My Writing Journey: Part 4—The Conclusion

Thanks to all of you who have been dedicated in reading each part of my journey. I don’t normally post so much in a week, so if you’re as exhausted as I am, I understand! Because of the big Alexfest (I mean Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest) on Monday (If you haven’t signed up, click here), I wanted to finish my story this weekend. I originally had this planned in two more posts, but wanted to finish up today. So, please forgive me with the extended length—but I figured if you were interested, you’d read it. And if you weren’t, you’d leave a generic comment anyway. ;-)

If you missed it, click here for Part I, Part II, or Part III.

Part IV:

I had hope again. And I had a sparkly new idea for another manuscript. I was okay shelving my first novel, because this next one was going to be it.

I threw myself into NaNoWriMo 2011 and vomited my MS out in 30 days. Then I took until March 2012 to polish it up and MAKE SURE I was ready to query this time. I was NOT going to go through the same query experience again. If I did, I was convinced I would die. But I knew this manuscript was stronger, and had complete faith in it. Or complete faith that Karen was going to love this manuscript.

Yes, I was still hung up on the fact that we were supposed to work together. The feeling wouldn’t go away. My whole writing journey seemed to be centered around her. The way her rejection had thrown me into the darkest part of my journey and the way meeting her had pulled me out of it.

Karen was closed to unsolicited queries at this point, save for those she met at conferences, so the fact that I had met and spoken with her in LA was another sign we were meant to be. So I emailed off a query and she immediately responded, remembering who I was and told me to mail my full.

I DIDN’T EVEN QUERY ANYONE ELSE I was convinced Karen was the one. I practically skipped to the mailbox and whistled a tune as the postman took my package away. This was it. I had fought through hardship and I was going to rise above the ashes and finally succeed. Karen was going to want my manuscript.

She didn’t.

Holy. Crap. Shock. 

I think I stared at the rejection on my computer screen for two days. I couldn’t believe it. My gut had failed me. AGAIN. With two manuscripts. (Do you have any idea how much work 2 novels are?!) With tears streaming down my cheeks, I typed out a response, thanking her for taking the time to have a look, etc, etc. Of course, with her being so kind, she wrote back and asked if I was going to the SCBWI conference in LA again that year. And if I was, it’d be great if we could connect and have coffee. I showed the email to my mom and mother-in-law, and they both told me I HAD to go—that they would help sponsor and help with kids. (To which my mom also told me I better start drinking coffee, because I don’t, lol)

So I continued to query, and continued to get great response from my manuscript. Partials were upgraded, fulls were requested, but I didn’t care about that. I was focused on pounding out a new project, and the looming coffee date I had with Karen.

In May 2012, I sat down to write my third book. And honestly, it was like all the stars aligned for me. This story flooded out of me in 6 weeks, and it became the essence of who I am. It was like I had to write those two books before SO I could write this book. I couldn’t believe I had the capacity to write anything else. This story was me.

July 2012, I started querying. I sent out 10 test queries. Seven of which requested. I didn’t want to query Karen yet, because I wanted to see if I could get helpful feedback from rejections before going there. I had already made that mistake before. Plus, I was going to meet her in August, and I’d much rather query her after.

Within the month, I received two R & R’s (revise and resubmit), which told me I was close. I was really close with this one.

August came and I flew to LA with my dear friend, Cortney, who I had invited to come have “coffee” with Karen and me. It ended up being breakfast. For two hours. And I swear it was the two most magical hours of my life. The energy and passion around this woman was undeniable. My soul just connected with hers, and it was so comfortable and easy and natural. And there’s nothing better than talking the publishing business with someone who knows their stuff. Karen also invited me to send her any future work. (Because she was still closed to queries) She even mentioned me in her blog after the conference, which made my month!

September came. I was working on my R & R’s, when an unexpected email came. Phew. I GOT AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION. It was the most… unexpected, crazy moment ever. It was the moment I had been waiting for FOREVER, but I wasn’t ready yet! I had just started my revisions, and I hadn’t even queried Karen yet! (Not officially) This wasn’t the way this was supposed to happen.

But of course I was delighted. And I would’ve been beyond pleased to work with this person. So I threw myself into finishing the requested revisions, and sent my updated manuscript to all the other agents who requested. I also had 2 other requests that were thrown into the mix—one AMAZING agent who contacted me, and another who wanted to see the story whose client had referred me.

Thus began 2 of the craziest weeks of my life. Note to everyone: When offered rep, don’t ask for 2 weeks to consider the offer, just ask for ONE. No need to torture yourself more than needed.

I informed the other agents who had requested about the offer and waited.

