Our alum Anna Jarzab, AM ’07, has just sold her thesis to a publisher, and she has graciously taken the time to share a little bit of that adventure with us.
Even though I knew I wanted to write a creative thesis for MAPH, I never intended to write the project I ended up writing. I wanted to write a series of short stories based on my grandparents’ experiences in World War II, but it soon became clear to me that I wasn’t a mature enough writer yet to handle such dense, weighty material, and I didn’t have enough time to do the research that would be necessary.
Instead, I turned to a book I was working on in my spare time, and had been for almost five years at that point. It was a dark novel about a murdered teenage girl and how her two best friends team up to solve the case despite their differences. I was calling it All Unquiet Things, after a phrase in Canto Three of Byron’s long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
I’d written the book once before, in college, and I think I knew it was terrible before I typed “The End.” (I’m just kidding, I don’t do that, but you know what I mean.) Part of me just wanted to abandon it, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. The plot was no good, so I decided not to salvage anything except a couple of characters, and I rewrote the whole damn thing.
The first time I handed in pages for my Fiction Thesis class, my adviser Nic Pizzolatto looked me and said, “This is good, but you know it’s YA.” In all seriousness, that was the advice, out of all of the great and helpful advice Nic would give me in the next six months, that made the biggest difference to me because, while it didn’t change the way I proceeded to write the novel, it really did affect the way I approached the business of selling the novel.
I only turned in about sixty pages of the book for my official thesis project, but I actually ended up finishing it in its entirety by the time we graduated. I gave it a brutal edit at the beginning of the summer and then I put it away so that I could concentrate on finding an agent. At the same time, I started working at Browne & Miller Literary Associates, one of the six MAPH internships, because my goal was to move to New York at the end of the summer and get a job in publishing.
While at Browne & Miller I was fortunate to spend time with Joanna MacKenzie, another MAPH graduate and an associate agent. She and I have a very similar taste in YA–including an equally passionate admiration for literary YA author John Green–and both she and Danielle, the President of the agency, encouraged me to send them my thesis, which I eventually did in January of this year. In March, Joanna called and offered me representation. Lucky for me, we make a pretty great team.
Working with Joanna has been so much fun. It’s also been a lot of work–I think we went through three or four separate revisions of the manuscript since March–but it was worth it. I finished my last round of revisions in August, and Joanna started submitting to editors in early September. On September 9, the first of the six editors Joanna had contacted received the manuscript; on Tuesday, September 16, exactly a week to the day Joanna started submitting, we accepted a two-book pre-empt from Francoise Bui at Delacorte, an imprint of Random House.
I’m now busy editing my second book and pre-writing two more, all YA, all in the literary mystery subgenre, and awaiting an editorial letter on All Unquiet Things. Updates on these and other thrilling aspects of writing and being published can be found on my blog. It won’t be that ugly for long, I swear.
I can honestly say that none of this would have happened without MAPH. MAPH gave me the freedom and the time and the resources I needed to finish the novel. MAPH made it possible for me to work and learn from Nic Pizzolatto, who was an outstanding adviser, and Jon Enfield, my tirelessly supportive preceptor. I benefited tremendously from advice and feedback given by fellow MAPHers August Evans and Nickie Rodney, and I would probably never have met Joanna MacKenzie if it weren’t for the MAPH internship. So it’s a MAPH victory all around!
Anyone with questions, comments, concerns, worries, recipes, or limericks can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.