Let’s get right down to it. I’ve been hinting for a few days now that I have exciting news to share. Well, here it is: I have an agent!! Last Friday I accepted an offer of representation from the lovely Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Not only is Joan an accomplished agent for children’s books (pictures books through young adult), but she’s an author herself. If you like Thailand, adventures, mysteries, and/or beautiful, lyrical writing, you should check out her debut novel Nowhere Girl, which I loved. (And how beautiful is that cover?)
So, Joan and I will be working together to try to get my middle-grade novel (that means ages 9-12, approximately, though I like to think that it has crossover adult appeal, too) published. I’m working on some revisions right now (OK, not RIGHT now, right now I’m writing this blog post, but right after that I’m going back to the revisions, promise!) that will hopefully make the book as strong as it can be before we present it to editors.
Exciting times are ahead, for sure. But, you may be wondering, how did I get here? Well, that’s a longer story.
How I Wrote a Novel and Got An Agent, Part 1
I first heard about literary agents as a college sophomore, when one of my Creative Writing professors (the wonderful Ernie Hebert) devoted a day of workshop to telling us wide-eyed writer-wannabes about the cold, hard business of publishing. I don’t remember many specifics, but the gist of the talk was that getting your novel published is really hard, but having an agent represent your work to publishers increases your chances.
“OK,” 19-year-old me probably thought, “So when my first book is finished, I’ll need to get an agent.” Since my professor already had an agent, I figured I would just write something that blew him away so much he had to introduce me to her.
A couple of years later, I did end up meeting his agent at a department event, and she was nice enough to offer to take a look at my work if I ever finished a book. At that point, I was writing a novel as my senior thesis, so I felt confident that by the end of the school year I’d have something to show her. I already had a pretty good Chapter 1, and starting is the hardest part, right?
Wrong! The WHOLE THING is the hardest part. I had no outline, no schedule, and next to no idea what I was doing. I never made it past Chapter 2.
But in the years after college, I kept her offer in mind, even while I focused mostly on writing plays rather than fiction. Then, while my first full-length play was running in the NY Fringe Festival in 2007, the assistant director introduced me to a friend of hers who was a literary agent in NYC. This agent was also very nice, said she enjoyed my play, and when she found out that I was working on a novel, invited me to submit it to her when it was finished.
Whoopee! I thought. Two agents out there are just waiting to read my novel! Hm, I’d better get cracking on that.
This was a different novel from the one I’d started in college—it was a novel for kids. In the early and mid-2000’s, I’d started reading a lot of the amazing kids’ novels that were becoming so popular then: the Harry Potter series, the Lemony Snicket series. I fell in love with these books, and decided that if I ever attempted another novel, it would be for that audience. But I knew that it had to be a really good concept. Finally, one day, I got this brainwave about an 11-year-old girl from the suburbs who becomes a restaurant critic for The New York Times. Her editor has no idea that she’s a kid, since they communicate only by e-mail, and her parents are microwave-loving, fancy-food-fearing foils to her secret career. As my brother-in-law would say, “Shabam!” I had my big idea.
So I wrote when I could. My writers’ group set me deadlines and cheered me on, telling me I had to finish the story. But I also worked full-time, freelanced, produced another play in another festival, and planned a wedding. Then in 2009, Andy and I quit our jobs, sold all of our stuff, and embarked on a two-year, round-the-world honeymoon.
I packed my half-written novel in my backpack and vowed that I would come home with a finished book. I wrote by hand whenever I had a chance, and during the week in 2010 when Andy climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, I parked myself in a coffee shop in Moshi, Tanzania, and wrote until I reached The End.
(I found this sign in Moshi. My main character’s name is Gladys. Coincidence??)
Hooray! I thought. I wrote a novel! The hard part is over!
But I was wrong about that, too.
To be continued…