Reaching Past Rejection: How Dreaming Big Led to a Book Deal

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I wrote this in the sand the day before I met my agent in person, at this past summer’s SCBWI LA conference. I was in a bit of a creative/emotional funk, wrapping up months of revisions and getting ready to send my manuscript out into the great big world of publishing. I had one of the best agents in the business, (and her amazing editorial skills), but I had no guarantee that the doors I hoped would open, wouldn’t in fact—close.

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I stood barefoot in the surf and stared toward the horizon, making wishes on the waves. I picked up two sea stones, held them tight and thought of every dream I had for myself as a writer, and threw one of those rocks back to sea. I let the waves carry away the hopes and dreams I’d made, and kept the other stone, as a reminder to myself that those dreams were still out there—waiting for the right time and place to land.

As my feet sank into the sand, I gave myself a pep talk: if things didn’t go as I hoped, I’d allow myself a good cry, then get right back on that metaphorical horse. This wasn’t my first Rejection Rodeo. I had persevered through years of rejected queries and manuscripts to get to this point. The fact that I hadn’t given up was something to celebrate.

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One of the promises I made myself as I watched the August sun sink into the ocean, was that—whether I landed a book deal or not—I’d keep writing.

What I couldn’t know then, was that I’d make it through the ups and downs of the submission process with more than one editor who wanted the stories I had to tell. I couldn’t know then, as I drew those letters in the sand, what Sarah’s voice would sound like when she called and said, “how does it feel to know you’re going to be a published author?” Or how I would cry happy tears when she told me they wanted not just one, but two books.

As I threw my rock out to sea, I didn’t know that some of my dreams would find their landing just eight weeks from that day.

That sea-tossed stone now sits on my desk, a reminder of when I let go of what I couldn’t control, and celebrated what I had accomplished so far.

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If you are holding your own sort of sea stone, remember the dreams you painted inside your heart. Keep pushing. Keep running. Keep learning and growing and doing everything else but give up. And if you’ve been too afraid to go after what you love—maybe this is your moment. Whisper your dreams to the waves and be true to the courageous voice inside you that says “reach.”

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Out of the Query Trenches

I’d been in the Query Trenches a loooong time. For the past few years, I’d pretty much lived there. I had my own mailbox and a clown with a little dancing dog that came by every so often to cheer me up. (Okay—the dog is real, but my husband would not appreciate the clown metaphor.)

Anyone who’s ever written a manuscript and sent their baby out into the daunting world of slush piles and literary agents knows the particular kind of hell this journey is for most writers.

It’s said that Mark Twain wallpapered his attic in rejection letters before he published Tom Sawyer. I used to print and save my rejection letters and post them on the wall until I realized that a room decorated with rejection was really depressing.

So I treated myself to cupcakes (or wine) whenever a pass came in, and for the really tough ones—rejections on full requests—I bought shoes. And a puppy.

Emmy and shoes

But today, I’m relinquishing my spot in the query trenches to another hopeful writer. Not because I quit, but because I didn’t quit.

And finally, finally . . . I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!

*pops cork*    *twirls *

I am so deliriously excited to announce that THE AMAZING SARAH DAVIES of The Greenhouse Literary Agency has offered to represent me!!!

Yep. I just looked down, and my feet are still floating off the ground. And yes, her name requires SHOUTY CAPS–she is that kind of agent.

It is such a gift to have a champion for this story, and I know my manuscript is in the very best hands.

I’ll soon be pitching my tent over in the Submission Trenches. I’m sure the clown and his little dancing dog will visit from time to time. Hopefully, before too long, my story will find a home with a publisher.

Whatever happens, I’m taking with me the most important lesson I learned in the Query Trenches–one I want to encourage you with, fellow dreamers . . .

Never-never-never-give-up

 

 

#PitMad = Love

I just emerged from the trenches of uber crazy twitter pitch-fest, #PitMad. A challenging leap of faith I recommend for all aspiring authors. Most of us shudder when it comes to summarizing our books into tidy paragraphs. Queries disarm us with the task of distilling our 70,000 word novels into 1-2 sentence hooks.

Now pretend you have just 140 characters–or 133 to be precise. Right? Good times.

But the coolest thing happens when you rise to the challenge…you end up with some pretty great hooks. When forced to pare down your logline to the essential core of your MS, (and still make it unique and interesting), you do away with unneeded adjectives and words that sometimes clutter up the pitch. This is especially helpful when you’re modifying your pitch–giving it a different angle, etc, when tweeting it throughout the day.

I ended up receiving 2 agent requests–one of which led to a full MS request! But I also connected to some really talented writers, (who were pitching fantastic hooks as madly as I was) and emerged from the pitch-fest trenches with a renewed sense of this great community we share as writers–particularly the YA community.

The good news: there are ways beyond the traditional query process to get your MS in front of agents. So get connected, hone your pitch, and then go for it!! Take advantage of every opportunity and be ready to grow from it–whatever happens.

If nothing else, you’ll learn to pitch your book five different ways from Sunday–and that’s a useful skill for those of us in the book-pitching trenches.

Refreshing the Query

Today I am “blind speed dating” with my query and first 250 words. *hits refresh on phone*

That’s right. I’ve put my baby out there for the world to see…and comment on. I’m waiting for one of 3 anonymous “bouncers” to put me through to the next round so agents can view my entry. *hits refresh again*

If you’ve never visited the blog: Cupid’s Literary Connections, (and the contests there), I really recommend it. http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/2013/01/lets-get-it-started-bouncer-round-1-is.html

In just the first day I’ve met some really great writers (with some great queries) and gotten truly helpful feedback. (The kind where four people suggests the same thing, so you KNOW that’s the edit you need to make) *refreshes screen*

So, regardless of what happens with this round, I’ve made great connections with fellow writers, and my query and opening pages are stronger than they were yesterday.

And that, in itself, is truly refreshing.