It all started with a tooth.
No, stop, don’t click away. I’m being totally serious. Okay, mostly. Besides, this is that post that authors dream about getting to write, so sit down and ENJOY MY STORY.
Like I was saying. It all started with a tooth. Jenny the Tooth, to be more specific. Jenny the Tooth was the title character in my very first story, about an anthropomorphic tooth who escapes from her girl’s mouth and goes on an adventure through the school. I desperately wish I had a copy of that story. It won the state of Iowa writing contest for the third grade division, and I had to go to Des Moines and read it in front of 500 people. Terrifying.
As I got older, I continued to write, and took a couple of creative writing courses (which were full of people just like the “Guy in your MFA” account on Twitter). A common theme in these classes how difficult it was to get published. I’m not sure I really believed them at the time (ha!) but eventually “practicality” won out over writing and I let my book dreams fall by the wayside as I pursued my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
Fast forward to fall 2009, when I was attending a women’s group through my church, and got to talking with another girl around my age. She was also a writer, and she asked if I was going to be doing NaNoWriMo.
She explained the idea of Nano, and I went home and looked it up. I’d never really considered writing an entire BOOK. I mean, I read voraciously, a couple hundred books a year typically, but to be the puppetmaster? For an entire book? The extent of that power…mindboggling.
And thus my writing began again. I wrote 50K that November. And then stopped. For three more years. At that point, I started talking to my friend Jenny, and she was in the midst of writing and querying. She got me excited about writing again, and I finished my book.
Unfortunately, that book was not meant to be THE ONE. The next one I wrote, a YA sci-fi I was in love with, was also not meant to be. I’d always been told to be writing something new while querying, and another idea started tickling my brain. I had been interested in human trafficking for a couple of years (not the act of doing it, the push to END it). I had read stories, watched documentaries, and I couldn’t help wondering how someone got into doing something like that. What would it be like to grow up with that as your life? The only thing you knew? And that’s when Clara started talking to me.
This was a scary book for me for many reasons. It was adult fiction, which I hadn’t tried yet. The story came to me in an atypical format. (Chapters? Who needs ‘em? Linear timeline? So last book!) And it was dark. Really really dark. I wrote for a couple months on it, but could only go in small spurts. Clara’s story was difficult to tell. I worried at times that I wouldn’t be able to finish.
Finish I did, however, and sent it off to readers. The response was…wow. Those who had read all of my efforts so far said it was my best yet. I began querying. And got requests. Like, right away. I entered it in a contest and got picked, earning three more requests. From that contest, I had my first call with an agent, Agent A, who requested a revise and resubmit. At this point, my adult novel was only 72K words. Not nearly long enough. Agent A suggested several areas to expand and go deeper in the story, and over the course of the next six weeks or so, I was able to add about 23K words to the manuscript.
I sent my baby off again, as well as updated versions to those with the full already. Right after I had finished, I participated in the #PitMad Twitter pitch event, and another full request came from that. And then I waited. I worked on some other little things, nothing significant, started deciding on my NaNoWriMo project, and definitely did NOT stalk my inbox.
Finally, the email came. Agent A wanted to talk! And we talked, and it was great. She was nice, she was passionate about my book and truly believed in it. I was ecstatic. I went home and emailed the other agents with my materials.
The next day was crazy, filled with a handful of rejections, as well as a few more requests for fulls. Also, an email from the agent who had requested during #PitMad, wanting to set up a phone call. She’d finished the book over the weekend and was interested. So the next day Agent B called. And we talked, and it was great. She was nice, she was passionate about my book and truly believed in it. I was ecstatic.
And then less so. Because now I had a fairly big decision to make. And it was like being presented with two amazing desserts and being told I could only have one.
Real talk. This is what they mean when they talk about “offer week hell.” You’re making this ginormous decision that could affect the rest of your career, and meanwhile every time you get another “step-aside,” it continues to sting, because even though it makes your life easier (one less to think about), you still have that pang of, “Oh, they don’t want me!” Writers’ brains are weird. (I did get some very bolstering passes though, with positive comments about my storytelling. I may have the phrase “compulsively readable” tattooed on my forehead.) And believe me when I say this was honestly one of the most difficult decisions I had to make.
After many talks with friends in the writing world, daily phone calls with my mom, and serious pro and con lists, I had my decision.
I am extremely pleased to announce that I am now represented by Sharon Pelletier of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management! Sharon understands my story, and she really gets my main character, who is complex, and doesn’t see the world the same as the rest of us. I am super lucky to have found someone so amazing to love my story like I do.
I’m so excited to move into the next step of this crazy journey. I wouldn’t be here without the support of my parents, my friends, and the amazing Twitter writing community. It took almost exactly two years of querying, and three manuscripts, to get to this point. Never give up!
Huge thanks go out to Michelle Hauk and Brenda Drake, whose contests connected me with these wonderful agents. Also thanks to my amazing family and friends, who have been so amazing and supportive, and will continue to be. There’s not enough space on the internet to truly convey how important you all are to me. LOVE YOU!
No response: 5
Full requests: 9
I ❤ you! You are awesome and deserve every fabulous thing that happens in your life!
I love you too! You are my rockstar! Thank you for helping me to stay less crazy 🙂
I will say it again here. SQQUEEEEE That is so awesome! I’m so proud of you! You got this!
Ahhh! Thank you, Natasha! I’m so glad we’ve gotten to connect these past few months, and I can’t wait to celebrate with you someday too!
I love you! And I’m super excited for you! We have to finally meet and celebrate with drinks or something book nerdy. 🙂 A marathon of a book turned into a movie triology? Or something awesome! Congratulations!
Yes! That sounds amazing. Let’s always celebrate things forever. Harry Potter? LOTR?
That’s so fantastic Rena! Congrats! 😀 Also I would like to steal all of your awesome gifs 😛
Thanks, Ray! You are welcome to them 😉
Reblogged this on The Write Niche and commented:
My dear friend Rena Olsen has something to announce!
Love you, Margie!!!
Ahhhhh!!!!From the second I met you I’ve been dying to read this post!!!!! So proud of you!!!!!! Love, love, love you for never giving up!!! Can’t wait to see you hit your next milestone! 🙂
Really, Tana? The SECOND you met me? You must be a writer 😉 It’s bee so fun to get to know you and do this writing thing together. Can’t wait to read YOUR post like this!!
Happy, happy, happy for you!!!
Thank you, Lori! It’s been fun sharing this with you all!
Congratulations! What a cool story, and so few queries sent off! May your successes be many! Keep posting in the NW group on FB so we can follow your journey!
Thank you, Jenna! I will keep posting…the journey is far from over, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of neurotic moments where I need support 😉
Oh! Also, the stats from this book are MUCH lower than those from the previous two manuscripts I sent out over the last couple of years. If I added up ALL of them, the number would be much higher. Sometimes it just takes longer to find the right person 🙂
Out of curiosity, was the agent you chose agent A or B? And dessert? I’ll have second helpings!!!
I chose Agent B, the one who requested from a PitMad Twitter pitch. Contests and Twitter pitch events work!
w00t! Renas takin’ over the world one book at a time!!!!
Congratulations! I’m so excited for you.
Thanks, Rena! We are on our way to domination!
What a great way to tell this story. I have no doubt that your manuscript is “compulsively readable” after reading some of your blog! Congrats!
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