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Bridget Zinn

02.15.11

What I’m Not Going to Blog About

Posted in Writing at 8:10 pm by Bridget Zinn

What I’m Not Going to Blog About:

—I will not be describing in detail the immense pain in my liver and lymph nodes that has taken over my every waking thought over the past few days

OR whining about how miserable and itchy and rashy I am

OR sharing interesting metaphors to describe the digestive troubles that have set in and turned my tummy rock hard

OR putting in a video of my “don’t throw up” mantra for the day

AND I will refrain from sharing the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we discussions about going to the ER that we held all weekend, the frantic Sunday night phone call to the oncologist on-call, or yesterday’s emergency trip to the oncology clinic to get some much-needed meds–on Valentine’s Day!

Because blogging about those things would be lame.

Instead I’m going to share with you My Road To Publication. Woo hoo! So much more fun. I love hearing other people’s stories and several people have asked me to share mine, and I think today is the day.

Forgive any pain-killer induced rambling, please!

Setting the scene: I grew up writing and had notebooks stuffed full of novels, poems, and fragments. After graduating from high school, I tried all sorts of other career options. I went to massage school, worked as a jazz dj, earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre and generally looked for interesting things to do (click here to learn more about crazy jobs I tried).

Then I started working in cancer research. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was NOT the job for me. I loved the idea of saving-the-world etc., but it was a less-than-cheerful job (and my office didn’t even have windows!) and not at all the puppies and rainbows sort of thing I like.

This was when I discovered that what I needed to do with my life was to write fiction for young people. I fell really and truly head-over-heels-in-love with writing. It was a great escape from my job and, even when I quit that job and moved on to more satisfying work, it was still absolutely perfect for me. In what other job do you get to spend your days living through crazy high-jinx, falling in love, making cool friends and having damn fine adventures? Writers get to create a world with each novel—a fun, gorgeous, tantalizing world with inhabitants who crack you up.

My writing voice turned out to have a strong teen vibe and that was what I had the most fun working on, so it was clear what I was going to write.

I joined writers groups, took classes, went to conferences and workshops and got that buzz-rush of sharing my work with other people. I finished my first novel (after getting some of those less-than-stellar pieces out of my system), revised and revised and revised it, then began researching the publishing industry. I decided to query both agents and editors, but focused primarily on editors.

I got a whole range of responses from form letter rejections to requests for the full manuscript to requests for revisions. One of the major stumbling blocks was that when I started on the novel, no one was writing anything on that subject for teens, but by the time I was submitting the novel, apparently several other people had gotten similar ideas as well. And they’d gotten there just before me! While I’m sure our novels were all quite different in style and tone, most publishers don’t want novels that have too similar of a theme or subject coming out at the same time. This was when I first discovered that Ideas Out of the Air sometimes float around and get snatched up by multiple writers.

I wrote a second novel and revised and revised and revised, did more research on the publishing industry, and began submitting it. I got the whole range of responses that I’d gotten before, but with different (though no less frustrating) reasons. It needed a bit more… something. Or it just wouldn’t fit with the current list.

Before I had time to dwell too much (I still hold out hope that these two novels will find homes someday!), something happened to grab my focus.

Picture this: It’s an early morning in December of 2007 and I’m sitting on our couch in Madison. The best couch of all time that I’d bought years before with my first real salaried-job paycheck. Oh, that couch! It was a gorgeous couch. The perfect amount of support, a soft, nubbly texture, the back and arms were just the right height, and it was perfectly adorable. (I miss the couch, can you tell? Our new Portland couch, it couldn’t claim to be a distant backwards uncomfortable cousin of that couch!).

Here’s a photo of the couch and our Madison living room to get you in the scene:

So it’s morning and Barrett is making me toast and tea before he heads off to work downtown and I go to work at the library. Bleary-eyed and making very little sense, I’m trying to tell him about this absolutely fantastic dream that I’d had the night before.

Me: “And this super bad-ass teen is sneaking into this building and she’s like this crazy master potioner and she has these six-inch long throwing needles tipped with poison strapped to her thighs in special holsters.”

Barrett: “Uh-huh.”

Me: “It was so crazy—like a whole complex action movie and every twist and turn was a surprise.”

Barrett: “Here’s your tea, Bridge. It sounds, um, interesting.”

Me: “Yes, I know how annoying it is when people go on and on about their dreams and they’re all a jumble and don’t make any sense, but THIS WASN’T LIKE THAT! It totally made sense. It had like a plot and everything.”

Barrett: “Hmmm….” Sips his coffee.

Me: “Fine. I’m going to write it all down so that you can SEE just how great this dream was.”

I sat down during my lunch break that day and typed the whole thing up.

It wasn’t right. A couple pages of re-telling just wasn’t the same as living it.

I had to turn it into a novel. THEN Barrett would get the full experience.

I set all of my other projects aside to focus on my new novel, Poison.

