Seven hundred and sixty-five

Blessing in disguise: the end of my relationship with my literary agent

Sometimes things don’t happen the way that you planned, or you wanted, or you expected them to.  Sometimes those things initially shock, disappoint and upset you.  Sometimes we all need these moments to grow and to learn.  Sometimes they are blessings in disguise.

I have officially ended my relationship with the literary agent and agency I was working with.  Perhaps one day I’ll write about my experience, once it’s all sunk in and I can look at it with a little less emotion than I feel at the moment.  Needless to say it wasn’t a happy ending; the ending that I dreamed when I got an agent right away and I hoped a publishing deal would follow within the year.  It wasn’t a fairytale ending, but I did learn a lot.  My ex-agent helped to motivate me and edit my work and I am grateful for that.

I admit I was too naive, trusting, and didn’t listen to my gut six months ago when a nagging feeling started to tell me things weren’t right.  I waited around, was patient and understanding, was trying to be a good person.  I guess in business good people don’t finish on top.  It’s sad.  I’m sad.  But, as the saying goes: this too shall pass.

The more I think about it, the more I can see the happy ending.  It might not be the one I had expected, but it’s there.  And now I have control of my own work again.  I don’t have to wait around.  It’s up to me now.

And so, here I go on a new journey with the book/blog.  I’m not sure where it will take me yet.  I need a few days to figure out this new path I am on.  Perhaps I will self publish, or look for a different agent and agency.  I’ve started writing another book, so maybe that will be the one I take with me now.  As my friend said to me today, just because I didn’t think this is the way it was all supposed to go down, doesn’t mean it’s not the way it’s supposed to go.  It was a learning experience from the very beginning with this blog and every up and down has taught me a lot about myself and the world.  This is just one bump in a series of them.

Today I am allowing myself to mourn the loss of the way I dreamed it would go.  Tomorrow I begin steps towards something beyond my dreams.  I believe now, as I have always believed.  It will happen with more hard work and faith.  Even if today I’m a little sad.

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Five hundred and seventy-seven

Oops! Thursday instead of Wednesday post…

Days seem to blur together right now for me.  One day turns into the next and I forget whether it’s Wednesday or Thursday.  I’m busy trying to get the book finished so my agent can get me a publisher!  I’m working on the editing phase now and I find it presents whole new challenges.  It’s hard to delete my words and get rid of sections.  It’s difficult to figure out what’s best for each paragraph, then each section, and finally the fluidity of the whole thing.  It’s hard to choose what is important and what isn’t.  I’m also trained as a journalist, so therefore I tend to write using the clearest, fewest words to express what I need to succinctly.  I’m not a writer who adds in description words, but I find that when writing a book I have to do this.  I like to leave it up to the imagination of the reader, but my agent is keen to have me use more colourful language.  I’m learning so much every day that it fills my brain and leaves little room for figuring out what day of the week it is.  I’m so happy I have a calendar that I write everything down on, or else I’d forget to show up to work!

Cooking disasters

I do somehow still find time for baking, though.  I find it very stress-relieving.  Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t.  This week belongs in the latter category.  In the wake of my success last week with my Pumpkin Pie Brownie ‘Cupcakes’, this is proof of how the opposite outcome also often happens in my kitchen.  Here is a photo of my attempt at gluten-free, vegan Pumpkin Banana Muffins with quinoa flour, which I couldn’t even stomach eating one of because they were so gross (I brought them to work and my co-workers told me they weren’t that bad, although I’m pretty sure I saw them throwing out everything but the bite they took in my presence):

My cooking and baking have come a long way since I didn’t know how to bake a chicken breast a couple of years ago, but I still have my regular disasters.  I guess you can’t learn if you don’t make mistakes once and awhile!  And at least the act of baking does the job of balancing out my brain when I become too wrapped up in the book – whether it ends up tasty or tasting like bitter banana pumpkin mush.

