Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It Kinda Feels Real Now

My PM is up!!
Last night on Publishers Marketplace they announced this:

Shari Arnold's DUST, in which a seventeen-year-old girl witnesses the resurrection of the most popular boy in her school in the middle of his funeral, to Julie Romeis at Chronicle, for publication in Spring 2012, by Stephen Fraser at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency

Crazy! I KNOW!
I can't tell you how long I've waited to see that. Seriously. I stared at those words for, um, an embarrassingly long time last night. I still don't believe it. Perhaps when the book is in my hands it will feel real.

So now that the announcement is officially out there I thought I'd tell you all the fun story of how I came to be published. It's a long one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Reading is pretty important to a writer, no? Well this writer didn't read for about 6-7 years. Yes. I know. Insanity. But I was a little busy. I graduated photography school in June of 2000 and while I was in school I pretty much stopped reading. I mean I was barely sleeping or eating at the time (they kept us crazy busy) so giving up reading didn't seem all that dramatic. And then once school was done my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I decided it would be fun to start our own photography studio. 5 years later (and not much reading) we were still shooting weddings and portraits and then we decided to get married and then kid #1 came along...
Wow. This story is getting a bit long.
Anywho. It was around the time Kid #1 was 6 months old (2006) and we were visiting family in Utah for Christmas that my BFF Michelle (Hi Michelle!) told me about this rather unknown YA novel called Twilight.
Have you heard of it? Yeah. Didn't think so.
She placed it in my hands and said, "I thought you might like this book since you're, um, a Buffy fan and all. It's about vampires but it's really not about vampires, it's more a love story than anything else and I really think you should read it cause it's really good and I love it."
Okay. She didn't say it exactly like that, but it was four years ago. I can't remember every little detail.
So I looked at the book, flipped it over and then shrugged.
"Huh," I said.
And that was the end of that.
Or was it...?
A few days later while we were waiting for our plane to arrive in Baltimore I wandered into a bookstore and there it was, that Twilight novel with the white hands and the red apple and the happy stay-at-home mom smiling at me from the back of the book. She looked so nice, not like someone who would write a vampire novel. I smiled back at her and said, "My friend just loves your book. And it must be really good cause she doesn't read vampire books."
Then I went to put it back up on the shelf.

But I was bored.

Kid #1 was sleeping in her stroller. Husband was looking at gadgety things at one of those gadgety stores.

So I bought the book.

The silly part of this story is that once I finished the book I was suddenly convinced that it was time to start writing. I'd always imagined the day I would start writing my novel (doesn't everybody?) but in my mind I was like fifty and my kids were in college and I was living out in the country somewhere growing cats while my friends grew tomatoes and watermelon.
I didn't imagine I'd start writing while I was the mother of a small child that rarely slept. Nope. Didn't see that one coming.
So I started writing. And it sucked. Then I wrote some more. And it still sucked. Then one day it sucked a little bit less.
The day I finished my book I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe I'd written a novel! An entire novel with a beginning, middle and end. 70,000 plus words! Look at me!! WAHOO!
I was convinced it would sell immediately and that Stephenie Meyer and I would be swapping playlists by the end of the month. Her book had really taken off by then and every place I looked, Oh! There she was! And I knew all about her, her dream of the sparkly people in the forest and how she wrote the book in like 6 days and then sold it in 4 hours. For millions and millions of dollars!

Yep. We were just meant to be friends. (We even share the same birthday, y'all!)

Okay. Now I sound like a stalker.

Well. It didn't exactly happen that way.
I sent out queries and, holy cow, did I get a lot of interest! I was convinced by next year I'd be published.
And then next year came.
And then the following year. Soon I was pregnant with Kid #2 and even though I'd had a few close calls I was still without an agent.

And then December '08 hit. I got an email that went something like this:

I'd love to chat with you about your book even though it's a pass for me.


She wants to chat with me, like on the phone? But she doesn't want to represent me?
Perhaps there was some truth to that whole "when you are pregnant your child eats your brain" thing. Because her email sounded like crazy talk to me.
And then she called and it was great and she liked my book and even though she wanted to do a pretty intense revision she was willing to sign me!! ME!!
For days I danced around the house (in between bouts of nausea) and I waited and waited for my revision notes to arrive!
But they never did.
That should have been my first sign.
So I tackled the revisions on my own. I collected all of the rejections I'd received, every last word of criticism, and I sat down at my computer and got to work.
In the end I had a much better book.

