How It Happened by Jamie Mason

They told me that when your manuscript is out on submission—to agents or editors—all the bad news comes in emails, and if there’s ever any good news, it comes over the phone. So, I wasn’t quite sure of what to do with the email from my agent asking if she could call me.

But looking at the note on the screen, there was a tingly could it be? in the back of my throat, a thrumming maybe in the air.

It was October 24, 2011.

I’d started my first novel in May of 2001. I wrote it almost in secret. Who was I to think I was allowed to write a book? I wasn’t trained for this. I’d been in banking. It was absurd. And it was nearly a vocation for me, a personal calling to do my utmost not to be absurd.

But I wrote the book anyway, and it wasn’t good enough.

In 2006, I abandoned that manuscript. It had been rejected everywhere. I’d tried different query approaches and had gotten some hopeful feedback in a few responses, but I’d sunk enough time and tears into it. (And to be fair, in the meantime, I’d also had a second child, moved to a different state, and had overseen the construction of our house.) I dried my eyes and threw out my hoarded trophy-tower of rejection letters.

After a while, to my great surprise, I found a reservoir of nerve to try it again with a new story. Over the next two and a half years, I wrote the new manuscript, combing back over it, again and again, as I studied up on what a book is really made of. I learned everything I could about the craft and the business.

The next bout of querying was very different from the miserable slog of the first go-round. In just a few days, I had two offers of representation.

And then, in fine Jamie-form, I signed with the one who didn’t work out. Bad fit. Bad timing.

A year and a half later, I tried to be smooth. (I am not smooth.) I contacted the other agent who had offered representation to see if she was still interested. To my everlasting delight, she was. (It’s the talented, lovely, and wonderful Amy Moore-Benson, just so as not to leave it blurred, and also to give credit where credit is due. I’m not me without her.) We righted the order of the universe and got to work. That was in March of 2011.

Six months later, I was staring at a message from her asking if I was around for a chat.

I’d long since warned my family what wattage of freak-out they could expect from me when I got The Call, never betraying the depth of my fear that The Call was never going to happen. Who was I to think I was allowed to write a book? It was absurd.

I replied to Amy’s email, told her I was standing by. I didn’t know if the call (or The Call, even) was imminent.

I hollered from my office into the quiet house. (My house is so quiet. My family is made up of human-sized mice with earbuds for their music, padded socks for their footsteps, and an excess of courtesy for everything else that might disturb anyone.)

“Hey, Art! Amy wants to call me! She’s going to call me!”

No reply.

“Honey?”

Nothing but the ring of silence in my ears, the soundtrack of my home life.

“Hello?”

This wasn’t the regular peace of my little slice of life. This was emptiness. No one was home, where everyone had been—just a few minutes before. And I couldn’t leave to find them. Amy would call on the landline. (Ah, the quaint sweetness of the days of landlines.) I’d just told her to call me and I had to be there when she did.

I looked in the garage. The cars were there. The front lawn was clear. I went to a window at the back of the house.

There was my family on the deck. Art, thirteen-year-old Julia, and nine-year-old Rianne, shooting stuffed animals off the railing with a toy bow and arrow set.

Some days are like that.

The phone rang.

We’d been offered a deal on my manuscript from Gallery at Simon & Schuster.

My family came back into the house on a wave of giggles and did-you-see-thats. I could hardly stop in the middle of the conversation and explain what was going on, so I kept my lid on as Amy detailed for me the steps of what would happen next.

I said, “Mmmm hmmm… Yep… I see… That’s great….”

“You’re taking this awfully calmly,” she said.

“I’m really not,” I explained. Then I explained the rest. My family didn’t hear me.

But when I hung up the phone, they certainly did. I screamed to break the windows. My people are very forgiving of me being the noisiest one in the house. And, according to them, they never thought it was absurd that I wrote a book.

I don’t know how many times I’ll get to play in this sandbox. I hope quite a few. But that’s how it happened the first time and it’s one of my favorite memories.

Jamie Mason was born in Oklahoma City, but grew up in Washington, D.C. She’s most often reading and writing, but in the life left over, she enjoys films, Formula 1 racing, football, traveling, and, conversely, staying at home. Jamie lives with her husband and two daughters in the mountains of western North Carolina.

To learn more about Jamie Mason’s most recent novel, click on the cover below:

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