(And they are also mentors for Sun versus Snow.So look for Amy, Natalie, and Megan again there.)
Here is inspiration times three:
Usually a writer's agent call is a personal story, one that is about his or her individual quest. But that’s not how we see our stories. Our “getting the call” tales feel intertwined with one another. It’s the story of how we all three met, supported one another, and found our agents.
I think it's safe to say that I would not be where I am on this writing journey if it wasn't for my CPs. My first ever CP, Jen (She's Nat and Megan's CP too now, btw), is the reason I've written the three books I've already completed. The community that we've formed with Natalie and Megan, as friends and critique partners, is the reason I get to take part in this post today.
Writing has always been a solitary activity for me. One I did when I was alone, when I needed to sort out my thoughts and have conversations with all those people swarming in my head. But my favorite thing I learned in 2013 is writing doesn’t have to be solitary. That it’s rewarding to let others into my head and to peer into theirs.
My story started like most writers, writing a lot. And then maybe like some of you, I stopped.
Because I was entirely convinced that I would never be good enough. And I didn't want anyone to know that. Writing is so public. No one goes to my sister's office and sees how she does her job. But when you share something you wrote, they can see the sum total. They can tell you suck, that you think you're good but you're not. So I stopped writing.
Until November 2011 when I challenged myself to write a novel (hello nanolove). THE TRUTH ABOUT LEAVING was born, and I cautiously shared it with friends who loved me and would be gentle in their critique. And then revised. For 18 months.
In late April 2013, I decided I was ready to query. I did a ton of research, and started sending out queries. I got requests. And flat out rejections. Often on the same day. I cried and called friends. I thought about giving up. Every time I got a rejection, I sent out more queries. And cried. And started to work on another book because I was obsessed with QueryTracker and slowly going mad.
My beginning goes back a couple of books, but I'll tell you where this one, the one got me THE call, started. It was actually a JuNoWriMo. I'd never done NaNo because I'm a teacher by day, and November is so busy, but June? I could do June. So I did. I was super excited because this was the first book I'd beat sheeted using Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT. It was my first time not pantsing a novel, and for my highly organized self, it was a glorious experience writing this way, and it helped me "win" JuNo. Then I spent two months polishing this book, but I was so scared to share it. That's right. Book three, and I was still shaking in my boots to share, which is why I almost chickened out of doing WriteOnCon. But I had everything to gain and nothing to lose, so thankfully, I did it. Because Natalie and Megan and so many other writers I met, whose gorgeous words I got to read and who critiqued and encouraged my writing as well.
My beginning goes back a couple of books as well - an indie adult romance, a shelved New Adult series and several half-finished WIPs. I began my New Adult contemporary romance, DO THE MATH (then titled SWITCHING NUMBERS), when I was pregnant with my second child. After she was born, I picked it back up and finished it summer of 2013. At that point, I’d been active on Twitter for over six months. And all I heard was how important it was to have critique partners. I saw other writers talking about their relationships, and I was envious. I wanted that. I wanted to connect with other writers and go through this crazy journey with them.
Natalie & Megan & Amy
Our stories came together at WriteOnCon. On the board, on twitter, in the countless (read: thousands) of emails we exchanged back and forth.
And then in that terrifying moment when you ask another writer, a writer you so admire, if she’d be interested in having you read her manuscript. Because you want to know (desperately) what happens after the first five pages that she posted on WriteOnCon.
And she says yes. And wants to read your manuscript. And you agree.
So now I had these amazing writer friends and these phenomenal CPs. And then came Brenda Drake’s terrifying Pitch Madness. I worked on my pitch. I slaved over it. Megan and Amy virtually held my hand as I entered. And then all over twitter, the slush readers were talking about entries they loved (clearly not mine) and those that were all wrong (all mine). Rounds and rounds (ok, only three) for months (ok, weeks). I went into a three-day Jewish holiday where I had no access to any electronics (at all), knowing the results would be posted while I was in hiding. And I came out to find more squees and tweets and messages than I could imagine. The amazing Marieke Nijkamp had fought for my entry, and Shelley Watters featured it on her blog. And on agent day, a dream agent put down her highest bid for it: a full request.
This was not happening to me.
But we were still in Jewish holiday land, so I went back into my no-tech world for another three day holiday, and came out to find a heart-stopping email from the ninja agent from writeoncon who’d requested the manuscript. She wanted to talk. SHE. WANTED. TO. TALK.
We had a great phone call. I loved her. I talked with Megan and Amy. Over and over. And then I did what I thought would be the best part: I emailed all the other agents and told them I had an offer.
Here’s the truth: it sucked. I hated that week. I had all the doubts. I was terrified the ten agents with my fulls would tell me it was crap. I was terrified they’d like it. And then dream agent from Pitch Madness emailed me. She wanted to talk. SHE. WANTED. TO. TALK.
We had a great phone call. I loved her. I talked with Megan and Amy. Over and over. All the same stuff. I couldn’t have two agents though? It sounds like a great problem to have. But for me? Not at all. I HATED IT. I didn’t want to say no. Maybe I should say no to both of them, just to be fair? I’m clearly crazy.