Five hundred and fifty-five

Writing a book

Man, writing a book can be hard!  To all those people out there wanting to write a book, beware: it can be frustrating, emotionally draining and time consuming.  You can go through points where you don’t think you can finish and you’ve given so much to the book, you’re not sure there’s anything left to give.  BUT, I would highly recommend taking the plunge and giving it a go!  For me, it has also been inspiring, emotionally purging, and rewarding.  I’m a couple of weeks away from having a rough draft of the book finished and I’m feeling like I’m at the end of a marathon: a little tired, having pushed past the hump, gotten into a steady stride and am heading for the finish line.  Of course then there is the editing by me, my literary agent, then me again, and finally by the editor and publisher – as long as all goes to plan.  I’m excited about this next part.

As I approach the end, I’m feeling very reflective about the experience so far.  I’ve learned so much during the process of writing this book, especially considering the experiences I’m writing about are still fresh in my mind and heart. I did however face a lot of hurdles.  Here are a few of the problems I’ve faced, that perhaps other writers can relate to:

  • Portraying real people in my life –  I am using pseudonyms, but of course they are going to know who they are when they read it and I want to be as accurate as possible without hurting or angering anyone.
  • Writing about particularly emotional experiences – It’s been very cathartic to get onto paper all the emotions I’ve kept bottled up, but difficult.  There were moments during the 366 days that really affected me and sometimes other people that I love.  It was hardest to write about those personal times.  I have occasionally gotten so frustrated with having to relive and articulate these moments that I had to completely walk away from my computer for a day.  The difficulty of getting it out of me on to computer screen proved that they were still many issues I hadn’t dealt with completely, despite my trying to convince myself I was over them, and I had to deal with through the writing process.
  • Being honest with myself and the reader – There are things I did during the year that I’m not completely proud of – things that I would have done differently had I to do it over.  But alas, time doesn’t work like that and I can’t change the things I’ve done, only deal with them and try to do things better in the present and future.  What is that saying about giving strength to accept the things I can’t change and change the things I can, or something like that? (I’m writing this with very weak internet right now, so I’ll have to look it up later, but you get the point)
  • The dreaded procrastination –  There is always laundry to be done and tea to be made and Netflix to watch (especially when I get hooked on a series and “need” to watch the whole five seasons of it).  When I’m feeling uninspired, it is hard to write, and easy to do any of these other things.
  • Retreating into myself – There were also a few weeks where I became completely anti-social, ignored all my friends and family, and was a little down on how hard it was to finish a few of the chapters (I think I might have also been avoiding dealing with some of those emotional personal issues I talked about earlier).

Despite these times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue, I somehow managed to keep on deadline and I should be done the book by the end of the month, as planned!  I’m ready to have the main writing part finished and on to the editing and tweaking.

Overall, I’m feeling very positive about it.  I had a great meeting with my literary agent today.  I have gained so much more in terms of knowledge, skills, and personal growth, that far outweigh any negativity.  I have learned to look at the big picture and the small details simultaneously.  I have learned TONS about writing dialogue and extensive description, two aspects of writing that aren’t included in journalistic stories very often.  Finally, I’m really proud of what I’ve done so far.  I believe in myself and I believe in this book.  And whatever happens, I’m will have accomplished my goal.  I will have written a book.  Next goal: sell millions of copies!

Four hundred and forty-three

Update on the book and the publishing process

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you all on the publishing process, and I know some of you are interested for your own writing journey, so I figured today would be a good day.  Well that and the fact that I’ve spent the day biking across the city, visiting one of my best friends and her adorable newborn baby (who spit up on me on several occasions, but completely adorable spit ups), then writing about Cooking 30 Countries and the aftermath of date month, and I’m pretty exhausted.

To recap how the process has gone so far:

  • After my blog was featured on Freshly Pressed, I got an e-mail from a literary agent asking to meet with me about representation.
  • We met for tea (her) and coffee (me), all went well and I sent her my prologue.
  • She and her intern both liked what I wrote and we decided to work together.
  • I am writing the book and sending it to the agent section by section for her to edit and makes suggestions as to formatting, the  information I’ve chosen to include, and the flow.

