You know the story that a friend tells you about how she met her life-long partner the minute she stopped looking for her life-long partner? Like she was sitting at a park reading a book and this person sat down next to her and spilled coffee everywhere and then said something so self-deprecatingly funny that your given-up-on-love friend says something commiseratingly funny back and then they make each other laugh for the next twenty years. You know that story?
Okay, well, that’s sort of what happened the day I got the call.
It was Friday, May 10. I was sitting on my sweet little porch writing a long email to my agent Erin Murphy. I was updating her about what had been going on in my life, by way of explaining why I had been so out of touch that week. You see, Erin had sent my manuscript out to a list of editors that Monday, May 6. I think I responded by saying, “Yea.” Or something equally short. Twice during the week, she forwarded me emails from one editor in particular who was reading the manuscript and loving it. I responded with a smiley face and a wahoo but returned to the task at hand: resolving a protracted two-year struggle with Board of Adjustment over my beloved porch. It was 14 inches into the setback and they wanted me to lop it off. I was getting ready for my last hearing and busy preparing for my Norma Rae moment when I would prevail against the bureaucracy and persuade them that cutting off 14 inches of my porch did not make sense. By Friday, I felt ready for the hearing in three days so I sat down to update Erin on what was going on, comment on the list of editors who had my manuscript and expand on my delight about that one editor who had emailed. It was a cozy, pour-a-cup-of-coffee email. I think it was even raining which is rarity in Texas so it made the moment even more indelible. La. La. La. Press send.
You get the picture?
Two seconds after I heard the whoosh of the email being sent, the phone rings. It’s Erin.
“Hi,” I said, “I just sent you an email.”
“I know,” she said, “Did you get my email?”
“Umm, no, I was writing you.”
Then she reads me the email that editor Joy Peskin of Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers had sent her that morning, saying she was very interested in the manuscript and wanted to talk.
That’s when I started jumping up and down on my porch, followed by flopping into a chair, followed by squealing, followed by “omigod, omigod, omigod.” (Oh, btw, this is all happening on Erin’s birthday, which is omigod special too.)
Then Erin and I talked business. I said, “I think I should talk with Joy. I mean, I love that she loves my book but we need to be able to talk and work together and turn this manuscript into the best book it can be, right?” “Absolutely,” said Erin.
Exactly four hours later, my phone rang again and it was Joy. I had my list of questions ready, thanks to Erin and my VCFA pal and critique partner Anne Bustard. Here are a few of them:
- What do you love about the manuscript?
- What do you think needs to be developed?
- What are your thoughts about making the manuscript longer?
- How do you work with authors?
- What is the acquisitions process at MacMillan/FSG?
- What are some of your favorite books?
I remember Joy saying, “Great question,” every time I asked something and then she launched into her answer. I remember writing down the answers to her questions but mostly, I was listening to her voice. I liked the brightness of it and the tumbling energy I heard when she talked about books and characters and writers.
Here’s the thing about questions: They provide a framework for a gathering information but I love when the Q&A twists into a conversation that connects and meanders. So after I was done with my list, I asked her if she had any questions and she asked me where I got the idea of the book. I told her the whole story: from the dream that woke me up; to my graduate lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts; to the revisions I made in the last year.
And then she said this:
“You know, sometimes, when I walk around New York City, I’ll pass by an apartment building where I’ve lived and I’ll wonder if part of me is still living a parallel life in that apartment.”
That’s when I knew she understood the manuscript she had in her hands and me and that we would work together beautifully making it into a book.
So far, so great.
Lindsey Lane’s debut young adult novel THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers in September 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an app on iTunes. You can follow Lindsey on Facebook or find her at her website.