I’ve dreamed of being a published author since I was a kid, and for years now have been working – in one way or another – on a book about failed romance and heartache and love and sex and celibacy. I’d see peers of mine, other writers I know both in real life and online, secure agents and sign book deals and I’d wonder when it would be my turn. Never mind that I was doing very little towards actually putting myself out there. One day last month I decided enough was enough and I needed to start shopping for representation. I sent out a book proposal to agents I found via Google, and on a whim uploaded the following open letter to my personal blog, too.
It was this open letter, rather than the conventional “submissions process”, that saw me talk with 6 different agents and ultimately sign with one. My Tweet about it got Re-Tweeted and favourited and sent to friends-of-followers and then their friends.
I’m sharing the open letter here because guys: getting a literary agent? It’s not as hard as the world would have you believe.
My name is Laura Jane Williams, and I’m writing a book that some very important people at some very important publishers have already emailed me to ask about. I think that will be of interest to you – at least, I hope it is, because it scares the bejesus out of me and so I’m gonna need somebody like you to take over from here on out, so that we can both focus on what we’re best at.
The book is called My Vagina’s Monologue, and is, if I do say so myself, the ultimate twenty-something’s “survive and thrive” heartbreak memoir. Set across Paris, Rome, Detroit and…. Derby, it’s Eat, Pray, Love meets Wild in a post-Lena Dunham world.
It’s basically the book I wish I’d had when, as a heartbroken millennial, it felt like I couldn’t go on.
My high school sweetheart dumped me so that he could marry my best friend. That is a real thing that happened to me. That’s the kind of shit that hurts parts of you that you never quite realised could hurt. There’s a very specific spot behind my sternum that is still a little tender, even after all this time. I’ve mentioned it often on this blog, and elsewhere online; that my hate and anger for one man (and former best friend) became hate and anger for a lot of men. I seduced for sport and won the game by kicking yet another man from my bed at 4 a.m. I was a frustrated, lonely mess, and for about four years, too. I was having a conversation about the way I had been betrayed, but I was having it in an empty room. No man went unconquered in that time. I wasn’t a very nice person. I didn’t have a lot of friends, then, either.
In late 2011, after one particularly soul-destroying night with a balding Australian who didn’t directly address me in public, I knew something had to change. I was a parody of myself. A self I didn’t even like. I declared a yearlong vow of celibacy, and in the summer of 2012 moved to an Italian convent so that, through a series of painful insights, I could exorcise my demons. My Vagina’s Monologue is that story. A story of healing. Of redemption. Of becoming who I was always going to be. It’s the story of pulling myself out of the abyss by my fingernails, determined not to be beaten. Determined to find a way to love myself again.
I’m gonna go right on ahead and say: it’s not a special story. I’m not writing this down because I am unique and different and “other”. I am writing it for exactly the opposite reasons, actually. The point is that we all know what it is to be knocked for six. Unsure how we’ll ever come to feel human again. The search for self-acceptance and belonging is a collective quest, and one that girly brunches buzz over, pillow talk is whispered about, movies and books and websites are dedicated to. It’s universal, heartbreak. Peak humanness. I’ve got a talent for storytelling, though, and so can put words to all our feelings.
And I did find it, by the way. Love. I ended up flying to New York to tell a boy I adored him, after we cycled around a Swiss lake together and fell asleep on beaches in France. I healed enough to fall again. Healed enough to become the protagonist in my own life. Healed for me. Did the work.
The manuscript is currently at 50,000 words of an anticipated 100,000. I intended just to write the damned thing, first, but the interest of some editors has prompted my early enthusiasm for securing representation. Why am I doing that as an open letter on my blog rather than mailing you directly? Ah, you see: because that’s how I work. I have a small group of readers on this here corner of the internet, and they make me feel brave about owning not only my destination, but also the process. They’ve written to me and told me to keep on, with this book – to keep on writing because they want to know that they will be okay, too. Part of my story is how I’m turning my history into something other people might find useful, like a book, and I want to be transparent with them about getting that published. If you’re tribe, like they are, you’ll get what I mean by that. If you think this was a dumb approach, then we were never going to work well together. Your outfit is still super cute today, though.
I’d love to send you my full proposal – if you’d like that, drop me an email. I currently live in Bali, an idea I came up with when I lived in Siberia, and am en route to India to live in an ashram for a bit. I’m committed finishing this book by the autumn, and I’ll say this: let’s meet face-to-face. I’d love to tell you about the notes I already have for my second book, too. I’ll come to you if you’re shouting the wine.
Wishing you a great day,
Good luck, budding authors! If I can do it? So can you.