Rejection letters are beautiful things.
I can say that now, feeling somewhat smug that my novel, the very novel for which I have said beautiful rejection letters, has found a home. That it took six years is a fact that I do my best to repress. They were six very very long years. Does it matter now? Not in the least.
When I set out to write Finding Felicity, my goal was to write an intelligent “beach read”, a book that readers who read literature would enjoy as a light read, and readers who usually read more commercial fiction would find thought-provoking. I accomplished that goal perfectly, which turned out to be my undoing.
With a full-time office job, it took three years in a writing workshop led by author Noel Hynd in Los Angeles for me to finish the manuscript. After taking a “How to Write a Query Letter” class at the Learning Annex, I sent out queries to agents en masse. Another year passed and finally I received an offer of representation. I will never forget “the call”.
Soon to be my new best friend, my agent-to-be called Finding Felicity “brilliant” (I liked her immediately) and was calling to make me an offer of representation. I hung up the phone and my boss called me into her office wanting milk for her tea. I happily fetched it for her, thinking that my days as a milk fetcher were short-lived, indeed.
The submission process that began in 2004 was excruciating. At the time, hard copies were still being circulated and it took one to three months to hear back from an editor. The rejection letters started appearing in my mailbox. Each one was more painful than its predecessor.
As the months turned into a year, I knew my agent, who had previously been an editor at Berkley, was becoming battle weary. In an email to me she wrote, “As you know, I really believe in this novel and am very disheartened that no one thinks it’s perfect. We hear the literary people saying it’s too commercial and the commercial people saying it’s too literary or too quiet. Very frustrating.”
Very very frustrating. I was devastated. My agent eventually gave up submitting, advising me to keep writing. I began my next novel, but it was tough slow going. As the years passed, I eventually relocated to North Carolina and realized that my next book is really a memoir, so I started exploring creative non-fiction.
One email can change everything.
Last December, my writing teacher in LA, Noel, emailed me to say that a friend of his had acquired a small press that published romances and that he had mentioned Finding Felicity to her. She would take a look at it, he said. From my desk, I pulled out the CD where I had saved the manuscript, dusted it off, wrote an email, and clicked send.
Two months later, a publishing contract was in the mail.
Is Eternal Press a large New York publisher? No. But that is the reason Finding Felicity will see the light of day.
Publishing is changing. Ebooks are leading the way into the future, and while Finding Felicity will be available in both print and ebook versions, I am thrilled it is coming into the world now. Because of ereaders, more people are reading now than ever before, and more people are discovering writers like me, whose books might not have fall into a neat genre.
My agent has since left the publishing industry, so while with the same agency, I move forward with a new agent into a changed landscape. My memoir is a romance, a love story, one that I hope readers who read Finding Felicity will embrace as I take my next steps along my writing path.
The gift this journey has given me is courage to write the book I want to write, and faith that there are readers who want to read it when its time is right. Commercial. Literary. Or somewhere in between.
Monica Marlowe’s debut novel, Finding Felicity, was just published in early August 2011. Monica writes about heroes and heroines who follow their heart.