It's time to shelve Up Lantau Running; time to call it a "practice book."
This afternoon I saw an email sitting in my inbox from the agent who had requested the Up Lantau Running partial. My stomach plummeted to my feet.
I couldn't open it right away. I just couldn't. So, I pulled myself out of my seat, did a few mundane tasks, and came back to it when I'd had time to stop my heart hammering. I wanted to get myself mentally ready for rejection.
Before I opened it I spoke some truth to myself: "I'm at the beginning of all this. If it's a rejection, it's okay. I'm learning. I've learned a lot from writing this novel. It's okay."
And there it was when I clicked open the email ... the rejection:
Many thanks for sharing with me the opening chapters of your novel UP LANTAU RUNNING, which I am declining with my regrets. I think I just didn't connect with Lila in the way I would in order to represent a project. It's a difficult line to walk -- to make a character feel appropriately picked on and "other" enough to believe she would be such an outsider, without having her feel alienating to your readership. I'm afraid it just didn't work for me. Of course, this is only my opinion, and another agent may very well feel differently. Nonetheless, I appreciate your thinking of me, and wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.
And, strangely, I felt okay with that.
Maybe even relieved.
I can't really explain it except that maybe I knew in my heart that this particular book has some structural issues that no amount of plastering over (read: rewriting) is going to fix.
As much as I love the characters and the setting and, well, especially the characters, I have to let go. Move on.
It's time to throw myself into polishing my new novel and starting to query it.
And I have something new bubbling in my brain. I wrote the first page. I already have a title. It's called Back and it's about a teenage girl adjusting to life in American high school after five years in China.
Write what you know. Know what you write. Right?
And I keep reminding myself: God willing, I still have a lot more life to live.