Sunday, February 12, 2012


My hometown of Springfield was recently named one of Amazon's most romantic cities! In honor of both this distinction and the upcoming holiday, a vlog post:

Instead of giving out chocolate hearts to my followers, I'm offering another treat: I'm rerunning a guest post, which recently appeared on Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. The post, which details my long road to publication (and how, in the course of two hours in one day, I suddenly had both an agent and book deal), got quite a bit of attention online. I'm running it here in the hopes that it will continue to offer sweet bursts of inspiration, to those still chasing their first publication:

When I got my master’s in ’01, my mom invited me to stay home and devote full-time effort to getting a writing career off the ground (my lifelong dream). I figured it’d take a year or so to write a novel, then it’d sell (I was lucky enough to have placed poetry, short fiction, and literary critique in journals when I was in college, and was under the grand delusion that selling a manuscript would be a breeze for me), and in oh, two years or so, I’d have money in the bank, and I’d be off and running.

Okay, seriously. You can stop laughing now.

The truth is that I spent the next seven and a half years writing and submitting manuscript after manuscript…after manuscript. In that time, my friends from college finished up PhDs, started teaching, doing research, became professionals. I often felt like all I had was a deep gash in the drywall where I’d spent months upon months banging my head against it. And rejection slips. Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of them—more than a thousand in all.

Enter the holiday season of ’08. That’s when my YA, A BLUE SO DARK, was under submission at Flux. I spoke to Brian (Farrey, acquisitions editor at Flux) for the first time just before Thanksgiving, and though I tried to play it cool, I spent Christmas on pins and needles, tied up in knots, hoping that finally the acceptance I’d been working toward for so long would appear.

Appear it did, just a few days after the new year. And literally two hours—I swear it’s true—two hours after I accepted the offer from Flux, the phone rang. On the other end of the line was an agent who was raving about a middle grade book I’d sent earlier that fall. With an offer of representation.

I accepted (Deborah Warren later sold my debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, to Dial, and is still my agent). After that initial phone call, though, in the winter of ’09, I just stood in my kitchen, dazed, wondering how it could have happened. Seven and a half years I’d been seeking a book deal, seeking representation. And in the course of two hours in one day, I had both.

The thing is, though, I can’t attribute that incredible day to luck or holiday magic. That day is the result of hard work. Period. That day happened because I really did read every single one of those thousand-plus rejection letters (more than eighty of them were rejections for A BLUE SO DARK). Painful as it sometimes was, I didn’t just toss those rejections in the trash, insist I was right, and continue to submit the same book over and over. I digested the critique and I dove back in, revising before submitting again.

For the most part, though, I really think that’s what luck is really made of: the ability to recognize your own shortcomings, the willingness to listen to advice, and the sweat of some insanely hard work.

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