I have a literary agent.
Yes, I know I technically already told folks that news back in March when I wrote, “Leaves Unfurling,” so this post is superfluous. Except that in the month since I signed my contract with Danielle M. Smith of Red Fox Literary and updated my bio, I’ve had time to sit with the news.
I guess I needed to sit with it for a bit.
Remember back when you were a teenager and you started a relationship with someone you really, really liked? Someone you thought was everything awesome and you wanted to yell it from the rooftops and yet keep it a secret? Not because you were ashamed but because you wanted to hold it close where it was nice and safe?
That’s basically me with getting an agent. On one hand, I wanted everyone to know but I also hate that situation where everybody is looking at me and I feel embarrassed. Sort of like when it’s your birthday and you are torn between wanting your friends and loved ones to celebrate you, but really, really don’t want the whole restaurant to sing “Happy Birthday”. I guess I’m still cringing from having participated in some PDA back in high school.
But something happened yesterday that made me realize that this isn’t just my news. It’s Danielle’s too. And while she was very gracious about me doing a “soft announcement” I have no idea if I basically muffled her own yelling from the rooftops. Because she and I are in a partnership and this isn’t just all about me. (If so Danielle, sorry. Mea culpa.)
Also, I have been mostly solo in this adventure from that first night I sat down at my kitchen table and started writing out a story that begged to be told. Those who know me know that I can be fiercely – stubbornly – independent. As long as I can remember, I’ve been that irritating person saying, “I can do it by myself!” But when you want to be a traditionally published author, you really can’t be. I may be what is flying this operation, but Danielle is the proverbial wind beneath my wings.
Yesterday, both my Twitter friends Kerry Schafer and Kari Lynn Dell “figured” out that I’m now agented and we tweeted back and forth about my having been so quiet about the whole thing. There’s a whole spectrum of opinions on the topic of writer’s making announcements, but I finally put into words (or a tweet as the case were) why I had taken such a quiet approach to things.
I am afraid of jinxing it.
But since being a published author, hell, being a happy human being, is more about taking risks than playing it safe, today I am doing my version of shouting from the rooftops. Because this news isn’t just for me and Danielle to share, its also for those who have supported me (and her) for all these years – for them to have something to be happy for us about. And honestly, after a month of sitting on these feelings, it occurred to me that this news is a lot like telling people you are pregnant. On one hand, we don’t tell others in case we lose the baby. It’s not a bad theory – that having to “untell” good news is hard to do. But having kept pregnancies secret through my first trimester and also having lost a pregnancy at 9 weeks, I know how important it was to have those close friends know what I was going through when I was so heart broken.
So if this jinxes things and I have to someday share that Danielle and I have parted ways, so be it. I know my friends will be what gets me through that heartache. BUT that’s not going to happen because Danielle and I are like peas in a pod. We get along like peas and carrots. We are solid. Whatever. She’s my agent and I’m her client and it looks like smooth sailing. And if the time ever comes that it isn’t, I’ll approach our relationship the same way I do my marriage…I’ll talk through the issues even if it’s a hard conversation to have and then there will be ice cream and smiles and happiness. (Right, Mister Soandso? Smiles and happiness – 24 years and counting!)
If you are curious about how Danielle and I became partners in this writing business, keep reading. If you’ve gone past your coffee break or whatever, I understand. I’ll just say this…the start of our partnership is completely like me. Equal parts awkward and funny.
Back in September, 2014 or so, the wonderful Amber J. Keyser tweeted about the SCBWI OR Fall Writers Retreat and for some reason, I clicked the link. It was scheduled for the weekend of my birthday. It seemed like a sign. And it turns out, it was a huge gift to myself and my writing life.
I registered for the retreat and got back to working on my novel which I had basically let collect dust for almost a year.
The first night of the retreat, I put on my best “extrovert” demeanor and wandered down to the bar for a glass of wine, socializing, and some live music. Not long after I got some wine from the bar, the person I was talking to turned in for the night and there I was…full glass in hand and no friends to talk to. So I took a big breath and sat down next to this sweetly smiling young lady and did the whole, “Hi, my name’s Kristina, blah blah blah.”
She was on the couch next to mine and the music was blaring. Basically all I heard was “Danielle” “something” “something” “fox” “something” “writing” “something” “California” “something”. I smiled, nodded and acted like that all made complete sense. But in my crazy head, I had one of those full conversations with myself that went like this: “Wow, I didn’t know that George Fox has a MFA program. That’s pretty cool. Not something I thought they’d do, but whatever.”
Pretty soon, two other young people she knew came by and joined our conversation. By the time my glass was getting close to empty, I’d segued into my socially animated extrovert self and was telling stories, making them laugh, et cetera. And then during the band’s intermission, someone said something that displaced my theory that George Fox University has an MFA program. My reaction was something along the lines of:
“Excuse me, what did you say you all do?”
Danielle repeated that she is a literary agent and the two people who joined us? They are both editors.
Remember, I’ve already drunk a glass of wine. Oh, and that’s usually my max. My next reaction was this:
“What?!?! Oh my god, if I’d known you were an agent, I would have never talked to you! You people are scary!”
Now, you need to know this about me. I am terrified of ever making a mistake. In any situation. Seriously. Back in kindergarten I nearly refused to go home because I’d gotten two problems wrong on my math worksheet and I was sure my parents would punish me. My poor kindergarten teacher was a saint and so were my sweet classmates who offered up all sorts of advice on how to hide the evidence of my perceived failure. Obviously, I have more issues than Newsweek.
So the thought of having spoken so freely to three of the four industry folks at the retreat just about made me wet myself.
But that was probably the precise reason Danielle and I connected first at the retreat and then via Twitter. She saw my mostly real side versus the safe, very professional side that I always try to present to agents. And that glimpse of my real self, in addition to the reading I did of my novel that weekend, worked in my favor.
Then in December, I’d tweeted something along the lines of “you know you are in plot hell when you ask your 8yo for help” and Danielle got in touch with me. That tweet led us to several direct messages and then she offered to look at my manuscript.
I never had to write her a safely worded, very professional query letter. Instead she saw my deeply messy, complicated, and raw self, and for some reason didn’t run away.
Instead, she said the words every unagented writer longs to hear and I got the gift of signing a contract with an agent.
She and I are working on a big revision of my novel and so the next step is likely far in the future. Until then, I’ll be flying along – winging it all the way. But Danielle will be right there, keeping me aloft. And for that, I am so thankful.
And Kerry and Kari, thank you for reminding me that being able to shout from the rooftops on the behalf of your friends is a very important thing – especially for writers. Here’s to the shouting!