where the writers are
Share Your Love Story!

Here’s a hat trick for aspiring writers, readers, and lovers: a wonderful new book, a terrific love story contest, and a guest post about how Amanda Eyre Ward got her first short story and her first novel into print. Booklist calls Amanda’s newest book, Love Stories in this Town, “a mesmerizing, read-in-one-sitting foray into the complexities of contemporary love,” and Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it “Luminous work from a gifted writer.” I’ve read all of Amanda’s previous books (Sleep Toward Heaven, How to Be Lost, andForgive Me). She’s a lovely, lovely writer - and one who knows how hard it can be to get into print. Enjoy her post below, then check outthe Love Stories in this Town Contest, where you can share your own love story and win a $200 dinner at the restaurant of your choice! And then of course read Love Stories in this Town. - Meg

Love Stories in this Town coverIt took me years to write my first novel, Sleep Toward Heaven. I wrote at night and on the weekends while working all sorts of full-time jobs: receptionist at a country music station, librarian, babysitter, curriculum developer for an internet startup. I went to readings at BookPeople, and tried to figure out how to get from being a babysitter to being a published novelist.

One day, while I was answering the phones at a computer company called Dazel, I got an e-mail saying that my short story, “Miss Montana’s Wedding Day” had won third prize in the Austin Chronicle short story contest. A few months later, StoryQuarterly took my story “Shakespeare.com.” These first publications gave me faith for another year.

I finally found a wonderful agent, Michelle Tessler, to represent my first novel. But Sleep Toward Heaven was rejected by every publishing house in New York. Undaunted, Michelle sent the book toMacAdam/Cage, a new publisher in San Francisco. I still have the e-mail Michelle got from Anika Streitfeld, an editor at MacAdam/Cage. Here it is - the book was called GATES OF BREATH at the time:

From MacAdam/Cage! Will keep you posted.
—–Original Message—–
From: Anika Streitfeld
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2002 1:45 PM
To: Michelle Tessler
Subject: GATES OF BREATH

Hi Michelle – I just wanted to let you know that I was blown away by this novel. It is intensely moving, insightful, and masterfully written. David Poindexter, our publisher, is going to read it next. Thank you so much for sharing this novel with me. I have my fingers crossed…Talk with you soon, Anika

Shortly after this note, Anika made an offer on the book. I took the entire advance and bought my husband a Big Green Egg, a fancy barbecue grill. I thought life would never be sweeter.

Anika was hired by Random House a few years later, and I followed her there. She has edited every word I’ve written, and her hard work is all over my new story collection, Love Stories in This Town.

Of course, there’s no one answer. But I vowed that if I ever sold my novel, I would tell people how hard it was. It’s so hard to keep faith, when you’re writing at night while your friends nap or drink margaritas. It’s so hard believing you have something important to say. It’s hard to work in isolation, in your pajamas. But I love novels. The dream of creating something that could give a reader the hours of pleasure and thought that my favorite books have given me kept me writing, and keeps me here, typing, day after day. - Amanda