What I wish I’d known when I was querying

1. Do. Something. Else.

I was the worst because I had so few hobbies besides writing. Reading, sure, but after a while lines start to blur and “I’ll read this book by a stranger!” turned to “I’ll read this book by a Twitter friend!” turned to “I’ll read this manuscript by a critique partner or someone I’m beta-reading for,” and that’s not healthy. You need to have a life outside of publishing. Sometimes I joke about whatever writing- or publishing-related thing I’m doing that day being the only thing in the world—whether it’s plugging away at the first draft of my manuscript or line-editing a critique partner’s book before it goes to their agent or proofreading an author’s galley for my internship. But while sometimes those things are so intensive they seem like the only thing, it’s important that we make the distinction: it’s not, because life exists outside of publishing, and we should be living it.

2. Do not obsess.

Yes, I was one of Those Writers. I checked QueryTracker a minimum of five times a day, every day, and I say that without joking or exaggerating. If I sent an agent my full on January 1st and I hadn’t heard anything by April 1st, I nudged them that day, since three months is the general timeline when nudging becomes a thing you can do. I was absolutely obsessive about everything, and I know a lot of people for whom “don’t obsess about querying” is equivalent to “don’t breathe.”

But the thing is, it gets so much easier if you relax a little. If you realize that agents have professional and personal lives outside of the slush pile, let alone your book, #19 in the onslaught of Microsoft Word documents they might not even have time to send to their Kindle. I can’t promise that it’ll ever be easy, but it does not have to be this hard. Write and edit your best damn book. Follow guidelines. Be professional. Then let your work speak for itself.

3. Write the next thing.

Please, for the love of all things good and kind in this world, write your next project. Throw yourself into it. Get breathless every time you think about how magical it will be, how it will be the best thing you’ve ever written. (Because if you’re not improving with each book, especially if you’ve only written a few so far, you’re probably not doing it right.) If you’re absolutely in love with your next project, the sting from rejections on the one you’re querying will be so much lesser. It doesn’t mean you don’t adore the book you’re querying—it means you’re simultaneously making things easier for yourself and being proactive about your career.

4. Take things to heart.

I know—this isn’t the standard advice! You’re supposed to remember everything is subjective and wholly impersonal! What gives? Well, yes, you’re correct about rejections, but I’m not talking about those. Or I am, but I’m also talking about the good things that come from rejections.

When an agent says “Please do send me your next project,” they are not kidding. In almost every circumstance imaginable—and certainly in all the ones I can think of—this means something to the tune of “I really freaking like your writing but, for one reason or another, I can’t take on this book, but I super hope you’ll think of me for the next one.” You’re not a one-trick pony; you’ll have other books. (If not, why are you trying to break into publishing?) And even if (what you think is) the worst thing that could happen does happen and you don’t get an agent with this manuscript, you already have someone—maybe even someones, plural—you can send your next one!

5. It gets easier.

It feels like it never will. It does. It takes time, dedication, and unending patience, but you will get there, and it’ll be amazing.

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I, a teen, have feelings about how you, an adult, write teen dialogue

This is something I struggle with personally. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at it over time, especially since I’ve started to consider dialogue one of my stronger spots. So let’s just jump right into some specific things I find that need fixing or more visibility:

(Actually, first, please note: I am anticipating getting responses from teenagers saying they speak exclusively in extended metaphors. That doesn’t discount the points made here—and moreover, I super doubt anyone who says that, to be frank. I’ve met hundreds of teenagers—because, you know, school—and I’m still waiting to meet the one who uses all of these. I don’t want to meet them, actually, because it seems talking with them would be incredibly, incredibly painful.)

1. We don’t speak in overwritten sentences.

This is so stupidly common it makes me want to punch myself in the face. I’m not going to name names because I’m an incredibly professional businessperson businessing away, but there’s a certain YA author who had a great deal of commercial success in the past few years. I like his books. I also happen to think he’s yet to meet a teenager.

Ridiculous thing you might write: “My god, look at it! How big, how blue, how beautiful—look at the water undulating hither and tither, excited and repulsed by the moon in turn. What a feeling clamoring about in my chest, begging to escape! Given years and all the time I could want, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be than here with you, Hope Feather Waters-Stone.”

Actual thing a teen might say: “Holy shit. Wait—holy shit, is the beach always that pretty? And I didn’t expect the noise from the waves or whatever…oh my god, that’s amazing.”

