The One Wherein I Have Big News

As I prepared this blog, I took an unintentional trip down memory lane, looking for a particular picture to illustrate the opening portion of it. I’m sure I’m not the only one with Wal-mart bags full of old pictures. No? I am? Erm… moving on… But instead of the one I was looking for (which apparently may not exist), I found pictures of at least six weddings (Steve/Ginger, Ivan/Liz, Greg/Leann, and some whose names I don’t remember), Chick-fil-A parties (I might get some blackmail out of those ;)), births of my first three children (we’d gone digital by the fourth), birthday parties, children’s sleepovers, pictures of my nephew I swore were my son, pictures of my son I swore were my nephew (they’re almost a decade apart), my now-married niece when she was two and eating a SweetTart sucker in the front seat of my husband’s 1980 Datsun (that didn’t show rust because it was rust colored to start with), graduations, soccer games, and so much more.

Random pic of my family from last Christmas

Random pic of my family from last Christmas (Yes, there’s a story behind my son’s boots.)

But not the picture I wanted.

Ah well.

This post is about new memories, with a bit of a look back at old ones.

Valentine’s Day is a special day for a lot of people. For us, it’s not usually met with a lot of fanfare or expensive gifts or lavish dinners out. We teach at a community college and go two months between our last fall check and our first spring one – and Valentine’s Day is too close to the end of that time period to do much. At least most years.

That’s not to say we don’t do anything special. My husband always does something like this:

Valentine's 2014

It started in 2001 when we said we weren’t going to do anything. We were both in grad school and just about flat broke. But Matt cleaned the whole living room and while I slept, put a trail of Hershey’s Kisses down on the floor from our room and an “I <3 U” on the coffee table along with a card that said, “Now that I’ve kissed the ground you walk on, will you be my Valentine?”

Matt and Maggie

Matt and Maggie

Talk about making a girl’s heart go pitter pat!

What’s an unprepared wife to do?!

Why, take a pregnancy test, of course ;).

Sure enough it came back positive and we learned our oldest child was on her way. You can find the whole story on the Reflections in Hindsight blog I did a few years ago.

Two years later, we found out #2 was coming.

Then came a long stretch of pretty regular Valentine’s Days.

Until a few weeks ago. That first picture? That’s from this year. The kids were home from school (again :p – 17 of the last 18 weeks, I’ve had at least one kid home at least one day every week – and the one week they were all in school was the week before Christmas with parties and errands and all that stuff) and they were probably fighting.

(Yes, I'm dork enough to have taken a pic of the Caller ID - later - and then obscured the number ;))

(Yes, I’m dork enough to have taken a pic of the Caller ID – later – and then obscured the number ;))

Then the phone rang.

When the caller ID clicked in, my stomach dropped. In a good way. Like right before you go down the first hill on a roller coaster. Not the kind right before the sickening crunch of metal on metal you can do nothing to stop.

Murray, Tamela.

As in… Tamela Hancock Murray. Agent extra-ordinare with the Steve Laube Agency.

Now, when I first started looking at agents, the Steve Laube Agency caught my eye because, let’s face it, he’s from Phoenix. I used to shop in his Berean book stores years ago. But when I began querying in earnest, it was Tamela who piqued the most interest. I’d heard great things about her from everyone I talked with and a number of people told me they thought we’d be a good fit. I tended to agree.

ACFW Gala 2014

ACFW Gala 2014

A query after the 2012 ACFW Conference led to a phone call and a bunch of emails back and forth but didn’t end up with an offer of representation for a number of reasons. Some mine. Some hers.

The timing just wasn’t right.

But at ACFW 2013, I actually had a chance to sit down for a meeting with her. Our first real face-to-face convo and it was confirmed.

I wanted her to be my agent.

Me with my mom, circa 19/mumble/mumble/

Me with my mom, circa 19/mumble/mumble/

She requested a proposal – with the full manuscript (thanks, in part, I’m sure to an editor who had done the same – at least the full manuscript part rather than the more typical partial request). I sent it out in November.

And waited.

A series of emails flew through cyberspace earlier this year, culminating in that Valentine’s Day phone call.

And the offer of representation!

I won’t mention the manuscript name (or the hero’s, though his name is part of what makes it special) because it’s entered in Genesis, but I’m so excited this is the one that made it through. It’s a story near and dear to my heart for many reasons I can’t explain at the moment without running the risk of contaminating the Genesis judge pool. If (when?) I sign a contract with a publisher then I’ll tell all.

One of my favorite pics of my mom - shortly before she died

One of my favorite pics of my mom – shortly before she died

It took another phone call last week to clarify a few things, a phone call that had been put off longer than either of us would have liked due to circumstances beyond our control, to solidify the decision in my mind. That phone call came on a tough day for me – my mom’s 68th birthday. And the contract signing? Yeah. On the 28th anniversary of my mother’s last breath on earth.

But once I had the contract in hand, I knew it was the perfect day. A way to have something perpetually good on a day that is all-too-often perpetually bad.

I’ve often said writing can be like American Idol – especially when those contest entries come back with harsh comments on them or you open that email from an editor or agent and you think you can read between the very polite lines and you wonder… “Am I like that person where all of America cringes and thinks, WHY didn’t your mother/brother/sister/best friend/random stranger tell you that you. just. can’t. sing.

Shakira, Adam, Blake, Usher, Carson

Shakira, Adam, Blake, Usher, Carson

But sometimes, writing can also be like The Voice. It’s my favorite. My kids love it. We love Shakira and Usher (we like Ceelo and Christina but not as much; the energy and camaraderie and banter with Shakira and Usher is much better, in our opinions). Adam and Blake’s bromance certainly seems genuine. But more than that, they’re coaches. Not judges. COACHES. Sure, there’s a judging aspect involved, but their main goal is to help those contestants succeed, not just choose which ones to eliminate. In fact, some non-winners have gone on to go on tour or at least open for their former coaches.

Have you ever watched Carson Daly when he’s backstage with the family and friends during the Blind Auditions? He’s just as excited – or just as disappointed – as the relatives and friends when the button gets pushed – or doesn’t. And it seems so very genuine, not like some producer somewhere said, “Hey – Carson – act like you mean it.” With his hands on his knees and eyes glued to the monitor, he urges the coaches from afar, saying things like “Come on, Blake! What are you waiting for?!”

Signing the contract with my Seekerville pen!

Signing the contract with my Seekerville pen!

If you make it to the Blinds, you deserve to be there – even if a chair doesn’t turn. There is no, “Sweetie, go home and only sing in your car or the shower” on The Voice. There’s advice and encouragement and “try again next year – make sure you come back.” And more than one of those who came back have gotten a chair to turn when they try again.

With this partnership, I feel like I’ve made it to the Blind Auditions. I deserve to be here, just like all of those folks on The Blinds the last few weeks. It feels almost like the agent, in this case Tamela, is like Carson Daly. Cheering, encouraging, seeking out talent. More than one singer has made it to the Blinds because friends bombarded Carson’s Twitter feed with links.

My BFF got to come for the signing celebration lunch

My BFF got to come for the signing celebration lunch

Will this collaboration with Tamela lead to contract offers galore for this manuscript and many others? To “chairs turning”? That’s the goal of course. But knowing that a respected member of one of the most respected literary agencies in the business believes my work and, more importantly, believes in me?

Well, that’s priceless.