January 29, 2011

A Cliff Called Knopf

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 5:32 pm

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.

But where?

January 20, 2011

A writer’s starting line

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 11:54 am

I never wound up getting an agent for that novel Jackie Mitchard said wouldn’t fly commercially. She was right, and after 80 rejections from agents–with not a one citing a flaw in the manuscript–I had to agree.

Instead, I got pregnant again, and did what all writers do in that situation (the can’t-get-an-agent one, not the pregnancy one). I wrote another novel, birthing both book and baby about nine months later.

That novel was the first to shed some light on why my work might’ve been having a hard time. The agent who became my second repped primarily literary fiction. I was her first more commercial writer, and what she said she liked was the “crossover potential” in my work. Did not fitting into one particular market niche explain the trouble I was having?

This begged all sorts of other questions, such as, if it was, did I then change what I wrote? I rather quickly answered this one. I couldn’t change. The kinds of books I wrote were the ones I wanted to read. When I typed out the circumstances of page one, I sat with breath held to see what might happen next. One day my readers would hopefully feel the same way–even if traditional publishing was unsure who those readers would be.

This fourth novel–for anyone who’s counting–was also the first where we didn’t get any rejections for reasons of flaws. With the first two submitted, even though several editors wanted them, their boards always found this plot hole or that character dimension or that stylistic foible that could, arguably, be taken to mean I still had work on craft to do.

Not that we ever don’t need to work on craft, but you know what I mean. Work before my book could cross that finish line. Uh, starting line.

But this novel, the first that my second agent sent out, didn’t receive any comments about craft mistakes. Instead several editors wanted to make offers (again) and when their boards came back with no’s, the reasons were all that the topic was a tough one for readers.

From being a part of boards like the wonderful DorothyL for a while now, I see that those boards were right. I was a psychotherapist for 13 years, concentrating on children and families, and I had some pretty tough cases. As writers, anything in our lives can become fodder for fiction, and one especially upsetting element had become the subject for this fourth book. I tend to keep unpleasantness pretty far off screen, but the marketing guys at Berkley and the late Warner still felt it was a reason to turn down the novel.

Never mind. I’d written another novel. Which my agent went out with.

This one attracted instant interest from none other than Amy Einhorn, who had *just* begun her own imprint. Yup, my book was being considered as Amy was choosing THE HELP. Amy sent my agent a long¬† list of changes she’d like to see made. They were brilliant ideas, all. And once I worked with them, she agreed to see the ms back.

We didn’t hear from Amy for a long (long, long) time. All that editorial brilliance–in addition to launching a phenom like THE HELP–takes a while.

But it hardly mattered because an editor at Knopf had fallen in love with the new version, the one Amy had had such influence on. The editor was passing it around to others in the house.

Well, you know what happens next. What always seems to happen once my work goes to editorial? (she asked with her tongue in her cheek).

Yup. Turned down. However, if I addressed this board’s reasons, they not only agreed to see the ms back, but asked to see it.

I remember I was sick when my agent told me this. Sick, but so urgent, and weary of all this at the same time, that I hauled myself up to get to work. I had a new baby, I had a toddler who’d just gone to preschool for the first time. Who knew when I *wouldn’t* be sick?

And my agent, who was sharp and dedicated and a great editor herself, but not the most warm and fuzzy person you’ll ever meet, said (warmly), “Don’t work when you’re sick. Take care of yourself.”

I think she was really excited.

We both had a contract from Knopf in sight.

January 11, 2011

Those who cannot do…

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 10:04 pm

Teach. Or so the saying goes.

I don’t believe it, and not just because I’m set to begin teaching myself this February.

And so when I hit that brick wall, unagented, with a ms no one wanted, I decided to do the one thing I hadn’t done yet…go where the writing teachers were.

Not for the teaching per se, although we all can always use that, too. But what I really wanted were the contacts.

