I Got “The Call” [or I should say, “I made the call,” but let’s not split hairs…]


{Warning: super long, super self-involved post}

So some of you may know that I wrote a book – a memoir about my bumpy road to faith. I’ve written about the book from time to time here, as well as about the disappointments and, frankly, despairing, humbling (dare I say humiliating) moments that have come my way on this writing journey.

Well…I thought I should tell you…I got an agent!!!!! It only took me two years – two years! I know, the process has been nothing short of glacial.

Now, let me preface this story by saying I completely understand if there are some of you right now who want to stomp and curse and delete me. Believe me, I totally get that. In the last two years I’ve read numerous “I got the call” posts, and I’ll be candid here: I did not always accept the news gracefully. In fact, I seethed with jealousy. And complained to my husband relentlessly. And threatened to stop writing and blogging forever. And threw myself a great big pity party. So if you don’t feel like reading this post and want to huff off and bury yourself under the comforter and eat vast quantities of chocolate, I get it. I totally do. And it’s okay. You can cut yourself some slack and do that. Because believe me, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a “why can’t I get an agent” tantrum…and then berated myself for being the most unchristian Christian writer ever.

So…for those of you who are still reading…I thought I’d tell a bit of this story, because it really is meant to convey hope and encouragement. And it’s just too super fun not to write about!

Two years ago this May I sent out my first batch of query letters. I hit send about a dozen times and hunched over my computer and prayed and then checked my email 450 times every hour for responses. And I got nothing. Nada. Eventually a few form rejections lit up my in-box, as well as one or two rejections that were addressed to me personally, but mostly I got nothing. The low point was the day I got not only my own rejection but someone else's as well – Nathan and I both got rejected on the same day by the same agent. I had Nathan’s pain as well as my own to deal with that day.

I went back to the drawing board and cut 20,000 words out of the manuscript. In the next batch of queries I got a bite – I even got a phone call. The voice on the other line was quick to tell me it wasn’t “the call,” but the agent was kind enough to offer concrete suggestions for revisions and platform building. He encouraged me to re-query him when I had made substantial progress.

Six months later I emailed the re-query…and got rejected. My platform, it turns out, wasn’t nearly big enough. I needed to be speaking regularly to audiences of 500 or more. I needed a syndicated newspaper column. I needed a blog with 1,000 hits a day. I got the news the day before Easter last year. I cried behind sunglasses at the neighborhood egg hunt. “What kind of Christian agent sends a rejection the day before Easter for crying out loud?” I wept to my husband while unwrapping my sixth Dove dark chocolate egg of the hour.

I went back to the drawing board…again. This time I hired a professional editor to review my manuscript. Steve Parolini (aka the Novel Doctor) emailed several pages of  suggestions – how to reorganize the chapters, what to cut, what to rewrite. Then I re-queried Rachelle Gardner at WordServe. Mind you, this was not the first time I had approached her (I queried her back in May 2009, when my manuscript was 103,000 words – about 30,000 words too long. This go-round, I should add, I also had a kind and generous advocate who graciously offered to put in a good word for me).

And then I waited. Every time the phone rang I sprinted across the house like FloJo. If I was in the bathroom, I yelled down to Brad, “Check Caller ID!!! It could be Rachelle!!!” Rachelle became a household name, right up there with Harry and Hermione.

Two months later, Rachelle emailed – could I call her to talk about a few things in the book proposal that would “help us both move forward.”

What???? What did that even mean? Did “move forward” mean toward book publication? Or toward putting us both out of our misery? And wasn’t she supposed to call me? This seemed like a bad sign. This was most certainly a bad sign.

It was a snow day…I plunked the kids in front of Scooby Doo and bribed them with ice cream: “Mommy has a very important phone call to make. Do not interrupt unless you have a limb hanging from your body.” I disappeared into the cellar.

Rachelle and I talked for a long time. She was so friendly and chatty my hands even stopped sweating. I only gnawed off four of my ten fingernails. I didn’t exactly relax per se, but I settled into the conversation. We talked about the proposal – it needed some work. I was too vague about my target audience (What? I can’t target everyone?). We talked about my platform – it’s non-existent, according to industry standards. We talked about how I’m an unpublished author. We talked about how these factors would make the book a hard sell.

And then, by the grace of God, she offered to represent me anyway. Rachelle Gardner chose to take a risk on me.

After I hung up I ran upstairs and dialed my husband’s cell phone. He was just pulling into the driveway – he teared up when he heard the news. I jumped up and down in the living room and screeched, “I have agent! I have an agent!” Noah asked, “What’s an agent?” Rowan shushed me; he couldn’t hear Scooby Doo.

