I have signed with an agent! And she's pretty damn awesome. I have a dear friend that loves this agent so I feel a bit like I've stolen her prom date, but she's been super gracious and supportive about it.
I was weary of querying ... it takes so much time (but unfortunately it is a necessary evil) and it's pretty much a crapshoot. Now, no more querying and more time to write. Win, win, people.
Now for the "journey" part of this tale.
When I decided to start writing, I figured it couldn't hurt to be part of a network. So I joined the Atlanta Writer's Club (went to maybe two meetings). I joined Georgia Romance Writers (never went to a meeting) and Romance Writers of America (entered a contest and judges said my book wasn't a romance ... that should have been my first clue that I was in the wrong place).
While I was querying my first book, I was working on my second. I missed the community of folks I had clicked with at authonomy.com (Harper Collins UK has closed down the site, sadly). The Women's Fiction Critique Group from authonomy migrated over to Facebook so I joined up with them. I had tried some face-to-face critique groups but I either didn't like the format, or there were two many genres. I did find a small group focused on women's fiction but the leader had to cut me and another woman lose after only two meetings when a couple of former members wanted back in. I guess "the more the merrier" wasn't part of their charter.
I digress :-)
Through that online critique group I met the aforementioned friend. Let's call her Alison. That's the name of the main character in my book. It just so happens to be her name as well.
Alison told me about Women's Fiction Writer's Association (WFWA), so I checked it out and joined. The women in the association were so nice, so talented and the group was very proactive in terms of helping their members so I took advantage of every opportunity I could find. Pitch Workshop. Check. Signed up. Alison came through with a killer pitch for me while I drank mint juleps by the pool (kidding on that second part). Pitch Week. Check. Ab out a dozen agents stop by and read the 50 word pitches. Got some nibbles. Yeah for fishing analogies!
Every year, WFWA has two contests for their members. Star Award for those who are published, and Rising Star Award for those who are not. I thought, what the hell, I'll enter. You submit a synopsis and the first 35 pages of your manuscript. I'm a designer so I know subjectivity. Obviously that comes into play in this type of contest. As does good, old-fashioned luck. It depends on the judges you get. And let's be honest. Your first 35 pages could shine and it could all go to hell on page 36 and no one is the wiser. Anyway, I kept my expectations low and entered. To be honest, I'd forgotten all about it until I read a post that the five finalists would be announced on a certain date at 10 a.m. I was about to head into the office and logged in to check when I got a phone call about a freelance project I was working on. So already, I'm going to be late for work and it was 10:20 before I could check the announcement.
Time. Stood. Still.
There ... among the list of the five finalists was my name ... and my book.
If you know me at all, you know I probably burst into tears. And you'd be right to think that.
I was shaking. I was incredulous. I was so happy. It was so ... affirming to have that sort of validation. There is a butt load of self doubt that comes with this journey so I was grateful to have this to throw in the mix! It would be another month before the awards were announced at the annual WFWA retreat in New Mexico. One of the finalists, Lainey, set up a live feed so that those of use not in attendance could watch the awards. I hoped I'd at least place in the top three and and had put a substantial bet down in Vegas on Lainey to win (JK). I was sick as a dog with the almost-flu so I had to crawl out of my bed at 10 pm and hobble to the computer. The amazing Peggy Finck, who ran the contest, came to the podium and announced the third place winner. When she awarded second place to the woman I thought would win, a small and hopeful thought entered my brain ... maybe ... just maybe? Then Peggy started reading my book blurb and I lost it. Right there on the live feed for the entire ... (well, there were only six of us :-) group to see. I don't think that many consecutive "thank you's" have come from my lips since my kid was born healthy and I was on anesthesia.
In addition to a huge kick-ass trophy, a few days later I got one big surprise. Peggy told me that one of the agent judges wanted to see my full manuscript. This. Is. Huge. Of course, I got a panic attack about the whole page 36 thing. But this was THE agent my friend raved about. I totally stalked her instagram page and she was just too cool for school. She's exactly who I'd want to be if I was ... thirty ... super smart ... beautiful with great taste.
You do know I'm totally assuming she'll never read this haha.
The one thing Peggy didn't tell me was the agent's email. Fortunately, I had her "work" (not personal) email from the pitch week submission guidelines. I sent my manuscript with a big subject line to her attention.
About a week went by and I started to worry a tad. Maybe a few more grey hairs popped up. By then, Alison the great (who I had told all about her dream agent) had given me the agent's personal email. So I put on my big girl panties and emailed her to check in and inquire if she'd received the book.
She hadn't checked the other email so was very happy I'd touched base. Since I'm on the other side of this, I can now say I was in for AN EVEN BIGGER SURPRISE ... one of those, is this really happening??? moments. Agent emailed me back. In a nutshell: read the book in one freaking day. LOVED it (her all caps). Could we talk on the phone?
I immediately went into freakout mode and emailed Alison, who was freaking out with me, but had the presence of mind to tell me that they don't call you to reject you. Good info.
Agent and I made plans to talk in two days. I had to drive to Candler Park to meet my daughter for a high tea, but on a side street, beneath an old oak, in the quiet of my VW Passatt, I called. She was so nice. So supportive and she wanted to work with me. Me. Me. Work with me. She would love to add me to her list. I know she was talking at normal speed and volume, but everything was in slow motion. She encouraged me to do my due diligence and check out the other agents that had my book (I had already :-) plus... did I mention I stalked her instagram?
I said yes, we both said hurrah and I went to meet my daughter. I walked up to her smiling like a mad woman and did my happy dance. I HAVE AN AGENT!!!
There are lots of things that have to happen to make it to publication. A lot of stars have to align, but I respect this woman, I have faith in my voice and my book, and I believe she wouldn't take a chance on me if she wasn't equally optimistic that this could really happen.
I am excited to see where this journey takes me. The past month has been one sweet, wild ride.
Love you all.