Rally, Rally, Rally

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They say it comes in threes and this isn’t the first time this has happened to me in the great state of Michigan (1, 2, 3). With the help of mentors, I rally. Michael Delp, Jack Driscoll, Doug Stanton—heavy hitters in Michigan and nationally, and we overlap during my brief stay in Michigan at just the right time.
“It’ll happen,” Driscoll tells me on Friday afternoon. “It’s not ‘if’ it’s ‘when.” We’re catching up over the phone since we’re both finally in the same time zone. “We’ve all had workshops that weren’t packed full. Even last year I had a reading with only two people who showed up. It’s not something you’ll ever get away from in the writing life. You just have to take it in stride,” he assures me. “And you’re doing everything you know how to do. You’re making it happen.”
I don’t tell Driscoll when my reading is or even what building on campus to find me in. But still, several hours later he shows up, sunglasses and baseball cap and all, sitting in the back row for my reading. He’s there in support and his gesture couldn’t have been more timely.
Then on Saturday night, my friends and I go out to Red Ginger for some much-anticipated catching up time. Of course, Traverse City is famous author Doug Stanton’s hometown, but still—I find our chance meeting more than coincidental. I’ve sworn to myself to make May the month of submitting to agents and upping the ante with publishers for the war stories. Seeing Doug seems like an omen. He recognizes me, I’m certain of that much, but I don’t know that he’ll remember my name so when I approach his table, I extend my hand and remind him: “Katey Schultz. I was the writer in res for Interlochen last year,” I say.
“That’s right, Katey! I’m supposed to blurb your book, aren’t I?”
The world expands for a moment: I hear someone in the background placing a sushi order, in the kitchen a glass is dropped and shatters, to my right a woman gabs on her cell phone, but in front of me—IN FRONT OF ME—is someone who has the power to put my war stories into the right hands.
“Yes,” I say. “That’s right.”
Then we talk about where I’ve sent it, what my plans are, what I need help with. He even wants to know about one of the stories, the perspectives I’m coming at it from, the whole bit. That night, I go home and send him the manuscript. Two days later I have a response: “I’ll be traveling until May 17th,” he tells me, “but I will have a response for you when I get back.”
For hours I entertain the fantasy that he reads the work and finds it so compelling, he puts it into the hands of some all-powerful New York agent or publisher and the rest is history. Tell me we all have such delusions of grandeur, that we all hope so hard it hurts, that we all get scared sometimes by how badly we want something—right?
Then on Sunday morning, I get a call. “Katey? Katey! Are you up yet?” It’s Delp. He’s semi-yelling into the phone because that’s how he talks sometimes. “Bud’s is open. Let’s go get some coffee. Are you ready? Let’s get some coffee.” We meet on campus and he whisks us away in his new Prius, gas pedal pumping even for the 1-mile drive down the highway to our fave coffee stop.
“It’s real work you’re doing,” Delp tells me. “That war stuff. You can tell when you read it. You care about the work. You’re not putting on a show. This has to go big!” He stabs his scrambled eggs and eats quickly, emphasizing each word between bites. “You need to get on Fresh Air. You need to hire a publicist, even if it costs $4,000. That’s what Doug says you need to do. Hire a publicist.” Delp looks up at me to make sure I’m listening. I assure him that I am. He concludes: “It’s timely, it’s well-written. Make this go big time.”
All the way home, across Lake Michigan, back over the Rockies, all through downtown Boise, back over the Minam Pass, and all the way into Wallowa County, Oregon I rally. And rally some more. May will be the month for the big push. Bigger and better than I ever thought I should go. Agents, maybe even a publicist. Who knows. I get on Facebook and email Tom Hazuka, Judith Barrington, Charles Baxter, Steve Almond, Deb Olin Unferth and more. By morning I have responses from the first three, including a solicitation for an ANTHOLOGY one of the authors is compiling. I get a few names of agents and start Google searching.
Tomorrow? More of the same.

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