How my Dream Became a Deal

Let me add my congratulations to the stars and successes of Cynthia Levinson’s WE’VE GOT A JOB! Also, congratulations to Jim Hill, winner of last week’s drawing, and Heidi Grange, winner of last week’s quiz, who both won a signed copy of the book!

I’ve been thinking about Jeannie’s post all week. About the significance of what we do. As artists setting our stride against headwind of rejection. As writers, laying our souls bare in our work.

Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time.

You see, WATER may be my debut, but it is not my first book. Like many authors, I took a few cracks at it before I got it right. I heard that pesky statistic—the one that says we’re more likely to be struck by lightning than published. But I kept at it anyway. For years.

Because I had something to say. Many somethings; important somethings. But truly, truly, I am so grateful that those early stories stayed in their dusty drawer, that my skills and taste had time to catch up with my dreams.

The wonderful news is that WATER found its way to just the right agent and just the right editor. Here’s the story of how my dream became a deal:

  • January, 2011: I won an award at VCFA that sent the first 20 pages of my middle grade novel onto an editor’s desk at Harcourt Children’s Books. But I was still in school. I couldn’t spend too much time daydreaming…
  • May: I heard back with a request for the full manuscript. I sent it in, trying to convince my high hopes to come just a little closer to the ground.
  • June: I received an official-looking envelope in the mail. It was a three page editorial letter on fancy cream paper, with the peppy blue HMH dolphin in the corner and some very thoughtful, constructive, and kind words from an editor named Reka.

So I added and I tweaked and I tightened. I sent the revision to some trusted (and brilliant) first readers, and then I dug in again. When I couldn’t bear to look at the pages for one more second, I took a deep breath, and hit send.

  • December: An email appeared in my inbox. Reka loved my revisions. She loved the story. Relief. Affirmation. Joy. Hope.
  • A little later in December: Early morning phone call with Joan. She loved it too. And she wants to work with me through a long and varied career. Halfway through my happy dance, a kind soul reminded me that though I had a savvy literary agent in my corner, I didn’t actually have a contract. Right. Stop dreaming up cover designs. Pause the parade of stars floating across my vision.
  • January, 2012: THE CALL came while I was at work, so naturally, I stepped into the supply closet. Joan says, “We have an offer!”
  • A few weeks later: Finally, after a year of intermittent letters and emails, Reka and I spoke on the phone. Listening to her talk about all the wonderful things she envisioned for WATER, it finally sunk in. This was really happening. For my story. It was just about the best feeling in the world.


Filed under Agents, Celebrations, Editor, Introduction, The Call

36 responses to “How my Dream Became a Deal

  1. Great post, Melanie, and welcome aboard! Your story is a great reminder of how things can look like an overnight success from the outside, but there are so many years of work behind those overnight moments where the agent and book contract all come tumbling together at once. I hope you have many more moments in the supply closet to come!!!


  2. Hooray, Melanie! I’m so happy for you, and so excited to read this wonderful-sounding book.


  3. Great story about your book deal! Sounds like it was a dream come true.


  4. Couldn’t be happier for you, Melanie!


  5. Wow, it’s like a fairy tale. I was nervous reading it, because we all know how tenuous these things can be, even when an editor loves a project. But in your case, WATER went swimmingly! Congrats and welcome to Emu’s!


  6. J. Anderson Coats

    Hey, we’re editor siblings! Reka is my editor too, and she is PURE AWESOME to work with. Can’t wait to read WATER!


  7. Cynthia Levinson

    Melanie, what a wonderful first EMUs post! I love the stories about how our debut book came to be. They make me teary and goose-bumpy. Clearly, yours is going to be a great success. Thanks for sharing and thanks for joining EMUs.


  8. Melanie, I LOVE the story of your journey from manuscript to award to editor to revision to agent to editor to contract! It gives us all hope and confirms our dreams. It is deeply satisfying to hear of your success, I’ll have my antennae up for WATER.


  9. Caroline

    I love that you got THE CALL in the supply closet! And I love, love, love WATER and am so glad kids will have the chance to love it, too.


    • Melanie Crowder

      Dear Caroline,
      When you come do an author visit at my school for your own fabulous book, you will see that 1) my office is the size of a dollhouse 2) we have no staff lounge or other adults-only place in the entire building. So hey–when you need to hide from the mob after your autograph, we can have a nice, relaxing lunch in the supply closet!


  10. Hi Melanie! I’m an EMU fan and as a writer still working toward that big phone call, it’s so heartening to hear your story. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey toward publication and how you got here. 🙂


  11. How exciting!! Congratulations. I love reading stories like this. There’s always so much more to them than, “I wrote a book and it sold.”


  12. Thanks for giving us a peek behind the scenes, Melanie! So glad your book found the agent and editor it needed to so that now the rest of us will be able to enjoy it.


  13. Melanie, Congratulations on your book deal! That’s a great story and I love to hear tales of VCFA World Domination (I’ve just started my first semester).

    And a big Thank You to Cynthia and the EMUs Debut team for the book! I was just telling people about this afternoon. Next time I meet up I’ll be able to show them too. Wheeeeeee!


  14. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Melanie, what a heartfelt, goose bump-inducing post! So glad to have you aboard. 🙂


  15. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in each of those dusty, in-the-drawer-manuscripts that inform your current writing. Congratulations and love, love, love.


  16. Hey, Melanie! Welcome to Emus!! I loved reading your post–such fun! We have something in common that our overnight successes took years. 😉 Congrat’s! Can’t wait to learn more about WATER!


  17. Mike Jung

    I’m late to the party, but welcome aboard Melanie! So glad to have you join us!


  18. Melanie Crowder

    Thanks, Mike!


  19. Wow, loved the story of WATER. It also serves as a reminder that these deals sometimes take a while–but they’re worth waiting for!


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