Jennifer Z. Major
The Big News: The Diary of My Last Four Weeks
As I begin to write this, it's 10:26am on January 20th. I wanted to write my thoughts while they're still fresh in my mind.
It has been an INSANE few days. But let's go back in time a bit, shall we?
Since things ended with my agency in July of 2018, I've queried, queried, and queried again. There have been flickers of hope here and there, but nothing solid. And a whole lot of rejection. To say that 18 straight months of "no, no no, maybe, no nononono, no, maybe..." is draining is an understatement.
I did communicate with some very nice agents, and two in particular. One said that if *I* got a contract for the historical on my own, that he'd represent me...but only if the house was the right size for his time. I totally understand that. Agents need a good return on their investment too.
But it still stung.
Another agent liked the writing, but also had her reasons to not take me and my work on. I totally understood. But I liked her a lot, and she was a straight shooter. Yes, that rejection was harder than most. But as always, the old line "a rejection of your work is not a rejection of you as a person" was applicable. I've always had a tonne of respect for her, and this didn't change anything.
But it still stung.
As the months crawled along, I persisted. Because quitting just wasn't possible.
The encouragement and prayers from my family and my friends has be the sustaining factor in all this.
Now, there are all kinds of things that happen on Twitter. One of the good things is called #PitMad. It's a timed pitch event during which a writer can pitch their book premise, and grab the attention of the agents and editors who are following the hashtag.
There's also #FaithPitch, which is geared to faith-based writing.
The events happen several times throughout the year, (not on the same days), and well, it seems that both the pitch events worked for me.
Like, really well!
During #PitMad, one house requested the Navajo historical. During #FaithPitch, another house requested one of the contemporaries.
*The word "house" refers to "the publishing house".
A request is GREAT, but any writer will tell you that a request is just that.
And it's certainly not an offer.
Before Christmas, and after several months of emailing back and forth, the house that had asked of one of my contemporaries requested an "R&R".
An R&R is a request to "revise and resubmit". So, I read through the editor's brilliant notes, and of course I revised and resubmitted! We'll see how that goes, but I should update my Pinterest page just in case.
Around mid-December, I hadn't heard much from the other house (the one who'd requested the historical) beyond some very nice emails. I was getting curious and wanted to contact them, but was advised by my friend C to hang on til mid-January.
I pondered contacting them on January 9th, but I truly felt God's hand on mine with a "just hold old..."
So, I went on about my business, and then it slipped my mind altogether.
Then, on January 16th, an email popped up from the editor who'd requested the historical "Could you please give me a call at your convenience? I’d like to talk with you about your manuscript."
I may have sat there like a deer in the headlights, blinking at my laptop screen.
Then I thought, "Waiiiit....they don't request a phone call to say no."
No, they sure did not!!
They want to talk to you in person to offer you a publishing contract!!!
Of course, I was a basket case.
And by "basket case" I mean, a "large shipping container made of redwoods"!!!
The conversation was lovely and I may have cried as I floated around like a drunk balloon. I called my husband, then I honestly can't remember who I called next, but when my brother called me about something else, and then started joking around, I told him to shut up.
K: "That's really not a way to respond, okay, seriously-"
Me: "Shush! I need to tell you something!!"
K: "Do I ever tell you to shut up, no I don't. So, wow, I-"
Me: "Shut up and just listen!!! I was just offered a publishing contract!!!"
Commence Big Brother Meltdown.
Commence more phone calls and more meltdowns of friends and family.
I was sent a contract later Thursday, and then decided rather quickly that since I don't speak math, I needed an agent. One thing that I've heard over and over and over, is that agents know much more about contracts than writers do.
So, I emailed that agent who I'd really wanted...
And then, Momming took over, and I went to my son's hockey game. We got home kind of late, but I made a few more phone calls. Why? Because I'm at least 1, sometimes 2 or 3, and definitely 4 hours later than everyone in my writer circle.
I stayed wide awake until 1:45am, because I was fly-ing! I woke up at 4:05am, then again at 5:04am.
Could I get back to sleep? NO!
By Friday afternoon, and after a few emails and a phone call, I'd officially acquired a new agent. I'm immensely grateful, and very much looking forward to working with Sally Apokedak.
It's February 7th, after emailing and chatting and sorting stuff, the contract has arrived. I am going bonkers.
Bless Sally, she congratulated me. I cried.
But I had a few questions...so off went another email.
11:06pm, February 12th. I'd literally been nodding off on my couch, and I was actually thinking about heading to bed when an email popped up from my agent, Sally Apokedak.
I do love saying that phrase, "my agent".
An agent should be the writer's greatest ally, her problem-solver, and the guardian of her career. I am thrilled and privileged to have her in my corner.
So, back to my inbox...my heart jumped, I heard a little BING! in my head, and opened up the email.
YAY! Good news!
Bless her, the couple of teeny issues with the contract have been sorted and I just signed it, and my husband witnessed it, and I sent it back to her to forward to the publisher.
Oh. My. WORD.
It's a good thing I was exhausted before this all happened, because otherwise, I wouldn't be able to fall asIeep until maybe 2am!!
It's Valentine's Day morning. I'm staring at the red roses that my husband got last night, and left them on the table for me to find when I got home from our youngest's hockey game.
Last night, before I left for hockey, I tried telling him that "now I have a real, full-time job".
Him: "You always did. You had two. Being a Mom, which you're great at. And writing."
Me: "But now, the writing feels real."
He smiled a certain, weird smile. One I rarely see. One that says "You sweet clueless women. You don't get it, and you're not listening, are you?"
He did that "set the chin, stare at her, and get her attention" thing.
Him: "Honey? Your writing has always been real."
Who needs a card with someone else's words when he says that????
It's 8:20pm, on Valentine's Evening.
We had a romantic dinner of Costco chicken wings and I made a salad.
I'd sent Sally an email asking if it was okay to announce our Big News, and I just opened her reply...so, here we go...
On February 12th, I signed this...
I am filled with profound joy, a sense of mission, and a sobering sense of duty.
But the greatest overall feeling is gratitude to God, and to my husband, my family and my friends, for sticking beside me these last eight years as I put one foot in front of the other and followed my dream.
THANK YOU to Jennifer Uhlarik, Ramona Richards, and Sally Apokedak.
Thank you for believing in my work, and me.
And to MK, for teaching me to fly.