Tag: travel (Page 3 of 14)

Venice, Bologna, and oh yeah, MY AGENT

Venice was a dream come true. The canals, like veins, coursing through the living breathing city. The motorboats and gondolas and vaporettos, gliding through the water, criss-crossing each other’s wakes. The sun rising over the islands of Burano and Murano, where ladies stitch lace and artisans meld glass. The sun setting over St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, where once an empire was run.

At long last, I was standing in the city that I had always wanted to see most in the world. It was as beautiful as I had imagined, and then some. Mossy docks, windowed waterfront façades, doors that opened right onto the sea. A hundred tiny bridges connected one neighborhood to the next. Each narrow alley was a secret whispered between the larger fondamentas.

(Also, the complete lack of cars gave the city an almost out-of-time feeling. If you ignored all the smartphones and modern fashions, anyway.)

Our stay in Venice was brief but unforgettable. And as I leaned against the cool stone railing of the Rialto Bridge, looking down over the glistening Grand Canal, there may even have been tears in my eyes.

Shortly after The Call, the first agent sent me a follow-up email that was, in a word, epic. Her passion and understanding for my story came through in every sentence. As the days passed and the details of our phone conversation began to fade, I had only to re-read that email for all the emotions to come flooding back.

This was real. My book had found a champion.

Our last stop in Italy was Bologna, the food capital. Andy found an excellent tour, which took us to a certified parmigiano-reggiano factory, as well as a private manor where dozens of batteria sat for years, brewing traditional balsamic. We watched burly-armed men wrangle cheese curds out of 200-gallon vats, then explored the “library of cheese,” a compendium of yellowing wheels just waiting for their perfect age. We peered into dark barrels and sniffed the sharp, sweet aroma of grape must.

The tour ended with an unexpectedly lavish meal at a family-owned trattoria. First course (mmm): salad with nuts, chicken, and homemade balsamic. Second course (fave!): corkscrew pasta with bacon and artichokes. Third course (oh boy…): prosciutto and spinach rolls in creamy white sauce. Fourth course (seriously?): fettucini bolognese with edible flower petals. FIFTH COURSE YOU’RE KIDDING RIGHT I CAN’T EAT ANYMORE OMG: roasted chicken with sweet onions, broccoli, and potatoes. Dessert (just kill me now): bite-sized biscotti, chocolate torte, and sour blackberry crumble.

It was all so beautiful and delicious, but no more food ever again, please.

Despite of a series of almost-catastrophes getting to and through Milan, we made it home late on a Sunday night. On Monday afternoon, I had a call with the second agent. She was supremely lovely, had many kind things to say about me and my book, and came from an incredible agency. Once again, I felt delighted, amazed, honored.

The ten-day deadline passed, and in the end my choice came down to these two. Both agents had strong sales records and were well-liked in the writing community. Both had confidence in me and seemed like great people. Both would no doubt help me to succeed.

The good news was: I couldn’t make a wrong decision. The bad news was: I still had to make a decision.

What I kept coming back to was that follow-up email. Not even so much the email itself, but what the email said without saying — and what it made me feel without trying. Every time I read over her words, I was reminded of how well the first agent and I had clicked, both personally and professionally. How perfectly tuned-in to my characters and themes she was. How supportive she sounded about where I wanted to take my career.

When I called to accept her offer, she sounded even giddier than I did. Don’t get me wrong: I was giddy. My voice might have been steady, but my hands were shaking, and after we hung up, I jumped around the house like a loon.

And to be honest, I kind of feel like doing that again now. Because it’s time (FINALLY) for the big reveal.

The agent who wrote that follow-up email — the agent who is now representing me and my book (!!!) — is none other than…

Tina Wexler of ICM
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(Photo shamelessly stolen from her Twitter account.)

I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me to have Tina on my team. I know that this is just one milestone, one hurdle, of many more to come — but everything feels more possible, more manageable, more hopeful, with her helping me through it.

Just like getting to this point felt more possible, more manageable, and more hopeful with all of my family and friends — that means YOU — helping me through it.

Thanks, guys. Y’ll are the best.