The following fall, I submitted a chapter of Poison to the SCBWI-WI conference. The editor who read it there was encouraging. One year after starting Poison, I finally had a readable draft of the entire novel for Barrett. I submitted it to my writers group’s annual novel-exchange weekend retreat. The editor who spent the weekend with us was encouraging.

A couple of drafts later, by mid-to-late summer of 2008, I decided to start querying. This time I focused on agents.

Wherever Poison came from, it apparently wasn’t an idea out of the air caught by other writers. It only came to my house. There was a lot of interest from the agents I sent it to which was incredibly thrilling, especially after years of rejection and near-hits with my other novels.

About this time two years ago, I signed with superstar agent Michael Stearns.

Michael and I went through a round of revisions together (which took longer than it should have due to the whole stupid cancer thing) and my agent got crazy-fun interest on the manuscript when he submitted it to editors, it went to auction, and a little less than two years after I began to write this novel, I had a publishing contract with Disney-Hyperion with a slated pub-date of summer, 2012.

Almost eleven years after I’d decided to become an author.

Love to you all,

Bridget

28 Comments »

  1. natalie wainwright said,

    February 16, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Hey, Bridget, that is wonderful! Was “Poison” at one time the “Spy Girl” we read in Madison? I can’t wait to buy it, read it, come to your signing in Chicago, and get you to plunk that autograph on it!
    Natalie

  2. Dan Constien said,

    February 16, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Bridget….love hearing about all of the progression in your life. Can’t wait to read the book!!!

  3. Ruthi said,

    February 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Bridget. You so totally ROCK! Can’t wait to read your novel. I hear Prinz award in your future!

  4. Amanda said,

    February 16, 2011 at 9:19 am

    You are such a rocker! Your book is going to be awesome.

    That picture of your couch made me miss you even more!!!

  5. Bridget Zinn said,

    February 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Nope, Spy Girl was a different novel.
    I’m glad you’re excited to read it.
    Amanda, I miss you too!

  6. Liza Wiemef said,

    February 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Wow Bridget! An amazing story. Love the couch :-) wishing you much success, blessings, and best wishes!

  7. Eva Apelqvist said,

    February 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Bridget,
    This is a great, great inspiring story and tells us so much about originality of ideas. We all think we have just the greatest one – and you DID. I’m happy for you, but really bummed that you’re in so much pain. I’m swishing a magic wand (a pair of plastic blue reading glasses will work, I’m sure) here in Wisconsin, hoping to take some of that pain away. Thanks for sharing your great story, Bridget,
    Eva

  8. Lisa said,

    February 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    It’s groovy to know more about the time line and when to expect to have the book in hand. Now I can stop checking Ingram periodically and just expect to throw some copies in a cart next Spring, then watch the holds queue grow!

  9. jone said,

    February 17, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Bridget,
    I love hearing how this novel came to be, the couch story and the idea of a novel exchange writing retreat. COOL.
    Hope tody is better for you.

  10. Julie Mata said,

    February 17, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Hi Bridget,
    It’s fascinating that the plot for your novel came so fully-formed from a dream. It must have been extremely vivid. I can’t wait to read your book. I felt so sad after reading about what you DIDN’T want to write about. I hope today and tomorrow are better days than the last few. I said a prayer for you, and will keep praying for your health.

  11. Rosie said,

    February 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Did you clean your living room just to take the perfect picture of your couch? In all my years of knowing you… I’m just saying…

  12. Jim Henkel said,

    February 18, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Bridge,
    I enjoyed reading this. How’s your dad? Hope all is well. The reason I am writing is that I am interested in writing a book on Nuclear Power, I have a storage of information in my head that I would like to translate into a novel. Where do you start? I know it would open up the outside world, which knows very little of the day to day going ons and the truth of the whole matter. Enjoyed reading your story.
    Jim

  13. Valerie Johnson said,

    February 18, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Hi Bridget,
    Thanks for this. I’m at the beginning of my writing journey with one completed YA manuscript and the beginnings of many others.
    I so, so love how you describe the Ideas Out of the Air . . . isn’t it weird (and annoying) how that happens.
    Your story gives me hope (and a good reminder on patience. )
    – Valerie
    PS The super-cool MC in my novel is named Bridget.

  14. Karen said,

    February 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    On Part 1: Effin’ cancer.

    On Part 2: AMAZING Road to Publication story! May the dreaming gods bless you with continued inspiration!

  15. Dad said,

    February 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Never knew that story about the dream. And you still won’t let me read the manuscript. I promise to buy many copies of Poison when it’s out, especially if I get an early read.

  16. Jae Werndli said,

    February 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    What a wonderful story! I will read it for sure!

  17. Saints and Spinners said,

    February 26, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Hi Bridget,

    I know I’ve not commented in a long, long time, but you are in my thoughts. I am glad to read about your road to publication, frustrated and furious that you are in so much pain, and ever hopeful for joyous outcomes.

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