I wrote this post a few days after announcements, but waited a while to actually publish it, because everything? About what we’re doing with this mentorship? Was up in the air? Because you see, it’s a long story…
I don’t think normally I would make a “How I Got My Mentor” post because for most people, it’s a pretty straightfoward event, unlike getting an agent…except this time, it totally isn’t straightforward, and it helps reinforce that nothing is a straight line, and you never know when your moment will come.
Definitions for non-writers:
- AMM: Author-Mentor Match, a program that matches agented and/or published authors with baby writers like me
- Pitch Wars and RevPit: other programs. If you’re an avid reader of new books, you may have heard of Pitch Wars because it’s like the American Idol of publishing
- Querying: Yeeting the first pages of your book to agents with a pitch letter aka the query trenches aka lighting your soul on fire and weeping as the rejections roll in
- Fulls and Partials: agent or mentor requests for the full manuscript or the first 50 pages, respectively
Okay, chickadees. Let me take you back to February 2020. Pre-pandemic, pre-the world on fire—oh no, wait, it had already been on fire for awhile, let me update–okay, so pre-the world even more on fire than it had been, okay?
I had just finished writing a manuscript called Kara and Karenna. It was crap. Kinda. It had a good premise, but I had never actually finished writing a book before and I knew Writing Is Rewriting and Editing Is Good and Necessary but…like…how the heck am I supposed to revise the book when this is the best I can do?
(Note: I’m still like that, in the sense that most of my major revision happens while writing the book, and the post-draft editing I do is very similar to the post-draft editing I did on Kara and Karenna. )
(Except now that I’m a mentee, I’m probably going to learn A Lot of Shit on How to Revise When You Think Your Draft is Done but It’s Not Done, Actually… and I need to stop with the weird caps.)
Oh crap. This post is already getting too long. Can you imagine what an Agent post would be for me? Anyway, I wrote it really fast, between November and December 2019, edited in January 2020, and then was all NOW WHAT and that’s when I joined twitter, participated in RevPit’s mini 10-queries event, joined a Slack group hosted by a RevPit editor which was my first taste of writing community, and then applied to AMM in February.
Reader, I did not get in. Duh.
Buuut, I actually got a full request! And then feedback! So that was nice.
Through a series of unfortunate events, I started querying that book before it was ready, but I got AMM feedback, RevPit feedback (I had a full request from them too), and finally, feedback from a full and from a partial (it still amazes me I got requests on this flaming pile of dung but again…premise was good?), and all the feedback combined with an accelerated course on How to Write (not an actual course, I just mean I found writing friends and that’s when I learned everything), convinced me I needed to rewrite the entire thing, and that’s how I rewrote it and it became A Matter Of Ancient History.
Which is still not my best work, really, but I’m a lot more proud of it.
During that time, I also wrote and polished my second ms, The Star-Crossed Empire, which has a very different writing style and voice and premise, but was heavily influenced by understanding what’s marketable in the book world today (I didn’t write it to be marketable, but it did unconsciously influence my writing choices).
I submitted Star-Crossed Empire to AMM the next year, in January 2021.
I…I had a great experience. I got a full request before the submission period was over, and it turns out I had been requested by two of the four mentors. And a third mentor didn’t request but really enjoyed and liked it, but it just had themes a bit too close to her own work, and she was unsure she could help me with my dual timelines. But I got feedback from all three mentors, and it blew my mind. One of them actually read it all the way through. The other two — one of the requests and obviously the one who didn’t request–only had the first 50 pages but were very complimentary.
The mentor who didn’t request was Melissa Work, and I figured I’d never really cross her path again, and if I ever did, I would NOT tell her that I printed off something she wrote in my feedback and put it on my corkboard because that’s really embarrassing and weird, okay? But I did print it out, and I refer back to it often, whenever I feel down in the query trenches (which is…a lot of times), and it is really really important to me.
As I was querying Star-Crossed Empire, I wrote my third manuscript, which AGAIN is in a different style and voice, called Shining Palais. In September 2021, I subbed Shining Palais to Pitch Wars and got two requests but ultimately no mentorship.
