Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My First Sale, and a Question

Unlike others, I joined RWA before starting my first manuscript. I was prompted by one of my best friends from high school * who came for a visit and asked me why I wasn’t doing what I always wanted—writing romance novels. So, shortly after that I discovered my local chapter and joined. (I realized there was such an organization from the many acknowledgements written to members of Romance Writers of America in the romances I was starting to devour after a many years hiatus.)

I also joined a critique group, read a zillion romances, wrote a manuscript that was rejected by Silhouette Desire, served on the board of my local chapter, had a baby. Then one night, sitting at a board meeting, I was passed submission guidelines for a new Harlequin/Silhouette line then known as “The Written Word.” Each book was supposed to start with a form of communication. You ever get good vibes about something? This struck me immediately.

The books were short, 50,000 words, and I wrote a chapter each week, passing them along to my critique group. I finished the book in ten weeks. It took another twenty to get the call. The editor who bought my book, Melissa Senate (now an author herself) particularly liked how the heroine’s workplace woes figured into the story. I think Melissa was already envisioning what we now call chick lit.

Quick summary: It’s titled THE WEDDING DATE (and pre-dates the movie with Debra Messing). Heroine hires a guy to be her date to the wedding of her ex-fiancĂ© and the woman he’s marrying--who is the boss’s daughter at the company where they both work. (The invitation on the cover art reads: You and a guest are cordially invited to your ex-fiance's wedding. P.S. Please leave sour grapes and a gift at the door.)

The call came in the early morning (guess Melissa didn’t realize I’m a California girl), but Surfer Guy was already at work and didn’t have a phone in that classroom where he was teaching. Next up, my critique pals, but it was before 7 a.m. I told the two-year-old, but he wasn’t much impressed. So...I called my mom. I’ll never forget that morning!

Who would you call first with the best news ever? You won the lottery, or you got that job you’ve been angling for, or that promotion you so well deserve?

* In case you’ve not heard this before: My friend who came to visit…she’s the first female governor of the state of Michigan and is in her second term. Jen’s following her dream too!


Debra Dixon said...

I'd call: Husband, son, mother, sister, best friend, niece.

I didn't know you were close personal friends with political types! How very cool that your friend is a great example of "going for it."

It's always amazing when you see the "success" story from an intimate perspective. It's not nearly as glamorous because you see all the hard work.

Kylie said...

Invariably when I call my husband first with good writing news, he brings me down :)

Example: Honey my agent just called! The final offer for the trilogy is $$$!

DH: You mean for each book?

And then it's a crash landing back to earth :)

Or how about the time I sent the five kids an email telling them I'd just sold to Berkley:

Son 3: You mean the university? That's cool.

Uh, no :( Husbands and kids first, over course. And then my dad when I have a lot of time to explain just what it is, what it means, and how it compares...and dear dad who loves me (well, like a daughter) and is so proud of me says, "Why would they give you that much money?"

Why, indeed :)

So after I share the news with family I get on the phone and call my writing buddies (Cindy!) and we hash it over to our heart's delight.

It's a joy to share good news with family. It's a greater joy to share it with people who 'get it'!

Christie Ridgway said...

Deb: It =is= a lot of hard work. Jen doesn't come from a political family. She and her husband Dan are the real thing when it comes to their interest in and sacrifice for public service.

Kylie: Yep, sharing with a writer buddy who can get what it all means is the very best. LOL on the sale to Berkley and your kids thinking it was the university. Imagine what some people thought when I was writing for Avon. No, it's not affialiated with the make-up company, I kept having to say.

Betina Krahn said...

I'd call my SigOther, sister Sharon, and both boys--N and Z. That's my list for all kinds of good news, from pubbing contracts to incoming babies! After that, a few close friends-- including TheaMia whose advice and companionship have made 20 years of writing more enjoyable.

But if I won-- when I win!-- the Lottery, the next person I call is a good lawyer. Ooooh. . . who happens to be my smart and sensible son. Or maybe one or both of of my daughters-in-law. They're savvy, brilliant young women who are quickly climbing their respective career ladders. Wait-- you have to buy a ticket to win a Lottery, right? Sigh. Don't hold your breath on that one.

Interesting. When my boys were growing up and starting to date, I told them both to look for smart girls. . . to find someone at least as smart as they were to be their partner and best friend. Lo, and behold-- they listened! In some areas, the gals they chose are smarter!

Michele Hauf said...

Hubby first, kids next. But I so agree with calling those who 'get it'. Still when I get new contracts I like to celebrate, but the hubby and kids are like 'she's buying chocolate again?'. Only the friends understand you need to celebrate all the good stuff whenever you can.

Yeah, the lottery. I have it all planned out. I'd go into seclusion for a month first. But I too, would have to actually start buying tickets for that to happen.

Playground Monitor said...

I'd call hubby first, then my mom, sister and next my kids. They're boys and wouldn't get it, but they'd cheer nonetheless. Then I'd call the other Playfriends.

