Jennybondurant’s Blog


First Rejection from an Editor – Novel Progress!

Posted in Writing by jennybondurant on January 17, 2010

Received an e-mail from my agent Paul Zack this past week, and when I showed it to my husband, he didn’t understand my excitement.

“But they said no,” he kept saying as I kept trying to explain how it was positive.

There’s a big difference between a good no and a turn-off-your-computer-and-hang-your-head-and-cry no. For anyone trying to publish a book, you should know what I mean.

A good no keeps you going.

A good no is encouragement.

A good no means that you aren’t crazy for doing this.

Here are the comments from the editor – the first to respond to the submissions for my novel that Zack sent out:

I’m afraid this is simply a case of enjoying the novel, but not loving it.  I think with something like this, you have to absolutely fall for Edie.  As you well know, with fiction these days we need real in-house champions, and I wouldn’t want to do it a disservice.  I am confident that Jennifer will find the perfect home for this—she’s a very talented writer with great promise.

So I skimmed over the part that she didn’t love it and I focused on the positives to stroke my ego – essential to staying disciplined with writing!

But beyond the editor’s kind words, what really keeps me going it knowing that someone has read my work. That it is getting out there. A rejection is still progress.

The end goal is to share, to get what’s in my head and heart on the page and translate them into something that connects with others. It’s what drives writers crazy and is essential to capturing the human experience.

Waiting …

Posted in Writing by jennybondurant on November 10, 2009

I signed with the Zack Literary Agency in late September. One of the hardest things to do in the sign-up process was ask for references from the agent. Maybe it’s my personality, or maybe it’s all the horror stories I’ve heard about doing the wrong things and getting crossed off an agent’s list, but I thought – wait – shouldn’t I be grateful that I’ve gotten this far, to an offer from a REAL agent? He likes my book, so shouldn’t that be all I need? What if he is offended that I am questioning his legitimacy?

I had to truly accept that the agent/writer relationship, once agreed upon, is a two-way street. In the query stages, the writer is down a notch, pleading for notice, for a chance. Once the door opens, however, the agent needs the writer’s story as much as the writer needs the agent. So making sure that both parties are happy with arrangement is important. I asked for, and received with little fanfare, three references. I communicated via email with two of them and found that the agent is fair and honest.

Honest. What a great word to describe someone.

So I signed the agreement and we were off! Yes! Time to get published! And now … we wait.
Zack sent out the first proposals to publishers in late October. He sent me the list of the recipients with a promise to keep me posted on the responses. So far, no word.

The query process has started all over again, but this time I am off the hook – the agent is working for me. What an odd, wonderful feeling.

 

Interview with a Literary Agent

Posted in Uncategorized,Writing by jennybondurant on September 5, 2009

A common response I’ve had when asking people for connections and help with finding an agent to represent my novel is “Do you know how hard it is to get published today?” and then they start talking statistics on how publishers aren’t printing as many books, people don’t read as much, etc. Of course, I still want the dream, so I resigned myself to the fact that I may be beating my head against a wall in this effort.

When an agent actually e-mailed with an interest in representing my novel, my first instinct was blind joy. Then, cautioned by writer friends to make sure the offer is legit, I crashed – this must be a scam – especially since I couldn’t find much on the Internet about the agent.

After speaking with Paul Zack on Thursday, though, hopes are rising again. His agency is young, even though his entire career has been in publishing, editing, marketing and advertising. No, he doesn’t have a long list of success stories to share, but the most important thing I gleaned from the conversation with him: If the book is good enough, it will sell.

He’s in Illinois, not New York, and when I asked if he uses connections he made in his previous positions in publishing to get his authors in print, he said he doesn’t believe that matters. If the book is not good, it won’t matter who your friends in publishing are – it won’t get published. If it is good, it will. He cautioned that in this publishing climate we have to be patient and there are no promises, but he gave the process a hopeful air – and an authentic one. Yes, publishers’ catalogs have been cut from 1/4 to 1/3 in many cases, but they are still publishing good books. He isn’t jaded about the process.

