How To Give The Help
A couple of nights ago, I finished the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was science. It was highly involved. And, it was one of the most intrinsically human books I’ve ever encountered. I never expected a book about the largest set of human cells growing in culture, cells that were removed from an African-American woman’s cervix without her knowledge or informed consent, to move me to tears.
Of course, the writer, Rebecca Skloot, defied expectation. She spent more than a decade of her life researching the book and interviewing the confusing web of Henrietta’s family. Another couple of years went into rewriting, editing, fact-checking and editing some more. Three agents walked away from her before her book found a home with a champion agent and publisher. It’s won awards, and it deserves its listing on more than sixty critic recaps as one of the best books of 2010. I don’t just recommend it. You MUST read it. Click here to buy a copy.
I spent more time poring through the acknowledgements. Being a year into my own journey to get my novel published, it boggled my mind that a writer could spend more than a decade of her life championing one story. Numerous people probably looked at her like she was crazy as she continued to run up credit card debt and take out student loans to follow her dream into the forgotten tobacco fields of Virginia and the rundown slums of Baltimore. Her passion for Henrietta’s story probably drove scores of people screaming from her life, much as thoughtless “helpful” comments likely destroyed her own feeling for people she once considered friends.
What struck me was the village of people who helped her realize her dream. If I could ask her one question – JUST ONE – it would not be will you lead me to your agent? or would you read a few pages of my novel and send them along to someone – ANYONE – in the literary field? It would be HOW did you bewitch people to help you?
I suck at asking for help.
Before I ask for yours, Dear Reader, allow me to give you a little book update.
I completed one round of submitting my finished book to agents. Two have yet to reject me, though I have learned that doesn’t mean anything positive. I got numerous rejections indicating that I can actually write or encouraging me in some way, leading me to believe something was intrinsically wrong with the book. Before Christmas, I gave the book to a former editor at Random House and an accomplished author in her own right, hoping something in the story would brainwash her to want to edit it.
She enthusiastically took my project. I’m going to have a lot of writing to do in the coming months, and I’m very excited about what working with someone of her caliber will do for the story. I hope to have it ready to resubmit by mid-2012.
If you enjoy my writing, spend time on this blog, or are a person who believes helping others is the greatest means of paying it forward, please help me reach my goal. I cannot count the number of people who have told me they know published authors. Published authors are the most direct means to an agent. If you know one and are willing to help me meet him or her, please contact me privately so that I can start the process of convincing them to read a selection from my book when it is complete or endorsing it up the chain.
Likewise, being able to drop a known name in the literary field helps with an agent query. I know lots of people who say they know literary types, but actually securing the right to drop the name is what will help me. It opened several key doors for me in the last round.
Yes, I realize I can self-publish an e-book, publish overseas, or print copies of the book myself and accost people with it and be a ‘published author.’ I self-publish every single day. I know how hard I work at it, between the writing, the facilitation of community and the self-promotion that’s required. We both know what you pay to read it. Now, we all know what I make. At this point, I still believe in my story enough to want someone to say my company will invest in this novel.
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Getting this book published is the only thing I professionally care about for 2012. It’s a story that will shine a light on others more than it will ever benefit me. If you help me, I will never, ever forget. If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you know I have many other stories to tell.
Thank you for breathing life into the words I write.