The Short Story Long (Or, How I Signed With a Literary Agent) - Part One

Note: I started writing this blog post and it quickly got out of hand, which is why it is now a series. I figured you'd probably like that more than reading a blog post the length of a novel. (Though I could be wrong.)

If you know me on Facebook or Twitter (which, let's be honest, is most of you right now), you may have seen a VERY EXCITED announcement early last week that looked something like this:

That was, to put it mildly, the long story short. Now, for your reading pleasure, the short story long - or, how I signed with a literary agent. (And when I say the short story long, I meant it. Hang on to your horses, folks.)

Like many of you out there, I've been writing, reading, and/or dreaming about writing and reading for my whole life. No need to rehash that familiar territory. I still have scads of first pages of books that have migrated from laptop to laptop for no particular reason other than I can't seem to figure out how to get rid of them. I would start books and drop them two pages later, sometimes in the middle of a sentence. I was brimming with ideas...but not the wherewithal to follow them through.

Also 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013

Also 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013

Enter college (or university, as they call it in Australia). I had the great luck to be randomly assigned to a roommate who was just as interested in books and writing as I was (a near superhuman feat). She had been doing NaNoWriMo (long story short: write a novel, or 50,000 words, in the month of November) for a few years and encouraged me to sign up with her that fall. While I'd heard of NaNo before, I'd never gotten around to doing it until then. So come November, we saddled up with our comfy chairs, mugs of tea, and laptops, and I wrote...well...part of a novel.

It was 50,000 words. It was also a train wreck, and not something I ever felt inclined to revise. It was the longest piece of fiction I'd written, but it still wasn't a book. Meanwhile, college continued apace. I took writing workshops that convinced me I would never be interested in enrolling in a traditional MFA program and did NaNoWriMo again (and again), but never managed to make it past a fizzled-out half-completed zero draft.

Three years later I had a bachelor's degree and an unwavering belief that I was supposed to be a writer...but an increasing sense of worry that writing professionally was beyond me. I still wanted to work in books somehow, so the summer after I graduated I attended the Denver Publishing Institute, through which I landed a full-time job in the subsidiary rights department at a university press.

There. Money sorted. Stability. Time. But the writing specter refused to let me alone. In 2010, fresh out of college and straight into an office job, I sat myself down and gave myself a good talking-to: You have no excuses. You have the money. You have the time. If you don't write a book now... Well, it's now or never. So I pulled out my NaNo draft from the year prior, and, for the first time, sat down to finish a book.

It took two years. Two years spending too much time not writing, or worrying about not writing. So much time, in fact, that while writing the book I had the time to ponder how much time I was spending NOT writing, decide that what I needed was a kick in the pants in the form of dedicated time to write and a supportive writing community, and apply to graduate school. But I did it. I finished the book.

Tune in next week for the second installment, involving graduate school, writing friends, and over 100 queries...