Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cinderella



By Amy

It all started when I checked into the hotel. As I was signing the registration, the woman informed me my room had been upgraded to a suite. The room was indeed grand. To my left was a large sitting area, straight ahead a marble bathroom with Jaccuzzi tub (Nirvana to any mother), and to the right, a separate bedroom with a t.v. for my personal viewing pleasure (no sharing). It was a few minutes more before I noticed the French doors leading to the master bedroom suite with king-size bed and private bath. Unbeknownest to me, I had a clear view of Random House (see photo) from there. I considered it my pumpkin upgraded to a lovely carriage. I was transported.

The next day, I took a cab to my agent Emma Sweeney's office. She was warm and welcoming, greeting me with a hug. She introduced me to her associate agent, Eva Talmadge, and we chatted about life and books until my cheeks nearly burst I smiled so much. There before me was the woman who helped transform my life, the first person in the publishing world to believe in me. There weren't enough words to thank her.

Now, if you're like me, you've long been curious about the state of an agent's office. Were there stacks of manuscripts everywhere (no, nowadays most everything is electronic I suppose), phones constantly ringing (somewhat), books galore (absolutely, nearly all belonging to her clients, all well-known titles). I expected cramped quarters, not an expansive suite, neatly kept. Most of all, though, it was sunny and restful, the kind of place one could spend an afternoon with a cup of tea, a good book, and a pup gently snoring in a patch of sun.

After we said our goodbyes, I took another cab back to midtown and headed into the grand foyer of Random House. You-just-can't-imagine. Therese Fowler described it to me, as did John Elder Robison in even greater detail. Still. Bookcases lined either wall, stretching to the ceiling and turning either corner. In them were many titles by authors Random House has published since its inception: Pippi Longstocking, Richard Scarry, William Styron, Phillip Roth, Fannie Flagg, Maya Angelou, and there, just around the bend was John's book, Look Me In the Eye.

Once I had a chance to compose myself, the concierge announced my arrival to my editor, Sally Kim. It was a surreal moment when I realized I was on my way up to the Shaye Areheart Books/Crown Publishing division, home to Sharp Objects, Beautiful Lies, The Double Bind, Julie & Romeo, and Brothers. When I got off the elevator, there she was, waiting for me! Have you ever met someone and knew, just knew, you were destined to be forge a path together, to be friends? It happened with Sally the night before the auction when she called to introduce herself. I felt in my gut she was the one to guide my book, and truly, her edits are genius. Now Sally is the kind of woman who was raised by conscientious parents. She made sure to introduce me to everyone on the floor, all of whom were just as kind and welcoming. Each of the many people I met congratulated me on Tethered (no, thank you), most had read it already (oh my goodness) and still others wanted to ask questions about the ending (shhh, I won't tell). While we made the rounds, I pulled Sally aside a moment, I was overwhelmed. Most of you reading this are writers on track to publish your debut (yes, you are). You know what it is run headlong into that brick wall, that's to be expected. Acceptance is something new.

Then Sally took me downstairs to the PDR (private dining room, though there appear to be many of them) where we met up with publisher Shaye Areheart and the phenomenal duo in charge of foreign rights (last week they sold rights to France, yesterday to Germany, that brings their total to five countries already; I could have talked to them all day, they're that nice, that fascinating). At this point I felt absurd. All I could sputter was thank you, wow, you're too kind. But let's pause here a moment, backup a bit. Shaye Areheart. This is a woman whose name I've known for years. Someone I've heard Ann Patchett and Jeanne Ray gush about at readings. This is a woman who heads her own imprint, who is widely regarded as the nicest woman in publishing (along with Sally), a woman I once pitched a profile of to my newspaper editor. Yes, I interviewed her about a year and half ago (the story was killed, my only story to ever be killed) and since that day, I've dreamed of working with her. Amazing, no?

I was among my people. They discussed books, book reviews, book deals, foreign deals, authors, agents, editors, everything you and I would love to talk about ad naseum. Nothing was snarky, they were generous with their compliments. We discussed personal lives, too. They were open and dear. I never wanted it to end. Did I mention the food was sumptuous?

After lunch, Sally, Shaye, and I returned to their offices where they invited me to choose as many books as I'd like and they'd ship them to me. By then, I was black and blue from pinching myself. We talked even more. Soon, though, I knew the clock would strike midnight and I'd have to return home.

We said our goodbyes and I took one more long look at those bookcases in the Random House lobby. Would my novel ever be among these other books? I hailed a cab, and as we made our way through Times Square toward Penn Station, the tears came. New York City is my favorite place in the world, what I know in heart will someday be my home. I didn't want to leave it, I didn't want to forget a single detail of what had been my most perfect fairy tale. I didn't want to return to a suburban life where I was forever the outsider.

For the first time in my life, when I tried on the glass slipper it fit. It fit.

23 comments:

Therese said...

Can you hear me sighing with pleasure and nostalgia?

I couldn't be more pleased for you. :)

You earned it all, and are getting the welcome home that you deserve.

Congratulations again (especially on Germany, hurray!).

John Elder Robison said...

It sure is something, isn't it?

I'm going back on the 17th, myself, to do a show on NY public radio. It will get familiar the more you go back there.

There's a floor below where they do Crown's covers and graphic arts, too. Next time you're there perhaps you can go meet Whitney and the staff there.

And there's the PR staff, too.

It's quite an impressive place.

The Writers' Group said...

Therese, I thought of your Cinderella story the whole time. Thanks so much for your good wishes. Can you believe we're just weeks away (sort of) from Souvenir's US debut?

