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F&SF specialist agent Donald Maass spoke to us at Vericon, a great little con HRSFA runs at Harvard every year, and I learned from his talk about the field, the extreme oversupply of submissions, the challenges of length and salability.I had queried Donald Maass (unsuccessfully) way back in 2002, but in 2006, with my writing much improved, preparing to begin a new series which I felt in my gut was leap above the others (and eventually became the series), I decided to break off my relationship with my first agent (with much gratitude and good will) and to try fresh to get a new agent at a major F&SF specialist agency.
Life as a Renaissance historian had granted me long stays in Florence twice before, once on a student Fulbright, and once taking a shift as I Tatti’s resident grad student mascot (#1 duty, be introduced to rich donors and look bright-eyed and promising).
During my earlier stays I had written a series of e-mails describing my Italian experiences, and sent them to a list of friends and family.
This really is the highest honor I can imagine, my work being recognized as one of the most valuable contributions to the community of conversation which drives us forward through speculation about other worlds to touching and creating them, both here on Earth and out among the stars.
The community where the Great Conversation thrives. ” feels mismatched, like paying the same 50¢ at a rock shop for a shiny hematite one week and the Philosopher’s Stone the next.
I don’t remember where I received the wisdom that it’s better to go on and write Book 1 of a new series rather than write Book 2 of a series when you haven’t sold Book 1 yet.
Wherever I got it from, I obeyed it, and soon my plucky agent was shopping two series, then three.
In six months, Patrick asked Jo if the author of this Ex Urbe blog had written any fiction. It was my first serious college writing mentor Hal Holiday who helped me understand how absurd that was. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but writing well—not well for your age group, but well in an absolute sense—was hard to achieve. Spending every childhood summer and weekend writing, taking every summer writing course, those were good steps, they helped, but they were a beginning.
In two years (almost to the day, August 2013) Patrick bought My appetite to see my fiction in print had been overwhelming since elementary school, and I vividly remember the thrill of standing on tiptoe to watch my first typed story (a single paragraph, about blue-and-silver alien raccoons) crawl its way out of the astounding new dot matrix printer at Dad’s office. He made me cry in his office, with my first-ever B on a paper. I finished my first novel draft that year, flipped back to page one, and started writing it all over again.
The list grew over time as the recipients recommended them to more distant cousins and acquaintances, until I had nearly a hundred people on my list. One of my then-roommates, Lila Garrott (a poet, author, book reviewer, and now editor at ) had posted a few of what, in neoclassical style, I called my “Ex Urbe” e-mails on Live Journal, where Jo had enjoyed them.
In 2008 Jo had invited Lila and the rest of our eclectic household to visit her for Farthing Party in Montreal.