Also, I realize that most of my path to publication is scattered throughout my blog archives, but that would mean sifting through my ramblings on Xanadu, and Neil Diamond, and what shenanigans Small Son has gotten into lately. So let's just make it all nice and streamlined, shall we?
Oh, and I find this story is much more enjoyable if you imagine it as a montage, complete with an inspiring song in the background, like "Eye of the Tiger", or, my personal favorite, "You're the Best" from Karate Kid. Of course, I find playing "You're the Best" to be inspiring even while doing small things like fixing my hair or cleaning the kitchen. As Cracked said in their article about Inspirational Songs of the 80s,
There are no lyrics in this song that aren’t about how completely, utterly, and thoroughly, f&%@ing awesome you are at everything from fighting to gambling to sports.
So let's do this!
MLK day. Off work, Small Son and The Husband both elsewhere, cold and rainy day. I feel inspired to sit down and write something, making it the first time I've written anything since summer 2004 when I worked on about 150 pages of a completely schizophrenic romance/adventure novel. I abandoned that due to getting a new job teaching high school English AND starting grad school. I resolved to get back to it in early 2005, but fate laughed at me, and I got pregnant in February of 2005. SURPRISE. (Sidenote- this experience is why I'm SO looking forward to my agent-mate Maureen Lipinski's upcoming book, Was It Planned? Because her premise totally happened to me!) So yeah, no writing for a couple of years until that quiet January morning. Inspired by my love of creepy boarding schools and Southern Gothics, I write about 5 pages about a girl named Sophie who ends up at Prentiss Academy off the coast of Georgia where All Is Not As It Seems. After those five or so pages, I abandon the idea, as I have no idea where to go with it and, other than Harry Potter and the Gemma Doyle books by Libba Bray, I haven't read much children's/YA lit.
Grad school goes KABOOM! I'm supposed to graduate, HAVE to graduate in order to get a teaching certificate and keep my job (I was on an Alternate Certificate, which you can only have for 3 years, because I had a B.A. in English, not education. I was getting an M.Ed in Secondary Education), and when I register to graduate, the school suddenly goes, "Nope! We have all these EXTRA classes you have to take now that NO ONE told you about! Oh, and you also have to do student teaching for a semester- WITH NO PAY- even though you've been a teacher for 3 years. Suck it!" So despite having a B.A in the subject I wanted to teach, 45 hours of grad school, 3 years of experience, and scoring in the top 5% in the nation on the Praxis II exam, I am somehow not qualified to teach English in the state of Alabama. No graduation means no certificate, and no certifiate means no job.
I freak out.
I continue to freak out while the only decent principal at my school attempts to find a way to keep me. Meanwhile, I'm frantically trying to take those extra classes. In all of this, I also start writing a romance novel, mostly in the desperate hope that I can sell that and have some income should I have to do that whole "No Pay For You!" student teaching. I now realize how insane this idea was, but, like I said, I was desperate. But, hey, during this time, I met Jolie, who was a rockin' critique partner, and became an excellent internet friend! So my romance attempts were not in vain! Luckily, by August, the only decent principal at my school had pulled some strings and gotten me hired back as sort of a permanant sub, but that was still pretty temporary, so my freaking out was only slightly abated.
AUGUST 27, 2007, 8:30 AM:
After several bomb threats, there's what the Madison County BOE refers to as a "little fight" at the school where I work. In truth, it was a mutha effin' riot, complete with teachers having to tackle kids, and cops shouting obscenties and macing kids. Kids are crying and running, and several are shrieking that they saw guns. I somehow end up very close to this fracas and basically think I might get killed.
AUGUST 27, 2007, 8:33 AM:
I rub my stinging eyes and begin to suspect that my job might, um, totally blow.
The Husband, who was also worked as a teacher at my school, quits his job there due to issues he has with the administation. We both freak out, but we both know that teaching in that toxic- literally!- enviroment has left us stressed, frustrated, and profoundly unhappy. Not to mention that I was still fretting over what to do about getting certified. And it was in this pretty freaking dark moment that The Husband looks at me and says the words that, no exaggeration, change our lives: "Quit. Quit that job that you hate, we'll cash in our retirement, and you can stay home and write that book."
So I do.
