Imagine this: You’re sitting at your desk at work, plugging away at the daily grind. Your phone rings. Not your work phone, but your cell phone. A number flashes with a non-local area code. It could be a wrong number or a salesperson trying to pitch you a “free” cruise (hint: they’re never free). Maybe a family member you haven’t heard from in a long time. Or … it could be a call you’ve been waiting on. Your heart picks up pace. It could be the call.
Publishing is filled with waiting, but occasionally, an important call can break up the waiting. One call and everything can change. Writers often dream about those moments. And like much of life, often those calls do not go as we think they will.
Call #1: The Agent
I was waiting on a dozen or so literary agents who had requested full and partial manuscripts from several rounds of online pitch contests. It was the worst part of winter, with daily gray Midwest skies and continual cold.
One morning, on the way to work, I cracked the screen on my cell phone, barely six weeks after buying it. I’d had my phone out of my purse during the drive to work because my mom was driving that morning through the snow to see my grandmother in her nursing home. We’d had few years of ups and downs with my grandmother’s health, but this time, it truly was the end. I was so nervous she’d call and I’d miss it, the phone was on my lap. When I got out of the car, it flew face first onto the cold pavement, cracking. My grandmother ended up passing away the next day.
This was the day my now-agent called. Actually, sent me an email. She said she wanted to plan a call — the call? — but New York City was about to be hit by a huge snowstorm and the whole city was shutting down. Could we plan the call for Monday?
None of this was how I’d daydreamed a special call would play out. I had the weekend to think over what happened with my grandmother and talk with my family. By the time Monday rolled around, I wouldn’t say things were back to normal, but I had more focus to think about my writing, and about the call. My emotions had been through the wringer, but it was great to have something to feel happy about.
Call #2: The Book Contract
When I got my first book contract, I always envisioned jumping for joy and spazzing out. Instead, I heard the news through email and felt rather calm. I had questions. It never really sunk in until months later when I signed the publishing contract.
Call #3: The RITA Awards
My most recent call experience is probably closest to what I’d always imagined. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and have absolutely dreamed about what it would be like to be a finalist in their awards — the Golden Heart for unpublished manuscripts and the RITA for published books. I’d struck out twice with the Golden Heart, but this past year I was excited to be able to submit to the RITA for the first time as a published author. Writers submit their books to be considered, so there’s no second guessing whether you are being considered. Finalists are notified by phone calls from members of the board. We all know when call day is.
I work from home the majority of my time, but on this day I was in the office at my day job. The phone lit up with a California number. I’d already convinced myself earlier that morning that since this was my first book and my first time entering the RITAs, the odds were not in my favor. I tentatively answered the phone.
The caller was a published author and RWA board member calling to congratulate me: Alterations had been named a finalist for Best First Book. I was speechless and shocked. One question I had to ask: Are you sure?
She was sure.
It’s hard to predict how you’ll act when an important call comes through. Have you ever received an exciting call? Tell us in the comments!