Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Journey To "The Call"

I've never wanted to be a writer. I'm not one of those people who worked for all the school newspapers or scribbled poetry in a journal they kept under their bed. I'd never imagined that I could do something like that. My degree is in Public Relations/Marketing with a minor in Psychology. The best thing I'd ever written up until 2007 was a script for a commercial that was an assignment for a P.R. class. It was really fun, and the commercial turned out more than a little disturbing (I know, I know--shocker, right?) Writing just never seemed like something I could do.

From 2005-2007, I had a couple of extremely rough years. Among other things, I'd gotten divorced and was now a single mom of two little boys. I'd been married since I'd turned 20 and I didn't know what to do with myself. The only thing that kept me sane some nights was my imagination. I would just sit and let it run wild. Thinking of anything and everything but my life.

It started with imagining what the next episode in a tv show or the next book in a series might be about, and it turned into creating my own ideas and characters. At some point, I created an entire world and started writing it down. It saved me. It was never something I wanted to publish, it was an escape. It wasn't until I'd finished the first book and started telling my oldest son about the story that I realized what it could be. He was enthralled. The writing sucked rocks, I couldn't figure out where the commas went to save my life, and head-hopping was my favorite past-time--but he loved the idea and the characters more than I'd ever thought possible.

Most importantly... I learned to love writing. I loved the feel of creating those worlds and filling them with characters I loved. I was hooked.

So, I revised the book once or twice and started querying. As I've said before, the art of query writing came so much easier to me than the art of book-writing. I queried. Then revised some more. Then queried, then rewrote completely, and revised a ton. And queried. In the end, KINETIC's stats were: 134 agents queried, received 43 requests and had 0 offers. I made the most common mistake for new writers--I queried too early.

While I was querying, I wrote another book, INSOMNIA. It was so much darker, had a male protagonist, and was in 1st person POV. It was quite an adjustment. There were some scenes that were so difficult and dark that I had to walk away from the book for a few days afterward. But I finished it, polished it, and got it ready.

Toward the end of drafting INSOMNIA, I had a friend recommend my first book to a small publishing house. I submitted it to the house and they offered me a contract. It was wonderful, exciting and terrifying. I'd always wanted to get an agent first and they could help me with all the decisions that come with a publishing contract. I thought about it and talked to some more experienced authors... I ended up deciding that it wasn't the best fit for me. Now, after watching issues with that publishing house over the past year, I know it was the right decision. But at the time, it felt like the hardest thing I'd ever considered. You dream constantly about getting that contract... that contract that says you are going to be able to hold your book in your hands. And to not sign it seems inconceivable--devastating.

But I moved on and finished INSOMNIA... sent it to betas, revised, sent to writing groups, revised and finally started querying in the middle of January. I found Kathleen Rushall on Twitter on March 20th and she seemed like a perfect fit for my MS. She was new, she wanted edgy/darker YA, and she seemed to know her stuff. I queried her the same day with the first 56 pages. On the 25th around noon, she e-mailed and requested the full, but I was at my son's school so I didn't send it until about 4:30pm. She e-mailed back immediately and asked for a synopsis, and while I was digging through my laptop folders to find the right one, she called me.

I. Was. Stunned.

I had agents out there who'd had fulls since late January. She hadn't even read the full yet--and she wanted to represent it. Kathleen was so excited, she loved my book, my characters--everything. She said she had to have it. I think my response was something extremely eloquent like:

"Uh...wow."

We agreed to talk after the weekend and I hung up. I walked down the hallway to where my husband, kids, and parents were waiting for me to go out to dinner. I literally couldn't breathe or even tell them about the phone call. I finally said, "I think I'm going to get an agent," then started laughing/crying. My family has been with me every step of this process. They understood. My kids started jumping around me in a circle and my husband and parents hugged me and asked me a million questions. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect response to my news.

Kathleen read my full over the weekend and when we talked on March 28th, she said she was even more in love with it than before. I gave other agents a week to respond, but once she told me the reasons she wanted to represent my book, I was sold. She loved all the things that were most important to me. She had great ideas for how to make it better and I knew she was a perfect fit. We clicked right off the bat. I sent 63 queries, had 21 requests and she was the one.

After all the queries, revisions, rejections and the steepest learning curve of any industry I've ever seen. Now, I have an agent. We get to move on--move forward. Now things will be... pretty much the same. ;-D There will be more revisions, submissions, and I'm sure more rejections--and I hope to keep learning every step of the way.

