Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On MEMORY Glands and How I Got an Agent

So we start today's edition with a little story. If you don't want a story, scan down to the bold title BOOK NEWS, OR HOW I GOT AN AGENT.

As you may or may not be aware, depending on how invested you are in this blog and if we're friends in real life or on Facebook (which is real life to me, full of coworkers and water coolers and all those awesome pictures of cats), I have kids. And with kids comes all those inevitable questions because kids are curious little buggers. They like to know stuff, some more than others. Some are quiet observers, content to learn handy facts by watching and soaking it all in like a little sponge of imminent genius, while others want to know everything. Right. Now.

That would be my youngest kid. Kendon. Oh, the questions!

Cute kid, no?
As happens in a busy household with too few square feet to accommodate all the stuff and people, a then-3-year-old Kendi walked in on his dad in the bathroom. "Oh, my God, you have a furry wiener!" That day, Kendon learned about pubic hair. Of course, this was the ignition for a spate of uproarious laughter that spread like wildfire through the house, and soon his then-6-year-old brother was in on the game. "Dad has a furry wiener! Dad has a furry wiener!" Like good, mature, reasonable parents should do, we explained, "Yes, boys, one day you too will have furry wieners." No, I did not launch into a mini-lecture in which I used all the scientifically approved nomenclature because saying penis out loud still makes me giggle. Although I am becoming less sensitized as my sons grow older and they use penis like another person might say hello. Boys like their junk. They like to talk about their junk. I am dreading the day where I will be changing their sheets and find stiffened wads of Kleenex haphazardly shoved between the bedspread and the wall, because apparently that is what I am to expect from teenage boys, if the friends of mine who are mothers to now-adult boys are correct. They're warning me. I'm scared. La-la-la-la, I can't hear you! Gahhhhhh!

Bodily functions aside, I was changing yesterday and Kendon burst into my room when I was, uh, au naturel. This is how it went down:

Me: "Kendi, go out before you see my furry wiener!"
K: "Mom, you don't have a furry wiener. You have intestines, otherwise known as a vagina."
Me: [laughing, gulping for air, cannot speak] "Um, no. Not the same thing."
K: "And I can see your boobies."
Me: [seeing an opportunity to educate as I quickly cover up and try to scramble into a bra because we have to be at school in, like, eight minutes] "Kendi, these are also called mammary glands. All mammals have them. They're meant to feed babies. Like when you were a baby."
K: "They're called MEMORY glands? Does that mean you store all your memories there?" [runs out of room] "Brennan! Brennan! Mom keeps all her memories in her boobs!"

Yeah. That's how the morning went. SEE why I don't use big-girl words? SEE what happens when I try to be clever and mature and sound intelligent? Thank you very much!

Mommy, where did I come from?
Well, first there's a mommy duck and a daddy duck ...



Book news first: For those of you who want to know what's happening with Book 2, I posted a note on FB yesterday that explains it all. To recap:

Hey, lovelies! Thank you to my friends who've e-mailed and waited SO patiently for me to give you updates about Book 2. A few weeks ago on That Magical Day, I posted a comment about my exciting news, but I wanted to post here again in case some folks missed it. I am now working with an agent, and there are some fantastic developments happening to both SLEIGHT (there's a NEW VERSION!) and the second book, which has been given a name that I can't tell you yet. I know that's sort of good and yucky news all at once, but I think you'll like what's happening. I can’t wait to share more exciting news with you soon, so bear with me! ♥

Which leads me to the next segment, How I Got an Agent. That Magical Day, for me, was May 14. But that date in itself is totally misleading. Here's why, and some of this will be a rehash of events from a long-ago post about why I decided to self-publish, but whatever:

On Easter Sunday 2010--yes, 2010--I started querying Sleight, or a version of what would become Sleight. The very first agent I queried, one Daniel Lazar at Writers House--my DREAM agent--came back within a few hours and asked for a full. Suzie Townsend (then still at FinePrint, now at Nancy Coffey) came back either that night or the next morning, also asking for a full. I WAS SO EXCITED.

By Monday of the following week (so, eight days later), I had two very polite rejections, about four million more to go. (Daniel's actually came in on the prior Friday, five days after sending him the full. He is amazingly expeditious, always courteous, and consummately professional.)

