It was just your average ordinary snowy Monday afternoon on Long Island. I was rattling around the house, trying not to think about the manuscript I had shipped off to the brand new Harlequin offices on Third Avenue four days earlier.
Did you ever try to not think about something? It's like trying not to talk about the pink elephant in the room. I was obsessed with the fact that my first book was maybe right now on Vivian Stephens's desk waiting for its turn to be read.
And if the writers magazines I devoured on a monthly basis were any indication, my manuscript was going to have a long wait. Definitely longer than four days. Four weeks maybe? I guess it was possible. Four months? That was more like it.
So when the phone rang a few minutes after two o'clock I figured it was my mom checking in or my husband calling from work or maybe one of those annoying telemarketers that drove everyone crazy.
Except it wasn't.
It was Vivian Stephens and she wanted to buy my book. "We start everyone with a $6000 advance," she said, "and it goes up $500 with each sale."
Six thousand dollars? Was she serious? I'd never earned six thousand dollars in one year in my life and Vivian was going to give me six grand for doing something I'd happily do for free?
I was a high school graduate who had never known a writer in her life. I didn't have an agent. I'd never met an editor. Everything I knew about writing I'd pulled from magazines and how-to books and the thousands of novels and short stories I inhaled like oxygen.
Did you ever have a real live out-of-body experience? I did that afternoon. I swear to you I separated from my thirty-one year old body and floated somewhere up around the ceiling like a life-sized helium balloon. Two years ago I was in a hospital room having radiation treatment for uterine cancer. Two months ago I was typing data entry records for piecework prices. Two weeks ago I was hunched over my Smith-Corona portable typewriter, spilling my dreams onto the page. Good grief, just four days ago I was standing in line at the North Babylon Post Office at Sunset City waiting to ship off my package!
Oh, I sounded all cool and collected as we talked about contracts and publishing schedules and all of those wonderful amazing things. You would have thought I sold a first book every day of the week.
Well, except for the fact that I threw up on my shoes after Vivian and I said goodbye, then burst into tears.
I wanted to tell the world. I wanted to run out into the snowy street and shout my news at the top of my lungs.
But I didn't. I waited until my husband pulled into the driveway later that night and I met him at the door with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. I didn't have to say a word. The look of joy and pride in his eyes still makes me smile, long after that juicy advance faded into memory.
My life changed forever that day. Thanks to Vivian and Harlequin, I was able to take the first step toward living the dream I'd held since childhood. My name was going to be on the spine of a real live book.
I was a writer.
And because today is the twenty-seventh anniversary of the day I got The Call, I'd like to celebrate by offering one Yankee Romance Reviewers reader a baker's dozen of my books. All you have to do is send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with YANKEE in the subject header and I'll use my hand-dandy random number generator to pick the winner on Friday February 27th. Good luck!
Thank you, Barbara, for sharing this special day with us!