I sometimes get questions about how I: decided to write, wrote a manuscript, got a KICKASS agent at a KICKASS agency full of KICKASS people, etc. so I’ve been trying to think of ways to answer them. And I realized I don’t exactly have one.
Last April, I participated in a mandatory pitch event that caps off the BFA screenwriting program at the University of Southern California. However, I wasn’t pitching books, but instead screenplays. It was something like 12 rounds of 10 minutes with film and TV industry execs/agents/producers/managers/coffee fetchers and it was the most nervewracking event of my life. But I wore a blazer and I was professional and I did it. I specialized in “popcorn” movies because I have a short attention span and if explosions aren’t involved, my brain wanders. I ended the night feeling pretty good, with multiple script requests and email addresses and all the dreams of a starry eyes film student. Of course, none of these panned out in any special way, as is custom. I did, however, receive a request from an assistant I didn’t meet with, but was requesting from all the students they missed on pitch night.
I replied with my portfolio, he requested several projects, and, shock of all shocks, loved the TV pilot I wrote to see if I could actually write TV. This was very much a “the spider doesn’t know which part of the web will catch the fly” moment. Then a manager/producer at the company then contacted me to say he loved the pilot and wanted to set up a meeting. Long story short, I met with him and several other execs, pitched another tv pilot and a movie. They were buying what I was selling, so I had the strangest “oh screw it” moment in my head and told them I had another idea for a story. It was a book this time, and I told them I wanted to write the next big YA novel. Then I gave them the logline and basic story arc that I had. I guess screenwriters don’t say that very much because they went nuts, told me that’s what I was doing, and set me up with a rep. This was in May, a little bit after graduation when I was jobless and getting close to homeless. Now I had DIRECTION. Now I had PURPOSE. And I still had no money/job/home.
Los Angeles is not cheap/kind to New Englanders used to seasons and people who can drive properly, so I made a big decision. My summer housing plans fell through, I took an eye opening trip to Montana, and then I moved home to Massachusetts. My dad and I drove my car cross-country and of course, I got a phone call in Illinois saying I got a screenwriting job I thought I wasn’t going to get. Such is my life. Luckily, it was only for three weeks and for good money. All together, everything combined perfectly to allow me to live at home, not work, and WRITE.
So from July to January, I wrote. I submitted chapters to my LA rep and he was a great motivation to keep going/not get caught up by the inner demonic editor. Another friend of mine became my first fangirl and my biggest cheerleader, also quelling my fears. I got stuck, I kept going, I wrote 10,000 words a day, I wrote 2 words a day. And then I edited, with the help of my English teacher mom. And then I finished. And I was afraid. Because what happened now?
At this point, my rep was no longer a rep, but still on my team. He had some ties to New Leaf from the other side of the book-to-movie equation, and submitted my finished MS to a friend there. I was told this on a Friday. I shrugged, and figured I’d hear something in a month. On Wednesday, Suzie contacted me. She was given the manuscript, peeked at it to see what it was about, and then read the whole thing. Of course, I screamed at the email, then furiously responded. We called (on the phone, my nightmare), we emailed, we exchanged notes and we revised. A month later I was officially signing with her. My MS never went anywhere else and I’m so glad things happened this psycho way, because I landed with some amazing people.
This was my very convoluted and strange path to literary representation. I never wrote an official query letter, I didn’t enter contests - in fact I didn’t know those things existed until after my MS was with Suzie. I didn’t even know what MS meant. I was - and still am - a little literary baby bird. And hopefully this post will help other literary baby birds in showing that there’s more than one way to break in. I did it ass-backwards and you can too!
After signing, there were more emails, and more revisions. There were tweets and follows and newfound Twitter friends to offer amazing advice and support (and more publishing vocab to learn). And now we’re moving onto the next step. And I’m still afraid. But I’ve never been more excited.
And this GIF has never applied to me more. Yes, I love Saved By The Bell.
I’M SORRY I TRIED SO HARD TO DO THIS WITHOUT GIFS.
--xpost from my Tumblr--