I called my sister and my parents. My dad asked if he should get a haircut for the book jacket photo. He called his neighbor Jim. Jim asked if he could play “The Neighbor” in the movie.

The next day I went to work [frankly it's sort of rain on my parade that I still have to show up at my paying job]. I trumpeted my big news to anyone who would listen, because that’s right, I have no shame. It may have been my imagination, but I felt like the news raised my status a bit. I was no longer the part-time fundraiser. I was now the part-time fundraiser with an agent! When I heard myself say, “Well my agent said…” I suddenly felt like I lived in L.A. instead of Nebraska. I thought about suggesting to my boss, “Let’s do lunch. My people will call your people.”

When I came home from work there were a vase of flowers and a handmade card on the table. And then, after the dust had settled a bit, Brad asked, “So now what happens?” And I answered, “You know what? I don’t even know!”

I suppose more waiting...

I Live in an Antbed  – (February 8, 2011 at 3:33 AM)  

Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is so exciting! Can I pre-order now? :)

Katie Ganshert  – (February 8, 2011 at 4:55 AM)  

What an endearing post! If your memoir is like this, then I'll love it! And this from a girl who does not normally read memoir.

Totally brought back memories of my own call with Rachelle. So happy for you, Michelle!

kendal  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:03 AM)  

woo hoo! you are so very patient. good for you. i gave up way earlier in the process and self-published....

Amy Sullivan  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:07 AM)  

As I read, I was holding my breath the whole time. Michelle, you are gifted. Truly gifted. You connect with people in big ways, and you have a funny, real, and powerful voice. I am so glad I "met" you. Your challenges and words make me better. Love Your Trying Not to Seeth With Jealousy Friend, Amy

S. Etole  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:18 AM)  

amazing what chocolate will do for a person ....

and I'll start saving now ... for that book .... because I know it will be a good one

congratulations ...

Jo-Ann  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:29 AM)  

I have been "stalking" your blog for a while and like what I read but I have never commented before but today I will -- CONGRATULATIONS!!

Glynn  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:36 AM)  

Congraultations, Michelle - it will happen, even if it's slow. It will happen.

Heidiopia  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:46 AM)  

Oh, Michelle, I totally needed some uplifting news this morning!! Congratulations!! And you can say this post was not all about YOU, because you just put a smile on my face. I deeply admire Rachelle and just know you are in excellent hands. I can't wait to read your book, my friend. Well done! Praise God! And now, onward!

Wendy Paine Miller  – (February 8, 2011 at 6:20 AM)  

Congratulations Michelle!

I know the FloJo move and all about checking email. I might be up to 500 times per day. Scary!

I've been following your blog for quite some time and I'm getting a good eye for those who are getting picked up. Heck, maybe I should be an agent. ;)

I agree with Katie, if your writing in your book is like what I just read then I'm extra excited about it. (And I'm a huge fan of memoirs.)

Your people (Noah and Rowan) should call my peeps (my 3 girls) so we could have a playdate at the least. Too bad we don't live closer.

Way to go!
~ Wendy

Jessica  – (February 8, 2011 at 6:43 AM)  

Congratulations! This is very exciting.

Corinne  – (February 8, 2011 at 6:59 AM)  

Congratulations!! Such wonderful news :)

HappyascanB  – (February 8, 2011 at 6:59 AM)  

Congrats! That's just awesome! I love your writing!

Tea Girl  – (February 8, 2011 at 7:05 AM)  

How wonderful! Joy for you as your seed dream and sprouts grow some action:) ~Blessings on your journey~

Terri Tiffany  – (February 8, 2011 at 7:31 AM)  

OH I cried right along with you in this post and with HUGE joy at the end!!!!! COngratulations to you! I know exactly how you feel and am so happy Rachelle took you on!!!!!

amandatdodson  – (February 8, 2011 at 7:41 AM)  

Michelle, I'm so happy for you! I loved reading every word of this - congratulations! :)

raisinpraise  – (February 8, 2011 at 7:42 AM)  

I AM SO Happy For you! What an exciting journey!
It sounds like you waited a long time for this! You deserve it! I love your writing!

gabe  – (February 8, 2011 at 7:56 AM)  

now who is the rock star??
(thanks for your sweet comment on Drew's soup post it made him feel special to be called a rock star!)

Way to go. . .you truly have a gift with words and also perseverance. . .don't know if I could have kept going through all that!

deb colarossi  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:03 AM)  

Congratulations , Michelle.
Big squealing hugging congratulations.

Michelle DeRusha@Graceful  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:31 AM)  

Thank you, thank you for these wonderful comments! I am grinning big this morning and basking in the love!

