Ok, so we find Jenn to be on the couch in the sunroom with a laptop on her lap and she’s watching SYTYCD. She’s wearing a worn gray t-shirt and green Hollister jogging pants, that are far too large. She’s drinking the new pink grapefruit Perrier water and her neurotic dog, Daisy, is asleep on a very large pillow, the size of a couch.
So, Jenn, can you answer some questions?
Yah, sure, but only during commercials, ok?
No, problem. First of all, who do you think will win SYTYCD?
Ah, that’s a tough one. I’m starting to love Lauren because she’s so adorable and so strong, but I think it’ll be Kent. He’s a great dancer and he’s really grown. And all the teen girls love him. Although if Alex was still on the show, he’d win for sure.
Ok, so what have you been up to lately?
Do you not read my blog?
Uh, yes, yes, of course. So, um. How exactly did you find a publisher? I mean, it’s really hard out there getting published, especially by someone as reputable as Zondervan.
It is hard, actually. When I finished my manuscript, I spent about a year editing it and during that time I researched a whole bunch of publishing companies and possible agents (I did not just send it to anyone, I carefully checked out what that agent had done to make sure there was a common theme.) and I had signed up for the Writer’s Guild writing conference in June of ’08 I believe. During that year I sent out my query letter to 76 possible places and I received 35 rejections.
Does any one rejection stand out?
Oh yes. This one guy, I thought he would be a perfect agent because he was quirky and funny. I received a rejection letter written on behalf of his assistant, who told he wasn’t interested. No reason, just not interested. And he had his assistant do it! A friend of mine was kind enough to say that he was probably the kind of guy who was too busy to answer it himself because he was doing his mom’s laundry.
That’s kind of funny.
Yah, I thought so. After. I was pretty crushed though. Anyway, so I went to the conference in Guelph, and hubby allowed me to book a hotel because I didn’t want to share a room with 6 other women while I was there. I signed up for some cool classes (ie How to Write Christian Fiction) and I signed up to sit and talk with a few members. I got to meet Bonnie Grove (who wrote Talking to the Dead) and she read my manuscript and told me I had a unique voice. I had no idea what that meant, but she explained it well. I got to sit with Bill Jensen (an agent) and he said to send him my manuscript. I also met Lloyd Kelly who at the time was with HarperCollins, and then I met Andy Meisenheimer from Zondervan and he was awesome. Granted he told me that they didn’t even have a children’s editor and that he was not interested in children’s fiction. But after I wore him down (impressed him with my wit and weirdness) he consented to take my manuscript when the time was right. And then I went home. Tired, but happy. A few months later I emailed Andy and he told me to send my manuscript to him. I did and then two weeks later I heard from Kathleen. It was such a high.
So you heard from Kathleen, the Zonderkids editor, and then what happened?
I waited. She contacted me in November and told me she’d get back to me near Christmas. In January I emailed her and said, Hello? Remember me? And she said, yes of course, everyone is interested, I’ll get back to you. Six months later I emailed her and said, “Um, clearly you aren’t interested, so thank you for your time” and she quickly got back to me and said, “No, no! We want you!” And then more waiting and then a contract. And then I knew it was for real.
So do you think that this is normal for most writers? I mean, you were picked up within a year of looking.
Gosh, no. I don’t think it’s normal at all. I’ve read awful stories about people taking 9 years to get picked up or they give up after a year and self-publish. I think in my situation God was definitely on my side. I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason, and this is happening for a reason.
So were you ever part of any writer’s clubs or critique groups?
I would have loved to have been part of one, but things weren’t in the cards for that. I mean, most writing groups around here or either not in my genre, or they were closed. Also, with Dan working shift work and cutting trees part-time, when he’s home – I make sure I’m home. And I wasn’t going to take that time away from Jackson either.
Would you join a group now?
Honestly? Probably not. I have a couple of friends that do a little poetry with me and I’ve tried to set up a little writing thing twice a month, but everyone is too busy. And I kind of don’t want any feedback until I’ve written most of it. Except from my editor. Sometimes I get so ridiculously vulnerable I send her 10 emails a day.
Do you think that makes her crazy?
Oh gosh I hope not! (laughs) She’s very kind and sweet and puts up with me. She has a ridiculously awesome sense of humour so she gets me. I’m so blessed to have her. I made her promise if I made it huge she’d quit and become my manager or something. But she loves her job, so I doubt it. Ok, can you leave me alone now? I’m trying to watch this.
yah, yah, of course. Enjoy your show. Can we come back again?
(Left the room to get berries and frozen yoghurt with chocolate sauce)