Wiping the Slate Clean

You know when you’ve solved a complex calculus equation, and you take the eraser and literally wipe the slate clean? I did that last week with my writing career.

Three acceptances triggered the erasure:

  • First, I was accepted into the Community Writers Workshop in the Virtual Valley for July of this year. This fabulous writers conference has nurtured many successful authors including Michael Chabon, Anne Rice, and Jennifer Egan, with teachers including Steve Almond, Mark Childress, Anne Lamont, and Amy Tan. An excerpt from my work-in-progress, IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI, garnered the acceptance.
  • Second, I accepted that my Coot mystery would not sell and parted ways with my most-recent agent.
  • Third, I did a public reading in Bay St. Louis from the opening of IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI, and it was well-accepted.

The eraser swiped, and I begin anew.

My Writing Pastโ€”Gone

Some of y’all have been with me through the slog of my (third) agent trying to get the Coot mystery published. Some have been here since my (second) agent couldn’t sell my fantasy, The Bone Trench. Hell, some of y’all have endured this torture since the days of Tracking Happiness, the Southern humor novel that my (first) agent couldn’t sell, and I eventually self-published.

You could say I’m on the hunt for my (fourth) agent, but I’m not. This is brand new. Slate wiped clean. Starting all the way over.

What Novel is This?

IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI is the first novel I wrote. Way back when, it was a semifinalist in the James Jones First Novel Competition (25/600 entries). I’ve tried over the years to get it where it needed to be, to no avail. I picked it back up last year because it was timely (the backbone of the plot is a unique civil rights case), and I wondered if I could get it right this time. I’ve had lots of Beta readers. They’ve made it much better, and most (but not all) like what they’re reading. “Best thing you’ve written.” “Mesmerizing.” “Draws me right in.” “You’ve got me hooked.” Nice stuff to hear.

The Motivation

At the Q&A after my public reading, when I mentioned that I’d already had three agents, a member of the audience said, “Come on. Isn’t that the story of writers, how many rejections you’ve gotten?”

I didn’t want to point out that I hadn’t just gotten rejections. I’d had three agents who couldn’t sell three different manuscripts. But he had a point. So I said, “Right. And I haven’t given up.”

Y’all Come on Along

With my slate clean, I’m focusing on one thing: getting IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI into the hands of a publisher. Okay, two things. I also want to get folks excited about reading this book. I’m still gathering reader feedback, so it’s fluid. But here’s the opening sentence of the synopsis:

A groundbreaking lawsuit for civil rights reparations upends the lives of everyone it touches.

I’m sharing this with y’all to bring you along on this latest leg of my journey. Get ready. I expect it will be quite the ride…

ps if anyone wants to give it a read and offer feedback, shout at me!

A photo from the night of the reading, featuring my husband’s foot

civil rights reparations, In the Name of Mississippi, Mississippi novels, parting ways with your agent

Comments (16)

  • Wow, such great stuff going on for you!!!! I’m so impressed :). Those are really stupid agents. I’m glad you’re starting fresh. I would love to read your manuscript and offer feedback. I hesitate to offer (if you’re even interested) because my eye is bothering me and I’m overwhelmed, but I love your writing. What if I offered and you decided to take me up on that and I couldn’t end up doing it? Would that be BAD? And could you send me a hard copy? Or is this all more than you want to even think about? It won’t hurt my feelings if it is!!!!!

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I guess I successfully turned my lemons into lemonade to make that sound like great stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would love for you to read it. Even if it turns out you can’t read it (so sorry the eye is still bothering you!). And I can send you a hard copy directly from FedEx. I’ll email you for your address. I’m so glad you even want to take a shot at reading itโ€”thank you, thank you for the offer! Yay! I’ll keep my fingers crossed it’ll work out…

  • I wish success in our quest. You certainly have paid your dues. Let me know when the book comes out. I will be in line to have it signed

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Thank you! I don’t want to count chickens as they have failed to hatch so many times in the past, but I’m trying to be optimistic and all in. p.s. His name is no longer Ug ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I am truly intrigued by your synopsis. I’d offer myself as a reader, but like Luanne, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. I’m struggling with my own writing right now, which is a disappointment since writing is one reason why I retired. I do look forward to going along with you on your journey and, I must say, kudos to you for continuing to move forward! You may be wiping the slate clean, but you’re not giving up and that’s what counts.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Thank you for even considering it, Marie (and so happy you find the premise intriguing). I hope the writing struggle eases as you get used to it being your primary “job” and that life lets its be your primary job. If last year taught me anything, it’s how little real control we have over the big things in life…so may the universe help you on your quest.

  • It’s all about patience and perseverance, isn’t it Ellen? And sometimes a pivot or two is just the nudge a project needs. Crossing my virtual fingers for you. I’d use my real ones, but I need them to pound the keys for mine. All the best to you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I’ve wondered if I’m persevering, or if I’ve got so much sunk cost in this endeavor that I’m unwilling to give up when I should. So I’m giving it this (last?) shot. Let the universe decide. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the support. And great news about your own work–hope it happens more quickly than mine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Whew. For a moment I thought you’d thrown in the writing towel. Relieved that you are soldiering on, putting the past and the unhelpful agents behind you, starting a new project. Persevere!

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I’ve thought about throwing in the towel, Susanne. My sister recently switched from being an awesome videographer/photographer because it wasn’t accomplishing what she wanted and returned to school to get her masters degree in forestry. I admire that. But I’m hanging it here for now and very much appreciate the support of my writing–and good to hear from you!!!

  • Congratulations on the Workshop acceptance! That’s awesome! I hope that the leaders and participants will be able to give you good leads in terms of publishing. I admit that the whole concept of agents is enough to give me hives. I’m lucky that poets bypass that whole thing, although I’d feel luckier if I actually had a book published.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Thanks, Joanne. I’ve wondered if I really bad at picking agents or I write stuff they can’t sell. I thought the third time was supposed to be the charm, but here’s hoping for the fourth! ps poets have the best names for their books

      • I think perhaps that it’s easiest for agents when a work fits neatly into some pre-ordained category. If a work is more nuanced, it’s more difficult. (She says, never having had to query an agent in her life.) Still, I think that the onus is on the agent, not the author. An agent shouldn’t accept a work they don’t know how to sell.

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