And then I wrote Karen. I told her about the offer and how I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting rep from anyone else without at least having her look at it. (I of course wanted to scream, “WE’RE MEANT TO WORK TOGETHER, AND THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE! PLEASE WANT ME!”) She responded quickly and very graciously said I could mail her the full.

And the waiting began.

Except, I didn’t have to wait too long. It took two days for the MS to mail out. Karen emailed me that Friday afternoon when she received the MS, and I NEVER EXPECTED to hear from her the NEXT DAY. Saturday night, I received the longest email of my life, with Karen saying she’d love to represent me with this series, and gave me a whole slew of notes. I’ll NEVER forget running upstairs and shoving my phone in my hubby’s face and telling him to READ. My gut feeling was right.

But I couldn’t accept right away, because I had given the other agents 2 WEEKS to get back to me. What was I thinking???

Not two days later, I received my THIRD offer. From an AMAZING agent. I loved speaking with her on the phone, and on paper, it made total sense that I go with her! Then I received a FOURTH. And a FIFTH. And a SIXTH. I spoke with each of these agents on the phone and (don’t hate me) but I began to doubt the gut feeling I had had all along. The story ideas these other agents were throwing at me sounded SO appealing, and their passion for my story really shone through and I sorta fell in love with them.

I was seriously debating about which agent to go with—they were all so awesome—one standing out more than the others—but my gut had always been so strong about Karen. And we had such history! I honestly was physically ill. I couldn’t eat, sleep, the works. My mind was playing tricks on me and I knew I needed to get Karen on the phone and fast.

Karen called me on a layover on her way to a SCBWI conference at which she was speaking. The conversation was amazing. The minute I hung up, I felt better, not whole, but better. I knew the connection was there, but I was still conflicted. It wasn’t 30 minutes later that Karen called back.  It was after that second conversation that it was sealed. I KNEW Karen would fight for me no matter what and I suddenly felt stupid for EVER doubting my gut. I had NO DOUBT in my decision.

Writing rejection letters to the other amazing agents TRULY was so difficult. I felt attached to some of them and not to be dramatic, but it really was like cutting out a chunk of my heart. But it made the moment when I could finally say, “YES!” to Karen so worth it.

I’m grateful for my journey so far. I’m glad it hasn't been easy. I've learned how to face rejection and now I’m not afraid anymore. I've learned how to persevere even when I didn’t know if the work would be worth it. I've learned to trust my gut, even though "reality" said my gut was nothing. I've learned that good does happen to people who duck their heads and focus on the work. It doesn’t matter what others are doing around you, all that matters is that we are each doing our best, pushing ourselves to see how far we can stretch ourselves. And the coolest part? Is that it isn’t about the writing. It’s about the journey, and the change that takes place inside of us.

Thanks for reading.

Red. Head. Out.

Other Parts: Part I.  Part II.  Part III. 

My Writing Journey Part III

For those of you following my writing journey in parts, thanks so much for your support. If you need to catch up, part I is here, and part II is here. And here's part III:

January 2011. We just had our 4th child and the desire to write came back with a vengeance. I knew I had to set goals—some serious goals if I wanted to finish my first book. So it was actually Jason Matthews, my first writing mentor who dared me to finish the whole book by March 17th that year.

I was on fire.

Every moment I could, I was in the document, typing away, pushing myself to get this story out. Our newborn had colic, so he CRIED for hours each night. But it actually worked in my favor, because that’s when I wrote. From Jan-March that year, 6 days a week, I woke up at 3:00 am and wrote with the baby until the kids got up. (Hubby took the baby from 10-3 for me so I could sleep).  There were SO many moments when I just wanted to cry from lack of sleep, from the stress of a hard newborn, and the other kids. But the desire to write kept me in check. I knew that if I didn’t force myself to get this story out I’d never succeed.

But I did it. It was actually 2 days before my deadline that I typed “The End” on my first manuscript. It was time to query. (I’m skipping the part where I beta’d/perfected the MS)

--Now to interrupt for a little bit where my head was at--

I, like some of you (?) thought I had the best/most creative masterpiece that the publishing world had ever seen. Two of my besties had Big 6 deals on their first novels. Why couldn’t I? I honestly expected agents to throw themselves at me. I had no doubt I could succeed, no doubt I had something special to offer. And now I realize I’m coming off totally cocky—which is not the case—I just really believed in myself. (Oh how naïve I was) The truth is, growing up, anything I put my heart to, I succeeded at. Just a-matter-of-fact thing. In my mind, there was no reason not to succeed.

And when I started querying, the requests started pouring in. But so did the rejections. With my first project, I received 28 full requests, which ALL ended in a rejection. Now, I’m not sure how to convey how crushing each rejection was. If you’ve felt it even once, you understand. Each time I sent the manuscript off, I was sure that particular agent was going to feel the magic and want me.

