Churning Literary Butter

So my manuscript is with 11 amazing agents right now – 3 fulls and 7 partials ranging from 10-50 pages. I just got a lovely rejection from a great agent saying there was nothing wrong with my manuscript, just that he didn’t click and had to be very selective in taking on clients, which made me feel great, as instead of getting feedback to improve on as I was in 2016, that means my manuscript is at the point where I just need the right agent to come along and fall in love with it, like the Taylor Swift song, where some literary magic happens. One agent from #DVPit has already said they were immediately sucked in to the first twenty pages and had a mighty need to read the rest and extended me a full request this weekend, almost overnight, and she is oodles of awesome. I’m pretty excited about that one. ūüôā

My top picks are Brandon Sanderson’s agent, Meg Cabot’s agent, a new agent at Aevitas that seems like my spirit animal, and a former St. Martin’s Press Editor that is amazing and fun. All the rest are amazing too – I only query agents I think would be good fits for me.

So I still have eleven shots at making this manuscript work, which is more than the two I had in February. Doing revisions for the first two agents opened the door to so much possibility. And I’m ready to play with Ivan Kupalo again, to make it even better. I think chances are pretty good that I have a shot at a literary agent – the rejections I’ve gotten (3 out of 15 so far) have all been complimentary and one Big Name Agent with lots of six figure deals even asked for me to resubmit if I ever revised the beginning. It was good to put away Ivan Kupalo and work on Chwal, and I’m hoping to finish Chwal for Pitch Wars in August. But I might go with Space Oddity because that is such a fun manuscript.

I am so grateful to all these amazing literary agents that have cheered me on and believed in me, even if they ultimately did not take me on. When I cried at my first full rejection from Neil Gaiman’s agent at the tender age of 21, at 24 I take rejections with gusto and save them in an email folder so I can carry around a bag of them like Meg Cabot does (she actually hides it under the bed), maybe frame them on my wall (especially the one from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s agent on the full he got back to me in six days, haha).

Something magic is afoot. My second short story may soon be getting published by Pantheon Magazine as it moved past the fiction team and is under consideration by the editors. Simon and Schuster just requested my romance novel. I finally feel like I’ve got novel-writing a little bit figured out, and I’m barely 24. If you had told the 21 year old who had never completed a novel in her life that in three years time she would have gotten full or partial requests from the top ten fantasy agents in the business she wouldn’t have believed you. My dreams are so close to fruition, and at Beltane’s balefire I pulled an envelope with my future Tarot card – 8 of Cups, the wish card – your dreams are close at hand.

My dreams are so close. Like stars I can pluck from the sky. And it all happened because I worked through writing horrible stories since the age of 11 onwards to ones I’m proud of now. I wrote horrible query letters for two years before I learned how to actually write something that didn’t give agents a gag reflex. I blame youth and stupidity. ūüėõ

So basically I’m just really excited. I’m going to let Ivan Kupalo rest and I’m kind of actually hoping for a conditional R&R or editorial agent as I would love to rework some bits and bobs after having not touched it since January. In the interim I have two novels to work on, flash fiction, short stories, and reams of poetry.

Even if I never get an agent, I’ll still be happy, because writing is like breathing to me.

And that’s enough to churn butter.

Lucky Number 13

#DVPit is about halfway over, and I’ve had some AH-MAZING agents make partial requests, putting the agents with my manuscript up to… lucky number 13!

I really wanted to explore my Russian heritage when I wrote this book. ¬†I didn’t know I was part Russian until I did genealogy research after college – I’d always felt this inexplicable draw to the culture, and people had always told me I had a Slavic nose, and I kept dreaming about Baba Yaga sending me on delivery routes aback Grey Wolf or making me milk a golden cow with silver udders – but it didn’t really cement until I learned I’m a direct descendant of Vladimir the Great (Saint Vladimir) and Vladimir Monomakh, also this awesome cave prophetess named Malusha.

