It’s with great happiness I’m announcing I’ve accepted an offer of representation from Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency for my contemporary romance, Shelter. Jessica represents my fabulous writer friend, Amanda Heger, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about her for a while now. I probably should admit I’ve also Twitter stalked her, and admire both the stories she chooses to represent, as well as the agency as a whole. So, a week after the offer, I’m still doing a happy dance.
As with every writer I know, my journey to publication’s been neither swift nor easy. I’ve been writing awhile. At first, I wrote simply because I had stories I needed to get on the page and made no real attempt at publication. About five years ago I got serious (quite possibly because it’d be a justifiable reason to keep writing) and did what I’d been dreading. Since I’d accumulated a handful of manuscripts over the years, I picked the one I felt was the strongest and started getting rejected, uh, querying that is.
Occasionally I’d get a request for a partial, get super excited, only to later receive a more personal rejection. Most of the writers reading this know that pain very well. But, it’s part of the industry, and as Jeff Gordon said about racing, he learned more from the races he lost than the races he won.
A little over two years ago, I entered an online pitch contest for a YA urban fantasy I’d written and got lucky. Not only did I get a request for a full, I got an offer of representation that I accepted. After six months of revision, my manuscript went on limited submission. Although no offers came through, the feedback from editors was extremely helpful and offered insight on how to make it stronger. It was right about then the market for urban fantasy tanked. And, so far, has stayed there.
This has been said in many ways but it’s important to remember. I love seeing this somewhat crooked sign at my son’s karate dojo every week.
Fast forward another year and I took the scariest leap of my journey so far. I struck out on my own again, knowing that what I really wanted was an agent to represent my adult work where I’ve done and want to do the bulk of my writing. What I did right—rather than rushing into querying again—was take my time and use everything I’d learned from my first agent (who I will always be thankful for), from being on submission, from critique partners, and from the industry to make the manuscript I’d chosen, Shelter, the best it could be. I originally wrote it five or six years ago and it needed major rewrites. But I loved the story and believed it could be salvaged.
As a result, Shelter went out stronger than anything I’d queried before. So, for those writers reading my journey in hopes of finding inspiration for staying a difficult course, I’ll summarize some of the things I think I did right in the hope it’s helpful: