Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Year of Becky, Back On Track

So, I have an agent, and her name is Jennifer Johnson-Blalock (of Liza Dawson Associates), and I am so happy and so excited that I have been dancing around my kitchen. Actually, I dance around my kitchen most days, but this is a very specific modern dance interpretation of my feelings, as opposed to my normal "get low to Drop That Kitty" routine...just, trust me. I am very, extremely, beyond happy and excited and thrilled!

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So this is the part where I write the whole story of how this came to be, yes? I feel like I've read so many of these posts, and now I get to write my own! As Heather Number One would say: how very.

I mean, shall we do Short Story/Long Story/Any Other Story Becky Wants To Tell?


Short Story:

I started querying this novel, THE QUIETEST KIND, at the very end of January. [Stats break: I sent 27 queries, had one request via #pitmad, and one referral. Out of those queries, I got 4 partial and 5 full requests.] Jennifer requested the partial on the 2nd of June, then the full on the 3rd, and then offered representation during a call on the 8th. And I accepted.

Long Story:

In April I sent a query to another agent at Liza Dawson, who passed. So I get this rejection, shrug (it was a long shot, genre-wise) and move on. The next day, this email comes through on my phone: Partial Manuscript Request. I do the one-raised-eyebrow trick I spent many teenage hours in front of the mirror teaching myself and open it up. It's Jennifer, saying that the other agent passed my query along because she thought it might be of interest and could she see the first fifty pages?

I'm, like:

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For real?

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So I do a little online stalking [always check out agents, especially in contests and things like #pitmad etc -- just because someone requests doesn't mean you have to submit!] and think Jennifer seems great, and so off my little partial goes. Then the full request comes the next day ("Holy shit, she's actually read it already?!") and off that goes. Now I'm stressing (she got back to me so fast on the partial, that means she's probably going to get back really quick on the full, and oh my god, well at least if it's a rejection it'll be over with quickly). A couple of days later I get the email: she really enjoyed the manuscript and wants to set up a time to talk; when would be good?

[When would be good for me?! Never, because I don't do well on the phone or in important conversations or just generally in everyday life. Ask me what I thought of Mean Girls, and the words in my head are, "One of the best teen comedies, if not the best films, ever: the dialogue is whip smart and it's so well-written. If you want to see a sharp and funny story set in the scheming world of girls' politics, this is it." What comes out of my mouth: "Ah ma gawd, it's well good! It's, like, the best! Say crack again. Crack!"]

But I'm, like, super professional, dontcha know, and so I don't say any of the above. We just set up a time to talk and then I spend the next forty-eight hours swinging from About To Throw Up Nervous to Very Excited and back again about a thousand times.

Anyway, it gets to four o'clock on Monday and I'm vibrating out of my skin with anticipation and Jennifer calls.

[Okay, so don't laugh at me, but I did dress up for the phone call. What? I figured that if I looked nice and presentable and felt good, that would come across when I spoke.] [Because you're all dying to know, I wore blue jeans and an oversized semi-sheer white shirt, belted with a leopard belt because leopard print is a neutral, and the ever-present gold hoop earrings.] [Red nails.]

During the call we talk about my story, what she liked, what she thinks needs work, Knocked Up, how she online stalked me (ha!), Friday Night Lights, Nina LaCour, and then she says she wants to represent me.

And I'm like:

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Honestly, I wanted to say yes right then and there -- I just felt like we clicked, Jennifer totally got my story, and she had exactly the kind of plans I had been dreaming of. But I did what everyone is supposed to do and said I needed time to think it over and let the other agents who had my work know, and I'd get back to her within two weeks.

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Next I did the whole notifying-of-agents and getting responses and, oh yeah, losing my mind some more.

