I think the New Year should be celebrated with hope. What better way to inspire that feeling than a series of posts about success. Let's all keep the goal of success firmly planted in our hearts and minds this year. May we all have as good news as Laurie Elizabeth Flynn shares!
I never thought my heart could pound as hard as it did when my agent, Kathleen Rushall, first called to offer representation. I was sure I’d never feel that tongue-tied and terrified yet excited again. But then, while out on submission with my YA debut FIRSTS, I found myself on the receiving end of a whole new breed of call entirely: the “we have an offer” call.
And that day, I found out that my heart could pound even harder.
I was working at my day job when my phone started ringing, and I couldn’t actually answer it. I had my purse strategically positioned so that I could see my phone at all times, from every angle on my desk (one of the many crazy behaviors of a writer on submission… don’t judge!) and could see Kathleen's number flashing. Right away I felt nervous sweat start to form as my mind raced a thousand miles a minute. What if it was bad news? Maybe just a kind rejection? As disappointing as that would have been, it was still less scary than letting myself think what I wanted to think: that it could be my dream coming true. I kept pushing that thought out of my head, no matter how badly it wanted to keep coming back, because I knew how upset I would be if I let my hopes go floating away like a hot air balloon for nothing. I had to stay anchored to the ground, so I let my doubt hold me down.
I raced into the hallway as soon as I could get away (I’m surprised I didn’t trample anyone over in the process) and quickly called Kathleen back. Then she called me back a few seconds later and told me that we have an offer for FIRSTS. An offer from a brilliant editor I seriously couldn’t wait to start working with. Kathleen told me all the details while I tried not to jump up and down in my professional banking attire. I could tell she was just as excited as I was, and she answered all of my questions before I had even asked them. (That’s the mark of a seriously great agent!) I still had a couple hours left of my shift, and I had no idea how I was going to keep it together.
After I got off the phone with Kathleen, I called my husband immediately. The first thing he said when he answered: “You have an offer, don’t you?” I guess he was okay with letting his hopes fly sky-high. Or he just had more faith in me than I did in myself.
By the time I got back to my desk, I was still blinking in disbelief. I was going to be a published author. My book was going to be an actual thing. Everything I had worked so hard for was happening. The year and seven months I spent in the query trenches, the contests, the two manuscripts I shelved, the Word docs full of murdered darlings, the late nights I stayed in and wrote instead of hanging out with friends, the frustration, the laughter and tears. All of it.
A couple days later, I got to have a call with my editor, Kat Brzozowski of Thomas Dunne Books. Kat couldn’t have been more welcoming and enthusiastic and I knew more than ever that FIRSTS had found its perfect home. Kat understood FIRSTS and my writing so well already. When we hung up, I was filled with a newfound sense of excitement for what FIRSTS was going to become with Kat as my editor.
Being on submission is a lot of things. It’s exciting and intimidating and awesome and nerve-wracking and frustrating. You check your phone for new emails a LOT (at least, I sure did). It’s challenging and rewarding and can produce some very high highs and some even lower lows. Querying was stressful, but when I was on submission, I felt that the stakes were even higher because I was that much closer to my book becoming a book. Everything was intensified. But the great thing is that when you’re on submission, you have the best support system imaginable: an agent who believes in you and your work, and who always has your back. Even when I felt down about something, I never forgot that, because Kathleen was so unfailingly positive.
So if you’re on submission and feeling weighed down, remember that your agent will fight for you and will do everything he or she can to see you succeed. Remember that you have writer friends you can lean on for support. I’m pretty sure this business never stops being a cycle of ups and downs, highs and lows. What sets writers apart is how we deal with that ebb and flow. Keep writing through everything. And don’t be afraid to let your hopes float away a little bit. Just believe that you’ll catch up.
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her debut, FIRSTS, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press in 2016.
Laurie went to school for Journalism, where the most important thing she learned was that she would rather write made-up stories than report the news. She also worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris, and spurred her fashion obsession.
Laurie now lives in London, Ontario with her husband, who is very understanding when she would rather spend time with the people in her head. Laurie can mostly be found writing happily at her desk, with the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua on her lap.