Next Steps for My Novel
It’s a moment I may never forget: I’m painting walls in my new shrine room (painting is on par with dusting for me, meaning–no thanks)–and I’ve been away from my desk for nearly 2 days of housework and travel. In a very uncharacteristic move, I stop for a break, step into the backyard, and use my smartphone to briefly peek at my Gmail inbox. This is not something I do often–I had to learn how to use email on my phone and still seem to screw something up every once in a blue moon when I attempt to log in.
But there I was, work pants splattered in Goldfield Yellow, and all the glory of a mild Blue Ridge spring day surrounding me on our new property. I had just enough of a signal to load my inbox and as soon as the screen lit with that day’s latest, I screamed out loud. A new message had arrived, just moments before, from Nat Sobel. Someday, I’ll tell the full story of how the past 4 years and 14 emails and a lot of guessing led to the moment of Nat Sobel sending me an email that would change my life…
…but for now, I’ve got to finish this story. Which means I also need to tell you that, two days prior, I had sent him the 7th revision of my novel Still Come Home for his consideration. I had a free pass out of the slush pile (for reasons I’ll explain in that other story, someday soon) so I knew that my work would be read respecfully and with interest. But I didn’t know that I’d hear back within 48 hours. What did he have to say?
That he’d like to represent my “first-rate novel” and that his experience of reading it included feeling like the tension never let up. That he was excited to work together, and he believed we could make things come together. And then…I finally did drop the phone. I screamed up to the mountains, then ran–for no explicable reason–from the backyard around to the front and up onto the porch steps. There, the view of the Black Mountains opens further. “Did you hear that?” I called to the ridgeline. “I have an agent! Nat Sobel is going to be my agent!”
Do you know what I heard calling back? Four years of effort; four years of blind faith; four years shooting into the dark; four years of doubt; four years of determination. Together, they replied: “HELL YES!”
And so I’ve taken this leap–launching my new website this week, announcing my next big career step publicly, and working through a new scene and chapter to send off to Nat by the end of this month. There are many, many more steps between here and a sold book, let alone a published one I’ll be able to hold in my hands. There are also no guarantees. But what I do know is this: my novel now has the best chance I ever could have imagined at making into a trade publishing house and reaching the wider audience I so yearn to reach. Now, I’ll be able to look back and say I did everything that I could; that I tried and kept on trying. No matter the outcome, just knowing that puts my mind and heart at great ease.
When it came time to write the new scene and new chapter, I returned to my draft with a new set of eyes. I’m more confident, feverish almost. I believe in my work in a way I haven’t before. It’s not as though I hadn’t found glimmers of possibility and achievement along the way–not at all–but someone with much more experience in the industry than me has seen and held the weight of my novel and he believes it has a chance. That bolsters me beyond belief.[The Writing Life blog, after 11 years, is now called Putting it Into Practice. If you’re not subscribed to my newsletter, use the subscription link on this website to assure you get a message from me every 6 weeks, which will include links to new posts as well as pertinent updates and discounts on services.]