Have you ever gone to a writing conference? There was a great post by the author Sunny Frazier, whose Moment appeared here, on Lelia Taylor’s wonderful blog–Lelia is a Suspense Your Disbelief alumna, too :) Anyway, it was about the best conferences Sunny has gone to.

I don’t have nearly the breadth of experience Sunny does. But I thought the very first writing workshop I chose to attend was about as crazy a mixed bag as Sunny describes. There were the writers who came to loggerheads–and near hammer blows–with the teachers. There were the literati who couldn’t imagine altering a word they had written. There were friends that I call dear to this day.

Oh, and those contacts?

I met one literary agent who agreed to read my ms, one writer who offered to deliver my ms into the hands of a literary agent she knew, and a writing guru whose work in the biz influences me to this day.

I went to that conference family in tow. I was still nursing my first, and couldn’t leave her, obviously. The staff there were wonderful about accommodating us, although you can probably imagine how I felt when the baby cried at 3 am, potentially disturbing all those VIPs sleeping nearby in the cozy, rustic quarters.

(Indeed, my husband jumped up, snatched the baby out of the Play n’ Pack and went driving around till she fell back to sleep).

It was a crazy, heady time, and I heartily recommend finding a conference or workshop that suits your needs if you have come to a stuck place in your career.

You never know what might get jump-started.

This is the one I chose.

Next time I will tell you what it did for me.

December 1, 2010

My agent dumped me…now what?

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 9:33 pm

So there I was, sitting at my desk at work, my next patient about to come in, on my face a slack-jawed expression of complete and total shock.

My agent didn’t like my new novel.

“So…what do you think I should do?” I asked smally. “Query other agents?”

“I think you should,” she told me. Her tone was far more encouraging than her next words: “I mean, it’s a story. It has a beginning, a middle, an end.”

Even though it hadn’t seemed so at the time, I had gotten my [first] agent quite easily. Eight months, querying in the beginning with a completely unwieldy, unpublishable novel–agents who rejected it did help me whittle and whip it into shape–and I wound up with two offers. Got to choose whom to sign with.

It would not be so easy this next time around.

But I sent my first query–to Jenny Bent, then at Trident Media–without knowing that, and in fact, being sure that the first person to read this piece of brilliance, which my agent, unfathomably, *didn’t get* would make me an offer.

Queries were still snail mailed at this time. My SASE from Jenny came back with a hand-scrawled, Sorry, this is not for me. It was written–oh, the sting–on my own query letter! She couldn’t even spare a piece of paper.

I think I was more shocked by this than when my agent said she didn’t like it.

Now, you might be thinking, Well, she (Jenny–the writer–me) was clearly off her rocker. The novel sucked. That’s why her agent dumped her.

But around this time I did something that would come to be–and still is–a hallmark of my approach to circling around this business.

I Wrote to a Famous Person whose work I loved.

The famous person in question was author Jacquelyn Mitchard, who had just written an article on the subject my novel was about. Along with the letter, I dared to enclose a good chunk of the book.

Then one night, a few weeks later, the telephone rang.

Thank goodness for a relatively new invention–screens on which the caller’s name and number appeared.

I knew who would reply when I said, “Hello?”

It was Jackie. Mitchard.

Jackie was calling to tell me how wonderful my book was. How every word grabbed her. How well-written it was.

Then she said, “It won’t get published, though.”

On the heels of this bomb ensued a rather lovely conversation with a Famous Person.

Jackie explained her reasoning to me, which included her own experience trying to convince her editor to let her write a book on the same, rather controversial subject.

“Drawer it,” she said (or words to that effect). “The time is not now.”

Which might have explained the EIGHTY rejections from agents I was slowly piling up.

But dammit, I wanted this thing published. And I *didn’t* want to write another book. Not now at least.

What was a writer to do?

The one thing I hadn’t yet tried.

November 16, 2010

Here we go again

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 9:52 pm

The editor at William Morrow who received my not-quite-orphaned manuscript (because Jennifer Sawyer Fisher hadn’t gotten to acquire it before she left the biz, it hadn’t reached orphan status) didn’t like my writing.

