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  • Anna Birch

There's More Than One Way (to Skin a Cat), part 1

The path to publication for every author is different.


(duh.)


Manuscripts are odd little things, perfectly-imperfect outpourings of our collective creativity we uncage from where they hide beneath our ribs, only to watch them be ripped to shreds (or so it seems) -- by critique partners, well-meaning family members, critical strangers, mentors... and literary agents.


On occasion, writers move through this process fairly quickly. They write a book, they polish a book, they query a book. They sell a book. They're an author! Yay!


Most of the time, though? Writers toil. We write, and then trunk, more books than we care to discuss. We celebrate polishing a book, because it means we finished drafting it. We celebrate querying a book, because we finished polishing it. We celebrate every victory, large or small -- a personalized rejection! A rejection with notes! A revise & resubmit offer! And then, finally: An offer of representation!


I'll let you guess which camp I fell into (hint: it wasn't the quick one).


I KISSED ALICE began with a conversation: Why bother with 80s retellings unless they're updated into *queer* retellings? Why can't we watch queer couples amble through gauntlets of false identities, relationships of convenience, enemy-to-lover-third-act showdowns, or any other rom com trope we learned from the very films we all cut our storytelling teeth on?


Honestly? I struggled through drafting ALICE. I trunked a novel I'd slaved over for years only a few weeks previous, and I was still grieving a book that would never be when I decided to give this one a shot instead. It was my first time attempting YA contemporary after years of writing YA historical fantasy; I wasn't confident I had the voice for it. Every single sentence was a struggle, some days. Revising it was just as difficult. I had a circle of precious, invaluable writing friends who gave me endless notes and I swear to GOD this book would not exist without them.


Enter: Pitch Wars 2016. People come to PW for a lot of reasons. For me, it was simply the fact that I felt like I had run out of road with this book on my own. Contemporary wasn't my home turf and I felt like I needed the blunt, objective opinion of a complete stranger to get me over the hump. I lucked out with Jen Hawkins and Kes Trester as my mentors -- they really understood who I was and what I was trying to accomplish. 2016 was a *huge* year for Pitch Wars! Fellow mentees like Tomi Adeyemi, Helen Hoang, and Christine Lynn Herman have soared (and I couldn't be more proud of them)! I did well for myself, too -- 27 requests on my Pitch Wars entry. I thought I would be right there with them -- except I wasn't.


27 requests quickly became 27 rejections. There were so many other people in my shoes, and between the state of the world (I think pretty much everyone remembers where they were the evening of November 8, 2016. I think it's safe to say that the most pronounced memory of that evening was one of complete despair) and facing what felt very much like failure on a personal level, morale was low.


But the story wasn't over, yet. It wasn't over for them, and it wasn't over me, either.

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