And since he thinks my book is good enough for him to invest in as an agent, I think we are on a good wavelength.

Waiting for the author-agent agreement from him, so I can review the details, but looking forward …

Am I learning a lesson?

Posted in Uncategorized by jennybondurant on September 1, 2009

Trying to find info on Paul Zack Literary Agency, but can’t find any other authors he has represented. Waiting to hear back with details, but wondering if this is a scam and I am learning a lesson??

I fell off the blogosphere and landed an agent for my novel.

Posted in Uncategorized,Writing by jennybondurant on September 1, 2009

I started sending queries out for Disappearing Acts, my first novel, in May of this year and intended to blog about the experience. From doing my own research, I know how helpful it is to read others’ personal experiences with agents and their responses. Two blogs into the process, life threw me an unexpected and unbelievable curve – my friend’s little boy who had been battling cancer started failing and the doctors sent him home with hospice care. Zac Talley was expected to not live more than a couple of days, but in an incredible display of spirit and love, he stayed with us for six indescribable weeks. My friend Chrystal and her husband showed such strength and love and care during Zac’s time at home, the weeks he stayed in between this world and the next.

I never expected that life would bring me to a place where I would help a friend by sitting up during the night beside her 7-year-old child, where I would watch to make sure that he kept breathing, praying to God to heal him and then praying for God to take Zac into his arms and make him whole again in heaven, if that was the place where his journey was going to take him. I never expected to have to sit by my friend and help her through the loss of her son. Blogging about a novel was a trivial experience to even think about, so I didn’t do it. But on a few nights when I sat up with Zac so his mom could get some sleep, I sat with my laptop on my lap and researched agents, wrote a few more queries, working to keep myself awake with one eye on Zac in the middle of the night.

Zac earned his angel wings on July 8. Life slowly, sadly, returns to a normal pace and routine for me and my family, while Zac’s family is still figuring out a new, painful life without him. I have re-joined my writer’s group, wonderful women I had missed during the first part of the summer because it was too hard to be anywhere else but at Zac’s house, close to him, whenever I could. I have even started working on a new novel, which feels like insanity but I know there is another story inside of me, ready to get out if I can sit down long enough at the keyboard.

Over the summer, I received a handful of agent requests for a full manuscript or for a few chapters from Disappearing Acts. I received a few turn-downs, with much appreciated critiques. I received a request for a full copy of the manuscript to review on July 24 from the Paul J. Zack Literary Agency. Today, the agency e-mailed an offer to represent my novel, and I still can’t believe it.

The older I get, the more I believe that all things are connected. Thank you, Zac, for letting me hold your hand and be a part of your journey. Thank you, Paul J. Zack, for a new journey about to begin.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/zactalley

Novel Rejection #1: Ouch

Posted in Uncategorized by jennybondurant on May 23, 2009

Last Saturday I took the plunge and e-mailed off two queries to agents. E-mail is a great thing when agents take them — cuts out the printing and mailing costs, which will definitely add up if I send out 94 queries.

I spent about a month drafting and revising my query letter, plus making a few lists of agents to pitch. The first pitch I sent out was to John Talbot of the Talbot Fortune Agency. I picked John because I recently read Maryanne Stahl’s novel The Opposite Shore. Nice read, and I believe my novel may appeal to a similar audience. It took me an hour to get the personalized e-mail and query pieces ready for Talbot. If it takes me that long to get everything ready, plus research time, I am never going to have time to write another novel!

Second pitch I sent out was to Marcy Posner. Posner represented Stephanie Gertler and, again the audience would be the same for my book. I spent another couple of hours researching specifics on Posner, listening to a podcast interview with her, etc. At least all the research time is also informative on writing and publishing in general.

Posner didn’t waste any time with her rejection of my query, received only 24 hours later. Here’s her succinct response:

Dear Jennifer,
Not for me and I have to admit I have problems when someone uses the term fiction novel – have you heard of a non-fiction novel?
Marcy Posner

In my query, I had listed my work as “a 76,000-word, women’s fiction novel.” I was trying to use the term “women’s fiction” to classify the novel. Just putting “women’s novel” didn’t sound right, nor did putting “women’s fiction” without the word “novel” behind it. At any rate, my pitch crashed and burned without a hope after she classified me as an idiot writer (which obviously I was with that query!). Lesson learned.

