As a hopeful writer, I scoured the internet for stories about how authors got their agents and they were always so inspiring. Deep down I always hoped that I could return the favor for those after me by writing one of my own. And alas, I can.
So short story? I wrote a book, sent out some queries, got some rejections, had a good cry, then got an offer! So I popped the champagne and signed with Penny Moore of Fine Print Literary.
Sounds so simple and easy, right? Wrong.
Here's the long story. I hope it's a bit more inspiring than the short one ;)
Growing up, I felt this immense pressure to succeed in the medical/science field. The only one born on US soil in an immigrant family, it was like an unspoken expectation to be a doctor or something else of 'high-esteem.' I took that on like a badge of honor because I wanted to make my mother (who had given up everything to bring us to the US) proud.
But once I hit college and started the groundwork on the path to medicine, my heart ached. I wasn't into it, I couldn't do it, and that filled me with shame.
Deep down, I knew I wanted to write. I loved stories with a passion. Growing up, books saved me. They were an inkling of solace in this great big world I didn't understand.
In the end, I made the switch and graduated with a BA in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing--half of me thrilled, and half of me terribly afraid. It was one thing to want to write, another thing to make a career out of it.
Honestly, I had no plan. But I was pragmatic enough to know that I needed to support myself, so I got a full-time job and wrote stories in my spare time. In the Spring of 2014, a full year after I had graduated, I had a fully finished and revised manuscript.
That Summer, I entered Pitch Wars and didn't get in. I sent some queries, not really sure what I was setting myself up for and got a rude awakening when I had to face the rejections. I gave up after 20. Maybe I didn't give that manuscript enough of a chance, but deep down I knew it wasn't the one to land me an agent.
But it was the one to teach me how to finish a large volume of work, and it was the one that taught me how to revise.
So back to the drawing board and after a few failed first drafts, I started writing DIAMOND QUEEN on April 19, 2015, two months after an inspiring trip back to Vietnam (if you want a detailed post on my inspiration, click here).
I wrote the first draft in less than two months, quickly revised, and sent it to my CP. Once I got my CP's feedback I revised once more before entering Pitch Wars.
This time, I got into the contest and I cried (the ugly, but happy kind). Under the mentorship of Brianna Shrum, I revised for the fourth time to get it agent ready.
During the agent round of the contest, I did well in piquing interest and garnering requests, but never got an offer. What I did get was a solid writing community and the best mentor ever who continues to go above and beyond for me.
After I started collecting rejections for this MS, I knew I had to go back in the query trenches. The trenches are no joke. They are filled with small victories, hopes dashed, a lot of chocolate eating, a few tears, and if you're really lucky, the offer you've been waiting for.
On January 24th, I was on twitter looking at the #MSWL hashtag hoping to find more agents to query when I stumbled upon Penny's. Though this was dated a while back, I thought I'd give it a shot and sent off my query.
She requested a full two days later. I sent her the full, trying not to get my hopes up. But then, my friend asked if I had a full out with Penny the next day because Penny had tweeted this:
I told her I did, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. Sometimes agents can have a long reading queue, so I couldn't imagine the full I had sent the day before could be the one she was reading.
But then Penny tweeted this the day after:
And all of my PW writer friends were sending me all good vibes and happy thoughts that I started to get my hopes up. That Thursday I refreshed my inbox thinking maybe I'd get an e-mail. I didn't. The next morning when my alarm went off for work at 6:05 a.m., I checked my e-mail and started screaming. My fiancé, who isn't a morning person, turned to me and said, "Congrats! You got an offer."
It wasn't an offer.
It was an e-mail setting up 'The Call.'
So 'The Call' is kind of a funny thing, because a lot of writers hope that 'The Call' will lead to an offer. That's not always the case. Agents can call and offer a 'Revise & Resubmit' without an offer of representation, or they can call to kindly reject your manuscript (rare, but I have heard of this happening).
I e-mailed Penny back and we arranged a time for the following Monday. I was in panic mode all weekend as I hoped for an offer, but completely freaked myself out for all the worst case scenarios.
When Monday came, I sat in my car outside of Barnes and Noble during my lunch break. It was freezing, and I was so nervous I thought I'd puke. Right on time, my cell rang, and the screen brightened with a New York number. How I managed to even answer, is beyond me.
Penny told me what she loved about my manuscript, she asked about my inspiration for it, and then she said the magic words, "I'd like to offer you representation."
OH. MY. GAWD. Cue incessant internal dialogue in my head as I tried to sound calm, cool, and collected, but really I kind of stuttered as I scribbled down notes from our conversation.
I loved how Penny was completely honest with me, how her vision of the story matched my own, and how passionate she was about her job.
The call was just as I had hoped it would be.
A week later, I officially accepted the offer and am still in shock that I now have a literary agent!
I can't foresee if DIAMOND QUEEN will sell or if I'll be able to make a solid career out of writing, but I do know how much I love writing and how I'll continue to do so. And knowing that I have an agent in my corner championing me makes me all the more hopeful of the possibilities.
It's funny how a few years ago I'd felt shame for not succeeding in a field I thought I should have been in. But in the time since, I've procured a new badge of honor for myself: following my heart and never giving up. And because my mom is and continues to be my inspiration to write, I know she's proud of me regardless. After all, it was her story that ignited my urge to share my own.
If there's one thing I want people to take away from my agent story, it's this: Make your own definition of success. Whether it's following your heart, dreams, or taking each day at a time, do it bravely and courageously. Let yourself fall, and then pick yourself up. You might not get it right on the first try, but if you continue to try, you'll get there eventually.
Also, Penny, if you're reading this, I'm sorry for twitter stalking you ;)