Before we pick up our Story story, I’ll remind you -
Today is the official five-year mark, we will have a fun giveaway on Twitter. Tweet something about Story of a Girl–a favorite line or moment, a memory of reading it, a response to the story, a comment about a character, etc., and use the hashtag #storyofagirl (easy to remember). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will randomly pick from these tweets and give away five signed copies of Story of a Girl.
Obviously, if you have a memory or favorite line or comment about the book, there’s a good chance you don’t need a copy. Play anyway, and if you win you could give your copy to a friend, or donate it to a school or public library. If you haven’t read the book, you too can play along. You can tweet something about one of my other books that makes you want to read Story, or straight up beg for a copy. Just be sure to use #storyofagirl in your tweet. Today. Tuesday.
Okay, in our last episode, I was waiting for a certain agent to GET THE HELL BACK TO ME ALREADY…
2005: January. I went to SCBWI-NY – as I recall mostly so that I had an excuse to “be in New York” and meet Michael and convince him to be my agent. “Hey, it so happens I’m gonna be in New York can I take you to coffee?” Breezy. We set a time to meet at his office. No coffee, no lunch. What did that mean? How could good things possibly happen without food or caffeine? He was probably just too nice to say no, I figured. The morning of our meeting I walked about 45 blocks to the office. I climbed the narrow stairs to his attic-y space. NERVES. Please, please change my life, Michael Bourret, for I am weary and need rest.
We talked. I told him about my ten years of writing, the ups and downs, the lost agent, what I hoped for, how I wanted to work with an agent, what kind of partner I wanted to have and to be, how I came to write Story of a Girl. At one point, I stopped talking because I felt, knew, I was about to cry and perhaps would not be able to stop. Ever. He looked at me and said something about how the time between when you’re no longer a beginner but you’re also not published is maybe the hardest. I could only nod. Soon thereafter he said he wanted to sign me. (For some reason, he couldn’t tell me right away?) (I love you, Michael.) (He was probably waiting to see if I was of sound mind. Fooled him.) We talked logistics and business and plans. We shook hands. I left in a daze. I don’t remember what I felt. I remember it was a really beautiful, sunny, cold winter day in New York, and I had an agent.
Michael wanted me to do one more pass at the book before he submitted it to editors. I did. We sent it out, I believe, toward mid to late April of 2005. There were stirrings, and eventually, an auction near the beginning of May. The day of the auction I was at my church job with a terrible head cold that I’d had forever, it seemed like, with a cough that had kept me from sleeping well for the last three weeks. Exhausted and emotional, I had an entire day of that feeling of being back stage on opening night of the school play, or waiting for your crush to say he liked you, too, or meeting your fiance’s family.
I was quite certain the whole thing would end in disaster. Who were we kidding? An auction? I doubted Michael. Mostly, I doubted myself. Why did I think, after all the rejection, I was going to be accepted now? Aside from the Utah Arts Council prize, my writing life to this point had been a series of disappointments. I’d been here before, when my first agent believed that a big publisher was going to make an offer on my first book (three books before Story), and they didn’t. Success was not for me. When would I finally get the message New York had been sending me since 1997 and clear out my things?
But also I loved my book. I loved Deanna and Darren, especially. I knew it was good. I’d worked hard on it. I’d read a lot of YA and I knew mine held up and could earn its own place in the world. I’d sacrificed the financial stability of a “real” non-writing career because of my faith in myself and in this book and the stories I wanted to tell, and there was a reason for that faith. (Also, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do. My fallback career was “community theater bit player.”)
These two trains of thought collided all day. Finally, at the end of it, sitting at my desk in the church, Michael called. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers wanted to publish my book, and had offered me a two-book contract. The advance was not huge (I think people hear “auction” and see dollar signs, but it’s not necessarily about that), yet also enough that I knew I could quit my part-time low-paying non-career-track job very soon.
I finished out my work day. I emailed some people. I Google-stalked my new editor, Jennifer Hunt, and went home. I wish, honestly, I could remember more about what I was feeling. But the 12 months leading up to May 2005 had been very difficult for me, personally. I remember the negative feelings of what I was going through internally more than I remember the positive ones about selling my book.
Isn’t that the way it is? It’s so hard to remember and believe in the good things in our lives, at least compared to the strength with which the bad or painful things hold on. Which is why it’s important to celebrate, and a big reason that it’s specifically important for me to celebrate this, now, and marvel at how good things have truly been…
END ACT I – Cue musical number – Maybe “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” or “You Won’t Be An Orphan for Long”
What happened between getting the good news of a contract, and my book coming out? Did my life change? Was I a fundamentally new, better species of human being? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
And see you on twitter for the #storyofagirl giveaway.