How I Got My Agent: Laura Spinella

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Laura is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Margie won.)


   
Laura Spinella‘s debut novel is Beautiful Disaster
(Jan 2011). The Long Island native is a graduate of
the University of Georgia, and now currently writes
from Massachusetts, where she lives with her family.
Visit her website for upcoming book signing events.
You can also read her blog where you’ll find
an excerpt from her novel.

 

A JOB VS. A CALLING

Hi, my name is Laura, and I’m a writer. Even with a debut novel at hand, uttering those words aloud smacks of an AA meeting. Interestingly enough, I have a degree in journalism. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines for years. But those were jobs. Novelist is a calling. And while I was working my way to here, I’d be more apt to describe myself as somebody’s mother, writer following like the caboose on a train. It’s cute, it’s red, it’s irrelevant to the train’s function.

We were in Las Vegas about six years ago. I’d just completed my second novel, and before leaving received a request from a big time publisher, asking to read the full manuscript. Bursting on the inside, I still couldn’t manage an audible outward conversation. When the woman with whom we were dining—a business associate of my husband who I did not know—asked what I did for a living, I shoved a bite of salad into my mouth and mumbled, “I’m a writer.” In turn, she crinkled her brow, smiled, and asked, “What kind of horses do you ride?” I don’t know the difference between an Arabian and a pack mule, but I managed to carry on the rest of conversation as if I were Annie Oakley.

INVIGORATED BY A POSITIVE REJECTION

Not too many weeks later, I received what’s known as a positive rejection letter from the big time publisher. Really, it was exactly what I needed. I wasn’t ready for publication. After a small but moving pity party, I went back to work, back to practicing on paper, as well as into the mirror, the profession I claimed. I wrote two more books, and read a bunch more. I got better; I learned.

I went to writers’ conferences. I met people who know more than I ever will about the written word. I gathered a shoebox full of rejections, some form letters, some bearing the proverbial dangling carrot: “We really enjoyed this, but are going to pass…” I lived off them.  And I’ll be honest, many encouraged me, but some ticked me off so much I used them as fuel for my fire.

AN AGENT’S REVISIONS LEAD TO AN OFFER

I got an e-mail from Susan Ginsburg, an agent at Writers House. She was intrigued by the draft, but
ultimately rejected it. Because I asked, Susan very graciously
suggested possible revisions. I resubmitted about a year later, and off
we went with almost an immediate offer from Berkley.


Concerning Writers House, I have to say it’s an awe-inspiring place that will push you to strive for the next level. I am a writer—wait, strike that. I am a published author. There, that almost sounded fluid. I understand that the guarantee of success is nil, and what I’ve been awarded is an at bat in the literary big leagues. But I will say this about my book:
Beautiful Disaster is a tale about what happens when love is greater than honor or friendship or the passing of time. I hope you enjoy it.

Laura is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.(Update: Margie won.)


Writing fiction? Get all of WD’s popular
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24 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Laura Spinella

  1. Valerie Norris

    Love the story about "What kind of horses do you ride?" Some friends and I wanted to go to a campground we knew of that had a beautiful stream running through it, and spend an afternoon writing. I called to see if that would be permitted, since it was a private campground and we wouldn’t be camping.

    Hesitantly, the girl on the other end of the phone asked, "What kind of bikes do you ride?" Took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about.

    Congratulations on the publication!

  2. Rebecca Elswick

    Hi Laura! I’m a writer too, and it has taken me a long time to be able to say that. I hope that soon I will be able to add "published novelist" to the list. Since I am currently going through the querying process, (which is worse than having twins with no anesthesia – and this is someone who knows!)I am encouraged by your article.
    I remind myself often, that with every page I write, every conference I attend, and every great book I read, I am one step closer to realizing my dream. Thank you for sharing your journey to publication! I am currently holding my ticket for the train, and when it leaves the station, I plan to be on it.
    I can’t wait to read your book!

  3. Laura

    Thank you all for such wonderful comments! Encouraging words are equally important AFTER you’ve published the book! I’ll be picking a winner early next week, so keep the comments coming! I hope you’ll consider giving Beautiful Disaster a read! I wish you all the very best with your writing goals!

  4. Chris Bailey

    Laura, your pitch is compelling, as well as fluid! I have often used sports analogies to explain to my friends and family that I’m still training and haven’t yet been drafted for a team, so I love that you compare your publication success with a chance at bat. Hard cover is definitely major league, and that’s exciting. All the best!

  5. Ally Wilber

    Congratulations on your success! It is my dream to write novels someday, and it’s a scary thought, because the field of writing is not most reliable, so your story gives me hope. Your book sounds fascinating, and I hope to read it!

  6. Christy Hayes

    Congratulations on your book from one UGA journalism grad to another. I hope to someday join you in the "published author" category. Looking forward to reading your book.

  7. Jeanne Rogers

    Thank you, Chuck. These real-life examples of writer-gets-agent stories give all writers the encouragement to put ourselves out there once more. Congratulations, Laura, on staying the course and finding a home for your novel. May we all revise to publication!

  8. Laura Campbell

    Your road to publication is inspiring. It’s comforting to know most, if not all, writers face rejection and success isn’t easy. Perseverance is the key. I am currently working on short fiction. I hope to have something soon to be submitted to my writer’s group and to a literary journal. Congratulations on Beautiful Disaster.

  9. Susan Cushman

    How timely to read your wonderful post today, Laura. Yesterday I sent out my first round of agent queries for my nonfiction book-in-progress. This is my fourth book, and when I got a few, as you say, "positive rejection letters," after querying agents for my second book, in 2008, I fed off those for a while myself. What a thrill to receive hand-written, positive words of encouragement from industry professionals. I finally realized that wasn’t the book I was supposed to be writing, dropped it after 16 chapters and started over (again). I’ve attended numerous writing workshops and conferences (and even co-directed one this past November) and now have 8 published essays, which I hope will help catch an agent’s eye. But ultimately, I know the test will be whether or not my writing can hold together for a book-length project. I’d love to read your book!

  10. MaDonna Maurer

    Thanks for sharing your story on your journey to publication. Congrats to you! I can so relate to the "writer" description as the "red caboose". I’m new to the game and sometimes feeling like this desire is way over my head. Thanks again for sharing. It really in an encouragement.

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