April 9, 2012

Candles & Champagne Can’t Last Forever

Filed under: Frontstory,Kids and Life — jenny @ 9:12 am

OK, I don’t actually think there were candles on the table at that lunch my new editor took me and my agent to. But there might as well have been, as readers of this blog know. It was pretty spectacular.

But spectacular can’t last forever, otherwise it would become, well, non-spectacular. The bar would keep having to rise to make something else fit the definition, right?

I guess it kept rising for a time. At the lunch, there was in fact champagne, for instance. When the waiter approached, my editor looked at us both and said, “I’d say we should have champagne, yes?”

It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode. Was I champagne-worthy? Was my book? No way.

And the atmosphere was so comfortable and chatty and laugh-y that toward the end, my editor invited us both to a cocktail party she was hosting at Random House for the Romance Writers of America the following month. So there I was, one dress just bought, and another one now needed, because I was going to be walking through the hallowed halls of a lifelong dream. In the RH building lives a copy of every single book they have ever published. That building is my cathedral.

There was another champagne drink at that party–tinted pink for the romance authors. It was lovely. Friendly, non-intimidating people, some of whom had even heard about my book. After toiling with only my husband and family to know what I was doing for so many years–maybe an agent by my side, but basically feeling too lame to talk about it with anybody else (how many times can you say, “No, it was another failed sub,” “No, the editor couldn’t get permission to make an offer” ?)–this was a world out of bounds.

But as I said, the champagne has to end, and end it did. I count myself lucky that I got to go three rounds.

(The third was at ThrillerFest. I didn’t actually drink champagne there since I hadn’t paid to attend and didn’t have eight dollars to buy a drink–see? I told you things would get back to normal–but I’m sure other people drank some.)

After a hurried round of introductions to some of the ITW members, me and my family jumped in an overloaded car, and headed west.

(OK, we didn’t actually jump. With two kids, you don’t even climb into a car. What you do is schlep out, two hours over-schedule, amidst shouts of, “Do we have the snack bag?” “Where’s Molly? And Julie?” “Sweetie, we can’t FIT Molly and Julie!” “Yes, we can! Look she’ll go right underneath me on the booster!” “Sweetie, you can’t sit like that for 3000 miles, it isn’t even safe!” “Yes, I can–” “Molly and Julie are both going in a meat grinder if we don’t leave one of them behind!” [That's my husband. He's kidding.We don't even own a meat grinder. It's not like you can ask the guy at the deli to use his on an American Girl.])

But finally we were off and heading west. Way west. We drove to OR, stopping at bookstores along the way, and dropping off bookmarks for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

It was an amazing trip. It was great to be in Portland again, with my brother and his family, and meeting writers, some for the first time, like mystery author Elizabeth Main, who discovered my blog and reached out to me. Or Johanna Copeland Garth, with whom I’d exchanged enough emails to really feel like I knew, but now was only a bike ride away from sharing lunch. Or Connie Jasperson Johnson, an internet-only friend, whom I was finally able to meet F2F. Others, who will appear on this blog before too long, I hope. And of course, Lauren Sweet, dear friend and former New Jersey-ite whose editing I have long relied on.

Which brings me to what happened next in my book deal journey.

No more champagne.


My editor checked with my agent to make sure I could edit while on vacation. Sure, I said. This wasn’t really vaca anyway–we live in Portland most of the summer. Besides, how much editing could there be? My book had sold, after all.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Hear that? That’s what the writing gods were doing. They were laughing.

Think your book sold, do ya? Think that means it’s in good shape?

Ha ha ha ha ha. And, ha ha ha ha ha HA!

It wasn’t in good shape. It was a terrible, wretched piece of whatever, suited to wringing out like a dull rag, not to reading.

Even worse, I had no idea how to fix it.


  1. I love your front story posts, and I remember this trip, and the subsequent holing up in the basement to edit. :) It’s nice to read about some of the lesser known details of the process though, so keep this stuff coming Jenny. :)

    And of course, don’t be a stranger. :)

    Comment by Thomas A. Knight — April 9, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  2. AW!!! It was so wonderful, meeting you and Johanna and everyone! And I am sure that when your book was submitted, it was wonderful, because they loved it and accepted it! Until I was blessed with an editor I didn’t understand how necessary the impartial eye is. Most new authors don’t realize the importance of a person who not only checks your grammar, but ‘prunes away the deadwood to let the story live’. It is a gift, (albeit a painful gift) to have an editor working with you to bring you story to life, in the way that YOU envisioned it, and I am SO looking forward to reading your book!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — April 9, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  3. I love your descriptions! I can so identify with the schlepping of the kids. LOL! May you have many, many more glasses of champagne.

