Monday, April 20, 2009

We’ve started a few new things at A GOOD BLOG IS HARD TO FIND. Now through May, we’ll have theme blogs, and the first theme is “How I Got the Call.” Not all of our bloggers will be blogging on that topic but many will. Additionally, we’ll have a weekly ASK THE AUTHOR. Scroll back a couple of entries to find the first one. Finally, we’ll be periodically running contests, giving away books. Scroll back to the entry before this one to see how you can win a copy of Picking Cotton.

Thanks for reading!

HOW I GOT THE CALL by Karin Gillespie

The best part of my very first writer’s conference was hanging out at the bar and listening to writer war stories. Several attendees had agents, and I thought, “Wow! An agent of their very own. They’ve got it made in the shade.” I wanted to inhale their same lofty air, hoping success was contagious.

But the more I listened, the darker the stories became. Yes, some writers had agents but that didn’t mean their books had sold. I’d always assumed an agent was the equivalent of a golden ticket into the Kingdom of Published Authors.

“Not so,” they’d say, tossing back shots of whiskey, jaded looks in their eyes. One would-be author took me aside and said, “Forget about ever getting published, honey chile. Try something easy… hic… like brain surgery.”

Admittedly the odds were against me. I didn’t have an English degree, I’d written only one miserable trunk novel (completely autobiographical about a doomed love affair) and everything I knew about the pub biz I could write on the head of a pin.

Still…instead of getting discouraged I felt the stirrings of a challenge. That very evening, in my hotel room, I started a new novel. I decided, whatever it took, I was going to come back to that conference with a book contract in hand.

A couple of months later, I’d written a few chapters, and I attended The Sandhills Writers Conference in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. A faculty member, Robert Bausch, evaluated the piece and loved it. He promised me that if I finished my novel within a year, he’d recommend me to his agent.

I was THRILLED because I assumed that writers needed to have an inside connection to get published, and finally I had one.

At the same conference I met some like-minded writers, and we started a novel critique group. We met every two weeks and by the time my year deadline arrived, I’d pounded out a three-hundred page novel.

I wrote to Robert who promptly gave me the name of his agent. I crafted a query letter, sent it off, and shortly afterwards… I was rejected.

I’d come too far to let one agent dash my hopes so I started sending out more queries, (using Jeff Herman's Guide Book, which seems slightly antiquated in this Internet age) and finally I got a nibble.

It was an exhilarating nibble because the agent actually called me at work (a real live agent… one the phone!). Breathlessly she said, “SEND IT ALL!” as if she were having an asthma attack and my novel was an inhaler.

She kept sending me these email updates, every hour: STILL LOVING IT! But eventually they came to a dead stop… And then I didn’t hear from her again until a week later.

“I’m not in love with the ending,” she wrote. (That’s agent speak for “Your ending turns my stomach. I CURSE the hand who wrote that ending.”)

Of course, now that I’d gotten a bite, I wasn’t letting it go. Promising extensive re-writes and cases of Dom Perignon, I begged her to let me have another chance to wow her.

She agreed. When I sent her another version, she hemmed-hawed and finally said, “Okay.”

My agent began to send out the novel, and suddenly EDITORS were rejecting my work. (A whole slew of them). Eventually there was one who said if I made some more changes, maybe she could take me on—no promises, though.

So I got busy again, sent it off and then, one golden afternoon it came: THE CALL!


A lot of exciting things have happened to me since then, but I’ll never, ever forget the call. Bottles of wine, hazardous fireworks and the Blue Angels marked the occasion.

And yes, I went back to the conference, this time as a published author, and I hung out in the bar. As I tossed back my whiskey, I said to all the aspiring authors. “Lishen up, y’all…hic… If I can do it…hic… so can you!”

Please visit Karin at her blog where she dishes on books, baby boomers and (occasionally) Brangelina.

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