Hi. It's me. Tracy. I'm the newest Mayhemer, and I'm honored to be one. I really mean that. Absolutely honored. (And you’ve probably figured out by now that I have trouble writing in complete sentences. Oh well. It is creative writing, right?)
Since the readers of this site are interested in reading and writing middle grade books, I thought I’d introduce myself and tell you how I came to be here. That is, how I came to be talking to you via a decent internet connection and a backlit screen, one that’s probably too bright and wreaking havoc on your eyes about now.
When I peruse author sites, read blog posts, and attend conferences, my favorite elements are discovering writers’ journeys. For many people, these journeys offer comfort and hope, and they attempt to make sense of an art/business full of waiting*, close calls, and rejections. And waiting.* And then more waiting.*
So, here is a synopsis of how I came to be talking to you through this bright screen. (Where is that brightness button anyway?)
I started writing my first middle grade novel in 2003. It took me forever. And it was awful. I sent my first query to a literary agent in 2008. It might have been earlier; I sent so many queries that I lost track. Plus, you have to factor in the snail mail queries that I neglected to keep record of. I spent hundreds of dollars on postage! (Thank you, email)
Anyway, the point is, I was an idiot. I had no idea what I was doing. The book (my book!) wasn't even finished. I hadn't revised it one bit. But I was going to land an agent and a book deal, I was sure of that.
After about a year, when no agent or book deal came, I moped with disappointment. I was a teacher and a writer. I read and taught classics and Newbery winners. The best of the best. Well, as it turns out, teaching an award-winning book doesn't exactly give you the ability to write one.
Not even close.
In 2012, I self-published my first middle grade book THE COLOR OF BONES. It sold decently, for a selfy. While I was prepping that book for publication, I wrote another middle grade novel and queried it widely. I received many coveted full requests from agents, but no one pulled the trigger. It was too.... quiet... and not saleable.
Then, this past January, I sent a last query. No, seriously, a LAST query. I had read a blog post on an agency’s website, and the post was about the state of publishing and where it is headed and why it is headed in that direction, and you know what, that post really spoke to me. So, hey, I looked up which agents repped middle grade and fired off a query to one of them. No postage! Didn’t cost me a thing, except my time and effort!
Seriously. This was my LAST query for this particular book. I had exhausted every agent, except this one.
Three months later, I was driving to school in the morning. While waiting at a red light, I looked down at my phone. An email. I tapped the screen. It was from the agent. I scanned the message and saw the word representation. And then, the stoplight turned green.
When I arrived safely in the parking lot (that is a lie), I read the entire message. He said that he loved my book, and he wanted to schedule a phone call to discuss representation.
Over the last decade, while I was being rejected repeatedly, I've done more than write. I've learned, listened, participated, read hundreds of books, and remained professional through the peaks and valleys of living as a writer. What I'm trying to say is, while I was being rejected, I grew as a writer and as a person. And this growth is now paying off.
In April, I signed with literary agent John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich, and now I’m revising my middle grade novel, which will go to editors later this year. Shortly after, I applied for Project Mayhem and was eventually invited to join. And that is how I came to be talking to you through this electronic means of communication.
And now, I want to know how many rejections you've accumulated during your journey? Who has me beat? Three hundred.... going once... going twice...
(Don’t be shy. Here at Project Mayhem, we admire bravery and persistence.)
*Waiting = Thinking about new project. Researching. Planning. Outlining. Plotting. Characterizing. Writing.
**Basically, waiting = anything but waiting!