In the beginning of 2012 I finished writing my first manuscript, a middle grade story called THELMA BEE. I sent it to some writerly friends and they gave great support and a few suggestions. I put it away for a while and later revised. “Now, I’m ready!” I thought. Wrongly. It was a wrongly thought thought.
I got a few requests. Supportive rejections trickled in. But then a contest called The Writer’s Voice happened.
Brenda Drake is the Khaleesi of writing contests. Once I started following her on Twitter, everything got a lot more exciting (and clear). During The Writers Voice I was chosen for Krista Van Dolzer’s team. Krista was an incredible mentor and helped me whip my query into shape. The contest did two things:
1. Plugged me into an informative, supportive, amazing group of writers/agents/editors on Twitter
2. Got my manuscript some VERY exciting requests.
Now we’ve got some momentum. Go go go go go gooooooPREGNANCY.
So I threw up for months and months and months. And I didn’t write. I didn’t query. I just looked out the window and then I threw up more.
Cut to my baby being old enough for me to think relatively clearly again — this past summer. I connected with some of my old Team Krisa pals and one of them, Michelle, gave THELMA BEE a read. She provided me with some excellent, detailed edits that helped me look at the book in a new light.
Then, one day on Twitter I saw #MSWL. That stands for Manuscript Wishlist. Agent Laura Zats asked for a quest that wasn’t a treasure hunt and if I remember correctly, a creepy swamp. Well, friends, this I can deliver. I queried her. She asked for a partial. Then the full. Then, right before Thanksgiving – she asked for a call.
I screamed. Whatever, it was exciting.
We scheduled the call for A WEEK AND A HALF in the future because of the holiday week. So, I hosted Thanksgiving for 12 people and that was a good distraction.
During the call, I put a slide show of calming forest scenes on my laptop. We chatted and she was awesome and very in tune with the characters and the story. At one point I made mention of Thelma’s town being a little bit Star’s Hollow and she immediately got that and excitedly compared one of my book’s locations to Luke’s Diner. In my mind I thought “YEP, NAILED IT. LET’S DO THIS THING”.
The week that followed “the call” brought two other phone conversations with great agents, each with different situations, each of whom would offer different paths for the manuscript in the next few months. I hounded my Team Krista friends (including Krista herself) with constant emails, and bugged fancy pants Twitter friend Summer Heacock for her expertise. At the end of it, I had to go with my gut and my gut was telling me to go with Laura.
I signed the contract on Christmas Eve. That was very cool.
As writers I think we sometimes try to force life events into a narrative arc to make it neat. This wasn’t a hero’s quest – it was messier. I loved my story, and thought it was good when I finished my first draft. But I learned the true meaning of revision over the months (and months) I worked on THELMA BEE. It was about letting go of my ego and really getting my hands dirty. It was also about not giving up even though it got hard and I saw other people sail past me, getting agents book deals while I was diving back in for the 35th revision.
If you love your story, don’t give up. Make it better and then make it best. I have come to a point in my life when I realize that for a writer (or a mom, for that matter) grit is one of the most important things. This process involved not a lot of luck, but a lot of persistence and willingness to reconsider and rework. It had much more to do with examining my use of gerunds than fairy dust. It actually had a lot to do with gerunds.
I’ve got a ton more work to do, but I’m very excited to be embarking on this next stage of my career with Laura.