Are You a Mom Writer Thinking of Quitting? Read This First.

From Jane Friedman:

The first agency to ask for my manuscript sent the request as I was dropping off my oldest son, Jack, at a week-long science camp. He was sobbing, inconsolable, but as the buses pulled away, his dad and I smiled and waved like we were at a Christmas Parade. As my husband navigated the parking lot, I checked my email and saw that Massie McQuilkin wanted to read my book.

Holy shit!!! Roxane Gay’s agency? F— yeah!

But I didn’t linger in the glow of that first page request for long, because my heart was on that bus, and he was struggling.

Massie McQuilkin eventually passed.

The next agent to request my full manuscript emailed in June, while I was standing in line with my five- and nine-year-old for the Minion Mayhem ride at Universal Studios and—hot damn!—the agent was adopted, too (my memoir is about how the adoption of my son served as the catalyst for my search for my own birth mom). It felt like this agent might be The One. But I didn’t linger in the possibilities of the manuscript request, because we were in the brain-blasting loudness of Minion Mayhem, I didn’t want my kids to see me with my face in my phone, and plus, they needed to be sun-screened.

Mom writers are wired to succeed at writing (and querying) because we can multitask like no other. We can switch gears in an instant. A to-do list, you say? Done. Speaking of lists, there are plenty of “Ten Rules to Follow When Querying” articles out there, but let me tell you the rule you’ve gotta break if you want to find an agent:

DO NOT send your query letter in batches of five and then wait for those five agents to respond before sending any more.

I read this advice in multiple querying articles and it is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Most agents will never respond to your query. My final querying stats were: 84 agents queried, 58did not respond, 20 nos, 5 full manuscript requests, 1 yes.

Everyone said how awful querying was—so much rejection. But I didn’t see it that way. There was a lot of rejection, and it didn’t feel great but, as far as rejection goes, an “I’ll pass” received while in your pajamas, holding a mug of coffee, cushioned by the impersonal delivery mode of email? It wasn’t that bad. And the good news is, there are more than a thousand literary agents in the U.S. When you get a no, query the next agent on your list—query the next ten!

By July, I’d been querying for four months, had sent out 59 queries, and had some heady agent interest, but no offers. And then, on our family’s traditional end-of-summer camping trip, our son ended up in the emergency room, convulsing, experiencing a psychotic episode. It was the most terrifying forty-eight hours of my life. We had no idea what was wrong—it looked like schizophrenia to us and to the social worker, too. The fantastic psychiatrists at Rady hospital in San Diego informed me and my husband that extreme anxiety can manifest itself physically and diagnosed our son with anxiety and panic disorder. We were thrilled, ecstatic, that it was something we could manage—that the heart and mind of the eleven-year-old boy we fiercely loved were still his own.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

2 thoughts on “Are You a Mom Writer Thinking of Quitting? Read This First.”

  1. There is nothing like parenthood to toughen you up. Hell, teaching middle school (which I did after my children were all in school) was a piece of cake compared to that.

    Writing’s ups and downs are simply not that terrifying to one who has been through the fire.

    • In my experience, there’s nobody more intimidating that a tough mom filled with righteous anger, L.

      I’ll take an office-full of (alleged) drug-dealers any day.

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