Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Having Lunch With My Agent And Other Surreal Things That Happened To Me Last Week

Last week, my family and I went on a much-needed vacation to New York City. Not exactly the most relaxing place, I agree, but nonetheless, none of them had been there, it was quality time with our two kids, one of whom is ready to leave the nest next year, and for me, it held the added caveat of being able to meet my agent face-to-face, break bread and talk about writing and publishing.

As surreal as it was to get the actual call offering representation, there are few words that can describe what an amazingly cool thing it is to sit in a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan and have lunch with my agent. I felt like the little kid who was finally being offered a seat at the adult table. I enjoyed the freedom of stripping away the limitations of email and the telephone to talk about where things are at and what the future holds. Even if it was only for two hours, he made me feel like I was his most important client, and renewed my confidence that I am with the right person for me and that his knowledge of the industry and where my work fits is extensive and spot on.

We talked about the kind of writer I want to be and the stories I want to write, and then he discussed with me the realities of the marketplace and what I need to do as a writer to stay competitive and get my work out there, remaining unafraid to stretch past my comfort zone. His honest pep-talk of sorts was just what I needed to bolster my spirits as I move forward on the rewrite of my second novel while still knee-deep in the waiting game on my first one. (You thought agents take a long time to respond to queries? Try being on submission with editors with a non-high-concept novel. Just sayin'...)

Living in Los Angeles, I am completely unfazed to drive by movie studios like Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal or Fox. They are just part of the landscape here like Starbucks or anything else. But I was positively giddy and reduced to a state of sheer awe to behold the likes of Simon & Schuster or walk past 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and know that that was the home of Dell Yearling, the once-publisher of all the Judy Blume novels I grew up reading until the pages were practically separated from the binding.

The rest of the week was spent enjoying the city with my family, seeing six plays, touring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, exploring two museums, and enjoying copious amounts of pizza, especially via our walking pizza tour of Greenwich Village. And best of all, on the plane ride home, an idea for a new novel came creeping into my brain and started taking shape.

Published or unpublished, agented or unagented, there is something about being a writer and coming to New York City to truly make you feel like one. I highly recommend it, if nothing else but to inspire you and reinforce that you can't have a dream come true if you never have a dream.


Me with my agent Bill Contardi

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Firsts and Lasts

Today is a pretty big day in my house. My daughter is graduating elementary school and as of tomorrow, my son will be entering his senior year of high school. I've been a part of this elementary school for the past twelve years, and as of this afternoon, that chapter of my life and my daughter's life will come to a close. It's definitely the end of something, but also the beginning of something new and uncharted, filled with potential surprises.

These moments of firsts and lasts are what help define and shape us, and these are also the moments that suck us in the most when we are reading a great story. Everyone universally experiences this regardless of race, finances, geographic location, etc. It's part of the human experience, and the emotions that these firsts and lasts elicit from us are what drive us forward or stop us cold in our tracks and keep us paralyzed until we find the resolve to move forward as we know we must.

There is no greater source of plot to draw from than this little nugget, because in every first and last comes replete with its own story. And we can write these stories with authenticity and honesty because we remember how they felt. Who can't remember the first time you liked someone and they liked you back? Or your first kiss? Or when someone died that you loved? Or you had to say goodbye to a friend who moved away? Or started a new school and didn't know a soul? Or gave birth to your first child? The list goes on. But no matter what the first or last, guaranteed it stirs something in the pit of your stomach or creates a heaviness in your heart or makes you wish you could turn back time. THIS is what you want to infuse your stories with. THIS is what draws your reader in and not want to let go.

Some may be wonderful and some may be painful, but cherish every first and last because both are fleeting. This is the fabric of life, and the true heart of any great story.