by Vanessa Moore
I started to write my memoir in response to a chance remark by a writer friend. I was telling her about the white feathers that had kept appearing in odd places since my husband’s sudden death a year earlier. ‘You should write about that,’ my friend said. And so I did. And being a clinical psychologist with a professional as well as a personal perspective on loss and bereavement, I had plenty to say. But was my work good enough to be published? I sent my MS off to carefully-chosen literary agents, submitted it to a local writers’ festival, rewrote, resubmitted, and got absolutely nowhere.
In despair, I asked Google: ‘how do you get your writing published?’ and this led me to Cornerstones, a literary consultancy which, for a fee, promised detailed feedback from an industry editor. I decided to take the plunge, and soon after my luck changed dramatically. A thoughtful, insightful and constructive report was followed by a trip to London with Helen, Cornerstones’ CEO, and I was signed by a leading literary agent. She was passionately behind my story, with a submission plan. The fit felt perfect, and I was elated. Then without warning, the week before Christmas, she told me she was setting up her own agency and was unable to take me with her, without providing an explanation. Elation quickly turned to devastation.
I was very close to giving up, but with Helen’s help we picked up the reins and Cornerstones went out to other agents. Helen even pitched my book to her own editor, and a publisher did consider it but ultimately there were no bites. My self-esteem plummeted, and I began to look at self-publishing. Around then, I went out for dinner with my writer friend. I had been determined not to involve her in my woes, but that evening, over a Thai curry and a bottle of wine, I decided to fill her in on the situation with my book. She suggested passing my MS to her own agent to get some advice. To my amazement and sheer delight the agent asked to represent me. One year later, here I am, published by Octopus, Hachette.
Perhaps it was just timing or luck, maybe it was sheer determination. The right outcome happened in the end, with a little help from some lovely people when I most needed it, and perhaps some ‘white feathers’ along the way.