The Short Story Long - Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of The Short Story Long (Or, How I Signed With a Literary Agent). If you're joining for the first time, you can catch up here.

In 2012, I moved to Boston to start an MFA in Writing for Children at Simmons College (chosen specifically for its focus on children's literature)...and sent out the first queries for the book I'd just completed. (Guess which one scared me more? Okay, that was actually just dramatic - moving cross-country was WAYYY more terrifying.) Several months, over 100 queries, and only 5 agent requests later, I shelved the book.

In the meantime, I was back in school over a two year hiatus. I was working at an independent bookstore, spending a lot of time among really amazing writer-people (some of whom became very close friends and critique partners!) and writing. And I got better.

(Brief interjection for those wondering if an MFA is necessary for becoming a writer: No, it is not. The most important elements of my MFA experience were a) writing seriously, b) reading seriously, and c) participating in the writing community, including serious critique partners and my writing group, but also the simple experience of being among other writerly folk. If you can cobble those together on your own, go for it.)

I started several projects over the course of my graduate studies, many of which I intend to come back to. One of the best parts of the MFA program at Simmons is the mentorship component, which matches writers with a publishing professional (usually an editor or agent) to work on one manuscript over the course of a semester. I had originally intended to rewrite my first (shelved) book for one of those mentorships. But when I sat down to start writing, something entirely different (and entirely more exciting) came out.

Father always told me to stay away from the witches. It was just his luck that I didn’t listen on the night it mattered most.

Those are the first words ever written in the project that became Curses Like Roses, before I even knew what I was writing about. None of those words made it past the first draft, but the voice demanded to be heard. Who was this person? Why couldn't she just stay away from the witches? I wrote to find out, and then I wrote some more.

It was a big, tangly mess, the most complicated project I'd ever attempted...but also the most compelling. I wrote in spurts and starts over the course of my last semester in graduate school, through graduation, navigating post-graduation life (for the second time!), over the summer and a trip to Thailand, back to Boston in the fall, getting engaged and suddenly having to figure out the ridiculous intricacies of the US immigration system, deciding to move (temporarily!) to Australia, finding a subletter, packing up my apartment, and getting on a plane in the midst of the worst winter in Boston history.

And then I was in Australia. It was January 30, and I had nothing but time and a half-finished book begging to be written. It was time to get serious.

Tune in next week for the next installment, involving Australia, Pitch Madness, and a finally-finished (for now) book...