Before my novel finally sold, after 11 long years of trying, I wrote a backstory column on this blog. It contains lots of posts about what brought me to this point, what my struggles were, what worked, what didn’t, how to get an agent, how to lose an agent, and the like.
It’s hard for me to look over that column. There were hard times along the way. Times I despaired, although something kept me at it, and at it again, till my head bled. You know, from the banging against brick walls.
I didn’t have it rough by many writers’ standards, and I’m grateful for that. For 8 years of my journey-to-get-published, I was able mostly to stay home, take care of my kids, and squeeze writing in around that. But there were certainly the nights when, hoping to hear some pearl from an author, something that might illuminate whatever I wasn’t doing or was doing wrong, I drove through snowstorms in the dark, lost, and crying because I was missing out on another night with my family for this pointless pursuit. Who cared if it was a dream?
Then my book sold, and I figured that backstory column ended with a bang. (If you look at the pic, it did in fact end with a bang.) But then something nice happened. I started getting emails asking what was going on. When was my book coming out? And when I named a date, How come it took so long?
I realized that possibly always, but especially in these changing times in publishing, what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing house is pretty opaque. Mysterious. (And when my book finally does come out, you’ll see there’s little I like better than figuring out a mystery). Thanks to the kind interest from readers, it started me thinking that maybe people would like one bird’s eye view of this process.
I can’t say what debuting in traditional publishing circa 2011-2013 is like for everybody, of course. But I can share details about how it’s going for me. I hope they interest you. As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, just email me. This new column–let’s call it frontstory–is a conversation between us. It’s a journal I’m writing about this momentous journey.
And I thank you for sharing it with me.
I’ll start with where I was when I finally got the news from my agent that there was an offer, just because it speaks to how life sometimes pairs the most elevated with the most mundane.
I was Swiffing my living room floor. My agent actually apologized for calling me twice–apparently she’d left a message a little earlier and I’d missed it. I hope I wasn’t doing something even lesser at the time, like scrubbing the tile grout.
“I have some good news,” my agent said, in her dignified, understated way. (When my agent promises something big is about to happen, oh boy, do I listen. This is not a woman who embellishes. A welcome trait in today’s marketing-laden world.)
After she told me that BE (Brilliant Editor) had made an offer, I squealed at her: “And you were apologizing for calling me back??”
Then we laughed together.
My husband and I picked up my son at preschool, and drove to my daughter, who was in first grade at the time.
“Where are we going?” my son asked.
“You’ll see,” said my husband. “Just wait. We can’t tell you yet.”
We called my daughter out of class. We told both kids in the lobby of the school. They hugged me for long enough that I could almost–almost hold onto that moment. These are the kids that held a parade around the house, carrying posters which said, Gat publisht. To whom I had to apologize when the words took me away from them for too long. They knew what this meant.
After that I had to do something even more mundane than Swiffing or scrubbing grout–one of those annual medical tests women and men have to endure (though they’re different ones usually). It was from the waiting room that I called DWF (Dear Writing Friend) to share the news.
Things got a lot less mundane than housecleaning and checkups a few weeks later. A few moments stand out. And, since every mystery has a cliffhanger, I’ll tell you about them in the next frontstory post.