That’s right. Two top editors–one a legend of her time–plus another had liked it enough to want to buy the book. The fourth editor…meh.

Gives you a hint as to how subjective this business is.

My agent’s suggestion was to write another book.

This was only my second submitted novel. (Remember? The first didn’t get so much as flicker of interest. In retrospect–here, from the perspective of umpteen years later–I don’t blame ‘em. That puppy was ROUGH. But the agent who signed me didn’t think so. Again–subjective).

Anyway, on your second sub you still have energy. I was positively gung ho to write a third. I would write the book in the series that would’ve been first if I had known I was writing a series when I wrote the other one.

If you’re not following this, I don’t blame you.

And it doesn’t matter. What matters is that after almost a year spent first writing, then revising a new novel, it went out to the editors who wanted my first, plus the replacement editor at Morrow, and…

Not one flicker of interest.

Don’t you worry, though. I’d learned my lesson by now and was not going to be caught unawares with a whole book left to write.

I had one at the ready, and confidently, all bright-eyed and forward thinking, I sent it off to my loyal, dogged agent.

She read fast–just one of this agent’s many virtues.

I was sitting at my desk at the mental health clinic where I was still working, one day a week, my newish baby left in the care of my dad.

“Well, I read your new book,” my then agent said.

Note the “then”?

“Yes?” I answered, breathlessly.

“Um…I didn’t really like it,” she replied.

September 6, 2010

Of City Busses & Baths

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 2:14 pm

That’s where we were when I last left off. In case anyone doesn’t remember (and really, why would you), a legendary editor had just called my first agent, who’d just submitted my first novel. (To make things a little extra confusing, my first novel was subbed second, after my second novel didn’t sell. Yipes.)

Heck, I’m just going to name Legendary Editor. Sadly, she has died, and I never got the chance to work with her. It was Leona Nevler, who discovered Jean Auel’s CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR among other hits, and was at Ballantine by the time she made it onto that city bus.

Getting Leona Nevler to stay up all night reading still counts as one my most precious accomplishments, even though this was now nine years ago.

I still remember hanging up the phone with my agent–before we knew this outcome–and her saying, “So that’s all the news I’ve got at 9:30 on a Monday,” and me replying, jubilant, riding a crest of adrenaline, “That’s pretty good for 9:30 on a Monday.”

But even Leona Nevler couldn’t get her board behind my first novel, and no offer was made.

I wasn’t heartbroken upon learning this for one reason. Not one but two other editors were also interested in my book. One was at Berkley and has since left to be a literary agent. The other was at William Morrow, and when she too couldn’t get permission to make an offer on my book, she asked my agent if we could meet.

Man, how this whole thing was dragged out, huh? It’s like Someone was having fun with it.

I was in the bath when my agent when called with this piece of news. “I’ve never had this happen before,” she told me.

Because publishing is a small world, it wasn’t possible for Jennifer Sawyer Fisher to take me to one of the typical spots the literati might dine at. “People would buzz,” explained my agent. “They wouldn’t understand why we were there when no offer had been made.”

My agent–a generous and devoted soul–offered to host us at her apartment for lunch.

Oh, how I prepared for this meeting. I spent hundreds of dollars on an outfit, exchanging my first, labored over choice on a second shopping trip. My husband drove me into the city so I wouldn’t have to stress alone over traffic. Except that we left early enough so that the most tangled, ensnared metro area traffic couldn’t have made us late.

A spring cold was coming on the day we finally met, so I had to hope my nasal intonation didn’t turn anybody off, but oh, what fun we had. I had, anyway. I got to hear the editor say things like, “So since my publisher would like this to be a big book, I thought about adding a subplot,” and then toss ideas around with her.

I felt creative.

I felt important.

I felt real.

I rushed right home and–cold or not–got immediately to work. Adding a subplot. Tearing the novel into tiny shreds, and piecing them back together again. Thanking the stars that the first version didn’t sell, since this one was oh so much better.

