Write, revise, query, query, query…

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Long-time subscribers know that I’ve spent years on my novel-in-stories ROSE WINDOW. I wrote the first draft of my manuscript by hand from 2017-2018. Then I spent months cycling the stories through my critique group and invested in an editor. Then I started querying. Last year I pitched my manuscript to agents at the Chicago Writers Conference, the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York, and I had plans to attend AWP earlier this year, but canceled my trip due to needs of aging family. (Ultimately, the COVID shutdown started the week after AWP too.) One of the agents I pitched last year invited me to submit a re-write. I partnered with an editor again and, based on the agent’s feedback, we made ROSE WINDOW better than I had imagined. I intended to send the manuscript back to the agent before the holidays last year, but at the time I received the editor’s notes, my husband’s sister died. Then we relocated family closer to us. Then COVID happened. It’s been one thing after another for so many of us this year.

With that short re-cap, you can imagine how accomplished I finally felt last week when I completed a final read of my manuscript. It was finally ready for the agent to read again. On Wednesday morning (in addition to ad hoc creative time throughout the week, I nearly always get up for #5amwritersclub on Wednesdays) I formatted the manuscript, typed my email, and finally sent it off to the agent. I was filled with so much relief and hope that I felt I could float to New York and give it to her myself.

Within a few seconds I received an auto-response that she’s no longer with the agency. I Googled her and found nothing. I checked Duotrope and a few other query sites. From my mini-sleuthing I discovered she became disassociated with the agency somewhere between October 24 and the first week of November. No clue if she left the industry. No clues whatsoever.

laptop covered in blank sticky notes

I promptly went downstairs and curled up next to my husband in bed where he was still sleeping. The idea of querying all over again, the idea of finding an agent who believed in short stories AND believed in my writing like this agent had felt impossible. Should I even bother? Some of the characters in my collection spawned from stories I wrote 11 years ago! When can I send them off into the world and focus fully on my next fiction project? How much am I going to spend now on contest submissions and (remote) writing conferences with agent pitch sessions? Should I self-publish? Should I take a week off and spend all my time querying? Should I wait until after the holidays?

Then, laying in the pre-dawn darkness, my husband asked me what’s wrong. I was surprised he was even awake. (I am 110% a morning person and he’s 110% not a morning person!) I hated that I had to say it all out loud, giving the situation a thicker layer of reality. He said, “I’ll find her.” I told him she may have changed the genres she represents or she could have changed industries. COVID could be changing publishing just as its upended so many other things. He said he’ll find her, and he told me to call the agency and explain the situation to learn if she has forwarding contact information. So he’s searching, and I will too.