Karen Rivers

the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Karen Rivers

I have been wanting to post about the process of selling THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ME, a journey that started a few years ago and culminated in me letting go of my agent and starting over.  Alone.   At the beginning.   No agent.  In a new and different market.  

It was scary.   It was exhilarating.  

And most of all, it was slow.   The distance between querying and getting requests from potential new agents was vast and felt, at times, impossible.  

While waiting, waiting, and waiting some more for responses on fulls and partials on THE KING OF BANANALAND, I started looking for a publisher for a book that I'd written quite a long time ago that had -- somewhere along the line -- become my secret passion.   I knew THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ME would find a home, I just hadn't found it yet.   Or so I told myself.

So I looked and researched and looked and pondered.  And I dreamed.    

And then I made a life-changing decision.   Instead of waiting for an agent to come along and tap my book with his/her magic wand, I was going to send it directly to my number one choice of publisher and editor (Cheryl Klein at Arthur A. Levine).   I packaged it up and it sat on the end table in my living room for several days.   "What am I doing?"  I thought.  "I should wait.   I don't know this market.  I have no connections here.  This will vanish into the slush and never been seen again."

But I didn't want to wait.

I doodled on the envelope.   I waited some more.  And then, one day, I just got over myself.  I got over my feelings of despair and futility.   I stuffed down my fear of yet more rejection.  And I mailed it.

It was pretty easy, after all.  

Time passed and lo, one day in the mailbox, the envelope, complete with my doodles, reappeared.  My heart sank.  Envelopes with your own writing on the outside NEVER contain good news, I thought.   I put the envelope back on the end table again.  

I didn't open it.

Then, one day, I was cleaning the living room, and I had a feeling.  I said to myself, "Maybe this time, there is GOOD news in this envelope."  And I opened it.  

And there was good news in the envelope.  The very best sort of news. 

And on the very same DAY -- no kidding -- I got an offer from an agent in my email.   Then two agents.   

And then things started rolling.   Other publishers wanted in on the deal.   Suddenly, I was CHOOSING.   

And I got my first choice.

Which is the happiest of happy endings to my little story.  

A lot of things happened for me in 2010.  The fantastic agent.  The dream publisher.   Good things.   Dream-worthy things.   

But other things happened that were bad.   Terrible things.  The worst things.   


It's a balance, the way that karma or fate or the Universe gives and then takes away.

It feels dishonest to post about the books and how happy I am and how fabulous things are in my career right now without also admitting that everything is not perfect.  

To abuse a metaphor horribly, it's like I'm in a photo, and in the photo, if you look from above, I'm swimming through gorgeous turquoise blue water.   I'm fit and strong.   The scene is gorgeous.   And you look at the photo and you envy the swimmer because it seems like she, of all people, must be happy.

What you don't see is that just below the surface, a shark has taken a chunk out of her torso.   And she's not swimming, casually, to the shore, she's swimming frantically for her life.  

These things also happened to me in 2010.   My body failed me.  After the surgery to repair the broken parts, I got sick.   Worse than that, my marriage floundered.  And then failed entirely.  

As 2011 rolled around, I was fifteen pounds lighter, behind on my deadlines, had two shattered ribs, and was suddenly alone, or as alone as you can be with two kids.

I was, and still am, reeling.  

And my ribs hurt.  

So there are bad things and there are really really ugly things.

"It's all for the best," I say.   And while I do believe that on many levels, it doesn't change the fact that just below the surface of the water, there is a chunk of me that is missing.  You just can't see it from where you are standing.

If you need me, I'll be on the sandy shore, patching my wounds and reminding myself that even though these terrible things have happened, I'm still in a beautiful place and there is room here to find happiness again.  

All this will pass and I will heal.  

Because there are so many good things, too.

And sometimes it's important to remember that the good things come in unexpected ways, sometimes they even come to you in envelopes with your own writing on the outside.   You just never know.