“It’s a Mystery.” (Henslowe in Shakespeare in Love)
This industry is enigmatic to say the least. It takes perseverance, hard work, and a way with words to make it. About three years ago I finished my first women’s fiction manuscript, and soon after I queried it (I know, right?). I garnered interest from a wonderful agent. I botched up connecting with her on the technical side of things and to this day I blame my technical lameness. However, I wasn’t ready.
So I put in the work, read books on craft (see favorites below), and wrote until the cows came home (they’re still out wandering apparently). I wrote six more novels in fact. I finaled in a respected contest, sent my nonfiction and fiction work out in hopes to be published in anthologies and magazines. With over a dozen stories and essays published, I continued to study the industry and establish strong connections.
But I still say there’s no magic wand that will grant you an agent fairy or *poof* publication. I chose to keep walking through discouragement, doubt, and distractions.
And last week I secured an agent. My response to that first and foremost: It’s a mystery.
“Baby steps. Baby steps.” (Bob in What about Bob)
I took voracious notes on what worked for friends on the path ahead of me. I’ve always taken myself seriously as a writer. It’s my passion, but I also see pursuing publication as a career. I researched agents and narrowed down who I believed would advocate for me the best.
Whenever I communicated with said agents, I made sure I maintained a professional, yet Wendy-esque demeanor.
“Seat’s taken.” (kids on bus in Forrest Gump)
I witnessed good friends push through the ribbon at what seemed to be the end of the race. I cheered them on, learning how to jubilantly rejoice in their good news, while fighting off jealousy with jujitsu effort. I often felt like Forrest walking down the aisle of the bus. There were times I believed I’d never find a seat.
Remember Jenny? She offered Forrest a seat. They was like peas and carrots, Forrest and Jenny.
I met my carrot at a conference last year. A carrot who has a big group of peas, so she had to wait to take me on.
“Share the load.” (Samwise in The Lord of the Rings)The carrot agent had requested a full at the ACFW conference last year and we clicked, I mean we just clicked. I liked her. I’d been reading her blog for years and I trusted her in my gut (this is huge for me).
And in the process of waiting for feedback from her, I received unbelievable support from dear friends. This encouragement carried me. I received beautiful cards urging me to keep at it (must have been one a month from Keli Gwyn—thanks, Keli!) Thanks to everyone who provided encouragement!
I even had five friends (some writers, some not) tell me they dreamed I signed with carrot agent (this is a funny tag I’ve given her). I only dreamed about her once and we weren’t signing contracts, we were hiking together.
God works in mysterious ways. I usually take dreams and prophetic statements with a grain of salt, discerning them carefully, but, you betcha, I’m glad I wrote it all down because hindsight, I see God’s hand in it all.
“Call me. Da da da da da da, call moi.” (Harry in When Harry Met Sally)
I kept the agent’s written request in my wallet. It reminded me of my dream and how I needed to work for it. I kept an ornament that says, “The world is waiting to hear your story” hanging above my kitchen sink. Yet another reminder. I was surrounded by reminders, but entrenched in the thick of waiting. Time ticked by. Sporadically the agent and I got in touch with one another, sometimes with industry related news, sometimes not. My trust for her grew.
But there were days I cried. Yep, I can be that emotional woman who lets this business get to me. Surprise, I’m human!
Then a genuine, loving friend offered to read the work I’d submitted. She blew me away with her impression and passed it along to carrot agent. Another friend surprised me by offering kind words about me as well.
I felt like Harry in a scene from When Harry Met Sally. I even linked Billy Crystal singing on Youtube to another agent’s post as a response to how I deal with the wait. Humor has often been my golden ticket. I did anything to keep sane, anything that involved humor.
I was selective when I decided to put a few feelers out there. I received positive feedback and another request for a full. Eventually that request transpired into a kind (super kind) pass. I had yet to secure my agent match.
I waited for the call, and during the wait I discovered a boatload about what I value, how devoted I was to pursuing publication, and all kinds of good spiritual stuff that kept me humble.
“Carpe diem. Seize the day…Make your lives extraordinary.” (John Keating in Dead Poets Society)
So this is what I learned to do…to soak up each and every day, even those waiting days when I had no idea if my time would come. I continued to love writing while loving on my husband and children. I kept in touch with the agent, delighting in the way she communicated with me.
And then a day of all days came to seize. I got…the email! The rest of last Friday is a blur. I remember responding with an overwhelming yes to her email and phoning loved ones. I recall my children running outside yelling, “Our mom got an agent” (only to walk outside to discover my 4yo was naked at the time…nice).
This is my movie quote play by play how I became Rachelle Gardner’s client. I’m where I’m supposed to be. It took the time it was supposed to take.
And even though it’s a mystery, there really is no place like home! ;)
*favorite books on writing I’ve read (or reread) within the past five years include anything written by James Scott Bell, with The Art of War for Writers as my favorite of his, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King, Write Away by Elizabeth George, and Techniques for the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
**photos by flickr
**photos by flickr