The air is cool for May, but it’s a gentle offering I gladly accept in getting my To-Do list done. I’ve finished painting the basement, scratching it off the top of the list with a pen stolen from some bright, warm hotel room, and have moved onto the kitchen. Winter in upstate NY is a time of ghosting breaths and drifts of snow. Cracking branches and days upon days without sun. Beautiful in its silent terror, but a horrible time to paint. Spring arrived and rolled over the trees with torrential rain and high humidity, causing a cat-and-mouse chase through the weather app to find a few days to paint. Today was one of my few days. I’m soaking the grey-brown-purple walls in a grey so light it looks white when by itself when I need to switch my music and see the email notification. I’m already guessing which company is faking interest in my life. Probably my student loans. They seem the most persistent to remind me that they exist.
Then I see the sender and my body stiffens.
It’s an agent.
An agent who has my full and who I’ve carefully edged my thoughts around for the past few months. A darkened hole in my brain of trailed off what if’s and could be’s that I’ve been terrified to travel down for fear the hope would be unfounded.
And she wants to talk. On the phone. To me.
Ever rational, I put the paintbrush and old Dunkin’ Donuts cup I’m using as a makeshift can down on the drop cloth. Then I scream and jump high on our old, rickety linoleum right as my husband enters the house. He rushes in, asking what’s wrong—expecting a spider, most likely—and I gasp out, “An agent wants a call!”
I’ve read many accounts of other authors getting the call and a few have noted that they were on the verge of giving up when they were finally signed with the added note that, it only takes one yes! I’d skim over the line, contemplate returning to my actually-getting-paid-to-do engineering work, but churn over their lines mere spaces before. The giving up. Writers, it seems, are plagued by self-doubt and I am no different.
By the time the email came, it had been a year and a half since I started querying. This agent had my full for a full year. I don’t say that to shame, invoke pity, or anything like that. I say it to set the realistic point that this all takes time. That time wasn’t all one back and forth either. Here’s how it all went down:
+Query and sample pages
+Wait three months
+Agent requested a Revise and Resubmit (R+R)
+I spent three months doing the R+R and having a second round of beta-readers before sending it out right before the holidays began
+Agent had to then reread that while doing her job and representing her signed author
All very reasonable when broken down. But, I’m still human and the wait to hear was agonizing (again, no shame, complaining, etc. just me as a person). Through this all I was still querying, but hope was thin. I sent out one final batch of queries and decided that would be that. RIPPLE would be shelved, and I would do…something. Finish my current WIP, maybe. Life was getting harder. Engineering work held no joy and contributed to my debilitating depression due to the worst crossover in history of HR x harassment. Hope was at an all-time low from rejection after rejection. Just a few days earlier, slouched on the too stiff leather of my therapist’s couch—yes, I go to one of those and I find it weird he has a couch to fit the stereotype—I complained that I needed a win.
And here one was, blinding me in all of Gmail’s-refusal-to-have-dark-theme brilliance in my dated kitchen.
During the call, I tried to give off an air of cool, collected brilliance. Like I wasn’t freaking out internally with my last two brain cells ricocheting between please don’t hate me and oh my God! Oh my God! IT’S HAPPENING!!!
I’m not sure I succeeded.
But I made it through! With an offer of rep! I had a few other agents I had to let know and waited as patiently as an impatient person can. I went to Boston (lovely), went back to work (not so lovely), and fantasized about my book. The last was something that I hadn’t allowed myself to do while querying. Protecting my heart and all that in case of things not panning out.
And now? Now I am joining the ranks of those authors on the other side saying don’t give up. That it only takes one yes. Because it does. I am so pleased, excited, amazed, and all other emotions that for a brief instance I truly believe I became a being of pure energy, to announce that I am now represented by the wonderful Kat Kerr of Donald Maass Literary Agency. I have the utmost thanks to Beth Phalen and #dvpit for connecting my agent and me. And if you are reading this and feeling alone, feel like giving up, know that I’m in your corner. Drop me a DM on twitter (@authorkablack) or a comment here. I’m always willing to help. You can do it and I can’t wait to read your agent story.