Those two simple words are spoken repeatedly by Tobias Eaton throughout the Divergent series, by Veronica Roth. Due to the fact that Tobias, also referred to as Four, is one of my book boyfriends, I believe you should see a picture of him from the film adaptation.
Tobias is brave, dreamy, and purely fictional, but I digress…
It’s a difficult thing to do, isn’t it? To go through life without fear or self-doubt. To have a belief that all will work out despite not knowing the end result.
Thirteen years ago, I decided to write a book. It was a memoir of my life, a way to take my constant memories and daydreams and put them onto paper, actually an old laptop that weighed about sixty pounds. The book was a mess, honestly, but it was my mess. It was my story. I sent it to my grandpa in a binder, all seventy single spaced pages of my memories. He emailed me that he’d read the entire thing and enjoyed it. You see, my grandpa had never emailed me before. I didn’t even know he had email. When my grandpa passed away, I brought the binder home from his house and inside were letters that I’d sent him. I still have them today.
My next writing endeavor was four years later and after my husband’s first deployment to Iraq. I wrote another memoir, this time of the deployment. I decided to query. For those who don’t know, a query letter is like cold-calling a literary agent through email or snail mail. Basically, you pitch your book and if they like it, they request pages. Most often you receive a swift rejection or hear nothing at all. I queried ten literary agents and received ten rejections.
After having my memoir rejected, I made the choice to start writing fiction. It was actually a great release for me because I was still home full-time with my kids and my husband was embarking on yet another deployment. I wrote during my toddler’s naps, amassing a 100K women’s fiction novel. I took another stab at the query game and garnered over twenty rejections. I did, however, receive a partial request for three chapters, which turned into a full request. For a few weeks I waited anxiously for her response and cried when it arrived in my inbox. Although she liked the concept, she wasn’t quite in love with it. She had some suggestions and said she’d be happy to take a look at it after a thorough revision. Although it didn’t seem like it at the time, I’d soon realize that a revise and resubmit is actually really good. I began revising the following day.
Revisions on my novel took another year. I studied the craft of writing, read a ton of novels, and wrote and rewrote and wrote again. When it was polished, I sent it to the agent who’d requested an R&R. She sent me a form rejection. I cried for two days.
I knew, however, that although it didn’t work out with this particular agent, I’d become a better writer and I had a manuscript to query. I queried widely and garnered a few requests. Ultimately, however, I didn’t sign with an agent.
It was a few weeks later that I was running on the treadmill and had an idea for a young adult novel. It was a complete overhaul from a project I’d previously abandoned. I wrote and revised draft after draft. I attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and pitched the book to ten agents, garnering eight requests. I took to heart all that I’d learned at the conference and revised the book again. I sent it to beta readers and revised another time. Finally, I sent out my requests and leaped back into the query game.
Those several requests turned into several rejections, with one full request. It was also depressing that in the time since the conference, two of the agents I’d pitched to had already left the field to pursue other careers. I queried widely and took any and all advice I could get. In all, I accumulated over sixty rejections.
It took a lot to pick myself up after that. Writing looked different and even though I loved doing it, I felt fragile and unsure of my abilities. I was asking people to love something I’d created on a hard drive and in turn take a chance on me. I buried myself in book after book after book.
That’s a difficult thing to continue repeating when no one wants to take that chance on you. I started training for the Portland Marathon with my husband and on one of our runs, an idea popped into my head (you see how exercise can really be good for you?) I wondered…what if Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora had daughters the same age and they, like, totally hated each other? In fact, what if the entire band had children in the same year and those children became instant celebrities who had to reunite years later for a reunion tour? And just like that, a book idea was born.
I wrote the first draft of The Reunion Tour in 2013, during Camp NaNoWriMo. When I’d finished and completed the 50K word challenge in a month, I realized I had something I loved, something unique, and something I was ready to revise. I read through it. It was a hot mess. Too many characters and not enough tension. I spent the next several months revising, and in January 2014, began querying.
This time around I received about an equal number of requests as I did rejections. I kept my query list small and only queried those I’d met at conferences or had researched previously. To be honest, I also tried to only query those who sent rejections because I can’t stand the “if you don’t hear from us, consider it a pass.” I totally get that people are busy, but I like to know outright that you don’t want to represent me, otherwise I’m going to obsess over whether or not you got my query in the first place.
In mid-January, I queried Marlene Stringer of The Stringer Agency. She was someone who’d passed on my work in the past and she was a fast responder, which I respect. You can imagine my surprise when I opened my email the day after querying to find a note from her saying, “This looks interesting. Please send the full and a synopsis.” I might have cried a little bit at this point.
I sent the full and waited while also continuing to obsessively check my email daily. I’d gone back to work by this time and was in the school until three o’clock, checking my email whenever I could get a quick break. The following Friday night, Marlene followed me on Twitter. I about passed out while shopping for birthday party supplies in Target.
A few days later, Marlene emailed to ask if we could talk on the phone. We set up an appointment for the following Monday. Luckily I had a lot to distract me as it was Super Bowl Sunday and the Seahawks won. It. Was. Amazing.
I signed with Marlene the following Wednesday.
And the rest is history.
You see, publication doesn’t happen overnight and all you can do is just keep swimming, just keep swimming….well, in my case…just keep writing, just keep writing…
That was just the start of my journey. I continue to write and seek publication. I wrote another novel, Catch and Release, last year. That book is super close to my heart and I love, love, love the characters.
Tomorrow I will embark on another Camp NaNoWriMo in which I will draft a third contemporary YA novel. Every new writing venture is about taking a leap, being brave, and pursuing a dream.