Why: Let’s count: the vast, vast, vast vast vast majority of teens would not use personification (of the ocean water and the feeling in his chest), fancy verbs (“undulating,” “repulsed,” “clamoring”), or a person’s full name in casual conversation. You might say, “But I’m not writing for the vast majority of teens!” and if that’s true, I’ve got some bad news for you concerning commercial publishing.

2. We aren’t pretty and refined.

This is kind of a catch-all for a few things: one, we curse. A lot. We do not restrict our fuck and shit usage to the maximum in a PG-13 movie. I read a book recently where the main character didn’t curse, only started cursing and then censored himself (“Eff this!”). If I met a sixteen-year-old boy who did that, I would be concerned. I would maybe call the authorities. I don’t know why; it’d just instill panic in my heart.

And I know a lot of writers are Mormon, which is fine! Great, even! I know a lot of great LDS people (their church’s recent “children with same-sex parents are now apostates” thing notwithstanding). But most teens do not morally object to curse words. If you, Adult Person, do, that’s your prerogative, but when your non-Mormon character faces extreme suffering or frustration, they’re not going to pull a Kimmy Schmidt and say “Gosh darn mommy-fudger!” That’s not a thing.

Moreover, we talk about or reference a lot of things that might upset adults in general. We talk about sex (I cannot even type that without my mind going to “Let’s Talk About Sex”), drinking, drugs, human anatomy, body humor…a lot of us are gross people, oftentimes. Sometimes we talk about these things because they’re funny—a running gag in my friend group for the past two years has been the full sentence “Fuck you, pussy-ass motherfucker.” Sometimes we talk about these things because they’re new—sex, notably. Sometimes we talk about these things because we like them—drinking (NOT ME; CALM DOWN). Almost always, we use the words.

Ridiculous thing you might write: “What’d you do this weekend?”

Hope Feather Waters-Stone smiled. “I sat home and twiddled my thumbs. That’s not a metaphor for masturbation. I would never. Golly, who would?”

“You’re a fudging inspiration.”

Actual thing a teen might say: “Oh my god I hooked up with so many people this weekend you are not going to believe it.

3. We’re quirky, dammit.

Everyone has verbal tics except for teenage characters in young adult fiction! Who knew.

These vary widely, so I can only speak from experience. Here’s some I’ve noticed in myself:

4. Grammar.

I don’t use it when speaking to friends. My friends don’t use it when speaking to me. We’ll put a well-developed paragraph of events, thoughts, or feelings into a single sentence when speaking to each other. Conversely, we’ll give one-word answers, often even when we’re not angry. We’re not writing an essay; we’re having a face-to-face conversation with a friend of seven years. We do! Not! Care!

5. We’re not often quotable.

Sometimes we are! Key word: sometimes. But if a character gets more than one or two beautiful, paragraph-length quotes you, the reader, just want to put on Goodreads because they’re so beautiful and heart-wrenching and utterly poetic even without substantial context—well, I call bullshit. A lot of people notice when characters are written as intentionally quotable. A lot of people don’t like it.

6. We have back-and-forth more often than you seem to think.

A pet peeve of mine is the rallying cry in fiction. Teens—and, you know, people—do not speak in fifteen straight compound-complex sentences. We stumble over our words. We lose trains of thought. We are also interrupted—our friends or whoever we’re speaking to jump in with their thoughts or a rebuttal, and that’s okay! We likely do the same to them! Conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. And it’s pretty much never a soliloquy.


 

I asked my teen followers on Twitter what they dislike about YA dialogue. Here are the replies I got:

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2015

Highlights of my year (in chronological order):

  • Getting a higher SAT score than pretty much everyone at school, according to my guidance counselor, even though I was barely in the top 20% of my class
  • Wrangling SWEETEST DOWNFALL into a queryable state
  • Querying
  • Querying going well
  • Getting accepted to the state university of New Jersey
  • Getting accepted to the state university of New Jersey’s selective honors college
  • Graduating high school, getting a scholarship (it was small, but still), going to my high school’s annual after-graduation party, where friends and acquaintances did a ’90s rap lip-sync battle thing which made my life complete
  • Gay marriage being legalized nationwide
  • Going to NYC, staying with my critique partner Amy Zhang, meeting John Hansen and Cam Garrett and Becky Albertalli and Dahlia Adler and Adam Silvera and there were probably other people there because it was a public event but honestly who cares because I met these ones
  • Seeing my sister, who lives a couple thousand miles away, for a week
  • Landing an editorial internship with Entangled Publishing
  • Being selected for Pitch Wars
  • First day of college (this was on the same day)
  • Doing all the things while anxious because no mental illness IN ALL OF OZ, no chemical imbalance that there is or was, is ever gonna bring me down
  • Getting a vague email from a publishing person asking to speak on the phone
  • Stumbling over every word that came out of my face when my agent, Heather Flaherty, told me “I’m offering you representation”
  • Signing The Bent Agency’s author agreement
  • Working on my seventh manuscript (the one after SWEETEST DOWNFALL)

