Stories of perseverance always stay with me. The ones where folks get knocked down time and again and still manage to brush themselves off and keep going. In this series I’ve featured a lot of success stories where people have been rejected yet returned to writing better – stronger. Today’s W.O.W. with Jody Holford is one of those stories.
Amy: When did you begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Jody: In 2012, I attended a writing conference with the intention of sharing my picture books. At the time, I knew nothing of how the process worked—getting an agent, getting published, any of it. When I sat down with an agent and she expressed interest, giving me her card and asking me to email her, I thought she was just being nice. But within the month, she’d asked to rep my book. While that relationship didn’t work out, my desire to see my work published began to really take root; it became less of a hobby and more of an actual goal.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to the novel that connected you to your agent?
Jody: In total, over the last 3 years, Fran read three of my manuscripts. In that time, I worked hard to learn more about writing and the publishing industry in general. It paid off, as it was the third try that hooked her.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Jody: I used to think my process was more unique than others, but I don’t know that it was. I was quickly agented, before I knew how hard it was to get an agent. That lasted less than six months, which put me back to querying (new genre entirely). I briefly signed with someone else in between, but feeling more confident about my understanding of the agent/author relationship, I knew it wasn’t right for me. It was hard to take that step and I queried for almost another year before Fran signed me this summer. It’s the waiting that is hard—the getting your hopes up and not letting rejection push you back so far you’re unwilling to try again. So, I guess, on a scale of one to “I’m never writing again”, there were times when it tipped both ends and times it was right in the middle.
Amy: Publishing can be a very difficult business. What do you think has inspired you to keep writing through good times and bad?
Jody: Honestly? People. My husband. My best friend. My daughters. My mom. Good friends. People I’ve really connected to via FB and Twitter. Without those people, even agents that rejected but ultimately encouraged, I wouldn’t have kept going. It becomes less about the writing sometimes and more about the process. You can get lost in the process and forget why you started. There were many times I just didn’t know if I had anything left. They assured me I did. They’ve read my work, talked me down, talked me up, listened when I needed them to, didn’t listen when I said I was quitting. I cannot stress how important it is to have people in your life who care enough to tell you the truth (preferably in a way that won’t rip your heart out of your chest). I am so incredibly lucky. Which is why, if I ever get rich (ha-ha) I will buy them all matching buddy bracelets.
Amy: From reading your website, I understand you’d been talking back and forth, and sharing stories with your agent, Fran Black before you signed with her. How did that unique relationship come about and how did you know she was the right fit for you?
Jody: This question makes me very smiley. When I parted ways with my first agent, I’d switched from writing PB to writing romance. Fran was one of the first agents I queried with a story called Sweet Seconds. She ultimately rejected it but she was just so straight-forward about it: she said, “I really like it, it’s a really nice story, but I don’t think I can sell it right now.” When I reached out to send another, she was completely receptive. I’ve actually sent her four manuscripts. On the third, she was, once again, completely upfront. She said my words just weren’t digging deep enough. She said she thought I could do it, but I hadn’t done it yet.
And because I couldn’t wrap my head around how to do it but knew I was improving with every story, I sent her my latest one. She emailed and said I was off to a good start. She did that more than once—updated me to let me know where she was at, even before she signed me. And I loved/love that. Then she emailed and said she really liked it and was going to do some research and she’d get back to me in a week. Before the week was up, she emailed and asked if I could talk. I actually planned not to say yes during that phone call because I had the book out with other agents, one of whom was trying to read quickly because she knew I was close to getting an offer. But there was Fran, phoning my house with her perfect New York accent and straight-up, no-nonsense words and I couldn’t help it. She’s honest and upfront and she won’t tell me she likes something if she doesn’t. She communicates and, as an obsessive-anxious person, that means the most. And that’s what sealed it for me. On agent appreciation day on Twitter, when she wasn’t my agent yet, I thanked her because I felt like she’d supported my journey from the beginning—good or bad, yes or no. So. To be completely corny, she had me at ‘hello’.
Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writers conference, what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?
Jody: I would want people to know that everyone’s journey is different, but it’s also the same. You need to surround yourself with people you trust—which unfortunately takes some learning the hard way about who you can’t. You have to be able to reach out to others and understand that those authors you admire, the ones you feel like you couldn’t be in the same room with because you’d embarrass yourself—they’ve all been right where you are now. It takes courage to keep going after someone tells you your work just wasn’t right for them. It takes courage to reach out to people you admire and say hey, I’m struggling and I don’t know why. It takes strength to listen and hear their answers and to improve your craft. Writing is an industry where there is room for everyone to succeed. Success comes from working hard, surrounding yourself with good people, giving back, and continuing to move forward even if you trip along the way.
Jody Holford lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters. She’s a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell, Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, and Emily Giffen. She’s unintentionally funny and rarely on time for anything. She loves books, Converse shoes, and diet Pepsi, in no particular order. When she has to go out into the real world, she’s a teacher. She writes multiple genres but her favourite is romance because she’s a big fan of love and finding happily ever after. Probably because she’s lucky enough to have both. For more on Jody, follow her on Twitter @1prncs . On her website or on Goodreads or Facebook.