You know how you picture something in your head, something really amazing that you desperately want, so you plan it all out down to the last teensy detail and then it goes nothing like you planned but somehow it turns out great anyhow?
My countdown to The Call was a lot like that.
My fascination with books and writing had blossomed by age four, but the goal of writing for kids didn’t come into focus until I took a college course in children’s literature nearly 20 years later. It was like rediscovering a cherished childhood treasure.
Somewhere in between marriage and kids and jobs and a move overseas, I wrote Book #1. I figured out pretty quickly (and by quickly, I mean not quickly at all, unless you’re measuring in Publishing Standard Time), that I needed the help of an agent. I still have a huge box of manila envelopes in my desk drawer from the days of submitting actual, printed material to publishers and waiting a year before getting that dreaded form rejection in the mail. Back then agents were just starting to accept email queries, and I took advantage of it. What a time saver! I queried with abandon. I still have the 50+ rejections to show for it. And although I did get one agent call, it wasn’t The One.
Book #2: To soothe the hurt feelings of my lonely, unwanted novel, I wrote it a nice little sequel. It never went further than my computer’s hard drive, but it served as a form of therapy, allowing me to eventually move forward with a new project. What’s one more year in the grand scheme of things, right? Okay, so it was a pretty wasteful form of therapy, but also a valuable lesson learned.
Book #3: I was excited about the characters and concept for this one. My grasp of voice and point of view had improved. Still, when several agent queries yielded mild interest but no offers, I finally got wise and asked for help. A writing blog posted my query letter and offered tips for improvement. Cue the Halleluiah choir, because the incomparable Ammi-Joan Paquette saw the query and requested pages. We spoke on the phone, she suggested revisions. I revised. She read the manuscript again, we spoke on the phone, she suggested revisions. I revised again.
And then, one the magical day of 1-11-11, I got The Agent Call. She offered representation. Now, every time I see a series of 1’s anywhere, I smile. It makes me feel hopeful and happy and reminds me to get back to work.
My beloved book #3 didn’t sell, even after a few more rounds of revisions. Maybe it will someday. But I had another book idea in the wings. In fact, I’d written 30 pages and then neglected them for over a year. At last, in the fall of 2012, I knew it was time to move on. My husband even told me, “I think you need to finish this book.” (Thanks honey!) I wrote like a woman possessed, finished it, polished it up, and sent it to Joan on Dec. 31.
After a quick revision, we sent out the first submissions in late February. Deirdre Langeland (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan) read it right away and wrote to Joan to say she loved it. Two weeks later, her mention of the phrase “acquisitions meeting” triggered an epic battle of hope and denial in my brain, also known as “Team Happy Dance” vs. “Team They’re Going to Hate It and Laugh in Your Face, via Email.”
I actually had a call with Deirdre to confirm that I’d be willing to revise the opening chapter. Three more weeks went by. The wait was brutal. I didn’t think I could survive another disappointment. But at last, on an evening in April, I got The Call from Joan—we had an offer! I happened to be in a restaurant at a work meeting with 20 other women; I had to step outside when the phone rang. I shook, I stammered, and may have shed a tear or two, but I returned to the meeting with a huge smile that wouldn’t leave my face. My super-supportive husband was out of town, so I had to settle for texting him three wonderful words: “It finally happened!”
That’s my twisty path to my first book deal, many years in the making. THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE is due out spring 2015. It will have illustrations! I’m still pinching myself to make sure I didn’t suffer a mental break and imagine the whole thing. Then again, I don’t think I could have pictureed a more unpredictable journey if I tried.
I’m Christine, I write middle grade fiction with paranormal elements, and I’m SO THRILLED to be here, rubbing virtual shoulders with such talented debut authors.