AMM was coming up for 2022.
I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to apply.
You see, I love the idea of mentorships, but it’s stressful to apply. Even though I tell myself I really don’t care, and that actually what I care about are the requests. (And let me reiterate that not getting a request isn’t a judgment on your writing. But, no matter how many times people tell me that and I tell other people that, it’s hard for me to internalize.)
Anyway, the mentorship programs are hard. If you don’t get a request, it’s easy to feel really down in the dumps about your work. (But at least you can count yourself out at a certain point and then move on) If you do get a request..then you spend weeks haunting the twitter teaser feed for any scrap of information or hope and you get really obsessive and…okay that’s just me.
Anyway, I never mourn when I don’t get a mentorship, but it still makes it not worth alllll the nervous energy of the weeks before. I had had a good Pitch Wars. I had slowly started querying Shining Palais already and didn’t want to hold off on actively querying. And…I wasn’t getting the request rate in my preliminary querying for Shining Palais that I had been getting for Star-Crossed Empire, and I didn’t think my heart could handle not getting a request in AMM. So, I was out for this round.
Until a writing friend discovered that I had hardly queried my very first manuscript (A Matter of Ancient History) and pretty much yelled at me being like, “WHY’D YOU GIVE UP ON THAT MS?!? YOU SHOULD QUERY IT MORE.”
Which gave me the idea of reentering A Matter of Ancient History into AMM. Bonus, I wasn’t very emotionally tied to it any more so although it would hurt a bit to not get any requests, it wouldn’t hurt that much.
Reader, I did not get any requests.
(I actually tweeted at one of the mentors I had subbed to, Melissa, who was the one who gave me such kind feedback the year before, being all like, “Are you going to tell us when you start requesting?” and she was like, “nope. not gonna tell.” And then I was all embarrassed and slunk away.)
Again, like I said, the good news about not getting requests is that you can move on. And it was much easier to move on this year. I stopped paying attention to AMM altogether.
The mentee list was due to come out on or around February 4th.
I got an email February 2nd.
It was an AMM full request. What the shit.
Not only that, but the email was like…soo….the mentor was also interested in your other work so feel free to send anything else over like WIPs or other completed projects, if you want, if that’s not weird or anything, ok? And I was like, “Okay…?”
(I hope it’s clear I’m paraphrasing all these communications, right?)
So for the first time in weeks I wade into the teaser hashtag and lo and behold, Melissa posts something cryptic about someone in the mentor Slack keeping it chaotic up until the last minute which obviously means it was her.
Which made sense, when I thought about it, but I also wasn’t too stressed about it because it was 2 days till announcements and obviously, she wasn’t going to pick me hahahahaha that would be ridiculous.
Reader, I…I got into AMM. She picked me. She likes my writing and concepts overall, and couldn’t stop thinking about it and decided she wanted to mentor me.
The announcement post has it that we’ll be working on Ancient History together, but as I originally drafted this, we actually didn’t know which manuscript? Melissa needed to take some time to…you know…read my manuscripts. Since she requested two days before announcements.
Now I’m pleased to announce we’ll be working on The Shining Palais, my science fantasy espionage story about a sleeper agent who loves her unwitting kids and ex and will do anything to protect them, except her next mission is to betray them, basically a science fiction “The Americans” or Red Sparrow, or as I tag it, DISASTER BI SPY IN SPAAAAACE.
(Do you see how I wrote that like it was a Publisher’s Weekly deal announcement? Run-on sentence and all?)
It still blows my mind, and I stare at the welcome email a lot. I got effectively picked off a partial. Because nothing in publishing is linear, or makes sense, and you just need to go along for the ride.
It’s a good lesson for those of us in the trenches. Nothing is linear. Your backlist can work for you. It just takes one yes. Someone can believe in you even when you’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Shoot your shot.
You are so close. Don’t give up.
Edit: My fellow R9 mentees have been writing and filming their own “I got into AMM” posts! Please check them out:
I guess it’s time for an FAQ!
So you write? What do you write?
Um..mostly science fiction/fantasy. Although I plan to branch out into romance and thriller.