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And then my deadline came around and I had some very gracious passes that I was actually very grateful for, because I didn't really want to consider anybody else, because I was pretty sure that I had already found My Agent. (Yeah, pretty much since I got off that phone call I've been referring to her as "my agent" in my head. Oops?) So, yesterday I finally let Jennifer know that I was accepting, and I like to think that on either side of the Atlantic ocean were two very excited ladies! I am so so SO fucking happy and excited and I can't wait to start on revisions and getting this thing ready to go out on submission. (WHAT!)

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The Other Story:

Seven years ago I decided to write a novel. Just for fun, just to see if I could write that many words. It took two years and probably a lot of time that I should have spent working on my A-levels instead, but I finished that book. And I queried it. (Oh my god, I can't believe I queried it! What was I doing! No one will ever see that novel, ever!)

At least I quickly realised that I didn't know what the fuck I was doing and got online and started learning. I wrote another novel, queried it (oh so briefly), shelved it. I wrote another novel. I wrote another novel (number four), and I wrote novel number five. I revised novel four, loved it, queried it for over a year. I pitched it on Twitter, and I entered it into several contests (getting through to the agent round on Cupid's Blind Speed Dating contest). I rewrote novel five, turning it into novel number six. I wrote number seven and wondered if I was crazy for thinking I could do this. I revised novel six, got some very smart reader comments, and decided to split it into two novels: eight and nine. I split it, added and took away and edited and thought about it all the time and about lost my mind doing it. But I did it, and then I polished up that novel number eight and began querying it. I got close (oh so close) but not quite there. I kept querying. I did #pitmad. I really began to think that I couldn't do this anymore. I started -- and stopped, and started, and stopped, and started -- drafting novel number ten. I thought that I might really give up now, because it was making me so sad, and I didn't want to be sad. I kept querying anyway. (What's that quote about insanity?)

And then I got that email from Jennifer, and I've never felt more grateful for my madness.

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*   *   *

This is a real, true, begging plea to anybody reading this who just really fucking hates writing and/or querying right now: don't give up. I know what you're thinking: It's easy to say Don't Give Up when you're on the other side of it. Or maybe you're not, but that's what I thought a few weeks ago, when I read someone else's I Have An Agent post. I thought, okay. You're telling me not to stop. But it sucks so bad right now and I'm tired of working so much when I don't know, I really don't know, if I'm going to ever get what I hope all this work can get me.

I'm going to get all cheesy now: no, you might not get what you want. But if you stop now, then you're for sure not going to get it. While you're still trying, you still have a chance. And that chance is worth it. I really believe that.

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  1. EEEE! Huge congratulations to you! THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!! HOORAY!!!! :D :D :D

  2. I just want to squee here again over HOW AWESOME THIS NEWS IS. I'm thrilled for you and can't wait to see where your career goes! eeee! xoxo

  3. I am so beyond excited and happy for you! It was a privilege to read your story, Becky. Can't wait to see your book on the shelves and MY shelf one day soon! 😊

  4. Excellent. So encouraging (don't ever give up) xx

    1. Forgot these: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. AIYEEEE!!!!!!!

    So I was all ready to come by and see how your RSW goals are going and then I saw your tweet. Now that I have stopped flailing on your behalf I want to officially congratulate you here! I'm so pleased and happy for you and this news actually helps me a lot because I've really been stuck in that "why in the hell am I doing this?" phase. Congrats again!

  6. Wow, this is such awesome news! You know, I've read lots of how-I-got-my-agent posts, but I found yours especially inspiring and encouraging. You put so much work into this and it's really well-deserved. Hope this spells good things in the future for your book!

  7. Congratulations Becky! This is such wonderful news, and what a fun post to read! I can feel your excitement and joy, and I was smiling the whole time I read it. CONGRATS! Can't wait to read this book one day! :)

  8. That's so awesome.Congratulations!!!

    And I love the Mean Girl's thing. That's about how things come out of my mouth too. I'd love to have a couple minutes to think answer through in my head before I have to say them aloud. :)

  9. AHHH! This is the BEST news. I'm so excited for you. Watch out world : ) xo

  10. OMG, just now seeing this - CONGRATS!!!! Fantastic news!