Thursday, July 9, 2009
Fourteen thousand and two things have been spinning through my mind the last few weeks, and one of them was this blog post.
Should it focus on the CALL?????
The road that led to the CALL?????
The work, the choices, the contest elements that led to the CALL?????
In the end, I decided to work backwards because I’m already long-winded and no one needs THAT much Ruthy!
So we’ll start with the CALL because I love those stories. My boys (four of ‘em, think there isn’t some story fodder THERE????) were runners, a gift from their distance-running father not their chocoholic mother. Before each big race, Matt would canvas the other runners, shaking each hand in a gesture of respect because he knew what it took to get to that level. Win or lose, to make it into elite races in high school, college and beyond, he understood the work involved.
That’s how I feel about the CALL!!!!!! This time it was me, but each time someone gets the call, I understand the work, the sacrifice, the effort, the choices involved. So we’ll start with the call, step forward, and then look back over the next two months to the very stupid things I’ve done that no one should ever, ever, ever, ever do again. Learn from me. Please.
Story setting: (One of the few writing terms I’m familiar with because I don’t read writing books. Ever. This is a fact, not necessarily a GOOD THING. Just sayin’…) I’m in Pennsylvania to watch my beautiful granddaughter because my daughter and son-in-law are heading to Ethiopia to pick up my new grandson Nathan. He wasn’t Nathan then, but that’s another story. We spend a day of hustle and bustle, checklists everywhere, suitcases, etc. Finally get them out the door. I know where their insurance policies are, their wills…. Oh my stars, that’s a fun thing to contemplate, right???? But it is what it is and better to be prepared.
The phone rings an hour later. My other daughter in Rochester, NY. (Are you counting? Six kids. Six. What was I thinking? Why didn’t we buy a TV sooner??????)
Beth says, “Jon just got a phone call for you. From Harlequin.”
Heart stops beating. Harlequin only calls for one thing. ONE.
I look around. I have no Internet on my computer because no one remembers the code for their network, my daughter’s computer is slower than a lumbering brontosaurus in swampland because it’s older than dirt and due to be replaced next month, and HARLEQUIN called.
But which Harlequin???
Yes, that’s right. Somehow in the craziness of the past 18 months, I managed to have the same book catch the eye of two dream editors, thereby reeling me into a whirlwind of edits, changes, plot variations, etc. on the same cast of characters geared toward two separate houses. And it was an ACCIDENT. My bad. I forgot to send an SASE with a partial in early ’08 as a result of the Peninsula Pitch contest, didn’t hear anything and figured I was dead in the water until January ’09 when I got a lovely e-mail saying Supers liked elements of this story, would I be willing to change a few things, what a nice concept, etc.
Be still my heart. Another nice letter from the gals at Supers, Paula Eykelhof, Wanda Ottewell, Megan Long and Victoria Curran. These ladies have been encouraging me for the last year, with contest wins, advice, etc. Will I make the changes???
You bet I will.
But I have to explain to Paula that I entered the same book in Finally a Bride late fall and finaled. No results, but I don’t want to mess up and leave her out of the loop. FAB got the inspy version of the book. Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill and Rebecca Germany of Barbour are final round judges.
FAB results come out eight days later. I tied myself for first. Three requests, two from Melissa, one from Becky Germany.
Oh. My. Stars.
Are ya’ kiddin’ me?
The dance begins, meeting the requests as quick as possible. Coffee addiction hikes. Sleep becomes an occasional friend. I’m SO OKAY with that, because I have multiple chances to shine on the board. How often does that happen?
Fast forward. (All right Seekers, I know it’s too late to Fast Forward because I’ve already talked too much, but pretend, ‘kay????)
Melissa rejects the first manuscript because it’s too Single-titleish. I understand that because I’d actually written that series as ST's for the Steeple Hill fiction line before they closed it. Loved that line. Loved it. Digressing again. Oops.
She still wants to see Seeking the Garden, if it’s more romancy. It is. I tweak it, shorten A LOT OF WORDS (big surprise there, right???) and send it in. In the meantime, Supers rejects Detecting Delia, offers advice on how to change it, and likes the new partial on Seeking the Garden, would I send them a full?
Oh. My. Stars.
Both editors caught up with the same story. How on earth did this happen? I tweak the re-write I did for Supers, put it all together and send it in, which brings us back to The Call…
Beth reads me the number. The area code tells me it’s New York City.
I peek in my In-box on Sarah’s s-l-ooooooo-w computer.
“Greetings from Steeple Hill”…
Oh. My. Stars.
I plug in Katie’s new fave movie, Mary Poppins, and e-mail Melissa explaining where I am and give her the number.
