Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Life, Pre-Edits, Nano-Fail, and the Journey, Part Two.

-Some days I wonder how life can be so full of waiting and so full of activity at the same time. You might think that the activity cancels out, or at least muffles, the waiting, but by some miracle I can keep them separate and intact.

-I'm going to take a couple classes in the spring. I know I am a complete and total nerd, but I miss school, and more than that I miss the structure school brings. I need that kind of structure in my life right now. I'll probably take an English course and a French one, if I can.

-Working on edits. Or rather, pre-edits. Don't ask :p But feel free to send baked goods, because I promise pre-edits will kill me before edits will.

-This is a busy time here at home. On the heels of Thanksgiving we're participating in a Christmas tour this upcoming weekend, which means that the whole house has to be decorated by then.

-Nano...Nano...yeah...that was not so successful.

-On to Part Two of my little series. Part Two: Something that looked like a book!

So, as I was saying, one of my children’s poems became an integral part of my first story, THE SHADOW MILE. Here’s the original poem (it got shortened considerably in the book):

"A Mile Outside"

I know of a place a mile outside
Where things are only as real
As the raindrops are wide
And the sun doesn't always
stay up in the sky
It drifts in the breeze,
And goes out with the tide

A place where nothing lasts
But everything stays
And a minute's as long
As a handle of days
Where nothing breaks
And everything bends
With a thousand beginnings
But no concrete ends.

Where stones are made
out of butterfly wings
And marbles dangle from clouds
On long silver strings.
Where stars wander down
like snowflakes at night
And rest in cupped hands
Before again they take flight.

Where words wind like fog
around valleys and hills
And light is like water,
it sloshes and spills
And nothing changes
but nothing sits still.

This is a place beyond
borders and doors
A world without rules,
without ceilings or floors
Where we're only as old
As we let ourselves be
A place where our minds
Are entirely free
It is here, in this world
That our hearts go to hide
Deep in our thoughts
And a mile outside.

The Shadow Mile began as a very surreal, nonsensical Alice in Wonderland-esque story about a girl who finds a door without a room behind.

I later learned that nonsense and pretty imagery do not a story make. I finished the first ever version of TSM, let it never see light, in May of 2007, and shot off a few queries. One amazing agent was super nice, and asked for the full, and had some wonderful things to say, but it was obvious I didn’t know what I was doing (I can safely say that at this point, it was 50% nonsense, 30% existentialism and 20% of the trippy metaphorical fantasy I mentioned in PART ONE. Not a recipe for success. So, I did what I needed to do. I shelved it.

Six months later, I stumbled across a dialogue contest on a literary agent’s blog, dug out TSM and entered on a whim. I also began to revise (I’d been PONDERING revising for some time).* TSM ended up getting third in the contest, which earned me a partial request from the agent. I also did a TON of research, and started querying other agents, too. I got an offer of rep from one of the agents I queried, and signed with Agent Awesome.

After a short revision, TSM went out into the world. And out. And out. It kept garnering praise, but no sale. I think there were FIVE or SIX really close calls (ed board – acq. board) and it still kills me to think about it. This project had become so special to me, and to my agent, and everyone seemed to believe in it, but it wasn’t commercial, and it wasn’t clear-cut, and it kind of had one leg in MG and one in YA, and for whatever reason it wasn’t selling.

About six months into it NOT selling, I decided to stop obsessing about my baby, and write a new one. I had this idea in the back of my head, just wandering around. I wanted to be proactive. I didn’t GIVE UP on TSM. And my agent didn’t either. But there was no way I was going to let one book’s difficulty stop me. I was terrified of writing a second one, because I wasn’t sure I COULD. But I’d always dreamed of a career, and I knew I’d have to write another book eventually. Why not now?

Up next, PART THREE: The Near Witch.

*A note on pondering: I’ve since learned that pondering is a valuable tool. I often think up a project, and then shove it into a recess of my mind to ponder now and again, and somehow the deeper corners of my brain pick at it when I’m not looking.

-Last, a poll: How do you buy your books? Amazon? In store? Other?


  1. Great post V! Mmm baked goods. I have some pumpkin cheesecake leftover from Thanksgiving :)

  2. Yummmmm. I just made pecan banana bread, and I am baking chocolate chip cookies later this week :p I have a problem. Plus, because everyone knows I'm a sweet fiend, everyone I'm seeing in NYC is taking me out for dessert. I foresee malnutrition. But I'm looking forward to our cupcake adventure most! It has a special place in my chocolate-coated heart.

  3. It's fun hearing about other's publication sagas =)
    I like to buy my books at Barnes & Noble (at the actual store). I love hanging out there. It makes me happy.