Way back when Jennifer Sawyer Fisher first contacted my agent, she’d told her there might be an issue with the title. (Which my agent put to me as: She hates the title.)

I first spoke to Jennifer–before we met–at 4:32 in the afternoon (yes, I remember the minute) and at the very end of the conversation she said something like, I hope you won’t mind me saying this, but if the title was less than perfect, would you mind…

Or words to that effect. Careful, almost tiptoeing words. In a business that doesn’t often scruple with the writer’s feelings, let me just say that Jennifer’s manner endeared me to her greatly.

So it was doubly upsetting, after I finally got that new version ready for submission, to hear from my agent that it had been passed on to a new editor at Morrow for consideration.

Jennifer had moved west to start a family.

August 24, 2010

How a book is bought today

Filed under: Backstory,The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:17 am

I realize I’m not exactly in a prime position to write this post, seeing as I haven’t, well, had a book bought yet. But since I’ve been noting, and referencing, and whining–just a little, I hope–across the country about getting news from NY, I figured maybe I should explain things a bit.

And then I had the key, meteoric thrill of receiving a few emails from readers–people I’ve never met before–asking questions about my book. Like, when they could buy it. I don’t know if I can explain why that is such a thrill, but if you’ve ever had the experience of having an unpublished book, you will understand.

Unpublished books feel…not quite real. Stephen King says in ON WRITING that they’re a circle unclosed.

All that work we put into creating them–forget about trying to get them out there one day–and then they sit, unread, while we wait on the vagaries of the publishing world. So when someone writes and essentially says, I believe that your book exists and I would like to buy it–it makes not just that book, but we, the writers, feel real.

And I want to answer your question. I don’t suppose I have any great industry secrets to offer, and if I did I’d be good at keeping them quiet anyway, but you don’t want secrets, do you? You just want the real truth about how a book is published today.

Before I give you the nutshell I’ve learned over the last few years, let me refer you to an upcoming event in that writing series I co-host. The editors, agents, and publishers at this panel will know much more than I do about this topic. After all, I only have my own idiosyncratic experiences to share, and believe me when I say that I hope all of you don’t go through it as I have, but have a far, far smoother, and easier time.

Anyway, so let’s assume you have an agent. If you don’t have one, take heart. Take heart, go to writing conferences or pitch workshops, make some personal contacts, improve your craft, make sure someone other than your Great Aunt Netta loves your book, and then one day, you will have an agent.

After that happens, the two of you will work on revising your novel and making sure it is submission ready. Sometimes, if your agent is big enough, or doesn’t feel her strongest skills are in editing, her assistant or intern will help in the revision process.

So, now let’s assume your manuscript (ms) is submission ready. Your agent will draw up a list of editors to go to. Some agents submit to everyone at once (say, 20 editors or so), but this seems to be the exception. Most agents go in rounds. They will sub to five or six or seven editors and wait for responses. If the responses are passes, they will contain feedback about why the book was passed on.

I have found this to be a very complicated issue. At first glance, it seems simple. Good books are bought so if yours (mine, ouch) was not bought, then it must not be good, or at least not good enough.

But this simply isn’t true. For one thing, you can get passes that could easily have been offers. This happens when the editor your agent went to wants to buy the book and now must pass it around the office for other reads. If the other editors don’t like the ms as much as the first one did, an offer won’t be made.

But as everyone knows, writing is very, very subjective. How hard it must be to get 2, 3, or more people all to agree that a book is wonderful.

To further complicate matters, there are marketing considerations, and the difficulty in predicting what will sell. No one (or at least not me) is suggesting these concerns shouldn’t weigh heavily in deciding which books should be acquired. If a book doesn’t sell well, then the publishing house will have trouble staying solvent and have to publish fewer books or make other compromises.

Problem is, as the great William Goldman says, Nobody knows.

What will sell, that is.

