Day of Small Beginnings

You’ve all heard the story. Girl meets pen. Girl and pen dream up a fabulous future together, involving bookshelves and coffee. Girl gets rejected, over and over and over. Girl tries to break up with pen but it just won’t stick. Girl realizes she’s in for the long haul.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The pen.
The pen.

I’m about to embark on a whole new adventure, and it’s got me thinking about small beginnings. We all remember the day we began that first novel, sent that first query, received that first request, but what about the smaller beginnings? What about the day we woke up at 5am to write, the day we started over, the day we forged forward even when we wanted to give up?

Every small beginning takes courage, but with each step forward into darkness we take we grow closer.

Photo taken in Yosemite 2011. Design mine.
Photo taken in Yosemite 2011. Design mine.

The Sea Wolves is my third completed novel, and I’ll always remember it as the book I almost didn’t write. After shelving my second novel I came so, so close to giving up. I’d faced periods of discouragement before, but this was different. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I had been and I started looking for a way out.

I thought about switching to adult fiction, I thought about finding a new dream, I thought about writing just for me, but in the end I knew none of those paths would satisfy me. I spent many long hours praying and soul-searching and in the end what got me through was this: only when I’d hit the bottom was I ready to give it all away and trust in a net to catch me.

That was February 2013. In March I started The Sea Wolves. I wrote it in 3 and a half months and it was the most amazing writing experience of my life. I finished in July and I knew, I just knew, this story was different.

In November, after a few months of revising, I finally got up the courage to share the manuscript with my critique partners. With their encouragement, I entered a mentorship contest called Pitch Wars. Pitch Wars involved an insane five weeks of mentoring by the brilliant Stacey Lee, spit-polishing my manuscript until the agent round in January.

On January 22nd, the pitches were posted on Brenda Drake’s blog. I spent two days stress-baking and avoiding all electronic devices. At the end of the contest I had 11 requests from participating agents and a further 3 “ninja” requests from agents not involved in the competition.

A week later I woke to two offers of representation in my inbox. I cried and went out for a quick breakfast with my darling husband before work. Over the next week I would receive four more offers.

On 15th February 2014, I officially accepted representation from Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Signing the contract 22/02/2014
Signing the contract 22/02/2014

If there’s any takeaway, I think it’s this: Don’t be afraid of small beginnings. Don’t be afraid of starting over, again and again and again.

Because once upon a time a girl had a dream. She stumbled a lot, but she just kept on getting back up. She made some good friends and worked hard and didn’t give up, no matter how much she wanted to.

And now that girl has an agent.

A small beginning.
A small beginning.
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Day of Small Beginnings

24 thoughts on “Day of Small Beginnings

  1. Congratulations! I was an alternate for PitchWars and watched in awe as your lovely submission racked up so many requests. I’m so glad to hear it’s resulted in representation. I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your book’s journey.

    1. bethanyrsmith says:

      Thank you, Jocelyn! Pitch Wars was such an amazing experience, largely because of all the wonderful people I met because of it. I love being able to celebrate with you!

    1. bethanyrsmith says:

      No one is more shocked than me! It was seriously the craziest week of my life. So glad I can share now 🙂

  2. Fergus Hancock says:

    I knew it, I knew it!! So that’s what you were conspiring in your tree loft back in Muswellbrook, when we all thought you were peering over the horizon. That’s so far the dream may take you; now get back and get those previous books finished so I can read them too!

  3. mirkabreen says:

    It seems you have what the market calls “a hot property.” Prediction- you’ll be hearing, via your fantastic agent, about offers to publish *very soon.*

    Pat-on-the-back for sticking to it. Aren’t you glad you did?

    1. bethanyrsmith says:

      Yes, I am so glad I stuck to it! But I’m glad for the struggle as well, because I’m stronger for it 🙂

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