Isn’t that for kids? Isn’t that hacky stuff that anyone can churn out? Is it mostly all about white dudes flying around with lasers and/or swords?
No. And no, and no. Actually, if you ever need book recommendations for science fiction or fantasy that’s diverse, dense, written at a high level, literary, upmarket/book club, or anything like that–let me know.
Similarly, if you want SFF that reads like awesome fanfic and has humor and wit, I can give you that too. And, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Also, the “hacky” stuff is awesome too. C’mon y’all, we’re in a pandemic. Let people enjoy things.
How many books have you written? How many pages?
3 full manuscripts. We don’t count by page numbers, but the word count is, respectively, 110k, 117K, and 113K.
I know. Well within range for SFF, but yes, it’s exhausting to write that much. I’m looking forward to my 80K upmarket contemporary thriller.
So, are you getting published?
What does that mean?
Most major publishers won’t take on unagented writers. You need an agent, first.
So, time to get an agent?
Yeah…um, I’ve been working on that. Hence, winning a mentorship contest.
Why do you not have one yet?
Demand vs supply. Publishing is downsizing, so there are fewer editors to acquire work, which means there are fewer people for agents to submit to, which means they take on fewer clients.
Ooor, you’re not good enough.
I may or may not be good enough. That’s really the only part of this process I can control. But plenty of brilliant books and writers never get published. Not that I’m brilliant. But I’m decent.
(side note: have you ever watched The Movies that Made Us? You know how Forrest Gump or Dirty Dancing or Home Alone almost never got made? Yeah. It’s like that).
Do you think you’ll get published some day?
Yes. Some day. I can only control what I can control, though.
If you get an agent, you have it made, right?
Oh. Hah. No. You might still not be able to sell the book. Your agent might decide to leave agenting and become a blacksmith. (True story) Or they might drop you as a client out of the blue. Or you might decide to leave them.
Yeah. And trust me, most authors/writers have stories like that.
So, what’s the secret to success?
Are you going to be a bestseller?
No. Never. I know bestselling writers, actually, via social-media, but that’s not my market.
Will people know your name, at least?
Um, why do you do this again?
It’s a compulsion. Roll with it.
My cousin published a book on Amazon.
Good for them!
Why don’t you just publish it on Amazon?
I’m an establishment/traditional publishing kinda gal. Self-pub isn’t for me, and I would never be able to attract that kind of readership because I’m not a marketing/selling type person.
(“Just self-publish” is not as easy as you think it is, if you actually want to be successful)
Yeah. They’re all hacks and losers.
Please don’t insult my indie/self-pub brethren. That won’t fly here.
(If you need indie book recs, ask me)
So, do you sit by a roaring fire surrounded by verdant greens, writing to classical music while people bring you snacks?
I’m a stay at home mother with a house to keep. I write on my phone in the car line, while doing dishes, in the middle of the night when I wake up with dialogue stuck in my head, and literally in the shower...
Women (and men, yes yes I’ll be equal opportunity, and everyone in between and outside the gender binary and so on and so forth) since time immemorial have been multitasking and getting it done because that’s what’s expected of us.
So you’re not neglecting your kids?
No. Although “Bluey” is an excellent babysitter. Also, screw you.
No, seriously, how do you have time? That plus the 100+ books you read a year?
It’s called hyperfocus. It’s a gift and a curse.
I found a typo/misspelling. You call yourself a writer?
I’m not going to answer that one.
What should I never ask you when I see you in person?
“How’s that writing thing going?” Actually, if you see me, please never talk to me about writing, unless it’s your writing, not mine. I would like to Not Be Perceived, please.
But…but you want to get published…
I would like to NOT BE PERCEIVED, OKAY?
All right. Sheesh. What can I ask you?
if you’re a fellow querying writer, I would love to commiserate with you. And if you’re a few steps behind me and need advice or information, I’ll be happy to help. If you’re a reader, I’d love to scream about books with you. If you’re a few steps ahead of me, you get it and I don’t need to explain my desire to yeet myself into the sun most of the time when publishing comes up as a topic