May 24, 2011


I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but my life has been in a 60 hour work week tailspin. While I occasionally enjoy making lattes and cappuccinos for the general public and watching other people's children, I long for the days when my writing will be able to support me full time. Or at least give me enough $ to justify leaching off the dear husband.
Anyway, the subject of this blog entry is an important one. One that I touched on a bit toward the beginning of this blog. And that is: being the last one standing. You could call it perseverance, persistence or any number of things.
A few weeks ago the dear husband and I had visitors in town. We took them to the acclaimed seafood restaurant called Hyman's, where we ate plates loaded with shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes (you don't get too much more southern than that!). I also happened to be sitting at the same table that Pat Conroy graced on one of his visits there. There was a plaque in front of my seat to prove it.

Anyway, the point of the story is that there was a card on the table. There were many cards actually. But I picked up a pale green card with this quote:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common that unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." - Calvin Coolidge

This card struck me with its simplicity. The key to success is to never give up. To refuse to stop. Of course, there's almost always some manner of luck (or divine providence based on how you look at it) involved in success. But where would the world be without persistence? If we did not press on--if we never strived to make our lives better, what would our world look like?
I've known many writers in my life who have gotten side tracked. Because one simple facet of their writing life didn't work out, they lost interest and pursued other things instead. Or they halfheartedly peck at their computers every once in a while, but never with any real ambition.
The key is never giving up. Not after the first power-outage that deletes your pages (happened to the beginning of one of my very first novels), not after your first harsh critique, not after your first full out rejection, not after your tenth full out rejection. Not even after hundreds. Always strive to make yourself and your art better. Don't roll over and give up, but don't remain stagnant either. Always be working on something new. Always be returning to your old work that you know you can do better.

Phew. That was quite a soapbox. I hope this post will come across as an encouraging one. Whatever you want to excel at or whatever your goals are, take a hint from Calvin Coolidge and don't give up. You might just be surprised to find yourself somewhere.

May 13, 2011

the dreaded synopses.

Plotting. Every writer has to do it, for without a plot, there's no story and therefore no book to write.
Throughout my years of putting together plots, I've always started my novels with no idea of how they ended. I usually didn't figure out the endings until I actually started typing down the words to the final scenes. In fact, with a few of my projects, I simply started off with an idea for an opening scene and let the storyline bloom organically from there. Somehow, it always works out and fits together--with character archs, threading subplots and a picture perfect ending. It's like Ariadne says about being an architect in Inception (one of my favorite movies): "It's almost as if the house is designing itself and you're simply discovering it." (<-- that's actually a paraphrase, don't really quote me on that)

Earlier this week, my agent (I still can't believe I can type those words: my agent) emailed me asking to see synopses for the next two books after "Godmother" (the sequels). As I read that email I was slammed by a moment of panic. A synopsis? Two synopses? She actually wants me to plot out my novels before I start writing them? She wants me to know the endings?

But I'm finding, as I dip my feet into the process of constructing a synopsis, that it pieces itself together a lot like the rough draft of a novel does. I don't have to know the entire thing when I sit down to write it. I can simply let it flow. I can take wrong turns and I can fudge up a few details. But in the end it will work out, just like the rough drafts of my novels do.

So here's to the lovely process of discovering plots before they're written. Hopefully I'll be able to get through it. :)

May 9, 2011

it's been a long time coming...

There have been many times where I've dreamed of being able to write this blogpost/announcement. Much proverbial blood and sweat and not a few tears have been spent over the process of searching for an agent who is as excited and eager about this project as I am.
And then that fateful day came. I'd just suffered a rejection (albeit an encouraging one) on a full manuscript the night before--one that was such a close call it brought tears of frustration. I spent the day in question recovering at the beach with my family and returned, sunburned and salty, to find an email in my inbox. It was from one of the other agents who'd had my full manuscript for a little over a week. The first line read: Dear Ryan, Thank you for giving me the chance to review your manuscript.
Since this is how many rejections are worded, I assumed that this was another rejection (I'm not always a pessimist, but trying to break into this business has jaded me a bit. It hurts less if you expect the rejections). Then I read on.
She thought the manuscript was indicative of my imagination and talent. She wanted to set up a phone call to talk about a possible author/agent relationship between us!
At this point my mouth dropped and I just stared at the computer screen. I read the words over again, to make sure that I wasn't just imagining them.
Yes. An agent, a real honest to God agent wanted a phone call with me.
I could no longer contain my excitement, so I dashed out into the front yard and ran in circles for a few moments, yelling my jubilation. My family was worried for a few minutes, until I gathered enough breath to tell them the news.
Like most agent-hunting authors, I was a ball of nerves before the phone call. I had a notepad and a pen ready and was hesitantly nibbling on the crackers and cheese plate my dear husband had prepared for me. When my cell phone lit up with a strange number, I sucked in my breath and acted like the complete, professional grown up that I am.
The conversation went well. The agent was super friendly, excited about my work and had a clear plan of action. We talked for the better part of an hour about my manuscript, what her vision for the book was and how she planned to see it through. By the end of the talk I was in love. I knew she was the one--there was that agent/author spark I'd heard so many other queriers and authors talk about. At the end of the conversation when she officially offered her representation, I wanted to jump up and down and scream. Instead, I calmly told her that I would contact all of the other agents with my manuscript and get back to her. (Of course, I was still internally screaming like a seagull going after a bag of Cheetos.)
For the next two weeks I went through the hoops of notifying the other agents, sending out last minute fulls and waiting for the responses to trickle in, even though I knew agent #1 was the one. I ended up receiving two offers, but the decision was quite clear.

She chose me and my manuscript from the slush, and I chose her to represent me: Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media

I couldn't be happier with who this long and grueling query journey has lead me too. I know my book will be well championed and protected in Alyssa's capable hands, and I can't wait to see what happens on the next step of this crazy adventure: revisions and submission to editors! Stay tuned!