The phone rings seconds later. Literally. NYC calling… Harlequin…
Melissa is a darling. Seriously. She knows what’s gone on, she knows about Supers interests, she knows that I’ve been working hard to fit one branch of my writing into their niche because I love the extended humor and the feel of single title books. We make a good fit.
BUT… I also love books with a stronger inspirational thread and a heartfelt voice that makes people say “Awwwwww……..”
She offers a contract on Seeking the Garden, now Winter’s End, due out from Steeple Hill in March of ’10.
But I can’t say yes right away because I’ve also got this manuscript on another dream editor’s desk, and you DON’T DISS EDITORS. Seriously. Don’t do it. EVER.
Melissa understands that I need to contact Supers.
I head home for the weekend. My family hosts this beautiful dinner for me, all of my favorites, my kids, my grandkids, my husband, my dogs….
Sparkling grape juice and champagne. Mallo Cups!!!! A whole bunch of them!!!!. Ghirardelli caramel squares. Flowers. A Gloria Jean’s gift card.
FOOD!!!!!!! Seth makes Artichoke French and Chicken French, my favorites. Mandy makes a beautiful cake, congratulating me. Karen and Matt bring ice cream cake, my favorite!
A big sign that Lacey made saying “Congratulations”, strung across the bay window. And all of this on top of the fact that they all worked all day and gathered at night, after work.
Tina agrees to announce my good news on Saturday, only by Friday I still have no clue who I’m signing with. Doh! No word from Supers. Melissa’s out of her office.
I send Tina an e-mail to hold the celebration until this is settled.
She doesn’t get it, but I don’t KNOW she doesn’t get it because I’m working hard and don’t think to double check.
Announcement comes out on Saturday… Ruthy sold to Steeple Hill. Which THRILLS me no end, but I don’t want to make the gals in Toronto mad because like Oliver in the orphanage, I want some more, please. I want to work for both.
I have no agent. I talk to my friend Andrea.
“GET AN AGENT.”
“At this moment you have the power to open up the manual of romance agents and take your pick. There isn’t anyone who won’t want you with this kind of interest. Go for your dream agent today.”
I write a THREE PAGE e-mail to Wendy Lawton. Wendy’s a cool dude. She knows both sides of the street, ABA and CBA. This woman has run her own mega-successful business, has inroads I can only dream of, and walks with movers and shakers in the publishing industry. It was no accident that I requested to interview her for Seekerville. I wanted her to know me, yes, like me, if this occasion ever arose. Paving the road for success is never a bad thing.
I get an Out of Office reply.
The next morning, though, there’s a Wendy e-mail waiting… She’s in Alaska on vacation, but she’ll call me.
Wendy calls. I can’t hear her. She can’t hear me. Oh. My. Stars.
I head back to PA with beautiful granddaughter. On the road all day.
Melissa calls. My son leaves me a message.
Wendy e-mails me that she’s got no phone access, but she’ll be accessible the next morning and she’ll call. God bless her for letting me interrupt a well-deserved vacation. I mean, seriously, that goes beyond grace.
I e-mail Melissa (by now it’s evening) to keep her in the loop.
Wendy calls next morning. We can hear. She asks to see some pages.
Oh, THAT’S RIGHT!!! Wendy has never seen my work. Ever. I am that audacious that I approached an agent who had never seen a Ruthy-story.
Umm, back to no Internet for my computer. Oh. My. Stars.
I grab the cute kid, pile the laptop and kid into the car, and head to Starbucks where I can upload opening chapters to an e-mail for Wendy. Hit send.
Wendy calls. I’m in.
Strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus run through my mind in “SCRUBS” fashion.
I now have a dream agent and a contract, with hope for more.
Seven years. Seven years of making stupid mistakes and hanging on. Helping others and hanging on. Moving forward despite life’s ups and downs (hey, they hit everyone, right? That’s why they call it life…)
Seven years of wanting the dream, working toward the dream, being uplifted in some contests and smacked down in others. Those years brought so much, but that’s another post. Or five.
And now a new page. A new beginning.
But my happiness is not complete until we get the last five Seekers off that dagblasted Island. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Island ambiance. The shore, the waves, the peace and quiet. But the food sucks. I’m sooooooooo sick of fish. And clams. And mussels. And seaweed salad. Thank God for mainlanders who weren’t afraid to send us regular supply boats.
So, yes, this is outrageously long. And it’s only a part of the story. Because I talk too much. We know that. Hence the slicing and dicing of aforementioned books to bring them down to current word counts.
I brought coffee. And cappuccino. And whipped cream/strawberry croissants. And chocolate. And cyber hugs.
So jump in and celebrate with me. I’m not taking anyone to the woodshed today, Julie’s or anyone else’s. (Still loving that post, Jules. )
Today we celebrate. Bring on the chocolate and caffeine, Ruthy’s in the house.