One of my dying dreams is to go to Russia and visit Gogol and Pushkin’s homes. ¬†This novel wouldn’t have been created without Cat Valente’s unbelievably amazing Deathless, which really inspired me at 21 to finally write that Russian novel that had been in my head since age 19. ¬†Dreams of Morena, Veles, and Perun would follow, and so would obsessively watching Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky ballets and listening to Mussorgsky on repeat.

I’m obsessed with Russian folklore. ¬†Libby and I both took an entire class dedicated to it, and I lifted the name Morozko from our favorite Soviet film. ¬†What intrigued me the most were the nechist, or land and house spirits – the domovoi and rusalka, the vila and bannik (why did I try to make a bannik hot!) ¬†But above all, it was for the love of leshys that I retold an entire ballet. ¬†Also for Baba Yaga, because my babushka is amazing, and crazy af.

Hopefully I’ll have an agent soon – I will probably spontaneously combust if I get an offer, but I’ll keep you all updated accordingly!

Waiting and Excitement

So I just got another partial request for my manuscript – meaning Ivan Kupalo is with five agents total, with about a dozen queries waiting on a response. ¬†That’s three fulls and two partials out, and #DVPit is coming up on Wednesday. ¬†This will be my first time pitching the revised manuscript as Adult, not YA, so we’ll see how that goes!

I’m really excited about all the fulls I have out and am obsessively checking my email only to find spam – I can’t help it! ¬†I hope at least one literary agent falls in love with¬†Ivan Kupalo¬†as much as I loved writing it, but it’s okay if they don’t, I have three¬†other projects I want to write Space Oddity¬†first (1/4 of the way done), then¬†Birds Away¬†and¬†Spider King.

Also Simon and Schuster just requested my romance novel, so we’ll see how that goes. ¬†It’s also with St. Martin’s Press.

Things are looking exciting, and my friend said this really good quote with writing:

If things are getting hard, it means you’re close to success.

Writerly Update

So one of my dream agents emailed me yesterday to say he is reading my manuscript now.  Trigger excitement!

This agent was the first to see to the heart of my manuscript, tell me what worked, what didn’t, what needed work, and advised me to revise it into an adult fantasy, beef up the word count, and add more exposition and characterization. ¬†He even let me pester him with questions about my novel for revision purposes when most agents will give you form rejects on fulls. ¬† To say I am eternally grateful is an understatement.

He was gracious enough to take another look at the revision I did half a year later and has some amazing projects he has worked on from New Adult Sci Fi about virtual reality combat to a really awesome LGBTQA+ story about two competing male love interests for a girl that end up falling in love – with each other!

Crossing my fingers and working on my next novel to distract myself. ¬†If anything, I’ll get great feedback, so it’s a win-win situation. ūüôā

Happiness, Completion, and New Phases

So I’m making April NaNoWriMo Lite, with the goal of finishing Darn Precious Messiah before #DVPit at the end of April. I have a few 30,000 words to go but who knows, it may be longer. It is my favorite thing besides Space Oddity yet that I have written, and a delightful story that comes from my soul.

Sensitivity readers are vital when writing¬†outside your culture, and my best friend Misha, a Haitian-American Voodoo practitioner, is certainly an expert on the lwa. ¬†Funny thing, she told me Legba actually does have dogs due to being associated with Saint Lazarus, funny in that I included his pet because it just struck me as a very Legba thing to do. ¬†I’ve done so much research on the lwas and Voodoo since I started the novel at around 18, plus some ritual workings with them, reading everything I can get my hands on, but at the end of the day Zora Neale Hurston isn’t enough – you have to talk with your friends who live that culture, and as an outsider, I have to err on the side of caution and¬†respectfulness while writing diversity. ¬†I don’t want to offend anyone and I want to get it painstakingly right.

As a white woman who is privileged in many ways besides being neurodivergent, I will never know what it is like to be oppressed. ¬†My book isn’t about racism at all, as the whole cast is mainly African-American, and I don’t think I have the expertise to write about such a sensitive topic. ¬†I’d probably screw it up as an outsider. ¬†That’s why I set it well after the Civil Rights movement and it’s not another book about slavery or oppression. ¬†Instead it’s the idea that the savior of New Orleans is none other than #blackgirlmagic, an awesome hashtag, quite literally.

