So today I announce something I have longed for since I began the search three years ago…nearly to the day.
I have a literary agent.
I wrote a bit on the process, but if you will grant me a moment, I will try and put into words how this feels.
Saying “I am grateful” or “it was hard” really feels so silly and inadequate…they etch a stencil and staple moniker on the scream-sheen, mountains to moments, cut-flower truth of emotions roaring through me.
…but I’ll try.
I worked on Sora silently…for years. Starting on April 14th, 2011. I sat down in a park in Stillwater, Oklahoma, fresh off a Masters, having sold the last piece of furniture from my apartment in preparation to move to Japan, and I suddenly had an idea for a floating world… and a single name.
For the next five years, while living in another country and learning another language, I worked in near silence. Most people, those I saw every week/day, never knew I was even a writer. It was something I kept to myself. I will sass all day about things that don’t have my heart, things that aren’t my passion, or I don’t care to be good at. But those real loves, those truths that sing my bones, that are an integral part of who I am…I stay mum about. Until I have something to truly show for it.
So I set to work.
In every spare moment, I carved out some time, kept plugging away, the story slowly growing and changing.
Breeze was born.
All elbows and attitude.
Wise and unsure.
Next came Beard…
Who will always have my heart.
Slowly Sora began to take shape, though it didn’t have a name yet (that came much later). Quietly, it grew and grew. Trying to take its first breath.
Writing in the back of ramen shops, in valleys next to rice fields, in the back of buses between mountain passes… whittling and whittling.
I met a friend who knew about writing, who offered to be my very first Beta Reader.
My first critic. Harsh, painful, but infinitely invaluable.
She set me up with a website of potential other critics.
All tearing Sora to pieces to put it back together.
Having the biggest epiphany of Sora’s very foundation in a Queenstown airport.
Cursing at the top of my lungs, falling off my chair, scrabbling for a pen and notebook, and furiously writing page after page as onlookers stared on, bewildered.
Writing between teaching lessons in Katsuura nearly every day.
Nights…dozens of nights…spent wishing I would just wake up and the manuscript would be finished on the desk beside me.
More nights spent lying in fear…I’m not a competent writer at all…Sora will never be anything…sobbing alone in perfect. quiet. silence.
Waking up and somehow finding the courage to start again.
Getting small bursts of support (Lauren, you were chief among them) that were more vital to my will than words could pen to page.
Hundreds. Thousands of hours. Organizing, rewriting, perfecting, layering, world building, re-prefecting, unprofecting, realizing nothing is ever perfect…and then finally, one day…
Sitting in the office, the middle of Spring break in Tokushima…writing the final page…that final scene. Watching Beard smile… putting the final period…on the final page…and standing up.
Walking into the sunlight, fleeing into the Cherry Blossom breeze…punch drunk and unable to process my feelings.
Serenity. Joy. Relief. Satisfaction. Pride.
I thought I was done. I thought the work was finished.
The hard part was about to begin.
Dozens of Beta readers. Revising. Being torn apart line by line. Realizing I had so much work to do.
Getting thicker skin. Not taking criticism of a story as a criticism of me.
Shopping professional editors.
Nearly 20. Interviewing each one.
Losing my first editor on the eve of our journey together.
Starting the search again.
Finding another editor.
A smart, energetic book fiend from London.
Revising and revising again. Hundreds of hours and nearly a year’s work.
The first agent submission…my perfect agent. Everything I ever wanted.
To this day, never hearing a word from them.
Rinse and repeat 60 more times.
A second editor.
Hundreds more hours of work. Another year of trying.
Starting a Patreon to try and gain some word-of-mouth traction and funding for art so hopefully someone…somewhere…would take notice.
Starting a website for Sora.
As much as to keep myself sane yet still working. I couldn’t stomach another revision.
Pouring hours into learning patch HTML/CSS to make it look semi-professional.
If you are going to do something, do it right.
Working on race bios, character dossiers, poems, folk tales, and ghost stories of Sora…
Anything to not force myself into another round of edits.
Getting my first request for a full MS.
Getting my first full MS rejection.
Repeat 6 times.
Wanting to give up. Every. Single. day.
Sending another 40 agent requests.
Hear back from half.
Another year. Picking up my boots. Knowing what I had to do.
Revise, revise, revise. Give up. Give up. Give up.
Tearing the book in two.
Dealing with ALL the plot hole reparation that comes from doing that.
Merge the book back anyways because I know in my bones it was the right thing to do.
Cut 60,000 words…which is more than a novel in and of itself.
Finding immense joy in a seemingly impossible challenge.
Getting rejected by the very agent who we have now just signed…3 times over the course of everything.
Each time getting hints on how to improve. How to grow.
Not giving up on her. on this MS. On Sora.
Taking that bet.
Diving back into edits. Losing count long ago of how many times. reading every single line until they blur. Changing, adjusting, deleting, and improving.
Blood and soul, bone and grit, heart and heartache…
And over again.
Then one peppercorn, cloudy someday…getting an email…like a hundred other emails…from an agent.
Knowing it’s just another rejection.
Opening it anyways.
The hammer falls.
The mold shatters.
October 21st, 2019….
8 years from the birth of an idea.
We have so far still to go.
Writing this all out…Seeing how far we’ve come… makes it all bearable.
We’re building a team now.
We have a goal.
We’re gaining recognition.
We can do this.
We are doing this.
Let us never forget a whispered truth on a Cherry Blossom breeze…
The journey is what makes it worth it.
2 thoughts on “The Journey So Far”
OMG. I salute and bow for your braveness to keep on keeping on. You deserve every bit of success that will come your way. Thanks for sharing your story!
Thank you so much for your kind words, Irene! Truly it made my week. 🙂
Are you a writer also?