After a lot of thinking, talking to writers I trust and admire, and more emails that should be legally allowed by gmail, I said yes to dream agent from Pitch Madness. Which is how I came to be represented by the lovely Carly Watters of P.S. Literary.
The morals of the story: Be less afraid. Share your work. Accept critique. Accept rejection. Write more books. Support other writers. Accept support.
Most importantly? Find amazing CPs because nobody else will talk you out of a tree like they will.
I had sent out a decent amount of queries when it was time for PitMad, the Twitter contest. I polished up some pitches, threw them up and received a LOT of favorites - some from agents and some from publishers and I was elated. I sent my query and sample pages off to the agents who requested. I emailed one of the publishers - told the editor I was honored and respected her but I was holding off to hear back from some agents. She was gracious and lovely, told me she respected that and she’d still welcome my manuscript in the future.
Then I waited. And waited. More rejections rolled in and the funk set in. I believed in DO THE MATH with all my heart and I wanted someone else to believe in it too. At that point, I’d exhausted most of my queries. That publisher’s email stared at me from my inbox. I didn’t want to query and sub simultaneously but I WANTED to be published by that publisher. I did my research. So after some encouragement from Amy and Natalie and other writer friends, I subbed to the publisher with my first three chapters. She quickly asked for my full. And then a month later, my phone rings, and it’s a call from New York. I had a bad cold and answered the phone sounding like a man. She offers to publish DO THE MATH and I think my voice completely went out as I squealed.
I did still have some queries out to a couple of agents. As professional courtesy, I emailed them about my publisher offer, not expecting much. But Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency (who, incidentally, I had queried as a referral from one of her clients, Stina Lindenblatt), said she’d love to read my manuscript - that my synopsis intrigued her.
She read it in one day. She sent me a gushing email that had me in tears. She formally offered me representation and asked to talk on the phone. I still couldn’t believe this was happening to me. After months of rejections I had interest - REAL interest. Marisa and I talked on the phone and it was like I had a long-lost sister or something. She talked like me, and her enthusiasm blew me away. She was impressed with DO THE MATH, and overall she said she saw my talent and potential and wanted to guide my career. But I had one other agent to talk to yet, so I couldn’t accept on the spot. Plus, I knew the right thing to do was at least think on it. But there was really no question. Marisa was my spirit agent. I accepted her offer the next day.
I know, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here with Amy and Natalie and the community of writers I met through Write On Con and Twitter and publishing contests. My story is just one of many wonderful stories because there is so much amazing talent out there. That was evident through a look at the Write On Con forums.
And as for the rest of my publishing journey? Stay tuned. ;)
I had barely begun querying when Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness came around. But school was just starting for me, so I didn't want to get wrapped up in a contest when my focus needed to be in the classroom. But I love contests. I really do. And I knew that Pitch Madness would end with a Twitter pitch party, #pitmad, on September 12. I could fit that in. So I did. I tweeted a few pitches throughout the day. And I got a request from an agent to send my query, first three chapters and synopsis. Once again, thank the universe for my CPs because Natalie and Megan helped me whip my synopsis into shape because I was really excited about this agent.
On October 9, the same agent emailed and said some really nice things about my book, and she requested the full manuscript. I was totally cool [freaking out] and sent my manuscript along without a care in the world [I cared a lot. A real super lot.]. At this point my query was doing well. I'd received some other requests. And so began the waiting game.
Fast forward to November 21, a patient time in my life without lots of email refreshing [lies, all lies]. I was in Boston for NCTE, a national conference for English teachers. It was my first time there, so of course I was having a beer at Cheers. And of course I wanted to tweet a picture from my touristy adventure. So I got on Twitter, and the first thing I saw was that I had a new follower. It was an agent I was already following. It was an agent that had my full manuscript, the one who favorited my #pitmad tweet. Naturally, after tweeting my Cheers pics, I went straight to my gmail. Because I had this feeling that I should see if there was an important email waiting.
There was. My #pitmad requesting agent wanted to talk to me on the phone. She knew from my touristy tweets that I was in Boston, but she was free that afternoon to chat if I was. So I gave her my number, and she called. I was in a hotel in a strange city with no preparation other than a pep talk from Natalie shortly before THE call. I was so nervous, and #pitmad agent was so nice and had such wonderful things to say about my book and my writing in general. By the end of the phone call, she officially offered me representation. Ten days later on December 2, after hearing back from other agents with queries and fulls, I officially accepted and am thrilled to now be represented by the fantastic Courtney Miller-Callihan at Greenburger Associates.
Bottom line-I am where I am today because of the community of writers to which I belong. I have wonderful new friends (see other two writers in this post) whose words I fell in love with, and then I fell in love with the writers themselves. I do not/cannot write in a vacuum. And I'm grateful that because I put myself out there, I don't have to.
On Twitter: @Natalie_Blitt
On Facebook: Natalie Blitt -- Author
On Twitter: @MeganErickson_
On Facebook: Megan Erickson-Author
On Twitter: @AJ_Pine
On Facebook: AJ Pine