Happy to announce. . .
Posted by Johanna Harness on Dec 14, 2010
I attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Seattle last July and first heard Carolyn speak on an agent panel. She introduced herself and talked about the kind of writing and author she wanted to represent and I felt like she was talking to me. Kerry Schafer and I waited a long time in the hallway waiting to make appointment changes and I was delighted Carolyn had room for me. (Kerry also has a very grounding influence on me, so her presence there was more than a side note, yeah? Looking for a secret weapon? Go to a conference with Kerry.)
The next morning I started my day with speed pitching. I had no idea to whom I would be presenting, only that this was the young adult panel. Speed pitching was great fun and I ended up at Carolyn’s table with three business cards (three requests) already in hand. I was having a great morning, but I really wanted her card the most. When I ended by telling her I’d be meeting her later that day, she said, “Oh, you’re going to be tired of me by then.” No, not likely. And yeah, I liked her.
That afternoon at the longer session, I repeated my Claire Morgane pitch and also told her about my middle grade novel, Spillworthy. She asked me which one I’d like to send first. Happy day.
I submitted Claire Morgane and then I was off to attend Willamette Writers Conference the next week. I learned so much through writing workshops at PNWA and Willamette and, as we all do, I kept thinking about what I could do to improve.
My response to Claire came from Kris Rothstein, an associate agent working with Carolyn Swayze. She said they couldn’t represent the manuscript yet, but she’d like to see a revision. Her suggestions were exactly what I needed to hear. She invited me to call and talk about her ideas for the book and I emailed to set up a time.
And I called.
The changes she wanted were big, but they were right. She had the experience to isolate what I needed to do to take this book where it needed to go.
I wrote like hell for the next month.
I sent off the revision.
And then I waited.
And the more I waited, the more I started doubting myself again. The beginning of the book was all new material. Reading it again, I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d submitted a first draft. What was I thinking?
The day I was supposed to hear back from Kris, I was sick. I waited until the end of the business day and fell asleep early, not feeling incredibly hopeful. A windstorm woke me at 3AM and, with my mixed-up sleeping hours, I couldn’t go back to sleep. Might as well start writing early.
Yes. You guessed it. That’s when I heard from Kris. Her email must have come in minutes after I turned off my computer.
She sent notes for the early chapters and I nodded as I read her thoughts. Yes. True. Absolutely right. And then she noted that this was new material and she hoped I’d smooth it out—because the rest of the book was really quite good—save a couple things I could change here and there. She really hoped I’d consider making the changes.
I reread that section a couple times because it sounded like I was getting another chance. And her suggestions were so good. I had to make sure I wasn’t getting my hopes up for nothing. Yes. She wanted to see revisions.
And then I finished reading the next paragraph—the one that included talk of a contract and representation. She was going out of town, but she’d like to discuss it with me the next week.
And that’s how I found out I was on the cusp of representation. The end of a long revision, discussion with someone who really understood what I wanted my book to be, weeks of waiting, another chance to revise, and then discussion of a contract—and there I was at 3AM, wanting to scream, wanting to tell someone, alone in the quiet of my perfect writing bubble. If I startled everyone awake, I’d lose my writing time for the day. So, yeah. I could tell them later. I started revising.
Today my contract arrived and the news finally feels real enough to say out loud. And I’m driving today and have no internet connection. Funny how these things work. So you all will know in the morning.
Which is now *this* morning.
I’m happy to announce that I’m represented by the Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency.