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?
When I was little I would get out some paper and a pen or pencil and call myself a writer. What more could anyone need if they wanted to write stories? When my daughters want to write, they ask if I can get off the laptop, if they can use the iPad, or go onto the desk top computer. Lots of times, I tell them that they have to use the old fashion method of paper and ink. I think there's power in this for them. As a writer, there is still something that moves me about writing the words that fumble around in my brain down on a piece of paper and reading over it, realizing that it's become something more than jumbled words. We can backspace and delete on our laptops but I believe pen to paper will always have value. That can be another post.
When I was in high school I got a very nice Smith Corona typewriter. When something really mattered, I'd type up a final draft on that. In University, I purchased my own computer and parted ways with my pen and paper unless necessary. As I've waded into the waters of "professional" writing (sharing with an agent, getting an agent, being on submission), I've come to realize that there are many more tools necessary for today's aspiring authors. It's more than just the medium we use to get our words down; much more.
In teaching (I teach elementary), we need to be very aware of (and hopefully utilizing) 'best practices'. This means that we are up to date on current research and information on how to facilitate student success. It is very similar in writing. It is not just paper, pen, a list of agencies to query, and some stamps anymore. What does today's writer need in their toolkit?
What else? What's important in your writing toolkit? What makes you stronger or more confident as a writer?
Some thoughts on where to turn when you need answers about your writing journey.
When I'm reading articles and blogs on writing, I'm often reminded of something my mom suggested when I had my oldest daughter. She told me to choose someone I admire and respect to look to for advice. If I had someone I could turn to, then I could tune out all of the unwanted advice and suggestions that inevitably come to new parents. Ten years and a second daughter later, I realize that this advice applies to writing as well.
As a new writer, it is easy to be inundated with tips, advice, and suggestions. There are thousands of websites, blogs, newsletters, and articles about succeeding in writing. It takes a long time to sift through the advice and suggestions. It takes patience to decide what routes are right for you and your manuscript. It's difficult to trust in your own judgement when others seem to know so much. To navigate successfully through waters you've never swam in before is a challenge that most new authors don't anticipate. I didn't. It amazed me how much information is available. I feel lucky to have had an 'edge' so to speak. Having been lucky enough to be signed by an agent, I began to follow people on Twitter that she followed. By doing so, I found a variety of websites, blogs, agents, and authors that share insightful and valuable information. I don't have to wade through all of it, wondering which one has the best or most useful advice.
Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, I thought it might be useful to share some of my favourite 'industry' sites. These are websites that I turn to time and again for valuable information, writing tips, industry knowledge, and an overall good and candid read. Just like with parenting advice, you can't listen to everyone. You have to choose a trusted advisor (or a few) and rely on yourself. You have to know what you're comfortable with, what you want for yourself and your manuscript, and push yourself toward advice-givers that are in sync with these things. For me, the following websites answer the questions that randomly pop up but they also make me think about things I wouldn't have otherwise. The combination of trusting sound advice and trusting myself has, hopefully, made me a better writer.
My favourite sites
This is the site of my agent. Her blog was named one 101 best websites for writers. She gives honest, straightforward information that is both realistic and encouraging.
I love reading posts by Rachelle. Her blogs always answer questions to things that I have been thinking about. Insightful, funny, and helpful.
I cannot believe how vast and supportive the writing community on Twitter is. Watch who people you trust are following, take a look at the suggestions Twitter makes for 'other people similar to this'. I have been lucky enough to have fun, meaningful, and helpful communications with writers all around the world that, without Twitter, I would not be connected to. It is amazing to feel connected to others on a similar journey.
Whether you're looking for webinars, courses, writing opportunities, or industry information, you will find it at Writer's Digest. I love reading the information on this website. It answers questions that new writers really have without being vague.
Dahlia is a writer, like us, who is honest and genuine on her website. It's easy to navigate and the 'Daily Dahlia' is broken down into excellent categories, such as tips for agented authors and tips for unagented authors. Her writing is funny and real.
I've read, time and again, that writing is a solitary journey. What is always stressed however, and turns out to be quite true, is that we are not alone. Reach out, find others who can and will support each stage of your writing journey. Connecting with other writers, agents, editors, and people in the publishing industry is an invaluable way to realize that everyone starts somewhere. There is something very powerful about connecting with people that share your passion, who 'get' what you do or want to do. If nothing else, connecting with others can show you that, regardless of the stage you're at in your writing, others have come before you and made their way through.
Do you have a list of 'go-to' websites that provide awesome information?