Last summer was a whirlwind for me. In June, our house sold and we had to be moved out by the end of July. We couldn’t move into our new house until October, so in the meantime we would move into my in-laws’ basement. This meant packing up ten years’ worth of stuff and dividing it into necessities and storage. If you are a book lover (hoarder), imagine having to limit yourself only to the books you will want to have on hand in the next two months. And if you have been a first-time parent of a one-year-old, imagine trying to decide what essentials might be needed for your ever-growing and changing child. If you are anything like me, trying to predict these needs will bring on hyperventilating and quaky hands over the anxiety of making these decisions.
In the middle of all of this, my book went on submission. My novel had been a labor of love for the past nine years, and so having it finally and officially on submission was thrilling and a huge relief. And the timing was great because I was so wrapped up in preparing to move, I didn’t have any energy to spare on worrying about how the book would be received by editors. I knew it might be some time before I heard anything back, so I did a little happy dance for being on submission and got back to moving things into my essentials piles, then changing my mind to the storage piles, then moving them back to essentials.
Within a week, my agent, Joan, emailed. An editor had already read my book and loved it. She would be taking it to acquisitions in two weeks. I couldn’t believe it. I must have read that email over a dozen times. Having your book taken to an acquisitions meeting is no guarantee of anything–I was very aware of that. But an editor had read my book and loved it. An editor I am familiar with and have a lot of respect for read my book and loved it. That was surreal and validating, to say the least.
The weekend passed, a flurry of packing and moving preparation and trying to savor our last moments in our first home together.
Monday morning arrived. We had one week before we had to be out of the house. My husband had to go away on business for most of the week. My in-laws were on vacation so I would be doing the solo mom thing, sans babysitter. My carefully thought out and anguished over packing strategy had blossomed into a panicked frenzy of shoving things into boxes and hoping for the best.
The phone rang. The caller ID showed it was my agent. My immediate thought was that the editor must have changed her mind over the weekend. I tentatively answered, and Joan said, “So, I have some more news.” Her tone was calm and subdued. My happy balloon was about to be popped, I was sure. I gathered my professional wits about me so I wouldn’t sound too disappointed. “Okay,” I said. And then Joan told me two more editors had expressed interest and one was prepared to make an offer but wanted to know if I was working on a sequel. I think my exact words were, “Wait, what?”
I was in my old office while Joan and I had this conversation, surrounded by empty bookcases and half-packed boxes. My one-year-old son quietly played in the background while I sat, stunned, and listened to Joan talk. I was so absorbed in what she had to say that I didn’t realize until halfway through the conversation that my little angel had been so quiet because he’d been very concentrated on pulling random papers from my filing cabinet and flinging them around the room. I have never been happier to see my son make such a huge mess. I let him fling to his heart’s content.
After the phone call, my husband joined my son and me for a happy dance amidst the towers of moving boxes and strewn paper before he had to rush off to the airport. (In hindsight, I’m realizing my son probably interpreted that as our enthusiasm over his wonderful mess.)
That week ended up being a flurry of crazy, exciting “holy cow, I can’t believe this is really happening” moments. For the editor who was considering making a two-book offer, I drafted up a list of six sequel ideas and Joan and I went back and forth revising a one-page summary of the stand-alone middle-grade mystery that was my current work-in-progress. I wanted to convince this editor I would be worth the gamble.
Things went down to the wire moving out of our house. So much so, we realized at the closing meeting that we’d forgotten to unload the dishwasher. We went back to our old home with the new owner and he had to unlock the door that had been ours only hours earlier. We left with an odd assortment of colander, cheese grater, mugs, and silverware in our arms.
The next day, our first day living in my in-laws’ basement, I got The Call. This time when Joan’s name showed up in my caller ID, I was nervous but an excited nervous. With her tone still calm and subdued, Joan told me that Christy Ottaviano was making a pre-empt offer for a three-book deal: my novel Book Scavenger, a sequel, and my stand-alone middle grade mystery work-in-progress.
I said, “Three books? She knows I haven’t written the other two yet, right?”
Now we’re settled into our new house, the chaos and uncertainty of last summer behind us. I’ve finished the first draft of the stand-alone mystery, I’m plotting the sequel, and I’m awaiting revision notes for my first book from my editor.
My editor. Boy, do I like the sound of that.
Jennifer Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, The Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). The Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.
You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.