Just like, some random cool stuff that happened this year that I liked, I guess:

  • Improving ALL THE CRAFT, thanks to experience, critique, and instruction
  • Getting way better at editing so now I can feel like a competent critique partner
  • Driving around town with my BFF and singing and almost dying because a car was approaching us quickly at an intersection and I was scared shitless so naturally I just kind of murmured “There’s a car coming at us” and she was like SHIIIIIIIT and anyway we didn’t die but it was funny I guess you had to be there man
  • Habitually giving my high school the finger every time my friends and I drove past it
  • Putting my SMALL DOG in a HOODIE

Favorite book read in 2015:

I am so mad I read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli last year. Not really, but that book meant so much to me personally. At the same time, I’m super glad because if I’d read Simon and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not in the same year I would have become a smooth, fist-sized river rock because they are both SO GOOD and I spent twenty minutes choosing between them for my vote in the Goodreads Best Books of the Year thing. You think I’m exaggerating about the twenty minutes. You are incorrect!

Favorite songs listened to in 2015:

  • “Colors” by Halsey
  • “The Writer” by Ellie Goulding
  • “Headlights” by Tor Miller
  • “St Jude” by Florence + The Machine
  • “Sober” by Kelly Clarkson

Favorite albums released in 2015:

  • Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) by Lin-Manuel Miranda and other machine-people who are literally cyborgs because no humans from Earth sing and act that well
  • American Candy by The Maine
  • Coming Up for Air by Kodaline
  • Badlands by Halsey
  • How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
  • Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons

Publishing fun:

  • A bunch of internship stuff I can’t talk about, but what I can say is I fell in love with a manuscript or two this year
  • I GOT TO READ SLUSH. I don’t deal directly with authors—my job is to write reader reports on the manuscripts, since Entangled uses Submittable and requires the full manuscript with the query—and I don’t go through all the slush, just the mss assigned to me, but oh my god, dream come true
  • I learned MOST (PROBABLY ALL) OF THE THINGS about the acquisitions process from my boss, Kate Brauning, and I feel all educated
  • Jenny Bent, a rockstar agent and the head of Heather’s agency, also signed my agency agreement and I was like “This is fine. This is normal! I am fine. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IS FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW.
  • A while back I beta-read Fox Benwell’s gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous debut The Last Leaves Falling, which was published this year and also happens to have my name in the acknowledgments, and my preorder went to my Kindle and the acknowledgments were in the beginning so it basically started with my name SO THAT’S A NORMAL THING. (Second book I’ve been in the acknowledgments for in my life! First was Amy Zhang’s Falling into Place. I cried both times. I am a crier.)

Pictures ‘n’ stuff:

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My dog is the prettiest and she takes A+ selfies

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I wrote an autobiographical mystery called THE PURLOINED FUCK

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Super do not think this needs an explanation

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I found this picture of myself from my baby-modeling years and oh my god the caption

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My favorite conversation of the year for so many reasons was three text messages (date: June 26)

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My senior yearbook quote was kidlit (Roald Dahl) because…have you met me?

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This meant a lot to me

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OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT FACE

People I am especially grateful for this year:

Ari Susu-Mago, Serial Killer. Heather Flaherty, the coolest, most capable agent ever (and she sent me the cutest holiday card OH MY GOD STILL NOT OVER IT). Kate Brauning and Bethany Robison, who are like your bosses except better in absolutely every way. Helene Dunbar, who’s so amazing and helpful and generous and—— Not John Hansen because no one cares. Katherine Locke, whose books you have bought or bye. Paula Garner, for CHECKING. All my Twitter friends, since I know I left many of you out, but whether we’ve interacted or not: I appreciate you. Thank you. All the love.

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The life you save may be your own

[this blog post discusses suicide at length]

Because I am the world’s most teenager-y teenager, this is written with someone in mind and I’m not going to tell you who. I think other people might need to hear it too, though, with winter setting in and the holidays coming up and the year ending and all, so I’m posting it publicly.