Now, I’m a spiritual person. And I rely a lot on gut feeling. And there was ONE particular agent who I just knew I was supposed to work with. It was one of those “hit by lightning” moments, where peace filled my whole frame and I just… knew. So when I snail mailed off my manuscript to Karen, I ceased to have the anxiety that came with querying. I knew she was going to say yes. To be cliché, every fiber of my being screamed that we were supposed to work together.

A week later my rejection came. It came through the mail, and the handwritten note was the kindest rejection I ever received. She also gave me $20 to pay for mailing costs! Honestly, what agent does that?

I was heartbroken. And it was this rejection that BROKE me. It sent me spiraling into a place I never want to be again. You have to understand, I grew up not knowing what rejection was. Failure wasn’t programmed into my brain. I didn’t know how to handle it. I began to doubt everything about my journey—my gut had never been wrong before. I knew she was the one! So how could my gut feeling fail me?

So I put down the pencil, put away the keyboard, and tried to ignore everything. I could just be a mom, right? I didn’t need to be a writer. Apparently it wasn’t for me. Staying in the writing world was too hard, so I didn’t want any part of it. (And I realize this doesn’t put me in a very good light, but I want to be wholly honest with how I felt.) But I had already signed up to go to the LA SCBWI conference with my dear friend, Leigh, so I couldn’t back out. Not with the trip all planned.

So I went.

And I’m sooooo grateful I did. Long story short (Trust me, this is hard to condense), it was right after a keynote speaker, when the thousand or so people stood to go to their next class, that the crowd parted.

And in walks Karen.

It was one of those slow motion movie moments. It was a miracle I spotted her in the crowd. And she was walking right toward me. I knew without a doubt I had to go speak with her. So I marched right up to her, told her who I was, thanked her profusely for the kind reimbursement, and her kind words on my rejection. And something happened during our conversation. Speaking with her brought the spark back. A piece of the hole in my heart healed. And I wanted to try writing again. 

And it KILLS me to stop here! Because this is where the story really takes off! Gah. It's definitely not over yet. 

Red. Head. Out.

Other Parts: Part I.  Part II.  Part IV. 

My Writing Journey Part II

As I said in an earlier post, I’m telling my writing journey in parts. If you missed part I, click here. And now with part II:

Jan 19, 2009. The day I wrote my first sentence. (Strangely, I’ve always remembered that date). We had finished two rounds of chemo treatments with our son, and like I said, reading wasn’t enough anymore. It couldn’t transport me—not with the stress. I needed a challenge. Something that could distract me from real life.

So I thought, “I can write a book. If reading won’t give me what I need, maybe I can create it.”

So I wrote. I dug deep into who I used to be as a child and tried to summon any kind of magic I still possessed and let it spill onto paper. And I thought I was pretty good. Thought. I joined an online critique group (on yahoo, I believe) and found out pretty quick I had A LOT to learn.

But I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I remember one guy telling me I needed to learn how to “Show not tell.” I had no idea what that meant, so I Googled it.  Yes, I Googled “Show not tell!”

And that’s when I met my first writing angel. For some unknown reason, brilliant author, Jason Matthews, decided to take me under his wing. He taught me how to write. Showed me the difference between passive and active voice, how to eliminate unnecessary words, make my writing as tight as possible. But at the same time, I immersed myself into any craft book I could find. I had purpose again, and I wanted to master this craft.

I put myself out there, continued to do the online critiquing, when I heard about an online community called inkpop. The idea of this site was to upload your work, people would then vote or “pick” your project, and if you made it into the top 5 by the end of the month, the prize was a review from a HarperCollins editor.

So on Jan 1, 2010, I submitted the first 10,000 words of my first novel. I didn’t expect what happened next. Within two weeks, my story rocketed past 30,000 projects and landed in the number one spot. The opportunity connected me to people I still consider my closest friends today. 

That was when I knew I could do this. Er… when I had confidence and thought I could do this. Little did I know it was barely the beginning.

A few months later (I’m 28 at this point), I got pregnant with our 4th child. I still had only 10K written with my first novel and it stayed that way for the rest of the year. For some reason (I blame it on preggo craziness), my brain shut down completely for the next 9 months. I couldn’t write. But I could read again. I spent the whole pregnancy devouring books, this time with a different eye. I knew that for whatever reason the creative juices had left, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still progress.

I continued to study, as well as find the magic again in reading.

It wasn’t two days after I had the baby that inspiration struck hard. I was ready to write again, and this time with a vengeance.

And this is where I’m sad to stop the story, because in the next segment, not only do I finish my first novel, query, and meet my agent for the first time, it’s also the darkest part of my journey.
Red. Head. Out.

Other Parts: Part I.  Part III.  Part IV.