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.