I did it. I finished the Stravinsky Firebird ballet retelling that I have been working on since age 21, on my first day of being 24. In the past three years, since turning 21, I have completed two full novels, about five short stories, over a hundred poems, and started two other novels. My romance novel is currently on submission with five publishers and Firebird has either partials or fulls with five agents, with a revision request just sent to my dream agent who represents some of my favorite authors, is a wonderful person, and really seems to get my Slavic retelling of a Cold War fairytale. I can only pray that she likes the 30,000-odd words and scenes and hefty characterization I have added, and thanks to pitching contests I have requests for the manuscript at all major publishing houses (my dream is TOR or St. Martin’s Press) if it is submitted through an agent.
In the past two years, since I started querying at 22, I have learned how to market my novels, how to write horrible query letters and then learned how to write snappy ones that have gotten me dozens of partial and full requests from publishers and agents alike, and mostly how to be savvy with words. Elevator pitches are my forte, as I view them as I do poetry – a cohesive sentence that captures the imagination of your story and draws the readers in.
I remember when I got my first full request – it was for my urban fantasy paranormal romance New Adult novel – how many boxes does that check off? I had sent a written letter to Neil Gaiman and Melissa Marr’s agent and to my surprise, a week later I got an email in my inbox right before my birthday asking for the full manuscript! The only thing? My story was awful! I had banged it out in a manic three months from August to November and instead of putting it away in a box and waiting three months to then open and revise it, I went trigger happy on querying, so excited to have actually finally FINISHED A NOVEL after a decade of writing from 11 to 21. It was right around the holidays too, which meant I was really lucky, and though I got the kindest rejection imaginable, it broke my little writerly heart. Many constructive rejections on fulls would follow, and each time, I got stronger. I have those agents and publishers to thank for making my manuscripts stronger as well.
In the short span from my senior year of college to now, in graduate school, I have grown so much personally and professionally as a writer. Where I used to cry and get anxiety at form rejections, I now appreciate that agents actually get back to me and sometimes even give me good feedback. I have grown tougher, had my manuscript torn to shreds then reborn and rewritten like some kind of paper phoenix, gone to writing circles with my best friends and had many friends go on to work for Simon & Schuster, Vanity Fair, and get their own short stories published and interviews to be literary agents and revision requests from some of the top agents in the industry. Our little William and Mary Writer’s Group has so much talent and I couldn’t be prouder of my friends – they even get trolled by Sean Hannity on Fox News for daring to write kickass articles critical of Trump.
I also owe a great debt to the teachers in my life – my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Villers, who was there when I wrote my first ever space opera, fell in love with it, and told me it was in my cards to be a writer if I worked very hard. My college professors, Chelsey and Emily, who are very successful writers themselves with book deals and award-winning short stories who pushed me to flex my literary muscles and even once wrote “MORE WEED!” in the margins of my stoner alien story.
Above all, I owe it to Tamora Pierce, Garth Nix, Susannah Clarke, Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cat Valente, Anne McCaffrey, Clare Dunkle, and a handful of my other favorite authors who taught me how to tell stories. I am still a bookworm, and there is nothing better than entering fantastical realms on the page between book covers to be immersed in what-ifs and magic. They are still my greatest teachers.
So now I enter the manuscript waiting game of the New Year, and continue to write poetry and stories.
Thank you for following my journey, and here is to many more years on WordPress!