Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ummm so, I got THE CALL!!!!

Squeee!!!!  I have news!

I am now represented by Jim McCarthy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management!!!!

Ok, I really have to stop with the exclamation points, but !!!!!
so, how did this happen, you ask?
Well, let me break it down for you.

For those searching for an agent, a piece of advice we often hear is "query agents who represent books you love."  Can I just say that this is the BEST advice ever?

As you know, I LOVED The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan.  So, I queried Jim McCarthy, Carrie's agent, on 1/2.  Jim requested the full manuscript on 1/10 and I got The Call on 1/19.

Being the studious agent-stalker, ahem, I mean researcher I am, I mean was, I knew Jim usually read manuscripts in about a week (he's super fast).  So, when a week had passed since I'd sent the full and I hadn't received a rejection, I was hopeful.

My cell phone rang on 1/19 in between 5th and 6th period (I teach high school).  I glanced at the number, saw the 212 area code and thought, "Is that New York?  Maybe it's Jim McCarthy calling to offer representation.  Oh, hahahaha, Alyson you are SO funny."  I declined the call.  My students were walking in.

When I finally listened to the message, my head nearly exploded.  It was like slow-motion.  I kept looking around waiting for someone to say "just kidding." But all the message said was to call him back and I was completely unprepared.

I stayed after school helping a student.  I went home.  I paced, I had a snack so I wouldn't throw up.  I looked up the right questions to ask.  I called back.  Voicemail.  I don't know how, but I slept that night.

The next morning, I had an email from Jim saying he was sorry he missed me and when could we chat?  I called him during my off-period.  I locked my classroom door and closed the blinds.  I paced among the desks and stammered.

Just hearing Jim say my title and how much he loved it, hearing him say my characters' names, hearing him talk about my book as if it was just that: an actual book, was such an enormous validation.  I was no longer some crazy girl with people in her head, mumbling to herself in a corner with a laptop.

I was a blabbering idiot on the phone.  "Umm, yeah, oh my god, yeah, thank you, umm, I'm exited, umm," but I tried to ask my list of questions.  When he offered representation it took all my strength not to jump up and down and scream.  Two other agents had the manuscript.

I emailed the other 2 agents, letting them know of the offer and that I wanted to make a final decision in a week.  One of the other agents offered and I spoke with her on the phone, but it was never a difficult decision.  I mean OMG, I have the same agent as Carrie Ryan!  OK, I also have the same agent as many really amazing writers whose books have now moved to the top of my TBR pile.  But like, I totally want to be Carrie Ryan when I grow up!  (oops sorry, does that sound stalkerish?  I'm not a creeper, I swear).

OK Junkies, thanks for letting me share my news!  Good luck to all those queriers out there.  It can happen, don't give up!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MATCHED by Ally Condie lives up to the hype

I don't know why I'm always surprised when I fall in love with the latest hyped-up, buzzed-about YA novel.  I guess all you bookish people on the interwebs are pretty awesome and I should really learn to trust you.  And because y'all are so awesome, one of my goals for the new year is to spend more time with you and blog more.  I really feel like the guy at work who calls in sick EVERY Monday and then on Tuesday in the lunch room, everyone asks if he's feeling ok and he just looks away, nods, and changes the subject.

Soooo anyways....Matched!  It's awesome!  You should read it.

Ally Condie creates a dystopian world reminiscent of the classics.  The Society incinerates history, art, and literature a la Fahrenheit 451.  Similar to A Brave New World, citizens are controlled through extreme division of labor, regimented recreation, and mandated drugs.  The pervasive technology, misinformation, a mysterious and far away war, and the ever-present sense of being watched reminded me of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

But Matched leaves the classics in the dust and gives us what they don't: a strong heroine, passionate romance, and hope.

We meet Cassia on the eve of her Match banquet, where she'll find out who the society has matched her with for marriage.  The other 17-year-olds meet their matches from other cities and provinces via video phone.  But Cassia's screen is black because her match is in the same room.  It's her best friend, Xander.  She's thrilled, but when she takes her microcard home to learn more about her match, another face flashes on the screen.  Cassia confides in the only person she can, her grandfather, and he asks if she ever wonders...

Cassia's rebellion starts small and is thrilling to watch as it grows.  In the beginning, she honestly believes the Society knows best, but slowly she pulls back the curtain to catch a glimpse of the man behind the wizard.    

The Society differs from other dystopian governments in that it seems to actually believe it's acting in its citizens best interests.  For me, a good-intentioned but misguided fascist government is way more terrifying than a malicious one.  Cassia is savvy, intelligent, and tough enough to outsmart the oppressive Society.  And it's so much fun watching her do it.

Cassia experiences her first real choice and gets a small taste for freedom, which leaves her willing to risk everything for more.  Classic dystopian novels present characters with a life in which happiness and fulfillment are impossible.  Matched is wonderfully brave in that contentment is easily attainable for Cassia within The Society's walls.  Cassia knows she could have a loving marriage, a job she likes and is good at, and a happy healthy family if only she shuts up and goes along with The Society's plan for her.

But she's courageous enough to not settle and want more: true love.  And isn't that what all the best stories are about?  The battle for true love?

I read Matched during my ski vacation and I found myself on a chair lift, anxious to get back to see how Cassia will get herself out of trouble.  Matched is hard to put down and I recommend it to any fans of YA and/or Dystopia.