This is going to be a long post, so I hope you'll bear with me.
A lot has changed over the last two years. My boyfriend and I packed up our life in British Columbia and moved back to Ottawa, right into my dad's basement. I worked a variety of soul-crushing part-time jobs and wrote as much as I could in the slim margins of time I could find. I shelved my first manuscript and wrote my second. We moved again, this time into our own place right in the heart of Ottawa, where we are steps away from fresh donuts. I shared my words for the first time, and feedback convinced me to keep going even when I felt like I was the only one who cared about what I had to say. Querying was always on the horizon in a distant, hazy sort of way. I imagined myself polishing my manuscript until it was utterly free of flaws. I never felt ready.
The biggest publishing rule I've broken is this: I've had my sights set on one agent from the start. I knew it was foolish to place all of my hopes in one person, especially in such a subjective industry, but I couldn't help it. Over the last few years, this agent and I talked a few times (I almost caused a car accident when she followed me on twitter), but I never let myself believe that it meant anything more.
So back in mid-December, right at the cusp of the holiday shopping rush, I was working at my retail job. I took a quick (sanity) break and went upstairs to my locker to check my phone. The first thing I saw was one message: "So hey, this is random, but when are you going to have a book?"
I may have screamed. I stashed my phone back into my locker and walked away, not trusting myself to respond coherently in that moment. My dream agent wanted to know when I'd have a book ready for her. At the end of my shift I immediately texted my publishing friends, demanding to know what it meant and what I should say and OH MY GOD I'M NOT READY TO QUERY YET!!!
Yes, BY SEA OR SWORD was written. And yes, I loved it more than anything. But... was it ready to be sent to my dream agent? I quickly fired off an email to my CPs and begged them to read as quickly as they could. I decided that if the feedback was positive, I would send it. I wrote a calm reply to the agent, telling her that the MS was with critique partners and that I hoped to query soon. It was a lie since I was definitely shrieking as I wrote it. She said she was excited to read it and gave me her direct email to send it to when the time came.
Days (feverishly) passed and I got feedback from my wonderful critique partner Morgan. The email was so full of love for BSOS that it gave me exactly what I needed to make a decision. I then broke another rule of publishing and wrote my query in one day, with the help of a few saintlike CPs (thank you Morgan, Victoria and Alwyn!!!). When the cobbled-together query was complete I was sitting alone in my apartment, unable to press 'send.' I texted my two biggest cheerleaders: my boyfriend and my sister. They both text-screamed back that it was time to bite the bullet. It was December 16th. I didn't expect to hear anything before the holidays. On that same day I got a full request! So I sent it off and got a reply saying an answer could take 60 days. I had expected this, and I wished her a wonderful holiday and set about distracting myself.
I received a request for a synopsis on January 12th. I shrieked some more and cobbled one together using Susan Dennard's worksheet (bless her). Two days passed and she emailed back, telling me she loved the MS, asked what else I've been working on, and requested that we set up a time to chat on the phone. I've read enough "How I Got My Agent" blog posts to know a phone call was a good sign, but I still didn't believe that's where I was heading. I sent back an email filled with details about my ideas, the other project I'm working on, and my shelved sci-fi. She replied wanting to know more about the sci-fi and my current WIP. I sent back a novella-length email with snippets of my WIP. We set up a time to chat on the phone the next day, and I went to work an evening shift, which passed in a blur.
I woke up the next morning and cleaned my whole apartment. My boyfriend watched me pace until he decided he didn't want to be anywhere near me when the call went down, so he suited up to go shovel our driveway. My phone started ringing. I picked it up and got a dial tone. I spent about seven seconds convinced she had changed her mind mid-call. But then she called back and we had the most amazing phone conversation of my life and I danced around my kitchen the entire time (hopefully she couldn't tell) (she probably could).
I have signed with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary, and I couldn't be happier if I tried.
Suzie really loves BSOS and seems undaunted by my enthusiasm (bless her). I know that BY SEA OR SWORD is in the best possible hands, and I can't wait to see what happens next. I'm beyond thrilled to be a part of Team New Leaf, and I feel SO LUCKY to be able to work with everyone at the agency!
Special shout out to everyone who has read BSOS or been excited about pirates with me over the last few years. You're all the best.