The Farmer Files  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:42 AM)  

Congratulations! I am a new reader but I caught your contagious excitement.;)

katdish  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:44 AM)  

Wonderful, Michelle! Enjoy your new status. You've earned it. Pretty soon the work and the waiting will begin anew. So happy for you.

Leslie  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:46 AM)  

Many, many, many TONS of congratulations! This was interesting as well as hilarious. I had NO idea about the platform stuff. LOVE that card...

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:56 AM)  

Can you hear the cheering from Lyon County, Iowa? Oh my goodness, girl. I'm thrilled for you! I can't wait to hear more. You rock, girl!

(Jennifer now performs celebratory cyber-cartwheel, and handspring. Puts back out in process.)

I love you, and celebrate YOU!

marlece  – (February 8, 2011 at 8:58 AM)  

I love this, way to go! I can't wait to read your book.Yahhhhhh, I'm celebrating for you!

Charming's Mama  – (February 8, 2011 at 9:12 AM)  

Gosh everybody's beat me to the punch so I'll just say ditto!

Megan Willome  – (February 8, 2011 at 10:25 AM)  

Yay, Michelle! I am so happy for you.

Dawn  – (February 8, 2011 at 10:35 AM)  

eyes a little teary... heart full up of love for you. i am so thrilled!!!

T. Anne  – (February 8, 2011 at 10:50 AM)  

What a cute story! I LOVE your voice. I do believe you just sold me your book. =) Congrats!!! BTW, Rachelle is a household name at my house too!!!

Julie Gillies  – (February 8, 2011 at 10:57 AM)  

Oh Michelle, congratulations! What a hilarious story. If your memoir is anything like this post, it will do well.

Julie Jarnagin  – (February 8, 2011 at 11:01 AM)  

Congrats, and thanks for sharing your wonderful story!

Sue Harrison  – (February 8, 2011 at 11:11 AM)  

Thank you for sharing such a joyous story, Michelle. I'm so happy for you!

Jen  – (February 8, 2011 at 11:15 AM)  

Congrats! So, does this mean your blog gets 1,000 hits a day and you regularly speak in front of 500 people? :)

If not, goes to show you that sometimes, it's just about God putting the right people in the right place at the right time.

jasonS  – (February 8, 2011 at 11:34 AM)  

Amazing and exciting! Congrats, Michelle! :)

Jodi  – (February 8, 2011 at 11:39 AM)  

First, congrats! Second, I hope this post was meant to be funny, because you had me laughing my head off. Hooray for you!

Lara Prachar –   – (February 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM)  

Congrats Michelle!!! That is so exciting!!! I am absolutely thrilled for you. ~Lara

Lisa notes...  – (February 8, 2011 at 11:49 AM)  

So happy for you, Michelle! You are a brilliant writer with such authenticity and with something to say. May God take your message places!

Suz  – (February 8, 2011 at 12:06 PM)  

Wow, and we were just talking about this. How cool! I am sooooo happy for you.

God is good!

If you aren't too famous yet, let's get together again soon!

Michelle DeRusha@Graceful  – (February 8, 2011 at 12:07 PM)  

In answer to Jen's question above...no, my blog does not get 1,000 hits a day (not even close) and I don't speak to audiences of 500. Yet! ;) Seriously, though, that's what I meant when I said Rachelle is taking a big risk on me -- and I am so grateful for that. Her vote of confidence (as well as all the wonderful comments here) motivates me to work even harder!

Flower Patch Farmgirl  – (February 8, 2011 at 12:16 PM)  

Just found this link via's Rachelle's tweet. :) Congratulations! I can't imagine the joy! I'm in the early stages of writing my first novel and the whole "agent thing" feels miles away. Your words here are encouraging and gracious. I could practically see your happy dance!

Jean Wise  – (February 8, 2011 at 12:49 PM)  

wow I am so excited for you! congrats. and thanks so much for sharing your joy with us!

Misty  – (February 8, 2011 at 2:18 PM)  

Love this! Congratulations!! Tiny twinge of jealousy but I kept reading and smiling. Keep us posted.

Keli Gwyn  – (February 8, 2011 at 2:33 PM)  

Congratulations, Michelle!!! You're in great hands with Rachelle. I know you know, but I just have to say it. =)

I love your Voice and your honesty. I've not read many memoirs, but I'll read yours because you can really write.

