Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesday? No. Story Time.

I know it's Teaser Tuesday, but MAN do I have a story for you guys, and I think you'll find it more interesting than a snippet of my thesis, which is the only writing I've done for the past week. (Thesis FTL!)

How to begin. Ah, I know:

Once upon a time, I signed up for a writer's conference called Midwest Writers at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Where is Muncie, Indiana, you ask? Why, it's smack dab in the middle of a corn field. Here, let me show you:

Yes, I took that while driving. No, I did not injure myself or anyone else.

While at Midwest Writers, I met several lovely and talented people, two of whom are currently my workshop buddies, Lara and Abby. I also signed up for a pitch session with an agent named Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

After the first day, I hung out with this big table of people after all the old people left for the day. Joanna was one of them. We all talked about creative ways to give out business cards (my contribution was Spiderman-like business-card-spewing wrist attachments) and movies and whatnot, and I instantly liked her. Plus, she laughed at my Spiderman joke, and anyone who finds me funny is someone I want to keep around.

(Because I make a lot of jokes. And when people don't laugh at those jokes, I get nervous, so I make more jokes, and soon I'm trapped in this insane joke-making cycle where people are staring blankly at me and I want a big hole to open up beneath me so I can disappear and stop the MADNESS already.)

Later I pitched my book to her, and she requested a partial, and at dinner some chicken juice squirted on her shirt and she made some comment about chicken splashies, at which point I decided that we were destined to work together. Well, not really. I try not to make assessments about destiny. I did decide that it would be mega kickass if we worked together, though.

Long story short: partial in. Revisions requested. Revisions supplied. Manuscript ultimately turned down in what was possibly the nicest rejection ever. And my response?

I wrote another book. And when it was finished and as polished as I could make it, she was the first person I queried.

I want to handle this part of the story delicately, because it involves a difficult decision that made someone I really like sad. So suffice it to say that it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but I will tell you about the sunshine and rainbows part.

On Sunday, I got a phone call at about 9PM. Okay, so you know how, while you're querying, you spend a lot of time refreshing your inbox and irrationally convincing yourself that every unknown number that calls you is an agent who will tell you that all your dreams have come true? Well, sometimes that unknown number IS actually an agent, calling to tell you that she lost power, which is why she couldn't send you an email, and PS, she's offering you representation.

Sometimes you respond with a silent scream and some quiet flailing and a comment about being on the way to Steak 'n Shake that you later regret because it is your tendency to think you sound like an idiot at all times on the phone. I know Debra Driza is familiar with this feeling.

And sometimes that agent makes a remark about being sorry it was all so informal, and you say, "No. It's perfect." Because it really was.

I had a lot of thinking to do, though. So after not sleeping until the wee hours of the morning because I was thinking about what I was going to do, I woke up to some incredible revision notes and the stupid fire alarm testing in my apartment building. If you're anything like me, you often feel like you just can't quite reproduce the vision you have in your head for your book, like when you set out to draw something and you can see it really clearly but it never comes out right on paper. And when I read those notes, I was convinced that Joanna's suggestions would help me to match the vision I had for Divergent with my actual manuscript.

If there was a sound for that feeling, it would be BAM.

Then we had a great conversation, during which I shockingly did not feel like an idiot, and I decided I wanted this funny, smart, spot-on-critiquer and generally awesome person to be my agent.

And then I got off the phone and did this:

(That is a re-enactment of my happy dance. And that pained look is my dancing face. Don't make fun. Also: see? I am tall.)

And then I sent a very difficult email to a very gracious and kind person.

And then I signed the papers.

And then I spent the rest of the day feeling like a small child hopped up on sugar on Christmas Eve.

Oh. And this morning I woke up and made this list of all the scenes I must now write:

Because it's REVISING TIME, behbeh!

And that is the story of how I came to be represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe.


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