About a month ago, I opened my inbox and there was an email entitled “Your Work” inside it. It was a week after I’d had a short story published in a literary magazine, which was a big deal for me since it was the first piece of fiction someone had liked enough to want to print. (I’ve had 33 rejections.)
I thought the email was from someone who had maybe read the story. Or I thought it might be spam. Or I thought it might have something to do with this column.
Instead, it was from a book agent telling me he had read my story and was interested in representing me. He wanted to know if I had written a novel, and, if so, could I send him part of it so he could decide if he liked it enough to try to sell it to publishing houses for me.
You know when something happens to you that seems so unreal it feels like you’re floating? Like life has been put on pause for a minute that feels like 10, and you might be dreaming and you might not be. You might be breathing but you might not be. Hell, you might be dead but are unaware of it.
That’s how I felt in that moment.
I recovered enough to read the email again. Then again. Then I called my husband and sent the email to him. Then I called my stepdad and sent it to him.
Luckily, I am surrounded by a healthy amount of skeptics in my life and William and Peter were soon Googling this agency to see if was the real deal. Turns out, it was. It is. It’s based in New York City. It’s been in existence for decades. It has helped many authors get published, one of whom won the Pulitzer Prize.
So this was exciting. This was extremely exciting. Because for the past two years, I’ve been writing short stories for exactly this reason: to try to get them published so I could more easily attract a book agent. If agents see that you have a repertoire of publications, they’ll automatically be more interested in you. So this, my friends, meant I had been able to skip several steps.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. He could easily hate the book and tell me he’s no longer interested in me. Or we could work together on the book and it could still be systematically rejected by publishing houses. I need to prepare myself for those very real possibilities.
Still though, the time has come to bring the book back out from the depths of my documents folder and resume working on it. The novel, in case you’re wondering, is set in London. It’s about a girl. She works at a newspaper. Sound familiar? The draft is finished, more than a 90,000-word beast, but I’ve learned a lot in the past two years and I know it needs taming. I’ve asked the agent for two months. I’m committed to meeting that goal.
So that’s what I’ll be feverishly doing for the next while. As such, I’ve decided to just write the column once every second week until I’m finished editing. So if you see my space frequently occupied by someone else, that’s why. I’ll be back full-time in mid-October. Thanks, editor Mike Moore, for letting me be flexible. And thank you, dear readers, for inspiring me all the time. Hopefully one day you’ll be reading about yourselves in paperback.