Wait. What? I'm a Penguin/Random House author? With Cindy Hwang as my editor? Pinch me. I must be dreaming. (Just don't pinch me too hard because I bruise easily).
I am thrilled beyond belief! And I thought I'd walk you down the road of barbed wire and persistance that got me here.
In 2007, I was writing middle grade and YA. I linked up with fantastic writers and critique partners. My first book, Alchera, a middle grade fantasy, actually got requests from agents. And it was immediately rejected. (I may want to dive back into this one one day as it holds a special place in my heart. Two kids play a role in saving the Earth's animals from extinction...) I wrote two more books after this: The Goddess Effect (YA) and King of the Mutants (MG). I queried and queried and was rejected and rejected.
Meanwhile, a story was happening to me. I was in the midst of divorcing my husband in 2009 and I wanted to face past regrets while doing so. You know, clear the air and move on. I decided to apologize to a Frenchman I met in Paris in 1989 when I was 19. He wrote me seven love letters. I never wrote him back until 20 years later. Um, we married and we'll be celebrating our 9th anniversary in May. Crazy. Yes?
I wrote the book, my memoir, SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS. And I sold it to Sourcebooks (yes, I sold it) in 2012. Here's my timeline and bumpy path:
2010: Queried Seven Letters. (21) I have a thing for the number 7. I sent out 7 queries a week until I had seven full requests. Bingo. I had the call with my first agent. I signed on with her immediately. We went through a few rounds of edits. Unfortunately, at the time, an article in the NY TIMES came out bashing "me"-moirs. We decided to hold off on submissions.
2011: I'm on sub! 10 editors! The passes rolled in like waves, pulling me under. The editors, for the most part, loved the concept, but not the execution of it. (It was epistolary, using letters and emails to move the story forward). Then, my agent left agenting. I was assigned to a new person. My agent's replacement (and not the person I was assigned to) sent me a note: "We've reached the end of the line with Seven Letters. Feel free to find representation elsewhere." The dude represented Manga. I called my new agent, shaking, and I was going through shit of my own. Major stuff. I'd just had a second miscarriage. I was hormonal and very upset. I asked my new agent if I should re-write the book based on the editors comments. She said no. She had other ideas.
2012: I gave the new agent five months. I did what she told me to do. And I also re-wrote the book because my GUT told me to. In the end, we parted ways and I hired an editor to help me fine-tune Seven Letters. He tried introducing me to new agents. It was a no-go. The agents didn't want a book that was shopped, lightly as it was. So, I Googled "publishers who take unsolicited submissions" and I found Sourcebooks. I sent my proposal and sample chapters off. If interested, they would get back to me in 6-8 weeks. Around the six week mark, I decided to become a REBEL! I hadn't heard back from Sourcebooks, so I took a risk. I emailed four of the editors who had seen Seven Letters in that first round of subs and had positive things to say. (totally not unsolicited!) I told them about the changes, how I worked with an editor, and asked them if they would like to see the manuscript again. (We're talking big HOUSES here). Two of them got back to immediately. YES! One got back to me, thanking me, but said she was focusing on serious non-fiction. And then Murphy's Law. The day I sent out these emails, Sourcebooks reached out to me, asking for the full. It was a Friday. On Monday, I had the "call" with Anna Michels. The offer came in. I loved her. I loved her ideas for the book. And then I was in a pickle. I had to email the editors I'd reached out to and tell them I had an offer on the table...and that I wanted to accept it. They were all very cool...and, thankfully, hadn't read yet.
In odd news, I also sold King of the Mutants to Month9Books. I was in another pickle. How could I promote a book about mutants and a romantic memoir at the same time? They were launched within one week of another in 2014. Sadly, I didn't know what to do. I now have the rights back to this book.
Let's fast forward to now.
I signed on with a new agent in 2014. I decided to let her go a few years later. I wanted an American-based agent to guide me and my career. And, on a piece of scrap paper, in 2017, I wrote down the name of my dream agent: Kimberly Witherspoon.
September, 2017: I queried 21 agents in the timespan of three weeks, stopping when I had seven requests. I also did #pitmad, received three requests, and promptly deleted my post. Why? Because I'm nuts. I had a dream!!!! I queried Kim, my dream agent, in the second week. (I wanted to see if my queries got any bites!) Then, I thought about it. Eloisa James, who is repped by Kim, is a friend of mine. She supported my memoir Seven Letters. I emailed Eloisa, telling her about my book and that I queried Kim. I said, "No worries if you can't help me out, but if you think Kim would be interested in this, would you mind sending out a word to get me out of the slush pile?"
Eloisa (a.k.a. Mary) got back to me immediately. "Kim would love this! It's right up her alley! I'm on it!"
October 2017: In the end, I had four offers of representation. I chose Kim...and I also got a bonus surprise. I'm working with her and the awesome Jessica Mileo. I met with both of them when visiting New York. Before our meeting, I took Eloisa out to breakfast to thank her. (She's amazing!)
October 2018: My book went through two rounds of head to toe edits. We went on submission at the end of July. Yes, during this time I did what writers aren't supposed to do: I twitter-stalked and googled and tried to imagine which editor would connect with my book. And then I found Cindy. Like I did with Kim, I wrote down my dream in the beginning. On my chalkboard. Penguin. Berkley. Remain Positive. It's still on my board. The offer from Cindy came in September. Oh, the "call" was amazing.
I was in NY in October for my mom's 70th. While there, I met up with my agents and with Cindy and her team. Cindy took me out for a delicious lunch, we talked shop, and I was swooning. Mind you, I'd just flown in from France the day before and I was a little bit jet-lagged (a lot jet-lagged), but I straighted my shoulders and hoped I made sense. After all this hard work, after all the tears of frustration, I knew I was in good hands! I'm excited for the future!
Persistance! Following dreams! A little bit of rule breaking (but not too much)! And finding the right fit! That's what we have to do. Write on, peeps, write on!
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