In many ways, my journey to publication began in a dark tunnel, an MRI machine to be exact. It was three weeks before my fortieth birthday, and I was on week seven of debilitating headaches and vertigo. And, naturally, when you’re told the test is to “rule out tumors,” you’re convinced that’s precisely what you have. Amidst the pinging and dinging of the machine and my anxiety, I resolved to write a novel.
When well enough (I had a “migraine-esque” episode, not a brain tumor, by the way), I sat down and pounded out a book. It took me nine months, and I wrote in secret, not even telling my husband what I was up to. The end result was, sadly, awful, but I loved the process. Next step was instruction. We were living in L.A. at the time so I was able to take writing courses through UCLA’s Extension Writers’ Program. While taking a full year of these (wonderful) classes, I wrote my second novel. Still not good enough but getting better.
Around this time my family moved from L.A. to Des Moines. Once settled, I attended the Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa. Also enrolled in the course was Kimberly Stuart; she and I formed a critique group and have become great friends. I set to work writing books three and four, both of which were workshopped in that writers’ group.
With the completion of each novel, even that horrid first attempt, I queried agents. I had a magic number for rejections; once a project received forty passes, it was dead to me. And I was always working on the next book. Now, when asked for a nugget of advice, I often cite my willingness to bury a manuscript. Without mourning.
I finished book four, The MCCLOUD HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS, in the summer of 2008 and immediately began querying agents. I did get some interest and one agent, in fact, had advanced from query to partial to full over a period of several months. In the meantime, I got this idea for a young adult project: a girl with the paranormal ability to match the hovering of undecided souls with the right mother on earth (STORK). I wrote the book in five months. By then it was February of 2009; I had my adult manuscript out as a full with an agent but now also had this brand spankin’ new YA project. No harm shooting out a few queries on the new book, I figured. Sure it was a rough first draft, but by then I knew the drill. It would be weeks, if not months, before I’d be asked for a partial or full. I sent seven queries on a Tuesday morning. That same afternoon, Jamie Brenner (my wonderful agent) sent me a return email stating (I’m paraphrasing here), “this sounds interesting, send me the full.”
For the record, it wasn’t ready. It was a first draft, and I hadn’t even spellchecked it. But, come on, there was an agent in NY who wanted THE FULL. To this day, I wonder if I’d had a glass of wine that night because I sent it in all its imperfect glory. Jamie read it on Wednesday, liked the concept, liked my writing, and signed me on Friday. Now that was an exciting week!
I did, politely, inform the other agent that I had representation. She did not have an exclusive, and there were no hard feelings. It’s a business. Properties sometimes move fast. This was one of those cases.
Jamie sold my YA to Candlewick Press, and, although only one novel was written, we pitched it as a trilogy. Meanwhile, there was that adult novel (my WAYWARD girls). Jamie read it and suggested one of the characters be written younger (she went from 19 to 14). Once that rewrite was complete, the manuscript was sold to Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin.
Which is how it has come to pass that almost exactly ten years after that terrifying ordeal in an MRI machine, and just a month shy of my fiftieth birthday, I’ve published three books in one calendar year: STORK, October 12, 2010, THE MCCLOUD HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS, August 2, 2011, and FROST (book two in the Stork trilogy), October 11, 2011. TIDE the final of the Stork books is in the editorial phase and will release in October of 2012.
Wendy Delsol was born in Canada to British parents, grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and is a graduate of Michigan State University. She lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, working in the travel industry. She is married with two teen sons. The family currently resides in Des Moines, Iowa.