John, it's everything you said it would be and more. What a jolt when I saw your book there! I expected it, but still. I can't wait to go to the graphic arts department. And I met the directors of marketing and publicity, both of whom were amazingly welcoming.

Amy

reality said...

I like that suite with a jacuzzi. I cant say much other than I am so happy for you.

And yes just wanted you to know it is my wedding anniversary today and this sure was a happy post to read.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Amy, it does feel like a fairy tale at times, doesn't it? you captured it perfectly. I still remember walking into that Random House lobby two years ago and literally gasping (to be truthful, I stopped in incognito the day before my actual meeeting because I wanted to have my whole "ohmygodIcan'tbelieve this" moment and regain my composure before I needed to don the persona of author).

Much to be thankful for this week, yes?

The Writers' Group said...

Happy anniversary, Usman. Can't wait to hear your story someday soon I hope.

Judy, okay, I admit it, I did too. If I could have tap danced my way across the lobby, I would have. Yes, a cornucopia of blessings.

For those of you who haven't read Judy's blog today, head on over. Be forewarned, it had me gulping back sobs. It was absolutely terrifying to read.

Amy

Lisa Marnell said...

Cinderella,
I'm a small mouse who worked late into the night to help you sew seams on that beautiful dress you found in your mother's trunk. I don't take any credit. My small contribution, hand holding was an honor.

Larramie said...

Of course the slipper fit, Amy, you created the entire design.

The Writers' Group said...

Lisa, it goes without saying, but I don't say it enough that you, Hannah, and Lynne helped every step of the way to make my dream come true.

Larramie, as always, thanks for your support. Such a lovely idea.

Amy

Kira said...

I am living vicariously through you. I love the success you all have had and can see how happy you are and how well deserved it is. Congratulations.

The closest I've come to such a sublime moment--and frankly if I die now, it will be enough--was my first writing workshop where someone I truly admire said I had "a voice." I'd blow an aneurysm if I got as far as you have!

The Writers' Group said...

Kira, I know all about the vicarious part. What helped mewas to visualize each step of the way. And if you have the voice, then the rest will follow.

Amy

Shauna Roberts said...

I was sure your post was going to end, "And then I woke up." Each step was too good to be true. But no, it was all real, beyond anything I had ever daydreamed for myself. Congratulations on your wonderful day and may you have many more.

Sustenance Scout said...

Amy thanks so much for the reminder of what really is within reach if we just keep plugging. You're an inspiration! No wonder you kept wanting to pinch yourself with such a dream agent, editor, and publisher. You deserve it all and then some.

Larramie, I love your poetic comment. K.

Ello said...

Hey AMy, This is fantastic! And NYC is my favorite place too! It sounds like it was a wonderful trip and it couldn't happen to a better person. Enjoy it cause I am enjoying it vicariously through your posts!

The Writers' Group said...

Shauna, isn't it unimaginable? I never wanted to wake up. Thanks for stopping by.

SS, you're awfully kind to say so. And I agree, Larramie has a way with words.

Ello, well, NYC is my favorite with WDC a close second. I miss my apartment on Capitol Hill, within a stone's throw of of Folger Shakespeare Library. You won't always live this dream vicariously. No you won't.

Amy

Eileen said...

I just love this story! I can't wait to read your book.

Melissa Marsh said...

Oh Amy, what an amazing, wonderful moment for you. It was meant to be!!!

The Writers' Group said...

Eileen, right back at you. I actually had a dream about Unpredicatble athe other night, that I'd read it and called you to chit-chat about it. Aren't you happy I don't have your number?

Melissa, thank you! I can't wait to hear your story when it happens for you. Give the kittens a kiss for me. Nothing like kittens around the house.

Amy

Kristy said...

Oh, Amy *sniff* You made me cry. Congratulations, I always knew it would fit. (((hugs))) I'm going to end here before I go all overboard.

five said...

Amy,
Do you even realize how much you and your group members have done for the writers who read your blog? You deserve these wonderful things...thank you for sharing. I can't wait to read your book!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mo

The Writers' Group said...

Kristy, yes, I'll never forget when you said with absolute certainty, "It will happen." You'll never know how often I turned to those words in the months following, hoping praying that it really would happen. I trusted you, after all you have one book under your belt (the fabulous Catching Genius) and another on its way (Matters of Faith). Thank you.

Five, I think everyone who comes to this blog and shares this story helps each other. I love reading the comments section about what others are struggling through, reading your email too. Lisa, Hannah, & Lynne are the treasured members of my writers' group,but so are each of you.

Amy

will north said...

I'm a little late to this blog and your piece about meeting Shaye, but I had a very similar experience when she won the auction for my debut novel, "The Long Walk Home" (released in late August. Walking into Random House's lobby stopped me inmy tracks, but my reaction was a little different: "What the hell am I doing here?! Who the f**k am I kidding?!" It was surreal. I haven't yet met Sally; Shaye's serving as my editor as well as publisher and she is so incredibly upbeat and encouraging I initially thought it was phony. But it's real; she's just a splendid human being. Yesterday, she bought my second novel and I'll be back in that lobby on Monday, to have drinks with her and talk over possible revisions. I chose her over other publishers who wanted my first book precisely because I knew she'd make me a better writer. I'm still learning the craft of fiction (after having written or ghostwritten more than a dozen nonfiction books) and she, and my agent, Richard Abate have been great teachers.

Please accept my belated congratulations!

Will North

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