So I rewrote the book, tweaked the areas that I was hearing feedback about, and sent it to Daniel again in April, because he said I could. Again, he said thanks but not quite right.

I rewrote again, found some critique partners and beta readers, made more changes.

In September, I sent the book to Random House Canada because a former mentor of mine is the director of publishing, and I was feeling very brave so I asked her if she would look at it.

Three months later, on/around December 12, 2010, she sent me the sweetest rejection anyone could ask for. Devastated, I hid under my blankets for about a week and swore I would never, ever write anything again.

When that Eeyore state wore off, I started considering publishing it myself, which I did, and you can find much about that grand adventure by scouring earlier posts, if you should care to do so.

SO -- here's the meat: Last summer, I just wasn't ready to let go of The Dream of being an agented writer. I should note: This is NOT A COMMENTARY on traditional vs. self-publishing. This is my own personal thing, based on what was right for me. I tried self-publishing and found it extremely challenging. I am not a marketer, not a natural-born salesperson. Spending all that time on Facebook and Twitter was wearing me out, and absolutely no writing was happening. Besides, no one wants to hear 45 tweets a day about your book. They just don't. Some writers are naturals when it comes to establishing a brand and self-promotion. I am NOT one of those people, which sucks for me. I still have a lot to learn.

As such, I e-mailed Dan Lazar again, and said, Hey, look, I did this myself, lots of good reviews, folks are very positive, steady sales over the first three months of release, blah blah blah, and he sent me a response that would change everything: 

"Raise the bar, Jenn."

He referred me to a few freelance editors. I picked the one he said he "adored" and a killer friendship was born. We started rewriting on August 1, and by rewriting, I mean 

I started with a blank page and rewrote the entire book from scratch. 

Yes. It pretty much looked like this.

I had a "finished" draft by my kids' last day of school in December. Revisions continued into 2012, January through May, with editorial input from Dan and his incredible assistant and my darling editor. We fixed and tweaked and completely reworked the story to the point where there was nothing more we could do and we felt we had the shiniest, most beautiful draft we could imagine. In short, I've worked my ass off.

And THAT was the day when Dan sent me the e-mail that said, "Let's make this official."

I hyperventilated, bouncing like a freak in my chair. My sons thought I was going into cardiac arrest. I might have but instead I needed to get them to school. I didn't have time for a heart attack, only to pull my hair into a sloppy ponytail and race to the school turnaround so the boys wouldn't be late. (Kendon turns into that creature pictured above when he's late. Single-handedly, the child cured me of my lifelong chronic tardiness. My former bosses would be so pleased!)

Then the folly started. Uh, who knew that the phone line in my house was dead? NOT ME. We don't use the house phone (although we still pay for it because we're stupid like that), but no one knew that the line is actually NOT FUNCTIONING until I had this Very Important Document I needed to fax to New York City. OMIGOD! After a serious freak-out that involved sending multiple texts to my husband, each with increasing evidence that I was going to lose my mind, and considering all my local friends who might have functioning fax machines and/or phone lines in their homes, I connected my daughter's laptop to my printer because -- duh, my Mac and my printer hate each other so forget about scanning anything -- I scanned the document and sent it off. PHEW! Crisis averted!

The next step? Likely more revisions, and then submission. And that, my friends, will be a whole new story all unto itself. Stay tuned.

This. Because it's pretty. Thanks,
Catherine Dumont, for coffee.

If tenacity is not part of your genetic makeup, it's time to rethink being a writer.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you should be the "I won't take no for an answer" bunghole who doesn't get it when agents and editors and readers are telling you that your book sucks. If it sucks, FIX IT. Don't keep beating a dead horse. Don't become so enamored with your own ego that you are unwilling to take the advice of professionals in the industry, or more importantly, FROM READERS. If your collection of 1- and 2-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon outnumbers the 3-, 4-, and 5-stars, you might want to rethink things a tiny bit. Just because your mom liked your book doesn't mean the rest of the world will. Your mom LOVES you. She's going to see you through her fuzzy Mom glasses. Truth. (I have several pairs.)

