To catch up:
Having gotten rejection after rejection—but often positive ones that encouraged me to submit again—I felt as if the brass ring had been in reach. Over and over again. But never in hand.
Valerie, the champion in my corner at the publishing house I wanted to be at, was gone. The brass ring had slipped away just as my fingers skimmed it.
By this point, however, I knew what grasping that ring would feel like, and I was more determined than ever. I would not give up.
Instead, I printed off my newly-polished manuscript that Valerie thought had the most promise from a marketing standpoint (since I no longer had the cool privilege of e-mailing it to her). I wrote a nice cover letter to the managing editor with an explanation about my history, plus Valerie's suggestions and a note about our lunch together.
I mailed it off, holding my breath as the postal worker tossed my precious package into a bin.
That was November 2001.
I started working on another project right away, putting that book out of my mind and mentally deciding I'd think about it again around my daughter's birthday in May. That would give the company six or seven months to review it. My previous rejections from the same company had taken at least that long, and often longer.
At the end of January (only two months or so from submission), I received a phone call from an editor named Angela asking me to fill out some forms, as they planned to take my book to the committee.
The committee is where final publication decisions are made. The group is comprised of not only the editorial staff, but the head honchos, the marketing department, and anyone else who has a financial interest in the company’s bottom line. They look not only at the quality of the writing, but the potential audience and sales of any book.
Making it to the committee stage is a big deal. It means you’ve made several cuts already that most submissions didn’t. You’ve passed several stages of rejection.
So . . . you'd think that such news would have made me excited. It didn’t, not particularly. See, I had been to the committee before. Several times.
When a previous manuscript of mine was rejected by an equally large house, one of the head editors (I could totally name drop right now. I won't, but I'm betting that most writers who know this company know the name well) called me to say how my work was a “cut above” what they usually see, and that they debated—even with the president of the company present—whether to publish it, because it was good, but decided it wasn’t financially viable.
That's the rejection that actually put me in a good mood.
So instead of getting ready to whip out the pinata in celebration, I nervously filled out the forms (something that was new for this committee experience), sent them back, and tried not to get my hopes up. Again.
Almost exactly a week later, during the first week of February, Angela called back. At first I figured that I must have forgotten a form or left something blank.
Instead, she warmly welcomed me aboard.
I remember exactly where I was standing in the kitchen when she told me. And I remember speaking very politely and formally. Something like, “That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for calling.” She probably thought I was half dead or something, but inside was all fireworks.
I hung up and screamed.
My husband had coincidentally taken the morning off and planned to go into work after lunch. I tore up to our room and told him the good news.
And then promptly burst into tears. (The fact that I was pregnant certainly added to the emotional component.)
My then two-year-old daughter’s eyes grew wide when she saw me crying. “Why are you sad, Mommy?” she asked, clearly disturbed.
It was hard to explain that Mommy wasn't sad. In fact, Mommy was very, very happy. Mommy's life-long dream, which took years to accomplish, had finally come true.
My husband called his manager and said he wasn't coming in. He had to take his wife out to lunch.
Getting that first book accepted was the end of my apprenticeship, but in so many other ways, it was just the beginning of this road I’m still on.
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