I hear ya, Betina, on that first lottery call. I hear you have relatives you didn't know crawl out of the woodwork and expect a share of your new-found wealth. I live in a non-lottery state that is completely surrounded by lottery and gambling states. We're hemorrhaging money from all four sides. :-(


Christie Ridgway said...

So it looks like none of us are buying lottery tickets, huh?

Perhaps we should all take a chance...

Christie Ridgway said...

Michele: I have trouble finding the time to celebrate the good stuff these days. I need to =make time=. I gave myself some back-to-back deadlines and I feel like the days (just like this past summer) are whizzing by.

flchen1 said...

Husband first, then sister, parents, and other friends :) And no, we don't tend to buy lottery tickets, but it's always fun imagining a big win anyway ;) It's a magic dream, right?

Kathleen Eagle said...

After I got that first call I told my husband first. It was all his idea, this publishing thing. I called my mother. I didn't have writing buds back then, but that's one of the best things writing for publication brought into my life--other fiction writers!

I have lots of writer friends now, but that original core is still solid, and I share everything with them. We call ourselves the Prairie Writers Guild. It started with three and a 200+ mile triangle of separation--Sandy, Judy and me--RWA's entire ND membership back in 1983--and has grown to five with the addition of 2 Minnesotans, Pam and Mary. (Actually 4 out of 5 are now Minnesotans.) We started out with a snail mail round robin--big envelope with all things writerly and the rule that you took out what you put in last time, add stuff, and get Robin back into the mail within 3 days.

Now we use an e-mail loop, and we get together for lunch and dish as often as we can. What a treasure!

Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, Kathy, I love the idea of that round robin snail mail envelope. How much fun it must have been to get it in your box!

Kylie said...

Avon, Christie, LOL! I can imagine the comments that generated!

People also have this idea that the Harlequin empire consists of those slender Harlequin romances of the 80s. So when I'd tell people I wrote for Silhouette, and they still looked puzzled, I'd add helpfully, "They're a subsidiary of Harlequin." I've actually had people shake their head in certainty and inform me that Harlequin didn't write trash.

Uh, how do I respond to that? Hold up my book and say, "Well obviously they do???" LOL.

I teach full time as well as writing and I rarely talk about my writing at school. Even when people quiz me I'm very brief. Even though they are genuinely interested, they just don't get it. I guess writers and readers are in a world of our own.

And is it wrong to admit I've spent so much time thinking of winning the lottery that I actually *have* a plan if I win, LOL?

But like Betina, I have to start remembering to buy tickets...

Cindy Gerard said...

You all have the bases pretty well covered as to who the calls go out to. I'm grinning over the responses you've gotten - makes me think of the sure fire follow-up question. After you tell them WHO you sold to they want to know the title. Anybody but me ever want to say: "Oh, don't worry about the title - just look for my name?" No? So none of you have ever had a publisher-inspired title like: "The Boss's Pregnant Secretary", or "Sleeping with the Tycoon" - or "The Pregnant Princess's Billionaire Bridegroom"? Yeah - those little jewels will get you changing the subject real fast. :o)

Prairie Sunshine said...

Treasure indeed, Kathy :-)

~ Sandy, who does her political blogging elsewhere but still drops by RWTTD from time to time...and has high hopes for blue Michigan.

Christie Ridgway said...

Hi, Sandy!! I don't mean to bring politics here, but I can tell you that Jen and Dan are great people. I visited Jen and family on Mackinac Island a couple of summers back and the people are so friendly! They talked to use wherever we went all over the island and Jen was constantly posing for pictures.

Christie Ridgway said...

Cindy: Title that I mumbled when asked: The Millionaire and the Pregnant Pauper. It was a cross-line series for Silhouette and all the titles were like that. I think my friend Liz Bevarly's was called something like The Virgin and the Vagabond.

Have Baby, Will Marry wasn't my favorite title but the cover is adorable. It's a bride and groom at the altar, with their backs turned (as if you're in the pews) and the hero has a baby strapped on his back in a carrier. She's in pink and facing the reader and I think I remember being told the artist used his/her own child as the model.

Michele Hauf said...

I love those titles, ladies! I also like the idea of telling people to look for your name and not the title.

On the other hand, I just had a title approved: BITE ME. I can't wait to see that one on the shelves!

Christie Ridgway said...

Michele: I love that title! I can't wait to see what they do with the cover art.

catslady said...

Husband, my two grown daughters, my 86 yr. old mom and then my best friend. Once I told my mom I wouldn't have to worry about the rest of the family knowing lol.

lois greiman said...

I tell my husband first too. For reasons I've never quite understood, he has always loved the fact that I write. Has always been 100% behind me on this, even after the first hundred rejections, and that's kind of strange cuz it's not as if he's behind every hair-brained idea I come up with...and believe me, there have been a few.

Estella said...

I'd tell my husband. I don't thimk I would want anyone else to know i had won the lottery.

limecello said...

I'd call my sister first, then the rest of my family. Depending on time - if then I am married/ have a sig -o he'd factor in there somewhere as well :P. I actually might call my best friend before my parents, but it might not count since he never picks up the phone.
And what a great story, Christie!