Friday, January 9, 2015

Getting the Call with Annika Sharma

What's better than inspiration? Double the inspiration! Annika Sharma shares not only her agent story, but her publishing story! Thank you Annika and I'd love to have you back to share about your release of The Rearranged Life in May. 

Every year, I think my birthday is a glorious and magical portal into All The Things That Will Happen. My best friend was born 4 days before me, so we usually celebrate together and then talk about how everything is going to change this year. And sometimes when big things happen, it labels the year--like The Year I Graduated College. If I had to label the last year, though, I would name it The Year I Waited. Or, The Year Everything and Nothing Happened.

I guess I should start at the beginning. I have always been a writer, but the stars didn't align. I went into the sciences, despite my parents telling me to major in journalism (note: listen to your parents if they're smarter than you!) and dulled my daydreaming because I didn't have the confidence that I could turn it into a career. When graduate school was about to start, I had a month off and everything clicked. My New Adult story, about an Indian girl named Nithya who falls in love with an American named James and challenges the dreams of medical school and a semi-arranged marriage that she and her family have always planned, poured out. I researched agents, querying, and everything else before (finally) beginning submissions to agents in October 2013, a month before my birthday. I got a few partial requests--those didn't go anywhere. Then I got two full requests. 

Let's be real for a second. 

Waiting is horrible. 

Rational thinking told me that agents have a lot on their plate so it made sense that it took so long to hear back. My now-reinvigorated sense of imagination told me they'd respond within three seconds of reading my query, offering representation in droves. I didn't realize how impatient I'd be! I went back and forth between feeling optimistic and wanting to throw my laptop out of the window. Finally, in March, I received a kind and incredibly helpful rejection from one of the agents who asked for the full. I was devastated--and I thought the other would say no, too. Then, in a moment of panic, I decided my story had been queried too early, didn't follow a typical arc and rewrote the entire thing. I was about to start the second edit of the revised story, when the other agent I was waiting on, Stacey Donaghy, called me in the beginning of July. It was almost 9 months after I'd begun the query process. I actually missed her first call because I was at coffee with my best friend, wondering when this would ever happen, and then I received an email: "I would like to talk to you about your story." Cue the freak out!

 After rushing home, hyperventilating and attempting to sound dignified, Stacey and I ended up on the phone. She was on par with the story from the beginning. We saw the characters similarly and she respected my opinion about different aspects of the story. She even said that she loved that it was different, and that it didn't fit a formula. I knew, deep down, that I had to sign with her and that she'd do great things. We had minor edits to make, and I spent a month fixing some small issues before we finally sent the story on submission to publishing houses.

We immediately got full requests from editors. It was the coolest and most terrifying feeling ever because this time, the waiting was magnified. When you query to agents, there is a sense that you can improve based on the personalized rejections. You keep fixing things and keep sending materials out. It seems like there's an infinite number of people you can reach out to. With editors, that list is finite. It's like waiting for the Cool Kids to tell you that you can sit at their table, all while feeling like the kid eating lunch in the toilet stall. It's unnerving. There is nothing you can do this time but try to write something else and keep busy. Luckily, my family didn't harp on the fact that I'd likely put them in therapy from my whining, and Stacey was positive and believed in the story. They never ran out of hope, even in the face of rejections...which inevitably came, to my disappointment. 

Finally, the day before Thanksgiving, ten days after my birthday and three months after we began, we got The Call from Curiosity Quills. After closing the process with other houses, we put our names on the dotted line. I spoke with my editor, Lisa, and she had so many ideas and so much enthusiasm. I loved that she loved my story as much as I did and as much as Stacey did. I couldn't have asked for a more hands-on publisher. The entire team is positive, helpful and prompt...exactly what a newbie and slightly neurotic human like me needs.

Every time I waited, it seemed like the year would end up being The Year of Nothing. But now, after getting an agent and a book deal in less than 6 months, and only 14 months after beginning the process, I can say it seems more like The Year It All Changed. My book, The Rearranged Life, will be out in May. To be able to say that and to have gotten through the waiting? Well, I'd say that this year was pretty darn awesome.


Annika Sharma was born in New Delhi and brought up in the United States, where she moved with her parents as a baby. She graduated from Penn State University with degrees in Biobehavioral Health and Neuropsychology, with minors in Biology and Human Development and Family Studies. Upon graduating college, she worked at a preschool to become more comfortable working with young children in the hopes of becoming a nurse practitioner. While there, she was recruited into a Master's program at Penn State, graduating in 2013 with her M. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. In the month before beginning graduate school, she wrote her first novel, The Rearranged Life, a story about an Indian girl who, after aiming for medical school and coming to terms with an arranged marriage, falls in love with an American.  Annika daylights as a preschool teacher, while pursuing her dreams of writing full-time. She currently lives in State College, Pennsylvania. The Rearranged Life, will be hitting shelves in May 2015, published by Curiosity Quills.

Twitter: @annikasharma


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your story Annika. I work as a speech-language pathologist in my day job and worked on my book for about a year. After my beta readers had a look at last summer, I didn't feel that I had enough constructive feedback to work with. I knew in my heart (even though my readers claimed to love it) that it wasn't ready yet, so I am having a traditional editor look at it, but I have to wait 14 weeks! After that process is over, I hope to submit to agents. This is my year of waiting! Best of luck to you and I look forward to reading your book!

    1. Hi JR! Thank you so much for your message! I have the utmost confidence you'll get through this's not easy, but it's worth it. I cannot wait to see your book come out! Please email me or keep me in the loop with your progress :)