My best friends – Ariel, Lauren, Misha, Gladys – they are all some of the strongest women I know and have overcome so much, having to be “twice as good to get half the recognition” of a white woman. ¬†They make me proud. ¬†They teach me so many things about overcoming adversity that though different, can apply to being disabled. ¬†We were all born with stigma attached to either our ambitions – a standout woman of many talents who happens to be of color or a bipolar woman trying to hold down a professional career – or our very essence – mentally ill with no hopes of recovery, or the thought that an African American woman can’t be a neuroscientist¬†like Gladys, a psychologist like Lauren, nerdy like Ariel, or a cosplayer like Misha. ¬†I incorporated all of them into my character May Laveau, but she’s also a piece of myself, as all characters are. ¬†I’m really excited to see where this novel leads to and hopefully finish it soon, if not by April, than by the summer when my dream agent opens to queries again.

Odds are good I may find representation before that, as I still have three fulls and three partials out. ¬†But the best thing to do while waiting is to work on another project, and if my Russian novel doesn’t get me published, something else will. ¬†I am making progress – so many requests, my query letters are in great shape, and I’m finally writing novels worthy of reading. ¬†The agent who passed on my full last night was so sweet and said “I¬†have no doubt you will find this an amazing home.” ¬†¬†Coming from someone like her, that meant a lot to me – she didn’t fall in love with the novel enough to take it on, but still loved many parts of it overall and was overall enthusiastic. ¬†That is very encouraging and means I might actually be able to go somewhere with my Firebird retelling.

And if not this novel, than the next one! ¬†I am very happy, my new job is going swimmingly, I love my new townhouse, grad school is fun, my friends are a blessing, and all, in JK Rowling’s words, is well. ¬†Spring has sprung, my soul has awakened, and all is right in the world.

Morning Surprise

Woke up this morning to a full request from a big name agent to one of my favorite authors!  I literally hopped up and down on my bed in glee.

That’s 9 total full/partial requests with the new query, 13 rejections, and 21 queries I’m waiting to hear back from – that’s a 40% total request rate for this novel so far – pretty amazing, considering all the rejection to my godawful queries from 2015 through early 2016 – with hopefully more requests to come.

If all goes well, I’ll have a literary agent soon!

Chuck Wendig’s Brilliant Post on Pre-Rejection

I just got another request today from an amazing literary agent – that’s over a dozen¬†requests so far with this query alone, and loads more with pitches.

But the odds?  It will probably end in a rejection.  However, all it takes is one yes, and you have to be brave enough to put your stories out there.

I don’t know if I’m a good enough writer yet to be professionally published – that’s up for agents to decide – but I’m a hell of a lot better than I was last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…

The difference between me and others who are afraid of failure? ¬†I’m not afraid to get rejections. ¬†I have loads of them. ¬†I’ve been querying shitty novels, then less shitty novels, then maybe-okay novels, since 2015. ¬†That’s two years with a steep learning curve.

Most agents will reject you, it’s just part of the process: loved the concept but the writing was off, writing was lush and evocative but they wanted something contemporary – more exposition, less exposition, more background, a faster pace – all this conflicting advice, but at least with those rejections comes invaluable ADVICE.

Personalized rejections are a godsend.  Feedback on fulls and partials even better.  You never know when an agent might fall in love with your manuscript.

After all, all you can do is persevere.

Repeat after me:

That’s all right. I can try again. I can get better.

But you have to give yourself the chance to try again.

You don’t get better by just chucking manuscripts in a drawer.

You need the agitation.

You need that fear, that uncertainty, that courage.

You need input from other human beings. Which means:

Fuck your pre-rejection.

You want to get rejected? Do it the old-fashioned way.

Let someone else reject you. Take your shot. Worst you can do is fail. And failure fucking rocks.

Sure, maybe you’ll get rejected. But maybe, just maybe, the opposite will happen.

How else do stories reach their audiences, you think?

Chuck Wendig puts it brilliantly – on why you should put your work out there, and cherish rejections.