As a writer, I’m constantly challenged to add to my character descriptions. In my middle grade/young adult novel series, Sammy and the San Juan Express, I constantly search for ways to define the protagonist (hero), Sammy. Recently a dear friend and editor, Vera Haddan, reminded me of this quote from Maya Angelou that helped me add to Sammy’s identity. This is what I hope Sammy does in her adventures, Sales the Deal, Presidential Bear, and the upcoming Alpha She Wolf.
Eighteen queries emailed and my first milestone—I received my first rejection email. My first for Sammy and The San Juan Express, that is. I’m not sure if I should be pleased or upset. On the one hand, one agent … wait, another email. Make that two agents, did not feel my novel fit their needs. On the other hand, this puts me in some good company. If the web is correct: Agatha Christie received five years of rejections, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)= twelve rejections, Louis L’Amour= 200, Dr. Seuss= numerous rejections with a note: “Too different from other juveniles,” Chicken Soup for the Soul=140, Stephenie Meyer’s (Twilight)= fourteen rejections, and one of my favorite authors, Jack London = 600. Needless to say, even the very best receive rejections, and even some of the very worst are published.
And, as Literaryrejections.com says, “Rejection is an imperative test of one’s character.”
Isn’t life grand.
Where did the idea for Sammy and The San Juan Express come from? Years ago I vacationed with my two children in the San Juan Islands. We’d spend two or more weeks on a 28′ Chris Craft with a small sailing dinghy in tow. It was magical watching how they adapted to their new environment. Two urban kids suddenly transformed into sailors, fisherman, divers, and explorers. During the day they would swim in warm coves, or spend lazy afternoons in the dinghy. In the evenings, with no television or radio, we’d play card games, and I would make up stories about pirates, goblins, and lost children living on the islands. And so, some thirty years ago, the seeds of The San Juan Express were planted. Many years later, they began to sprout.
Beautiful weather. Finished review of section one of Sammy and The San Juan Express. Three sections to go.
What is Sammy and The San Juan Express? As a critique partner put it, “A young adult, middle grade novel about an orphan girl.”
The elevator pitch on the back of my business card: Thirteen year old Sammy is faced with her mother’s death, a drunken father, and being shipped off to live with her uncle, a bush pilot in the San Juan Islands. In two enlightening weeks she saves a sea lion, uncovers a plot to kill seals, is kidnapped to be murdered, and discovers her hidden gift. Only her strength, courage, wits, and a little help from her friends above and below water, determines whether she dies or lives to enjoy her new found power.
In parallel to blogging about creating my young adult/middle grade novel, Sammy and The San Juan Express, I will be blogging about my current writing activity—which is, creating an agent query letter. Kapow! It’s done. Not without grinding of teeth and cursing at critique groups comments (Not to worry, I’m most appreciative). But, three week into summarizing a 65,000 word adventure novel into three short paragraphs (266 words), many readings and many revisions, it’s ready to be sent out.
Now to compile a list of YA/MG agents, customize my email for each agent, and send them out. Nervous? Yes. Sweaty palms? Not yet, but I’m sure I will be when I push the send button.
Some years ago I began a young adult novel. I had a story in my head and it asked to be let out. I had no idea that I was releasing a monster. An exciting, beautiful monster to be sure, but monster non-the-less. I called it, Sammy and The San Juan Express.
I had written professional articles and interviews for many years, and I’d maintained an around-the-world travel blog, but this was my first full length fiction work. I figured I’d get the story down on paper, then do some edits and maybe, if I was lucky, get it published. Hell, I actually was pretty sure I’d get it published.
Six years later, I’m crossing t’s and dotting i’s, and preparing agent query letters. My optimism has been replaced with realism and I’m hoping someone, out of the hundreds of agents I’ll be contacting, will read my query and want to see my manuscript. As for being sure I’ll be published by a traditional publisher, that’s been replaced with the realization that anyone can write a story, but only a true writer can make it a novel.
At the encouragement of a friend, and as I begin to send out my query letters, I’ll tell you about my journey from business non-fiction writer to novelist, and bring you along as I learn out how difficult finding an agent really is.
SIX YEARS AGO:
I began my journey with a simple synopsis, and research. I wrote my idea for a story, on my computer. It covered about twenty pages. I also went online and searched for anything I could find that might educate me on how to write a novel. It began with excitement and anticipation of an extraordinary story that might take three to six months to complete. I was surprised on many levels.
More to follow:
Yet another domain (www.nickolaivasilieff.com). I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I’m slowly builidng my platform for both freelance business writing and the release of my upcoming YA novel—Sammy and The San Juan Express. The latest addition—a new domain name. Why isn’t this easier? I’ll keep you posted and maybe we can figure this out together.