Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Will my 212-area-code-call EVER come in?

My call from the 212 area code seemed like an illusive dream at best. It’d thought about it, envisioned where I’d be and prayed for it for years. I say years because it took me many of those to finish the book. Since there was no deadline, my novel chartered its own schedule and took refuge in my drawer for months at a time. See, I was writing in my spare time. Aside from a full-time job, I raised my two young sons myself and free time was, and still is, a precious commodity. But I dared to dream anyway, and kept pushing toward the goal, little by little until I had a first draft, and a couple years after that a revision I was content to submit.

There were several times I wanted to give up. I thought, what’s the use, the odds are ridiculously slim and the reality of ever getting a 212-area-code-call are minute. It’s when my sister called me to say “Lisa Patton you may not, not finish this book!” that I knew I had no choice but to see it through to the end. Leslie said, “You’ve talked about it far too long and you are not a quitter! Think about the example you’re setting for the boys.” My boys had been my driving force all along. Michael and Will were the impetus for my end result, a finished novel I call Whistlin’ Dixie In A Nor’easter.

My agent had started the submission process in September, 2007. Right out of the gate, we had three big publishers interested. I’ll never ever forget, two days after she first sent out the manuscript, the email from her entitled “Somebody loves it.” I felt like I was floating on air. Then another one came in and still another, all in the same week. Euphoria filled my world. But it would only last a few weeks. Two of the editors couldn’t get the okay from their pub board meetings.

But the first one still wanted it! And her publisher had read it and she loved it too! Only one more hurdle and if that person agreed we could pop the champagne. Three months went by with no word. My agent finally got the news before Christmas. No.

My merry merry had become weary weary.

Ultimately, we had five more editors want the book but none of them had success at pub board. By now it was April, seven months later, and it was all I could do to keep my chin held high. I finally fell to my knees one night and surrendered it, self-publishing wasn't the end of the world.

On May 5, two of my best childhood friends and I had planned a trip to New York to celebrate our birthdays. I had pre-arranged a lunch with my agent - quite frankly I was terrified that she might be giving up on me and felt a face-to-face might buy me more time. So when she called me three days before we were to leave, I naturally assumed she was calling to confirm our lunch or worse, be calling to cancel. When I picked up, I said, “Holly, I was just getting ready to call you.”
“How come?" she asks.
“To talk about our lunch date on Monday.”
“I’m calling about something else. I’m about to make your day so much better.” (Maureen and I have the same agent.) Katie Gilligan at Thomas Dunne wants to buy your book.”

I started screaming. Everyone at work thought something terrible had happened until they came in my office and saw the joyful look on my face and tears of joy streaming down my cheeks. I don’t remember much of what Holly said after that. I do remember her saying “Don’t you want to know the details?”
“Details? Is there more?”
“Yes," she said, they want a sequel."

So my lunch with Holly turned out to be a celebratory lunch with both she and Katie. Just four days after my “call” I was sitting at a precious little New York café with my agent AND my new editor. My two dear friends, Wilda and Emily, joined us at the end of the lunch and the five of us drank sangrias and toasted our relationship to be. We also did something else really fun, we visited Holly’s office and met everyone in her agency!

Holly always told me that my book would end up with the right editor. One who loves it and is willing to fight for it. Right along with Holly, Katie Gilligan has been my champion at Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, and I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. When she told me she wanted to "launch my career in the best way possible" I knew I was where I was suppose to be. She sees me a career novelist and that’s exactly what I’ve been dreaming about for fourteen years!!


Jillian Cantor said...

This is such a testament to all your hard work and persistence. I'm so glad your story has a happy ending!!

And hooray for our family members who refuse to let us give up!! What would we do without them?

Maureen Lipinski said...

It IS amazing how similar our stories! Like you, it just killed me to go through two really great weeks of submissions followed by crushing disappointment.

But, it SO worked out in the end--for both of us!

And I'm so jealous that you got to sit down with Holly and Katie! And with sangria!!

Lesley Livingston said...

I get all flutter-stomach reading this kind of stuff.

And - YAY for 'Leslie's of all spellings!! :-D

So glad you persevered.

(funny I have to sign in to post this and my 'word verification' is PROSE!)

Tracy Madison said...

What a great story, Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing it. I love learning how each of us received that very cool call!