The Story I Never Tell Part 2
Here is what happened. I had a fairly good beginning, all things considered. I wrote a manuscript and had no idea what to do with it. I googled, “What do you do with a finished manuscript,” and learned that I needed an agent. I had no idea how to get an agent and I googled on that as well and learned that I needed to write a pitch letter. I had no idea how to write a good pitch letter, and considering only 1/10,000 fiction books got picked up and that the odds were even smaller for literary fiction, I figured maybe I should go take a class or something. I found a pitch conference advertising that after days of workshops where you could hone your pitch and get feedback, editors were invited in and you got the opportunity to pitch them your novel. So I went. It was one of the best experiences of my whole life and I met friends I have to this day including Stephanie Feldstein,whose first book which comes out in June of next year, is not the book she pitched at the conference. I admire Stephanie for lots of reasons (hero of the animals, hero of the environment, etc.) but here’s the one for me: she never let disappointment or rejection keep her from writing. She just kept writing. She kept writing and now her book is coming out. Hero. Anyway, I went to the conference, and I caught the attention of a some editors who asked me to send them some pages.
Armed with that, I went home with my newly formed pitch letter and I pitched my novel to all the agents who worked with literary fiction, or women’s fiction, or family saga, or anything remotely applicable to my novel and I got an agent within 18 days, and I got an agent who was perfectly suited to me. She said my book had to be half its length before she could sell it. I edited that book for literally one year and cut it to half its original length. She put it out and within two weeks it sold. This was October of 2008. Because my editor didn’t want to put my book out at the holiday season since I was a new author with no following, it was not slated to release until February of 2010. In the meantime, there were more edits. Lots of edits. So many edits. But that really wasn’t the hardest part.
The hardest part was that no one in my life really thought this was going to happen. I don’t think anyone but my son and my mother and a few friends ever thought this was going to happen. But my husband for sure never thought this was a real thing and I’m fairly certain he was just waiting for me to get it out of my system and go back to work. Oh, and my 4-year-old girl thought it would happen. I remember my daughter’s back-to-school night in PreK where, tacked to the wall for our admiration, were family story comic strips in 3 panes. Lila’s first pane showed a picture of two men, one with a red bump on his knee and the other looking at it with a hammer in his hand. It said, “My daddy is a doctor.” The second pane showed a woman sitting at a desk with curly hair and papers and a computer. It said, “My mommy is a writer.” And the third picture showed a little boy and a little girl and it said, “I have a brother, he plays with me.” My husband looked at the comic strip, and he scoffed. “your mommy is a writer.” I use the word scoff and it sounds harsh, but that is really what he did, though he didn’t mean to sound that way. My husband is not a mean person and he has never wanted anything but happiness for me, but he didn’t see me as a writer. I was a teacher, or an administrator, or a professor, or any number of other things, but he never saw me as a writer, and he absolutely never in one million years expected that I would actually succeed at this. It wasn’t real in his mind at all, and that was two years before I sold my book, and a few months before I finished my manuscript. At the point of the preK comic strip, which I’m sure he has long forgotten, I was only a writer to myself. He didn’t mean to hurt me when he scoffed, but he did scoff. But there’s more to that story too, and it’s important, and it’s somewhat close to the center of this miserable story, so I have to tell it. But it will need another episode. This post is already too long.