There are exceptions, of course, which is why you’ll see celebrity bios in deals everywhere, and why certain books receive a pre-emptive offer (pre-empt) as soon as the agent goes out with them.

But you, debut novelist, and me–well, it’s a lot harder to tell if our books will sell or not. Which is why I’ve gotten crazy reasons for passing, reasons that contradict themselves, or focus on a detail that should clearly not have to do with how readers will receive a book.

For example, in the ms that’s on sub now, there is one scene where a character does something that I knew full well, while writing, would be controversial. I think the character is in a tough enough position–and this is demonstrated well enough–that whether you agree or disagree with the course she takes, it will provide ample food for thought and discussion. Book club members can wrangle over it over food and wine. Have fun with even. Would you? Would I? And indeed, some editors referred to the scene as a highlight in the book. But one editor rejected it because of it.

Now if everyone had said the same thing, then I would’ve had a no-brainer. Remove the scene. I like it and believe in it, but it doesn’t work for others.

Once upon a time as a writer, I might have struggled with that, but not for long, and not anymore. Nobody knows, but the editors know a lot better than we writers most of the time, and I’m lucky to receive their wisdom.

But what do you do when the editors themselves don’t agree?

You wait to find the one person who believes in that scene–and your book–as much as you and your agent do. Who can convince the other readers at editorial to agree with her vision. And convince the marketing people to take a chance, because, say it with me, Nobody knows.

Except me. Except us. We know that we haven’t written the most perfect book in the world or anything like it. Just a story good enough that it has captured some people’s interest.

One day I hope mine will capture yours. Thank you so much, everyone who has written, and made that possibility feel just a little more real.

June 27, 2010

Editors, and phone calls, and lunches, O my!

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 9:35 am

So, a few posts ago, I asked, What do we do next?

After my first submission “went south”, that is, (not a phrase I had ever heard or known to exist before) and there were no offers?

Why, we went on sub again, of course. Luckily, I had another manuscript just waiting, all ready in the wings.

Well, not precisely ALL ready. Even though, if you’ve been reading this series with anywhere near the stun-eyed, gape-mouthed, staring-at-a-road-wreck, struck-by-the-pain puzzlement with which I am writing it, I had already received another offer of representation for this manuscript. From quite a fine agent, I might add, who though new and green at the time, would go on to do big things in the industry.

But the agent I was currently signed with didn’t consider it quite so great as all that.

Some agents are great editors and some are fantastic salespeople. Just like some are sharks and some are hand-holders for their clients. If you get very, very lucky, you find an agent who is all of the above.

I have been lucky in that all three of my agents (wait–there are more?? Yes, but that’s not for this post) have been wonderful editors who have played a significant role in improving my work.

The agent I was working with at the time of my first sub found all sorts of things wrong with my first novel, which we were about to send out second.

I know, confusing. Even when every sordid detail is soldered into your (um, my) brain.

So I sat down to revise it. Most agents, even when they’re great editors, tend to point out problems and issues in the book, but less so suggest fixes. I don’t know if that’s so that the work remains the author’s or just because suggesting fixes is hard. It’s still the thing I’m least good at when editing a manuscript for a writing buddy.

In fact, my husband, and TBEITW, and a brand new writing buddy I’ve recently made are some of the few people I know who can suggest really workable fixes.

I can still remember my agent asking, “Do you live in a small town?” because I had gotten the flavor of the setting a bit off.

But finally, I did whip the novel into such shape that my agent deemed it ready for prime time, and she sent it out.

On a Thursday.

On Monday she called me at home at 9:30 am and said, “[Grande Dame of Publishing X] just called from a city bus.” Pause. “She couldn’t go to sleep till she finished your novel last night.”

June 10, 2010

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 7:38 pm

Or, not so regularly scheduled.

After all, I haven’t delved into backstory (mine) in some time.

But there’s so much interest in what I call alternative routes to publication–a la Karen McQuestion–that I figured I might as well discuss a few more of the points along my ongoing journey.

