Thursday, August 7, 2008

Yes, it CAN happen!

My debut novel, OFF THE MENU, hit bookshelves on August 5th, and recently, a bunch of people have been asking me how I went about getting published. The short answer? By keeping my chin — and optimism — up even though I was receiving stacks of rejections every day. The long answer takes me back to a Facebook question I answered for my profile, which called for my most embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, my life is riddled with heinously embarrassing moments, and one of them occurred at a writers conference I attended in the mountains of California, where I met my agent. I’d been invited to an industry cocktail party out of the graciousness of one of the conference’s board members, and being an unpublished writer who was desperate to make a good impression, I researched the guest list, which included dozens of publishers and agents. This was my chance to wow them, I thought. And maybe snag an agent. So, I perfected my pitch. Practiced my smile. Wore a cute outfit. As ready as I’d ever be, I showed up at the party, determined and excited. And it would have been a great party had I managed to stay upright for more than thirty minutes. I can’t say what exactly caused what happened next — the high altitude, perhaps, or maybe low blood sugar, or the single sip of wine in my system — but in front of God and everyone who mattered in publishing, I fainted. As in, hit the floor face first. With my wine glass still in hand. I don’t recall the fall, but a number of revelers told me afterwards that I then did a pushup before a couple of concerned hosts helped me to a chair, brought me water, and then guided me back to my room, where I spent the rest of the night horrified and cringing. I’d never fainted before, and of all the times in the world to pass out, I couldn’t believe that my body had chosen that moment to try it out. I wrung my hands (literally), sure that I’d forever blown my chances to find an agent. I worried that publishers would think that I was a jackass at best, and a liability at worst. I fretted all night, wishing that I could turn back time and praying that there might be at least a few attendees who hadn’t witnessed my complete lack of grace. Alas, everyone heard about the fainting girl in the darling ruffled shirt.

The next morning, I spent some time apologizing to people I recognized from the night before, and my pitiful conversation with a striking woman turned into a long one about the troubles with thin mountain air, me and my book. She asked me to send her the first chapter of it, which I did as soon as I returned to Dallas, and three days later, she called to request the rest of it. The next week, she signed me on, made me change a few things in the manuscript, and then sent it out to a bunch of publishers. It went nowhere. But I began writing what would become OFF THE MENU, and after a number of rewrites, it sold to Penguin.

So, there you have it in a nutshell as to how I went about getting published. I worked really, really hard, wrote during every free second I had, learned the industry, went to several writers conferences, attended a cocktail party and then passed out. I guess the road to publishing is a bit like that — a mix of preparation and luck. It’s incredibly labor intensive, and sometimes, what seems like the worst thing in the world ends up becoming the best. Because the kicker of it all is that my agent would never have noticed me had I not caused a ruckus at the cocktail party.

You can read more about me at http://www.christineson.com/.