In January 2008, I made a decision, one that would dramatically alter my life—or at least, one that would eat up vast swathes of my free time over the course of the last 5.5 years. I’d just gone through the emotional wringer. I thought to myself: what can I learn from this experience and, in return, what can this experience give back to me? On a cold winter day, I started a fresh word document and called it Je T’Aime, Me Neither.
And so began the odyssey! At first, I advanced very quickly as I wasn’t working full time. During those six months I might have even written around half of the first draft of the book. At the speed I was going, I even thought I might be done by the end of that year. Then life threw two big challenges at me: a new and interesting (but full-time) job, and the presidency of a wonderful association. And here I’d thought the book was time consuming! I suddenly had less than no time, leaving the book to take up a meagre 0.005 percent of my time; I could turn my attention to it only on the occasional Sunday afternoon or late evening … yet it was not completely shelved.
After surviving the hectic 1.5 years, during which I did not throw myself into the Seine River (I did look at it contemplatively a few times…), I managed to get back at the writing game. As luck would have it, Special Kay barely had anything to do at work, thus in between planning her wedding and surfing her favorite websites, she took on the mission of the first edit, correcting my French-isms and other incomprehensible passages. I pushed forward at mach (well, snail) speed, finishing the first draft after two years. To not over-abuse my friendship with Special Kay, I got Naughty on board for a second thorough edit. It was also around then that I started to get the opinion of some writer friends, sending me back to the scribe’s desk for some more editing.
Somehow the spring blossoms were yellowing into fall leaves and the book was approaching its harvest (along with many other new stories… saved for Book II!). So I sought out the advice of a friend who’d previously worked in the publishing business. What was I to do next? She said what I needed was a literary agent, and to get one of those I had to have an excellent query letter. Back to the computer for me! Jeez, sounded like this letter had to be absolutely perfect… so I agonized for a good six weeks over it, which no doubt tested the patience of Naughty, Kay, and now the Countess, who’d been recruited onto the editorial team.
Deciding that the letter and book synopsis were pretty good, I now needed to research agents who might be interested. I created a good short list of around 30; from what I read online, it was recommended to send out the query letters in waves of up to ten, though since my shortlist was rather small (to start), I decided on waves of three to four. I carefully chose the three I thought were the most relevant, and customized my letter to them. I slaved over that for an entire evening, and by the time I got them ready it was around 11:30 pm; most of the agents were in NYC, so the time didn’t matter. I clicked send and hoped I might hear back one day… maybe in six months if I was lucky.
The next day I had two surprises. The first was an invitation to lunch by a writer friend. I took this to be a good sign—those literary vibes were flowing! All happy returning to the office after our two-hour French lunch, I quickly checked my personal emails. Oh mon dieu! There was an email from an agent, and not just any agent… the one I thought was the best fit for my book. And no, it wasn’t a rejection letter… she wanted to review the book! I must have been praying to the right god (let’s say it was Erato, Muse of Love Poetry).
My euphoria rapidly turned to dread. Merde, was the book really ready to send? I had to reply and send it ASAP. I still was unsure of the conclusion, who could help me decide? I called up Cindy who’d played a big role in my social life, but a lesser role in the book. She was able to review it that evening, giving me some quick ideas. I made some rushed changes, and nervously sent it to the agent. She replied promptly, thanking me and saying she had a lot on the go and might not be able to get back to me very quickly, but she’d be in touch. That was enough for me to excitedly start whimsically dreaming of my book in print.
I did continue to work on it a little while I waited. With the end of the year approaching, I assumed she’d be busy through January so I held off on contacting her until the end of that month, practically marking four years since I’d started the book. She got back to me again fairly quickly, announcing her upcoming house move AND wedding … she claimed she was still interested, but would need more time.
Life caused me some other distractions, enough for the agent and the book to slide to the back of my mind for a little while. Just as I was going to reach out to her for news, I finally saw her name pop up in my inbox. The same excited anxiety as when I’d received her first email returned. Sadly, this message wasn’t as positive as the first. She was “really close” and almost wanted to take it on but . . . but what? If there were just a few minor things to change, I could work on those, right? The publishing industry is so precarious these days that no one wants to take risks.
After a good dozen or so rejection letters, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and with new stories building up to tell and the Mexican getting kicked out, I started this blog. More good things happened after that to take things to the next step… but maybe those should wait for a Part II?