So, I’d signed with my first agent, and I still remember her saying, “OK, we have time for one good round before the summer slowdown.”

It was May.

My first–only it was really my second; I’d been querying with two different manuscripts–novel went out to five editors as the end of June loomed.

And I sat back and waited to be told I was going to be published.

Didn’t happen. We got one semi-informative pass, which said that the pace of the novel flagged a little in the middle.

Back then I still believed that if a book was good, it would be bought, and if it wasn’t bought, then it must be at least flawed.

I remember I was part of a writing group then, whose best effect was to introduce me to The Best Editor in the World. TBEITW is still one of my dearest writing buddies, and I would never send a ms out into the world without her reading it and showing me not only where I’ve gone wrong but often, how to fix it.

So I brought the ms to her, and gave her this pace flagging issue, and sure enough she pinpointed what could be responsible.

To be brief, it involved the fact that a dead body was found in the middle of the book, when really it should be a penultimate moment kind of thing.

How hard could it be to move a dead body around in a plot?

A heckuva lot harder than it is to move one in real life. (I think.)

Oh, did I tear that baby apart. And oh, did I suffer over every infinitesimal scene change that rippled throughout every subsequent page, necessitating basically, a total rewrite.

But when it was done! The heavens opened. The angels sang.

HOW could I have let the previous, flawed, ugly, disgusting ms out on submission? How could my agent have wanted to represent that piece of dreck? Of COURSE it didn’t sell. THIS was the novel it wanted to be. The novel it NEEDED to be.

Come September, we went to four more houses with the new, improved (read: rejection-proof) version.

And didn’t get so much as a semi-informative pass out of anyone.

“I’ve had submissions before that went south,” my agent said in a worried tone.

So, what did we do then?

Stay tuned…

April 29, 2010

Waiting to Exhale

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 8:37 pm

With one single novel, Terry McMillan came up with a metaphor that rocketed home and has stayed with me ever since.

We all know the feeling of wanting something so badly that we can’t breathe–not deeply at least–until we have it. For some it’s true love. Or a baby.

For others it’s a book deal.

After I signed with my first agent, I thought it was time to exhale.

The very use of the word “first” tells you that it wasn’t.

I have nothing but good things to say of my agent. She was experienced, wise, supportive, and went the extra mileS, including having me and an editor interested in my work to lunch at her very own apartment because the writing biz is small and people would wonder why this editor was out with me when no deal had yet been announced.

My agent has made many deals for many good authors over the years.

The only problem is, she wasn’t able to make one for me.

This is how it began. You might remember that I had two completed novels at the time that I signed with my agent. She had offered representation based on my second novel. After much (more) revising, that was the one she submitted.

I still remember that it was May, and she said, “We have time for one good submission [before the summer slowdown].”

Ahhh (eeek) was I ever going to learn the monstrosity that is the summer slowdown in publishing…but that’s getting ahead of myself.

(And yes, of course, I understand that all those hard-working and mostly underpaid editors and publishers deserve their time off. It’s just a little teensy bit hard on the writers, that’s all I’m saying, to have to constrict time in this already geologically slow business by two months or so…)

Anyway, we went out on our first round, got several passes, including one that said “the pace flagged a bit in the middle.” In editor-ese (they tend to be kind, perhaps because it’s important to preserve the agent/editor relationship–after all, they’re saying no to something the agent believes in–or perhaps because they’re genuinely nice people and know that passing on a novel is like removing the writer’s heart with a spoon and stomping on it) this means: I was bored silly by the time I got through the first page.

So I revised that manuscript, turning to my various trusty readers, including TBEITW (The Best Editor in the World). When I’d finished, I felt by turns stricken that we had sent something so flawed out into the world–the publishing world, no less–and grateful for all the offers this new, improved version would surely receive.

And in September, when the Hamptons grew chilly and publishing began to crank up again, we went out on a new round.

Stay turned for what happened next.

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