During these 2 months, I turn back to those five pages I wrote in January. I remember how fun they had been to write, how easy the YA voice felt to me. So I figured I'd turn those 5 pages into a book and it would be, like, totally easy!
During those 2 months, I pretty much write the first half of the book that became Demonglass. It is much, much harder than I'd ever imagined. For one thing, anyone who has written a book knows that it's a pretty lonely process that involves you spending a lot of time in your own head, and that can sometimes be dangerous, ha ha! During these two months, I probably quit Demonglass 3 or 4 times, convinced that it was too hard, too complex, too craptastic. Every time I quit, I start working on some new idea, convinced that THIS would be the one. This, from what I hear, is a common trap for writers to fall into. New ideas are slutty things. They whisper in your ear, "Hey, there. Aw, is this book you're working on too difficult? I wouldn't be hard to write. Oh, no, no, no. I'd be easy. You'd finish me in 2 weeks, tops. I promise. Now let my buy you another drink..."
Do not fall for the Slutty New Idea.
I fall for the Slutty New Idea.
I actually, um, fall for 3 of them, and Demonglass fell by the wayside, until all I really had to show for my months of not working was half of a book that I thought wasn't any good, and 20 or so pages of three different books that weren't going anywhere. This is pretty much the lowest point, the point where I think very seriously about just doing my damn student teaching and getting another teaching job at a less shitty school.
FEBRUARY 2008, IN WHICH MUCH HAPPENS:
This is a crazy month as it was the month I gave up on my writing dream, revived my writing dream, finished Demonglass, AND got an agent. Whew!
The first week of February, I freak out about my jobless status and go and get the first job I could find. That, as I mentioned here, went KABOOM. And strangely, that experience is what gives me the last push I need to resurrect Demonglass. Working that crappy job makes me see that I could potentially have a lifetime of crappy jobs in front of me if I don't give this writing thing my all. I see in a flash that writing was what I was MEANT to do. I mean, hello? Look at all the roadblocks I was hitting in trying to become a teacher! Was the universe trying to tell me something? So I hit Demonglass and hit it hard. 2,000-4,000 words a day.
And then I do something very stupid that aspiring writers should NEVER EVER do, as I nearly derailed my career before it started.
On Februaary 15, I decide I was pretty damn close to the end of my book, so why not start querying agents, even though I was a first time author WITHOUT a finished manuscript? Ugh.
My 1st query letter blew. It blew so hard, I don't even have a copy anymore. Although, in my defense, it was written for a specific agent, and that agent did request a partial based on that query, so that was good.
But yeah, lots of rejections.
So after a couple of days of this, I go searching for new query letters. On Rachel Vater's blog, she uses an example of one of her client's queries. It iss cute, concise, and very professional. So using that as my model, I make a new query letter.
At around 9 p.m. on February 19, I get a request for a full manuscript from an agent at Writer's House.
I freak out. Again. Some more.
See, Writer's House is big. HUGE even. So this is very exciting. And very scary. Because, if you'll recall, I DO NOT HAVE A FULL MANUSCRIPT TO GIVE SUPER AWESOME WRITER'S HOUSE GUY! Because I am dumb.
So that night, I start frantically editing, and the next day, February 20th, I finish Demonglass. I write over 100 pages in a 24 hour period. I start smoking again, mainlining coffee, and I cry a lot. If it hadn't been for Felicia's delicious peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes, I never would have made it!
Again, aspiring writers, DO NOT DO THIS. I've never been so frantic in my life as I was between the night the request came in and the time I sent it off.
On February 23, Super Awesome Writer's House Agent passes on Demonglass, but he does give me 3 agents who might be interested. One is not, turns out, but one asks for a full, and the last of the three, Jenny Bent, says she wasn't feeling it, but she'd shown my query to her colleague, Holly Root, and Holly wants me to get in touch. So on Febraury 25, I email Holly, and she asks for the full.
Then, on Febraury 27, I'm sitting at my computer when my little Gmail notifier pops up on my tool bar, saying I have an email from Holly. She had read all of Demonglass in less than 48 hours and she wants to offer me represenation.
I- sing it with me!- freak out. And then I talk to Holly over the phone, and I immediately know she is the gal for me.
So, in almost exactly 2 weeks, I started querying agents, finished the book, and got an agent.
Like I said, February was a BIG month!
And coming up tomorrow, the path from acquiring an agent to sold book!