I'm sure you all want to know more about my awesome agent, and so she has graciously agreed to do an interview right here, on my blog in the next week or two. Yay!

Also, some of you might remember a certain *ahem* deal I made with the Universe. It would appear that the Universe paid out... and I now owe a debt. Rest assured that I'm working up the nerve and I'll be posting something ridiculous and hopefully more than a little entertaining in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...

P.S. Since this post wasn't Freaking Long Enough... go check out Shannon's blog post to win an ARC of Elana Johnson's Possession!

49 comments:

  1. What an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, and HUUUUGE congrats again on being agented!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. What an amazing story. I'm so excited for you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. AWESOME!! That's so exciting! Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You know how much I think you deserve this. You many not have been a writer since birth, but you were born to write!

    And I so remember the deal with the Universe! I think those deals actually work. I've heard you sing to Abba in the car, so I know that your payment won't actually be embarrassing. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lori - Thank you! I've had my share of ups and downs, as have we all. Thanks for the comment!

    Chantele - Thanks for reading this. ;-) Hehe...

    Rebecca - You're so nice! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Candi - You know you're one of my favorite people ever, right. The only reason I've made it as far as I have is because I have the best crit partners ever. :) Thank you for everything... except for remembering the Abba. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jenn, I LOVE stories like this! When the agent hasn't even finished the book and KNOWS w/out a doubt she wants it. Wants YOU. That speaks volumes for your writing. And how amazing, that the things that brought you to writing were so dark, and the first book that got you your attention was dark. Have to wonder if there's a tie there? Like it was your catharsis, you know? It helped you work through old feelings and losses, and now it's going to help you realize your dream. :) Congrats, you talented lady! Looking forward to watching your climb to the shelves.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That is SO cool! Thanks for sharing your story; I love reading these. And major BIG congrats to you for getting an agent. Best wishes as you and Kathleen Rushall shop for a publisher!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are a true inspiration. You've had a tough road and yet you've always kept pushing forward with the most positive attitude ever. You totally deserve this. :) Congrats, lady.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anita - That's really interesting. I never really considered that. I have to admit though those darker aspects have a certain pull for me. Which is odd considering I'm a pretty optimistic person who can't watch scary movies... Now I have to ponder this. Thanks for the comment! :0

    Carol - Thank you! That's why I posted it. I love reading them too. :) And thanks for the wishes! I'm so excited to see what happens.

    Kasie - Thank you! Like I said to Candi... I'd never have gotten here without you two. *hugs* Love you, ladies! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love that story:) So excited for you! Best wishes on your changing journey!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Such a great story. It's so exciting, good luck with the next stage of your quest.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ruth - Thank you! I'm not sure how you can be prepared for the changes and curve-balls this industry throws you, but I'm sure going to try. :)

    Patti - Thank you for your comment! I'm excited to see what comes next!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am SO So SOOOOO happy for you! I agree you deserve this more than ANYONE! CONGRATULATIONS!!!
    :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. Such a great story! I'm so flippin excited for you!

    I've toyed with the idea of making a deal with the universe a million times.. wonder if I should.. And I look forward to seeing yours!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh yeah! I forgot about your deal with the Universe. Yay! Singing video!! :)

    Great post, Jenn. I love journey posts! Especially since they usually have a happy ending. This one sure does. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow! Congrats!!! That is an amazing story! No greater feeling in the world when someone else loves your work just as you do!

    ReplyDelete
  18. That is so wonderful, Jen! I'm so very happy for you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Congratulations! That is so awesome!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's funny -- you always think getting an agent is the end of your journey, like that's all you need and you're set. I don't remember ever thinking about all the work that goes in AFTER you have an agent. But through that work, I've grown as a writer so much. It's hard work but FUN work, if that makes sense!

    Congrats on landing an agent, if I haven't said that before!!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Jenni - Thank you! :-D

    Cheyanne - The deal with the Universe worked for me. Just be careful what you promise it. ;-D

    Renee - I know! I love happy endings, too! :-D

    Stephanie - It is so, so true. The idea that someone else could love it that much didn't really sink in until I heard her talk about it.

    Nikki - Thank you! :-D I'm so happy too!

