Birth of a Novel by Marivi Blanco
Early last December, after two years of writing workshops and one successful run at NaNoWriMo, I completed my first novel. Several days later, I wrote a cheeky query letter to T., a local agent, and invited her to read the manuscript over the holidays. She was kind enough to agree.
Knowing zilch about author-agent etiquette, I offered a time frame within which I hoped to receive an answer: January 3rd was the last day one could pay the early registration fee for the 2011 San Diego State University Writers Conference, and I needed her decision by that day in order to avail of the early bird discount. If she decided to pass on representing me, I’d need that extra money to buy face time with other agents at the conference. The SDSU conference would give me and scores of other desperate-to-be-published writers, access to workshops and agents from around the country. For an additional $50 a pop, three of them would give me exactly ten minutes of their undivided attention while I pitched my novel.
Everyone in my writing group thought giving the agent a deadline was hilarious. Nevertheless, I spent much time over Christmas visualizing T. grinning widely as she read my novel and hoping I hadn’t committed a fatal faux pas while trying to save a few bucks.
January 3rd was the first Monday of the New Year. I got up as usual at 6 a.m., a habit I’d developed three years earlier during NaNoWriMo’s typing marathon. Now that the novel was done, there were no more chapters to write or revise. Instead I spent the next three hours wondering if I should send T. a friendly e-mail, along the lines of Happy-New-Year-did-you-read-my-novel-like-you-promised-did-you-like-it-whacha-think:-) ? I sat in front of my laptop, crippled by writer’s block over a simple email.
But the gods were kind.
At exactly 9:00 a.m., a message from T. appeared in my gmail inbox. She loved the plot, loved the humor, loved the characters… but having just set up a new agency that dealt almost exclusively with foreign subsidiary rights, she no longer had the same pull with editors. On the other hand, she had a list of agent friends to whom she would happily endorse the novel. Would I let her pass it along to one of them?
My heart was in my fingertips as I typed Yes, of course, please send it along… Barely five minutes later another email popped up. K., another agent had received my manuscript along with an effusive endorsement from T. Would I give her two weeks to read it?
Three weeks later, I signed on for literary representation with K’s partner Jill, at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. My new agent drew up a list of detailed revisions, which led me to draft two new chapters in as many weeks. Since half of the plot unfolds in the Philippines, Jill’s astute suggestions bolstered one character’s story arc in California, making it that much more appealing to American publishers.
By the end of February, she began sending it out to publishers with the blurb she’d had me compose and a strong pitch letter. As I began daydreaming about a book launch, Jill reeled me back to reality with the warning that it would be four to six weeks before editors got back to her.
Now the real waiting begins.
After authoring ten books for children, Marivi Soliven Blanco moved on to writing four more books for an adult audience including Suddenly Stateside, a collection of essays on the Filipino diaspora, and Spooky Mo, a collection of feminist horror stories. Her essays and short fiction have been widely anthologized in Philippine textbooks. While her day job as a telephonic interpreter offers constant inspiration for new stories, writing continues to be her primary vocation.