The Journey to Normalish
About two and a half years ago, I was mostly writing short stories, trying to create one so perfect that Deborah Treisman of the New Yorker wouldn’t be able to pass it by. I know. But sometimes delusions feel so real. In the midst of this, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a hot new genre, young adult. It wasn’t new to me exactly. I’d grown up with all of Judy Blume’s books and read The Outsiders at least four times, but the categories young adult and middle grade weren’t known as such then; the books simply fell into the broad category of children’s literature.
I still remember after reading the LA Times article thinking: “Huh. That sounds like fun.” And so it began, my attempt to chronicle the teen experience in my very first book. High school wasn’t exactly my favorite time; I was the embodiment of teen angst, awkwardness, and self-consciousness. I wrote about those universal themes—not belonging, alienation, loneliness.
My heroine in Normalish, Stacy York, has issues. Having lost her father in the seventh grade, she’s been forced to deal with loss and the economic reality of a struggling mother. Beginning high school, she has trouble with friends, trouble with boys. Add into the mix a strange older sister whose strangeness descends into mental illness, and you have a young woman struggling to find her place in not only high school, but the universe.
When I was finished with Normalish, I queried a few literary agents. To my surprise, I quickly received a request for my manuscript. The agent then asked me to revise and resubmit. I basically rewrote per her suggestions and resubmitted. She asked for more revisions. This went on three more times over the course of one year. The agent really loved the character, Stacy, but had problems with the story arc. Not surprising since this was my first book and I had so much to learn. After four extensive rewrites, the agent passed.
I felt I had a solid manuscript, though, and didn’t wish to go back into the agent querying process, which can be very disheartening. (One thing about the road to publishing—it’s fraught with long periods of silence followed by soul-crushing rejection.)
As luck would have it, I found my publisher, Musa, two days after the literary agent and I parted company. I submitted my partial manuscript, received a full request, and two months later had my first publishing contract. Two and a half years later, here I am with my first book published in e-format. I also have three more books to be published in the coming months. (Writing another book is what you do while you’re querying your first book—this helps the agonizing wait.)
If I’ve made the road to publishing sound easy, that wasn’t my intent. It’s really, really hard. But if you want to be a writer, you keep going and you keep working, honing your craft. Don’t ever give up. Good luck!
About the author:
People tell you high school's so great and wonderful, but they're lying. It's mostly horrible and full of disappointment. It sucks. Your best friend abandons you. The jerk you're in love with pretends to be into you, and then the big dump. The boy you've really clicked with as a friend decides to go all crushy over you, so you break his heart just like yours was -- smashed into little pieces. Your sister goes mental, and you get involved with a guy who’s even crazier than she is (who you know is a very bad idea, but you do it anyway). Math only adds another stink of failure to the whole thing.
High school blows. Just ask freshman Stacy. She’d want you to know.
Musa Publishing (includes excerpt!)
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, Margaret!
Would you like to be a guest blogger? Email your topic idea to lydiasharp4sff (at) yahoo (dot) com. Please put "guest post" somewhere in the subject line. You do not have to be a published author to be a guest blogger here, just a serious writer or a publishing industry professional or intern. We'd love to hear from you!