What I did this summer. . .

Amazingly, I signed with an agent.  Anne Bohner, at Pen and Ink Literary.

The summer started off well enough.  I spent most of May, while my kids were in school and I was not, writing, with my faithful dog, Mario, at my side, finishing my book The Geeks Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for the Rest of Us (inspired by my HuffPo blogging) and sending out queries for my novel The Lost Son.

Then came June. I lost a lot of sleep in June and might as well have booked a ticket on the Mars Curiosity because that was where it felt like I woke up one day–it was a surreal and heartbreaking time for reasons I really can’t go into except to again reassure readers that, fortunately, my family is not involved. I somehow taught a class.  I managed to get about 30 queries out before we went on vacation in mid-July.  I got 3 requests for full manuscripts during this time, all of which were ultimately turned down, and after reading somewhere that the average writer gets ten requests for a full before she lands an agent and doing the math, figured at least another 60 queries were in my future when I got back from vacation.

Then, while I was away, I got another request for a full.  I happily sent it off and promptly put it in the back of my mind while I spent time with family and friends vacating in Nantucket,  Maryland and Upstate New York and getting my daily gossip fix as l’affaire d’Oxford American unfurled back home (Thank God for WiFi).

Then, when I got back I got an email from said agent wanting to set up a time to talk.  Um.  What?    The “talk” was set for two days hence–which gave me forty-eight hours to speculate and wonder and daydream.  Ultimately, though, I ended up steeling myself that this would be one of those “I “might” be interested in this if you do x number of revisions” conversation.   After all, an agent interested in my husband’s novel last year had put him through 3 rounds of intense revision and a long waiting period, only to decline representing him because his partner in the agency suddenly died, prompting him to decide he was too old to take on any new clients (he’s in his eighties and actually has a pretty illustrious  list).

Needless to say, I did a lot of googling before the phone call, sussing out the probable age of the person who’d be on the other end.  Conclusion: younger than I am but not too young.  Check!  Especially since all I was looking for was “has not outlived most of her clients.”

Still, after everything I’d read about the querying process, a “revise and resubmit and maybe I’ll be interested down the road” was what I was expecting.  What I was not expecting was a pretty delightful  forty five minute phone call. She said some really nice things about the novel.  Really nice–I mean, cue the Sally Field clip-type nice.  She was also upfront about what needed fixing, with some very specific ideas about how to do that.  And then. . .she offered to represent me.  I actually think I made her say it again because I couldn’t quite process what she was saying.

What needed fixing about the novel was that it’s too short.  I knew that. I had been despairing about it for almost a year.  I tend to write short–ask all the editors who have worked with me in the last ten years.  I know it’s a problem. To make matters worse, I’m a hatchet woman when I revise and on the last revision the book lost 5,000 words.  I knew it had been cut perhaps too close to the bone and that 45,000 words was way too short for a novel but I couldn’t see any way to add that wouldn’t seem like padding.  I was just too close to it. None of my beta readers had any ideas either.  Secretly, I prayed I might find an agent who believed in the book and who could tell me exactly how to expand it in ways that would make sense, that would not feel like padding.  But I also knew that the chances of that were about the same as winning the lottery.

Yet somehow that was exactly what I found.  Her suggestions made complete sense; she is a shrewd and perceptive editor–not surprisingly, since that’s what she was for ten years before becoming an agent.  I went back to the novel immediately knowing exactly what I wanted to do and feeling really good about it (knock wood).  I’ll have a piece coming out in the Huffington Post this week about all the reasons we should fear a world without editors–this is yet another reason why.  I’ll admit it, my name is Stephanie Vanderslice and I’m addicted to editors.

We have a lot in common; her father had a law practice in the Queens, NY neighborhood where the novel is set and where I spent much of my childhood, a place that still obsesses me, which is why it’s also the setting of the next novel.  And yes, we talked about that too . . . we talked about a lot of things; we talked about my writing career–in the present and future tense . . .  it was a very easy conversation.

(Note: As a teacher, I spend a lot of time talking to students about their future writing careers and I love every minute of it.  No lie. It’s one of the best parts of the job. But it was also pretty swell to be in a conversation with someone who wanted to talk about my career too.)

So I had a week to think about it and think about it I did.  I thought about when I’d first read the description of the agency and how it had struck a chord even then, in the blur of other agencies, as a place I’d really like to land.  I thought, a lot, about how this was exactly what I’d hoped would happen and yes, about proverbial gift horses, until it became absolutely clear what I was going to do.

And then I turned in my ticket.

From the land of revision–

bye y’all,

SV

Reporting live from Junker’s Paradise. . .Bargains Galore on 64 2012

 

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Once a year I get to go to heaven–junker’s heaven, in the form of Bargain’s Galore on 64, an 160 mile yard sale on Route 64 in Arkansas, from east of Beebe in the  southeast central part of the state to Fort Smith in the Northwest corner.  Over the years I’ve narrowed my junking territory to between Conway and Ozark, an approximately 100 mile stretch that still takes all day to traverse.  This area seems to have the most charm and the highest number of centralized “market” type areas where dealers are more likely to set up with the good vintage stuff.  Highlights include the town of Ozark which hosts a lovely flea market right on the river that attracts great dealers, the nearby wine making village of Altus which doesn’t always have the best stuff but has a nice shady little town square to peruse, the ladies of Coal Hill, Clarksville and Morrilton, the last of which always boasts a great lineup of vintage dealers in front of the train depot as well as a trove of antiques stores across the street in case you need to cool off from the sun with a little air conditioning.

