Well the weekend went off without a hitch. I'm still stunned. I expected at least a small crisis, but everything ran smooth. For those of you who weren't aware, we had an opportunity to bring Paula Eykelhof, Senior Executive Editor from Harlequin, down to meet with our chapter. But best of all, she offered to let us send a synopsis and first chapter of one of our manuscripts to her ahead of time. She would read them and then meet with us one on one to discuss. We had 17 members submit, so this was no small job on Paula's part and to say we appreciated the opportunity would be understating it.
We started on Friday night with an informal dinner at a nice restaurant in Halifax. Our chapter has 34 members and I believe 25 were able to make it for the dinner. The following day, the executive showed up at the hotel where we were holding our day long session and ensured the rooms were ready (one for the group sessions, one for the one-on-one meetings). The day got started at 9 AM. Paula went through the various lines, gave us more in depth info on what they were looking for, which lines were actively seeking and open to new authors, etc. As she went through the list, I realized my contemporary I had submitted appeared to fit SuperRomance, if I could manage to write something in a 70,000-75,000 word range, as opposed to my norm of well over 100,000 words. The idea intrigued me. The challenge of pulling off learning to write tighter pulled at me.
Paula went through the day in the life of an editor. The thought running through my head as she described her incredibly busy schedule--I wish I had known this job was out there when I finished high school. I would have become an editor. A perfect blend of the business and the creative. I cursed my short-sighted guidance counselor whose pithy words of wisdom were-- you're smart, go to university.
Then she talked about the editor / author relationship, which was even more personal as our former self-titled Queen of Rejection had recently sold her first manuscript to Paula and was now in just that relationship with her. So we had the two of them give us a back and forth. Very informative.
And then came the one-on-one appointments. While each member who submitted was filtering out of the room for their ten minute appointment, Paula brought in a good friend and former editor at Harlequin who she worked with for ten years and now lived in our area--Jane Robson. Jane was energetic, fun and encouraging. She took us through brainstorming exercises that helped keep our minds off the impending meeting.
My time came. I traipsed up to the room a little early and sat outside of it with two of my exec members--one acting as time moderator, the other waiting to go in after me. The nerves hit and my hands turned to ice. I had submitted my contemporary, but it was a new venture for me. Would I fall on my face? Was I deluded in thinking it held any merit? Was it all a pile of crap? Could this manuscript be saved??
My turn came. I walked in, took a deep breath, sat down. She had read my submission on the plane on the way to Halifax, she explained. My first thought -- great, it'll be fresh in her mind. My second thought -- that could be really good, or really bad.
Your writing reminds me of Jennifer Crusie, she told me. I blanked out after that. I might have said something back, but I was too busy doing a mental happy dance on top of the table to actually remember what it was. Voice, she continued, is a rather over-used and vague term, but you have it. This story is perfect for the SuperRomance line if you're willing to pare it down to the 70-75,000 word range. You have definite potential and so does this story. She made some suggestions on things to develop or clarify. There was the potential for an intrigue subplot I had been debating whether or not to use; she suggested I leave it off. We talked about agents and I indicated I was in the process of searching for one now. She reminded me I didn't need an agent to submit to SuperRomance. I mentioned I was mainly an historical writer, but that I had some ideas for contemporaries and where I was in the middle of historical manuscript revisions I thought it would be a nice break for me to try my hand at it to keep the creative juices going. She said I should definitely keep it up because I had a distinct voice and the synopsis and chapter I had submitted were well done.
The one thing I got a good laugh out of--in an ironic doesn't that just figure kind of way--she said I would need to change the hero's name. I had called him Dash. It was meant to be a nickname but that element changed. The funny/ironic part, my Dad had been going on about what a stupid name that was and that I couldn't call my hero Dash. Paula agreed. Great...now I'll have to listen to my father remind me of this from now until the end of time.
All in all, I couldn't have asked for more. I'm not sure if I was even remotely coherent as we spoke. The Jenny Crusie line kept ringing in my head and it took a lot of energy to keep my butt planted in the chair instead of tap dancing around the room like an idiot. Albeit a very joyful idiot.
So there you have it. I'm exhausted. I slept most of Sunday. The past two weeks of arranging the details for the weekend and the stress of making a muck of it, plus the day job becoming very busy pretty much wiped me out. Every time I sat down I fell asleep. Then I woke up this morning and felt like crap. I think my body and mind had hit its limit, so I called in sick. I'll rest up today and attack the world again tomorrow.