There's a lot of stuff floating around the Web about people who hate agents, people who hate the Big Six, people who hate self-publishers, authors attacking reviewers, reviewers attacking authors, ALL THAT JAZZ. It doesn't matter. None of that shit matters. Tune it out. 

Do what feels best for you, regardless of what the masses are screaming about.

What DOES matter is your book, your story, how you want the world to perceive you as a writer and as a human being. Write a good book. Know when your good book needs work so it can become a great book. Be nice. Don't be douchey to other writers or to the bloggers and reviewers, WHO YOU NEED LIKE YOU NEED AIR. (Remember: lose the ego. The world doesn't hate you.)

Will I self-publish again? Absolutely. Many successful writers have their feet in both pools. I don't need to provide you with a list because you likely already know who they are. It's a business model that is very attractive, especially if you're a fast writer with lots of material. While I am not one of those souls (*sighs with envy*) for a variety of reasons, as evidenced by the fact that it has taken four years of my life to birth Sleight, it does work for a lot of folks. A lot of writers are making great livings off of their self- or independently published work. Don't knock it till you try it.

But Jenn, we LIKED the first book. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US? What about the sequel?

Because I wanted more, for you and for the story and for me as a writer. When initial feedback started to flow in, I felt I could do better. Did I publish prematurely? No. I published when I felt I had a strong book. Did publishing that version lead me to an amazing opportunity? YES. For me, it was a major help to work with someone with the credentials and the experience to show me what was wrong, and where I could do better. I will forever be indebted to Daniel and my editor for showing me the err of my ways, and proud of myself for losing the ego and recognizing that I COULD DO BETTER. Had I met my editor before March 2011, I would've published a completely different book. Alas, that's not how things worked out. 

As for Book 2the sequel has been renamed, but it's a seeeeeekret. (I have several of those! OMIGOD! KILLING ME!) I can't tell you yet. But I will. PROMISE.

For those of you worried about how different Sleight 2.0 will be, don't. Worry, that is. Yes, there are changes. It's a whole new book. Some folks who died in the original version don't die in this one, and vice versa. The circus plays a much bigger role (NO SCARY CLOWNS, I PROMISE!), and all the usual suspects are still very much present: Gemma and Henry and LUCIAN (mmm-mmm-good) and Ash and Junie and Summer and Gertrude and Jiminy and Othello and Ted and Marlene and Irwin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

When will we get to see it?

I'm gonna have to get back to you on that. In the meantime, eat an Oreo. Oreos make everything better.

Brought to you courtesy of my lovelies, Angeline and Heather.

Until next time ...

Xs and Os


  1. Oh...my...GAHHHH!!!!

    1) Congratulations!! I am so proud of you!

    2) So excited "Sleight" will be IN PRINT (!!) so I can bug all my non-ebook-reading friends to buy it. And...excited to read the 2.0 version myself.

    3) Your post and encouragement...awesome. Thanks for being a beacon for writers, and moms, everywhere.

    :) Melissa
    (@melissapickett on the Twitter)

  2. Your persistence is enviable. I adore your writing, you know this and have complete faith that everyone in the world will too.

    As an aside...furry wieners lolol that makes me giggle.

  3. Melissa! Yay! Thank you! Let's do a happy dance. *twirls, too fast, falls, bashes head on table leg, time for stitches, cute ER doctor and good drugs, all worth it* Yay for dancing! I appreciate your support, and thanks for reading the blog. It gets lonely around these parts. But I'm not clever enough to post something every day. Maybe I should become cleverer. (Yes, that is a word. I looked it up.) Keep checking back, tweet me now and again (I'm so bad with Twitter because I don't have a data plan on my phone, so I have to text my tweets if I'm away from the house, and it's a huge pain in the arse). I promise to let you know as soon as I know something! :o)

    And Miss Tee, you ... you are just the most luscious golden nugget EVER. I want to have you melted and turned into a necklace so I can wear you around my neck and always feel brave. 'Cuz you make me feel brave. Thanks for that. And furry wieners -- right? Ridiculously fun to say out loud. Thanks for making me a bint. *smiles a droopy, happy smile, still drugged from the ER*

  4. THIS IS AWESOME! Looking forward to great and exciting news! Can you share the name of the editor you worked with? :-)