 

Dear you,

Honesty is important, so I’ll be upfront: I took a good long time coming up with some great line to write here. I wanted it to be original, universal, specific, short, meaningful, something that would leave an impact. Of course that’s an entirely impossible sentence to construct, but I felt like you needed it. This is what I came up with, after much hand-wringing and reading aloud and backspacing and angst:

A bright world can be so hard to see, but you have to let your eyes adjust to the light.

I know how hard life has been for you. I know you feel like you are down to one percent. I’ve been where you are, when you’re trying and trying and trying to swim to shore but your arms get tired of pumping through saltwater and your brain is running out of reasons to keep going, stroke after stroke after stroke, and your eyes just want to shut for forever because they’re so tired of crying. So tired. You’re so tired.

But nothing in this universe is going to last forever—maybe not even the universe. And you can be scared by that; I think we all are. You can also be relieved. This—the shit you’re going through, the pain you feel, the way recovery seems like a concept created to mock you because you’ll never reach that place—won’t last forever. You just have to live to see what comes after.

Sure, maybe “you just have to live” is an understatement of how difficult living is for you right now. But you have to remember: you have never been anything but alive. You have no idea what a present-day without you is like.

A bright world can be so hard to see. I know. I didn’t used to see anything in color, just black and white. I came so close to dying—a day away. Twenty-four hours. For context, I was born over 6,750 days ago. More than 162,000 hours.

But the hours felt like months when I was in the murk and dark and blank of depression. So here’s what I did: I filled those hours.

I kept busy: homework, conversations, sleep, reading, writing, studying writing craft, studying biology. I was careful to be around people almost always. If I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, I counted to ten as slowly as I needed. At each ten, I had to get up in some fashion—positioning myself to sit up, actually sitting up, a foot on the floor. If I didn’t move at each count of ten, I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom for another two minutes.

Maybe not the healthiest, but the prospect of not being able to pee after waking up is terrifying.

I was always doing something—even if I had nothing that needed to be done, I would listen to music (no sad songs allowed). I would cook something small but multi-step.

I’d also make excuses for why I couldn’t die. I had a paper to co-write with my lab partner, and if I weren’t around she’d have to do it by herself, which wouldn’t have been fair. After the paper was done: my dog was sick and I had to make sure she got better, because she liked the way I brushed her fur better than anyone in my family. After my dog got better: it was almost Christmas and I couldn’t make our family’s favorite holiday painful for them, because they’d carry that around forever and wouldn’t want Christmas to be a sad occasion.

I made excuses every day until I didn’t need them anymore. And I don’t need them anymore. I never thought that would be something I’d be able to say. That I’d have reasons, not excuses.

You’re doing okay, I think, I hope. It’s difficult to tell because you exuded happiness before this and you still do now. I don’t know you all that well, so I can’t really figure out when your heart’s not in it and when it really is. But sometimes we slip on our climb upward, and when you do I want you to remember I barely know you and I wrote this for you. I want you to remember how many people you’ve helped. I want you to remember how smart, how brave, how beautiful we know you are.

Happiness is real. It exists. It comes and it goes but you’re going to find it. I promise.

So much love,

Me

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The best laid plans and breaking worlds

I have a bit of a book commitment problem. Three days or two months or half a year after finishing a manuscript, I’ll get the first idea for my next one, and it will seem so, so amazing—whether because of the premise or the characters or the voice. I’ll be invested from the get-go and I’ll start writing all in a tizzy of excitement…and then without fail, by the next month, I will have abandoned that project.

I don’t know why I do this. I’ve completed six full-length manuscripts; I have an agent. It seems like I should have the foresight to determine if a new manuscript will pan out, but I just don’t.

And because I’m an easily excited person, I tend to talk about those projects, the ones that go nowhere. I’ll blog or tweet about them, and my critique partners will likely be tired of hearing about them. People respond—often, to my delight, favorably. And then I feel like a big ol’ fraud when I never mention those books again.

So yeah, this is a bit of a funeral for REVERIE, the 2013 book I thought would be my fifth, after MAD WORLD (the latter of which I did complete). And for, more recently, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. Sorry, books. You were fine ideas, but, you know. YOLO? No, that’s not right. Oh well.

I feel ridiculous saying this after all that, but this blog post serves two purposes: I also wanted to update you all on the current work-in-progress. This book will be my seventh if it kills me.

