From middle of the night musings to book publication: Chapter 2

Claudia Sternbach is out of pocket this week, so I'm posting the second installment of her continuing adventure from brainstorm to bookshelf with her forthcoming book Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses. Click here to read Chapter One.

When we last left off I was telling you about playing around with stories of kisses for my own personal pleasure while meeting magazine deadlines and newspaper deadlines but neglected to mention the fact that I was also working on a novel. The novel was what I was hoping to sell. The novel was where I thought I would find publishing success. Especially when a New York literary agent read the first few chapters and claimed to believe in it. Our first meeting, over chocolate chip scones and coffee in a midtown cafe left me filled with sugar and fat and enthusiasm. He gave me a few editing suggestions. He paid for my snack. He told me his wife, a writer, had been searching for a purse like the one I was carrying and had been unsuccessful. She was on a long waiting list at an expensive boutique.

I did not confess that I had purchased my knockoff from a street vendor for $25. I simply wore it out the door into the wintery afternoon feeling like a success. In fashion as well as writing. I now had a fancy agent as well as a seemingly fancy container for my wallet, metro card and all of the crap one feels the need to carry.

The purse has long since fallen apart. So did my relationship with the agent. On a snowy February afternoon in a downtown cafe we broke up. And when I asked for specifics as to who had read my novel, which publishing houses should be scratched off my list of possibles, he confessed he had never sent it out. I could not figure out why he had, for months and months, treated me to coffee, wine, cheese plates and bowls of soup but had not actually sent out the book. But I decided to focus on the bright side. My novel had never been rejected by anyone. So while still high on caffeine I began to search online for another agent. And amazingly found one who loved the sample chapters I sent within a couple of weeks.

I also have this kissing collection, I told her.

I will love reading it, she replied. But after the novel sells.

She too bought me food. And drinks. And was an enthusiastic supporter. She loved me. Although that passion may have waned a bit when I complemented her on her pregnancy. She looked blankly at me, then shook her head and told me she was not expecting anything other than to now only eat half of the grilled cheese sandwich she had just ordered.

The joke was on both of us when a month later she found out she was preggers. But still, my face was redder than the ass of one of those monkeys kids love to make fun of and I am too embarrassed to look at at the zoo. Then my agent moved from New York to London. And I decided to go solo once again. The novel was now in my desk drawer on top of the kissing collection. I went back to focusing on newspaper deadlines and magazine stories. Until one day an old writer friend of mine who I hadn't seen for quite some time asked me to give her something to read. Something of mine she had never seen. And I reached under the box which held the novel and grabbed the folder filled with essays, threw it in the car along with my overnight bag and drove two hours to her house. Knowing her commitment to honesty, when I arrived I handed it to her with great trepidation. And then I held my breath.

I'll have to get back to you on what happened next.


Colleen said…
Wow. What a story. I'm dying to hear what happens next!
Joni Rodgers said…
I hope aspiring authors everywhere are paying attention to this. Nathan Bransford's comment section is littered with the bodies of writers who thought getting an agent was their ticket into the Emerald City.

Holding my breath for the next installment...
Yeah, right??? And ha ha ha Joni, I love your comment about Nathan Bransford's comment section. I must admit that at this point, getting an agent seems such a feat in and of itself that I do feel that way. But then we all know what happened to Dorothy in the Emerald City, don't we?

Gotta watch out for those flying monkeys . . .

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