And then about a month before Kid #2 was due to make his grand entrance into the world she emailed me and told me we were done. Over. The end.
She'd had a look at my revision and she'd decided it wasn't going to work for her.

And, no, I didn't cry. Nope. Not one tear. Even though I was ginormously pregnant and my hormones were telling me I could totally get away with it, I did not. Truthfully I was relieved. Things just weren't working between us.
So instead I sat down at my computer and sent out about 20 queries. And then I waited. Within an hour I had three requests.
I was back in business.
One month later I'm sitting in my hospital bed, I have a beautiful baby boy sleeping next to me, and I get an email from an agent. After reading 50 pages she wants more. So I send it. Yay for laptops and free Wi-Fi! (Writers are crazy people. We take our laptops everywhere.)
And then I go to sleep.
6/2009-The day I get home from the hospital my husband surprises me with a beautiful corner of the world I like to call my writing desk. It overlooks the most inspiring view and occasionally the cats will share it with me. Occasionally.
I'm crying/smiling/laughing, pretty much happy to be home from the hospital when the phone rings.
Agent #1 wants to represent me. She's lovely and excited about my book. She doesn't think I need to do any revisions at all.
So I write to the other agents who are reading my book and let them know I have interest.
Agent #2 emails me. He wants to chat tomorrow morning.
Agent #3 wants me to send her the full (she only had the first 50 pages)
I speak with agent #2 and he's super excited! He wants to sign me!
Agent #3 wants to chat too but by then I'd already made a decision.

I choose Agent #2!

Yay!! And he doesn't think my book needs any work either!! Super Yay!!

July 2009- Agentman subs book. I walk around in a state of constant anxiety for about three months. And then add a few more months.

November 2009-I can no longer ignore the new voices in my head. I start writing book 2

April 2010-I finish book 2

May 2010-After a month of reworking book 2 I send it to Agentman

June 2010-Agentman subs book 2 out to big scary editors

October 2010-Agentman calls me. I have a nervous breakdown before answering the phone. Just seeing his name on caller ID prompts me to turn to my children and promise them each a pony if they stay quiet. He tells me we have some interest. Editor in California wants to chat about book 2. But first, I have to get through the weekend. He hangs up. (Agentman can be a bit cruel sometimes)
Following Tuesday I chat with editor. She's awesome. I want to bake her cookies. She tells me she's going to talk about my book in the meeting tomorrow. I don't understand what this means but I pretend to.
The next day I don't hear anything by:
12pm (9am CA time)
or 5pm (my time)
or 6pm (my time)

When 7pm rolls along I'm resolved to the fact that I will never hear anything. Ever. I go upstairs to put kids to bed.
A little after 9:00pm I come downstairs and check caller ID because I'm crazy like that.
Agentman's name is right there. Right there! He called a few minutes after 9pm!!
He called!!
Why did he call?!? It's so late.
And he didn't leave a message! I call him back.
"The meeting went well," he tells me. "We should receive an offer after the weekend." (I really hate weekends)
11-11-10- Offer is in. We accept. Celebration of celebrations!!
That night husband takes me out for a yum dinner and...

I can't stop smiling.

Road to Publication recipe:
Started writing in Feb/07
11 months of querying to get 1st agent
1 month of querying to get second agent
17 months of being agented and 2 books to get book deal
5 months of subbing for book 2 to get an offer
(I still have hope for book 1)
10 months to write book 1 (not counting revisions)
5 months to write book 2

So. Don't give up. Ever.

I am now on Goodreads.com. Come visit me!


  1. Wow, what a journey! So glad you kept going & didn't let the bumps in the road keep you down.

    It is fun seeing the official announcement, isn't it? Congratulations!

  2. Congratulations! I love reading these kind of posts - they're so encouraging!

  3. Congratulations! This is an amazing story. Having a baby AND getting wooed by agents must have made for a crazy week! I am looking forward to Dust!

  4. Thanks Carrie! It was quite a week. Didn't sleep much. That's for sure!

  5. Yay for PM announcements!!! Congrats! :-)

  6. Wow. Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to publication. :)

    Congrats, I hope you sell a million.

  7. Thanks Misterkristoff! Can't wait to hear all about your success story!

  8. I loved hearing your story. And I actually think it all happened fairly quickly (from starting writing to accepting a deal) for you. Congrats!

  9. Thanks Laura! Looking back it does seem fast. It only feels like a long time when days go by and nothing is happening. =)

  10. Wonderful story. Congrats to you. Your book sounds like it's made of awesomeness.

    Nice blog you have!