My Writing Story: A Brief and Truncated History
(Warning: This post is not brief and truncated.)
I was probably twelve when I realized that I could become a writer someday. Having escaped the horrors of middle-school through stacks and stacks of library books, it finally dawned on me that I too could create stories that would soothe, inspire, and imaginate (yes, I made that word up) readers just like me.
By high school I had decided I would write young-adult lit, and by college I was minoring in creating writing. Graduate school saw me write a compilation of literary short stories for my thesis, and I expected to write best-selling novels within a decade of graduation.
Instead, I jumped into a bad marriage and spent years (eight, to be exact) in this dark abyss where I questioned everything about my life. That entire time, I wrote one short story that reflected the horror I saw in watching disarmingly aggressive parents at a local Easter egg hunt. And then I started writing blog posts about my kids (I had a masthead and everything!).
I decided my blog posts read like an Erma Bombeck column (I flattered myself, I know), so I submitted them to a small circular in my new town—Idaho Falls. Looking for filler on the cheap, they welcomed me straight away, and that’s how my career as a humor columnist started.
The best thing about that gig was it kept me writing—that creative system of cranks and levers and pulleys was never given the chance to rust over and become dormant. It also helped me chronicle my lemonade life as a single mom, and now my kids have column after column documenting their crazy escapades from a tough, but still joyous time.
After I remarried and settled into blended-family life, it took me a good year to realize I was no longer bound by the stress of financing a family on my own. My husband, being the creative spirit he is, encouraged me to return to fiction. And I did.
I wrote this horrible young-adult novel about dreams set in Hawaii. It makes me shudder to imagine what the mentors thought when they read my #PitchWars submission for that gem!
Around that same time our family took on three paper routes in our smallish neighborhood. I drove each kid through a winding route, and it was during one of our countless deliveries that I got the idea for MY PAPER ROUTE AND OTHER DEADLY THINGS. Within eight months I had finished the book and started revisions, because I had a gut-feeling that (unlike OF DREAMS AND MADNESS—yep, that’s what it was called), this one might stand a chance.
I entered it in #PitMad and #PitchWars, both of which returned phenomenal feedback (just one more reason to participate in Twitter contests)(thank you, Brenda Drake. Thank you, thank you, thank you), enabling me to shine it up for #PitchSlam. And I made it in!
Thirteen agents requested pages from my entry; I was dumbfounded! I sent them the goods and heard from one right away—she loved it, but didn’t think she could sell a kidnapping MG story in this day and age; she wanted me to change the kidnappings to dognappings. I struggled with that suggestion for days (weeks, maybe?), until two fellow writers encouraged me to try the revision on and see how it felt. I did, and once I gave my MC Kazuko a Japanese mastiff and named him Genki, I was sold.
Months later, I got the sweetest rejection from Carrie Pestritto. She said she loved Kazuko and thought the book would be a great start to a fun series–unfortunately my plot had holes and she didn’t love my secondary characters. But she’d welcome a look at any revisions I might make.
As a matter of fact, I did have revisions, I responded immediately. At the suggestion of another agent, I changed the kidnappings to dognappings. She replied, “I’m happy to take a look! However, I have a feeling that maybe this agent and I have divergent opinions, because at first impression dognapping sounds goofier and younger than what I would ideally like to see for this. But as I said, I’m more than happy to see Kazuko again and feel it out!”
So, not too positive.
I had other responses, other agents I talked to, but none quite as enthusiastic as the first agent and Carrie. In January of 2017 Agent #1 passed on the manuscript and Carrie told me she loved it. Whaa? Not at all what I had been expecting.
After a couple conversations and some email exchanges, Carrie extended an offer of representation and I happily took it. After a month of revisions, she sent the manuscript on submission, and within two weeks we heard back from Disney-Hyperion.
I may have freaked out.
Now I’m plotting the second book in the two-book deal for Disney, trying desperately to finish another MG WIP and preparing for my first-time as mentor in #PitchWars (all while suffering from Impostor Syndrome) . Yikes!
I may be freaking out.
Luckily, I’ve come to understand that there’s never an end to the writing process, there will always be ups and downs, and somehow, if I keep writing and revising and editing through it all, stories happen. Right?
And for good or for bad, so does freaking out.