Monday, November 24, 2014

I Made It (To Base Camp)!

I have thought about writing this blog post for the past...well, however long I've had this blog. Let's just call it "a long time." I have read countless other "I got an agent!" posts over the years, and they always left me with mixed emotions: happiness for my friends' success, hope that maybe one day I'd have a similar announcement, and - I'll be honest - envy. As encouraging as it was to know that this dream could some day be a reality, I couldn't help wondering when it was going to be my turn. How many years would I have to wait? How many books would I have to write? How many rejections would I have to get?

As it turns out:
10 years
8 novels
Countless rejections (countless because I refuse to go back and add them up - that's an exercise for another time. Or never.)

I can't tell you how many tears have been shed, how many times I told myself I couldn't go on. I started to wonder if it was EVER going to happen. (Although I guess deep down I always believed it would. Otherwise I wouldn't have continued to torture myself.)

So, how did I FINALLY get an agent?

Most of you know I participated in Pitch Wars this year, a writing contest hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake. As luck would have it, my entry was chosen by the Queen B herself,  Jessie Humphries, and by some miracle I still don't understand, twelve agents ended up requesting pages. Two additional agents asked for the manuscript behind the scenes. And less than a week after the contest, I got THE CALL.

This is what I was doing earlier in the day. It was probably the best day ever.
Photo by Sanderson Images

Yes, I got a call out of the blue. No email to warn me or anything. And it was the best phone call of my life. The agent who offered representation was so over-the-top enthusiastic and amazing, I couldn't believe he was talking about MY book! I may have cried. I may have screamed as soon as I got off the phone. I may have leapt into John's arms in a very dramatic fashion. I kind of always wondered if, after all the rejections that led me here, I'd still be excited if I ever did get the call.

Suffice it to say, I was.

After the first agent offered, I sent emails to all the other agents with my manuscript to let them know (I promise this is protocol - my mom and John were terrified the agent was going to rescind his offer if I kept him waiting). Over the course of the week, I ended up with a lot of kind rejections, and those still stung. But I also got another offer from another fabulous agent. Meanwhile, because she's awesome, Jessie referred me to an agent at her agency, Greenhouse Literary. John Cusick is one of those agents I never thought I'd even have a shot with. But as it turns out, John was a Russian lit major and he'd been looking for a Russia novel. To my surprise, he read mine in one day. I was so excited I may have forgotten to eat on several occasions (don't worry, I made up for lost calories in champagne and cake). When he offered, I knew I had a really difficult decision on my hand, but I also knew I couldn't really go wrong - all three agents were fantastic.

In the end, it came down to a few things. First, John is one of the top agents in my genre. He's also exceptionally nice and down to earth, and he has a stellar reputation. Everyone I spoke to about him loves him. He understood my novel and my characters, and he's fully supportive of the vision I have for my career. Greenhouse Literary is a leading children's agency, and both Jessie and a mentor from a past contest, Dannie Morin, are clients. I took that as a very, very good sign. Emailing the other two agents to let them know of my decision was awful. But I have no regrets whatsoever. I'm over-the-moon excited to start working with John.

So, why the title of this post? A few weeks ago, when I was whining to John (my husband, John, just to clarify) AGAIN about how all I wanted in life was to get an agent, he told me to remember that the main focus was to get my novel published. Well, yes, dear husband, that is true. But as he surely knows by now - and some of you may know to a lesser extent - it's virtually impossible to get published by a major publisher without a literary agent. And my goal has always been to go the traditional publishing route. I explained to John that he had basically just told me I should be focusing on Everest when all I wanted was to make it to freaking Base Camp.

Therefore (if you'll bare with this metaphor a little longer), if getting published is my Everest, then I have officially made it to Base Camp! There is no guarantee that my book will get published. Sadly, a lot of writers get literary agents and their novels never sell. But just as you are never going to climb Everest without first making it to Base Camp, I was never going to get my novel published without an agent. Yes, I still have a lot of work ahead of me. But I can also look back and see how far I've come. I get to rest here at camp for a little while (and by "rest" I mean revise) and then we'll make the push for the summit.

