That call? The one that makes you feel like you haven't been wasting your time and fooling yourself? It came in an email first, for me anyway. In the email, Carly said she really liked The Princess and the Please and thought it had great commercial potential. She asked what I wanted in an agent and could she phone me? Um, YES! So she did.
You think it went like this: once we went through edits and revisions, Carly sends off the manuscript, editors and publishers loved it, and Carly phones to tell me I have to decide which book deal I want to take. That's a lovely ending. But it's not the one that happened.
We did go through revisions and Carly did send it out to editors and publishers. They did not love it as we did. They did not offer any such deal but they did offer us best wishes. While this was happening and I was at home wondering, every single day, if today would be the day, I began writing more and more. I sent some of that writing to my agent who responded with feedback. Still, I waited. I wrote. Waited, wrote, waited, wrote.
What's the worst thing that can happen? This book isn't going to work so you and your agent get the next project ready to go and try again, right? Maybe. In a lot of cases, I'm sure it does. For me, I got another email asking about a good time to phone. I thought (hoped, prayed, and wished) that it would be to talk about my contemporary romance novel that I had sent her a couple of months prior. It wasn't.
For me, this part of the story ended like this: Carly phoned to say that while I was professional to work with and had done nothing wrong, Princess wasn't getting picked up and she wasn't in love with any of the writing I had sent her in the mean time. She felt that she was no longer the best agent to represent me and this would be the end of our journey together.
Questions and thoughts that jump around like mini madmen in your mind:
"It's me, isn't it?", "Will I ever get another agent?", "Is this a sign?", "Did I make this happen?", "Do I actually have talent or was this a fluke?" All of those questions, and more, looped through my brain and still do. Really though, it's just a matter of it no longer being the best fit. No hard feelings, unpleasant words, or mixed messages. I suppose it could have gone down differently but in the end, it's the most civilized "break-up" I've ever had and we didn't even have to give each other back our stuff. She didn't unfriend me on Goodreads or block me on Twitter. In fact, she said she'd give me some advice on the last thing I sent her and if I had questions, I knew she was always around on Twitter.
Was it easy? No. Was I sad? Yes. Can I do anything about it? Yes and No. I can't make her take me back but we parted ways gracefully so I can only hope that it means new things will come. I've spoken of the writing community many times in the past year and once again, they are this amazing group of people that don't hate you if you succeed and don't pretend not to know you if you don't. I emailed Tanya, spoke to Carolyn (storytime), and reached out to new friends made on Twitter. They offered regret on my behalf, words of wisdom, and positive encouragement. How much more can you ask for than that?
It's not the ending I wanted or any author wants. I doubt it's the phone call or ending Carly wanted either. So what now? Well, I still have the Children's Festival next week, which I thought I should cancel because I was feeling like a 'fraud'. Then I decided no, I still have things to offer, things that made Carly notice my work in the first place. I'll do that. I'll keep getting to know the writing community. I'll keep writing and reading. I'll keep hoping it wasn't a fluke.
Five things that wouldn't have happened if I had not gone to the writer's conference that weekend:
Last week I wrote about how I started my journey of "professional" writing. If you missed the first one, just scroll down to last week's blog to catch up.
When I ended last week, I told you I had a scheduled blue pencil session and a pitch session. Common sense helped me pick who I wanted to sit down with: I looked through the lists of authors and agents and chose people that worked with or represented what I'd brought with me to the conference. Sometimes, as I did with Tanya and Carly, you take what you read about them and then just go with your gut. Before I tell you how my sessions went, I'll point out what I should have done to be more prepared. When I think about what I didn't know when I attended, I realize how lucky I am to have been successful.
What I should have known before I went:
So, what was it like?
What came next? The biggest part of this whole process: the waiting. There is a lot of waiting in this industry. So I tried, unsuccessfully, to pretend that it didn't matter if Carly emailed. I was surprised by how much being surrounded by writers and books inspired me to write. Since I came home from the conference, I have not stopped doing three things: writing, reading, and waiting.
So how did it end? Not that the journey is over but what was the result of going and putting my writing out there for others to read? While you may think you know what I will write in next week's third and final blog in this series, I can promise you, you do not. Even I did not know how this particular journey would end until this week. Where am now in my journey? What's it like to get the phone call from an agent who wants to represent your work? How can you prepare for that phone call? You'll have to come back next week and read the third in this three part series to find out!
What stage of your writing journey are you at? What do you find most difficult?
As writers, we must be readers. In honor of Mother's Day and the fact that I have a picture book on submission, I wanted to share my top ten favourite cuddle-up-with-mom-and-read picture books. We are inspired by everything around us and what we read helps shape what we write. So if you write picture books, or just want a great read with your little one,
here are some great ones.
When I begin to write a children's story, I immediately think in rhyme. Of the many stories I have, completed and not, only one of them is free verse. When I met my agent and she showed interest in one of my stories, she said that rhyme could be hit or miss. Most of what I've been reading about writing and publishing has said the same thing. Last week, I reached out on Twitter to ask, 'rhyme or no rhyme'? The response I received was one I expected: no rhyme. It's complicated to get the rhythm correct and tell the story in a meaningful way. However, when it's done properly, it's beautiful and amazing.
I started thinking about my favourite children's stories and I have no idea why rhyme is always my go-to. Some of my absolute favourite authors are Kevin Henkes, Mem Fox, and Robert Munsch. They weave wonderful tales without relying on a rhyme pattern. However, I also adore Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman. These are two awesome examples of fun and effective rhyme.
If I take a good look at the stories I love, my influences are not based in rhyme. Which makes me wonder why it's always my first way of storytelling. I'm guessing that it has something to do with the fact that my mom rhymed everything. She ran a daycare and all of the kids had rhyming nicknames. If you called out to ask her where she was, she'd reply "in my skin, when I jump out, you can jump in." She had a rhyme for everything. I'm guessing that this is far more ingrained in my head than I had realized.
It's important to push outside your comfort zone if you want to grow. This applies not only to writing, but to life. It's not one of my strengths. I like my comfort zone very much. But I also like the idea of knowing that I can push past it successfully. That I can take a risk in my writing and make it more powerful. It's what I'd ask of my students and my own children.
When I think of how I want to tell a story, I only know that I want it to leave a lasting impression. I want a child, or adult, to love reading it aloud. I think that, because my natural inclination is to rhyme, I have to find a middle ground. Margie Palatini does an amazing job of this in books such as: Bedhead, Sweet Tooth, Moosetache, and Oink. (www.margiepalatini.com) She is a perfect example of how an author can use rhyme, free verse or a blend of the two, seemlessly, to create a rhythmic tale. Her words, rhyming or not, flow so easily and make you not only love the story, but remember it. Not an easy task.
Not easy, but it is the task I will embark upon next. I'm working through a new children's story idea. If I let myself, I could probably write something solid with a nice rhyme pattern. However, since I can't keep the door of my comfort zone locked indefinitely, I will work on pushing myself out that door. If I keep at it, maybe unlocking the door will lead me to a world that is filled with authors I admire and respect and adore. Maybe one day, my books will sit beside theirs on a shelf (not an alphabetical shelf, obviously).
What are your favourite books and authors? Do the books rhyme? Do you find yourself drawn to a certain children's book author? What is it about their writing that pulls you in?