That I’ve put off posting for a month. Why is this so hard to put into words? I’m a writer, right? Words are supposed to be my thing. But maybe it’s that sometimes some things are too big for words. This would be one of those things.
My middle-grade novel, THE INHABITANT OF ALEXIS O’RILEY sold to Egmont USA!
All the feelings. All the words. All the screams.
But most of all, I’m so excited that the world will get the chance to know Nessa and Alexis, these characters who I’ve fallen in love with this past year.
Almost exactly five years ago I picked up a pen (or maybe it was a mechanical pencil?) and told my husband that I was going to write a book. He was ready to commit me, and I’m not just saying that to make this blog post all dramatic and interesting. He really thought I was crazy.
I had to learn a LOT that first year with that first book. When it was finished and I’d had lots of people read through it and give input I spent the next year sending it out to 100 agents. Ten of them read it, but eventually they all passed. I’m all about even numbers and 100 seemed like a good stopping point for me. It had been a year. I was ready to move on.
The next year I wrote another book and when it was done and polished I sent it out to some agents. There was a lot more interest, and it got me my wonderful agent, but it had the ‘dystopian curse’ attached to it. As much as editors seemed to like it, it was a hard sell. I had major surgery and had to put my writing on hold for a year. At that point I was wondering if I’d ever be able to write again. Not that I didn’t try, I did. I hobbled out to the dining room a few times, propped my cast up on some pillows and wrote the first chapter of what would eventually become THE INHABITANT OF ALEXIS O’RILEY. But I hated what I wrote. The concept was good, I just had no interest in writing it. I wasn’t excited about it. So I left it alone.
Thankfully, about a year later I opened up the laptop again and got to work on INHABITANT. I wrote it in a month. Over the summer I went back and forth with my agent and his wonderful assistant, Sam. We worked out kinks, filled plot holes, and got it into shape.
Meanwhile, there is a children’s writing conference my friend, Renee and I go to every year – the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference. I signed up for a critique of my first ten pages with an editor at Egmont USA named Alison Weiss. I would get to meet her face-to-face and let her rip apart what I’d written. (Sounds like fun, right?)
I try not to be nervous for these things, I’ve done them before and everyone is usually very polite when they point out all of the things you’ve done wrong. I had seen Alison in the big conference room during the general session and knew who she was because my friend had just been in one of her classes. When the session let out about a half-hour early, I was thrilled. It would give me time to run up to my room and brush my teeth before I met with her.
Renee and I quickly made our way to the elevators and stepped onto the same elevator as Alison. She mentioned to us that she was going up to start another round of critique meetings and I think I squeaked a “with me” or something silly like that. We were silent until the door opened and Alison must have seen my name on my name tag. She turned around and said, “Holly! I’m so excited to talk to you about your book!”
In my shocked stupor I think I said something like, “Uh, oh.” She backed out of the elevator, laughing, and said “Oh, no. It’s a good thing!”
And then I had to go up to my room, shaking, and wait a half-hour. I may or may not have brushed my teeth ten times. I may or may not have called my husband to freak out. I did tease a guy for belching loudly in the hallway.
With a little more hope that INHABITANT wouldn’t be ripped to pieces, I went back downstairs to meet with Alison. She was a complete sweetheart, and we had a good laugh about how she scared me in the elevator. And she LOVED my book. All of the words, all of the gushing, did my heart so good. She got it like I was hoping an editor would get it and I got to hear how much she loved it face-to-face. She couldn’t wait to read the rest and asked for me to have my agent send it to her as soon as possible. It was fifteen minutes that I won’t forget anytime soon. Maybe never. I think I floated out of the room.
But I was worried, too. She only read ten pages. What if she hates the other 178? I went back to my room and emailed Josh with her request, who in his infinite awesomeness replied to my email during his anniversary dinner with his wife. I’m so glad she’s just as infinitely awesome as her husband. 😉 I hope I didn’t get him in trouble.
Then the waiting began. It’s a killer. In that time I did a LOT of internet searches to see how long these things take and got everything from hours to days to months. So I’ll tell you that with mine it took a few days over a month from submission to offer.
I’m SO excited to work with Alison Weiss, who is just as lovely in person as she seems online. And I’m also so thrilled to now be an Egmont author. Everyone is so friendly and they publish such AMAZING books! And most of all, I’m excited for you (or your middle-grader) to read the book.
If you want to add it to your to-read Goodreads list, just click on the button below!