After SWEETEST DOWNFALL—soon to be retitled; watch this space—I had an idea-drought. This left me in a panic; usually some idea or character floats by fairly quickly once I finish a manuscript, but this time, not so. It took me about six months to think up a single premise, which I discarded because it wasn’t going anywhere. Same with the next. And the next.

But I’ve been sitting on this idea I have right now for a little while. I came up with the title first, which Does Not Happen except this time it did: BREAK THE WORLD. Somehow it felt right. It felt like something I’d write.

I’m still kind of early on in the process, at least in terms of words on the page—but because I am dying to share it with you, I wanted to tell you some stuff.

BREAK THE WORLD isn’t necessarily a fluffy book, but it’s nowhere near as dark as my previous ones. No one is dead, and no one will die. It’s a young adult contemporary romance, like The Artwork Formerly Known As SWEETEST DOWNFALL, but the similarities pretty much end there—where Zeke is the most introverted character since the dawn of time, Emory likes going to parties and hooking up with guys whose names he’s pretty sure he was told but can’t exactly remember because, you know, alcohol. Where the voice in SD is quiet and introspective—”literary,” according to my former Pitch Wars mentor Helene Dunbar, which made me happy-squeal a whole bunch—in BTW there’s a joke or two I find hilarious in almost every scene.

Still, BTW has substance—I mean, I certainly hope it does, since I’m the writer. It’s about falling in love with someone who is working very, very hard to love himself. It’s about recovery. The day-to-day aspects of it, the minutiae of getting yourself to a place where you are functional again. The way we need to tell our hearts to beat, sometimes. It’s about everything that makes the world, and how exactly we go about breaking it in our tiny and important ways.

Also, sex.

And if you read all of this, you deserve A) a sticker and B) a couple of short excerpts I like. So:

The first line of the manuscript: I am maybe possibly not really okay fine a little bit very astronomically drunk.


From narrator Emory’s first interaction with Jude, the love interest: “Can I touch it?”

“What?”

“Your face,” I say, gesturing to his face in case he forgot where it was. “Can I touch it? With my face?”


Thanks for reading, friends! I want to blog more often but, you know, I never know what to talk about. Still, your continued support is seen, it is appreciated, and it is noted favorably on your individual permanent records.

 

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There’s no way you’re getting a coherent blog post title out of me right now.

Hi! I’m trying out WordPress for my writing blog, hence why this is posted on my Blogger blog and over here. It’s the same post—I’m just toying around with this site. Feel free to follow me; I hope to post more over here!

 

(I command you to listen to The Civil Wars’s “Poison and Wine” while reading this. If the song ends before you’re done reading, put it on repeat. It has no relevance to anything, but it fits the mood; just do this for me.)

My heart is a kick-drum in my chest right now.

You know those things that happen to you and make you think, “Well, this is going to be the defining aspect of my year”? 2010 is the year I first got psychiatric treatment. 2011 is the year I started coming out. 2012 is the year I was one day from attempting suicide before I told someone. 2013 is the year I expanded my support system with so many amazing relationships I hope to carry on forever. 2014 is the year I became proud of myself.

2015 is the year my difficult high school experience paid off; I got admitted to the honors college at my state university.

2015 is the year I said goodbye to some of my closest friends.

2015 is the year I wrote the second book of my heart, SWEETEST DOWNFALL. (If you’re wondering, yes, I did decide to title it that because of the Regina Spektor song “Samson.”)

2015 is the year…well. We’ll get to that. First, a great deal of backstory:

I started writing in 2011 for National Novel Writing Month (actually, Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer), mainly just to prove to myself that I could do it. My first manuscript was this horrific attempt at YA contemporary—the first of a planned quartet—but I didn’t know how horrible it was. I finished it, but I didn’t know what editing was or if I needed to do it. I queried it, but I didn’t know how to query. No one so much as responded to my “queries.” I cried. I got back to work.

In the winter of 2011-2012, I wrote my second manuscript, a dystopian romance with a love triangle. It was kind of like if The Handmaid’s Tale had been bad. I queried it. I got two requests. I got two rejections. I cried. I got back to work.

In the spring of 2012, I wrote my third manuscript, a YA contemporary with no romance. It was an Issue Book about suicide, but I didn’t know that. I queried it. I got requests, one from the lead agent at a solid, well-respected boutique agency. I never heard back. I cried. I got back to work.

