Thursday, 21 November 2013

And then....

I apologise to my blog for neglecting it so often I'm sure it's thinking 'yeah, yeah, here we go again...' so this time I'll just dive in...

I have an agent! This is the most exciting writerly thing to have occurred in the last few months since I've updated, and possibly one of the most exciting things to happen to me, ever.

It's all still a bit surreal but the tale runs thus: I finished my YA novel Of Shades and Nightingales, and decided that I did want to seek representation for it (after various discussions during the MA about the role of the agent and the pros/cons of having one, of which the cons seemed to be very few), so began to mooch about the internet to see where would be best to send it.  I'd heard of DKW Literary Agency through my MA classmate,Virginia Macgregor, who'd signed with Bryony Woods last year. V (as we called her in seminars) had spoken so highly of Bryony and the agency as a whole (new, young, passionate, with great editorial support), and with V being such a wonderful writer herself, and their tastes then fantastic, I decided to try my luck.


I pressed send.
And then there was a wait.
And then there was an email.
A request.
For the whole manuscript!

After running around the house 'woooooo-ing!' I kept telling myself that yes, it was encouraging, but that it didn't mean that anything would come of it, and that maybe Bryony would read it all and hate it. If that happened, I told the still star-jumping me, I'd be fine as the request to read it all was a compliment in itself, and it was a sure sign of progress, whatever the outcome.
There was one minor problem, in that I needed to quickly polish the ending of my novel which I'd been tinkering with post-submission.  It was complete, but on re-reading, and re-reading, I'd start shifting bits about, but by slightly altering one thing I'd disrupted a plot-line, so I then had to fix that, and then there was something else which needed adjusting.  Most advice from agents wholeheartedly states FINISH THE MANUSCRIPT BEFORE QUERYING (do this!) and while I'd made sure it was completed, I was kicking myself for my fiddling which meant that I couldn't send it that very second, and needed a snippet of time to just tie the loose ends (back) up.

I sent the manuscript and within a few weeks there was another EMAIL.

About meeting up.
To discuss representation.

Well.  If I wasn't performing acrobatics the first time, now I certainly was.  Still the voice of caution whispered: you may not fit each other.  You are sussing out the agent as much as they are sussing you out. Do not be swayed.  They will change too much.  You will weep.

This happened around Halloween, at which time I worked in a fancy dress shop (albeit now laid off due to dwindling trade, but highs and lows and all that), so whilst advising customers on which fake blood was best, or whether the zombie schoolgirl or zombie cheerleader was the most flattering, or recommending Poligrip for fang-application, all I was thinking was londonsoonohmygodlondonbooksagentsonmygod.

I met Bryony and while I babbled on like a maniac (i'm generally nervy, and speak really really quickly!) she was so lovely and encouraging and helpful, and after discussing various things (books, her role, what other ideas I may have) she turned her keen editorial eye to my novel. And then I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Aside from picking out all sorts of plot-holes which had escaped my attention, and suggesting ways to make the characters/the plot so much stronger, the overwhelming thought was: I'm in very, very capable hands here.  Writers are generally too close to their work, especially after several months looking over the same thing, and Bryony's insights/suggestions made me see things afresh, and feel completely excited about implementing them and getting stuck in with the revisions.  But she didn't want to change too much.  The novel is slang-heavy, with lots of kennings and neologisms and odd turns of phrase, and the plot is quite complex, so I'd fully prepared myself to hear that unless I toned it all down that it wouldn't really find a home, with agents or publishers.  The slang is an integral part of the novel, and it's there for a reason, and I think it gives the piece a unique voice, but I'd been Gollum-ing with myself with what I'd say/do if i was told to take it out.  The story could certainly function without it, but it would lose a lot, in my opinion, so having Bryony 'get' it just gave me a whole new level of confidence.

So, the contracts are signed and the official announcement is made and I'm so delighted/thrilled to be on board.  But now back to work.  My brain is ticking and notepads are collecting scribbles and the sleeves are being rolled up for the next bout, and the next step.

Other news:

The Pushcart Prize.

In the space of twenty-fours hours this week  I received two Puschcart Prize nominations, which I was very happy about.  The Pushcart Prize basically celebrates the best of the small presses, including online magazines. There's a lot of sniffing and snobbery about it ('it doesn't mean anything' 'thousands of authors get nominated' 'it doesn't mean you're good' 'there's no chance you'll win' 'but which journal nominated you?') but that's the type of literary elitism which is best ignored and I'm just pleased that the editors liked my stories enough to think of me, and I'm honored to be a nominee.  And these are the two:

'Dippin and Dustin' in Jersey Devil Press

' Smoke Surfaces in Slumber' in Menacing Hedge.


Publications:

I haven't really sent many short stories out this year as I've been focused on getting the novel finished, but while this was published a few months back for kindle purchase, it's now viewable online.

"And Down We Fall" : a tale of misery, murderous angels and Marc Bolan.


The MA:

I began the 'reading' module in September (first book: The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, which was excellent) but with my graduate overdraft facility being removed by the bank (being a part-time student doesn't qualify you) and with work woes and finances tight, it soon became apparent that I couldn't afford the fees this year.  I am going to return next year to finish up, and I'm hoping that the class size has shrunk by then!  In my first reading module there were around ten students, and a tutor, which made for really helpful online discussions and great group participation, but this year's class had twenty-three students, plus a tutor. This means that you essentially make one comment in two hours and sit back scrolling through as everybody cut-and-pastes their insights.  The related exercises and the questions given by the tutor prior to the seminar to help you really get to the nuts and bolts of the book are great, but overall it's frustrating.  Much like the MA in general where's there's been so much good stuff (the workshops, some of the tutors, the connections made) dragged down by a lot that's discouraging (the lack of response from certain tutors, the online scrums with too many squeezed in etc)

So, to the rewriting! :)