where I’m at

Where I’m at Part 7: Long time no see

Ive kept my distance from this blog for a few months because most of whats been on my mind is more personal than professional in nature.

DSC_0432On a happy note, Ive done a lot of traveling with my family. We visited the Blue Ridge Mountains (from Asheville, NC) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (from Sevierville, TN). We also spent the end of 2013/beginning of 2014 out West (Scottsdale, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, and Grand Canyon National Park). I attended YALLFest (Charleston, SC) and the NCTE ALAN workshop (Boston, MA).

Ive also said goodbye to some dear family membersmy grandmother, my cousin, and my aunt. I dont want them to be gone. I miss them so very much.

And, of course, since I live in the Boston area, Ive spent a considerable amount of time dealing with snow!

As for progress on my book in the publishing world, I completed two revisions with notes from my editor and a third revision with notes from my copy editor. I understand there will be one final edit to come. In A World Just Right is still scheduled for release in the spring of 2015. Between now and then galleys will be printed for the purpose of getting reviews ahead of the release. Soon I should have cover art. Mostly, all is progressing at the slow but steady pace that it should be. It takes a long time to prepare a book for release.

Ive been hard at work researching my next book, tentatively titled Jewelry. Im a bit behind where I wanted to be at this point, largely because of the travel and the mourning, but Ill catch up. I always do.

I conclude with some pictures from the last few months.

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View of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Visitors at our cabin in Sevierville.

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At Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden outside Charlotte, NC.

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Deer on the pond in my back yard.

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Where Im at Part 6: Offer accepted!

So this not-quite-published-yet writer is one giant step closer to having a book in print. For me, it was not the one-week whirlwind that it sometimes can be, but in the end I got a deal that Im happy with. Excited about! THRILLED, really!

The brief tale goes like this: I signed with my agent, Alexandra Machinist at Janklow and Nesbit, last summer. I waited in line for a bit for World Maker to be submitted to editors. In January, Alexandra sent the manuscript to an editor as an exclusive because said editor had been looking for something like World Maker. The editor liked it and asked me to revise a significant aspect of the novel, which I did. On May 2nd, I was told shed decided to pass on making an offer.

In mid-May Alexandra sent the manuscript out to six editors. In the first week of June, Christian Trimmer at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers expressed interest. He took it to his editorial team and then requested a revision from me. I was, admittedly, nervous about doing another revision since the revision for the other editor had taken up so much time only to be rejected. But Christian convinced me he was enthusiastic about the project, he was good at articulating what he wanted changed, and the revision focused only on the first couple of chapters. In the end, I simply moved a scene from chapter two to the opening and tweaked accordingly. Over the next few weeks Christian read my revision, gave the manuscript to second readers in the editorial department and, Im assuming, took it to another editorial meeting where the changes were approved. The next week it went on to the acquisitions meeting, where an offer was approved. My agent did some negotiating, and I ended up with a two-book deal and a great editor at a great publishing house!

(Here is the Publishers Weekly announcement, if you like to look these things up.)

Although it took some time to get the ball rolling, sometimes patience is necessary to get the end result you want. I couldnt be happier with the result I got.

World Maker likely wont be published until 2015, so there is yet more waiting to do. While I wait for my editorial letter on World Maker (which will likely be given a new title), I must get to work on an outline for book two of my two-book deal. Remember that post I wrote a little while ago about an idea I got while going for popcorn? The idea is barely 1,000 words of notes, but thats the book I sold with World Maker!

I must conclude with a HUGE THANK YOU to Alexandra Machinist and Christian Trimmer. My little book is a little different, a little hard to pitch because although its about a boy who makes a world so he can have a girlfriend, its more than that description would lead one to believe. Both Alexandra and Christian saw something in it that made them read to the end, and in reading to the end they decided to become champions of the manuscript, and I cant quite express in accurate enough terms how very much that means to me.

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Where I’m at Part 5Yes, I finally have an agent!

So this not-quite-published-yet writer is one step closer to getting published. I’ve cleared a hurdle that felt so big it may as well have been a pole vault bar. I’ve just signed with the very talented Alexandra Machinist at Janklow and Nesbit, who will be representing me for my third manuscript, still tentatively titled World Maker.

Of course I am over the moon about this! BUT! I know that signing with an agent does not guarantee a publishing contract (not that I doubt the taste or skill of Ms. Machinist in any way). Nor does a publishing contract guarantee awesome sales. There are many hurdles yet to clear, and we’ll see if they’re the standard 100 meter height, the more lofty pole vault height, or something more akin to a mountain.

For now I’m just so happy to have gotten this far!

Here is a brief summary of my agent search:

I completed manuscript #1 in 2006. It’s my 169,000-word science fiction story set on a faraway planet in the future. For me, this story is still my favorite, but I recognized early on that its length is a problem, and that since it was my first try at novel writing it might not be awesome to everyone else, so I started another story.

I completed manuscript #2 in 2011. It’s a 90,000-word YA fantasy set in ancient Greece. This I shopped during the fall of last year, and while I waited to hear the verdict from a bunch of agents who requested the full manuscript, I started manuscript #3.

