What I’m Not Going to Blog About:
—I will not be describing in detail the immense pain in my liver and lymph nodes that has taken over my every waking thought over the past few days
OR whining about how miserable and itchy and rashy I am
OR sharing interesting metaphors to describe the digestive troubles that have set in and turned my tummy rock hard
OR putting in a video of my “don’t throw up” mantra for the day
AND I will refrain from sharing the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we discussions about going to the ER that we held all weekend, the frantic Sunday night phone call to the oncologist on-call, or yesterday’s emergency trip to the oncology clinic to get some much-needed meds–on Valentine’s Day!
Because blogging about those things would be lame.
Instead I’m going to share with you My Road To Publication. Woo hoo! So much more fun. I love hearing other people’s stories and several people have asked me to share mine, and I think today is the day.
Forgive any pain-killer induced rambling, please!
Setting the scene: I grew up writing and had notebooks stuffed full of novels, poems, and fragments. After graduating from high school, I tried all sorts of other career options. I went to massage school, worked as a jazz dj, earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre and generally looked for interesting things to do (click here to learn more about crazy jobs I tried).
Then I started working in cancer research. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was NOT the job for me. I loved the idea of saving-the-world etc., but it was a less-than-cheerful job (and my office didn’t even have windows!) and not at all the puppies and rainbows sort of thing I like.
This was when I discovered that what I needed to do with my life was to write fiction for young people. I fell really and truly head-over-heels-in-love with writing. It was a great escape from my job and, even when I quit that job and moved on to more satisfying work, it was still absolutely perfect for me. In what other job do you get to spend your days living through crazy high-jinx, falling in love, making cool friends and having damn fine adventures? Writers get to create a world with each novel—a fun, gorgeous, tantalizing world with inhabitants who crack you up.
My writing voice turned out to have a strong teen vibe and that was what I had the most fun working on, so it was clear what I was going to write.
I joined writers groups, took classes, went to conferences and workshops and got that buzz-rush of sharing my work with other people. I finished my first novel (after getting some of those less-than-stellar pieces out of my system), revised and revised and revised it, then began researching the publishing industry. I decided to query both agents and editors, but focused primarily on editors.
I got a whole range of responses from form letter rejections to requests for the full manuscript to requests for revisions. One of the major stumbling blocks was that when I started on the novel, no one was writing anything on that subject for teens, but by the time I was submitting the novel, apparently several other people had gotten similar ideas as well. And they’d gotten there just before me! While I’m sure our novels were all quite different in style and tone, most publishers don’t want novels that have too similar of a theme or subject coming out at the same time. This was when I first discovered that Ideas Out of the Air sometimes float around and get snatched up by multiple writers.
I wrote a second novel and revised and revised and revised, did more research on the publishing industry, and began submitting it. I got the whole range of responses that I’d gotten before, but with different (though no less frustrating) reasons. It needed a bit more… something. Or it just wouldn’t fit with the current list.
Before I had time to dwell too much (I still hold out hope that these two novels will find homes someday!), something happened to grab my focus.
Picture this: It’s an early morning in December of 2007 and I’m sitting on our couch in Madison. The best couch of all time that I’d bought years before with my first real salaried-job paycheck. Oh, that couch! It was a gorgeous couch. The perfect amount of support, a soft, nubbly texture, the back and arms were just the right height, and it was perfectly adorable. (I miss the couch, can you tell? Our new Portland couch, it couldn’t claim to be a distant backwards uncomfortable cousin of that couch!).
Here’s a photo of the couch and our Madison living room to get you in the scene:
So it’s morning and Barrett is making me toast and tea before he heads off to work downtown and I go to work at the library. Bleary-eyed and making very little sense, I’m trying to tell him about this absolutely fantastic dream that I’d had the night before.
Me: “And this super bad-ass teen is sneaking into this building and she’s like this crazy master potioner and she has these six-inch long throwing needles tipped with poison strapped to her thighs in special holsters.”
Me: “It was so crazy—like a whole complex action movie and every twist and turn was a surprise.”
Barrett: “Here’s your tea, Bridge. It sounds, um, interesting.”
Me: “Yes, I know how annoying it is when people go on and on about their dreams and they’re all a jumble and don’t make any sense, but THIS WASN’T LIKE THAT! It totally made sense. It had like a plot and everything.”
Barrett: “Hmmm….” Sips his coffee.
Me: “Fine. I’m going to write it all down so that you can SEE just how great this dream was.”
I sat down during my lunch break that day and typed the whole thing up.
It wasn’t right. A couple pages of re-telling just wasn’t the same as living it.
I had to turn it into a novel. THEN Barrett would get the full experience.
I set all of my other projects aside to focus on my new novel, Poison.
The following fall, I submitted a chapter of Poison to the SCBWI-WI conference. The editor who read it there was encouraging. One year after starting Poison, I finally had a readable draft of the entire novel for Barrett. I submitted it to my writers group’s annual novel-exchange weekend retreat. The editor who spent the weekend with us was encouraging.
A couple of drafts later, by mid-to-late summer of 2008, I decided to start querying. This time I focused on agents.
Wherever Poison came from, it apparently wasn’t an idea out of the air caught by other writers. It only came to my house. There was a lot of interest from the agents I sent it to which was incredibly thrilling, especially after years of rejection and near-hits with my other novels.
About this time two years ago, I signed with superstar agent Michael Stearns.
Michael and I went through a round of revisions together (which took longer than it should have due to the whole stupid cancer thing) and my agent got crazy-fun interest on the manuscript when he submitted it to editors, it went to auction, and a little less than two years after I began to write this novel, I had a publishing contract with Disney-Hyperion with a slated pub-date of summer, 2012.
Almost eleven years after I’d decided to become an author.
Love to you all,