From Milwaukee to New York To Rome: Greta’s Intercontinental Path to Publication

If you ask most professional writers, they’ll tell you they’ve been writing since childhood, and the same is true for me. I dreamed of writing a book and getting it published for almost as long as I can remember. But how do you actually go about writing a book? I had no idea… and it showed in my writing.

For more years than I can honestly count, I worked on a fantasy novel that I loved. It was filled with passion and betrayal, soaring highs and devastating lows. But what it did not have, was a plot. Turns out, an 800 page behemoth of a manuscript needs a plot. Whoops.

But surely, I thought to myself, if I can write a book I can revise one too! It just needs some editing. Yeah… no. After a few more years that initial book became two books. Then three. I went to workshops and writing classes, and as much as I learned about writing, I think what they taught me most, was letting go. That poor book (books?) was broken. Time to put it in the drawer and move on.

It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. Abandoning a project you’ve spent years on is terrifying. What had I spent all that time on? What was the point?

As it turns out, the point of that book, was to learn how to write a book, because there are no wasted words.

So when the idea for The Frozen Crown first came to me in 2016, I was ready to grab it by the horns and plant it on the page. I wrote that draft in record speed and when I was done, I had a bright and shiny manuscript ready to show the world. Right?

Lol. Still no!

This time around, I actually knew there was something wrong with the book–but what? I’d learned to write a novel sure, but I hadn’t learned to edit one.

I was determined to find solid feedback this time around. This isn’t to say that I hadn’t gotten good feedback in the past, but I needed someone who could look at the entire manuscript in one go and tell me where I’d gone astray– that’s not something most writing groups and critique partners are able to do since you are most often trading books chapter by chapter.

After doing a ton of research, I found an amazing independent editor in Rebecca Faith Editorial. Rebecca is a prose-eviscerating queen! She took a good long look at my baby novel and expertly articulated all the ways it could be better. It’s the kind of editing that I desperately needed, not only because it strengthened this book, but it helped me grow as a writer. I cannot possibly express the gratitude I feel for working with Rebecca, not least because of what happened next.

After working through her suggested edits and resubmitting, Rebecca came to me with an opportunity. She was hosting a writing conference in NYC and she thought I should come. And it wasn’t just any conference! There would only be 30 or so writers attending. Each writer would presubmit their query letter and opening pages to two agents of their choosing and have the opportunity to discuss those all important pages with no awkward pitching required.

Dear reader, this completely sold me. It was 2018 and I was barely able to tell my family members that I was a writer. Seriously. I didn’t even tell my coworkers I was going to that conference, and I had been at that job for about five years at that point. Hows that for a self-conscious streak?!? But one of my dream agents was going to be at the conference– I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity. So telling only a few people about my plans, I packed a bag and hopped on a plane to NYC.

Fast forward through a frigid but wonderful March weekend, and I flew home to Wisconsin with many wonderful new writers friends and two requests to see my full manuscript.

It truly couldn’t have gone any better than that! So I dusted off my book a few more times, sent off my full manuscript to those two agents and fired off a few more query letters. Then, to take my mind off the process, I went on vacation. Lol. No, it was a very happy coincidence that this all happened the year my husband and I had planned a trip to Italy with two of our dear friends.

It was April of 2018 and we had escaped a freak April snowstorm for a beautiful Roman spring…. And my inbox dinged. One of the agents wanted to talk.

… and it dinged again. Gasp!! Another agent! Another call to talk representation!!! I don’t think I breathed for a full minute when that email came in. It wasn’t any agent. It was Jennifer Udden. One of my dream agents!

I can honestly say that I didn’t sleep at all the night before my call with Jen. I was so keyed up that I ghosted through our visit to the colosseum. Seriously, I probably have two pictures of the place because the entire time I was so sick to my stomach, all I cared about was having a trashcan near by at all times so that I would not puke on the World Heritage Site!

But I’m writing this article, so you can probably figure out how it all turned out. Jen was wonderful and her ideas for revision and her vision for The Frozen Crown (and my whole writing career) was exactly as I imagined it. I signed with her a few weeks later. We edited the novel a few more times before going on submission in the fall. Early 2019, and I had a two book deal with Harper Voyager and would be a real-life, published author in 2021.

Not gonna lie, it was a looooonnnnnggg journey, but I have to count myself as blessed. The years I spent toiling away during my lunch hours, far too embarrassed to cop to what I was doing, has paid off more than I ever could have imagined.

I hope it’s a lesson in perseverance. If a book isn’t working for you, its okay to put it aside. Letting it go isn’t a failure. Because you never know what story might be waiting for you on the next page!

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Greta Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfingers candy. Though she has travelled across the world, including brief stints living in Germany and Japan, life always kept bringing her back home to the Midwest. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband EJ, daughter Lorelei and a cat who may, or may not, control the weather. Her debut novel, The Frozen Crown, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager.

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