On October 29th 2012 I started writing The Breathing Sea. It was my first ever story, let alone book, and I had no clue what I was doing. I doubted I could even write a whole novel, let alone get it published. But gradually I learned to write. I also learned to want people to read it, and I crept slowly closer to a new goal of getting my book published.
This post is about The Call. That Call when you find out a publisher wants to buy your book. The Call that flips you from one world into another.
The book had been on submission for 5 months. I’d had a dream-come-true meeting with Barry and Rachel from Chicken House Books in London a month before. It was a buzzy exciting meeting where we discussed substantial changes. I agreed the book would work as a standalone rather than first in a trilogy and they seemed to like my suggestions on how to do this. But weeks went by with no more news. If anything I’d been expecting an R and R (revise and resubmit) as the book would mostly be rewritten. I was delighted to have even met Barry Cunningham and tried to persuade myself I should be satisfied such an influential publisher had read and liked my work. I attempted to guard my heart. But I loved the meeting and their vision, and it all felt tantalizingly close. To say I was stalking my inbox was an understatement.
Then the ceiling on family life collapsed.
My 7 year old son’s school decided it was no longer the right place for him. He at home, desperately distressed and anxious, needing a new school urgently. Organizing the right placement was all encompassing. I was off work with stress for the first time in my life. And for the first time in just over 4 years, I wasn’t thinking about writing.
Then on December 1st 2016 at 5.26 pm (yes I noted the time – I have zero chill) my agent Laura called.
I was in the kitchen, cooking. Kids were playing in other room. I saw it was a London number. I was expecting another frustrating phone call about school placements. Even though I was also waiting to hear from Chicken House I honestly didn’t even think of Laura. We’d always chatted on my home phone so her number didn’t come up.
Laura: Hi Lindsay, it’s Laura Williams.
Me: Hi Laura (thoughts rush into brain and straight out of mouth) You’re calling me? You wouldn’t call me if it was bad news. Would you?
Laura: (laughs) No. I wouldn’t.
I think Laura must have loved that pause. I hope she did, I’ll ask her. Because it must be the delicious part of an agents job. She told me Chicken House wanted to publish The Breathing Sea in 2018. Yes — it was an offer, not an R and R. Yes — The Breathing Sea was going to be a book. Yes — this really was happening.
I squealed and jumped. My husband Billy came in from work at that moment and I squawked the news at him. He took the phone from me and spoke to Laura. Not sure quite what he said as I was bundling the 7 and 9 year old, but I heard something about dreams coming true, and lovely Laura seemed pretty made up when I got the phone back.
So that was The Call. It happened. And it’s saved forever in my mental vault of Good Things that Happened that Nothing Can Ever Change.
And this is what I wrote in my neglected journal:
(The following day my gorgeous son was accepted into the school we’d been fighting for and the ceiling of our family’s life was rebuilt, higher and stronger than before.)