So this man introduced himself, and sure enough, I was, "Rachel's little sister."
That's when Carolyn, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, stepped forward and decided to share the most private and personal part of my life with this total stranger: She writes books, and she's trying to get one published.
I was thirteen. I was mortified. I wanted to hide under a rock.
The man said, "You know, I'm a literary agent." He had read my sister's writing, and was really impressed by it. He asked what kinds of books I wrote, and told me he didn't usually represent young adult fiction, or fantasy, but that he would be willing to read it and give me some advice as to what improvements I might make, or who I might want to send it to.
He called back during our February vacation, which means some time in the week following President's Day. He had spoken to other agent-friends of his who did know the genre, and he would like to represent me.
He came to the house, and I showed him the manuscripts I had, and talked about the world I was building. I remember the way his eyes grew very round. He mentioned the many authors he had worked with who had one successful book, but then never wrote anything again. All at once, he wasn't just talking about one novel- he was talking about a series. He had found me, and he had faith in me.
I don't know how many submissions he made on my behalf, but I know the end result: Just past 7 pm on April 16, 1998, as I was opening my birthday presents, the phone rang. It was Tom, telling me that Delacorte, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell, wanted to publish my book.
I ran frantically around the house, looking for books with the Bantam chicken or Delacorte's stacked-books logo on them. We had two phone lines in the house (dial-up AOL, remember?) and I used them both, simultaneously, to call everyone I knew. I remember being so giddy I leaned back too fast on the futon in the basement and hit my head on the wooden edge. I remember my mother joking that, at this point, none of the other presents they got me were going to seem very interesting.
And the rest, my friends, is history. That's how I published my novel. I did everything right- I did research, I compared sources, I followed the rules of formatting- but most importantly, I made contact with that one person who believed in me, who could see a sakkri'a'she, a vision of a possible future, where we worked together and brought a world to life.
Nyeusigrube wouldn't exist without Tom. It would have faded away in a drawer somewhere.
Now look where we are.