How I almost lost my mind and got my book deal

082_Sarah_Pekkanen_4X6My agent submitted The Opposite of Me to our dream list of editors on a Thursday, while I did my part by biting off my fingernails and pacing my living room like an expectant father from the 1950s. Friday came and went and our telephone remained passive-aggressively silent. I wasn’t fit to live with over the weekend, so my husband tried to placate me by feeding me lots and lots of chocolate. “I know what you’re doing,” I mumbled through a full mouth. “And it isn’t working. Give me some more.”

 By mid-morning Monday, I’d worn a groove into the carpet (and it wasn’t just because I’d put on approximately 10 pounds of chocolate weight). Then I decided to check my email, even though I knew if we’d gotten an offer, my agent would’ve called. Right?

 The single line my agent had written earlier that morning will forever be seared into my brain: Can you come to New York to meet interested editors?

I wrote back, “Hell, yes!” and hit send. Then I began to wonder if the question was merely rhetorical, a cruel little hazing exercise for her new client. I frantically sent another email, asking, “ARE there any interested editors?” My fingers were shaking when I opened my agent’s response: It was the names of editors who’d read my book and wanted to meet me.

 The next week flew by, with my agent sending me updates on our schedule for my trip to New York, while I tried to find a professional yet flattering maternity outfit (hey, I was six months pregnant! It wasn’t JUST the chocolate!) Then, almost before I knew it, my agent was sending a car and driver to pick me in front of my hotel (she was worried about the heat and my pregnancy,  and yes, she is the kindest agent ever).  The day that followed was amazing. Even now, a year later, I still think of it and smile. Just walking into some of New York’s publishing houses and seeing the rows and rows of books I’ve read and loved made me feel like I was a character in a movie. Because things like this don’t happen to people who spend their days in coffee-stained sweat pants, making up stories and muttering to themselves, do they?

opposite of me cover-1 The meetings went well; the editors were charming and kind, and we chatted about books and our families and other authors they’d worked with. I finished up the day thinking that I would’ve been honored to work with any of them. Oh, but there was this one editor … no, no, I couldn’t even think it. I’d jinx myself.

 That night, my husband and I went to see a Broadway show. I can’t tell you anything about it – other than it had something to do with Monty Python – because I was levitating out of my seat with nerves. Then, late the next afternoon, just after my husband and I bought tickets to take the train home, my agent called me on my cell phone with the results of the auction.

 One of the offers was from Greer Hendricks of Atria Books. Greer is the editor who bought Jennifer Weiner’s first book – Good In Bed – and has worked with her ever since. I think Jennifer is the gold standard of writers in my genre, and when I met Greer, I felt exactly the same way about her.

 I would’ve jumped up and down screaming, but I was standing in the middle of Penn Station, wedged between dozens of overly fragrant commuters (it was quite hot out), and fighting my way toward an Amtrak train. I’d always pictured myself celebrating a book deal with champagne, not by being pummeled by briefcase-and-cell-phone-wielding businesspeople as I fought my way through what felt disconcertingly like a middle-aged mosh pit.

 But the best part was yet to come, because working with Greer has been even better than I dreamed it would be.

10 Replies to “How I almost lost my mind and got my book deal”

  1. I love this story! I wouldn’t have slept from Thursday on and been a zombie at the meeting. I hope to read your book soon and I’m really looking forward to ti!

  2. “I frantically sent another email, asking, “ARE there any interested editors?” ” OK, this made me burst into laughter. This is SO MUCH like something I’d say.

    I live too far to make a trip to NYC to meet editors, but I did talk to some on the phone. It’s heady, isn’t it? How wonderful that it happened so quickly for you!

    I bet you weren’t fit to live with, being preggers and all. Gosh, hormones being what they are, I once bawled my eyes out when my husband pulled up some mums during fall yard clean-up, not realizing they were perennials and would grow again. Seriously! Mums! (Now he doesn’t touch my plants without checking, though these days I most likely would not cry.)

  3. The whole concept of popping in to NYC is so foreign (and not just because I live in Canada!). I’ve been a West Coast girl all my life, so it’s just bizarre. I did know actors who popped down to LA (from Portland) for auditions and came back the same day, so that concept seems perfectly reasonable and may be totally wild to someone from the East Coast! Funny.

    Great story and so glad it turned out so well for you!

  4. Kristina, I hear you! I get a little weepy/nutty when I’m pregnant, too…

    And thanks, everyone else. It was scary and heady and thrilling and surreal – and kind of still is, in a way. I know you can all relate.

    Joelle – NYC is just a short train ride away for me. Easy to do in a day, and I get more work done on the train than anywhere else.

    And many thanks Larramie!

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