I am on an endless quest to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I've been a chicken farmer, bartender, ski instructor, English teacher, and a lawyer. As of June 2012, I am a Young Adult author. I think this one might stick. I live in Minnesota with my amazingly patient husband and our three above-average children.
Notes from a YA Debutante
MY JOURNEY TO PUBLICATION:
I'm a planner, but there's no way I could have planned my journey to publication. In fact, if I'd tried to plan it, it would have never worked.
I've been writing my whole life--but just for fun. That's what I'd say, "This is for me; this is for fun." Then I wrote a list titled "Things to Do Before I'm 40." On that list, of course, was "write a novel." I put that list away and did other things.
Then when I was 35 my sister asked how I was doing on my list. Turns out I hadn't crossed anything off. She told me to write. So I wrote a really terrible novel. I knew it was terrible. I didn't need any literary agents to tell me that. It was fun though. So I wrote another one.
While my first novel was historical fiction, the second was contemporary romance. The second was better, but only slightly. Still…it was fun! I joined a writers critique group. I published some short pieces. Then I wrote a Middle Grade novel for my 12 year old son. Wait…what? Now that was REALLY fun! Sometimes you have to play around and try different things. I needed to make mistakes to finally figure out my sweet spot. Turns out, my writing "voice" is better suited for MG/YA novels than it ever was for serious historical fiction.
Then things got weird.
I went to my first writers conference. My plan was to pitch my second novel (a contemporary "adult" novel) to a literary agent and get a lucrative publishing deal! Duh. Apparently I wasn't alone in that plan. I couldn't believe it when I showed up and there were hundreds upon hundreds of hungry-eyed writers clutching manuscripts to their chests. Dang it.
Not to be unduly freaked out by my competition, I went to the first pitch session. Let's just say it did not go well. Things got worse when they announced that the only other agent I signed up to pitch was sick and couldn't come. So on a whim I pitched to an agent named Jacquie Flynn. This second agent (as far as I could tell from Google on my tiny cell phone screen) only represented nonfiction. Still, it couldn't hurt. At least it would be good practice. On a whim, I pitched her my MG novel instead of the adult novel, and she said, "That sounds cute. Send me that." So I did. Then I promptly forgot all about it because--as I said--she only represented nonfiction--she was just being nice.
I went home and started novel #4, this experimental YA novel about murderous mermaids on Lake Superior. At first, I called it THE PROMISE. Four months went by. Then, in August 2010, I was in the drive-thru at Arby's when my phone rang.
"Hi, Anne. This is Jacquie Flynn. I was at a hockey tournament and my son forgot his book at home. He pulled your MG manuscript out of my bag and he read it. He told me to sign you. So I read it, and I think he's right."
My intelligent response was: "Wait? Who is this?"
Flash forward another four months and that MG novel hadn't sold. All the editors said, "I love this but…" But the economy, but it's too quiet, but we already have a similar book on our list. I could have felt defeated, but by that time I'd finished that mermaid book, now titled LIES BENEATH. Jacquie sent LB out on January 24, 2011. Random House/Delacorte bought it one week later in a two-book deal, which I hope will ultimately be three.
So that's my publication story. Like I said, I couldn't have planned it, but I'm glad it all worked out!
Bookie's Note: Mermaid Books <3 This is one YA trend that I'm loving and Anne's debut sounds so absolutely, unbelievably fantastic - I'm going to get a copy once I work myself out of this so called poverty of a teenage life! The power of kids! What a story, maybe one day that MG book will see the light of a Barnes and Nobel store hey? And like you said, everything worked out well! :) We're happy for you!
Badass Bookie xx