Archive for December, 2011

Wherein ‘Kiss and Tell’ acquires an agent

December 23, 2011

It’s shaping up to be a very Merry Christmas and not just because I’m in Texas taking a break from my usual routine and enjoying family and friends here in the Lone Star State.

It’s also merry because my spate of query letters sent out around Thanksgiving drew several responses — and an offer of representation!!

Yes. We are one step closer to publication for Kiss and Tell.

If this does not strike you as exciting news, then you are not familiar with the ins and outs of acquiring an agent — and lucky you, by the way. I had heard from more than one reliable source that I should expect to contact anywhere from 30 to 100 agents before receiving an offer of representation. In fact, the process of agent hunting was described as every bit as arduous as writing a book. Say what? I did not want to believe that.

Which is why I was pretty much in denial about the difficulty of the task. Back in the summer, I emailed a New York agent about flying to an Agent Fest there to pitch her on our idea. (Agent Fests are events where you have 5 minutes to deliver your book concept and snag a potential agent’s interest, sort of like speed dating.) Anyway, this agent, Andrea, who I decided was perfect for our book, said not to fly to New York but to send her a proposal.

Which I did. And then I waited 2 weeks. And then sent a ping to see if she’d even received it.

She had. She was swamped. No time for my proposal yet.

More weeks of waiting. Like maybe 12 weeks … I wrote another chapter. And another.

In early November, Dr. Whelihan was featured on a 4-minute clip on a local TV station — I was even on-camera with one quote about the book! —  so I sent Andrea a link, thinking our astounding media savvy would entice her to read my proposal. I got a bounce-back email saying she was on maternity leave.

Ouch! Hard lesson.

I’d put all our eggs in her basket, not realizing her basket was already spoken for. Here I was foolishly hoping we’d have an agent by year’s end.  I had no time to lose.

The next week, which was the Thanksgiving holiday, I gathered up names and agencies I’d heard were “right up our alley” or with whom I had some sort of connection. Each agency’s requirements vary, so I spent a half day or so per submission. At week’s end, I’d sent out just four — enough to know that sending out 100 was likely to be the death of me.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving I received an email from a wonderful woman at Levine Greenberg (who was recommended to me by Jeannette Walls of Glass Castle fame) saying she found the proposal most interesting and would love to represent it.

Yep. Just like that.

My pal who is books editor at The Palm Beach Post called an acquaintance in the publishing biz to find out the agency’s reputation, and discovered it was stellar. We had a conference call with the agent and are thrilled with all she’s told us, and satisfied with her ideas and input.

I composed the requisite “Offer of Representation” emails to other agents I had queried; it’s a courtesy that allows them to look over your proposal quickly and jump into the fray should they choose. I received valuable feedback from two additional agents this way, though neither offered representation.

So now we’ve progressed to the contract stage with Levine Greenberg. (Contracts are standard proceedure for many literary agencies.) Dr. Whelihan’s lawyer looked it over and made a few small suggestions, which is nice because all the legal stuff is a tad scary, truth be told. We got the last changes ironed out just before everyone left for the holidays, so we’ll be signing something right after the first of the year.

Call it a Christmas miracle. Despite my novice mistakes, despite the dire predictions, despite the odds — Kiss and Tell has acquired a wonderful agent dedicated to selling it to a publishing house.

Happy 2012, indeed.

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Braces off!

December 8, 2011

It’s entirely fitting that the dismantling of the massive and extended construction job in my mouth was long and arduous. The tightly secured metal bands had to be wrenched from my back eight molars, the ceramic brackets on the rest of the teeth had to be shattered (their word, not mine) and the residue of glue required grinding. Yes. Grinding.

If you’re wincing at the description, let me assure you I was doing my own wincing and worse during the almost 2-hour removal appointment. For some reason, I hadn’t anticipated such a brutal unveiling. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The nastiness of shedding your metal shackles is just one more detail no one mentions when you start down the merry path of Braces Land.