The ladies of Coal Hill bear special mention because their display is always a highlight of the trip.  My friend, junking extraordinaire Steve Lance, tipped me off to their compound some years back: several outbuildings and a middle area with their wares lovingly arranged like a photo shoot right out of Country Living magazine.  Once in Coal Hill you want to follow the signs off of Privet Road and I promise you won’t regret it–my heart always starts beating a little faster when I see the sign for Coal Hill.dscn7651

I got some nice deals this year but I was more selective than in years past; I got rid of a huge lot of my own stuff in a yard sale at the end of June and nothing will make you pickier about what you bring home than two days out in 105 degree heat selling your own stuff.  Highlights this year were a nice black Coach tote for $5 that I’ve since seen on e-bay selling for $55-$105–it’ll be great for my work bag in the fall–a primitive wood wall hanging, and some great feed sack dishtowels that will go well with my mother’s new kitchen.  In the past I’ve scored some really great furniture–including a tin-topped kitchen island that is perfect for this bread maker and looks practically custom made for my kitchen.

I’m already strategizing for next year, when I think I’ll drive up to Ozark the night before and start there.  I used to start in Conway, hitting some side of the road sales on the right side on the way up and the left side on the way down but those side of the road sales are yielding less and less every year as, with a handful of exceptions,  the town sales in Ozark, Coal Hill, Altus and Morrilton become the go-to spots.  Might as well start out in Ozark fresh and energized–when it’s still relatively cool.

I’m also hoping to convince my younger son to come with me again and think an overnight in a hotel with a pool would be a good incentive.  He usually comes with me; it gives us some good one on one time and besides he’s developing an eye for junking like his mama, but he couldn’t come this year and I really missed our backseat/frontseat philosophical chats.

Here’s a pictorial of the day:

Gotta pack a good lunch, including plenty of water.

Gotta pack a good lunch, including plenty of water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Furniture

This spot in Clarksville, just west of town, is always good for furniture deals.

This spot in Clarksville, just west of town, is always good for furniture deals.

Vintage Quilt Display

Vintage Quilt Display

End of day ritual: cooling off with a Route 44 Diet Dr. Pepper at Sonic Happy Hour.

End of day ritual: cooling off with a Route 44 Diet Dr. Pepper at Sonic Happy Hour.

Alan Rickman

Now that I have your attention (well, I’m assuming I do; that headline would certainly get Wordamour’s attention), today’s installment of the Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, Making the Most of Your Writing Time, is up over on the Huffington Post.

Began work on the book proposal for Geek’s Guide today.  It took Wordamour two hours to come up with the first paragraph “hook” for the overview, which imagines Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, Neil Gaiman, Mary Karr, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides at the “cool kids” table in high school. At least it was fun to write.  And it rained, beautiful, blissful rain, which means that it’s only 88 degrees at the moment.

Bye y’all,

SV

Meet my new friend, Bea

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been driving  hard on a new book this summer that I feel pretty passionate about, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for the Rest of Us.  In fact, the first draft is almost finished.  In trying to do better with clearing the way for more writing in my life,  I have really been streamlining my material life and my time.  I had a huge garage sale,

 getting rid of a lot of crafts materials and flea market finds I used to sell on ebay and in a booth I had.  Someday, perhaps when my life is less crazy, I’ll get back to it, beccause I did enjoy it but right now I have a lot of writing projects I want to finish so I don’t have time for a lot of hobbies.

Except for Bea, short for Beatrice, the 1963 Beeline travel trailer I just purchased from a good friend who is moving and who took excellent care of her.  I have been lusting after such a trailer ever since my parents would take me to look at them as a child–of course we were always just looking–to say we were not a camping family would be a colossal understatement.  Remind me to tell you about our experiences with tents sometime.  Suffice it to say, just because your family buys a  big tent and sets it up in the yard to “air out” doesn’t mean they ever have any intention of using it.

Bea isn’t really going to be camping much either, not yet anyway.  She’s going to be spruced up into a guest cottage and an alternative writing space–she even has air conditioning.   She could actually be a guest cottage right now but Wordamour has some, shall we say, feminizing plans for her that involve some paint and new linens and the like.

Emotionally it’s been an extremely rough past few months, especially the past few weeks and about that all I can really say is that my family is healthy and happy and it has nothing to do with them, which is a blessing, I know.  So this is the kind of project I need; something I can work on, mindlessly, as I have time, a project I don’t have to take out and put away but just pick up when I can.    I’ll keep you posted on her progress.  But I’ll tell you right now, just looking at her makes me smile.

Bye y’all,

SV

 

Pardon My Schoolgirl Excitement

But Kevin Brophy, anwriter I very much admire, has written a wonderful review of Rethinking Creative Writing for the Australian journal, TEXT, which I also very much admire.

One of those occasions where you hold your breath and pray as you open the link and then, whew, he liked it!  He really seemed to like it.

I just wish I could afford a study tour of writing programs in Australia!  I’ll have to work on that!

Bye for now,

SV

PS Thanks to my publisher, Anthony Haynes at Professional and Higher, for originally posting the link!