    Comment by SavvyBlue — April 9, 2012 @ 10:16 am

  4. Jenny, you crack me up!! And I somehow doubt it was terrible, or wretched, or anything other than excellent.

    And just think of how much MORE excellent it is now!!

    Love these posts, love the conversation with your daughter, love it all.

    Comment by Leah Rhyne — April 9, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  5. This reads like the start of a new book! Well done as always, Jenny!

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — April 9, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  6. Endings always lead to beginnings–it’s not over until you die, right? So, a pink champagne finish, and now the next adventure.

    Comment by Sara — April 9, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  7. Jenny, I love your candles and champagne moments!! I feel like we kinda, sorta wrote the same blog post today. Great minds and all ;) And tell your husband that surely there’s always enough room for BOTH Molly and Julie!

    Comment by Johanna — April 9, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  8. Hi Jenny. I feel for you with the edits. I haven’t even gotten a publisher yet and my agent agreed with the editor that a MAJOR change had to happen halfway through the book, which I saw as pretty much a re-write. However, once I got it going, things clicked into place and I don’t know whether they are right or not, but it turned out great. I know yours will, too.

    Comment by EJ Findorff — April 9, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

  9. I love hearing your stories – both literary and personal. One of the things I find particularly impressive is the priority you place on relationships and all the time you put into helping others – sharing your advice and experiences – and travelling to meet and talk with others you’ve only known over the Internet. You’re a good person – I like that about you.

    Comment by Juanita Wilson — April 9, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  10. Jenny,
    You’ve done very well for yoursself. I don’t have an agent so my publisher took me to an Irish pub in Marietta, GA. for beer. Everything in this business is relative.

    Comment by Wayne Zurl — April 9, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  11. You guys are great. I love reading your comments. They’re better than any blog post. One day I hope to have a big F2F with every single one of you–and we will all bring books!!

    Comment by jenny — April 9, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

  12. First of all, Jenny, they had to think it was a great book or you couldn’t get an agent in the first place. Second, an editor’s job is to edit. They correct, they change, etc. Even at a small house like Five Star/Gale, my first novel for them, The Inferno Collection, went back and forth between my initial editor and myself several times. Then it went through a copyedit and then it went through a fact-checker who found some other things to change.
    Finally, I received the ARCs and had to read that through as well. Guess what? I still found errors that needed correction. Now I taught English at the high school for many years and then Expository, Creative, and Technical Writing at the university. It follows that I know correct grammar, spelling, etc. But there are always things that we as writers do not pick up. It’s no reflection on our work.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    THE TRUTH SLEUTH–now in large print
    DEATH LEGACY–new release

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — April 10, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  13. Very interesting to hear this. I remember when I was working with an agent (long story), she basically told me she wouldn’t try to sell my book until she thought it was completely done (she had been an editor for St. Martin’s) because, as she said, that’s the way things were done these days. Maybe a line edit or a proof at the publisher, but otherwise, it should be done.

    Doesn’t sound like your experience. Kind of a drag.

    But for shared experiences, I had some good chuckles at the “taking the family on the road” bits. Funny stuff.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    Comment by Paul D. Dail — April 10, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  14. Love your story. It is truly like having a baby. But think of how wonderful that baby will be.

    Comment by Lil Gluckstern — April 10, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  15. Jenny:
    You didn’t come far enough west (*Grin*), but I know I’ll see you soon!
    Great post!

    Comment by D — April 10, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

  16. Jenny, no one deserves candles and champagne more. And of course if they lasted forever, they wouldn’t be candles and champagne–more like, uhm, flashlights and ginger ale?

    Can’t wait to read your book.

    Comment by Anita Page — April 10, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

  17. Again, you guys are terrific, and so right as well. Ginger ale and flashlights…excellent. Clearly a lot of you (EJ & Jacqueline) have had similar experiences.

    Paul, I wanted to respond specifically, because I realize from the post that it did sound as if your agent’s tack and mine differed. But I don’t think they did–and I think your agent (love to hear the long story sometime) was totally on the up and up. My agent did thoroughly edit my ms with me, and help me revise. This was after it had already been through maybe 10 complete drafts. It’s just that after it sells–even more stuff is found. My editor not only found things it was amazing were missed–fresh eyes, not to mention brilliant ones–but she had her own vision for where this book could go.

    I think that basically any time a novel reaches a new stage, it goes through another revision (or three–see my next post :) Until we’re forced to stop because the thing goes to press/upload.

    Thank you, everyone, for reading and commenting. Thomas, Savvy, Connie, Leah, Allie, Sara, Johanna, EJ, Juanita, Wayne, Jacquie, Paul, Lil, Derek, Anita…I would not want to go through this without you all.

    Comment by jenny — April 10, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

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