My first clue that removal would be painful was when the dental assistant offhandedly informed me last week that if they loosened one of my crowns during the process, not to worry, because they would re-glue it.

What?? Crown?? Loosened? Really??

Maybe it’s just me, but I considered this an extremely alarming thing to hear. However, I willed my face to remain impassive. For some reason, I don’t like to appear weak in the dental chair, which is probably due to some ancient imperative about being strong in the face of your mortal enemies.

“Could you tell me a little bit about the removal process?” I calmly asked. Which is when I heard about how the ceramic brackets must be broken off your teeth; and as you might guess, the process makes it sound like your teeth are breaking. “Don’t worry; it’s just the ceramic shattering,” is your cheery assurance.

Pulling the 360-degree metal bands off my back molars was easier on my crowns than my natural teeth. First time I’ve been glad for the number of crowns I have. After a couple of the more stubborn ones, I just waved a hand at the girl to stop for a moment so I could collect myself and be out of pain long enough to let her tackle the next one. She frequently let me go brush my teeth and rinse during the process, which was a psychological relief as well as a physical one. Your teeth feel icky and your breath is bad immediately after the removal.

Finally came the polishing process, which made my teeth feel slick and normal again. Well, not normal. Because my teeth were beginning to slightly collapse inward, the orthodontist “opened up” my bite. So my front teeth now push outward a bit farther than before I got braces. Whenever I close my lips over my teeth now, the teeth feel big and fat because of their new angle.

My mouth has been out of bondage less than 48 hours, so my teeth are still sore. Weeks ago, I scheduled a celebratory caramel apple-eating date with two girlfriends today, but truth be told, I’m not sure my front teeth are ready for the festivities. Biting into an apple makes me feel like wincing, and I believe I’ve reached my quota of wincing this week.

So was the whole thing worth it?

Many people said once I ran my tongue over my smooth, straight teeth I would declare the process worthwhile and heave a sigh of satisfaction.

That hasn’t happened yet. Monday I go in for my retainers and the contouring process. (Did you know contouring is the polite word for grinding? Now you do.) I’m willing to be “contoured” because I can already feel high spots and unevenness developing in my bite, as things begin to settle in this post-braces phase.

As for the retainers, I was previously told they needed to be worn at night, but on Braces-Off Day I was informed that for the next six critical months I should wear them at all times except while eating. I guess one’s teeth are determined to head straight back to their incorrect, unhealthy, ingrained positions. Lovely genetic encoding we humans are subject to, what?

I don’t meant to sound so ungrateful. Of course I’m glad to be braces free. Ecstatic in fact. Brushing and flossing is now a genuine pleasure, instead of a source of disgust and dismay. And I’m delighted to have shaved six weeks off my projected estimate of 18 months in braces. I was wretchedly obsessive about wearing my bands and always chose the earliest date for each appointment, hoping to hurry my progress. It paid off. Having a natural smile at Christmas is worth a LOT to me.

But is all forgiven? Am I like a mother cuddling her newborn while blocking out the birth process?

Nope. Maybe in a week or a month. Not today.

From various things that dental assistants have said along the way, I have gathered that my mouth was a particular challenge. Most recently, while attaching some wire or another, one commented, “Oh, you’ve even got hooks on your back molars. My goodness, we’ve thrown everything at you! You’re having the full orthodontic experience!”

Such asides, euphemistic as they are, let me know my path to dental conformity has been thornier than some. Perhaps, my jaded outlook is partially due to that fact.

But mostly I just feel deceived. I can’t think of another process that I went into with such anticipation and dedication, where I was so completely blindsided by the experience’s negative aspects.

Disclosure, people. Yes, you’ll lose a few patients if you tell the truth. But dentists have got to do a better job of warning adults what they’re getting into when they say yes to braces.

And since I’m pretty sure they won’t — consider this me just doing my part.