I waited for a long time to get THE CALL.
You know the one. You’ve written a manuscript for a picture book/poem/article/non-fiction/novel and sent it out. Maybe you’ve written two. Maybe sixty. In any case, you wait. And wait. The weeks turn into months, and maybe– like in my case– years. You do the things you’ve been told to do. Be patient. Keep writing. Keep sending out. Go to conferences. Join a critique group. Get an MFA in writing for children. Get an agent. Keep writing. Keep waiting.
And after awhile, if you keep doing this, you get– THE CALL.
Your manuscript has been accepted. (!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Now with all the practice that I’ve had waiting, you’d think I would have prepared something semi-intelligent to say when THE CALL came.
You might think that. But you’d be wrong.
I got THE CALL on a Monday morning in early June, just after school got out. I was enjoying a leisurely morning of not having to go teach second grade. I’d had my tea, checked my email, and I was contemplating taking a shower. The phone rang.
Voice on the phone: Hello, Rebecca? It’s Joan.
Me (thinking): Joan? Joan who? It doesn’t sound like Joan, our retired school librarian…. Stall…
Me (out loud): Hello!
Maybe she’ll say something to clue me in.
Voice on the phone: How are you doing this morning?
No help there. Stall…
Me: Great! How are you?
Voice: I’m very well. I have some good news.
Good news is good. Wait! Maybe she said “Dawn.” It sounds a little like the Dawn I know who is getting married this weekend. She’s probably calling to tell me something about the wedding.
Voice: I got an email from Frances Gilbert.
Frances Gilbert? I don’t know a Frances Gilbert. A member of the wedding party?
Voice: She’s made an offer on MOM SCHOOL and DAD SCHOOL.
MOM SCHOOL? DAD SCHOOL? Those sound familiar. Wait. I wrote two picture books called MOM SCHOOL and DAD SCHOOL.
Suddenly all the pieces fell into place like a load of… very heavy things.
MY AGENT’S NAME IS JOAN. SHE HAS AN OFFER ON A BOOK! TWO BOOKS?
So I said… “Oh!”
That’s it. All my years of waiting, condensed into one brilliant syllable: “Oh!”
Little more than a letter, really. “Oh!”
Joan had more to say, but I didn’t. After every sentence she told me– presumably details about the offer– all I could manage was, “Oh!”
I think I also said, “Thank you.” I hope I said, “Thank you.”
“So I’ll call you back with more details later, then,” Joan finished.
“OK.” Yay. Another letter added. “OK, then.”
We said goodbye. I think I managed a goodbye, too.
My family and I celebrated in secret because nothing was finalized. Champagne corks popped. We packed to go to the wedding, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to say anything to well-meaning friends who were sure to pat my hand and ask, “So how’s your writing going?”
I lamented the fact that all I had said was, “Oh.” I vowed that the next time I got THE CALL I would have something more to say than, “Oh.” Something intelligent. Something charming. Something gracious. I am a writer, after all, and writers are supposed to be good with words.
That very Thursday, before we left for the weekend, Joan called back. She had more details about the offer. I had some marginally intelligent questions to ask, and I even managed to take a few notes. Then Joan said, “Are you sitting down?”
“I could be.” I sat down.
“We’ve had an offer for another one of your picture books.”
Another CALL!! Here was my opportunity to be witty. To be erudite. To say something– anything– besides, “Oh.”