I asked our annual competition winner, Alegra Clarke (see posts below) for some decompression notes from her New York trip to meet agents and she sent me this lovely little essay. She’s promised to send me updates on her progress in selling her novel and I’ll post future updates here.
My husband and I arrived back onto New Zealand soil yesterday morning. After 30 hours of travel, lost luggage, four plane flights that were delayed so that we almost didn’t make it home to New Zealand, I now find myself sitting at my desk feeling as though I left some part of myself on the other side of the planet. This morning I took down the calendar that has been up in the kitchen, marking down the days from when I first recieved the ‘Congratulations!’ from Brian Klems to the date for the NYC trip. So much has happened in this last year, and as I took down the old calendar and put up the new one, really all I could do was smile. For a person usually overflowing with commentary, I have found myself unusually challenged in trying to sum up this experience.
What has struck me most about this nearly year’s worth of effort and dreaming, alternating moods of self-doubt, gratitude and inspiration, is that while it was a life altering experience to finally recieve that ‘break’, to feel as though my dream had come striding up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and shook my hand, telling me to ‘Go for it! Write!’, it is what I have gained in the experience of the generosity of others in supporting this dream that has made the process so full of magic. Starting with a close group of friends, including my dear friend Kemari who was cheering me on as I submitted Salamander Prayer to the competition last year, I began to understand the intimate process of writing, not only in the usual idea of a writer pouring herself onto the page, but that a piece of writing, whatever form, gets into print through a process of relationships. It is not just the writer who is invested in the work, it is a collective effort of people who fall in love and face similiar risks as the writer does. It gave me humility and courage to understand this – the risk of heartbreak is not a solitary one and the writing itself really does take on a life of its own.
This time has reminded me again and again of the saying that providence moves when commitment is present. In the last year I have found myself in experiences I could have never imagined for myself, and they all arose out of the generosity of other people, the apex of this being the moment I found myself sitting in Joel Gotler’s office, having him share his wealth of experience and insight with me. I walked away from that meeting so full of gratitude that I repeatedly said to my family and friends (and when I say ‘repeatedly’ I mean for at least six weeks after the meeting), ‘Look from here on out, I can only do my best, I have been so blessed already.’
The meeting with the agents in NYC brought this theme to completion for me – not only did I receive invaluable insights into the realities of the publishing business, but I was also honored with being able to meet these six talented, passionate, fascinating people, who were willing to sit down and share with us, not just as agents but as people who are passionate about what they do. I was impressed by the way that they each listened, communicated with honesty, and responded with enthusiasm. It was a thrill to watch them speak about books that had done well, stories they had risked believing in, writers that they were deeply committed to, the time they put into making sure a book has the greatest chance of being met with success in the world – listening to each agent’s opinion and experience, I realized that an agent is not a gatekeeper, but a companion willing to invest, risk and believe in what we as writers have created. The NYC trip has inspired me to continue to do my best to write authentically, to listen to the advice of those further along on the path and to take strength in knowing that the path ahead is not a solitary one. No matter what the final outcome, I am in fine company every step along the way.