrry long road still. Knowing that it would happen, that I just hadn't found the agent who was right for my book yet. I really came to peace with the process. I had to pull back from some social networking, though. For me, it was a distraction from my personal path.

I'd set a goal to be agented by last summer, which didn't happen, but what's an extra seven months when you reach your goal anyway? Nothing.

Now I have those other hurdles to look forward to, and I can't say now if this will end up being the biggest one or not. But no matter what happens, an agent believes in me, someone from the professional world has said I have a chance at getting a book published, so despite the rocky road that still lies ahead, that's more than enough affirmation to buoy me for quite a while.

*this picture of Aimee Mullins always reminds me I can do anything I set my mind to and has served as inspiration for many years now.

6 comments:

Silver Artisan said...

Steff!
I promise to start following your livejournal blog, WOW. I was laughing while reading this and soooo very happy for you. I get these happy feelings so easily just reading this post. It's not vain, it's very couragous to share your personal story. I wish you all the success in the world, and most of all an enjoyable creative journey.
Carmen

LiveArt said...

That's fantastic, congratulations and the best of luck on your future writing and book publishing :))) It's wonderful and I hope your dreams come true!! You Go Girl!!!

Linda

Ellie said...

I am thrilled for you; I really think it will happen! Can you email me some tips that kept you going in this direction. Tips meaning books, writing tools, anything?! Inquiring mind wants to know ;~D It sounds like a tough climb, but so well worth it.

Ann said...

so few get to realize their dreams..I am so happy for you!

Cheryl said...

Congratulations! I'm very happy to have known you when you were an unknown. Now you're a STAR! and very BRAVE! I am so-o knocking on wood for you. :)

Fiona Whitehead said...

Best of luck with the book - let us know when its in print - here's a thought - could you not self-publish?