A Cliff Called Knopf
Many thanks to author Pamela Redmond Satran, who attended last night’s Writing Matters panel, and told me that she had just read the last backstory post and wanted to know what happened.
When you’re a writer, especially a struggling, beginning, yet-to-emerge one, you really don’t know how people react to your work–or even *if* they react. Last night was great because I learned that some people are reading what I say.
So here’s to you, Pam, and the others (*cough* Stacey Gill of Barista Kids) who came up and referred to a few words I have written.
This is what happened as I hung by my thumbs from the cliff called Knopf.
First, I got better. (Remember? I had a cold. Preschool kids, you know.)
Then, I started to revise.
My novel, at that point called WOLF IN THE ROAD, got better, too.
I reached that place where a writer heaves a sigh and says, Thank SOMEONE that last piece of %$# my agent saw fit to submit didn’t sell.
We sent the new version to the editor at Knopf.
I didn’t even get to hear that she liked my changes, enough to bring the manuscript back to her board, before finding out that she had passed.
Maybe that would’ve been worse: hopes raised, nerves stretched taut, tension at a maximum…only to be dropped. Again.
But at least I would’ve had that period of hope. When you don’t have the real deal, sometimes hope that proves to be false is all that gets you through.
My agent told me coolly about Knopf via email. (“Unfortunately, Knopf is passing on the novel.”) I honestly don’t think she realized that for every one of the past 90 or so nights–man, how this business can drag; 3 months is but a second while on sub–my eyes had sought out the titles on my shelf published by Knopf–Jennifer Egan’s latest, a cookbook, it didn’t matter–and made a wish on that silly, dazzling greyhound colophon.
This business can break you without your even knowing you were broken.
Where to go now?
Another book, another sub, another almost offer?
That was when my agent told me, coolly again–I’m sure defeat like this hurts the agents, too; only they don’t get to whimper–that after two years and two books she didn’t feel she could go farther with me.
She thought that another agent might step in and pick up the sub where she was leaving off.
If you don’t know Mr. Right is right around the corner, it can sure bust up your universe when the guy you don’t particularly dig anyway breaks up with you.
My Mr. Right–the man–was in the driveway, about to leave for work, when I got the break up email.
“Come in!” I screamed at him, frantic with the knowledge that I had to care for two kids under four that day, all while finding…SOMETHING to do.
It was like ants under my skin until I could figure out a plan. I couldn’t wallow in the world of the unagented–I had to move.