This is a guest post by Jennifer Zobair, author of Painted Hands. Leave a comment (bonus points if you include your most embarrassing moment!) for a chance to win a signed copy of her book, a $25 Amazon gift card and, if you're a writer, the option of having a query letter critiqued by Jennifer.
Wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have one?
The most embarrassing moment in my publication process came while I was querying. There was an agent I really thought I wanted to work with, mostly because of her prominent online profile. I sort of built her up in my mind, and when she asked to read my full manuscript, I was ecstatic. About a month later, I got an email from her saying incredible, detailed things about my novel, but then she said she was afraid she might not be able to sell it “in this market.” After considering it, she said she was afraid she’d have to pass.
I was devastated. It was one of those “maybe I should give up” moments: If someone who loved my work this much wouldn’t represent me, who would? I said as much to my aunt when I forwarded the rejection to her. Except? Instead of hitting “forward,” I hit “reply.”
I’d sent my despairing, feeling-sorry-for-myself email right back to the rejecting agent.
Fortunately, I hadn’t said anything bad about her in the email. I apologized immediately, and she was truly lovely in her response. But still.
It took some time for me to get over the rejection (and the mortification). But here’s the making lemons into lemonade part: I chose to believe the good things she’d said about my manuscript. I decided to query agents who were actively seeking and selling multicultural fiction, stories like the one I’d written. A couple of months later, I signed with Kent Wolf, who sold my novel to St. Martin’s Press.
So this is what I would say to writers: First, don’t give up. If you believe in your work, do not give up in the face of rejection, even when it feels crushing. Second, if you’re querying, it’s really important to find the right agent, the one who both loves your work and has a kick-ass attitude about selling it. That’s the agent you want. And finally, a little attention to detail when forwarding an email can be a very good thing.
What Jennifer didn't say--and what I know firsthand--is that all her embarrassing moments put together would be dwarfed by the quiet constancy of her kindness and good faith, not only as an author, but as a mother, wife and friend.
When Jennifer started visiting this blog 5 years ago, all I knew was that she routinely left the most perceptive comments I'd ever received. It was worth posting a piece just to learn what Jennifer would say. When I visited her blog in turn, and read her writings on feminism, especially in relation to Muslim women, I was deeply impressed by her passion, fight and obvious intelligence.
Then I read her first piece of fiction. Which rocked me with its exquisite imagery and emotional swell. I told Jennifer she reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri.
Jhumpa Lahiri, people.
I was fortunate enough to be an early reader of Jennifer's manuscript, Painted Hands, before she started querying agents. Jennifer was kind enough to mention me in the "Acknowledgments" section of that novel, where she thanks me for being "thoughtful and sure."
And I was sure. Miraculously sure, for someone so otherwise adrift in uncertainty.
Sure that this brilliant book would one day sit on my shelf, where it will soon be placed, if I can just stop picking it up to grin at its gorgeous cover with my gorgeous friend's name on it.
Sure of how proud I am to call Jennifer a friend.
Sure that the moment we stumbled across one another was one of the luckiest I've known, and that the quality of that good fortune has very little to do with publishing or writing at all.
Remember: leave a comment to win the items mentioned above! I'll draw a name at the end of a week.
Read my review of Painted Hands
Telling Stories' 25 Questions with Jennifer Zobair