After spending the afternoon of my first rejection in a state of depression and wondering why I don’t just self-publish a couple of hundred books and call that good, I moved on. Luckily, I have a great writer’s critique group that supported and encouraged me in the time of darkness.

Query #3 went out two days later.

Novel Query, revised

Posted in Uncategorized,Writing by jennybondurant on May 20, 2009

For those who think it’s hard to write a book, it’s nothing compared to trying to get it published (not counting self-publishing!). And since I don’t write in a hot genre, such as mystery, sci fi, chick lit or erotica, it becomes even more daunting at times, since a genre can give you a good niche to stand on. I am still waiting for the inspiration for a sexy, sci fi mystery book with a chick lit flair to hit me, because then I know I will really have something.

Regardless, I wrote a book. I didn’t choose it. It just came out of me, which is a cool thing, whether I get it published or not. But of course, I would love to get it published and have people read it because making the connection with the reader is the point of it all.

I’m spending what feels like an insane amount of time on the query, synopsis and agent research, but it’s necessary to move forward, despite the odds and despite feeling like I am swimming against the current.

Here is my latest query draft …

Edie Monroe pretends her 17-year-old son Sean is not having sex behind his closed bedroom door with some girl she’s never met. Safe in his bedroom, Sean’s girlfriend Mandy pretends that sleeping with him will erase her childhood memories of abuse. When Edie and Mandy can no longer ignore each other, each must face the pasts they are haunted by. For Mandy, it’s the nights spent with her mother’s boyfriend. For Edie, it’s the day she left her 5-year-old son standing alone and barefoot on the sidewalk and drove away.

Set in America’s heartland, DISAPPEARING ACTS is a 76,000-word novel of Edie’s and Mandy’s alternating first-person narratives, as each discovers that running away from the life she feels trapped in forces her to face reality. When Mandy convinces Sean to run away with her, the novel parallels her journey with Edie’s summer of 1976, when she ran away from her husband and son. A tragic incident brings the two women to a shared loss that impacts each life in a different way.

DISAPPEARING ACTS reveals the hard truth doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee a happy ending and you can’t run away from what is in your heart.

I received my Master’s degree in creative writing (fiction) from the University of Missouri-Columbia. During my studies, I won the Marjorie McKinney award for fiction through the University of Missouri system. I am currently the editor of a local city magazine, Jefferson City Magazine, and I also am a regular freelance writer for publications such as Kansas City Homes & GardensSt. Louis Homes & Lifestyles and more.

Would you read this book?

Posted in Uncategorized,Writing by jennybondurant on April 29, 2009

I am getting ready to send pitches/query letters for my novel to potential agents. The pitch has to get them to want more … show the story is interesting enough and the writing is compelling. The pitch is also compared to the info to back-cover information.

I would love your feedback … Does this description make you want to read more? Thank you for your help!

Disappearing Acts by Jennifer Bondurant

Twenty-three-year-old Edie leaves her 5-year-old son Sean standing barefoot and alone on the sidewalk and drives away. Twelve years later, she wonders if coming back was really the right thing to do. In 1986, a teenager trying to overcome child abuse, Mandy seeks a safe place in now 17-year-old Sean’s arms, but as their relationship intensifies, she finds the hole in her heart harder and harder to fill.

Set in America’s heartland, Disappearing Acts is a 76,000-word, literary fiction novel of Edie’s and Mandy’s alternating first-person narratives, as each discovers that running away from the life she feels trapped in forces her to face reality. When Mandy convinces Sean to run away with her, the novel parallels her emotional journey with that of Edie’s in 1974. A tragic incident converges the stories and brings the two women to a shared loss that changes each life in a different way.

