Rosemary Harris (Guest Blogger)
The gestation period for an African elephant (loxodonta Africana) is 22 months. I can top that. Even if I only go back as far as the date I got my agent, (as opposed to when I finished my book) I've been expecting for 27 months - with another 5 months to go.
I don't know this information first-hand, but I understand nausea, cravings, crying jags, moodswings, and insomnia all feature prominently in the expectant mother's life. What a minute! I DO know that stuff first-hand, I’m soon-to-be-published.
My story goes back even further. I never dreamed I’d write a book, but once I did, my husband encouraged me to find an agent. That in itself took about a year. I sent the manuscript to the first agent I’d heard of (insert eyeroll) and then waited six months for her to get back to me. Unsurprisingly, it was a rejection. Foolishly, I let that scenario repeat itself two more times before I did the math and calculated that at that rate I could be ninety before I connected with someone who recognized my book for what it was – a good, publishable mystery.
I rewrote the first chapter on a fourteen hour flight from Hong Kong to New York, with one leg suspended in the air due to an accident in Beijing the day before. I don’t know if writing in that position caused more blood to flow to my brain, but by the time we landed, I knew I’d made it better.
Instead of waiting around like I’d done in the past, I sent the new first chapter and a letter to ten agents I’d identified as being cozy-friendly. Within two weeks, three of them had gotten back to me. I chose the one who seemed like the best fit for me, and I was right.
So, the bubbly flowed in the Harris household and I engaged in what my husband affectionately refers to as the “Rosemary dance,” probably because he’s too kind to use the word goofy. In my naiveté, I thought the book would be sold in sixty days and likely be released the following year. (Insert second eyeroll.)
Between “it’s summer and everyone’s away,” “it’s Frankfurt and no one’s here,” “it’s the holidays, sales conference, fill in the blank..” I began to cobble together quite an image of the average book editor – tanned, athletic, a cross between Anna Wintour and Joan Crawford, constantly jetting off to one glamorous location or another, only stopping to check her mail periodically and break the hearts of little people like me.
By the time I got my book deal, another nine months had passed. I was beginning to sense a pattern of hurry up and wait, but I was still ecstatic. More champagne! More goofy gyrations! After two agonizing months, the long-awaited meeting with my editor took place. I was instructed to meet Anna/Joan at a cool restaurant in Manhattan. Since I was early (overeager?) I was ushered to her preferred table in the back to wait.
I’ve grown to love MM dearly, and I don’t think she’ll mind if I say she is not especially athletic and definitely not tanned. We had a wonderful lunch – she loved my character, my book, and me. She thought it needed very little editing – “yes,” she said, poking at her grilled watermelon, “we’ll release it Winter 2008.” What?? It was summer ’06, what was she talking about? “Well, these things take time.” Apparently. The only good news was that Winter 2008, didn’t mean December 2008.
For the first six months I gnashed my teeth. Friends were starting to lose interest, or worse, thought I was delusional, like that writer who lied and told his friends he was going to be on Oprah. Then a veteran publishing person said to me “Enjoy it. You’re soon-to-be-published. Anything can happen.” He was right. Hell, maybe I could get on Oprah. Or Victoria Beckham could be spotted in an airport with my book. The possibilities were limitless.
Since then, I have embraced my STBP status, going to shows, joining groups, and more importantly learning from the generous writers who’ve been down this road before and have been kind enough to share information with a newcomer. When you’re STBP the world is your oyster.
When Rosemary Harris finally does deliver, happily it won’t be a 260 lb calf, it will be a 290 page book, Pushing Up Daisies, her debut novel and the first in the Dirty Business Mystery series. St Martin's Minotaur, February 2008. (She does not really think she’s going to be on Oprah.)