Covid didn’t care that we were careful

We’ve been so cautious for two full years.

I was sewing face masks before anyone was wearing masks — before you could even buy masks. There were days during the Omicron wave where I made our daughter wear two child-sized surgical masks, layered, because Covid was sweeping through her classroom. (And she did it, without complaint.)

We went months on end without seeing even close family. We missed two Christmases with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — all because the gathering limits changed and we wanted to respect the rules. We once wore masks to a family gathering because someone was unvaccinated.

And, oh, the vaccines! Was there anyone more committed to tracking news on vaccines and obsessively stalking the site in order to book first doses, second doses, booster doses, and the kids’ two doses? I helped dozens of other people secure their own doses, too — calling, texting, DMing to let them know about availability. It was my own little public service. My desperate attempt to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

In our family, all four of us had our doses on the first day it was humanly possible for us to receive them. With each new dose, it felt like we’d crossed another hurdle. ‘Well, at least we’ve got one dose. That’s something.’ ‘Okay, we’ve made it to fully vaccinated. Now, if we were to catch it, we’d be better off.’ If the government were to have announced a fourth dose, a fifth, a tenth, I would have happily rolled up my sleeve.

There were many times we said no to playdates and sleepovers because “Covid is too bad right now.” Even when the kids argued that it wasn’t fair because their friends were doing X or Y, I put my foot down. They begged to go to the arcade and the indoor trampoline park, but I said no. Those places would be too germy, I told them. It’s not safe yet.

For a long time, it felt like our hyper-vigilance was working. We weren’t catching Covid. We were winning.

So when I crossed the kitchen floor, glanced down at the test, and saw those two lines, I couldn’t have been more shocked.

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Living that #AmQuerying life

Writing the novel? I’m starting to learn that’s the easy part.

I finished writing and editing my first Women’s Fiction novel in July of 2020, and started the querying process. (For non-writer types, that’s when you pitch your book to literary agents in the hope of getting signed with one of them, so they can represent you and sell your book to a publisher.)

Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing at first. But I did the research. I learned how to write a query letter, how to write a synopsis (yes, it includes the ending), and how to decide which literary agents might be a good fit for my work. I sent out a few queries … 

… and then … crickets.

Um, OK. 

Well, all the advice says to focus on writing a new novel while you’re querying (because it can take ages to land an agent, but also because you want a career as an author, not a one-time publishing deal), so I started writing a second novel in August of 2020.

In the meantime, I participated in #PitMad events on Twitter, once in September of 2020 and once in December of 2020. There are 12-hour online events where you have three tweets to hopefully attract the attention of an agent and have them “like” your tweet, meaning they want you to query them. 

September 2020 #PitMad pitches …

December 2020 #PitMad pitches …

Each time, I shared three tweets about my first novel, #LastNightNextDoor, and received exactly one agent “like” per event. 

Both times, I queried the agent excitedly … 

… and they passed. 

No problem. I kept my head down and focused on writing Novel #2, probably (definitely) not spending enough time also querying Novel #1.

I finished writing and editing my second Women’s Fiction novel at the end of February (2021), just in time to promote it during the March 4 #PitMad event. I shared three tweeets about my second novel, #LastNightWithYou (yup, they’re part of a lil’ series) and received exactly one agent “like” once again. That was only a few days ago, so I’m still waiting to see if I hear back.

March 2021 #PitMad pitches …


It’s like matchmaking, honestly. 

Research tons of agents to see who might be a good fit for your work, pouring everything you have into crafting the right package for them (whether they prefer an email query or a form query), and then praying for a positive response.

This weekend, I spend three hours yesterday and three hours today poring over agents’ bios and manuscript wishlists and sending out 10 queries. 

Will one of them love my work and want to read more? Who knows? 

The point is that I’m going to keep trying. 

Somewhere out there is an agent who will love my work, totally click with my personality, and fight hard for me to be a published author. I just don’t know who they are yet.

After two years of “in,” it’s hard to go “out”

I heard myself saying the word “Covid” too many times during the appointment, during what was supposed to be light small talk.

“… Oh, well, I haven’t since before Covid.”

“Well, with Covid, I haven’t …”

“… but not really since Covid.”

I don’t get out much. It’s true.

But it was actually a bit shocking to hear myself babble on about how many things I can’t do, won’t do, refuse to do, no longer do, would prefer not to do, once did but don’t do anymore. I couldn’t stop.

Sometimes I think my life hasn’t changed that much over the last two years, from a logistical point.

  • I have worked solely from home since 2010
  • I have always enjoyed indoor hobbies — writing, reading, sewing, painting, crafts, etc.
  • I have never really like being outside in the sun/wind/snow/rain
  • I have always disliked crowds and had a titch of agoraphobia
  • I have continued to do Zumba a few times a week (at home, or in person, or both)
  • I have always been happiest at home

But I used to do more. I know I did.

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The moment I questioned everything

It wasn’t meant to be an existential crisis, but there I was … staring into space, still clutching a cup of lukewarm tea.

Before jumping into my usual #5amWritersClub work this morning on my latest novel (68,290 words and counting), I opened an interesting-looking newsletter (about writing) and decided to read through it while I sipped my tea.

I feel less urgency to dive straight into writing on the weekend mornings, when I know I have hours to mess around. So reading about writing counts as professional development. So does Wordle. 😉

Anyway, so clicking through and reading the newsletter led me to reading other posts on this particular site, and then I came across a startling piece about the BLEAK publishing industry, how hard it is to get published traditionally (believe me, I know this intimately), how little money authors make (an average of … get this … nine thousand dollars a year?!) and so on.

Um.

Oh my god.

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Rejected

If you want to be a traditionally published author, the route looks pretty much like this:

  1. Write a book (the easiest part of the process)
  2. Edit your book (woof)
  3. Query your book (pitch it to literary agents)
  4. Get lots of rejections (agents don’t like your book, and therefore dont’t want to represent you)
  5. Sometimes do an R&R (Revise & Resubmit) when an agent is somewhat interested
  6. Land an agent
  7. Your agent pitches your book to publishers.
  8. More rejections, possibly
  9. Your agent sells your book to a publisher
  10. Your book is published
  11. Your book is sold in bookstores
  12. You live happily ever after (well, that’s what I’d like to believe, anyway).

A different kind of 12-step program, you might say, but one that’s also filled with pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. (Also joy! But I have not gotten to those steps yet.)

So far, I have only made it as far as Step 4.

And then *right* back to Step 3.

After many, many, many months of querying agents in Canada and the U.S., I had a “bite” on Sept. 8, 2021 when an agent was “intrigued” with my pitch (synopsis, first chapter, and query letter) and asked to see the full manuscript.

She was the FIRST agent to ask for this. *happy tears*

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