A literary agent has requested to read my manuscript. I’m not going to say the agent’s name yet because I’m afraid to jinx everything. I’m even afraid to breathe the wrong way and mess it up. But I will say that if I were to create a profile of my ideal literary agent, she would be it: an Italian in London, with a degree (like mine) in languages and literature from an Italian university, whose interests are memoirs, multicultural books, in particular books about Italy, and – get this – first-time writers!
I hardly slept for two nights after contacting her. Then when I got her email casually and oh-so politely asking to read my book, I got so excited that I nearly threw up. I mean that literally. Then I immediately forwarded the email to my husband to check my comprehension: had she really asked to read the whole thing, not just a couple more chapters? “Wow, it sure looks like it,” he wrote back. My utter disbelief even led me to email back the agent herself (a big faux-pas, I’m sure) trying to clear up our obvious misunderstanding.
The nerves beginning to show before mailing my MS
But misunderstanding or not, my precious four-kilo manuscript has since been sent across the seas to the agent of my dreams. My hope is that when she unwraps the package, right away she smells the scent of a bestseller. Hopefully, she’ll stay up all night reading it because she just has to find out how the story ends. That is, however, if she doesn’t give up on it before reaching p.50 (that’s p.31 in the normal, single-spaced version), where things really start getting exciting. Or she might even decide not to open the package at all, once she picks it up and does the mental calculation that four kilos equals about a ream and a half, or 750 pages, of double-spaced text on average-weight A4 paper, adding up to…one mother of a book. Then again, the manuscript might not even make it to her desk at all, having caused some poor postal worker a slipped disc and ended up abandoned somewhere in an ‘Oversized and Dangerous Packages’ storeroom.
But I can’t stress about these factors. At this point, it’s out of my hands. All I can do now is wait.
Wait? That’s easier said than done. Waiting is notoriously painful. And I’m one of those masochists who have actually attempted to watch a pot boil. Let me confirm to you that this is an excruciatingly futile effort. It is scientifically proven that it won’t boil until you leave the room. Fortunately though, in my case, because I can get so easily distracted by my toddler, I might very well find that by the time I make it back to the kitchen, the water has completely evaporated and the bottom of the pan has burned dry. So all I can hope for now is distraction. Or amnesia.
Waiting for my dream agent to read my manuscript feels a bit like waiting to find out if the owners would accept the offer my husband and I had made on our dream house. There was another couple bidding for it, though it’s possible this was a little fib woven by our real estate agent. But whether they were real or not, that undeserving other couple couldn’t buy that house! We were meant to own it. It had our names written all over it, scribbled onto its built-in 50s furniture and charming wooden doorframes and etched into the mud of its wild native garden. Oh, losing that house, when it was so tantalizingly close, was too painful to bear thinking about! I spent several nights tossing and turning then too, before we received the good news that we would be the proud owners of a mortgage until the age of seventy-three.
When I was pregnant, I also waited anxiously for the end of the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage would considerably drop and allow us to tentatively celebrate with the purchase of tiny little Crocs. But I can’t honestly compare the whole experience of waiting for the birth of a human being to waiting for a literary agent to read my memoir. Because, ultimately, I found pregnancy so thoroughly enjoyable. You don’t have to suck in your stomach anymore. Strangers smile at you. Shopkeepers give you freebies. There are all those meals to look forward to every day. All nine of them. And as time passes, the waiting only gets easier because every day brings you one step closer to becoming the mother of a healthy baby. Whereas with each passing day of waiting for the literary agent to reply, you are one step farther away from having knocked her socks off and, therefore, from getting published. Because if it took her three months to finish reading your manuscript, either it didn’t really grab her or…
…it’s just one mother of a book.