I attended my first SDSU Writers Conference as a new staff member in 1989 and became completely inspired to have my novel finished by the next conference. The next year (1990), SDSU had their first ever “read and critique” where participants brought their submissions for editor and agent meetings and we distributed them at the conference. We were completely overwhelmed by the response. The conference sold out for the first time that year and we had writers lined up begging to get in.
At that conference, Tom Colgan, senior editor at Avon Books, read my submission, but because we hadn’t planned for the turn out, I didn’t get to meet with him. However, he did stop me later and ask me to submit the entire manuscript.
I sent it. And I waited. And waited. And waited. I knew from all the articles I read that I shouldn’t pester him but that it was okay to call every four weeks to follow up (dating myself, because this was before email was a method of communication). It took four months before Tom called me and offered me a publishing contract for Web of Smoke. That call is one I still remember to this day. I was in my office at SDSU College of Extended Studies when the call came and when I hung up, I screamed. Yep. Loud. I had everyone from the dean to security in my office after that, but they were all happy for me.
I’m one of the few writers who can say I sold my first book to the first editor who ever read it. Sadly, I went on to make every beginners’ mistake possible after the first sale and my career went through many painful set backs because of it. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about teaching new writers the right way to approach their careers.