    Jenilyn - Thank you! :)

    Stephanie Faris - I so agree! I'm excited to have this opportunity for even more growth!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Congratulations again. May INSOMNIA sell quickly and well!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks, Sarah! Good luck to you too! :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I love your description of not being able to breathe. If I'm remembering correctly, that's one of the things I loved about Insomnia--the awesome way you described emotion.

    So excited for you!!!

    What song are you going to sing?

    ReplyDelete
  25. How great is that!!! Sometimes you know when it's right. Good luck to you! And don't forget to breathe. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  26. YAY! Finally I got to read your story! :D

    And you know? I'm surprised by how similar it was with mine! I mean, I studied business and even got a Master's in HHRR! I never thought I'd become a writer.

    Anyway, I'm glad we're going to be submission buddies! :D

    Oh and btw, I just read a bit of Insomnia on your webpage! No wonder why you have an agent! <3 it!

    And let me say this again: I really liked your new hair! ;D

    ReplyDelete
  27. Robin - Thanks! I have no idea what song I'm going to sing. I can't decide whether to do something fun and silly or really sing something that I would've done for an American Idol audition... decisions decisions!

    Kathi - I'm trying! Believe me!

    Monica - It's so cool that we have so much in common! We're totally bonding here, being submission buddies will keep us sane together. :) Thanks for going by my website! You're such a sweetie! You know what? I'm starting to like my hair too! :) Change is good!

    ReplyDelete
  28. That's a great story! I can't wait to hear when a publisher picks this up...

    ReplyDelete
  29. Justin - thanks for coming by to read it. :) Um... I can't wait to hear when that happens too..... ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  30. You're an absoloute inspiration and I'm so glad you decided to share your story with us. It really was nice!!! You've given me the strength to keep pushing in the query world and ALSO work on another story so if I realize I made a newbie mistake there is still time to fix it.

    I got an acceptance through a small publishing house but did the same thing you did, moved on. I just knew the agent was the right way to go and seeing how successful it turned out for you I know it can happen for me too.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Jen -
    Thank you for this comment. It means the world to me to know that my story could help you. The most important thing in this business is just to keep writing. What is it they say?... The only difference between an aspiring author and a published author is when they decided to quit. I believe this is so true. If we keep moving forward. Keep writing. Keep trying. We'll make it.

    Good luck and thanks so much for your comment! It made my day.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Congratulations Jenn! This is turning out to be an exciting month for you. An agent. A trip to Philly!

    Good luck. Can't wait to see the book in print.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Melanie - For reals! Can't wait to go to Philly! :) And uh... the agent thing is pretty freaking okay too. ;)

    Thanks for the comment! :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jenn, thank you for sharing this! I love hearing about journeys, and I've been honored to know you personally and see you go through some of this wonderful journey. I wish you the best in the beautiful path that lies ahead!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks Michelle! I'm honored to know you too, lady! You're a sweetheart. I really appreciate your comment. :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. What an awesome story!! Congratulations and best of luck to you as you travel down the road to publication!!

    ReplyDelete
  37. What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing your journey, and congratulations!!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Angela - Thank you for stopping by and your kind comment!

    Jessica - Thanks! I'm really so excited!

    Candyland - Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  39. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story! Reading it makes me excited to go home and write. :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Julie - Thanks! Do it! Go, go, go! :) Writing is the only way to move forward. :) I appreciate you stopping by.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Congrats!! What awesome and a very inspiring story!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thanks for sharing your story with us! What a ride this business is, huh? I am so excited for you. Huge congrats!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thanks Kelly and Sara! :) And yeah, it's totally a crazy ride.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Congrats! Way to stick it out and end up on top. What a fabulous accomplishment! :)

    ReplyDelete
  45. I loved reading your story of getting an agent. I guess I need to hang out on Twitter a little bit more.

    Congratulations on finding an agent and one that fits you so well. Elana J. told me that you don't know till you talk to them on the phone and get a feel for how they feel about your book.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Cyndi - thank you!

    Valerie - Elana told me the same thing, and it's SO true. :)

    ReplyDelete
  47. I'm so sorry I'm a slacker and didn't see this post. But YAY!!!! Huge, big, super-happy-for-you congrats. :)

    ReplyDelete
  48. What a very cool story! Isn't writing so theraputic? I started writing during the darkest period of my life too. So cool; we're like twins!

    ReplyDelete