Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Grateful Author Story #7: Naive Newbie

Judy Larsen just came across Bev Marshall's moving tale and wrote me, "She's one of the people I'm incredibly grateful to, one who has helped this first-time author." Judy shares this gratitude story for 2006:

My first novel, ALL THE NUMBERS, was published in July by Ballantine/Random House. I owe so many gracious, generous people for stepping in and helping this to happen.

First, in the summer of 2004, I went to a summer workshop at The University of Iowa. I'd been working on this manuscript for 5 years (while teaching full-time and raising my two sons). I wanted to see how my book fared in a bigger forum than the writing conferences I'd been attending in Missouri.

The man who led my particular workshop, Josh Kendall, was then an editor with Picador. At the end of the week, he offered to introduce me to some agents. He felt that my manuscript, while not something he would make an offer for, was good, and he wanted to help. He not only helped me with my query letter, but personally called several agents to tell them to expect my manuscript. Josh assured me that this might take several rounds, but he would help me every step of the way.

One of the agents I queried, Marly Rusoff, called me the day after she received it and said she wanted to represent me. I was so stunned (and so much of an amateur!), I stammered and told her I needed to think about it. What a complete idiot I was.

Marly was incredibly kind and patient, and gave me the names of several of her clients so I could call them as references. I had no idea how lucky I was to have her want to take me on as a client. We worked on the book for a few months and then Marly started submitting it.

Within a month, Allison Dickens, then at Ballantine, made us an offer. Again, Marly talked me through the whole process. Then she suggested that we ask Bev Marshall if she'd be willing to do the author interview that Reader's Circle includes in all of their books. Bev graciously took the time to work with me on the interview, and in the process she became something of a mentor/big sister to me as I nervously awaited publication.

This past spring, I went to the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, which Bev helps run. It was the first time we met in person. I was attending, not presenting, but Bev and her husband went out of their way to introduce me to all the writers there, and the other organizers. For the first time I started to really feel like a writer.

I'm overwhelmed with the generosity of writers and those in the industry. I'd worried that when I left teaching to write full-time, I'd feel isolated. But what I've found is this wonderful community of writers who encourage each other, help one another, and learn from one another.


Kim Stagliano said...

What a lovely story! I couldn't agree more. The writing community I've found is full of kindred spirits. Happy Thanksgiving.


Carleen Brice said...

Judy, YOU'RE one of the people I'm very grateful for! I'm following in your Ballantine/RH shoes and being able to email you with questions has been greatly helpful!! You are certainly paying it forward with me, and I will do the same!

Thanks, Bella, for posting these stories!