Ostriches Look Funny  – (February 8, 2011 at 2:40 PM)  

wow, obviously I have no idea what it takes to write a book!!
Congratulations, you have gone through so much, and now you HAVE AN AGENT!
I have no idea what happens now, but I bet it's gonna be exciting!
Just promise me that your book isn't about vampires...:)
I know how you feel about them ;)

Kim  – (February 8, 2011 at 2:43 PM)  

So glad you're sharing your AWESOME news! And I'm thrilled that more people will get to know you and love you (almost) as much as I do!

M.K.  – (February 8, 2011 at 3:21 PM)  

MANY, many congrats!! That's wonderful. **Heavy Sigh** I have a book too. My kids, nieces, nephews, and husband tell me it's a good story. I'm afraid. I'm dragging my feet to edit even what my husband has marked up.

I wish I were where you are. Why do we want to be at the END of the process? It's so scary.

So, from the Utterly Unpublished, to the Closer-to-Published, best wishes!!!

Laura  – (February 8, 2011 at 3:27 PM)  

Just love, love, love this post! And you're oh-so-right -- it's time for more waiting.

Couldn't have happened to a sweeter person, Michelle. I'm SO incredibly happy for you!!

Richard Mabry  – (February 8, 2011 at 3:31 PM)  

Michelle, Congratulations. I can tell you that, based on my own experience having Rachelle represent me, it will have been worth the wait. Write on!

Krista  – (February 8, 2011 at 4:39 PM)  

that "speaking to audiences of 500" and "1000 hits a day" are challenging goals, but measurable I suppose! which would make me about 1/10 of the way there with my blog, and perhaps 1/1000 of the way with the speaking... but one can set goals to reach measurable standards!

many congrats to you. I love your line "it's just rain on my parade that I still have to show up for my paying job", you're hysterical!

LauraX  – (February 8, 2011 at 4:55 PM)  

Michelle this is fantastic!!!! I'm so excited for you! And the way you told your story is so funny...I lol'd a few times in the reading:)

I have to say, even though friends have said to me, "you know you have a book on your blog, right?" I read what you wrote and think about other friends I know who are authors and what they went through to get published (or self publish) and think to myself...
"maybe not guys...maybe I don't"...and maybe I don't have the energy to really write a book. So while I am not jealous...truly I'm not...I'm a bit wistful...wishing I had your energy and courage and incredible patience...but mostly...

I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!!

Susan DiMickele  – (February 8, 2011 at 5:26 PM)  

I am stoked! I am with you all the way my friend. Will help however I can and look forward to continuing our writing journey together. YEAH!

H. Gillham  – (February 8, 2011 at 9:30 PM)  

You know how I feel.

BOOYAH!!!!!!!!!!!

alicia  – (February 8, 2011 at 9:52 PM)  

SO Happy for you! This whole post has made me smile! Good for you!
GOD IS GOOD!

LaVon Baker  – (February 8, 2011 at 10:57 PM)  

This is soooo cool!!! Congratulations, Michelle!

You totally deserve this happiness. God has gifted you with the talent of putting words together wonderfully. Can't wait to see "our name" in bookstores and Amazon.com!!

Sarah Forgrave  – (February 9, 2011 at 7:42 AM)  

Wow!!! Such exciting news! Congratulations! And best wishes on the next stage of the hunt. :)

emily wierenga  – (February 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM)  

oh michellle... i'm so excited for you... i know, this publishing journey is incredibly hard. especially these days. but if you have an agent, anything is possible :) and rachelle is one of the best! i'm so proud of you :) please keep me posted. i feel like we're sisters in this, together (i don't have much of a platform either friend). love e.

It's Grace  – (February 10, 2011 at 9:19 PM)  

I'm so happy for you! This is such wonderful news, and was part of His plan all along. Praying blessings upon blessings on you.

Congratulations!!

Erin

Nancy  – (February 15, 2011 at 8:49 AM)  

Okay...NOW I'm up to speed! See what happens when you take even a week off from blogging? You miss really great, big, exciting stuff like THIS! Congratulations, to you friend. And yes, I get the temptation to scream and pout and eat Dove chocolate bars. But in your case, just happiness! Besides, I figure you're paving the way for all the rest of us!

Kelly Sauer  – (February 15, 2011 at 8:57 AM)  

How did I miss this???!?! Congratulations! So excited for you!!!!

Sarah Forgrave  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM)  

Wow!!! Such exciting news! Congratulations! And best wishes on the next stage of the hunt. :)

Richard Mabry  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM)  

Michelle, Congratulations. I can tell you that, based on my own experience having Rachelle represent me, it will have been worth the wait. Write on!

Julie Jarnagin  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM)  

Congrats, and thanks for sharing your wonderful story!

amandatdodson  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM)  

Michelle, I'm so happy for you! I loved reading every word of this - congratulations! :)

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