What’s happening now:

I’m up to the fourth month/section in writing and the second in editing.  My agent was away at the book fair in London, England (sort of speed dating for agents and publishers) and just got back.  She has sent me her edits for the prologue and the Extreme Couponing section which have been really helpful in pointing out what things I’m missing.  Sometimes it’s hard to make sure to explain everything and include all the details, instead of just filling them in in my head and assuming the reader will figure it out.  As well, she’s been great at filtering out unnecessary information I’ve added.  I’m pretty proud of what’s been written so far.  I think it’s going to be a really fun book!

We met the other day and chatted a lot about things I need to focus on in my writing as well as general book trends in the publishing industry (apparently erotica is very hot right now – excuse the pun – because of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy that has been flying off the shelves).  I am officially signing a contract with her once a friend of mine looks it over and we make sure we’re all happy  (it looks fair to me so far, but it’s good to get a second professional opinion before signing anything).  She then will start pitching the book to editors and publishers, starting with New York, then at other book fairs depending on what the market is looking like for the type of book I’m writing.  From there it’s up to my agent to negotiate for me and find the right fit for an editor and publisher with my book.  It’s all pretty exciting.  And I’m really liking how the book is going so far with the writing.

Alas, it needs to be finished before any publishing happens, so I better get back to it and write a little more before bed…

Three hundred and eighty

Wow!  It has been quite the week.  Besides a hectic “first patio day of the year and therefore a completely s__t-show” (working not drinking) at the pub which left me feeling like a shell of a human being void of all soul, emotion, energy or drive to do anything, it’s been an educational and tough-in-a-good-way few days.  I started writing the book, beginning with the prologue and back story of why I started this project in the first place, using my parents’ house in the country as inspiration.  I came back to an amazing meeting with the literary agent I spoke about last week.  I love her!  She’s very calming, put together (both great traits to play off my occasional manic tendencies), and really passionate about her job.

We talked a lot about the role of the agent in the ever-changing publishing industry.  I know a lot of people who read this blog are writers, so therefore I’ll tell you what I understood from our conversation in hopes that you can learn from the information as well.  The agent is now as much of an editor, as someone who eventually pitches your work to editors at publishing companies.  What happens in steps is:

  • A writer sends a query to an agent to see whether the agent will represent the writer
  • If the agent is interested, they meet, the agent reads more of the writing and they decide if they will work together
  • The writer then writes the book or sections of the book and sends it/them to the agent
  • The agent edits and they work together to develop the book into almost ready-to-publish form
  • The agent then researches editors at publishing companies that would fit well with that particular writer
  • The agent sends out manuscripts (or parts of manuscripts – I’m still a little iffy on this step) to editors and waits for usually around 3-6 months, or maybe more, to hear back.
  • The agent also approaches editors at three majors book fairs across the world.
  • If or when the book gets published, the agent takes a percentage of what the publisher offers the writer.  This is how the agent gets paid.

This is how I understand it – although I’m just starting out and by no means an expert in any of this.  But I thought it would be interesting for you all to follow along on my thought process as well and help inspire you if you’re thinking about writing a book.

In my case, because the agent approached me, I don’t send a query.  However, yesterday I sent her the prologue I have written and she is going to read it, see if we are still on the same page in terms of what we both want from this book and how my book writing style is (versus blog writing – a completely different skill set), and then we go from there.  It’s pretty nerve-racking sending her what I’ve written. You think I’d get used to sharing my words with other people after blogging every day for a year, but it’s still hard.  It’s like sharing a little piece of your soul and waiting to hear back if someone likes it or not. Yesterday I spent the night at work trying not to dwell on the fact that the agent could possibly hate it.  Although it’s probably better than sitting at home refreshing my e-mail every ten minutes to see if anything came through!

Writing the book is different than writing the blog and I’m working on my description and dialogue skills.  And of course not letting my doubts, insecurities and nervousness get in the way of the writing.  I am not letting fear stop me from writing this book.  Although, it’s going to be even harder because the book is my personal journey behind the blog posts.  And sharing my personal life has always been the hardest part for me.

Anytime I doubt myself, though, I look through all the encouraging comments from my post a couple weeks ago and I remember this:

Thank you!  (And of course, I write it out, like I just did in this blog post and what I’m doing in the book.  I feel much better now.).