I completed manuscript #3 (World Maker) in January of this year (4 and a half months!). At the tail end of February I sent it out to nine agents, three of whom I considered the perfect match both for me as a writer and for World Maker as a story. When I heard back from six of those nine, I sent another round of queries, then another some weeks later, then another. Four rounds for me equaled about 50 agents, all of whom I researched at length, and any of whom I would have been pleased to work with.

In May, while waiting on World Maker queries, I started writing manuscript #4. I decided to stop querying on World Maker and simply wait out the responses on what was out already. I had reached the end of my list of agents I thought were a strong match, and I thought if I got no offers I would simply either finish manuscript #4 or redraft manuscript #2 and start again fresh.

On Monday, July 9, 2012, I had four full requests pending on World Maker when Alexandra Machinist called me to offer representation. I stopped breathing. I don’t think I inhaled or exhaled through the entire conversation, which lasted something like an hour. When I hung up the phone I emailed the other three agents with the manuscript to inform them of the offer. One declined to make an offer, one didn’t get back to me, and the other offered representation two days later.

Remember I said I considered three of the agents from my first round to be the perfect match? Well, the two agents who made offers were two of the three! How lucky is that?

In a future post I might share some wisdom I’ve acquired during this quest for an agent (though I don’t presume to be wise, I can relate some details of my experience), but for now I have some work to do on revisions before the manuscript goes on submission again. This time to editors!

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED ME, LOVED ME, AND CRITIQUED FOR ME IN ORDER TO GET TO THIS POINT!

 

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Update: blog identity and where I’m at Part 4

I started this blog as part of my effort to build a writing career. Since I am not-quite-published-yet, I have a pretty small regular readership. One might say that the only way to grow a readership is to post good content regularly, and one would be right. However, with all the effort I’m devoting to writing a new manuscript and researching agents for the last manuscript, I’m finding it hard to post as regularly as I’d like.

That said, I’ve been studying my Google Analytics reports and have found that a fair bit of non-regular-readership traffic does land here, and from the search parameters listed, it seems this is mostly because of research on literary topics. It’s hard to tell if such users find what they need here, but it’s made me think that, for now, I will focus on posts with an academic bent and a short list of resources for further reference. If you have a better idea, I’m all ears.

As for “where I’m at,” I’ll be brief. World Maker, my third manuscript, is on submission with agents. While I wait for the process to play out on World Maker, I’ve started research for a new story, and in the tradition of making each new project something new and different for me, this story requires a bit of New England historical research and some education on how to craft a mystery. I’m not sure about much except the basic concept and set-up, but I’m at least having fun seeing where it goes.

In summary:

manuscript #1: Prosorinos futuristic science fiction story, set on another planet, multiple POV but largely focused on two teenage boys, 169,000 words

manuscript #2: Wishstone alternate history fantasy, set in ancient Greece, single POV of teenage girl, 90,000 words

manuscript #3: World Maker comtemporary “psychological” fantasy (and love story), single POV of teenage boy, 93,000 words

manuscript #4: untitled contemporary mystery/fantasy/alternate history, ensemble cast

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Where I’m at Part 3: agent search for Wishstone

I finished Wishstone a few years ago as a fantasy novel set in ancient Greece. I pitched it to exactly one agent, an agent who many authors dream of calling theirs. She requested sample chapters and sent a personal, professional, and helpful rejection a couple of weeks later.

It was around this time that my husband and I were trying to have a child. I will not share the details of those years, but let it suffice to say there were a lot of doctors, procedures, hopes, and disappointments, disappointments, disappointments. It was all I could do to keep my teaching career (and myself) from falling apart. I did not write.

After (hooray!) my son was born (well, months laterI was pretty busy with him for a while), I decided to revisit Wishstone. By this time there had been a dramatic change in the world of young adult literature. I was still in touch with friends from the Writing Popular Fiction program. They knew that my stories centered on teenage protagonists, so they suggested Wishstone might be better suited for this expanding young adult market. I had serious doubts. First of all, it had been a huge leap for me to write a fantasy at all. Although the lines between science fiction and fantasy often blur and they require some similar skills, I had never been interested in writing about magic. Likewise I had always considered myself as a writer for people like myself, i.e. adults who had grown up immersed in a spec fic world. Writing for young adults requires a particular talent for resonating with people who have fewer years of life experience and interests/needs I have (mostly) outgrown. I did not think I could do it.

Then I read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. (Kristin Cashore, if you ever read this, thank you for being the writer you are.) Graceling is marketed as young adult. The story addresses themes such as the use and abuse of power, personal responsibility, and redemption. It is a coming-of-age story to be sure, but it is not filled with the angst I associated with young adult literature. Reading Graceling made me think that maybe I could convert Wishstone.

I returned to Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction program for a second degree. They converted their MA program to an MFA program, which interested me because it would give me an additional credential to seek a teaching position in higher education. I revised Wishstone as my MFA thesis by cutting the POV of the 42-year-old man and leaving the entire story, minus the prologue, in the POV of the 16-year-old girl. I also added a love story to replace the one I lost by refocusing the POV.

I’m in the process of submitting Wishstone right now. This summer I revisited Prosorinos to see if it could get the same YA conversion as Wishstone, but it’s complexity, I think, makes that impossible.

So, since I’m waiting to hear about Wishstone, I’ve started this website and have begun work on a completely new novel. I’ll keep you posted . . .

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But nevertheless, the fact remained, it was almost impossible to dislike anyone if one looked at them.