My heart is a kick-drum in my chest right now.
You know those things that happen to you and make you think, "Well, this is going to be the defining aspect of my year"? 2010 is the year I first got psychiatric treatment. 2011 is the year I started coming out. 2012 is the year I was one day from attempting suicide before I told someone. 2013 is the year I expanded my support system with so many amazing relationships I hope to carry on forever. 2014 is the year I became proud of myself.
2015 is the year my difficult high school experience paid off; I got admitted to the honors college at my state university.
2015 is the year I said goodbye to some of my closest friends.
2015 is the year I wrote the second book of my heart, SWEETEST DOWNFALL. (If you're wondering, yes, I did decide to title it that because of the Regina Spektor song "Samson.")
2015 is the year...well. We'll get to that. First, a great deal of backstory:
I started writing in 2011 for National Novel Writing Month (actually, Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer), mainly just to prove to myself that I could do it. My first manuscript was this horrific attempt at YA contemporary—the first of a planned quartet—but I didn't know how horrible it was. I finished it, but I didn't know what editing was or if I needed to do it. I queried it, but I didn't know how to query. No one so much as responded to my "queries." I cried. I got back to work.
In the winter of 2011-2012, I wrote my second manuscript, a dystopian romance with a love triangle. It was kind of like if The Handmaid's Tale had been bad. I queried it. I got two requests. I got two rejections. I cried. I got back to work.
In the spring of 2012, I wrote my third manuscript, a YA contemporary with no romance. It was an Issue Book about suicide, but I didn't know that. I queried it. I got requests, one from the lead agent at a solid, well-respected boutique agency. I never heard back. I cried. I got back to work.
It is worth noting here that around this time, I joined Twitter and met Amy Zhang, Ari Susu-Mago, John Hansen, and Olivia, the four members of my critique group besides me. We spent many, many evenings and weekends in a private chat room discussing portable, satchel-held breasts. We're still friends and critique partners now, and I hope we will be until the bitter end. At the risk of being a corny cob of corn made of cheese and sap: Amy is my first critique partner ever and the subject of literal hours spent bragging to my mom about my critique partner; she also made me cry four separate times at the first draft of Falling into Place and another four times at the finished copy, so she's a little bit dead to me. (KIDDING. I LOVE YOU BEYOND ALL MEASURE, AMY.) Ari is my most trusted confidant when I hate the world and also when I love it, in addition to being literally the most talented, intelligent, and warm person I've never met. I know people use that line a lot, but I mean every word of it. Olivia is objectively the loveliest ever, and though we fall out of contact frequently because of dumb life stuff (what the hell is this "productivity" thing), I can always, always trust her to bring me a smile and a virtual hug, in addition to rocking my socks straight into the stratosphere. John is okay.
[editor's note: John is more than okay; he's an amazing person and a bananapants good writer. He's scarily talented and we poke fun at each other because we genuinely do like and value each other's company.]
Me setting off text in brackets means you can't read it.
Back to the feels: In the summer of 2012, I began working on my fourth manuscript, MAD WORLD. Immediately I noticed this one was different—I was actually proud of my work here, and though the first draft was rough, it's safe to say I cried 50% of the time I was writing it. It's about a boy and a girl in a fairy tale relationship—until he's diagnosed with schizophrenia. It took me nine months to write when my previous record for longest time on a first draft was three months. To borrow some parlance from the first paragraph of the manuscript, there's two kinds of love: the kind that makes your heart race, and the kind that stops it. MAD WORLD will always stop my heart. Taylor, Law: thank you for everything.
I spent a long time on MAD WORLD, because I really believed it was my one shot; if this wasn't The Book, what would be? I queried and got amazing replies and queried and got such lovely rejections and queried and revised and polished according to feedback and queried and nothing came of it. It wasn't meant to be. The book of my heart wasn't getting published.
I cried. And it took me a long time, but I got back to work.
In the fall of 2013, I started my fifth manuscript, FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN. This was my Big Huge Commercial book, the one I thought would propel me to the bestseller lists and also fame. As a result, the writing was shaky at best. I queried, I got into contests, I got requests, I got rejections. I cried. I got back to work.
In 2014, I started my sixth manuscript, SWEETEST DOWNFALL. It was inspired by the Tracy Chapman song "Fast Car." It was an emotional maelstrom for me to write. It was my first gay romance. It was the first time I wrote about people who were like me, doing things like I would, loving how I do.
As a writer, I'd never felt more alive.
I took stylistic risks (the first line: "He pulled up to my house in his fast car in his good mood in his Sunday best despite it being Tuesday with a steady stream of pop rock music blaring from his radio"; a sentence structured like that is on almost every page). I made it about a boy with same-sex attraction, generalized anxiety, and a dead best friend, and he's already out to the world. It's Not A Coming Out Book (though you can kindly fight me if you think those aren't still needed). I made it messy and honest and the best book I could write.
I queried it. I started querying it in the early afternoon of February 16th, sending it out to six agents. Before noon the next day, I had three full requests in my inbox.
I cried. I got back to work.
I got a revise and resubmit situation with a lovely new agent at a well-respected agency, complete with a phone call.
I cried. I got back to work.
I got into Pitch Wars with the fierce, lovely Helene Dunbar as my mentor. We worked on SWEETEST DOWNFALL late at night and early in the morning and we didn't stop because we loved this book and what we were going to make it. Someone loved my book like it was her own.
I cried. I got back to work.
On October 4th, smack in the middle of Pitch Wars, I got an email from an agent, one of those within-24-hour requesting agents from the day I started querying, asking about the status of my manuscript and if we could talk on the phone soon.
We talked on October 9th, 2015. She started with a few notes for editing she had, and I quaked in my slippers, thinking it was another R&R and I'd gotten my hopes up too much.
She mentioned some issues she'd had with the manuscript.
Some—most—I'd already addressed in my work with Helene. I told her this, explained how I'd changed the problem areas and what they looked like now.
She said she'd love to see the latest version. She said so many amazing, encouraging things. She said, "I'm offering you representation."
I signed the contract.
It is with shaky hands and a kick-drum heart and so many thanks and so much love and an unspeakable amount of happy-tears that I announce I am now represented by Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency.
Time to get back to work.