Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Resolving to Listen

Tuesdays with Amy

Last spring, the four of us agreed to attend the two-day Grub Street Muse & the Marketplace as a group. We strategized over the workshops, if we would sit with an agent/editor/author at the luncheon, go both days or just the one, and most of all, if we should have the first 20 pages of our manuscripts critiqued by an agent or editor. I wasn’t ready, only a third of my novel had been written, but Lisa, Lynne, and Hannah somehow emboldened me. Weeks before the conference, I sent off my pages to one of the attending editors, a woman whose list I love. As I left the post office, the niggling whispers of doubt crept into my thoughts and settled themselves there, damn fool, you’re no writer.

That first day, we drove in together, each of us excited about what might be, our anticipation heightened by the others'. When we arrived, my everything began to tingle; these were my people, writers. Doing the meet-n-greet was made even easier with my group. I wouldn’t have to think about my own shortcomings, I could drown out that horrible whisper if I spoke about their accomplishments: a book deal for Lynne, gorgeous writing from Lisa, Hannah's fantastic hook.

Together we attended a workshop with author Mako Yoshikawa (lyric writing and that hair!); an editing class with Houghton Mifflin editor and Norton author Heidi Pitlor (she revealed some invaluable truths about the editing process with unexpected humor); and in-between we chatted with bestseller Elizabeth Benedict (I loved how refreshingly frank she was). When the editor I would be meeting with the following morning walked by, I did my best to ignore the whispers.

I almost didn’t go back to the conference the next day. If Hannah, Lynne, and Lisa hadn’t been expecting me, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone. My meeting with the editor was first thing. As much as I wanted to share my group’s confidence, listen to their reassurance, I couldn’t. I told them as we drove into Boston not to ask me about it afterward, that I’d need time to process all that the editor told me. They knew what I was really saying was I preferred to cry in private.

When I sat down with the editor, she pulled out my pages and for the next 15-20 minutes, she talked about my work, pointing to passages she liked, asking what came next, reciting my characters’ names. I waited for the “but” until I realized it wasn’t coming. She liked my writing, she liked my story. At the end, I asked if she wanted to see it when it was complete. Yes, she said, send it to me.

Even then I knew her interest wasn’t granting me a guarantee. I don’t know if when the time comes she’ll have either the time or desire to actually read my entire manuscript. What it did give me was hope and that’s what every writer needs to see her manuscript through to completion.

That and a writers’ group whose reassurance and presence is strong enough to drown out the whispers.


Anonymous said...

Yay Amy! What a wonderful boost for the new year.


Anonymous said...


Speaking of a wonderful New Year, you must be tickled to know Town House will be published in May and then The Invisible Rules of Zoe Lama in July! Sure you aren't planning a hat trick by year's end?


Anonymous said...

Hurray! I am a firm believer that success in writing is all about not giving up hope.

And you know what... I have a novel due out in April and a young adult book coming out in 2008 and I've still got the niggling whispers of doubt!

Anonymous said...

Holy-multi-tasking-mother-writers, Batman! How do you Debs do it? I knew about Promise Not to Tell, Jennifer, it's on my list of must-haves for 2007, but your YA, A Cure for Your LaSamba Blues, completely overwhelms me. We'll have to get together for coffee so I can pick your left, right, and middle brains.