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How I Got My Agent: Tiffany Hawk

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Tiffany Hawk, author of LOVE ME ANYWAY. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. GIVEAWAY: Tiffany is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Marie Rogers won.)

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Tiffany Hawk, author of LOVE ME ANYWAY. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. 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.

GIVEAWAY: Tiffany is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Marie Rogers won.)

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tiffany-hawk-writer-author

Tiffany Hawk is a former flight attendant and the author of
LOVE ME ANYWAY (May 2013, Thomas Dunne/ St. Martin’s Press),
a novel that bestselling author Caroline Leavitt calls “irresistible…an
unexpectedly haunting look at loneliness, and the struggle for love,
belonging and independence.” Tiffany has an MFA from UC Riverside
and has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times,
NPR, CNN, National Geographic Traveler, and more.

I GOT MY FIRST AGENT ON AN AIRPLANE. (SERIOUSLY.)

I was working as a flight attendant and had been querying agents on a recently-finished memoir. I’d been getting requests for fulls, but no offers, so when the purser mentioned a literary agent sitting in first class, I saw my big chance. I sat on my jumpseat, wrote out a query and the first page of the book from memory, and then shaking with nerves, I handed it to him with his drink. A look of dread came over his face, as if I had handed him, well, an unsolicited manuscript. Mortified, I scurried back to the aft galley and avoided him for the rest of the flight.

Amazingly, when he was deplaning, he gave his card to the purser and said I should send him the full manuscript! He signed me a few days later. I was beside myself with joy and pride - I had made it! My friends and I spent the entire layover coming up with any excuse to use the phrase “my agent.”

(Do agents Google writers after reading a query?)

Unfortunately, he dropped me after the first publisher rejection. I can only imagine how badly that publisher must have hated my book. I'm thinking it must have been more strongly worded than the rejection of Lolita that recommended the book "be buried under a stone for a thousand years."

As it turns out, if they had indeed said something to that effect, they would have been right. After getting some distance, I realized that the book was far from ready. I was serious about becoming a writer, though, so I went back to grad school for an MFA where I learned just how weak that draft really was. After saving maybe three pages of material, I did more than bury the rest under a stone. I deleted it.

WRITING WHAT I KNOW: A STORY ABOUT FLIGHT ATTENDANTS

Then I started over with a very different version of a similar, but fictional, story about flight attendants.

I got my second chance at the agent search before finishing that draft. I was lucky enough to have an essay run in the New York Times Modern Love column. Knowing a lot of eyeballs would be on that story, I took some good but risky advice from a mentor, and I lied in my bio, saying the book was "just finished." In truth, I was more like 30 or 40 pages away from typing “The End” when I turned in the bio on Friday for Sunday publication.

I dropped everything (this was before having kids) and glued my fingers to the keyboard, writing and revising almost every minute of that weekend, which was fortunate because I really had "just finished" when agents started e-mailing me Monday morning.

(Learn what you should NOT be talking about in your e-mails to agents.)

I could pinch myself - agents were coming to me! I signed with my current agent, the extremely talented and savvy Rachel Sussman [of Chalberg and Sussman], and thought the dream of seeing my book in print was right around the corner. Then I got her notes ... her 14 pages of notes. So I once again started in on a very different version of a story about flight attendants.

Thankfully, she didn't drop me when the first or the second or the third or the fourth publisher rejected the manuscript, and now we have a book coming out together on May 7, 2013. She has been such an incredible support that I really do feel it is "our" book.

GIVEAWAY: Tiffany is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Marie Rogers won.)

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