It is worth noting here that around this time, I joined Twitter and met Amy ZhangAri Susu-MagoJohn Hansen, and Olivia, the four members of my critique group besides me. We spent many, many evenings and weekends in a private chat room discussing portable, satchel-held breasts. We’re still friends and critique partners now, and I hope we will be until the bitter end. At the risk of being a corny cob of corn made of cheese and sap: Amy is my first critique partner ever and the subject of literal hours spent bragging to my mom about my critique partner; she also made me cry four separate times at the first draft of Falling into Place and another four times at the finished copy, so she’s a little bit dead to me. (KIDDING. I LOVE YOU BEYOND ALL MEASURE, AMY.) Ari is my most trusted confidant when I hate the world and also when I love it, in addition to being literally the most talented, intelligent, and warm person I’ve never met. I know people use that line a lot, but I mean every word of it. Olivia is objectively the loveliest ever, and though we fall out of contact frequently because of dumb life stuff (what the hell is this “productivity” thing), I can always, always trust her to bring me a smile and a virtual hug, in addition to rocking my socks straight into the stratosphere. John is okay.

[editor’s note: John is more than okay; he’s an amazing person and a bananapants good writer. He’s scarily talented and we poke fun at each other because we genuinely do like and value each other’s company.]

Me setting off text in brackets means you can’t read it.

Back to the feels: In the summer of 2012, I began working on my fourth manuscript, MAD WORLD. Immediately I noticed this one was different—I was actually proud of my work here, and though the first draft was rough, it’s safe to say I cried 50% of the time I was writing it. It’s about a boy and a girl in a fairy tale relationship—until he’s diagnosed with schizophrenia. It took me nine months to write when my previous record for longest time on a first draft was three months. To borrow some parlance from the first paragraph of the manuscript, there’s two kinds of love: the kind that makes your heart race, and the kind that stops it. MAD WORLD will always stop my heart. Taylor, Law: thank you for everything.

I spent a long time on MAD WORLD, because I really believed it was my one shot; if this wasn’t The Book, what would be? I queried and got amazing replies and queried and got such lovely rejections and queried and revised and polished according to feedback and queried and nothing came of it. It wasn’t meant to be. The book of my heart wasn’t getting published.

I cried. And it took me a long time, but I got back to work.

In the fall of 2013, I started my fifth manuscript, FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN. This was my Big Huge Commercial book, the one I thought would propel me to the bestseller lists and also fame. As a result, the writing was shaky at best. I queried, I got into contests, I got requests, I got rejections. I cried. I got back to work.

In 2014, I started my sixth manuscript, SWEETEST DOWNFALL. It was inspired by the Tracy Chapman song “Fast Car.” It was an emotional maelstrom for me to write. It was my first gay romance. It was the first time I wrote about people who were like me, doing things like I would, loving how I do.

As a writer, I’d never felt more alive.

I took stylistic risks (the first line: “He pulled up to my house in his fast car in his good mood in his Sunday best despite it being Tuesday with a steady stream of pop rock music blaring from his radio”; a sentence structured like that is on almost every page). I made it about a boy with same-sex attraction, generalized anxiety, and a dead best friend, and he’s already out to the world. It’s Not A Coming Out Book (though you can kindly fight me if you think those aren’t still needed). I made it messy and honest and the best book I could write.

I queried it. I started querying it in the early afternoon of February 16th, sending it out to six agents. Before noon the next day, I had three full requests in my inbox.

I cried. I got back to work.

I got a revise and resubmit situation with a lovely new agent at a well-respected agency, complete with a phone call.

I cried. I got back to work.

I got into Pitch Wars with the fierce, lovely Helene Dunbar as my mentor. We worked on SWEETEST DOWNFALL late at night and early in the morning and we didn’t stop because we loved this book and what we were going to make it. Someone loved my book like it was her own.

I cried. I got back to work.

On October 4th, smack in the middle of Pitch Wars, I got an email from an agent, one of those within-24-hour requesting agents from the day I started querying, asking about the status of my manuscript and if we could talk on the phone soon.

I cried.

We talked on October 9th, 2015. She started with a few notes for editing she had, and I quaked in my slippers, thinking it was another R&R and I’d gotten my hopes up too much.

She mentioned some issues she’d had with the manuscript.

Some—most—I’d already addressed in my work with Helene. I told her this, explained how I’d changed the problem areas and what they looked like now.

She said she’d love to see the latest version. She said so many amazing, encouraging things. She said, “I’m offering you representation.”

I cried.

I signed the contract.

It is with shaky hands and a kick-drum heart and so many thanks and so much love and an unspeakable amount of happy-tears that I announce I am now represented by Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency.

I’m crying.

Time to get back to work.

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