Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

EDGES: road to publication

So . . . more about the story behind EDGES, on this cold Sunday evening, the last day of January from my apartment in New York City! Why would a city girl like me, write about the desert in Utah? There is so much to tell, too much, in fact, for one measly blog.

Let me just take a short cut and say that I lived in Moab, Utah for the year I was twenty-eight and was hired to start up an Intensive Outpatient Program for teens with substance abuse problems at the local metal health center.

I also met my future husband there, at The Lazy Lizard Youth Hostel.

One day after my future husband and I had moved back to New York and I was working as a counselor at a high school downtown, I wrote the opening scene of EDGES. I then put the notebook in the back of a drawer somewhere and went about my life, thinking that there were enough storytellers in the family. I had one child, and then another, but still I couldn't get the image of Luke in the trailer - looking for a place to put his mother's painting - out of my mind.

Once both of my boys were in some kind of pre-school, I decided to dust off that notebook, despite the voices in my head loudly telling me that I needed to get a real job, that I was a dilettante and that I wasn't smart enough. I don't know if I could have done it, if it wasn't for my mom who would read twenty pages at a time and encourage me. I knew that she really believed that if I practiced, I would get better. So I wrote. I wrote my heart out. And I wasn't writing with an audience in mind either - I was getting the story down. And let me tell you, my first draft was awful. And so was the second. It was my third draft that I started to feel like I had something: I told the same story that FSG will publish, but with nine different points of view, three teenagers and six adults. It was a Tales of the City meets Dawson's Creek sort of thing, and I sent it out to an agent at Writer's House. I was summarily rejected, but was also sent a personal note and not a form letter, which gave me some hope. I decided not to send it out again, but to work on it some more, this time asking for feedback from a professional.

I had the chutzpah (along with a whole lot of fear) to call my grandmother's old editor at FSG, Sandra Jordan. (She now writes about art and artist's for young readers, and her latest picture book, MR. & MRS. PORTLY AND THEIR LITTLE DOG SNACK came out in the fall of 2009. My daughter and I love it!) She told me that it would be okay to send the manuscript to her, and a week later, called me to set up a lunch date! Thus began a series of lunches at the Metro Diner, and I knew that what I had been missing, was a mentor. I didn't need to mourn that my grandmother couldn't mentor me or point me in the right direction, I had Sandra! She asked amazing questions! She was taking me seriously! For the first time I felt like I might really be a writer, and not just playing at one. She gently advised for me to rewrite it from the teen POV.

I wrote another draft with only three points of view this time, and Sandra generously read it again. "I think you're ready to send it out," she said. "Editor's are all different and like different things. I'll put in a good word with X and Y, and we'll see what they say." Oh, I was too excited for words! I sent the manuscript out to two publishing houses, and three months later, I got the manuscripts back, along with very kind rejection letters. I ate a lot of candy, put the manuscript in a drawer for six months, and thought about becoming a nurse for the steady paycheck. (For real! And I'm a squeamish person!)

But the letters these editors sent along with my novel didn't say that I was "bad" - indeed, they said that I was rather good, but that I really had two novels wrapped up in one. At that point I didn't know the pacing of a Young Adult novel vs. an adult novel, as I mostly read the latter. Voraciously. (You know me, book addict, right?)

It wasn't until after my grandmother died that I picked up the manuscript again, and wrote another draft, this time just from Luke and Ava's points of view. My sister, Charlotte, had hired a new agent for our grandmother's estate, Edward Necarlsumer, and she talked up my book to him. He has youth on his side and is ardently in-love with the world of children's books and YA fiction. I didn't exactly put him on the spot and ask him to be my agent - awkward - but I did ask him for feedback. He read it and we met for lunch and realized that we are of two like minds. He said that he hadn't read anything quite like it, but spoke to me sternly when I said that I hadn't read much YA besides my grandmother, and told me to read Chris Cutcher's INEXCUSABLE, Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK, and Ellen Hopkin's CRANK. I am a good girl and do what I'm told and was blown away by these authors. After all, it would seem that I had an agent who believed in my book!

I went through another six months and two more drafts before he sent it to Margaret Ferguson at FSG late April 2008. Then in July I got the call that they wanted to buy it. Elation! Vindication! In October I signed the contract, (in the middle of writing novel #2) and then in April of 2009 we started working on the editing process, which deserves another blog, in and of itself.

Also, I'm getting tired! Have a good sleep everybody . . . It's 10:45PM, no matter what the time on the blog says!

3 comments:

  1. I love hearing the stories of how books -- particularly first books -- came to be, and i can't wait to read it!!!

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  2. Thanks Courtney - I was worried about over-sharing! (Still worried!)

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  3. perhaps it will make a fine christmas present for those who love Moab or plan to marry here in the next year.

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