Okay/Not Okay

Not writing/But reading

Hi, everyone. Are you okay? Are you not okay? Both? Yeah, me too.

I’m mainly writing this because I miss writing words, in general, and I want to say hi, and I haven’t done an update in a while. So if you are interested in the progress of things, this is where I’m at:

I signed an agent contract with Kim Lionetti of BookEnds Literary. She has a ton of experience in both editing and agenting and so far has been nothing but kind and gentle with me which is exactly what I need. Her most famous client is Helen Hoang, who was also kind and gentle with me in the few emails we exchanged while I was making my decision. She signed her last email to me with just a heart and “H” which signaled to me that we were friends basically. (Jokes. I am not friends with Helen Hoang.) Overall, I have been surprised at how many people in this whole process have been kind and gentle. (Some have not been. But those have been lessons too.)

I did a few more edits of my book with Kim, and now I am “on sub.” Everything about publishing is sort of shadowy and weird, and you’re supposed to keep almost everything secret except for when actual contracts are signed, but I think it’s fine to tell the fifteen of you who are going to read this what’s actually happening. Being on sub means that publishers have my book. Kim’s sent it to all of the “Big 5” NYC publishers & a few other romance heavy ones. And now I wait and see if anyone likes it enough to buy it. I’ve had one (kind and gentle) rejection and an “enjoying the read so far!” update from another thus far. That second editor also requested “blurbs” for two possible future projects. These were both fun and stressful to work on with Kim. Because after the validation of Pitch Wars, I accept that my book that’s on sub is All Right Probably, but what if the rest of my ideas suck? And pitching them with someone I’m still getting to know (getting to know your agent feels like very awkward dating) was even more nerve wracking. But Kim, in her kind and gentle way, didn’t say they sucked, and sent them off to that editor, and the process started to make me actually excited for those future projects. Which is good, because ever since this whole worldwide crisis thing started, I have sort of forgotten how to do words.

Blurbs for future projects are exchanged with editors to see if there’s a possibility of signing a multi-book deal. Like, we trust you so much that we’re going to lock you in to write one or two more books for us, too, even if you haven’t actually written them yet. It also ensures that those subsequent books will get published faster. Because of how slow publishing moves, even if your debut book is a blockbuster, getting another contract signed for your second book could take years longer. So a multi-book deal is definitely the optimal thing, but how common they are really depends on your genre. They are more common in romance because the romance reader base is so steady and loyal, so publishers can trust that readers will keep reading your books/it’s a less risky investment. Because romance readers are the best.

Considering that all these editors live in NYC, which is in unprecedented daily crisis right now, I’m not holding my breath about hearing anything definite soon. You can be on sub for a really long time. And if your first round ends in all rejection, you can either submit to other, smaller publishers, or revise some more and re-submit. I am still checking my email more than is necessary, hoping for good news, but honestly I feel okay with whatever happens. Increasingly, I wonder if I actually want to go with a smaller publisher. Because there’s a lot of pressure with big publishers, to be marketable, to output consistent work, and in my daydreams, I could be as weird and queer as I wanted with smaller publishers, even if it inevitably meant far less money. But it’s still nice to be able to aspire that big publishers want weird queer romance too, you know?

So that’s where I’m at, where I’ll likely be for a while.

You would think that being out of work for over a month now due to COVID-19, I would have gotten a lot of writing done on those future projects I just mentioned, but that would be a big nope. I am quietly, very, very slowly, starting to fall in love with my WIP (work-in-progress) again, but most of my time has been spent taking care of our toddler full time and feeling strange.

The one thing I have been able to do over the last month is read. I mean, I am always reading, pretty much, but how intensely I’m reading comes and goes in waves, and during all of Pitch Wars, my writing life was so all consuming that I didn’t have a lot of time to read. And now that my writing life is a bit quiet, my reading brain is on, full steam, and it is so…beautiful.

Writing, trying to get published is such a mindfuck. You get so consumed with…I don’t know, the process, bullshit, self-consciousness, ego. And sometimes it bleeds over to my reading life, which is really unfortunate. Like instead of losing myself in the story, I’m wondering how the author outlined this story, what beat sheets they used, what their process was like with their agent and their editor, and then I flip to the acknowledgments to see who their agent and editor are and then I’m like oh, them, because I know almost all the names now, and it’s ugh, so dumb.

But the reading I’ve been doing during quarantine is just unabashed, old school me reading. In this level of reading, even though I know that author’s road to getting this book published—no matter what kind of book it is—was probably hard and complicated and full of self-doubt but in my blissful reader’s mind, all I think about is how they wrote this naturally fantastic story—like the words probably just fell right out of their eyeballs!—and it made me so very very happy for a number of hours and I love them for that and I love their characters with my entire heart.

This is why I love being a librarian, too. It’s so outside of the actual publishing process; we just get to reap the rewards. We just get to be fangirls and fanboys and fanpeople. We just get to buy books and shout about books and make fun displays about books. And I need that! That reminder that even if nothing I ever write myself gets published, I just…I love books. I love books so fucking much. My love of books is pure, unabashed, and completely uncomplicated.

I am having some low-level panic, then, about how even though I’m supposed to be “working from home” I have been pretty useless as a virtual librarian, and budgets for next year aren’t looking great, and maybe I’ll lose this dream life I’ve been leading. Because I can’t really imagine ever not being a writer and a librarian, anymore.

But there’s nothing I can do about that right now. I can’t make my brain work better and be a better virtual librarian. To prove that I’m worth it. I mean, maybe I can. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have dived hardcore into romance comfort reads this last month to help me survive, catching up on all my favorite authors’ backlists, which I could ramble all about forever but *bites fist* they are so good. They are all so dirty and smart and sweet and emotional and perfect and I love them so much.

I also brought home bags and bags of middle grade and young adult books from work, before work shut down, and I’m remembering why I love those, too. Almost every middle grade book I read makes me cry. Every single middle grade author is just. Like. A genius? And there is literally no other age category in all of published literature that is doing as much creatively and with as much diversity as young adult, so…yeah. There’s a reason young adult’s a thing. I just sort of cackle at anyone who makes fun of young adult for being immature or whatever because they just sound so fucking dumb and boring.

And have I told you about how much I love picture books? You don’t even know. I think every single teenager and adult should be required to read a picture book a week and we would all be so much better. Just…better. Happier and more emotionally balanced.

I’m also hoping to start getting caught up on comic books and graphic novels, soon. Which is a whole other topic for a whole other day, like, how people even make those! What the hell! GENIUSES! And maybe some non-fiction, to get that side of my brain functioning better again. Do you know how smart non-fiction writers are? Damn.

I love books. All of them. Except, you know, ones written by assholes. 90% of the rest, though.

But I love romance books the best.

I hope that, even while it feels like the world is burning and everything is so okay-not okay, you have your own equivalent of romance novels to help get you through. There’s nothing wrong with escaping into those things, if we’re able. And if you’re not able…it’s understandable. I love you & I’m sorry.

But if you want me to recommend you some mindless smut, I will.