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finding a literary agentNovember is the month of gratitude and while this is already December, I found quite a bit to be grateful for in November. In a nutshell, a literary agent offered me representation…happy dance!

This is the latest step in a long journey toward reaching a dream to become a published writer. I’ve always enjoyed reading others’ “writing journeys,” so here’s my journey-in-progress, and I gotta say, so far this ride has been full of stops and starts, and highs and lows, but overall it’s been  fun.

Five years ago, I decided that (after almost nineteen years) I’d finally gotten over a terrible experience in a creative writing class in college, and I wanted to start writing again. So, I did. I re-kindled my dream and wrote a historical novel that I wanted to publish…somehow.

Getting a book published is a daunting prospect. The first step is to write a decent book. I already taught English and Creative Writing, but I didn’t have much confidence in my own writing skills. I knew I could teach writing, but could I write myself after so long?

I read all kinds of books on writing. I attended writing conferences. I wrote some more and revised. And I revised it again. And again. I had beta readers read it and revised it yet again.

I decided that I would first try to go the “traditional” route to publication by finding an agent who would then sell the book to a publisher. To do that, I had to find literary agents who represented historical fiction and write a query letter, which is a letter that introduces and “sells” your book to potential agents. This is a tough letter to write. You have to capture the essence of your novel and grab the agent’s interest.

I decided to query six to eight agents at a time. If I got no response, then I knew I needed to work on my query letter. If they requested pages but didn’t offer me representation, then I knew I needed to work on my novel. In my first set of query letters, I ended up getting requests for additional pages, but they all turned into “thanks…we liked it…but not enough.”

Rejected!

Even though I know that rejection is a standard part of writing, it still can be tough to swallow. At this point, I’d finished another novel and decided to hire a professional editor to give me developmental feedback on my historical novel. The editor I finally chose (after having quite a few give me feedback on my first twenty pages) ended up being amazing, so amazing that she said she couldn’t get to my book for almost six months. She was that busy. So I kept working on revising novel #2, a YA murder mystery, and began sending it to agents. I also sketched out a plot for novel #3, a YA treasure quest story.

I also went to another writing conference over the summer and pitched my mystery novel. Agents liked my pitch and requested it. Again, they liked it but not enough to represent it. I also still hadn’t heard from some who requested it, so I began writing novel #3.

At the beginning of October 2014, my editor emailed me, ready to begin working on editing my first novel. We exchanged emails daily as she asked questions to clarify the plot or characters. About halfway through the month, she wrote saying how much she liked my story and wondered if I would “mind” if she shared it with her agent.

Would I “mind”? Um, no! I wrote back immediately telling her I wouldn’t “mind” at all, thank you. Finding a literary agent is a huge task, and she offered to introduce me to one. Even if he didn’t like it, I felt validated, like I was on the right path. It also felt good that she liked my writing and my story.

Within two weeks, I had a phone call with her agent. And then another call a week later in which he offered me representation. This was all in the middle of NaNoWriMo. Needless to say, I got completely distracted with the POTENTIAL AGENT and didn’t finish my Nano novel (though several of my amazing students did).

My favorite part of this whole story is how it happened in a completely serendipitous, non-traditional way. There is still a long way to go, but I’m definitely on the way, and I have an agent as my new partner.

My agent (makes me happy even writing that) has requested some revisions. My novel has a contemporary story which “frames” the historical part, and the characters in the contemporary story need some development. Last winter, I was so tired of reading and revising this story, but now that it’s been nine months, I’m excited to be digging back into the story and playing with these characters.

What’s the most surprising, serendipitous event that’s happened to you as a writer? Share in the comments below.