After an essay I wrote appeared in the New York Times last summer (and the immediate responses to the essay which I wrote about for the Hedgebrook Blog), a flurry of activity occurred—over email, phone, and over my big dining room table where I write.
The flurry came in the form of agents. Agents who were interested in me, who wanted to see what else I was working on, who inquired about the book that would be coming from the essay.
I began seeing that essay as a seed to grow from.
Months went by, months in which I was in touch with a number of agents, agents who told me they had read my essay on the subway the day after it was published, agents who said they were interested in reading my other book—the one I started trying to push forward, since I didn’t have the book based on the essay that they were looking for yet.
I was administering a graft from another plant—the book that was already written, that a handful of agents had already said no to before—onto the seed of the published essay.
While emailing with another handful of agents, the graft took hold on the seed that was already splitting and transforming. Over the course of several months, I emailed copies of the manuscript—the graft I was trying to propagate—and finally found myself, happily, with an agent who is encouraging and sees a future with me and my work.
The shoots have been slow-growing—one piece has appeared since the NYT essay, other pieces have received encouraging rejections, and a different, shorter book has been accepted for publication by an independent press. Meanwhile, the book I grafted to the seed of that essay is currently in the hands of editors at publishing houses. When I received the list of publishers my agent was sending my book to, I almost cried. These are houses I’ve dreamed of. At the moment I write this, three have “passed” (the nicer word for ‘rejected.’) I’ve agreed to see the comments they made, and in all cases, the comments have been positive—one pass using adjectives about my writing that I want to nail to a wall near my writing space, they’re so good.
The ongoing mantra I keep repeating to get me through this waiting period has been It only takes one. It’s a mantra I repeated when my partner and I were trying to conceive: two women, one needleless syringe, and the donation from a very fine friend to complete the propagation, as it were.
Our two year old sleeps in the next room as I write this. I wait in suspense, my heart fluttering when an email lands in my inbox, when I see the name of my agent in the “From” field.
A seed took hold and I established a graft that I hope will take, and not just take, but flourish into something abundant, hardy, productive.
It’s nearly spring. And it only takes one.
Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Hollywood Notebook, forthcoming from Writ Large Press (2014). Recent work has appeared in The Coachella Review, the Modern Love column of The New York Times, Specter Magazine, and PANK. Wendy curates the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series (www.rhapsodomancy.org) in Hollywood, California. www.wendyortiz.com.
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