Friday, January 23, 2009

Writing Journey: Part III

To catch up:
Part I
Part II

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.


Lara Neves said...

Reading this makes me cry. Success always comes after a lot of rejections (even if they are good rejections!) and that is so important to remember.

in time out said...

this is beautiful. thanks for sharing. i have been trying to write a book and it is a long process. good for you. and Great Books, btw. ♥

Rebecca Irvine said...

I remember exactly where I was when I had my book accepted as well. I cried too. This post brought back all those great feelings of celebration.

NorahS said...

This is a great series! I am really enjoying your story.

Josi said...

Gosh, this choked me up too. What a great story. I'd like to know the editors name that said it wasn't financially viable--bet they kicked themselves for that one.

Heffalump said...

Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

Kristina P. said...

I loved reading about your process, Annette. Thanks for sharing.

Luisa Perkins said...

The Writing Journey series is so very awesome. I LOVE that he took you out to lunch. What a mensch!

Jan said...

The song rollin rollin rollin, just played in my head as I read. Everything is moving along for you. Thanks for telling us all about it too. Many are living their dream through you :)

LisAway said...

I know this happened years ago, but I am so happy for you! And I would like to take you out to lunch by way of congratulations, too! :)

What a bumpy road, but look at you now! Awesome.

Heidi said...

I'm so glad I'm published or I would have to hate you right now. (That's the cool thing about books, though--there's room for many people to have their dreams come true.)

Erin said...

How exciting! I loved reading about this. Although I've never had the interest in publishing my own writing, I know how it feels to have a dream achieved. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

This has been fascinating and inspirational to read. How wonderful it finally have had your years of work pay off in the way you'd hoped. I'm so excited to reald your book, but I need to finish that strap, and it would be kinda lame to put off a gift to you because I'm reading you, don't you think. I should be done tomorrow ... then on to the book!

Melanie Jacobson said...

Oh, how I have loved this tale, Lyon! I am trying to fortify my determination to finish my second manuscript even if the first one isn't accepted. I hereby declare that I'm determined to be determined!

Heather of the EO said...

You stuck to it. You didn't give up. And look at all the people you're inspiring. You rock, lady :)

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I am in tears, woman! Tears! Remind me to read this a few years from now when I'm still chafing at the length of my apprenticeship, okay? This was so inspiring!

somecookIsew said...

Thank you for sharing. Back in college, I had the dream of being published someday, but I didn't do much with it after graduating. You've given me some courage to begin again although I've got some work to do to even get back to where I used to be!

Amanda D said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I can just imagine you running up the stairs. I can't imagine how excited you must have been though. Wonderful. Truly.

Jami said...

Excellent grammarian, published novelist, talented writer, strong, persistent, tenacious--C'est toi!

Alison Wonderland said...

Just reading through this makes me tired. Of course, it won't be that hard for me, My first book will be accepted and... oh wait. Shoot!

Rebecca Blevins said...

Wow. This post gives me hope, and nearly brings on the tears. Again, wow.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Wow, Annette. Your story reminds me of my own acceptance day. I also did the running-screaming-to-the-husband thing and then the crying. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world, and usually at the end of a long, hard road. But you're right. It's just the start of so many other things.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I always knew that a lot of work went into getting published, but wow ... you must have some thick skin!

And I am glad you persevered :) !!

Anonymous said...

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.

Oh, hooray!!!! Happy, happy day!!
And what an AWESOME hubby!


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