Wednesday, April 2, 2008

On Being Published: What a Road Trip

(part 1 in blog series)

I’ve promised the readers of my latest book, Everything Matters, Nothing Matters (which releases nationwide in two weeks!), that I would reveal the back story of how these writings found their way into the world. I’m sharing this with the hope that all of you aspiring authors out there will gain a smidgeon of inspiration from it.

It started on a road trip in January 2005. Traveling alone with a lot on my mind (apparently), I began speaking into a digital voice recorder that I typically take with me on magazine interviews. Three hours later, to my surprise, I had dictated to myself the contents of a book outline—although I didn’t know this at the time.

Months pass. I rediscover this file on my DVR and transcribed it. Whatever “it” was certainly had good bone structure—it just needed to be filled in with connective tissue in the form of a provocative narrative. Six months later, I find myself extemporaneously pitching this content as a book idea to a literary agent at a writer’s conference. He is intrigued and asks to see some of the writings.

That winter, I feed him chapters by email, which I’m fleshing out furiously in my spare (!) work hours. He helps me to crystallize the premise, tone, content and marketing angle by offering seasoned advice (he worked at Random House for years and is the former publisher of William Morrow). By the time the snow thawed that spring, I was on my way to signing a contract for representation with this agent—or so I thought.

In the end, while complimentary of my writing, he wasn’t drawn to the topic (something he told me in his very first email) and therefore didn’t feel he could enthusiastically represent the material. “It's simply a matter of taste and sensibility, and not one thing to do with your talent,” he said. “Some people like meatloaf and peas, others like the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.” So we parted ways and, don’t get me wrong, I was disappointed . . . but having a proclivity towards optimism (a good quality to have as a working writer), I believe that all things happen for good reason.

Yes, I remained agent-less. Ah, but now, miraculously, I had a solid first draft of something. And as Irish writer Seamus Heaney says, “The excitement of something coming out right is its own reward.” I felt good about what I'd cobbled together and that was enough for the time being. But I’d come too far to let it moulder in a file cabinet for very long. What to do next? Stay tuned for my next post…