Thursday, December 20, 2007

in which I recount the SPARK journey, pt.1

So how do you get a book deal? Well, I'll try to make it concise. But as with most things, it's a rambling, crazy journey. And although I've certainly seen my share of quick fixes of fame for folks as I've plodding patiently along, I think that for most folks, it's a long haul to get to this point.

For me, the story starts with a love of writing. I've written since I was a kid. Always loved telling stories. Vivid imagination. Crazy dreams. Typical stuff, I'd think. Broke into publication with non fiction. Professional essays, newspaper personal essays that garnered some local buzz and totally jazzed me each time I got to see the byline. My name. My article. In a real paper. That actual people actually read.

But that was about it. Working full time. Doing the mom thing. Piddled around with picture books. And let me say, there's a reason you don't see one on a shelf. I wasn't a little kid person. I loved my own, but never really could get in their heads as a writer. But I knew there was a book lurking in me. Many of them, actually. Just had to find a way to pry them out. Kept letting life get in the way. Easy to just go along. All our days are so full with just the regular stuff.

And then one day, SPARK came to me. My MC's voice, really. Actually, the scene that originally emerged one rainy afternoon while I was still at school and trying to get out so I could get home and then to critique group doesn't appear in the book anymore. Book itself wandered in another direction. But a girl named Anne had knocked on my brain. She was funny and brave and a little snarky. And she was destined for an adventure of a lifetime. In the original pages, she was trapped in history class, bored out of her head, writing a note to her friend. But I had a voice. And eventually, I gave her a story. (more on that later)

So I started writing. Some weeks, I wrote only two pages or so. But I kept going. And about a year later, summer of '05, I had a book. I called it Spark, the title it still retains. I'd had some pages critiqued at an SCBWI conference. Got some positive feedback. Moved on to revisions. Finished book in early fall of '05.

And then I hit one of the worst professional semesters of my life. Oh, I loved the kids I taught. But some other things at my school were not as jolly. Okay, things sucked. I was in a word, miserable. I think now that it was fate slamming me on the head, saying, get off your hind end and get that book out there. Now.

Sent it to one agent. Got a request for a partial. Just about peed my pants. But she rejected the project. I went back to moping through the bad school year for awhile.

Last day of January of '06, I pulled myself together. This time I did my full research. Picked a list of agents. Sent out the first batch of queries. Got three requests for partials in the first five queries. One request for a full after that. Couple of nos. And a silence for a few months from Laura Rennert at ABLA. And then in April, I status queried her. And discovered, to my undying gratitude, that she'd passed SPARK on to Michelle Andelman, who was building a client list. Michelle would call me, she said. I think I did the happy Snoopy dance for two hours.

So... Michelle called. We talked for very long time. Could you revise this, she asked. And gave me a very long list of suggestions. One included the word organic. I think the phrase overarching quest came up a couple of times. Sure, I said. I will revise. Of course I'll revise. Oh, heck, I'll revise the crap out of it. Please like me, please, please, please. (possibly it was all less desperate sounding. Somehow I doubt it)

By July, we'd signed to be buddies for life.

Revisions continued. Many things happened to SPARK. I learned that someone can love your story, get chills from your story, and still have a laundry list of changes so it will be commercially viable.

And then... one day... in its own good time... Somewhere around March.... we were ready to submit.

Tomorrow I will post about that.

I am still doing the Snoopy dance of happiness. Michelle still rocks. ABLA is still an awesome agency.

And I'm gone to cleaners, grocery, bank, blah, blah, blah.

Till next time...