I Can’t Wait To Say “I Knew Her When…”

One of the benefits of the M.A. program has been the opportunity to meet other aspiring writers, some of whom have become firm friends. I’m pleased to introduce Reb Alexander, a classmate who is soaring high before she’s even graduated. Her novel, Borrowed Time, was a runner-up in the Mslexia 2011 Women’s Novel Competition and is now with an agent! Over the past year Reb has given me some wonderful feedback and much needed morale boosts and I am in awe of her productivity. You can see more of Reb over on her blogs -  Witchway and Rebecca Alexander, but for now, here she is to talk about her journey from wannabe writer to author with an agent.

When I was a little girl, I was going to be a writer when I grew up, and had a number of half-finished novels under my bed, in my toy box, and one in a plastic bag in the garden, that was made into a nest by a family of mice. Most of them had tragic or violent endings, I remember, and most had animal protagonists. Now I’m a grown up, it seems pretentious to say ‘I’m going to be a writer’ but, technically at least, I have grown up. I do write. So: I must be a writer.

The next stage is to be a published writer. That means, put a novel together, send it out, get an agent and let them sell it (preferably for a number with some zeroes). This, we were led to believe, is almost impossible, so I put the first few chapters of my latest book out to a competition instead. To be honest, I was hoping to get longlisted so I had something to write about in my dissertation for the MA (the one Downith and I are doing). I got longlisted, spent 72 hours writing the end of the book, sent it in and waited. I was one of two runners-up out of 1800 entries, a staggering surprise. Within two weeks I had been approached by a London agent, who is going to represent my book. The problem for me was, I had fallen out of love with that book and was halfway through the next one.

The agent has been invaluable. She gave me a list of things she wanted me to do to improve the book – 18 of them in total. I have done 17 of them, filled in the back of the book and ramped up the tension and emotion. I now like the book again, in fact those characters (Jack and Sadie) have wandered into my next book and made themselves right at home.

The winner of that competition has the same agent – and the Bookseller expects a publishing deal within the week. So, it’s not impossible. Wow.

I’m up next…Jack and Sadie will be paraded around the editors at the London Book Fair and hopefully they will ask to see the whole book. Then – it’s offers time. Or not. Maybe it won’t sell. Maybe mice will set up shop in the battered remains of the manuscript. But I’ve enjoyed the ride, and my writing has clearly improved. If not this one, the next one, or the one after that…it turns out, it’s not impossible. It’s just hard work, an overactive imagination and a lot of luck.

Me again. Mslexia is currently running two other competitions if you’re interested: poetry (18 June deadline) and children’s novel (10 September deadline).

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27 thoughts on “I Can’t Wait To Say “I Knew Her When…”

  1. VERY exciting this. Reb, bon courage and everything I can cross is crossed—fingers, legs (as always)—for your success. I marvel at people who knew what they wanted to do at a young age and then went out and made it so. When your book is published this will a great story at all your book events.

    • Thank you, Bobbi! I have way more weird stories for book events if I ever have them! my brother and I did start a story written in our own blood…

  2. Congratulations, Rebecca – so exciting to see that fairytales can come true in ‘real’ life! Especially since I’ve become a little cynical about writing courses and competitions (thwarted ambition after repeated failure? or just scepticism about the literary vs. commercial purposes of these ventures?). Anyway, I am glad that you prove that true value does find its way to the surface. Will check out the blog and the novel, when it comes out, very best of luck with that!

    • Thank you MarinaSofia – I’m still pinching myself! I don’t know how far down the line this little train I’m on will go but I’ve enjoyed the trip so far!

  3. I should add that I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of reading some of “Borrowed Time” in class workshops and then through email exchanges of our work and I can’t wait to read the whole thing – IN BOOK FORM!

  4. Reb,
    Congratulations and thank you for the play-by-play.
    For the record, if I read a bookflap where one of the main character’s was a woman named Jack, I’d buy it just to find out how that came about.

  5. Very inspiring. Congratulations, Reb! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I hear writers telling happy writing stories. Your story also make me want to run out and get an MFA and enter some contests and find more writing friends. I’ve got my fingers crossed for your ending.

    • Definitely keep plugging. I loved your survey results, as half my book is written in 1585 the subject does interest me. Writing historical fiction is great fun but sooo much research! Thanks for commenting!

  6. You’re always so encouraging in your comments here at Downith’s blog and it’s fun to read the conversations between the two of you. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I wish you much success on the next steps toward getting Jack and Sadie’s story published!

  7. Congratulations Reb! What a story about your manuscript finding it’s way. These threads of success keep us all moving toward the light. Cheers to you!!!

  8. Pingback: Squeeee! | writeitdown-ith

  9. Pingback: Reading My Peeps – Rebecca Alexander | writeitdown-ith

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