Poof by Deb Jennifer

When I got the call from my agent telling me HarperCollins had made an offer on my novel, I was cleaning the toilet.  It’s funny… you envision moments like this, fantasize about them for months and years, then when they happen, they never quite play out the way you had imagined.

I was in my rattiest house cleaning clothes.   I had the white plastic brush in my hand and was scrubbing away with my eco-friendly, non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner when the phone rang.  I grabbed the cordless phone from the sink (my partner was watching our daughter, so I was on phone duty) and answered it.  I was thinking it was my father.  And, expecting it to be my father, I was fully prepared to keep cleaning while we talked.  So I was still holding the toilet brush.

What happened next is a blur in my mind.  It began something like this:

“Jennifer?  It’s Dan. I’ve got some good news.”

And then he told me.  And I was amazed and stunned and in shock and I don’t remember what I said.  Maybe just “Oh my god,” which is a really boring thing to say but it just kind of comes out.  But inside, my heart was singing and screaming.  It was one of those surreal, am I dreaming? kind of moments.

I had been waiting SO long.  This was my fourth novel.  (The first two had made the rounds with my first agent who’d dumped me after reading Promise Not To Tell, and novel number three was a horrible mess and had been stuffed in a drawer.)  I’d been writing fiction, more or less full time, for six years.  And we’d had some close calls with this book; so many it’s-really-good-but-I-have-to-pass moments.  And my agent had already sent it seemingly everywhere.  I was beginning to lose hope, to think that maybe it was time to give up and start pinning all my hopes on novel number five (which I didn’t really have!).

My agent told some of the details, but to be honest, they didn’t matter right that second.  What mattered was that an editor at HarperCollins loved my book and wanted to publish it.

When I hung up, I realized I was still gripping the toilet brush; holding it in the air a little, like some kind of down and dirty, dripping magic wand. 

Poof.  You’re a real writer now.  An honest to god, soon-to-be-published writer. 

I dropped the brush and screamed.

15 thoughts on “Poof by Deb Jennifer

  1. I lOVE this post, Jennifer!! Reading it made me laugh out loud… When my agent called and offered me representation, I had the phone under my chin while holding a bowl for my four-year-old son to puke into. And when she phoned to tell me we had a two-book offer from a German publisher (my first deal) I was changing the filter on our furnace.

    Hey, maybe there’s a book in there — maybe we should pitch our stories as a collection of “authors-on-the-rise” with all our hilarious ups and downs. It might not sell for six figures, but it COULD help augment our income! Ha!

  2. Ah, the glamour of it all!

    I got the “they’re almost ready to offer” call from my agent while I was in a shoe store.

    Karma got me. The offer fell through… Shouldn’t have bought those shoes… 🙂 I’ll get them with the next one.

  3. I spent nearly four months in a frenzy anxious for my book to be submitted to publishers. It was submitted to them on a Tuesday and my agent called me at 5 am on Wednesday to tell me she was setting up an auction. I didn’t get much opportunity to obsess. Nothing was how I imagined it to be except for the feeling when we accepted the offer from Putnam. I was under the dryer at my hairdressers getting highlights to cover my gray. Have you ever tried to talk on a cell phone under a roaring dryer and sound professional?
    It’s hard.
    LOL

  4. Great story, toilet brush and all! I love how the reality of our life converges with our dreams of publication!

    I was also encouraged to hear that this was novel #4 – I’m sure you mentioned it before but it slipped my mind. Anyway, it’s encouraging because novel #2 is languishing and I’m thinking, that’s it — it’s over! I may as well hang it all up. It’s definitely salvageable, but I’m feeling all wiped out and exhausted that I don’t know when I’ll have the energy to dive back in — it almost seems easier to start with a whole new manuscript all together. I’m due to clean my bathrooms soon — maybe some of that writing/publication energy will flow through my toilet brush, too …

    And Holly, I love your idea of an anthology — what an inspirational idea!

  5. Seriously, Mia, don’t you think an anthology of stories from “authors-on-the-rise” would be a blast?! Anyone want to pitch the idea to their agent? I’d be happy to.

    We could cover landing your dream agent, or agent(s) for those on their second or third — as a few of my friends are — (horror stories, I tell you), receiving your first-ever offer, working with the dream editor vs. the editor who should’ve taken up knitting as a career…. It’d be fun. I’m in if anyone else is.

  6. I love the anthology idea! Jennifer- I will admit something. If your story happened to me everytime I was waiting for good news I would start cleaning the toilet in the idea that perhaps I could recapture the mojo from the moment.

  7. Holly, I love your anthology idea, too!

    And Mia, don’t give up on novel #2! I’m usually pretty sure that what I’m working on at the moment is complete crap and starting something new is always a huge temptation.

  8. Hey! I posted a comment on this! 🙁

    Anyway, I said something about making wishes with my own toilet brush (wand!) tomorrow. But I’m sure it was put much more wittily! Great story, Jennifer.

    And, Holly, I’d contribute if you wanted to do some homework on it 😀

  9. I love the anthology idea too. Count me in.

    The first time an editor called me (who wanted to buy, but was told by her boss that my book was too eccentric), our house had been sealed up in a heat wave because of mold removal, no joke, it had to have been 120 degrees inside. I had just dropped by to “visit” the house when she called. Ran up to my office so I could hear over the mold cleaners and listened while a real NY editor said she wanted to buy it. I made notes with one hand (still have them!) and with the other hand I poured many, many bottles of water into my hair so I wouldn’t faint from the heat (and the shock.

  10. If I knew the secret powers of the toilet brush, I wouldn’t have spent so many years trying to persuade someone else to clean the toilet. Great story!

  11. I use the disposable toilet wands. Do you think that will work? Congratulations, Jennifer, it’s a magical story.

    By the way, the anthology is a brilliant idea. Catherine Wald edited The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors (Persea 2005) and it’s quite an uplifting read. But these stories are wonderful. I can’t get enough of them.

  12. Actually, I think that you guys could put together these blog posts and maybe add a little more, and sell that as an anthology. Some of these posts are really insightful and funny, definitely something that your fan base would love so they could get to know you better! You should really trying pitching it as an idea =) I know I’d buy it!

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