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Italy in photos (part 3)

Why yes, Venice IS as beautiful as I always imagined. #travelgram Adorable island of Burano. #travelgram
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Florence (aka hillsides, mosquito bites, and the second agent)

After receiving my first offer of representation (!!!) I promptly notified the other agents who had my materials. With some, I withdrew my manuscript from consideration. With others, I requested that they finish reading and make a decision within 10 days (which included 2 full weekends). That meant the rest of my vacation would be a waiting game, as most of the querying process is, but now without that pit-of-your-stomach dread or exhausting self-doubt.

In Florence, we stayed at a homey B&B just around the corner from the Duomo. Five rooms branched off a main lobby, like a warren of rabbit holes. The husband-and-wife owners were tall and generous. They gave us keys, coupons, and a complimentary bottle of prosecco.

First we did the Duomo’s bell tower — 400 steps up a narrow curving stairwell, not intended for two-way traffic, and then 400 steps back down. Then we did Ponte Vecchio — a gold mall on a bridge, the stores full of jewelry too gaudy and expensive for our taste. And last but not least, we did the Galileo Museum — an elegantly designed tribute to centuries’ worth of Italian inventions and innovations.

Our second day trip promised the “Best of Tuscany,” and it didn’t disappoint. We lost ourselves (literally and figuratively) in the quiet, dusty labyrinth of Siena. We enjoyed the world’s best gelato at Dondoli in San Gimignano. And we ate a simple but exquisite lunch at an organic farm, overlooking endless green hillsides and vineyards.

It was all so tranquil and enchanting that I could almost forget about the agent stuff.

Almost.

Before bed each night, I was glued to my iPad, eagerly working my inbox. (Thankfully Italy seems to be even more obsessed with free wifi than America.) I may not have been able to update my spreadsheet, but I mentally logged each agent’s response. And now that I wasn’t neurotically over-analyzing every word of every message, it seemed fairly obvious who was actually interested and who was just playing the game.

A second agent, also fabulous, soon tossed her hat into the ring. Unfortunately we couldn’t schedule a good day to talk until after I returned to the States — but that just gave me more time to look forward to the call.

Poor Andy had to put up with my constant questions and speculations. What if this? What about that? He was very gracious and remarkably helpful, but after a certain point, he would switch off the light on his side of the room and gently remind me that we needed to rest up for our next big day of adventuring.

I would say the mosquitoes were karma, except that they bit Andy too. All night we suffered buzzing in our ears, snapping us out of slumber, warning us of big red bumps to come. It wasn’t until morning that we realized the skylight was letting in more than sun and moon beams. Thankfully this Houston girl is a champion mosquito-hunter.

Neither the itching nor our aching feet could stop us from appreciating the rest of our time there. More gelato, more churches, some shopping, the Uffizi. Though small, the city was a treasure trove.

Maybe the most unique experience of our trip was truffle hunting in a hill-town just outside Florence. All morning we skirted the edge of a forest with Ricardo and his two dogs, Nebbia (fog) and Luna (moon). Nebbia was amazing, a constant rocket of energy, sniffing and circling and digging until she came up with a precious woodland nugget. Luna, on the other hand, was useless — but cute. She would dig excitedly in Nebbia’s wake, then peer up at Ricardo in hopes of a cookie.

Endearingly dumb, she reminded me of Riley, my beloved “grumble pup,” who I couldn’t wait to reunite with. It’s not that I wanted the trip to be over — I didn’t. But there were good things waiting for me at home.

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Italy in photos (part 2)

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Burrata, veggies, and fried bread at L'Osteria di Giovanni. #onthetable #travelgram Bistecca alla fiorentina (and potatoes) at L'Osteria di Giovanni. #onthetable #travelgram
Tiramisu, raisin wine, and biscotti at L'Osteria di Giovanni. #onthetable #travelgram #fromwhereistand #lookingdown #siena #travelgram
Typical Italian alley scene. #travelgram Sculptor at work in San Gimignano. #travelgram
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Italy in photos (part 1)

Hall of busts at the Vatican museum. #rome #travelgram #artthursday Giant golden snitch at the Vatican. #rome #travelgram #artthursday #harrypotter
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The incomparable Positano. #travelgram Limoncello shop in Amalfi. #travelgram
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