Disappearing Acts reveals the hard truth doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee a happy ending and you can’t run away from what is in your heart.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice — or Not

Posted in Uncategorized by jennybondurant on March 23, 2009

Monitoring your kids on the Internet is easy, right? You can spot the adults-only websites and steer them clear. I tell the kids they need to have the laptop in a common area, such as the kitchen, so I can cook dinner and still keep half an eye on what sites they are on, because I know they can stumble on something inappropriate without even meaning to. Like the time they decided to do Google searches on their names. The images that pop up for “Erica” are not exactly kid-friendly.

My 5-year-old niece Haley came over and told me she wanted to go on her new favorite site, Girls Go Games dotcom.

From the domain name, the site could go either way – delving into pornography or a bolster for young girls’ self esteem. The pink, playful background and cartoon figures on the site lend toward games and fun entertainment, not XXX ratings. The site links to other site’s games, taking you all over the place, but they’re all about girls.

A lot of the games are about makeovers and make-up, dress-up dolls and cute little pets, but the other games on the site scare me, even if their danger doesn’t register on my niece’s radar.

A cigar-smoking monkey with machine guns popped up to spray bullets as one “Fun” game was loading. In another, you see the back of a voluptuous cartoon woman in a skimpy outfit with arms around her, making out with an unseen lover. But then if you click on the “Animals” tab, you can get to Purina’s virtual pet game, where you select the breed of cat you want, feed it and play with it. Don’t miss the game where you get to dress Paris Hilton in jail.

Girls Go Games is not an “educational” site, but kids learn something every time they play. Logging on to the Internet with Haley was a good lesson for me – Keeping half an eye on what they are logged onto doesn’t work, because what may look like all hearts and pink goodness at first glance may open up into an entirely different world once they get into it.

Haley wanted to play the game in which you had to pick the right box to find the beautiful, computer-generated blonde bombshell. If you got the man, he passed gas – loser. If you got the gray-haired old granny, you lost again.

She was disappointed when I made her pick another web site, but she’ll get over it.

I want her to play a game in which she finds out that getting the girl with looks and a low-cut dress showing off some computer programmer’s affinity for cleavage isn’t the only way to win.

Mixed Messages @ Pizza Hut

Posted in Family by jennybondurant on January 14, 2009

Last night, I took the kids in for family night at Pizza Hut (kids eat free!). They rushed the bookcase by the door as soon as we walked in, then plopped down on the bench to read as we  waited for a table. They took the books with them when we headed toward the table. I knew chances were they wouldn’t read them after they hit the pizza, but it’s nice to have them there anyway.

Pizza buffet – no waiting for food, trying to pacify starving kids – no dirty dishes to contend with at home – room full of families, no worries about how loud or silly the kids get during dinner. I was looking forward to pleasant time with the kids, talking about their day. However, Mom can’t compete with F/X. Their eyes quickly became glued to the television suspended from the ceiling near our booth.

There was no sound, so my 5-year-old niece Haley askedwhy we couldn”t hear it. “Because it would be too loud with everyone talking in here,” I explained. I tried to draw her into conversation, but it was hard to make eye contact as she tried to follow the show she couldn’t hear. It wasn’t not long before the other kids were glued as well, excited that someone changed the channel to iCarly. Even two-year-old Lia moved her booster seat to the floor, positioned perfectly for viewing.

“Do you want more pizza?” I asked three times before anyone heard me. “Did you get enough to eat? What did you have for lunch at school? What did you play at recess?” I carried on a one-sided conversation, determined to not give up. “Pay attention! Enjoy the family time!” I wanted to say, but forcing it seemed to ruin the point of an enjoyable Family Night.

Pizza Hut does a great job of supporting local reading through its Book It program for students. I just wish they left T.V. out of the restaurant. Our society hides behind technology enough, texting instead of talking, staring at the television instead of really seeing each other. Can’t we just eat some pizza and talk? Laugh when someone shoots their straw paper across the table? Marvel at how many pieces the kids can eat, or debate why cheese pizza is the best and how they will never eat black olives?

Before we left, Haley looked at the screen and picked up a word from her newly growing reading vocabulary. “G-O- Go,” she said proudly. I scanned the subtitle at the bottom of the screen and assured her she was right.

At least she was reading something. And it was time to go.