Someday, if I have a book published, I will have Ayla to thank.
Ayla's birth upheaved and confounded me in ways that I still fail to find adequate words for. The birth, and being a mother at 23, left me desperate to reclaim some territory for myself. I felt like when the baby came out, someone had dressed me in a 'Mother' costume. And now I was wearing something that wasn't me, but was supposed to be me. I couldn't get out of it. I was lost.
So then I started writing again.
It took me four years, but I wrote a book.
I am a little bit embarrassed to tell you who I wanted to write like, but I'll tell you anyway.
I wanted to write like JK Rowling. Not because she is a billionaire, I swear.
Ok, a little bit because she is a billionaire. But mostly because I love her books to the depths of my soul. And because the waves of emotion I experienced--suspension! thrilling joy! oh noes Harry might die! Mrs. Weasley said BITCH--stirred the dormant writer in me back to life.
I needed to claim something for myself. I needed to put a stake down in the ground of my being and say 'this is mine. this is not mother, nor wife, nor poor lady on medicaid with a screaming baby and leaking nipples at the grocery store'.
And all I had to do that with was my writing.
So I wrote. I gave myself a five year deadline to write and publish the book. Looking back now, this seems ridiculous and arbitrary. Did I really plan on giving up after five years? 'Well, I'm 28 now, and it's time to put these ridiculous dreams aside. What is fitting in our youth is unfitting in our later youth, and no one should ever attempt to write after they've hit not-yet-thirty'.
I think I was trying to protect myself, in some abstract way. Five years, and if you haven't achieved your dream, you can politely move on to a different endeavor. Like ladies switching from embroidery to the pianoforte in the drawing room.
After four years, I had a book.
It sounded a little bit like JK Rowling, and a little bit like me. Only a little bit. I was proud of myself that I had done it.
And then began the part that was so infinitely harder than writing a book. Which was writing a one paragraph Query.
The best way, most agree, to publish a book, is to procure an agent. No, I am afraid you do not wrap up your entire manuscript in brown paper and tie it with twine and stick a rose in there and send it off with a hope and a prayer directly to the publisher, who immediately recognizes its brilliance and sends you a letter that you take from the mailbox after gathering flowers in your white frock in the rain decrying your brilliance and begging you for the honor of publishing it.
To get an agent, you send a one page query. You spend one paragraph of your query describing your book.
You have spent four years writing 130,000 words (what was I THINKING), and these words, clumsy as they are, are the blood and the sacrament of your life, your force, your very spirit. And now you must distill your spirit down into a one sentence hook plus five or so other sentences.
Oh god, oh god, why hast thou forsaken writers?
It was torture. It took weeks. I did it. I mailed them out.
And then the rejections started coming.
The awesome thing about the times we live in is that now we can receive our rejections both by email AND by snail mail. Because some agents correspond by one and some prefer the other. This means that sometimes you can get as many as four different rejections by two different formats, all in one day!
I had known they would come. I had picked my top five, my dream agents, and queried them first.
So I queried the next five. And then the next ten.
At this point, I felt like that scene in Harry Potter when letters from Hogwarts start flying down the chimney? Except they weren't invitations to a school of magic. They were letters from busy people in mostly New York, but some in LA, telling me that based on the one paragraph summary they had read of my book, they would not at all like to publish it.
I knew this was part of the bargain. I didn't flail and weep and gnash my teeth.
But I was most discouraged.
And then--a bite.
An agent had read the first five pages of my book and wanted to see the first fifty.
And after reading the first fifty--be still my soul--she wanted to see the whole thing.
So I sent it off.
And then I had to wait.
For tomorrow, Part II: In Which I Dirty My Petticoat, Muster Up My Courage, And Learn To Take Stiff Drink.