I have known that I wanted an agent for several years now, but only had a short story collection to give to them, and no agents are interested in short story collections. So I went about getting that book published on my own with Leap Frog Press, and then I was compelled to write a book, a little memoir about an illness that I had last year.
It turned into a weird kind of book, not exactly like anything else I’d read, a little bit of Ann LaMott, a little bit of a Dutch author I’d discovered in Holland named A. L. Snijders, with perhaps a bit of Mary Oliver thrown in.
Two friends read it for me and gave me notes, and I revised it, getting the book as good as I was able to make it. Then I asked a friend if I could take a look at his query letter, which he generously allowed me to see. Two friends suggested I query their agents (you can see how dependent we artists are on one another, for feedback, for query letters, for agent introductions), and I wrote my own query letter and then sent it to the two agents I had introductions to.
One agent never responded. I understood, she gets something like 200-300 query letters A DAY (so I’m told), and I also understood that writers have to query a lot of agents before one is interested enough to read an entire manuscript, but this other agent did ask to read it, to my delight. I sent it to her, and about 3 months later, she called and said that she loved it, and had a few notes to give me, and that if I could revise it, she would reconsider it.
I was in the middle of a wildly busy semester, teaching 4 writing classes and taking classes at Columbia in their Narrative Medicine Program, but this seemed like the brass ring, and I didn’t feel I could say no. I said yes, of course, and I said yes also because I liked her notes, which were gentle and right along the lines of what I already knew, by then, should be developed. So I told her she would have the new draft within 5 weeks, by the end of October, and I set to work clearing everything out of my life that I could. I wrote to friends and family and said to just not look for me for a month or so, and I got down to work. Some of the revisions were complicated enough that I actually went to a motel to work twice, taping notes up all over the walls where I wouldn’t be interrupted for 24 hours straight.
And then, on October 31st, I sent it off to the agent, thinking I wouldn’t hear back from her for another 2 months or so, and with some relief, I got back to my teaching, my laundry, my emails … back to my life. But the next day, November 1st, she sent me a little email just saying how much she was enjoying reading the revisions, and by the day after that, November 2nd, she and I were on the phone, and I had contracts in my e-mail, and a plan was hatched to try and sell this book.
SO that’s where I sit right now – I’m burnt out from the harried revisions, from the busiest semester of my life, but I have an agent, AN AGENT! which is a dream come true, really. I don’t know how this will pan out, whether she’ll be able to auction off the book for an enormous or a modest sum, or whether it will stall and no one will want to buy it. Who knows? Regardless, my writing is now supported by a professional team that will add to my personal team, and I embark on this new kind of collaboration, where she does what she is good at (and what I am decidedly NOT good at), and so the journey continues.