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Monday last week was pouring rain and I’d had such a crappy week the week before with my classes. My students weren’t doing their reading, I was tired from pulling out all the stops trying to spark some interest, I was feeling a little like a failure in both my teaching life, and my writing life. And then later that morning I got the best email ever from an agent who had requested my full the week before. Her enthusiasm for what she had read so far (about 60 pages) just leapt off the screen. She mentioned two of my characters by name. She just sounded so very excited in ways no one had ever sounded before. She was an agent on my “A” list — a very short list (it was a work in progress) of agents I really, really wanted because something about them — some things about them — really clicked with me. She told me she could see herself finishing in a couple of days, and was looking forward to getting back to me then.

I was deliriously happy. I also couldn’t concentrate on anything, especially not the huge stack of student papers I had to grade. I probably babbled a lot in my classes that day, and the next one, too. I probably babbled to everyone I ran into. I checked my email every chance I could get. On Wednesday I just had a feeling that I would hear something from her. I tried to brace myself by imagining the worst — that she would send me an email saying something like “while I enjoyed the first part of your book, I found I just didn’t connect with the rest of it”. In my head I went back and forth between the worst scenario, and the best possible. Doing that will make a person crazy very quickly, trust me. Then, right before I was supposed to meet with a student, I refreshed my gmail account for the 100th time, and an email popped up from her.

She loved my book! She wanted to talk to me on the phone! That same day! 5:00 pm!

The student was due any second, so I had to shut my office door and do a spontaneous, Elaine Benes – esque dance. I couldn’t scream, because there were students in the language lab across from my hall and I didn’t want to scare anyone. But I think I did a silent scream. I think maybe I did several. It really was an indescribable feeling because I had wanted for so long to get such an email and then, there it was. Even though I had daydreamed the moment for years, it turned out I was totally unprepared for how I would feel when the moment became a reality. I also wanted to pick up the phone and call my husband, but right then the student walked in, so I had to compose myself and somehow help him understand how he could revise his rhetorical analysis paper.

There was more agony that afternoon because I also had to sit in on a long meeting that afternoon and talk about TEP reports, when all I could think about was how I just wanted to be home,  my cell phone at the ready, in my cozy home office, waiting for the agent to call. I bolted from the meeting at 4:00 and raced to pick up my daughter from a friend’s house. On the way home we talked about the fantastic news. I told her I was secretly worried that maybe this wouldn’t be The Call — that maybe it would be that other dreaded and inexplicable call that sometimes agents make, the one where they tell you they loved your book and really wanted to tell you that in person, but they just can’t offer representation.

“Oh Mama,” she said to me. “Of course she loved your book.”

I felt better then.

The agent called at 5:00 pm on the dot and we had the best conversation. She was 100% easy to talk with, so approachable on the phone, and she spoke with such affection about the characters. She really understood them — especially the main character, and had such amazingly thoughtful things to say about all of them. She talked me through the edits she envisioned, which really didn’t seem too bad over the phone (what could possibly seem bad, though, during such a phone call?) — just the addition of four scenes totaling no more than about twenty pages. We talked about the publishing industry, we talked about teaching, we talked about about diversity in YA fiction, and it was all so very good. I was truly so impressed and comfortable with her. I felt everything just slipping into place. She told me she really wanted me to say on the spot that I would accept her offer but that she understood if I felt I needed some time to notify the other agents who had partials and fulls.

We agreed that I would let her know by Monday next week. I suppose I could have asked for more time, but I didn’t want more time. I had done quite a bit of research on her, and the way we clicked on the phone just sealed it for me. I did email the other agents that night to let them know (those emails were actually totally fun to send out!), and by noon the next day I had heard from all but one. Three sent me congratulatory, warm emails letting me know they were stepping aside, one was disappointed that she didn’t have more time but she understood (I didn’t push things with her and offer her more time because she didn’t seem as good a fit for the book), and the last one who hasn’t replied — well, I wasn’t going to wait on her when I had such a good thing in the works. That afternoon I called the agent back and it was done! She will send me a written document with the outlined edits on Monday, and then the fun/work begins.

When good things happen they can happen quickly. The same is so true of bad things, too, and a part of me is always aware of that. Life can turn on a dime, can’t it? It is also true that it really does take just one agent. I’m not sure I believed that even two weeks ago, but now I see how it can be completely true. A writer may not have dozens of agents wooing them but, in the end, they really just need the one. The one!

 

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Last Sunday evening, just when I was settled on the couch to catch up on an episode of The Killing on Netflix, I foolishly checked my email again and got a rejection from an agent who had my full MS.

He said that while my writing was impressive (impressive!), my book was “too quiet” and then, to emphasize one more time, that the story “just was too slow” to sell (boo!).

Wah!

Too quiet! I had heard that phrase a few times with the two other manuscripts I queried before this one. I don’t know — I like quiet books. I like to get to know the characters slowly, to be pulled into their minds and their lives. I like to feel their transformations — I like their realizations to become mine, but gradually. I do not want to read a book and be hit over the head with anything. I especially don’t want to be told how I should feel, and why. I want to read and then have the realization dawn upon me — all on its own — that I really care about these characters, and even if I don’t always like each and every one of them as people, I want to know what happens to them because they’ve made a mark on me, in some way or the other.

I also completely disagree with the notion that teens can’t or won’t enjoy a “quiet” book. That all they want is action, love/sex, action, more love/sex, action and that everything has to zoom along in the narrative because the average teen’s attention span is so short and it’s time to get to the most amazing, most utterly exciting part ever before they put the book down and get back on Instagram! When I think back to the books I enjoyed, they are the types of books I hope I write. After all, that old and wise advice about writing what you know, and writing what you like, is 100% sound, I think. Maybe, in these days of so many distractions, teens do have trouble staying engaged in books, but I know many real, live, teens who are not that way, so they are obviously still out there, and still reading.

Anyway, that is my rant on quiet books. I will keep on reading them and I will keep on writing them.