Okay, metaphor concluded.

I have a few more things I'd like to say, but this post is getting long and I may have lost you all at "Everest." So I'll save my tips and lessons learned for a future post, and simply finish by saying THANK YOU to everyone who has listened to me whine, read my novels, critiqued my writing, followed this blog, and generally supported me throughout this journey. I hope to make you all proud by selling this novel some day soon! In the meantime, feel free to eat a slice of cake in my honor. You've earned it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Liebster Award: 10 Questions Blog Hop

One of my Pitch Wars peeps nominated me for this blog hop, and it's a perfect distraction to get my mind off of some things right now! Thanks, Rosalyn!

1. What most inspired your current WIP?
Moving to Russia was the inspiration for my novel. I find Russian folklore fascinating!

2. How do you best get "in the zone" for writing?

I mostly need to have my children elsewhere to write. Other than that, I've gotten pretty good at getting into the zone when I have the opportunity.

3. Do you have a certain time of day/place where you find you're most productive?

I prefer a busy but not-too-noisy cafe and something yummy to eat and drink. It doesn't matter the time of day, as long as there are no children present!

4. If you could sit down and pick the brain of one author, living or dead, who would it be? What would you ask them?

This is a tough one... Probably Stephen King, because he seems like such a nice guy and I'm in awe of his ability to write amazing book after amazing book. 

5. Your WIP has just become sentient. On a scale of 1-10, how much trouble are you in?

10, probably. The bad guy likes to tear people's souls out of their bodies, and that's definitely not a good thing.

6. If money was no issue, where would your ideal writing vacation take place?

I had so much fun writing in Bath, England last year. I think I'd get lazy in a tropical place and distracted in a large city I've never been to before. Bath had the cutest little cafes and gardens and there's not THAT much to do. Plus, Jane Austen. 

7. How did you come up with the title for your current WIP?

My book was originally called something different, but my mentor from Pitch Wars insisted I come up with something better, and I'm so glad she did. I stewed on it for weeks, but when I finally put a couple of the words on my list together - WINTER (the novel takes place during the Russian winter and has a lot of references to the cold and ice) and SOUL (see #5) - and ran it by some of my reader and writer friends, everyone loved it and I knew I'd finally hit the nail on the head. Phew!

8. Who would you want to direct the movie adaptation of your WIP?

Ha! Anyone? Since this is my fantasy, let's go with Peter Jackson.

9. What advice would you give to another writer?

Never give up! It's all about persistence (and obviously a certain amount of talent, and luck!). 

10. Hypothetical: You have a time machine and a nefarious mind. You can travel back in time with one book and take credit for writing it. Which book would it be?

I would NEVER do something like that. But since you asked... Laini Tayor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone is so brilliant, I would kill to have her talent.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Eight-Legged Freaks

When Jack was little(r), I sometimes wondered if he'd ever have an imaginary friend. In these ponderings, I pictured a friendly monster, maybe, or a puppy. I never in a million years would have guessed that a family of tarantulas would be living in our house. And yet...

Meet the Tarantula family. From left to right, the daddy, Pinecone, baby Popcorn, and the grande dame herself, Butternut. This lovely trio has been an integral part of our life for months now. In fact, they're so important Jack decided to include them in his school portrait of our family. I'm particularly fond of the quote his teachers inserted in the caption: "I don't look like my parents. I look like my tarantulas."


It should be noted that I hate spiders. I hate all insects, but the more legs, the more I detest them (Google "house centipede" if you like a good scare). Jack seems to take particular joy in putting to paper the most hideous creations he can pluck from his overactive imagination.

The hair is a new touch. But the teeth are what really does it for me.

Naturally, the tarantulas live in a subterranean cavern below our house. Along with dragon-sized spiders, there are skeletons, bats, and worms. It's like someone came along, asked me what I would least like my child to talk about, and then planted a slimy little seed into his head. Where are the unicorns and kittens, I ask you? Why spiders?! My only hope is that when we relocate to Lima in six months, the Tarantulas choose to stay put. Especially because, according to Jack, Popcorn is about to get a little brother...