We all know selling a debut novel is not a life changing event from a financial standpoint, but I’ve found it changed my life in ways I wasn’t exactly expecting. My “day” was actually several days separated by about five months. The first was in December 2014 – the day the fabulous Erin Murphy said yes! A little back story – over the course of 2009 and 2010 everyone at EMLA had rejected my manuscript! It was rejected in the nicest way by Erin, then Ammi-Joan, then Tricia, all with encouraging words, but rejected none the less. I was sad, but not bitter. Over the next several years at conferences, I met all three of these wonderful people and remained a huge fan of the agency.
In the summer of 2013 I was lucky enough to win one of the SCBWI Work in Progress grants for my historic novel KEY TO HEAVEN and I felt it was the time to up my agent search. One hiccup was that at a conference the previous year I’d had a great conversation with Erin about a story percolating in my head and she gave me some great ideas. It felt a little odd to be taking this story to another agent without giving her a heads up. When I sent that heads up, Erin decided she’d better take one more look at the manuscript she’d passed on. My many revisions must have paid off, because after several conversations back and forth, Erin offered me representation – December 15th, 2014!
So this was the beginning of the sea change for me. I’d been working on this book for over 10 years and as much as your family can love it and your friends tell you it will get published, 10 years is a long time to wait. For Erin, who makes her business selling stories, to value my story enough to champion it was truly important. Even though I’d been writing pretty seriously for a decade, this made me feel legitimate in a way I had not the day before.
Even with the flurry of holidays, Erin was able to have conversations with a number of editors who expressed interest. With fingers and toes tightly crossed, my baby went out to ten editors in early February. By the end of April we had only two no’s and serious interest from Sally Doherty at Henry Holt – by the first week in May she had scheduled an acquisition meeting. Did I mention I’d been writing for a decade? I knew the statistics on acquisitions and had seen many a friend come away with disappointing news from acquisition meetings. Still, butterflies took up permanent residence in my solar plexus.
May 6th was busy at my day job (an environmental planner) and I was working full tilt, but obviously part of my brain was in New York. I’m on the west coast and when 3:00 came along and I’d not heard (6:00 in New York – surely even busy editors have finished meetings for the day) I decided I’d wait until 3:30 and if I’d not heard I’d call Tara, Erin’s assistant. I tried to focus on the deadlines I had that day. At 3:16 my phone flashed Arizona. I think I swiped before the ring ended. All Erin had to say was “We have a deal.” Much squealing ensued.
Then came several heady days where two other editors requested more time to decide if they wanted to make offers (Yee-gads), but by the end of the week, we had a decision. KEY would be published in “early” 2017 by Henry Holt. Sally Doherty’s excitement about bringing my story to the world was clear and I was over the moon. Over these few days there were hugs and clinking glasses and much celebration (my friends and family are awesome in the true meaning of that overused word), but as the dust settled, I kept thinking of something one of my dear writing friends said in these days. I’d said, “It’s unbelievable.” And she said, “No, it’s not unbelievable, it’s unexpected and wonderful, but you worked so hard and stuck with it, it’s not unbelievable at all.” And I guess that’s what brought this change into focus for me – I realized somewhere in my gut I’d always believed this was a story that I needed to bring into the world and over the decade I’d come to believe (again deep and often hidden in my heart) that it would happen, even though there were times when the many “almosts” made it hard. To have that belief in myself and my story born out means the world to me and means nothing is quite as it was. Am I still squealing? Of course I am, but I’m also working on my next story!
Darcey Rosenblatt is a farmer of stories – most live in that special place that dances between middle grade and YA. Her debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in early 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and almost grown daughter, some fish, a cat and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.