When thinking about what I would write this week, I knew I wanted to try to get back to that enamored feeling I once had for my book. That's not to say that I don't love my book, I do. But I also worry about its future sometimes, too. This feeling of love that I have now is absolute and unwavering; I'm not sure there is anything this story could do to make me give up on it or its eventual place on bookshelves. Together we've been through a master's degree. We've been through the good writing days and the bad writing days and the ones that felt better than anything. And we're still a team.
It wasn't until last night, however, that I had a desire to dive back into my archives and relive the initial excitement I had for this story. And what, you might be asking, happened last night? I received an email from the agent who had my full manuscript informing me that she was passing on my book. I'm not going to say this was an easy email to read, especially because there was no concrete feedback to implement in further revisions. But alas, the letter was incredibly kind, as you'll see below:
Thanks for sending along Dream Catchers. I really appreciate your patience these past few weeks while waiting for a response.
There's some great prose in these pages--in fact, the quality of writing is far better than most of the material that crosses my desk. And I found Camryn to be a sympathetic protagonist. It's with regret, though, that I must admit that I ultimately didn't fall in love with the manuscript as much as I had hoped. For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, the story itself just didn’t completely capture my imagination as much as I had hoped. Kayla, in spite of this manuscript's strengths, I'd better bow out. I suspect that, based on my above reservations, I just wouldn't be the best advocate for the project.
Thanks so much for contacting me, though, and for giving me this opportunity! It is much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. This is such a subjective business--I'm sure another agent will be a better fit. Thanks again, and all the very best of luck in your search for representation.
So what does this mean? For now, it means I'm still searching for representation. It means this agent was not the one for me and my work. And in this business, it is about finding a literary agent willing to support you and your words for an entire career. And agent has to be completely enamored, which unfortunately, this agent didn't have those necessary feelings of love for my book. I'm not going to say I didn't hope for the best; I never wanted this agent to be my 70th rejection of the year. Sometimes I do, however, wish I didn't have to write so much about rejection, but such is the life of a writer, and I don't want to shy away from it or lie about my journey. Because that's exactly what this is: a journey. I want my candor along the way to ensure I remember every step until I make this dream a reality. And if such honesty helps another writer in this tumultuous place of the query trenches, that would be something, too.
Three years ago, I stayed up until 4:30 AM writing something new, though the story of Dream Catchers wasn't entirely new at that point. I once wrote a flash fiction piece about a girl in a strange shop with a secret. Fast forward to a lunch with my sister wishing wecould all be paid in dreams, and my obsession with dreaming as currency took hold; this was the original concept for my story, though it's come a long way from that idea. And in searching back through my archives, I found an email sent to my grad school mentor for my second semester in which I wrote to tell her that despite there only being a week until my submission deadline, I would be changing my thesis.
Up until this point I had been incredibly stubborn about moving on from a story I'd worked on since high school. But to get the most out of the program, I knew I needed to start fresh, and the idea for Dream Catchers had sat with me all summer. I remember being at LeakyCon and sitting in on a panel about diversity and knowing that this story was one I wanted to pursue. And then the first line appeared in my mind one day while waiting for coffee. The windows were down, my sister was driving, and summer was turning to fall. I texted that line to a peer. I took notes. I showed the best friend. I wrote, and I sent that email. In it I said, "I stayed up until 4:30 this morning working on this. And the result is 12 new pages and a story I think is fun and daring, adventurous, and experimental. But I love it!"
Now my book is 363 pages, 92,000 words, and after all this time, I still believe those things to be true. Looking back at that first chapter, I see how much has changed. This isn't the same idea I pitched to my mentor three years ago, but it is the story I conceived a year late during my last residency of grad school with a different mentor. And part of that first line I so loved is now the last line of the first chapter. The book is about dreaming, but also much more. And I'm not saying the character I have now is any more perfect than that same girl I wrote about three years ago. My protagonist, Camryn, is still incredibly flawed, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But that's okay. That's the way it should be.
Upon dreaming up this post, I put away the notebooks and drafts and ideas I had so long ago. And I realized just how much I refuse to put away the dream that this book will be published one day. Maybe it's the stubbornness or strength bred into me from my earliest beginning. Maybe it's that line from a song I sang every year for ten years: "Don't ever give up. Don't ever lose the dreams that you dream every day. Don't ever lose heart. Know who you are. And live your own life your way;" I still remember them. Though whatever the reason, this rejection is not cause to give up. I've written before that only time will tell the future of this book and my career as a published author. And that's true. This time when I refuse to abandon my creativity despite the fact that querying is not easy, that is the time Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Big Magic, which I quoted up above. This, as she says, is "the moment when interesting begins."