I got a book contract! And I bet you can, too.
I don’t know if this is actually true because I don’t know anything about you or your book. But it feels true, and it’s the spirit behind this series of articles. Maybe if I share my steps and stories, you will read them and think, “If she can do it, I certainly can!” My first bit of advice: get to know people who have a big, supportive “Yes!” inside. It helps a lot.
“Remove the scaffolding,” we told each other. Or, “I can’t tell the proximity of this narrator.” We sandwiched our “constructive criticisms” between lists of things we liked about each other’s work.
I can’t imagine how I would have completed the book without The Writers Studio program and my writing group. According to rumor, The Writer’s Studio has more published alumni than some MFA programs. These might be the same MFA programs that rejected me. But no hard feelings. I’m just saying that The Writers Studio is accessible and incredibly useful, particularly if you work full time. I was lucky to find it.
Back to my friend Tzeporah, I was also lucky that she was undeterred by her agent’s rejection of my book.
“You know this book will be published, don’t you?” she asked one evening over drinks. Her certainty made my chin wag up and down. Yes, I did know it. Now.
Her next step was to take the book directly to her publisher. They loved it. But.
[We] both read Carrie’s manuscript, and we loved it. Even more, we love Carrie and want to be friends with her. But sadly, we just don’t think it would work for us. Carrie is a fantastic writer, as you well know, and we’d love to see a longer, more integrated book from her. Thanks for sharing this gem with us.
They kindly offered to introduce me to their friend Ingrid at New Society Publishers, a small West Coast press with progressive purposes. I knew the “longer, more integrated book” comment was fair. The book was 47,000 words (80,000 is more the norm) and while I felt proud of each story essay, they weren’t interwoven into a greater narrative arc. I decided to take the manuscript to the next level before I sent it to New Society.
Shaena applied her brilliance to my entire manuscript, how to integrate it and where to rough it up. “It’s very smooth,” she said. “Make it a little more crazy now and then.”
So I dug deeper into the rawness and into how funny things can seem once they are in the past. During this time of massively reworking the manuscript, two new chapters presented themselves. Within a few months I finished my book yet again, a longer, more integrated manuscript.
“I finished my book!” I texted my sister.
“I thought you had finished it a couple of times already,” she texted back.
“It is finisheder and finisheder” I replied.
I retreated to our Cortes Island home to edit it while I read the entire thing out loud to our cat until it was finished again.
Then I asked Tzeporah’s publisher for that introduction to Ingrid at New Society Publishers. Ingrid and I went back and forth a bit because I was pretty sure that an introduction allayed the need for the dreaded book proposal.
I found my book impossible to describe in a few hundred words. A forest blockade and a frightening hare. A First Nations elder and a fork. Intervention by ravens. The story essays just didn’t touch any easily encapsulated ground.
But I did my best and, thank goodness, Ingrid got it. She asked for the entire manuscript. This prompted one more read-aloud-edit and, when the manuscript was the most finished it had ever been, I attached it to an email. I like to think of myself as more science based than mystical but, as I pressed the “send” button, I sent a prayer that the book-seed would settle in place where it could really grow.